Category: The Walk

An Update from Idaho

Hello everyone! The complete restoration of the “Peck House” (named after Captain Augustus Peck) has been finished. Built in Middlebury, Connecticut, in 1783, it was taken apart and moved to Deary last summer where a crew (under Brother Kevin Durkin’s care) restored it to its original beauty. The defining feature of the house, its massive stone chimney, was carefully rebuilt by Brother Gary Moore, along with the brick oven, excellent for baking pizza.

The house features original hand-hewn oak timbers, doors and woodwork, and new 12-over-12 pane windows. The accommodations sleep six, with one king-size bed in the second-floor loft, a full-size bed in the original first-floor bedroom and a queen-size sofa bed. The full kitchen opens to the dining and living area, and the back addition includes a screened porch facing the surrounding pine forest. The house includes two full baths and radiant floor heat. It is available for guests to rent on Airbnb.

Forging an Idaho-Virginia Bond

In late January, the John French family traveled to visit the community in Nickelsville, Virginia. They were away two weeks and shared a wonderful time with the brothers and sisters there. We hope to see more of the Virginia folks here in Idaho. During our peak months of summer, we will employ about five additional bakers, baristas and servers at the bakery. We are always looking for fresh recruits!

Welcoming New Neighbors

The Reed family has joined us in Idaho! Sister Sarah and her son Noah arrived from Texas right after the Tindell wedding and are living in a small house in Deary. A moving truck was rented and driven here with all of their belongings. Upon arrival a group of young people unloaded the truck, helped unpack and moved Sarah and Noah into their new home. Welcome back to cold country! (Sister Sarah is originally from Maine.)

Upgrading Pie Safe, Community Buildings

When the Pie Safe building was first completed, there was room in the back to house the offices for the Pie Safe, Creamery and Quality Contractors. But, as the bakery and creamery have grown, they have run out of space for storage in the back. So the offices moved across the street to the rear of the Heritage Fine Crafts building. The void in the Pie Safe building was quickly filled when the contents of the shipping room next door (which served as a temporary storage room) were emptied into the former office space. The shipping room has returned to its original purpose.

Community Building

We are in the process of finishing out the upstairs of the community building into a conference/office room. After the building was completed in the fall of 2019, the upstairs was forgotten about until this winter. We began the construction over a month ago and progress on it whenever we get a chance. 

The Borman boys are making two custom wood doors, and we have just finished installing shiplap on the walls. The young sisters are making useful furnishings to enhance the space, such as baskets, table runners and a throw for the couch. It will have a small bathroom, utility room, storage closet and main room with a desk and furniture. 

Since the building is already somewhat under construction, we have emptied it and are lightly sanding the beams to their original color. The sanding process has created quite a dust bath! We will apply a clear coat of finish to the beams as a final touch.

Celebrating a Wedding

In late February, a few families traveled to Texas to attend the wedding of Brother Joe Tindell and Sister Amanda Nolen. The newlyweds will stay in Texas for a few months and then come to live in Idaho where they will be a great asset. We can hardly wait!

Prior to the wedding, we hosted a groom’s fellowship for Brother Joe. A good time was had by all.

Early in the season we received several big snows, but the cold was not deep enough for it to stay long- term. It took some time, but after a relatively mild early winter season, real winter finally hit northern Idaho. We received 75% of our snow in February. March is warming up, and spring is just around the corner.

Lambing is almost complete at the Webb Frenches with 20 new lambs so far.
The Bormans had a visitor try to get into their kitchen. Elijah took care of him. 

An Update from Waco

As we approached November, our community wondered whether safety concerns would keep us from hosting our annual fair for the first time in over 30 years. But we felt strongly that the fair could bring hope to those outside of our community who grappled with unrest and confusion as 2020 drew to a close.   

We were granted permission by the county to hold the annual outdoor event with the exception that we not have regular concerts such as the music presentation in the large tent. After much prayerful consideration, our community decided to proceed with the fair. Several weeks of busy preparation followed, as we produced more crafts, set up new parking areas, built pathways, cooked, baked and made booth displays.  

However, as Thanksgiving weekend approached, the forecasts indicated very unfavorable weather for outdoor events. We decided to postpone until the first weekend of December. But since Thanksgiving weekend is when people expect the fair to be open, we held an informal opening for folks who wanted to come early. Despite the occasional rain showers, 3,000 people showed up to tour the craft displays, visit the petting pen and sample several tasty options at the food booths. 

December Fair

The formal opening of the fair occurred Saturday, December 5. The morning dawned gray and threatened more bad weather. Yet despite predictions of showers throughout the day, it only misted a couple of times! The weather failed to dampen our guests’ plans or spirits. Hundreds of visitors showed up, then thousands as the day progressed!

This year we added a barnyard treasure hunt, which proved popular for children and their families. The treasure hunt featured hidden clues throughout the model homestead and offered as prizes either a free hayride or tickets to hands-on activities. The hay-bale maze was also a favored choice for young folks. 

All three food courts saw continuous lines of hungry people looking for old favorites such as the southwest burger basket, beef pepperoni and chicken Alfredo pizza, fettuccine Alfredo or chicken and cheese tamales. We also added a booth this year offering specialty waffles (both sweet and savory options) as well as a food trailer from Cafe Homestead featuring three different gourmet burgers.

Lunchtime on Saturday held a surprise for our guests. At 1:00 PM, Sister Helen walked up the path alongside the food court followed by a group of young folks singing an a cappella version of “Lean on Me.” Everyone enjoyed the music, and many were singing along by the end of it. Not wanting to attract too big a crowd, we ended with “This Joy That I Have” even though the fair goers clamored for more.

Many Joyous and Grateful Attendees

Over the two weekends, more than 15,000 visitors attended our fair! We feel very blessed that God used the fair to answer questions and to minister hope and joy to many fair goers. Here are comments from a few of them:

“We loved the music! We were there Saturday and Sunday. Great weather, great fun, amazing artisans and wonderfully kind, God-fearing people. Thank you for sharing your faith and families with the world.”

 “We had the best weekend! Thank ya’ll for giving us a fun family event to enjoy!” 

“We attended today and had a wonderful time! Our first visit but definitely not our last!” 

“Thank you, Homestead Heritage! We were there today and with God who provided beautiful weather. The delicious food and festive atmosphere were blessed and refreshed.”

Klingensmith Wedding

Nathaniel Klingensmith and Aridai Lozano were married at the Fellowship Hall on November 6. Natt grew up in our community here in Texas and became interested in learning Spanish several years ago. He has since become instrumental in translating our church literature into Spanish and has made several trips to our community in Monterrey, Mexico. Ari grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, and only recently moved to Monterrey to join our community. Natt and Ari grew to know each other through their work in translating.

Ari’s family and friends from Monterrey faced several legal obstacles as they attempted to come into the States, but the Lord made it possible for everyone to make it to the wedding on time.

We wanted some of the wedding music to be in Spanish, so for a couple of weeks we practiced “Once In A While.” Yet without a Spanish speaker to help with our pronunciation, we learned several of the lines incorrectly. Thankfully, Brother Éder arrived a week before the ceremony to help us. He pointed out that we were singing, “Dog know in Jesus they do,” rather than, “But I know in Jesus they do!” We believe we sang it correctly at the wedding!

Celebrations after the wedding were conducted in a safe manner appropriate for the pandemic, but they were nevertheless joyous. Brother Éder introduced us to a Spanish hora song. Even those of us who did not understand the words felt the vibrant joy in the music, especially those who danced to it.

An Update from Mexico

As 2020 drew to a close, we could not believe time had passed so quickly. The challenges and opportunities that we experienced during the year offer a new perspective as we begin 2021. We feel great expectations for the coming months and are excited to welcome a new year.

November

At the beginning of November, we were very happy to receive a visit from Sister Camila Broquet, who arrived from France. We were very grateful that she stayed with us for two weeks. She showed us how to make French bread, which we enjoyed baking and eating! During her visit, we also took walks, visited the homes of the families close by and had a fun adventure boating on the pond at Brother Oscar’s land. 

In late November, various members of our community traveled to Waco for the Thanksgiving Fair. Among those attending the fair for the first time was the family of Brother Bernardo Badillo. Brother Éder and his family, along with Nohemi and Ana Limon, went as well. They all took advantage of the opportunity to visit with brothers and sisters and to learn more about the Texas community and the crafts. 

December 

Two days after our travelers returned from the fair, the Caleb Gonzalez family from the Texas community arrived in Monterrey. They joined us for Christmas and the New Year. On Christmas Eve, a few families got together for a delicious dinner and to celebrate Sister Ana Gonzalez’s birthday. The night was very cold, but we were so thankful to be together. New Year’s Eve offered a time for meaningful conversation amid a potluck supper with most of the families here.

While visiting, Brother Brandon Gonzalez helped a few people continue to improve their pottery skills, including Brother Bernardo’s daughter, Emma. Emma brought back a new pottery wheel from Waco, and now she is practicing at home in Bernal. 

We also had the honor of celebrating the birthday of one of our ministers, Brother David Borda. We laughed and shared memories, and many expressed their love and gratitude for Brother David. Gathered in a circle, we began to sing, “All my life You have been faithful; all my life You have been so, so good. With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.”

Winter Births

December was also the month when two families were blessed with new little ones!

Brother Javier and Sister Sarahí Guerrero had a baby boy on December 4, Jaír Sebastian. He weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces and measured 20.4 inches. (See also the last page.)

Brother Gerardo and Sister Lorena Benitez had twins on December 15. At 2:24 AM, Eliel Sisay was born. He weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces and measured 20 inches. Elizabeth Sisay was born at 2:26 AM and weighed 5 pounds, 15 ounces and measured 20.8 inches. (See also the last page.)

January

In January, we had the privilege of meeting a man in the small town of Cadereyta near where many of us are now living. This man brought his tractor and helped us prepare the ground at Brother Oscar’s property. So we are ready to plant at the beginning of next month!

An Update from Idaho

Late fall found us all storing hay and feed for our livestock, gathering and splitting the last of the firewood and buttoning up our gardens and greenhouses.
Each family hurried to complete their harvests and plant their garlic for next year. Men and boys, along with a sister or two, took to the fields and forests in pursuit of wild game. Many healthy animals were harvested and prepared and packaged into frozen meals as well as stuffed sausages and pounds and pounds of seasoned jerky. All is snugly tucked away for a long winter’s rest.
The first early snow blanketed the ground on October 23. The first snow always reminds us to slow down and take care—remember, your brakes may cause more hurt than help when the road is slick!
Several young men gathered wild apples, and we assembled near our community hall to press them into cider. Biting fingers of cold wind stabbed us from all sides, it being the first really cold day of late fall. We had propane heaters set about as a welcome relief to thaw purple fingers and faces.
Once the pressing was completed and the operation cleaned up, we warmed up indoors with bowls of hot chili and steaming apple cider before regrouping to decorate the hall and prepare food for the upcoming wedding reception.

Reception for the Newlyweds

Isaac and Helen French were married in Texas on October 10, and since many of our local friends were unable to attend the wedding in Texas, we hosted a small reception for them here in Idaho. This allowed our local friends to meet Helen and her family and to get a small glimpse of the wedding.
Multiple families woke up to a snow-related power outage the morning of October 24, making preparations for the reception more interesting. All of our guest rooms and accommodations were overflowing, with friends and family from all around the country. This made ironing, cleaning and cooking an extra challenge in the absence of power. With a little innovation and sharing we were all able to prepare in time.
Many of our youth served plates of the various finger foods and soups they had prepared the night before. The menu included miniature meat and cheese rollups, muffins, cream cheese and lox on crackers, veggies and dip, baked potato and poblano bisque soup, along with sparkling punch.
Brother Dan shared excerpts from the wedding ceremony, which gave a glimpse of the ceremony in Texas. We watched a video presentation of Isaac and Helen‘s lives and then joined in singing along with family and friends. Dessert included lemon raspberry chiffon cake and steaming cider from freshly pressed apples. Everyone enjoyed the occasion and greeting the bride and groom.

Frozen Ponds Invite Ice Skaters

In early December our ponds had frozen over with ice, thick and smooth enough to skate on. We lit glowing bonfires on the bank, while snow sparkled and winter stars winked brightly in the dark sky. The ice groaned as it adjusted to the extra weight of skaters and as it expanded with the dropping mercury.
One evening nearly 50 people showed up to skate or watch! Christmas carols floated on the frosty air as we circled and cut back and forth around the huge pond together. As the moon rose late and full, we all gathered around the bonfire with a guitar and sang, warming with mugs of hot cocoa.

Pie Safe Business Brisk

The Pie Safe has been busy even though winter has set in. Christmas parties, special meals and the daily influx of holiday shoppers and gatherings have kept us running. Our November dinner of wild-rice-stuffed Cornish game hens, candied carrots, cream of leek soup with fresh sourdough rolls, autumn salad and pie with frozen custard fed 80 cheerful guests, several of them using the occasion to celebrate a birthday.
The following Tuesday morning, an order of 30 pumpkin pies left the bakery with a gentleman who would soon deliver them as Thanksgiving gifts. Throughout that day and the next, the remaining 145 special-ordered pies were picked up by their happy owners. The bakers peeled and chopped nearly 200 pounds of apples alone!
We hosted two dinners filled to our virus-reduced maximum capacity of 85 during December. We began the meal with warmed brie, followed by creamy asparagus soup and piping hot rolls, mixed green salad and then beef wellington, roasted potatoes and spinach Madeline. Somehow the brimming guests found room to enjoy silky smooth pots de créme, crme brûlée and hot drinks.

Youth Group Hosts December Banquet

The youth group hosted a banquet in our community hall on December 19. The night before, we all gathered to clean as well as prepare food. Mini Gruyére gougeres started the Brazilian meal, followed by avocado eggrolls, Brazilian cobb salads, and the main dish of beef tri tip and Frango Churrasco with serrano lime rice and charro beans topped with fried onion.
The servers cleared the dinner plates, and we promptly found our places on the low platform to sing a couple cheery Christmas carols for our guests. Folks showed appreciation with applause. Chocolate tuxedo cake and banana cheesecake followed, along with creamy eggnog and steaming hot coffee.
As the guests departed, we all gathered around the sink, and the dish race was on! Six people lined the sink, scraping, washing and rinsing dishes while many more cleared counters and dried and put away dishes. Eventually we sat around the tables to enjoy the extra food before hauling all the borrowed dishes and utensils back to the Pie Safe.
As Christmas drew near, some out-of-town folks came to celebrate with their families, while others left town to visit family in other places. Several afternoons and evenings we caroled to neighbors in Helmer, Deary, Moscow and Pullman. Our faces glowed in the light of flickering lanterns as our voices joined together in the frosty air with cheerful tidings of the newborn King. It felt wonderful to share the joy and love of Jesus to many whom the bad news and social tensions of the year have left yearning for something fresh and alive.

We hope that you all are well as we look forward to all that God will do in us and through us in 2021!

SouthAfrica

An Update from South Africa

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family across the world! The first week of December we held our third Christmas program here in the Garden Route. Three weeks before the program, with much excitement on our part, we started designing our invitations and practicing our songs nightly. Within the first day of sending out the invitations we received around six positive replies—then 10, then 20, then 30. Before we knew it, we had 100 people wanting to attend the program!
Given the Covid-19 restrictions and a crowd that size, our cafe/fellowship hall was not nearly large enough. The Christmas program would need to be an outdoor event. The only problem was that every weather forecast showed rain at the time the event was to start. But a weather forecast was not going to hold us back—we prayed and prayed.

On the day of the program everyone was readily lending a hand wherever they could. Six-year-old Emily Macfarlane carried plastic chairs from one end of the garden to the other, placing each one in direct sunlight to dry after some of the sisters had washed them. Sisters Sherry, Disney and Fay (our dearest grannies) cooked and cleaned and made hundreds of snacks to help feed the throng of people who were to arrive soon. Everyone had a part to play. The awe in our hearts resonated together with one another as we shared with others what The Great Composer is orchestrating in our lives.

As the program began, the wind that had been blowing hard throughout the day quieted into a gentle, cool breeze. It stayed that way until the last few chords of our last song rang out. Then the gentle breeze again picked up into a rushing wind accompanied by rain drops. Everyone scurried inside to enjoy a warm cup of coffee and delicious snacks. One guest told us that next year we best prepare to cater for 500 people!

Our Busy Season 

December was everything we expected and more: our hectic, but very blessed, season! We started off each Saturday with our market stalls absolutely filled to capacity with warm baked breads and fresh groceries. We just about sold out within the first few hours of the market being opened! All of our accommodation units were fully booked until after New Year. And with each passing day, the cafe got busier and busier! Sometimes as we get to the end of the day, close the doors and switch off the lights, someone says something like, “If we had any more meal orders or customers come in than we had today, I do not think we would be able to manage.” But sure enough the next day comes with more meal orders and customers with it, and by God’s grace we are able to manage! 

On December 23 we had a special Christmas farmer’s market for which we baked over 100 loaves of bread. We also took 50 processed chickens, fresh eggs, a trailer of fresh produce and a trailer of craft items. We are very grateful for the Lord’s provision!

A Time to Plant, a Time to Reap 

We took on the exciting task of harvesting and threshing our own tiny wheat patch in mid November! The patch of wheat amounted to nothing very impressive in quantity, but it certainly served as a good lesson on harvesting. We look forward to planting a much larger crop someday to harvest enough wheat to supply the needs of each family. 

We have also planted a large crop of mealies (corn) that are to be used as feed for our ducks and chickens and for us to enjoy deliciously roasted corn on the cob! Along with the mealies, we planted 1,000 runner beans and 800 bush beans. The summer heat is playing its part very well to help all the fruit and vegetables ripen. 

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family across the world! The first week of December we held our third Christmas program here in the Garden Route.

An Update from Mexico

What beautiful autumn afternoons we have enjoyed these past few weeks! The weather has been so nice to do everything outdoors. Just about every day we take a walk and enjoy the landscape with the falling leaves. Some of the young sisters and girls have gotten together for different activities, including bread making and sewing classes to learn to make aprons, purses and skirts. In the evenings, our families often enjoy visiting out on the patio, watching the children jump rope and play together.

Crops and Livestock 

The good weather has also helped us be able to continue in our gardening. In one of the garden areas we planted beans, squash and sugar cane. It is such a great feeling to see them growing; knowing that harvest time is coming soon makes us even happier! We look at the gardens and the sheep grazing nearby and feel the privilege of living in a place like this—so different from living in the city. 

A couple of weeks ago, Brother Oscar’s family saw their ewe giving birth to her lamb. The faces of the children lit up as they experienced something completely new! 

Bernal Visit 

On October 17, Brother Eder’s family traveled to Bernal to visit Brother Bernardo and Sister Elsa. They were there for five days and during that time looked for possible properties to rent or buy, suitable for businesses and homes. As was mentioned in the previous newsletter, our community believes that Bernal provides a beneficial location for us. We feel that God is opening more doors to help our community members relocate there. 

Activities shared while visiting in Bernal included cheese making, gardening and spending time together.

Klingensmith, Lozano Wedding 

On November 1, Brother Bernardo and Sister Elsa Badillo, Brother Eder and Sister Sara Badillo, and Brother Jaime Lozano traveled to Waco for the wedding of Nathaniel Klingensmith and Ary Lozano. 

The Texas community also welcomed Sister Ary’s mother, Isabel Perez, of Monterrey. It was her first time to travel to the United States. The community enjoyed a couple of days with her as she toured the craft village, met her daughter’s friends in Texas and experienced the beautiful wedding ceremony. Comfortable weather blessed an outdoor reception for friends and family. The handmade furniture, quilt and pottery crafted especially for the couple were also available for viewing. 

Carreon Birth

On November 3 at about 1:00 AM, we received some wonderful news: Brother Mario and Sister Denisse Carreon had a baby girl! Mariana Hope weighed just over 8 pounds and measured 22 1/2 inches. (See also the family photographs on page 4.)

An Update from New Zealand

Twenty years ago, Brother Ralph and Sister Fleur Lattimore established Timberworks, the first (and for many years only) timber frame company in New Zealand. 

It was through Timberworks that Brother Ralph met Brother Caleb Tittley and the other brothers and sisters in Texas. (That is a rather long story that we will have to share in another article!) After we decided to move to Kimbolton in the North Island in 2015, Brother Ralph felt to sell Timberworks to his former foreman, an English timber framer and craftsman named Martin. When Brother Ralph sold the business, he added a request that if Martin should decide to sell Timberworks, Ralph would be given the first opportunity to buy the business. When Timberworks came up for sale in September this year, an opportunity to purchase it was put before the community. It seemed good to the brothers to proceed with the purchase, so a road trip was planned to Nelson in the South Island. 

We rolled down the hills into Wellington and threaded our ways through the busy streets to the Bluebridge ferry terminal where we pulled into the line of cars. There was no ferry in sight. We were five minutes late when we arrived at the terminal, but when Brother Ralph asked how long it would be before the ferry arrived, he was told that it would be half an hour late. 

Half an hour passed, but no ferry arrived. An hour passed, but still no ferry. It was fully two hours before we were finally on board the ferry and heading out of Port Nicholson, the sheltered harbor of Wellington. The Cook Strait is notorious for being one of the roughest ferry crossings in the world, but the waters were peaceful and placid, not quite as calm as a mill pond, but definitely not as bad as it could have been. 

Once at the workshop, we began packing tools into boxes and disconnecting the heavy machinery from the overhead dust extraction system, which we then pulled down. The massive cast-iron bandsaw posed a problem—it was too heavy to load with the truck’s tail lift. We eventually solved the problem by opening the side doors of the truck and lifting the bandsaw in with a forklift. We made faster progress than we were expecting, and by the end of the day we had most of the workshop packed up and in the truck and trailer. 

At the end of the day, Martin and his wife Leslie showed us through the beautiful little show home they had built at their property just down the road from Timberworks. It is a lovely example of timber framing, with high sweeping trusses and big glass windows on the front, as well as a lovely loft bedroom and cleverly designed kitchen counters made of concrete to reduce cost. The show home inspired us, and has given us many new design ideas for our own tiny houses at Mohaka River Farm. 

Through the whole trip, we felt God’s protecting hand on us. There were no incidents, and we had a number of good connections with people while there. We pray that through this business we will connect with many people as we run woodwork classes and construct timber frames for interesting houses. 

Spring Holiday Program 

It was Sunday evening on September 27 when our spring holiday program for schoolchildren began with a running start. We had advertised a program where families could come and stay, be taught some craft in the morning and have a farm experience in the afternoon. Over 25 young folks with their families arrived. 

At milking time, poor Silky the cow had nearly 20 different pairs of hands squeezing and pinching out tiny streams of milk. She stoically withstood it. Amidst a great deal of laughter, the children asked Zara and Annaliese questions about life at Mohaka River Farm. 

The next day brought a flurry of activity to set up the conference center in time before the kids showed up. By 10:30 AM, both craft rooms buzzed with excited chatter. At the leather work station, Ezra helped a boy situate the stamp correctly on the leather; then Boone held it while the little boy exuberantly swung down the mallet. Thud! Phew! The mallet missed Boone’s fingers that time! 

In the next room, Sister Rachel and Taliah taught others how to make a basket. Annaliese helped two of the girls, Sophie and Ellie, do theirs. 

Later on that week, we tacked up the trekking horses for the kids. Some of the children were so eager to go that they almost danced with excitement as Sister Fleur gave the safety briefing. 

After Annaliese led Jet through the mounting block, Sophie scrambled on, her eyes wide with anticipation. “Jet is a really calm horse,” we reassured her as Annaliese passed the reins to her. It was hard not to chuckle aloud at the varied assortment of riders. Some were clutching the reins almost to their chest, while others had their heels sticking out towards the sky. All of the riders stayed on, however; we lost not a single one! 

During one craft morning, the grandmother of one of the children approached Annaliese and started telling her about Taylah, her eldest granddaughter. “When we first came here,” the grandmother explained with a big smile, “Taylah said, ‘Grandma, I don’t understand how these people can live here together like this.’ But today she decidedly said, ‘Actually, Grandma, I think I understand now! They’re all so close and such good friends. I think I would even want to live here, too!’“ 

Saturday evening came quickly and with it many pizza orders. Brother Eddie had the wood-fired oven burning wonderfully, and the customers seemed well satisfied with the food. At the close of the evening, several girls dawdled by the oven, cooking the last pizza for the staff. Suddenly, Noni, an Israeli girl who was staying in the camp with her family, came bounding down the steps towards us. “I just wanted to say goodbye,“ she said breathlessly. 

Noni joined the other girls as they walked back to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. Taliah and Zara washed the dishes, Noni dried them, and Annaliese put them away. Annaliese felt to connect with Noni but had just met her the day before and knew nothing about her background, such as whether she had a faith or not.  

Later when the girls non-turned out the lights in the kitchen and walked out, Noni said, “I don’t understand how people can believe God is nonexistent, because it’s so obvious that He is real!” Annaliese smiled and nodded in agreement, saying, “Yes, it is obvious.” As part of saying goodbye to Noni, we told her, “Always remember that you have friends here at Mohaka River Farm!” 

As Annaliese and Taliah walked home, Taliah mentioned that Noni’s family were not religious. Annaliese expressed her surprise and how thankful she was for her talk with Noni. 

Later during the program, several of us also met and conversed with a teenage girl originally from Sri Lanka who was Muslim. It is amazing how even on a remote farm in New Zealand, God has given us the opportunity and privilege to meet and serve young people from many different backgrounds.

Anniversary and Labor Day Weekend 

On Thursday, October 22, we celebrated our first anniversary of the camp being open to the public. To celebrate, we hosted a dinner for our whole community consisting of “mighty Mohaka burgers” served with fries and mint lemonade, followed by carrot cake and coffee for dessert. After the meal, we enjoyed singing and conversing late into the night. What a year it has been! 

Our opening weekend last year was Labor Day weekend, a long weekend holiday where we hosted a small number of families and campers. 

This year, we have just said goodbye to our last guests for Labor Day weekend. We were blessed with a full camp; many “tenters” and caravans booked at the last minute. The horses have been used to capacity. Sister Fleur and Brother Rob took horse treks throughout the weekend, and we offered farm experiences and Saturday night wood-fired pizza. Many of the campers came based on someone’s recommendation. Some campers found us on the internet, and others were just passing by. 

Also rewarding was to have many locals who hope to return in the summer. We were surprised and thrilled with how busy the weekend was, and how satisfied our guests were. All indications are that summer is going to be busy! 

A Start on Glamping Tents

As we continue to develop the camp business, we anticipate setting up platforms with glamping-style tents similar to the ones in our South Africa community. Last week, a team of fathers and young folks gathered a huge trailer load of kanuka poles for our tents that our neighbor generously offered to us. 

We all pitched in together to cut the trees with chainsaws and pull them down the heavily wooded hill to where the trailer waited to be loaded. We hope that the glamping tents will add a different dimension to the campground and what we offer here.

An Update from Texas

Because of the many restrictions surrounding the pandemic, we worried that we might have to cancel our Thanksgiving Fair. But the Lord answered our prayers: the county officials have approved our holding this outdoor event. Although we have less time than usual to prepare, we feel a responsibility to bring God’s message of hope to all who have faced the confusion and uncertainty of this year. We are planning for proper social distancing and safety as we prepare displays, food and crafts. We anticipate many visitors this year! 

With the fair just a few weeks away, preparations are in full swing on the farm. This year, we will be offering farm tours with the hope of being able to spend a substantial time showing folks our crops as well as discussing farming methods and techniques. A lot of cleanup is required to spruce up the grounds, and already we have made a lot of headway. We also plan to have some horse-drawn implements for sale via a silent auction during the fair. 

Around the Farm 

Sorghum harvest has been a highlight of our farming seasons for many years, and this year was exceptional. Practically every time we have grown sorghum, we have had a constant fight with aphids, not to mention the endless need for irrigation due to the season in which sorghum is grown. Aphids pierce the stems and suck the nutrient-rich sap from the plant, leaving behind curled or yellowed leaves and off-flavored sap. Yet this year, not only did we receive ample rains, we also enjoyed an aphid-free sorghum crop! 

So far we have harvested the first round of cane, which produced an impressive 25 gallons of syrup. The Brix1 levels of our first cutting were between 18-21. We still have 12 rows to be harvested. This next batch is also looking remarkably good. 

Recently, a local farm store donated several tons of fertilizer as well as a plethora of gardening supplies to our farm. Since now is the time for fall plowing, we are also taking this time to spread the fertilizer on our fields. This fall we will plant 8 acres of wheat, 4 acres of oats and 12 acres of cover crop to build the soil. 

We have a large number of implements that need restoration, including several carriages, discs, plows and so forth. If any young men are interested in the restoration as a wintertime project, please contact Brother Grady. 

As the peak of our farming year comes to a close, here is a short (very short) essay from the farm manager, Brother Grady: 

It is getting colder on the farm, and work is continuing. The end.”

  1. The Brix value, in degrees, tells how much dissolved sugar is in a liquid solution. Each degree of Brix equals one percent sugar. Therefore, the higher the Brix value, the sweeter the liquid solution. Degrees of Brix are traditionally used in the wine, sugar, carbonated beverage, fruit juice, maple syrup and honey industries. For example, the Brix of honey is typically in the range of 70 to 90. 

Ploughshare Barn Renovation 

The Plougshare barn project has made some significant improvements! The barn was never insulated, so we were unable to use it in the summer months, since in Texas air conditioning is a must! So we insulated the entire building and re-sided it. We added a patio to the side facing the windmill and poured a sizable patio alongside it. Large glass doors were installed leading onto the patio, and several brothers built some custom barn doors that slide on a track to cover the glass doors if necessary. 

The rehearsal dinner for the French and Lancaster wedding was planned to be in the barn, but the patio was simply a concrete block a week before the event. Several young men put in some late hours to cover the patio and steps with flagstone and put a beautiful iron railing along the edge of the patio. 

The project was finished within a few days of the rehearsal dinner, and a swarm of young folks cleaned the area, spread dirt, decorated the patio with furniture and plants, and enhanced the surrounding landscape. 

Because the weather was pretty warm for the dinner, we had to install a temporary air-conditioning system to control the climate. The plan is to install a permanent system for future events, but the temporary fix did have a satisfactory effect. For the rehearsal dinner, the barn was literally glowing with light and tasteful decorations, not to mention the love and laughter coming from all who were enjoying their meal. 

We plan to use the barn year-round now that it has been finished out, and there is little doubt it will see a lot more use in the years to come. 

New Housing Construction 

After a few financial speed bumps, the new housing project on the land is once again moving at full speed! Two of the homes are nearly finished with the mechanical (electrical, plumbing, HVAC) stage. 

Exterior siding and windows are now being installed as well as porch framing and roofing. For the third home, we are waiting to purchase the framing package because lumber prices may drop in the next couple of weeks. If we can save a few thousand dollars by waiting a few weeks, we certainly will take advantage of the opportunity! 

The goal is to complete all three homes by the end of January. With the dedicated crew of young guys, we hope to venture into some fundraising projects after we complete the current construction.

Dinner at Cafe Homestead 

Since 1994, Cafe Homestead has been an establishment serving breakfast and lunch, with occasional special event dinners. For a number of years now, the cafe has wanted to begin regular dinner service. With the pandemic, we felt like it was the right time to change, to essentially spread out our dinner events over multiple nights. We have now been doing dinner service for six weeks, and the reception and attendance has been more than we could have hoped for! 

Our dinners begin with complimentary, delectable biscuits, and dinner choices range from top-quality steak to a completely re-imagined meatloaf that has received rave reviews. 

Making this shift has allowed us to serve more people in the local Waco area, as most “destination dining” happens for dinner and not for lunch during regular business work hours. 

Since we started dinner service, our online reviews across all platforms have increased significantly. Here are a few: 

“We had dinner here last night and loved it. Excellent food and amazing service. It is a Christian atmosphere run by Christians and you sense it immediately. Well done Cafe Homestead!” 

“What can I say? Always an amazing delicious meal. I am so glad they added dinner service. We love Cafe Homestead.” 

“My family and I just finished our second meal of the day at Cafe Homestead. Both were amazing and I can’t recommend it enough. All the shops, stores and activity centers are adorable. We came to Waco for the silos and they didn’t disappoint, however, we’ll return to Waco for a place like this.” 

The cafe is open Monday through Wednesday, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM for lunch, and Thursday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM.

