On a Central Texas Farm, Winter Doesn't Exist

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Carol Ann Sayle


September. It's that time of year, "the end of the season" ... up north. The seed company newsletters I receive testify to the urgency of canning and preserving the tons of tomatoes, cucumbers, even greens that flood the markets, gardens, and backyards ... up north.

In trade magazine articles, farmers talk about the "winding down" of the farm travail. They are exhausted after long hours in the equally long days of sunshine ... up north. I imagine they can't wait to put the farm soil to sleep under winter cover crops—or snow—so they can clean and repair their machinery. They can also peruse seed catalogues (planning their spring crops), write recipe books and articles on how to extend the summer season (for anyone who can't stand not working), attend agricultural conferences, and chart vacation trips to see other farms ... down south.

We don't know it as the harvest moon. To us, it is just another "planting moon."

First, however, they must harvest the last of the summer crops, under the "harvest moon," which we also, down here in Central Texas, can see rising in the eastern sky.

But we don't know it as the harvest moon. To us, it is just another "planting moon."

Our summer harvest has been happening since last May—for many moons—and finishes with September-October's last crops of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, okra, green beans, and eggplant. Simultaneously, we are in the throes of readying our beds for, and planting, fall's crops! These are the cold-loving plants that will yield from late October through December: broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, kale and greens of all sorts, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicories, and bushel baskets of salad mixes—seven different ones at most markets. After these crops, we'll repeat with the same, plus fresh peas, fennel, Brussels sprouts, fava beans, fresh onions, new potatoes, spring garlic, and strawberries. And much more.

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Carol Ann Sayle

We have such a diversity of plants that thrive through our winters (citrus, mache, parsnips, leeks, chervil, cabbage, turnips, carrots, etc.) that winter has become my favorite season. We and our employees are planting like crazy, in between the intermittent rains (a rarity for early fall). We are sowing spinach and carrots and setting in transplants of all the brassicas. And we're already harvesting turnips and bok choi, our first bona-fide fall crops.

I think we are fortunate to have two seasons, hot and cold, where the crops are divided by their tolerance for each extreme. We can't grow every item in one season, like up north, but over the year we can have at least two crops of every item in its proper season. We eat our fill in one season and then anticipate the next.

The truth is that there is always something fresh to eat. Thus, we don't do much canning, although Larry does put up lots of tomatoes and pickled products for our farmstand customers. We just don't have to put up food for our own use in winter. And that's a relief!

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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