Funny how the memory of big events can get muddled with time, yet small, seemingly insignificant ones will stick with you. When I think back to 1996, shortly after we’d purchased this property with the plan to one day farm it, there are details I remember as if they happened yesterday. Like one afternoon when John and I were sitting at the picnic table we kept up along the hillside — we made a point to visit our future home at least once every weekend — and as we stared out over the open field I said, “Imagine seeing rows of broccoli out there.”

brassica rows

Turns out I was kind of clairvoyant in choosing broccoli out of all the vegetables we would eventually grow. As we got to know our farm better, we discovered there are some crops perennially difficult for us — legumes, in particular, because of our soil’s high alkalinity — and others that almost always do well. Broccoli is one of those crops.

Other memories remain vivid, as well. Our first experience at the old Westlake Farmers Market will always be etched in my mind. In the spring of 1999, when John discovered we had new potatoes ready to dig and green onions large enough to bunch, he declared it was time to start selling them. I freaked out at the thought. Farmers markets weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they are now, and not only had I never sold at one, I’d only visited a market like that maybe once. Or heck, I’m not positive I’d ever been to one at all, really. (I mean, I can’t be expected to remember everything now, can I?)

John was still working at his “real” job and wasn’t able to make the first market, so I — reluctantly — went alone.

First Westlake

My first sale was one of those green onion bunches. I made the mistake of charging only 75 cents for it (a grievous error of undervaluation, pointed out quickly by an experienced farmer in a booth near mine) and lamented to John later that day that because of it, we couldn’t frame the money like small businesses do with their proverbial first dollar bill.

With time, we learned.

And we had a whole lot of fun at that market getting to know other area farmers and, most importantly, customers who eventually became “regulars.” What a new and unique adventure it all was. Neither of us had ever been in a profession like this one, where the customers were overwhelmingly pleasant. Never once did we make disparaging remarks about “dealing with the public.” The folks who go to farmers markets and farm stands are special. It was a rare, rare occasion when someone was rude to us, and those people never came back anyway. We discovered a wonderful sense of community in those early days at the farmers market, and eventually at the first location of our Jonestown farm stand.

early Jonestown

That sense of community holds to this day. Still, there is one memory — one feeling, actually — I do wish I could recapture from our early market experiences, and that’s the wonderment of imagining these customers I’d never before met making meals in their homes using the food we grew. John gardened almost as long as we’d been married, but those vegetables were for us, with only the occasional giveaways when we’d find ourselves overrun with squash or cucumbers. And even in those cases, friends and workmates were the recipients. Not complete strangers.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened that I no longer marveled over that part of selling our produce, yet I do distinctly recall trying to get that feeling back. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve continued to love the thought of people feeding their families with the vegetables that come from our farm. It’s just that a person grows used to things, you know. It doesn’t mean they’re taken for granted.

Something John and I certainly don’t take for granted is how much all of you mean to us. From the customers who’ve stuck with us ever since we set up that first booth at the Westlake Farmers Market,

John and Elise

to those who might have discovered our farm stands only recently — and everyone in between — we owe you a world of gratitude. It’s because of you that our farm has always been successful.

We aren’t shutting down the stands because our business failed, which makes the closures all the more bittersweet. As I’ve explained already, we’ve simply reached a point where we need to start enjoying other things in life — things we couldn’t squeeze into a schedule already full ten times over with the amount of work necessary to keep two farm stands up and running.

Farming can be hard, yet we have no regrets and will always treasure the memory of these past fourteen years. Although I don’t exactly recall the feeling of awe I used to experience about people cooking our food in their homes, I know Farmer John and I will never forget the joy of growing that food and getting to know, at least a little bit, all the wonderful people who crossed our paths.

* * *

Okay, before I start blubbering like a little baby (there’s plenty of time for that coming soon!) I need to let you know what we’ll have for our last farm stand this Wednesday. We’ll only be there a couple hours or so — 10 a.m. until around noonish — so please come early. **Continue reading past the produce list, as well, for some suggestions as to other farmers and farmers markets, as well as some other tidbits.** Here’s what we’re harvesting:

broccoli

OODLES of broccoli, head lettuces (red butter head, green butter head, red leaf and crisp head), lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, two types of green cabbage, purple cabbage, bulk watermelon radishes, bunches of purple beets, bags of small chard, bags of small dinosaur kale, brussels greens, and escarole.
.
**Many people have asked if I’m going to continue blogging — which I appreciate very much! I have indeed set up a new blog called Furthermore and So Forth and plan to write about life after farming (with a good deal of gardening talk included, I’m sure). If you’d like to follow along, please click here and follow the instructions about signing up. It’s easy.

***John and I will keep growing vegetables ourselves even after the stands are closed, but on a smaller scale. While most of the farm will be planted in cover crops to enrich the soil for (hopefully) the next farmer who moves in, we’ll designate areas for vegetable growing to supply the two great restaurants who’ve bought from us for many years: Wink and Texas French Bread. Please go visit them. You won’t be sorry!

**** Because we haven’t sold at farmers markets for such a long time we’re not personally familiar with a lot of the newer farmers in the area, but we do know enough great, experienced farmers we wholeheartedly recommend:

If you’re looking for a farm stand situation, you can’t beat Boggy Creek Farm. They sell at their East Austin farm year-round, plus they now set up a booth at the Sunday morning Mueller Farmers Markets during times of abundance.

Or maybe you’re interested in joining a CSA? Tecolote Farm has been running an outstanding CSA longer than anyone else in the area. You’ll love them. They also sell at the Downtown Austin Farmers Market on Saturdays. Green Gate Farms has an excellent CSA program, as well as an on-site farm stand that’s great for bringing the kids (and the kid in you) to see their wide variety of farm animals; and Hairston Creek Farm’s CSA is year-round, plus they sell their delicious produce at the Saturday morning Cedar Park Farmers Market. All these CSA’s are signing up members for spring right now.

If you visit the various farmers markets around town, our advice is to look closely at the produce, ask questions of the grower. Don’t automatically go to the biggest booth. Often, the smaller farms (like ours) pay the most attention to quality.

We’ll be bidding a fond farewell (but not goodbye!) to Dana and Mary at the end of the month. Dana has been working with us for half of the farm’s existence, with Mary not far behind. Both of them have been a huge part of the farm’s success. We were very lucky to have them here.

We wish you all the best. Thank you for everything.
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stand:
Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. 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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After we made the announcement about our plan to eventually move to Washington State, opinions about our decision ran the gamut. Happily for us, most of what we heard was positive — yet we did get a fairly good earful of warnings about the cold, rainy winter months for which the Pacific Northwest is infamous.

We’re not going into it blindly. Honestly, until we visited Washington this last time, we never dreamed we’d want to move somewhere so cloudy. Maybe fourteen spring and summer seasons spent working outdoors in relentless 100-degree heat finally broke us of our disdain for gray skies. Or perhaps we’re just ready for a change.

Some folks have commented that we’ve been fooled into thinking it’s clear up there more often than it actually is. It’s true that when we revisit our vacation photos, in almost every single shot the sun is out. There was one afternoon, however, when we experienced a more typical Washington fall day when we took the ferry from Orcas to San Juan Island to visit a waterfront park known for orca whale sightings.

John on San Juan

We saw no whales — we weren’t in the mood to be patient — and the weather was anything but perfect. We’re fully aware this is how it’ll often be, if we do indeed wind up living there (and we are hoping to see some of those orcas eventually, too).

Thing is, though, we’ll be able to stay indoors when it’s cold. I’ve heard rumor it’s what normal people do when weather is inclement. Here on the farm, we don’t have that option.

Like last Monday morning as a cold front was barreling through. No matter the atmospheric conditions, there’s salad mix to pick and it has to be done first thing in the morning before the dry wind wilts the leaves to a texture resembling tissue paper.

cold harvest

So we all bundle up in three, four or five layers — as many as possible while still allowing for a modicum of movement — and go out to meet the chill head-on. Literally. (Mary and Dana are both facing north here.)

