Prior to last week’s showers, we hadn’t received a substantial amount of rain since some time in June. I’d need to pull out past calendar pages to see exactly what day it happened, verified by when I’d penned in a rainfall total (in blue ink, of course). It’s been so long now, I can’t even remember it really.

There’d been no need to look it up anyway. There were plenty of other reminders pointing to the fact that it had been ages since we’d seen a good rain. Like our collection of rubber boots and muck shoes.

I don’t know how many times we’ve swept the salad shed floor and cursed under our dust-choked breaths about having to move aside these relics of muddy days past. I’m slightly amazed I didn’t just throw them all away.

Then finally, on that wonderfully soggy Sunday afternoon following the early morning rains, I actually needed to slip on a pair. John was already mucking about in his boots so I didn’t know how the first foot insertion went for him. Mine, however, came with a bit of a surprise. Oh, I shook out the boots first — I know all too well what kind of creatures can hide inside long unworn shoes. Still, my right foot met with a good sized obstacle on its journey to from heel to toe. I quickly retreated, and upon closer examination found an abandoned mud dauber nest inside it large enough to house not only the wasp’s immediate and extended family, but its entire roster of Facebook friends and friends of friends as well.

Fortunately, towels stored indoors tend not to harbor unwanted visitors. We keep a stack of four old hand towels on the counter in the spare kitchen, always at the ready for wet days. Like our rows of rubber boots, they hadn’t seen much action in a while. So when I carried them from the back kitchen to the front for their intended purpose, I couldn’t help but smile a little.

It was almost thrilling to once again protect the kitchen stools from muddy pants. We hadn’t needed butt towels (as we ever so delicately refer to them) in such a long, long time.

Another sure indicator of mud farming is the first post-rain leafy greens harvest. In drier times, the leaves are so relatively free of dirt that a double rinse is all it takes, from one sink to the other and then on to the industrial-sized salad spinner. Heck, sometimes we don’t even have to change out the water but every two sinkfuls. Not so after a rain.

There’s no reusing this water. After every bucket full of arugula we have to drain the first sink, flush all the mud down the drain, refill it and give the leaves a third dunk into fresh water before continuing to the next load. It takes a whole lot more time to get through the harvest.

All of this is fine though. Nobody here is complaining about rain. Not even considering what it did to our tender young Euro salad mix that only days before had been set out into its permanent bed.

Granted, upon first glance we cringed in sympathy for these delicate babes, yet we knew they’d be fine. All the better for the abuse, really, considering it was fresh, sweet water from the sky that temporarily mussed them up. Underneath it all, their roots were happy. And they weren’t the only ones.

Out of what was once parched ground, a daylily. As I excitedly carried out the camera for a shot of this one, Farmer John pointed to several more preparing to open. Bright little hellos and howdy-dos.

Now these flowers have begun to fade. I’ve refolded and put away the unneeded butt towels and set aside dry muck boots. Salad harvests will move along more quickly, and tiny tattered leaves have already been replaced by perfect ones. Life has gone back to being much neater. All of this, until the next time we’re forced into mud mode.

Bring it on.

* * *

New crops are beginning to be ready for harvest! For Wednesday’s farm stand we’ll have:

The first of the purple beets (not a slew just yet, but a good start!); “bunching” green onions; beautiful chard; bunches of Asian mustard greens; four varieties of summer squash (zucchini, Zephyr, yellow squash and Cousa); Asian cucumbers; bags of arugula; three varieties of eggplant; green bell peppers; and Cubanelle peppers.

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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