Promises, promises. The weather forecasters made plenty of them at the beginning of the winter. Warmer and drier than normal, they predicted, and although Farmer John and I generally take the word of meteorologists with many, many grains of salt – the entire shaker sometimes – we believed them because of La Nina. When there’s a La Nina in place, it usually does indeed mean we’ll have a warmer winter, at least during the daylight hours (with colder nighttime temps, though, because of the dry air and clear skies).

Then came the now infamous 70-hour freeze accompanied by a day filled with random rolling blackouts. The rolling blackouts were bizarre enough on their own, but they supplied us with even more “fun” than most because of our greenhouses. Our two small greenhouses are warmed by electric heaters, and one of them was packed full of our early planting of tomatoes.

John and I went so far as to stop by the Pedernales Electric office to try to find some sort of blackout schedule. Our power had been shut off once already, and we worried that if it were to happen again at a time when the sun wasn’t helping to keep the temperature well above freezing in that greenhouse, well…we’d be kissing all those tomatoes goodbye. And we know how much you want your early tomatoes.

The folks at Pedernales were sympathetic, yet they had no answers for us. On our drive back home, we realized there was only one way to ensure the survival of those plants. We had to move them into our house.

It’s good to have a second kitchen. Especially when it has two doors. It doesn’t show on this photo, but flats of tomatoes blocked the door leading to the back bathroom. It had to be done that way in order to leave a pathway to the spare refrigerator from the door on the opposite side. That fridge holds Farmer John’s beer supply, you see. We must keep priorities straight.

Once the freeze – and the blackouts – had ended, we toted the tomatoes back to the awaiting greenhouse shelves. They survived the next freeze event just fine (thanks to no power outages) and we’ve since set them out into unheated hoop houses in the fields.

This one holds around 500 Early Girls. In the second one,

we planted one row of Bella Rosa tomatoes and two rows of early-early peppers. We’ve never planted peppers this early before, and figured we might as well give it a try. After all, the long-term weather forecast is for a warmer than usual spell, according to all the meteorologists. Even Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring. They couldn’t possibly be wrong, could they? (Now, where’s that salt shaker of mine….)

* * * * *

With no thanks at all to the extended freezes, we’ll be reopening our farm stands a little later than planned. In all of our farm years past, we’ve started the spring season by opening the stands right at the beginning of March. This year, however, our plantings were so delayed due to the cold, we’re simply not there yet.

The Asian greens and salad mixes are teensy-weensy;

the future head lettuces itty-bitty;

and the spinach hasn’t yet even formed its true leaves.

We’ll get there, though. We’ll get there. We have our fingers crossed to reopen the second week of March. We’ll likely not have a whole lot by that time, but if we can scrounge up enough to get the farm stands going, by golly we’ll do it! Stay tuned.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm