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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Homestead Heritage Birthday Outing

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

There are times that a wave of nostalgia rolls over me, and I long for simpler days.  Like days when watching television was easy, no monthly fee for service, and no antenna dish needed to pick up the high definition signal.  A time when television programs were paid by commercials, a time when the three major channels offered more than reality shows, and a time when I wasn't embarrassed to watch a show with my mother.  A time when the story did not need detailed sexual scenes, coarse language, or graphic violence to be entertaining.  Television producers left something for our active imaginations. I do use my remote control as needed. 

A good friend in repose at the herb garden house could be a Monet painting.    
Instead of lamenting things I cannot change, I enjoy visiting sites and shops that continue to offer quality goods and services created with craftsmanship developed with care and concern. Places that offer beautiful, useful objects built to last, things not found in every store. 

One of my good friends celebrated a milestone birthday this May, and we spent the day at a special place, Homestead Heritage, Traditional Craft Village at Brazos de Dios near Waco, Texas.  Homestead Heritage is one of those places that offer beautiful one-of-a-kind hand-made objects. 


Heirloom roses in full bloom filled the air with old-fashioned fragrance, setting the scene for a leisurely walk along gravel pathways lined with bright multi-colored flowers and free form shrubs. 

Timber framed buildings house pottery, fiber crafts, blacksmithing, and woodworking demonstrations and offer classes in each of these crafts. 

A cafe and bakery lists a variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, as well as brisket and sausage plates all made from home-grown all-natural ingredients.  Our lunches were wonderful. 

Even the fresh-baked buns are made from flour stone-ground at a water-powered grist mill. 

 A wooden footbridge over a small stream shaded by dense native vegetation leads to the herb garden.  Stopping in the deep shade on the bridge, we were engulfed in silence that was broken by the buzz of bees and call of birds as we walked into the sunlight-filled herb garden. A dragonfly sat quietly, unmoving on a tall wildflower while nearby a butterfly flitted nervously from flower to flower barely sipping nectar before flying to another flower. 


Inside the two-story Gift Barn, an antique orchard ladder hangs from a massive wooden beam. The old posts and beams joined together with notches and wooden pegs reflect the centuries-old skills still being practiced by the Homestead craftsmen.  Their award-winning furniture has been featured in fine woodworking magazines and are part of a permanent collection in the U.S. White House.  In the recent past, Homestead workers built President George W. Bush's Crawford ranch buildings. 

The selection of hand-thrown blue and white pottery is extensive and affordable.  As much as I love blue and white, I did not buy any, but instead bought items for birthday and Christmas gifts for family and friends. 

Vintage breadboards at the Round Top Antique Show appealed to me, but the hand-hewn specialty wood breadboards and rolling pins at Homestead Heritage appealed to me even more.  These are new, safe for food use, instead of being just decorative.  

Most of these will be gifts, but I did buy one for myself.  The long tall Texan used to make beautifully carved wooden bowls and cutting boards as a hobby.  My handmade cutting board that he made me wore out a few years ago, and I had been looking for a replacement when I found these.  

Quality items made by "craftsmen who have returned, not to the past, but to enduring values exemplified in handcraftsmanship" will be a joy to use for years to come and will support the craftsmen.  Beautifully made, the breadboards and rolling pin are more than a nostalgic purchase because they are useful.  Why shouldn't our everyday household items also be beautiful? Beauty in everyday surroundings is part of French Country living. 

If you like special items not found at your local department stores, watch for places that support craftsmen and women who create beautiful useful items.  You may be surprised at how many there are close enough for a day visit. 

See Homestead Heritage for more information about Homestead Heritage, including an online store. 

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  1. HERE HERE. Je suis tout à fait d'accord avec vous.

    And it's up to each of us to create those special things. I have been so impressed by the small businesses that are surviving out here, places that offer WONDERFUL handmade home décor, recycled vintage furniture, locally grown honey, soaps, etc......I believe it's a need to be closer to the earth with our hands, to live simpler, to live more truthfully (well, as truthful as possible!!!!!)

