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)

A long-lost friend in Vermont with whom I’ve reconnected via Facebook posted a recent photo of herself with her two sisters. In the background was a most spectacular autumn scene, golds and reds as far as the eye could see. I commented on the beauty of it, saying perhaps one day we’ll come to visit — then added that John and I like to vacation in the “Great White North,” but only before it turns too white. In her reply, she said if we wanted to beat the whiteness, we’d better hurry.

Unlike us, people in Vermont pretty much know what to anticipate in October. I suspect by now the folks who live up there have already stashed away their wimpy shorts and t-shirts and pulled out the Big Guns — down jackets, possibly, and ear muffs. Long johns, wool socks and thick oversized sweaters.

If only it were so cut-and-dried here. Our October weather fluctuates wildly from one week to the next — often from one day to the next. Heck, even from one morning to one afternoon at times. In our pre-farm days, I remember more than once turning on the heat for my commute to work on chilly mornings, only to drive home that evening with the air-conditioner running.

Back then, I probably suffered the cold weather a bit more. See, as much as I wished to stay warm, fashion was an equal consideration. While I’d often shiver my way from the car to the office, the pain of it was brief and well worth any temporary discomfort as long as I felt like my outfit looked sharp.

Fashion at the farm isn’t quite so imperative — yet that’s not to say we don’t strive to keep up appearances. Heavens no. We all recognize the importance of maintaining a professional demeanor, in our actions as well as our wardrobe and accessory choices.

It’s just that when the temperatures take a sudden downward turn like they did early last week, we’re forced to scramble a bit to remember how to dress for it. When you work outdoors, draping your favorite little cardigan sweater across your shoulders isn’t going to do the trick.

Upon opening our hall closet for the first time in months on that brisk Monday morning, I halfway expected everything to start falling out like in sitcoms or old cartoons. Fortunately that didn’t happen — though I did find myself kind of ducking my head in anticipation — but it still took me a couple tries before I finally grabbed the old black pullover jacket I prefer on cool work days. At the last second I thought about my knit cap, too, one of the more practical Christmas gifts from Farmer John. (He’s good about including cute little sweaters, as well). After that, I dug deep into my bottom dresser drawer for a pair of flannel jammy pants.

The end result was a far, far cry from those stylish outfits of old (yet the color coordination adds a nice touch, don’t you think?).

Being the resident farm princess, I was the last person to venture out into the cold where I found Mary and John huddled over the chard and kale, both of them bundled and hooded.

The various greens were loving the weather. The rest of us, not so much. It was the abruptness of it, really, more than the temperature itself — it’s rough going from 90 degrees to the upper 40’s in only a day’s time. Vermonters at least have the luxury of easing into fall.

Such is October in Central Texas, however, as we all know. By the following day the mercury had risen, along with the humidity, and farm attire reverted back to what it was all summer.

The forecast for the remainder of this week is mild, but I’m not counting out the possibility of another heat wave before the fall season is finished with us. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen an October day when the clothing of choice for some might look like this:

Thing is, there are only a few of us here at the farm who could pull that off…and at 57 years old, I’m not one of them. Despite the suddenness of cold fronts this time of year, there’s something to be said for covering up. I used to feel it was crazy to live somewhere with lots of snow, but now I’m thinking those Vermont folks are much shrewder than I’d ever imagined.

* * *

In addition to the usual (yet delicious!) standbys we’ve had for market lately, we’re beginning to harvest some new crops! Here’s what we’ll have for you this Wednesday:

Purple and golden beets (I don’t know if we’ll have a lot or just “some,” but we’ll bring as many as we can!); the first of the fall lettuce mix; Asian cucumbers, lots of chard, bunches of Dinosaur kale, curly kale, bunches of broccoli raab, bags of arugula, bulk Asian greens (great raw or cooked!), sweet Corno di Toro peppers, summer squash (zucchini, yellow, and Zephyr); Nubia and Beatrice eggplant, butternut squash, acorn squash, and some surprises many people will be happy to see!

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)

“I love this weather!” exclaimed the post by a Facebook friend during last week’s freezes. I considered for a moment leaving a comment — something along the lines of “Well sure you do…you work inside!” — but decided that might sound rude. I mean, this friend didn’t force us to farm for a living and thus spend nearly each and every day outdoors. Besides, on perfect 80-degree days when he’s sequestered inside an artificially lit building, we get to breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the warmth of the sun on our faces.

It’s just that lately, those days seem so very long ago.

When this latest cold front barreled down, it was enough to make us all wish for an indoor job. Last Monday was bad enough with temps hovering in the upper 30’s, yet at least with enough padding to mitigate the cold to some extent, we were able to occasionally muster some smiles.

Tuesday, however, was brutal. The first 2-1/2 hours stuck steadfastly at 32 degrees while everyone hunkered over the spinach rows, filling buckets leaf-by-leaf-by-leaf. Every now and then someone would scream out “I can’t move my fingers!” or my personal favorite, the random and eloquent “Gaaaaaaaahhhh!!”

On mornings like that, layering is essential. Mary is notorious for squeezing into three pairs of pants, and all of us appreciate the value of polypropylene jackets to help block the cold north wind. Long underwear of some sort is a must, as well. Lucky for me, I held on to most of my old elasticized leggings from the ‘80s (as Dana has noted, fashion flies out the window in the wintertime). Farmer John dresses to a different drummer and uses his Stewie fleece jammy pants as surrogate long johns (ultimately proving Dana’s point).

