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

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)