Of course, being that this is Texas, as the day goes on it warms up enough to ease the pain. Still, for Farmer John, once the afternoon comes to an end and the wind finally dies down with the setting of the sun, the second phase of work begins. When we’re looking at the possibility of temperatures dipping into the teens in our valley, every single crop we want to save must be covered.

That’s a lot of rows. Yet as I was watering the bone-dry “landscape plants” (you’d have to see the poor neglected things for yourself to understand why I put that in quotes) in an attempt to assuage the punishment they were sure to receive that night, John rushed by me and exclaimed, “I need to get a fire going before I start to cover.”

See, he’d promised early that morning he’d stoke up the wood stove with the first fire of the season.

wood stove

Granted, I’ve been shown how to start a fire in this thing too — but I’m really lousy at it. John can get one going in ten minutes; I can work on it for a good hour, until the puny excuses for flames do nothing more than cause my painstakingly stacked logs to crumble into a smoldering pile of charred wood. It’s humiliating.

So as much as I would have loved a roaring fire that night (something else normal people probably enjoy on wintery eves), I wasn’t about to volunteer to make it. And knowing that any amount of time John spent on getting one going was time taken away from his row-covering task, in reply to his offer to start a fire I said, “Don’t worry about it.”

With a touch of annoyance in his voice, he asked, “What do you mean, ‘Don’t worry about it’?”

Obviously, his mood was hanging on an emotional thread. I didn’t want to push him over the edge any more than the thought of spending a few hours in the freezing cold — in the dark — was already doing, so I stopped myself from asking him what else “don’t worry about it” could have possibly meant.

Instead, I simply reiterated, “I mean don’t worry about it.”

Imagine if Webster had defined words that way in his eponymous dictionary: eponymous \ adj : eponymous

We enjoyed no roaring fire that night, thanks to me. John would have done it had I allowed him. It’s one of the big differences between how he and I view multiple tasks when time is limited. If I assign myself three chores — A, B and C — and reach a point where it seems unrealistic to try to tackle them all, I might choose to skip B. John, on the other hand, when realizing the completion of A through C is verging on the impossible, adds a D. (The moral of this story being: he’s much nicer, and certainly less lazy, than I am.)

row cover

Our wood stove remains fireless. The second night of the cold front proved even more frigid than the first, and although the job of putting the row covers back on was made much less onerous with the invaluable help of young Stephen, Farmer John was pooped.

I suppose I should try harder to learn to start a fire in that stove. If we do move to Washington State, we’re going to need supplemental heat a whole lot more often than we do here. But then, John won’t be spending hours covering 200- and 400-foot rows of crops up there, so why should I bother? I’ll let him do it. He’s the nice one, after all, and he’ll have a lot more time to tack a D onto his ABC’s. Heck, maybe he’ll even make it to E.

* * *

This Wednesday will be our last Jollyville Road market before the holidays. We’re planning to come back beginning January 9th and then will remain open probably through January 23rd. For this week’s farm stand, we’ll be bringing:

Lots of broccoli, Romanesco cauliflower, lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, the first head lettuces from the latest crop (butter head, red leaf and romaine), green onions, sweet white turnips, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, bunches of dinosaur kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, pink radishes, watermelon radishes, cabbages, some spaghetti squash and kabocha squash, plus some of this and that.

head lettuces

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)

The sky was a crime scene.

That is what is called a “hook.” I was reminded of the term by Mary’s 9-year-old son when we were all gathered near the salad sinks at the close of a recent work day. As I’m sure most of you know, a hook is a leading sentence designed to intrigue the reader into wanting to continue on.

That isn’t where our grammar lesson began. It started with a question to the young boy, specifically asking him to describe a simile. He knew immediately that a simile is a figure of speech in which two essentially different things are compared using the words “like” or “as.” Pretty impressive for a 9-year-old, yes? This little guy is a smart one. He did, however, get a bit flummoxed when asked how a simile differs from a metaphor — volunteering the meaning of “hook” instead — yet he was no more confounded than Farmer John.

No offense to my dear husband, of course. While grammar isn’t his strong suit, he’s one heck of a vegetable grower (and honestly, I’ll take that over a linguistics expert any day). Which made it all the more remarkable that after a brief explanation of metaphor versus simile, and after the rest of us tried to think of metaphorical sentences to illustrate its definition — each of our attempts fairly lame — it was John who blurted out:

“The sky was a crime scene.”

We all fell silent for a moment. I jotted it down on a piece of paper. When asked what made him consider such an interesting analogy, John admitted it was because of the weather forecast (once a vegetable grower, always a vegetable grower). There was a 40% chance of rain in the near future, supposedly coming with the passage of the latest cold front, and his metaphor was in actuality wishful thinking.

Fortunately, we have a deep well and have never wanted for irrigation water. We know other local farmers whose wells went dry during the drought of 2011, a dire situation if there ever was one, particularly for those of us who depend on irrigation water for our livelihoods. Still, even though we’ve never had to go without it, well water doesn’t compare to water from the sky.

Since our well is deep and the pump rate is somewhat low, we can only irrigate small sections of the farm at any one time. Plus, we have only so much drip tape (though plenty enough if only it would occasionally rain) and almost all of it is busy quenching the thirst of our vegetable crops. The problem lies on the acreage not currently dedicated to vegetables, where we grow cover crops — oats and oilseed radish, to name a couple we’ve used this season — in order to maintain soil health. We plant these covers with the hope of rain to keep them alive. When rain eludes us like it did the entire month of November, emergency action is required.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday Farmer John spent many hours dragging our last available lengths of drip tape to parched cover crops. The oilseed radish was especially in need.

oilseed radish

It appears oats can handle drought somewhat better, although there’s a marked difference between oats planted in late September (the two rows on the right in the following picture) that received at least one good downpour shortly after they were seeded, as compared to cover crop planted in October (on the left).

oats

John will now include this 200-foot long section in his weekly irrigation schedule. The 400-foot cover cropped beds aren’t so lucky.

400 foot cover crop

Only a couple of these oilseed radish rows are equipped with drip tape right now, as we don’t have enough to stretch along the remainder. I don’t know whether John plans to move the tape from row-to-row-to-row to try to keep them going or not. I don’t want to ask.

All we can do, really, drip tape or no drip tape, is hope for a crime scene in the sky — one filled with dark, menacing clouds punctuated by blinding flashes of lightning and crashing, house-rattling thunder. We came so close to experiencing that very thing soon after John coined his impressive metaphor. He and I watched radar anxiously as a blob of yellow and red moved closer and closer to our area…only to drift north just as the storm was poised to hit.

Afterwards, we felt as blue as the November sky.

blue sky

For anyone keeping score, that’s a simile. And truthfully, we weren’t quite that blue. Disappointed, sure, but we’ve come to expect as much, and do at least have a source of water to take the place of the magical moisture that sometimes falls from above. (We’ve heard rumors of such occurrences, anyway.)

It’ll rain again one day, probably violently with water gushing down in bucketfuls. Storms like those usually scare the bejeebers out of me, but I’d welcome that kind of criminal activity right about now.

* * *

For the farm stand this Wednesday, we’ll have:

romanesco

Romanesco cauliflower, orange “Cheddar” cauliflower and white cauliflower, along with lots of broccoli, lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, spinach, sweet white turnips, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, purple and green kohlrabi, watermelon radishes, cilantro, Cubanelle peppers, maybe savoy cabbages (if they’re ready!), and some of this and that.

watermelon radishes

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)

Farmer John isn’t exactly a hoarder…but man, he’s close. I tend to want to throw out anything that gets in my way — or just looks at me funny — so my perspective is rather skewed, yet when someone insists there’s no reason to get rid of a “perfectly good” shirt like this,

he might be on the verge of having a teensy case of separation issues.

Out in the farm, you simply must be able to say goodbye. For folks who aren’t used to it, the sight of dead vegetables tossed aside and strewn between the rows is a tough one to overlook. We’ve had new employees in the past who, on their first or second day at the farm, wanted to go back and scoop up all the worm-ridden, aphid-infested rejects to lug home and salvage somehow. We convince them there’s plenty of produce tucked away in containers in our walk-in cooler ready for the taking by everyone who works here — imperfect “uglies” not nice enough for market, yet not nearly so disgusting as the stuff out in the rows.

