It was probably not long after the 400-foot bed of potatoes succumbed to a hard freeze that Mary asked if losing a crop was a very hard hit, monetarily. She knows every crop lost is, well, a loss…but apparently she hadn’t really thought about the out-of-pocket expense of it, and how empty our pockets might be as a result.

The costs of seed and fertilizer are never recouped after a total crop failure. Those losses are obvious. But then there are the less tangible expenses, as well, like the man-and-woman-power involved in laying drip tape, planting seed or setting out transplants, applying supplemental foliar sprays (financial expenditures in and of themselves) and keeping the crop weeded.

As evidenced by the photo, in the case of the failed attempt at fall potatoes, not many payroll hours were expended on the weeding part. That’s actually a vetch cover crop surrounding one of the nearly dead potato plants (which was absolutely and unequivocally dead soon after the picture was snapped), and our intention had been to eventually go along the bed and chop the tops off the vetch by hand so as to leave the valuable nitrogen-rich root nodules in the soil. In this instance, we’re glad we never got around to it.

A day or two prior to the hard 17-degree freeze, John dug up a couple of the plants to see if they’d even started making taters. They had. Barely.

The night that freeze was blasting down, John had already spent hours covering and double-covering the other fall crops before he finally got to the potatoes. The row cover alongside the plants was beginning to freeze solid, so all he was able to do was kind of heave the lump of fabric on top of the 400-foot bed before finally giving up.

Ah well. It’s doubtful they would have survived the night, regardless, and there’s always spring. That’s the true potato season in this part of the world, and we grow a whole lot more of them then. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for those potatoes to wind up in the success category, rather than failure.

Not a season goes by without one crop failure or another. This past summer left us with a virtual cornucopia of missed opportunities, hard squashes being only one example. After planting and tending to three 400-foot beds of acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash, there were simply too many 100-plus degree days for them to bear.

By the time the poor, tortured plants burned up, we were able to harvest a mere six boxes of squash. Not enough for even three markets.

Oh, but all is not sadness and gloom. There always seems to be ample good news on the farm to balance out the bad. I am indeed the Accounts Manager here, yet I haven’t a clue how to run spreadsheets or do cost analyses (and despite this blatant bookkeeping ineptitude, I don’t worry a lot about job security), so I can’t quantify exactly how much money we lose on each failure, or how much profit we make on the successes. Somehow it all works out in the end, though how keenly the numbers lean in our favor varies from season to season.

I do know that other than the potatoes, this fall has been lovely. The broccoli broccolied right when we’d hoped, and now the first beds of harvested plants are sending up multitudes of tender side shoots.

Concurrently, our youngest broccoli beds are pushing up heads just in time for the holidays.

The Snow Crown and Cheddar varieties of cauliflower were stunningly cooperative, and now the twisty-twirly Romanesco has started strutting its stuff and will be ready for harvest before you can say “Fractal? What’s a fractal?”

Meanwhile, we continue to enjoy the most successful spinach crop we’ve ever grown.

So although we lost the potatoes, we aren’t singing the blues. Fall potatoes are an iffy prospect in the first place, and since they were put into the ground a tad late, then followed by some freezes that rolled over us a tad early, they were pretty much doomed from the get-go. Besides, we bought the seed taters from some farmer friends who graciously reduced their “retail” price by half.

As for John’s handful of potatoes, I browned them in butter and folded them into a frittata. Granted, even with the discounted seed cost that was one expensive frittata…but you can bet we savored every bite.

* * *

Wednesday will be our last farm stand at the Jollyville Road location for the year (we’ll be closed the week between Christmas and New Year) — but we plan to reopen the stand a time or two in January! I’ll get back in touch then, but in the meantime…

This Wednesday, we’ll have:

LOTS of broccoli and broccoli side shoots; oodles of spinach; various head lettuces (butterheads, romaines and red leaf); pink and purple radishes; Watermelon radishes; crinkly Savoy cabbage; green “storage” cabbage; bunches of fresh young purple onions; Brussels greens; chard; kale; bags of arugula; bunches of golden beets; white “Tokyo Market” turnips; bulk Asian mustard greens; heads of escarole; some lettuce mix; Euro salad mix; and some white and “Cheddar” cauliflower.

**This season’s fare is perfect for frittatas! Broccoli, spinach, onions, any of the varieties of greens — they all work great. Steam or stir-fry your vegetable of choice until just tender. Meanwhile, beat six eggs with 1/2 cup milk in a bowl. Add the cooked vegetables, grate some cheese into the mix, sprinkle in salt & pepper, then pour into either a greased 10-inch cast iron skillet or shallow 2-quart casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until brown on top. Yum!

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)