by Nicole Lessin
photography by Pauline Stevens
At Winfield Farm, a 35-acre patch of pastoral heaven in Red Rock just southeast of Austin, visitors can live out their agrarian fantasies (or perhaps learn a bit of the reality of them from someone who’s been there) by staying at Winfield’s serene and utterly charming B&B named Hotel California. “So many people want to escape the city, and they want this idyllic little country life,” says Govinda Hough, who moved with her family from California to the property in 2007, and now manages a diversified organic operation that produces hay, vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, fruits, nuts, eggs, sprouts, preserves, pickles and more. “This just gives them a little piece of it; they can really see what’s involved in having a farm.”
Govinda does the bulk of the farm work herself with some assistance from her husband Jason Hough—a Travis County Sheriff’s deputy—their two teenage children, Matthew and Madison, a flock of about 60 feathered “ladies,” some cats and a hedgehog. This often means long hours and an endless laundry list of tasks, such as mowing, picking, planting, feeding, canning and harvesting, as well as some of the more unsavory chores. “The reality of it is, you’re dealing with chicken poop,” says Govinda with a laugh. “It’s like everyone thinks those eggs are so beautiful. Well, yeah—but you’ve got to go to the back of that stinky chicken house and pick up the eggs, and your hands are going to hit chicken poop.”
In contrast, B&B guests get to experience something more akin to five-star luxury—despite its affordable, $105-a-night price. Outside the cabin that accommodates two are sprays of milky-white roses and potted herbs; inside are warm, California-gold walls appointed with 1930s-era postcards of landmarks in Los Angeles and San Diego, a double bed covered with an antique chenille coverlet and other vintage linens, plus other early 20th-century pieces.
Sure, if visitors want a hot meal, they’ll need to cook it—either in the kitchenette using an electric skillet or crock-pot, or out on the patio using their own personal barbecue—but Govinda keeps the cabin stocked with goodies, such as her homemade preserves, cream-on-the-top milk from Full Quiver Farms, free-range chicken eggs from her flock, locally sourced fruits, artisanal breads from Baguette et Chocolat and even granola from Texas French Bread. Plus, boarders are encouraged to forage the four acres of gardens for everything from Swiss chard to the kind of cilantro that Dai Due chef, Jesse Griffiths, most prefers for his wild boar tacos.
Some guests enjoy feeding carrots to the family’s three rescue horses—which includes Caspian, a friendly, full-grown equine who thinks he’s a foal—while others prefer to take a midnight walk through the complete darkness of the back hay fields for some top-drawer, deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas stargazing. “There are no lights anywhere,” Govinda says. “It’s amazingly quiet, with a perfect view of the Milky Way.”
Anne York’s husband booked Hotel California last year for her and their infant son to have a safe and relaxing long weekend at the cabin while he was away on business. “We loved it,” she recalls. “It was so cozy. We were able to just roam the land. [The horses] would meander back into the back fields and I really like doing photography, so I took a ton of photos of the horses and other wildlife and the sunset.” But it was the cabin’s provisions and the fresh produce from the gardens that forever converted York into a fan and locavore. “Honestly, it was a completely different taste, and the colors were more vibrant,” notes York, who now buys Govinda’s products each week at the Barton Creek Farmers Market. “It was far better than the organics you can find at the grocery store. I really got a sense that the business practices she has are really high, and I got to see for myself what it means to have a truly organic garden.”
Fellow farmer Håkan Ward, who came all the way from southern Sweden with his wife for a visit to Hotel California, says they had a nice experience dancing at Watterson Hall just down the road, and particularly enjoyed the B&B’s rustic setting coupled with its convenient location. “It was very nice and peaceful,” he says. “But quite close to Austin and Bastrop, so it was in the countryside, but not so far away from Bastrop, where there was a lot of shopping.”
While guests most often prize the tranquility of the experience, Govinda says visiting Winfield Farm is also a perfect opportunity for those who wish to learn more about the realities of sustainable farming. “Everybody I talk to says, Oh my gosh, you’re living my dream, and that is being on an organic farm, living in the country and having a small business,” Govinda explains. “When they come out here, they actually get to have a piece of that. If I had had a place like this to come out to, I would have jumped into this whole business with a little more understanding of what is needed and what is involved.”
You can find Winfield Farm at Barton Creek Farmers Market on Saturdays and at Lone Star Farmers Market on Sundays. Find out more at winfieldfarmtexas.com