Worse still is when visitors come. John and I have turned to find people gathering half-rotted tomatoes, fruit that had been discarded a day or two prior. It’s hard to understand, I suppose, how we could possibly throw so many tomatoes to the ground that would be “perfectly good” once the scalded/wormy/insect-sucked portions were cut off.

Time is the reason. Unlike carrying in a dozen perfect and not so perfect tomatoes from a backyard plot, we deal in cartfuls. Time is of the essence and we never seem to have enough of it. Certainly not enough to carve off the bad spots, so we’re forever pitching tomatoes, eggplants, squashes…you name it.

Time is also a big consideration when the first major cold front of the fall is bearing down on the farm. November is the most prolific autumn month for us — cool weather crops are abundant, while we’re still enjoying great harvests from plants that prefer warmer temps. So when faced with the prospect of weather cold enough to kill those heat-loving crops and possibly damage the others, we must decide which ones have to be sacrificed.

Early last week, we were once again forced to choose. After some discussion and a good deal of hand wringing, it was agreed the eggplants had to go.

What a shame. This had been the best late-season eggplant crop, probably ever. And because the fall peppers were right beside them, and because the tall t-posts we use to support the plants make it so difficult to cover, our red and yellow bells were scheduled to be placed on the chopping block too.

John completed what would be the last fall harvest of “summer” squash that afternoon,

and come the following morning, they were goners.

We had planned to sacrifice what was left of the fall tomato crop, as well. In keeping with this commitment, we asked everyone to stay late the afternoon before the freeze in order to harvest every pick-able tomato they could find. The great folks who work here are nothing if not thorough, and by early evening they’d filled 15 crates — double-stacked — with red, pink and slightly pink tomatoes.

[Mr. Rooster is seen here, guarding them with his life.]

That proved to be too much for Farmer Hoarder…er, John. Even after this harvest, our small crop of fall tomato plants remained fairly loaded with green fruit. He couldn’t stand the thought of leaving them exposed to the elements. That night, after almost three straight hours spent covering nearly the entire farm (most of it in pitch dark), he draped the tomato rows. He did the same with the peppers after recognizing he couldn’t bear to part with those either.

Once he’d protected all he could protect, he came inside and collapsed on his chair, exhausted. He wasn’t much perkier the next night when he had to do it all over again after daytime breezes blew most of the covers off. He set his alarm for 3 a.m. so he could go back out and start irrigation running under the tomatoes and peppers as an extra buffer against the cold, only to discover it was still 49 degrees. Clouds held fast overhead and we didn’t freeze.

He hadn’t needed to cover anything that night. He could have relaxed all evening instead. This is what Farmer John does, though. He may have a little trouble sacrificing some of the crops, but he hasn’t a second thought about sacrificing himself.

Maybe I should surprise him with a new shirt or two, to replace the “perfectly good” ones he sometimes wears now. And if he wants to keep the ones riddled with holes, I won’t argue.

I’m thinking he deserves it.

* * *

We have oodles for your Thanksgiving holiday! For the Wednesday stand this week, we’ll be bringing:

Lots of fall tomatoes (I know that doesn’t scream “Thanksgiving” but they’ll be great on those leftover turkey sandwiches)! Plus: Red butterhead lettuce, Red leaf lettuce, butternut squash, kabocha squash (great in savory or sweet dishes), spaghetti & acorn squash, cauliflower, green onions, sweet white turnips, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, some curly kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, yellow bell peppers, Cubanelle peppers, kohlrabi, pink radishes and watermelon radishes, fennel, salad mixes, cilantro, 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)

Raccoons are a nuisance. Opossums aren’t exactly little angels either — they’ll kill a chicken if given the opportunity — but we rarely blame them for messes caused by nighttime mayhem. When we wake up in the morning to find the trash can raided or a forgotten bird feeder mutilated, we’re 99.9% sure a raccoon was the culprit.

Because of these critters, Farmer John brings our hanging wild bird feeder inside when he goes out at dusk to secure the henhouse, and we’ve begun keeping a heavy cement brick atop the trash can.