    I can't stand the hype of "reality" TV. I abhor imitation happiness. We need to create from the inside out just because it's part of us, not for money.

    Enjoy a beautiful day Judith! Anita

  2. Wow, I've not heard of that place. Glad you shared it today so I can add it to our to do list. :)

  3. Lovely post, Judith. I prefer supporting small businesses and love the purchases you shared with us today.

    It certainly is a different world where you live. The snow is still melting here, and where you are there are gorgeous flowers to enjoy.

    Have a lovely day.

  4. Oh Judith, I have to travel a good Hour and a half to get this much excitement from a shopping day.
    This place looks amazing, and had no idea you were that close to Waco.
    How fun to have celebrated with a friend her Birthday, a special outing makes it that much more exciting. I know I would have hit the pottery section, having to take a piece or two home with me, I see some blue on it, your perfect home colour.

    Thank you for sharing, so wish we had buildings like this.


  5. What lovely places to shop!

    That photo you took of your friend, really does look like it could be a Monet painting :)

  6. I absolutely love places like this. I have not found anything around here that has unique items so I'm always looking at Etsy. (and shopping at thrift stores) Looks like a beautiful way to spend the day! Hugs, Diane

  7. I would love to go shopping here-I think the drive from Grapevine Texas to Waco is very manageable on a weekend jaunt! Thank you for sharing this special spot.

  8. We will be back in Texas in a few weeks, for an entire week! Guess where I will be visiting??!!!! What a wonderful place! Thank you so much for sharing the information! Cannot wait to visit!! :-)

  9. Judith as I was reading your words and enjoying the photos of Homestead Heritage beautifully quaint were the words I felt. Your breadboards are amazing and I am sure they are as smooth as can be. So often these days craftsmanship is not embraced by pride. lovely to see this post, thanks for sharing.

  10. Judith what a beautiful place, thank you for sharing it. I can relate to so many of your sentiments today. There are times when I'm simply mystified by what is considered 'entertainment' on TV and in pop culture. Lovely post.

  11. I know I've already commented, but I have another comment! I hate companies using sex to sell me shampoo or whipped cream or hair color or cookies or diapers....there, I said it out loud! :-)

  12. Chère Judith - oui, I heard the Hallelujah chorus in my heart today when I hit the publish button, knowing I'm back where I belong. Writing is an interesting exercise. As much as a professional writer may say that it is a lonely business and requires solitude, I also believe it necessitates community, feedback, inspiration, belonging to a whole. And I thank you for your loving friendship and support. Now, let's get some FRENCH action going on for some summer BLISS!

    BISOUS, Anita

  13. Judith, the Homestead Heritage is new to me. I'm eager to make the trip up to Waco and visit. One of my close friends who lives in Dallas often meets me half way in Waco for lunch and a little shopping. This looks perfect for our next lunch date. '-)
    Love the wooden items too. Several on my gift list would enjoy such pieces. Thanks for yet another fantastic post with beautiful photos and useful information.

  14. Thank you for taking me on the beautiful trip with your friend. The cutting boards are lovely and I was delighted to see them. Glad you're keeping at least one! I'm glad I visited your blog.

  15. Judith! Hooray that I got your post in my email inbox... finally :) I love all of the pictures so I'm sure I would like Homestead Heritage. I love traditional crafts and crafting. Many of the crafts are now dying arts... generations below us are choosing technology over tradition and hand made. I love to buy old cutting boards and bread serving boards. I feel that I can never have too many. The boards you bought will certainly be thoughtful gifts!

  16. Fun to find this post! We were just out there on Monday to hear a nephew's quartet sing. They do have some interesting products and a lovely deli/restaurant. The woodshop is always hubby's destination. He does quite a bit of business with the woodworking community at Homestead.
    We need to round up Stacy and the other "Texans" and have lunch out there one day!
    Have a great weekend,

  17. Sounds like a lovely day. You make a great point about quality and craftsmanship. I am sure many are nodding their heads as they read this.

  18. What a lovely place to visit. Special place and special friend -- who could ask for more?


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