Category: Texas

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 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. 

An Update from Texas

Our largest project of this year has been a solar panel array located just behind the Santa Fe Hall. This is one of the largest projects our community has ever undertaken, and although it is not quite finished, we would like to share the progress thus far.

As a community, we have recently felt the need take additional steps towards becoming more sustainable by growing more of our own food, developing a new water system and by providing a means to generate our own electric power. In 2017, we began to look into buying solar equipment to set up a power system that would facilitate the needs of our Brazos de Dios property. We were able to purchase a large amount of high-quality solar panels and inverters directly from a source in Germany. For a while, the equipment sat in storage as we discussed where to locate the operation and worked through the logistics involved in making a project of this magnitude possible. 

Last spring, we selected a site and crews of young men began to clear the trees, grade the area and plant grass to prevent erosion. By October, we formulated an implementation plan and ordered the racking for the panels. These arrived on the first day of last year’s fair. 

One Step Forward, One Step Back 

We faced a roadblock. To set the posts, we needed a piece of equipment called a pile driver. Yet to rent the equipment, we would need thousands of dollars for a weekly rental plus insurance. Every rental company we contacted said that they would not have an availability for quite some time. 

After a great deal of searching, Brother Ezra, one of the young men coordinating the project, discovered that his uncle—who works for a large solar company in Massachusetts— had the equipment we needed. When Ezra shared our need, his uncle replied that he would be using the equipment in Crowley, Texas (a town less than two hours north of here) for an upcoming project. He had the company ship the equipment a week ahead of his project so that we could use his equipment to get the posts set. 

The machine was delivered on May 2. Under normal circumstances, the task of setting these posts would take a seasoned crew approximately two months to complete. We only had a week to keep the machine, and no one had any experience using it. The first day, we discovered that the bit that attaches the posts to the driver was the wrong size. We were unable to locate such a specialized attachment in our area. 

The crew decided that we would have to make one. Brother Isaac called every steel yard in the area, looking for a sheet of two-inch plate, with no success. After asking a brother, who is also a steel fabricator, for suggestions, the brother realized that he had just such a sheet in his shop! After an incredible community effort that took until 1:30 AM, we at long last had our attachment ready for work! 

Unexpected Help Arrives 

Brother Ezra woke up the following morning to his uncle calling. His crew had arrived at their project and discovered they were missing some necessary equipment, so he offered the use of his crew to train Ezra and the other brothers working on the project on how to run the pile driver. The first three posts took several hours to pound, as there were a few kinks to work out, but at last we found a system that worked. 

We organized a crew that took shifts working around the clock to ensure that we made maximum use of the machinery in the limited time we had. The pile driver is a very loud machine, and for the week that we were using it, its reverberating clang could be heard all across the community property. The crew worked tirelessly. Finally, on Friday evening, May 8, we pounded the last post into the ground! 

On-the-Job Learning 

After cutting the posts to the same height, attaching the necessary angle supports and drilling the holes that would attach the panels to the supports, we were finally ready to install the solar panels. On May 31, the first section of 9 panels went up. It was a long and tedious process to install the panels, that sometimes required ripping down entire sections that had gone out of line. But on August 8, panel number 2,365 was installed! 

There is still much more to complete, but we hope to have the solar panel array online in the not-to-distant future. 

Replacing Old Housing With New

Over the years, we have been slowly removing the old, inefficient mobile homes from the community property. This year resulted in three vacant spots where mobile homes had been removed, but nothing had been put back in their place. 

A good use of time during pandemic restrictions has been to build three homes on the vacant spots. Our goal is to provide attractive, yet affordable family homes in their places. Not only is this a chance for young men to learn skills that they can use for a lifetime, it is also an opportunity to forge lasting relationships. We are also hoping to develop systems of building that can be used in other communities or for a fundraiser. 

On June 20, we broke ground on the first site. Using a rented excavator, we dug a pit in an out-of-the-way spot on the property to utilize the natural fill-type dirt we have in abundance (this pit has since been filled in). One of the sites on the lower portion of the community property had to be built up significantly to get it above the floodplain. Once the pads were completed, an army of young men arrived to tie rebar, dig footers and lay plastic. It was a pretty exciting and nerve-racking experience when at 1:00 in the morning of July 18, the concrete trucks began to roll in for the pour. It was a crazy night, but by 6 AM, all three pads had been poured, troweled and leveled for a firm foundation for each house! 

Since then, we have made good progress. Each step is a bit of a learning curve, but by the time we have completed a phase for one house, we have streamlined the process for the next site. 

As of this writing, two houses are framed, sheathed and ready to be dried-in. The crew of mainly teenage young men have been coming faithfully every day, learning to cooperate with one another and becoming a team. For each house, we complete a phase, be it framing, drywall or mechanical, before we move on to the next. Believing that we will not “weary in well doing,” we plan to finish all the homes before December. 

Extending Farm Participation 

We have had a good year on our community farm, Brazos de Dios. