In case you haven’t heard, May was wet in Texas. Very wet. Here in Austin, we had a combined rainfall of almost 18 inches – about 14 inches more than normal.
After almost 5 years of drought, we’re all, no doubt, grateful for the rain. However, if you’ve seen the news, some places south and west of Austin got the brunt of what can happen when too much rain falls in too short a time.
Around here, it’s pretty much feast or famine rain-wise.
I know the local farmers are happy for the rain. Up to a point, anyway. Some crops, like potatoes, have rotted and the crop yields are lower than they normally would be. Tomatoes are taking longer than usual to ripen. In short, the farmers are ready for a respite and for the fields to dry a bit.
But, now, the summer high-pressure system is beginning to move to its usual summer home, so we should be in a dry spell for a while.
Just as a side note, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m now volunteering at Boggy Creek Farm. I help out once a week in the fields. I’ve done this because I want to learn first-hand about growing my own food organically. I can read books about it all day long, but there’s nothing like hands-on experience. Reason #2 – I need the exercise.
Wednesday, May 5:
My first stop, as per my usual, was Boggy Creek Farm. I like to get there early so I can get to the salad mixes and baby greens before they’re all gone.
After talking with Carol Ann about volunteering, I did a quick wander around the farm.
Stop #2: Springdale Farm
By the time I finally made my way to Springdale, the farmstand was pretty picked over. Good for Paula & Glenn. Bad for me.
I still managed to pick up a few things, though.
After my shopping, I took advantage of the continuing break in the rain to walk around the farm. Like Boggy Creek, it’s such a lovely space to go and just get away from the concrete for a few minutes.
Saturday, May 9:
Back to Boggy Creek first thing. I wanted to get there early so I could finally get my hands on one specific item: Squash Blossoms. I learned if one arrives much after the first 30 minutes, one is out of luck.
I was successful. Joy.
I didn’t really hang around that day since I’d been at the farm just a few days before. Plus, it looked like more rain was coming.
Next, I decided to try a new (to me) farmers market, Barton Creek. It’s located in the parking lot at Barton Creek Mall in south Austin. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.
I will say, I like it. Very much. It’s a much less formal vibe than the downtown market. In addition to the usual farm stands, they have artist booths selling clothing, jewelry, and other accessories, as well as a gentleman who’ll sharpen your knives while you shop.
They have a market on Sundays, too, that I still need to check out. Maybe I could even drag Husband Steve along.
As soon as I walked in, a lovely gentleman, David, walked right up to me and asked if I wanted to try his blackberries. He said he’d picked them the day before and still had some of the small thorns in his hands (he did).
I have to honestly say, those were some of the best blackberries I ever tasted. Just sweet enough and very juicy. I think I ended up buying 5 baskets.
One of the stands I stopped at was Engel Farms. They are a third generation, family-run farm based in Fredericksburg, Texas.
When I got to the stand, they had already sold out of a few things. However, I did to buy a couple of strawberry baskets.
A quick pass by Baguette et Chocolat for some chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat) and sourdough for Husband Steve & I. I’ve been to their storefront many times for their breads, sandwiches, pastries, and their “Special Hot Chocolate”. If you ever get a chance, go. Depending on where you’re coming from, it can be a trek. But, the reward is worth it.
I took my mom there for breakfast one morning when she came down for a visit. It is now “our place” for breakfast.
In my quest to shop for seafood (hopefully) more responsibly, I like to seek out smaller seafood vendors who (again, hopefully) harvest seafood in a safe, responsible, and sustainable way.
I stopped by a small stand called The Shrimp Connection. According to their Facebook page, they sell chemical-free, wild-caught Texas Gulf Shrimp.
I bought 2 pounds of the large. It was fat, fresh, great-looking shrimp.
Winfield Farms made it into the grocery bag this time around. It’s a small, family-run farm in Bastrop County which is wonderful in and of itself. For me? They had sprouts.
Finally, I find sprouts.
My final stop was at Johnson’s Backyard Garden. I didn’t really see too much that moved me there this time around, but I did buy a few items.
Finally, after another walk-through, I decided I was ready to go. But first, lunch.
Heidi Garbo started the food truck (and, later, her restaurant) in 2013. she grew up in Key West Florida, by way of Connecticut, where her father and uncle were in the seafood business. After she moved to Austin with her husband, she missed the lobster rolls back home. Hence, Garbo’s.
Garbo’s food truck has a much smaller menu than the restaurant and is just as good. However, the price may shock some people. But, that should be somewhat mitigated by the fact that Garbo’s doesn’t scrimp on the lobster.
Back home. And on to the purchases. I did pretty well, I thought.
Dinner that night:
Thursday, May 21
My first day of volunteering at Boggy Creek Farm. Not sure what to say other than it was hard and rewarding work. I can say that it was overcast, a little drizzly, and cool. So, at least that helped make the weed pulling a little easier.
My first day, I met Dana (the lead volunteer), Siri (who’s been volunteering for about 8 months), and Sarah (who started the week before I did), along with Finnegan and Aden, two of the full-time employees of the farm. I also formally met Tina, who works part-time at the stand.
The volunteers were tasked with pulling up the romaine lettuce stalks that had flowered out along with the weeds that seemed to be growing before our eyes. Since the ground has had so much rain, the weeds and romaine were fairly easy to pull up. The Johnson Grass, however – ugh. The best part of all this is the chickens got to feast out on the romaine stalks. We all took turns tossing them into the coop and watching the chickens do their chicken thing.
After the pulling, we moved on to composting. While Dana and Siri spread the compost (made up of old vegetation, leaves, and chicken droppings), Sarah and I cut it into the soil with hoes and smoothed it out. I’ll tell you, that’s a great upper body workout.
After the break, we finished composting and then moved on to planting Purslane. Carol Ann had grown it from seed in her greenhouse and now it was ready to put in the ground.
I honestly can’t wait until it’s ready for harvesting. I’ve never eaten purslane before, at least not knowingly, so I’m excited to try it.
It was a tough on me, being out of shape and middle-aged. But, I’m going to keep going.
As part of our “pay” for volunteering, we get $30 worth of free produce. Fair offer, I would say. Done judiciously, $30 can go a long way at the stand.
During the course of my day at the farm, I happened to notice an old hen in the tool shed not really moving much, even for a roosting hen. I saw her later in the same spot and she didn’t look well at all. In fact, she looked like she’d shuffled off her mortal coil. I mentioned this to Carol Ann. She said that she had quite a few old hens and this one was probably just sleeping. But, she’d check it out.
Later, after I’d finished my shopping, Carol Ann walked up to me and basically said I was right. The old hen was no more. So, I helped her bury the hen. Well, Carol Ann buried the hen. I just talked. As Carol Ann put the old hen into her hole and was ready to cover her with dirt, Carol Ann simply said, “Thank you for your service.”
Kinda says it all.
Thursday, May 28:
Back at Boggy Creek and volunteering. It was another day of weeding the rows. This time, it was the peppers and tomatoes. By the end of the day, my knees were rebelling.
I didn’t take too many photos that day after I was finished. I had a class to teach that evening and I simply wanted to go home, clean up, eat, and rest before I had to leave again.
Saturday, May 30:
I headed to Springdale Farm on the first non-rainy day in what seemed recent memory. I thought I had arrived pretty early and before the crowds. But, as per usual with me, I was mistaken. It was like as soon as the skies cleared up, people decided to relieve their cabin fever and rejoin society.
After braving the crowd, I headed out to the relative peace of the farm.
After finishing up at Springdale, I headed once again to Barton Creek. The sun was out and people were smiling.
I stopped at a stand I’d not noticed before, Two Happy Children Farm. They had lettuces, squash peppers, and, best of all, corn. I bought 4 ears.
One thing hit me the wrong way as I was standing there. The lady running the stand was Asian and (I think) related to the young boy who was also manning the stand. A couple nearby was asking the lady some questions, which she was cheerfully answering. Then, the man piped up and said, “Was that corn grown by an American?”. I was personally disgusted by the question. The lady simply said with a smile, “And American and an Asian”.
I paid for my corn and walked away.
I wandered over to Engel Farms a few stands down. I had bought produce from them the last time I was at the market and really enjoyed the produce I bought.
This time, not so much. The fruit was beautiful, but that was all. It may have been the rain, but who knows.
After this, I decided it was time to buy some protein and starch to round out my day.
However, the lobster tails and salmon I bought were both delicious.
After my stop at Baguette et Chocolat, I decided it was time to go home. I was shopping on an empty stomach. And we all know what kind of trouble one can get into doing that.
I think I showed remarkable restraint under the circumstances, though.
Another month down. 7 more to go.
This has been fun so far.