It’s happened to most all of us. The doorbell rings and on the front porch stands a neighbor you’ve met only casually, and only once or twice. You weren’t expecting anyone to drop by. As you’re inviting her in, you think about the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter, the pair of sneakers you kicked off when you came home from the store that morning, the ones still in the middle of the floor. Last night’s socks piled limply in front of the couch. The unopened mail strewn across the coffee table.

Now, I realize there are some people who would have no problem with being busted with a messy house. Strong souls, they are. Comfortable in their own skin, uncaring what the rest of the world thinks of them.

I’m not one of those people. In fact, I’m downright freaky about keeping things picked up. A bone-chilling fear of this surprise visit scenario is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I remember distinctly several years ago, shortly after John and I moved into this house, when a new neighbor caught me off guard like that. In my typically self-confident fashion (ahem), I began babbling nearly incoherent apologies about the untidiness of the place.

Our guest’s reply was absolute brilliance. With utter calm and cool he said, “We live in our house too.”

In other words, in the daily routine of life, we all wind up with piles and clutter and dirty dishes. And although I’ve always been fully aware of that fact — it doesn’t bother me one bit if I walk into someone else’s home and see shoes and socks in the middle of the floor — his simple statement was revelatory. At that moment, I realized it was purely my own neurosis causing me to flip out about the appearance of my house. I needed to change my way of thinking and finally, once and for all, chill.

That feeling lasted about one day, before I reverted back to my old obsessive-compulsive self.

Imagine, then, the panic when I got word that the photographer working with a local cookbook author was coming to the farm to take pictures for her newest book. I knew it would happen some time in the spring, yet I was hoping it would be just a tad later.

See, the farm’s a mess right now. While the March rains were indeed spectacular, they caused a serious outbreak of weeds that we haven’t found nearly enough time to tackle.

This poor row of potatoes is surrounded, and that’s merely one example of the mayhem the photog will encounter. One of the 400-foot beds of onions is this close to being totally engulfed in pigweed and wild sunflowers.

Heck, even the four-bed block of onions directly across the aisle from it — onions that have actually been weeded a time or two — are beginning to look a little nervous.

And we’re going to have to somehow distract the photographer as we pass by the oldest hoop house.

That thing should have been taken down and the rows underneath mowed long, long ago. Where there used to be winter arugula, lettuces and cabbage now is a hideously overgrown tangle of weeds. It looks like an abandoned lot. Like the lawn at a haunted house.

If we can manage to divert the photographer’s attention long enough to guide her to the other hoop houses, I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief, at least temporarily.

There are hundreds of tomato plants in there, after all, and nothing excuses unsightly disarray like the promise of May tomatoes.

We’ll make certain to take her to only the very front of the second hoop house, to show off still more tomatoes in addition to the rows of early peppers.

For once we’ll be grateful that in the afternoon it’s far too hot inside these structures to venture into them. If we were to do so, the photographer would be witness to another weedy secret. Although the peppers are nearly weed-free in the front half, the rear is a very, very different story.

Even traversing the farm will be a bit of an issue. John has mowed a few of the pathways, yet he hasn’t had time to do them all. And never mind trying to walk around many areas directly outside the house — some spots are so tall with growth, it’s beginning to look like a jungle. The poor hens get almost lost in it.

Well, the photographer is simply going to have to understand, and accept the farm with all its warts and weeds. Ours is a working farm, after all, not a show farm. It’s not like we can tidy it up in an instant anyway — there’s no hiding the dirty dishes in the sink, no opportunity to surreptitiously kick last night’s socks under the sofa.

As long as the photog is taller than a chicken, she’ll be able to get around fine. I just need to remember those wise words from our old neighbor, and try to remain calm. Breathe in, breathe out….

* * *

Weeds or no weeds, we’re still able to harvest plenty for the farm stands! Here’s what we’ll have for you this Wednesday:

More of those delicious garlic scapes (get ’em while you can — there won’t be many left to harvest next week!); lots of salad fixin’s — lettuce mix, Euro mix, heads of Summer Crisp lettuce, Romaine, Green Butterhead, Red Butterhead and Red Leaf lettuces; green onions; green garlic; lots of leeks; bunches of chard; bunches of gorgeous purple beets and golden beets; the first of the fennel; escarole; bulk sweet white turnips; the last bunches of carrots; some spinach (the heat has just about taken it down for the season); and hopefully the first bit of summer squash.

**Wildflower alert! The uncontrolled spread of “bastard cabbage” is threatening extinction of a good deal of Texas native wildflowers. Please take a peek at this short video to find out how to get rid of it, if you have some in your yard.

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)