Carlson, Scarbrough Wedding 

Mason Carlson and Hailey Scarbrough were married on September 4. Family and friends worked together to make the couple a beautiful bed and side tables, a coffee table, natural-edge mesquite and iron dining table, a quilt and pillows and many other heartfelt gifts. 

After the wedding, a cousin turned to her parents and said, “This is how I want to be married!” Several relatives went home and shared with others that they had never seen a place where people took initiative to serve because of love. 

SouthAfrica

An Update from South Africa

Spring has arrived! The gardens are greening up, the vegetables are growing quicker, and the days are getting longer. The time has come to share our first harvest. 

On September 26 we hosted our first farm-to-table dinner at The Bakery. Because it was our first one, the dinner provided us with an opportunity to learn from many new situations. We milled our own flour for our breads and made our own pasta. We made a non-alcoholic cordial from kumquats, a fruit that we had never used before. From 500 grams (about a pound) of gooseberries, we produced a dessert drizzle that had to suffice for what seemed like 5,000 people, but in reality was only 30!

The preparations were great fun! We spent the week before the dinner collecting as much produce from all of our family gardens that our plants could provide. Our spinach patch was cared for and nurtured more than ever before. We even spoke to our gooseberry plants, our lettuces and all our herbs, encouraging them to grow quickly and to provide an abundant harvest. And they did! 

On the day of the dinner our little kitchen was overflowing with heaps of spinach and an excited (and a little nervous) kitchen crew! We had an attendance of around 30 people. Many of our guests stayed late into the night, reluctant to pull away from a delightful evening. 

One of our regular bakery customers, a single lady in her fifties, booked a stay with us for the week. She found herself undecided as to whether to attend the dinner, but finally convinced herself to try it. A smile stayed on her face throughout the whole evening. As we sang the words to the song “Lean on Me,” tears flowed from her eyes as she sang along. “If there is a load you have to bear that you can’t carry, well I’m right up the road, and I’ll share your load, if you’ll just call me.” All that she could say when she left that night was how happy she felt for deciding to attend! 

Readying the Glamping Tents 

Early Thursday morning on October 1, Sister Mariska’s car rolled out of the parking area with the light yellow, box-shaped trailer bouncing behind it. In the Bakery, Sister Jenna and some of the other sisters watched the car and trailer leave. Sister Jenna confided, “This is so exciting; I can’t wait until this afternoon!” 

Afternoon came, finally. We closed the Bakery as quickly as possible and raced up to the glamping tents. Sister Mariska had just returned from the town of George with the little trailer packed with furniture. At last the day had arrived when we could set up and decorate the glamping tents! 

Everyone helped wherever they could. We relocated a 5,000-liter (about 1,300 gallons) water tank from our main water source to the glamping sites. The tank, which we fill with well water, is the water source for the tents. A sense of accomplishment shone forth from each person’s face as we worked together to complete all of the jobs. 

Later in the week, two of our couples spent a night in each of the tents to ensure that everything was as it should be before we marketed the accommodations.

Changing with the Seasons 

Springtime also brings with it a deeper cultivating in each of our hearts as we dig deeper and uproot more entangled roots. Then through our shared struggles and pain, we join closer together to sow seeds that will bear fruit again. In the last few weeks some visitors have asked us what defines our community. One aspect is the daily life itself. A life that allows us to struggle together, work together, cry together, laugh together and grow together. Amid all of that is the knowing that you are never alone. 

October 4 was the day that Brother Adi turned 21 years old. A couple of weeks prior to his birthday, a small group of young people got together and started practicing a few songs to sing for him. We felt a little daunted at this because for the last five years he has been our music leader and teacher! From our first practice we realized that the songs would be great fun, but we really needed God’s help and blessing! 

We celebrated his birthday with some close friends and visitors as well as with all of the community. 

Throughout the whole day we looked back on how far God has brought us and rejoiced in His changes that each of us felt within! What a victorious day it was for us all. 

Carl, one of our visitors, marveled at the sound and beauty of the guitar that Brother Adi had constructed while in Texas. Carl started playing a song that we all quickly recognized. Suddenly all of the different circles of conversation broke up as we all joined together and sang: “How great is our God. Sing with me, how great is our God. And all will see how great, how great is our God.” The music throughout the evening blessed us all. 

Preparing for Holiday Vacationers 

December is generally a hectic month for us. The Western Cape is a very popular tourist attraction for the Christmas season, which for us occurs in summer. People from all over the world flood in for the holidays. So we are gearing up and preparing for what could be called a month-long fair! We will be working on many crafts, songs and baking. 

December is also our time for sowing crops. We intend to plant all of our corn as a community crop. We will also sow some summer pasture with a variety of grasses, such as teff, to use as cow feed. 

An Update from Montana

Greetings family and friends! Our fifth annual Farm Day and Craft Fair occurred on Saturday, August 22. Throughout the week, a steady stream of brothers and sisters arrived from Texas to help with the final push to completion. 

On the day before the fair, clouds skittered across the sky, and a warm sun beat down on Greycliff Creek Ranch. The Heritage Restorations crew raised the skeletal structure of a rustic barn for silent auction the next day. The steady hum of a forklift and skid-steer loader mingled with music floating out from under the red-and-white striped tent as we completed our afternoon music rehearsal. 

A number of families showed up with their dinners and ate at picnic tables in the music/dining tent. We were all in the homestretch together. Around 7:00 PM, everyone who was not already at the fair grounds arrived for the final evening music rehearsal. 

Brother John Mark strummed his guitar enthusiastically and sang, “Are you lost and lonely, broken down? Bring all of your troubles, come lay ‘em down.” This fair, more than ever before, it is our desire to bring a message of hope to the attendees.

