It’s rarely static here. Obviously the four seasons vary the appearance of the farm in four distinctive ways, yet even within each of those seasons we experience almost constant change. During one summer season alone, we typically work our way through three separate successions of squash, two successions of cucumbers, and four plantings of tomatoes. (Sadly, this year two of our squash successions all but failed and the cucumbers were a total disaster…but I’m talking generalities here. Theory. Wishful thinking.)

The idea is, as one succession falls to disease – or outright exhaustion – the next one is beginning to come of its own just as we’re tearing the old crop out. We anticipate this loss along the way, which is the very reason for our staggered planting schedule. The last thing we want is to be up to our eyeballs in overabundance one day, only to find ourselves with nothing the next. [Cue the lonesome whistle of wind blowing through bare branches, tumbleweed rolling by.]

So we plan. Or try to. Like our failed cucumbers and slow-to-realize squash, sometimes things doesn’t work out too well. In other cases we’re pleasantly surprised, as with the prolonged harvest of this year’s early tomatoes. They turned out to be the happiest unanticipated event of the season, by far.

We set out the first three rows of Early Girl tomato starts back in February and immediately built a plastic-covered hoop house over top of them for protection.

Over time – including many nights protecting them from freeze – the plants grew lush.

With the onset of record-breaking heat beginning as early as March, these plants loaded themselves down with tomatoes and we started harvesting for market the last week of April. As the heat was wreaking havoc on most all the other spring crops on the farm, it enhanced the flavor of these early-earlies. They were delicious from the start.

Normally, by the time our second (and much larger) succession of tomatoes – our “main crop” as we call them – start production, we’ve removed the plastic covering over our early-early-Early-Girls and they soon peter out. But because with the heat came little rain (thus no rain-induced disease problems) these three humble rows of plants flushed out with another thick set of fruit. We re-covered the hoop house, this time with shade cloth. And we continued the Early Girl harvest along with all the rest of the varieties.

Alas, after two full months and hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of pounds of tomatoes, these three rows finally grew tired. Everyone made one last harvest pass through them earlier in the week, and the process of removing the cages and carrying away the plants has begun.

I doubt Mary, Nikki and Dana bid any tearful farewells as they ripped cages off dead branches, but hey, that’s some pretty dreadful work in 100-degree heat Still, we owe these plants a sincere thank-you.

If only everything had been half as serendipitous as the first Early Girls. This has been a trying season – a trying year, really. It was rough having to tear out hundreds of feet of unproductive cucumber and squash plants; heartbreaking to watch the first planting of green beans fizzle after a mere three harvests, only to lose the second planting altogether.

Yet now we find ourselves in another period of transition, and while the chances are good it’ll be a brief one, so far it’s garnering no complaints. For one thing, we finally have squash.

Not tons of it, after losing a solid quarter of this succession, but better than any other time since summer began…back in April.

And in addition to the last tomatoes yet to ripen in our main crop, our latest long row of Bella Rosa has set fruit,

as have our last three rows of Early Girls. So while we won’t be bringing crates upon crates upon crates of tomatoes to the farm stands for however much longer our season might last, we do hope for the possibility of another flush of red ripes – albeit a smaller quantity – in the near future.

We’ve begun to fill one of the greenhouses with future, as well. Right now we’re working on a hard squash crop for the fall.

Nothing remains stagnate on the farm, nothing stays the same for long. As proof, we need look no further than the ducks.

Nah, they’re not ours. We’re just housing them temporarily for a friend. So far they haven’t intermingled with our chickens, and I’m doubtful our spoiled hens would be terribly happy about such an arrangement if this were to become permanent. There might be a bit of a rebellion if we were to replace these visiting ducks with ducks of our own.

Still, they are pretty darned cute, the way they walk around softly muttering “kwaa kwaa kwaa.” And as we all know, things do change around here.

* * *

For Wednesday’s farm stand, we’ll have:

Lots of melons! A happy circumstance of the heat and drought is how it’s made the melons swoon-worthy sweet. We’ll be bringing loads of cantaloupes, plus Mideast melons, the first super-sweet Sharyln variety, and green-fleshed Tropical melons; lots of summer squash – Zephyr, zucchini & some Cousa squash from our farm, plus hopefully more white pattypan squash from Tecolote Farm (we’re still waiting to find out for sure); red bell peppers and sweet red Corno di Toro peppers; tomatoes (whatever we find ready for harvest…there won’t be oodles this week – we’re waiting for the last succession to ripen — but perhaps we’ll have some of Tecolote Farm’s tomatoes to supplement our supply); four varieties of eggplant; super sweet Yellow Granex onions; elephant garlic; bunches of basil; and some of this and that.

Thanks!
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)

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