For someone who has spent most of his life in South Texas, fall has always been the most pleasant season of the year and for good reason.
Just compare the climatic differences to the other seasons - windy spring, hot summer and cold winter.
Yes, we are supposed to have four seasons. But this far south, some seasons have dominant climatic conditions that extend beyond the designated dates on the calendar. Although, fall actually started on Sept. 23, no significant cold fronts were able to reach South Texas during the first three weeks of the new season.
A friend from Minnesota who spent a couple of years in Texas on military duty insisted we should only observe three seasons in South Texas and they should be called "Warm, Hot and Hotter." With only a month or so of light-jacket days, he insisted that by no stretch of the imagination did we have a winter.
In all fairness, he also insisted that the traditional four seasons were not applicable to his home state either. He advocated re-naming their seasons in the great northwest to "Cold, Colder and Coldest with six to eight weeks of poor sledding conditions." That "poor sledding" period is what the locals who have never spent time in Texas refer to as "summer," but he readily agreed it is not the same.
Texans seen to prefer the term "Fall" to "Autumn" when referring to the current season. I was reminded of that fact when my son who has been residing in New England for the past four years gave me a call on my late September birthday, just after the official start of the Autumn season. When the conversation turned to the weather, he indicated that Fall colors were starting to appear across the Connecticut woodlands.
He hopes that in my retirement years we will take a trip to see this amazing transformation of nature. It just happened that a few days later, I was thumbing through a copy of the 2008 edition of the Farmers' Almanac when I notice a section entitled "Peak Foliage Dates." It alphabetically listed the 50 states with the month and days when the Autumn foliage would be at its aesthetic peak. For Connecticut, next year's peak dates are Oct. 19 through the 29. States to the north run a week to 10 days earlier.
I was interested to see what dates were assigned our beloved Lone Star State. I was a bit startled when instead of dates in the column beside Texas the notation read, "Not Applicable." I decided to look more closely at the publication's listing and found that a half dozen states including Louisiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska also earned the "Not Applicable" designation. So they were not just picking on Texas.
After reflecting on this situation, I decided that Texans put a lot more emphases on if and when our trees will put on their foliage as opposed to when the foliage will start to turn color and begin falling. In South Texas many seasoned cotton farmers at the beginning of spring watch the older mesquite trees. When these trees begin to show new leaves, it is a good indication that it is safe to plant cotton and other frost-sensitive crops.
This past week, I had an unexpected encounter with a long time reader of this column. She had recently returned to South Texas following retirement from a 40-year career in the corporate world. She had been stationed in New York City and Los Angeles. It turned out that her mother purchased an annual subscription to the Nueces County Record-Star so she could keep up with what was happening on the home front.
This kind lady indicated that the "Farm and Ranch Happening's" weekly articles gave her a feel for the challenges farmers and ranchers were facing back home. Considering last year's drought we are glad she was daring enough to return to the area. Here she plans to spend retirement in the company of friends and relatives and where she enjoyed growing up.
Incidentally, the Farmers' Almanac is predicting cold and wet conditions from mid-November through December for most of Texas, so find a moisture-proof light jacket to wear.
Harvey Buehring is the former Agricultural Extension Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5223.