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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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