While planting our second succession of tomatoes, I came across what looked like a broken piece of pottery. Because we use plastic pots for transplanting, not ceramic, it was an odd thing to find out in the farm field. I stuck it in my pocket.

It’s a weird thing for me to do. Farmer John’s the one who picks up unusual looking rocks or bits of weather-beaten glass and, for some unknown reason, stores his treasures on the windowsill above our kitchen sink. (And for a reason equally unknown, considering how much I dislike clutter, I allow his pile to stay there.)

Yet he’s been doing it for a while now, so I don’t think his rock hoarding habit influenced my sudden urge to save that chunk of ceramic. I blame KUT’s John Aielli instead. We tune in to KUT when we’re working at the salad sinks prepping vegetables for market, and one morning during his Eklektikos program John Aielli talked about finding an old, broken clay pot in his driveway and how it reminded him of a long-ago visit to the Coliseum in Rome.

I don’ t know that he necessarily thought his piece of driveway pottery was some sort of valuable relic from ancient times, and I’m not thinking as much about mine either, but it did seem kind of coincidental that I’d discovered something like that so shortly after hearing about his find.

We have a much larger relic on the property than the ceramic piece, one that’s been a permanent fixture here since the farm’s inception. We pass by it daily, and it’s long become almost invisible because of it (like permanent fixtures tend to do). It’s our sailboat.

For years this boat was our most important material treasure. John and I adored sailing, and we could be found on the lake every weekend the weather permitted. Once we started farming, however, sailing fell by the wayside and our boat became a victim of neglect.

Although the inattention has manifested itself mostly cosmetically – with some elbow grease, the boat could indeed be cleaned up and minor repairs could be made – it pains John and me to acknowledge what a relic it’s become. Which is why it’s usually invisible to us, I suppose, and we probably should sell it. All I notice about the boat anymore (and even this, I notice almost subliminally) is the beautifully nautical “ting ting ting” sound of the metal stays hitting the mast on breezy afternoons.

Like a fondly-remembered, treasured boat, we all change with age. Recently, some friends we hadn’t seen in several years stopped by the farm stand. The first words out of one of their mouth’s was directed at Farmer John. He said:

“Look at that gray hair!”

Never mind that the friend had a beard just as gray – a fact that John was quick to point out, by the way – it was probably still a surprise when he saw how much John’s hair had changed. (And on a personal note, while he may no longer look exactly like the dark-haired boy I fell for back in our college days, Farmer John’s just as handsome to me now as he was then.)

Our old friend is clever, in that he hollered out his proclamation to John rather than to me. While I haven’t grayed to the same degree as John, I’m certainly on my way. And really, even if my hair had become white as the driven snow since we’d seen him last, no man in his right mind says to a woman: Look at that gray hair!

Of all the people in this country who claim farming as their primary means of income (only 1% of the entire population), 40% are age 55 or older. John and I are right there.

I remember a customer’s comment about how easy it is to forget how old you are…until you look in the mirror and see that gray hair staring back at you. At the time, my gray was only just beginning to sproing into existence. Now that the salt is starting to overtake the pepper, I understand better what she was saying.

It’s like Mr. Magoo. Farmer John and I were working with Mary, Vicky and Charles one day, all of them younger than us, when we started humming the Mr. Magoo theme song and shouted “Road hog!” They had no idea what we were blathering on about. It was a little demoralizing.

Of all the relics on the farm, none are as old as John and me…assuming my pottery segment isn’t the ancient artifact I’d like it to be. And to be precise, since John is a whoppin’ six months older than I am (something I enjoy pointing out to him at every opportunity), he actually “wins” the title of Farm Elder.

Ah well. One person’s relic is another person’s treasure. To prove it, despite my aversion to additional clutter, I think I’ll go ahead and put my hunk of broken ceramic right alongside John’s windowsill rock collection anyway.

* * *
Here’s what we gray-haired folk will be bringing to the farm stand this Wednesday:

Pink, purple and golden radishes; lots of spinach; oodles of lettuce mix; Euro salad mix (lettuces, chicories, arugula, cress, and more); head lettuces — green Butterhead, red Butterhead, Romaine and Red Leaf; bunches of Asian mustard greens; Dinosaur kale; bunches of gorgeous chard; green onions; leeks; green garlic; bags of arugula; escarole; and anything else we find ready for harvest.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)