Final Preparations 

In the craft barn, a group of young men set up plywood display shelves; then the crafts started rolling in. In one area were a couple of dozen baskets, including pine needle baskets, and Sister Grace’s masterpiece of the year, a three-foot-tall elk antler basket. Sister Camille Palmer and Sister Kelly Palmer, her sister-in-law, set up a kaleidoscope of colorful woven dish towels, hot pads, soft crocheted blankets and beautiful hand-knit sweaters and shawls. 

Brother Ernie and Sister Denise displayed their handmade brooms from broom corn grown last summer on the ranch. Brother Ernie also hand turns the slender twisted broom handles. 

A large collection of sewing projects and quilts filled one corner of the barn. Together we quilted a queen-size quilt that Sister Rachel Lindsay pieced together earlier in the year. Smaller baby quilts and wall hangings hung above the display tables. 

Sister Grace Holifiled and Sister Abigail Bowden, with Sister Renanah Sherman, Sister Abby Woody and Anna Diaz made a collection of aprons with matching hot pads. These were hung for display. Hanging with them were two runs of denim jumpers laced with colorful flowery ribbon, along with various tote bags for ladies. 

Brother Caleb Oakley had a small array of beautiful leather projects he had made. Brother Zachary Dumont set up canisters of wooden spoons and spatulas, cedar cutting boards, rolling pins and coaster sets made by young, eager boys at evening woodworking classes. 

Fair Day! 

On the morning of the fair, Brother Jake and some boys set up A-frame hand-painted signs reading “Farm Day, Greycliff Creek Ranch” with an arrow underneath pointing down the road toward the ranch. They placed the signs near the two exits east and west of the ranch and at various points along the way to guide folks. 

By 9:30 AM a steady trickle of vehicles drove down the road and lined the ranch driveway. The delicious aroma of fresh pretzels and smoking brisket was detectable even from the entrance! Throughout the day a line of hungry guests stood in front of the kitchen ordering food. Warm burritos, pretzels and pastries sold well in the morning. Brother Michael and Sister Deborah Ballerino made their famous fresh-popped kettle corn and Sister Renanah served iced coffee, milkshakes and soft, fresh-crank huckleberry ice cream. 

The shrill voices of goats being held by young children in the petting pen could be heard over the hubbub of human voices. From time to time Brother Micah would announce the next seminar class in the small cabin or one of the demonstrations: milking cows, harvesting wheat, or barn raising, just to name a few. 

As the number of attendants rose, so did the temperature! Many people rested and ate lunch at the picnic tables in the shade under the music tent.

Afternoon Activities 

At 12:50 all of us who were playing instruments gathered on the stage to prepare for the 1:00 PM music. As the first notes of “Cripple Creek” rolled from Isaiah’s banjo, the crowd of people sitting at the picnic tables turned eagerly toward the stage. After we played a few bluegrass pieces, the children’s choir, ages three through nine, took the stage. 

They sang enthusiastically the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It” before the youth choir joined them. A smile lit up every face of our guests as three-year-old Jordan sang the first few lines of “This Little Light of Mine” into a microphone perched on a stand practically folded in half so that he could reach the microphone. Then Brother Abraham Dumont took over the lead as the song medley changed, and together he and the choir sang “Sunshine!” The crowd cheered and clapped loudly as the younger choir left the stage. A group of adults sang a handful of gospel songs to conclude. 

After the music, the demonstrations and seminars continued. Parents brought their eager children to the make-your-own tent where the young folks could make a basket, a jump rope, a soap ball, dip a candle, or build a birdhouse. In the craft barn, a consistent circle of people watched as Sister Abby Bowden demonstrated how to transform a lump of clay into a vase or a mug, and Sister Camille’s try-it-yourself loom never seemed to stay vacant. 

Evening Activities 

Close to dinner time another wave of guests arrived for the evening music and good Texas-style barbecue. The sinking sun glowed orange on the grey cliffs. A slight breeze blew through the fair grounds as we gathered under the red and white tent once again with many close friends and locals for dinner and evening music. 

Brother John Mark opened the evening by thanking everyone for attending and sharing with us in a wonderful day of fellowship and activity. 

The first instrumental was a piece for two pianos. Sister Grace Holifield and Sister Naomi Bowden relearned the lively “Keep On the Firing line” the day before the fair—a song neither of them had played in years! Sweat soaked Sister Naomi’s palms as she and her older sister kept looking at each other, grinning, as they tried not to freeze up at the last minute. The crowd laughed when Brother John Mark warned them that the pianists had not played the song in years and had pulled it out of the hat the day before. He was serious, which they did not realize! 

Grace and Naomi sped through the instrumental, practically holding their breath the whole time. As they rumbled out the last octaves on the bottom row of keys of the keyboards, the crowd cheered and hollered. Whew! The two sisters could breathe again! 

We shared a wonderful evening with the local community of people that we have come to know. At times some cried. We clapped a lot, and sometimes we simply worshiped together. Everyone rose to their feet as we finished the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” Afterwards, a lady with whom we had done business in the past shared with a few of us that, “while the earth all around us is sinking sand, through the music we had been lead to the Rock” (partially quoting a song sung earlier in the evening). She also added that “this is the message the whole world needs to see and hear.” 

Following the evening music, we served peach cobbler and fresh-cranked vanilla ice cream for dessert. Slowly the crowd dwindled until only our community members remained. In a matter of a few hours, a transition occurred that made it hard to tell there had been a fair! The number of attendees totaled 517.