It probably makes the raccoons angry. I’m assuming so, anyway, since it seems like irritable is a raccoon’s normal emotional state. We’ve spent many an evening listening to two or three of them wrestle and fight outside our open windows, all snorts and growls and screeches.

In mid-summer, when our melons are ripening, we’re forced to secure the crop with five lines of electric fencing because of raccoons. If only they chose to be polite about their nocturnal visits to the melon patch, we might be more willing to share. But no. They claw and chomp and toss things around without exhibiting any common decency whatsoever. They don’t even bother finishing the first melon before moving on to ruin the next, and the next, and the next. So we zap ‘em.

Hard squashes are occasionally targeted by raccoons, as well, yet not usually attacked so viciously. This fall, the hard squash crop wasn’t much bothered at all — which made it all the more surprising when we discovered raccoons (and we’re certain they were raccoons) had trampled sections of our 200-foot bed of Euro mix.

The animals weren’t interested in eating it (which is beyond the comprehension of all us Euro salad lovers here at the farm); they simply wanted to fight each other in it. At least that’s how it appeared and weirdly so, considering in that section of the farm, the Euro mix row is the only one kept under cover.

This means the raccoons jumped over one row of cover crop and the row of Asian greens to commence their scuffle. And a scuffle it was, for sure, one that progressed in intervals directly down that shade cloth-covered row, smashing whole sections of beautiful, healthy baby salad mix

to filthy, flattened smithereens.

Whether these portions of our Euro row will recover is yet to be seen. Our house is too far from this part of the farm for us to have heard the commotion as it was happening, else we might have been able to stop it. Because if there’s one thing raccoons are not, it’s subtle. When they’re cross or annoyed, they express their outrage — loudly — to anyone within earshot.

They’d fit in well on social media sites. A couple years ago, I caved in to peer pressure and joined Facebook (or as Farmer John calls it, The MyFace). I set up a business page for the farm, and also a personal page for me. While I do post often from the farm page, other than putting up vacation pictures and occasionally commenting or hitting the “like” button on other people’s posts, my personal page is pretty quiet.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading what others have to say. In fact, I scan The MyFace regularly. It can be pretty darned entertaining, really. It can be pretty darned frustrating, too, and was especially so during the past several months leading up to the election. It’s amazing how vitriolic people can become. Would they have said such hateful things to other people face-to-face, or can they only do it MyFace-to-MyFace?

Well, now that the votes are in, perhaps most folks will calm down a bit. While obviously not everyone is happy with how the election turned out, wouldn’t it be grand if the nasty MyFace comments would cease for good? Of course people should continue to engage in civilized discussion. Everyone has their own opinion. And despite the fact that posts are seen only by those who’ve been “friended,” there’s no denying that a certain number of most people’s MyFace “friends” are casual acquaintances, at best, some of whom undoubtedly feel differently about the issues than themselves.

So when I read one of my acquaintance’s post-election post (sorry…couldn’t help myself) claiming that anyone who didn’t vote for her candidate did so out of “stupidity,” I was afraid it was only the beginning of more online fighting.

Happily, that seems not to be the case. There’s still time, of course, but thus far it appears The MyFace is once again a fairly peaceful place to visit, one where folks are free to express their feelings yet do so without resorting to provocation and name-calling. I hope it can stay that way.

There are enough real raccoons in the world. We don’t need to start behaving like them too.

* * *

Know what’s peaceful? Vegetables! And we’ll have lots of them for you at Wednesday’s stand. Here’s what we’re planning to bring:

White cauliflower, head lettuces (Butterheads, Romaine, Red leaf and Crisp head), lettuce mix, spinach, bulk purple and golden beets, Tendersweet and Farao cabbages, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, curly kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, escarole, yellow bell peppers, green bell peppers, Nubia and Beatrice eggplant, kohlrabi, pink and purple radishes, zucchini, Zephyr squash, some tomatoes (we never have a slew in the fall, but we will have quite a few more than last week!), 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)

Ever known a pathological liar, someone who seems incapable of telling a story or answering a simple question without embellishment or even downright dishonesty? I’ve crossed paths with a couple throughout my lifetime, and as angry as they made me, I finally realized it’s actually kind of sad, really, for the habitual liars themselves. Once it becomes obvious that someone is more likely to fib than tell the truth, people stop listening to them.

Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of being close to a whole lot more truth-tellers than liars. Farmer John is one of the most aboveboard people I’ve known, second only to my dear departed mother. And the only reason John doesn’t rank quite as high as Mom on the honesty scale is because of his propensity to make me, through hearsay, perjure myself.

For example,

he told me to put radishes on the produce list of my newsletter for last Wednesday’s farm stand. Since we hadn’t harvested them yet, I searched out this radish photo from the spring to illustrate the abundance we’d surely be bringing to our NW Austin stand. The day after I posted my blog, John sent Zac out to the field to pull as many pink radishes as were ready. He returned not 10 minutes later with this.

One tub, only partially full, enough to make nine measly bunches.

Now, we all make mistakes. And usually, once radishes start sizing-up, we’re overrun with them — so it’s totally understandable for John to have assumed Zac would come across a slew. Thing is, though, just the week prior, John insisted I list Napa cabbage for the Wednesday stand and despite my protestations that they appeared mighty aphid-ridden the last time I’d seen them, he promised he’d be able to gather enough to make it worthwhile. The blog went out right on time, with Napa cabbages featured prominently on the list.

I do believe you can guess the ending to this sad tale: none of the Napas had survived the aphid onslaught. Rather than harvesting them, John spent a good portion of the morning loading gooey, ruined cabbages into the wheelbarrow and dumping the mess on the opposite side of the farm fence.

Truthfully — and that’s the goal, isn’t it, to be truthful? — John was just as disappointed as I over both of these events. He wasn’t trying to be deceitful on purpose. In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess to my share of unintentional falsification, as well. Thing is, though, I tend to lean in the other direction.

Because I’m kind of leery about misleading customers (and I’m often a lousy judge of how much we’ll have), when left to my own devices I sometimes downplay the initial appearance of something on the list. Like the first time we had enough beets to harvest for market earlier this season, I wrote something like “maybe we’ll have a decent amount, maybe we’ll only have a few.”

We wound up with 93 bunches. More beets than we’ve ever harvested for one market in the history of our little farm.

I’ll use the excuse that I’m not one of the beet pickers. I have nothing to do at all with beet harvest or preparation, as a matter of fact, so this one was an honest — and that’s the goal, isn’t it, to be honest? — miscalculation.

The fall broccoli, however, is a different story. I harvest the broccoli and despite that fact, the first time we had it, I put it way at the bottom of the list and said we’d have “some.” After spending an entire afternoon lugging basket upon basket of broccoli to the salad sinks,

I boxed up nearly 100 pounds. Not a record harvest for the farm, but it was right up there.

I have my suspicions about how closely people listen to Farmer John’s and my predictions for upcoming markets. We’re questioned often as to what we’ll have next, but luckily most folks appear to take that with a grain of salt. Or I hope they do. Because a week ago Saturday we told everyone at the Jonestown stand that although we had broccoli for that market, our next succession wouldn’t be ready by the following Saturday. Because of that, a lot of people loaded up on broccoli, enough to last them a while.

Then, a mere two days later, I spotted this:

Admittedly, it was a nice surprise, yet it made me rethink how I’ve blamed Farmer John for leading me down this fraudulent path. Just like the fall tomatoes we all but swore wouldn’t make it to fruition but then actually did,

the crops are the ones turning us into liars. And that’s the honest truth.

* * *

Here’s what I feel pretty sure we’ll have for Wednesday’s farm stand (notice how I’m covering my bases, just in case!):

Oodles of broccoli, head lettuces (Butterheads, Romaine, Red leaf and Crisp head), lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, Asian mustards mix, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, curly kale, bunches of broccoli raab, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, escarole, Cubanelle peppers, yellow bell peppers, Nubia and Beatrice eggplant, kohlrabi, pink and purple radishes (I think it’ll really happen this week!), some summer squash, a very few fall tomatoes (the second “flush” of green tomatoes have only just begun to ripen), and a little 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)

When some friends visited from out-of-town, the first thing they noticed upon stepping inside our house was that we’d rearranged the living room furniture.

“It’s because of the chairs,” I told them.

“We needed good chairs since we’re old and we farm for a living.”

See, we tend to hurt ourselves — our backs, in particular. John was in the habit of wrenching his back every winter, so I gave him the chair on the left as a Christmas present a couple years ago (how very romantic). These are Ekornes chairs, snazzy ergonomically correct recliners that, amazingly, really do help when one of us throws our back out of alignment.

[Note to anyone associated with the Ekornes organization: If you feel some sort compensation is warranted for this unsolicited endorsement, my mailing address is listed on our farm’s website.]

In our defense, Farmer John and I aren’t the only ones here who suffer aches and pains. Young Mary required a series of chiropractic treatments for her back earlier this year, and Dana used to regularly visit an acupuncturist because of a prior knee injury that didn’t get along well with the contortive nature of farm work.

Pricey chairs. Physical therapy. Alternative medical treatments. We utilize them all. As Dana so wisely phrased it: Injury is the mother of invention.

We try to pay attention to posture while we work, we really do. We spend an inordinate amount of time lately harvesting salad mixes, and figured out long ago that the squat-and-crawl method isn’t too terrible on one’s back.

The same can’t be said for our poor knees in this situation, yet there’s really no getting away from at least some kind of discomfort. We do make a point to stand up and stretch as we move down the row and, believe it or not, after going through this exercise week after week, we get almost accustomed to it.

More of a problem is bending from the waist. It’s a horrendous thing to do to yourself for any length of time. Trouble is, when faced with 200-foot rows of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to harvest, there aren’t many options.

Sure, we could try the crouch-and-crawl method we use for salad mixes, but that would make the Brassica harvests take an awfully long time — and time isn’t something we have in abundance. So, being the primary broccoli and cauliflower picker at the farm, I bend.

And last fall, I paid the price. Or I should say my back paid it. Or really, I should say Farmer John and I paid for it — literally — when we purchased the second Ekornes chair, a slightly smaller model just for me.

Recently, John and I both hurt ourselves in the same week. He twisted his back by stepping off the tractor in a weird way; I tweaked mine while using this.

I felt the tug in the middle of my back the second I bent down to the faucet to measure out 1-1/2 cups. Ironically, John was convalescing in his Ekornes chair at that very moment.

I’d love to say mine was a farm injury too. It sounds so much more noble (and decidedly less ridiculous). Although technically, since our house is on the same land as the farm, and the incident occurred in the kitchen of the house on the farm…well, you see where I’m going.

It’s like when, in my 20’s, I broke two of my front teeth and told everyone it was a racquetball accident. I just failed to mention that it actually happened after one of my matches, when I stepped out of the racquetball court’s shower, slipped on the wet floor and landed on my mouth.

Details, details.

This only goes to further prove Dana’s statement that injury is indeed the mother of invention. Sometimes the “invention” is an ergonomically correct chair; sometimes it’s a story that slightly re-invents the truth.

Regardless of the cause of the injury, those Ekornes recliners are some darn fine chairs. I mean great chairs. Miracle chairs, really, when you get right down to it. [Hello, Ekornes? Just so you’ll know — you can make the check out to me personally, or to the farm. Either way is fine.]

* * *

While we await the second succession of broccoli — it’ll be here soon! — we have plenty of new items ready to bring to the farm stand this week. I promise we’ll be mindful of our backs as we harvest:

Head lettuces (Butterheads, Romaine, Red leaf and Crisp head), lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, bulk purple and golden beets (fresh-pulled, but the worms got the leaves darn it!), pink radishes, bunches of chard, Dinosaur kale, bunches of broccoli raab, bags of arugula, bulk Asian greens, Cubanelle peppers, zucchini, Zephyr squash, Nubia and Beatrice eggplant, butternut squash, kohlrabi, the first Farao cabbages, and fall tomatoes (we have a bit more than last week, but will never have as many as in the summer months so they’ll likely go quickly!).

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)