Yet no matter the preference in undergarments, no matter whether we’ve wrapped ourselves in three layers or ten, water is an inevitable enemy on bitterly cold days. There’s obviously no avoiding it altogether — we must rinse the salads and greens. And truthfully, when the ambient temperature is in the 30’s, sinks full of well water can feel deceivingly warmish.

It’s only when you take your hands out of the water that the pain begins to set in. Consequently, when the weather is too stupid, we try to harvest fewer of the usual suspects that require blasts of water from hoses, like beets with greens and bunching onions. Sometimes the bullet must be bitten, though, and an unlucky person or two is relegated to the outdoor grate, hoses and all.

And contrary to what one might suspect, processing produce inside the salad shed isn’t a whole lot more comfortable.

It’s a frigid state of affairs for sure when the farm’s walk-in cooler is warmer than our various work stations, but on days like these that is indeed the case.

Still, I don’t fault my Facebook friend for relishing cold weather after the horrendous summer we all endured. And while I won’t go so far as to admit that during a spell like this one I come dangerously close to looking back on those months with a bit of longing, you’ll never — never, ever, ever — see a post from me this time of year saying, “I love this weather!”

* * *

Follow the farm on Facebook, if you haven’t done so already, by going to this site and clicking the “Like” button — I promise not to complain about the weather (much) in our updates!

And for Wednesday’s farm stand, we’re planning to bring:

“Cheddar” cauliflower; lots of spinach; various head lettuces (butterheads, romaines and red leaf); bulk purple and golden beets (without greens) and bunches of golden beets with greens; pink and purple radishes; Watermelon radishes; crinkly Savoy cabbage; bunches of fresh young purple onions; Brussels greens; bunches of chard; Dinosaur kale; Curly kale; bags of arugula; bunches of kohlrabi; cilantro; white “Tokyo Market” cooking turnips; bulk Asian greens; 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)

The cold front had long since blown in when everyone got to the farm early last Tuesday morning. Such a remarkable difference from the day prior. Rather than arriving donned in loose cotton jammie pants (the farm attire du jour most of the year) and short-sleeved t-shirts, each person was bundled up to the hilt.

The boys sported hooded sweatshirts while they dismantled old hoop houses,

and Mary took it further still by adding stylishly striped gloves to her multi-layered ensemble as she harvested cucumbers (a crop that prefers warm weather just as much as she does).

If we really want to talk style, though, we need only look to Dana. And her hat.

Don’t let the photo mislead you. Although she appears to be sheltered from the elements inside the garage-slash-salad-shed, it’s chilly in there; all the more so when rinsing greens in sinks of icy water and then bunching those greens with frozen fingers. A jauntily tassled ball hanging off the back of one’s hat serves no practical purpose when it comes to protecting its wearer from the cold.

I suppose a tassled ball never serves a practical purpose, really. Its sole function is to be jaunty. And according to the online thesaurus, a synonym for ‘jaunty’ is ‘breezy,’ which brings me to the nuts and bolts (a synonym of which is ‘practical details,’ a close cousin to ‘practical purpose’) of this diatribe.

It was indeed breezy thatTuesday (yet not the least bit jaunty). Heck, the cold front that showed up here traveled with the same north winds that blew an enormous dust storm over top of Lubbock. We were grateful for the exclusion of dust, but those winds…they do test a person’s resolve.

After the sun finally peeked over the hill to the east of the farm that morning, warming us to a more humane temperature, the wind became more and more intense. Keeping a wide-brimmed farm hat firmly on the noggin is only one of the challenges. I’ve long since lost the strap from my well-worn hat. On days like Tuesday I can only shove the tattered thing as far down on my head as it’ll go, and hope for the best.

Luckily, fashion isn’t a big concern of mine anymore.

It used to be. I remember all too well attempting to nonchalantly stroll along Congress Avenue on windy days, dressed to the nines in designer skirts and four-inch heels, desperate to retain a modicum of poise while frantically trying to keep the hemline below my knees.

Some women handle defeat much more gracefully than others.

The hens side with me on this issue. Like most style-conscious females, they’re a bit modest about the wind mussing their feathers and try to avoid it at all costs.

The only way I was able to coerce our resident Blonde Bombshell out into the open on such a blustery day was by tempting her with what is widely known in henhouse circles as a girl’s best friend.

I’m not talking diamonds here. I’m talking cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise. Splitting them makes the scrumptious seeds that much easier to peck out — and that’s a practical purpose if there ever was one.

* * *

We have great quantities this week! Even we’re amazed at how beautifully everything is growing. For Wednesday’s stand we’ll be bringing:

The first of the fall season lettuce mix; Euro salad mix (French lettuces, curly cress, baby chicories and arugula); “bunching” green onions; beautiful chard; bunches of Asian mustard greens; Brussels greens; Purple and Golden beets; oodles of summer squash — zucchini, Zephyr, yellow squash and Cousa (with the weather soon to be much cooler, these won’t be around a whole lot longer!); Asian cucumbers; bags of arugula; three varieties of eggplant; and some odds and ends.

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)

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)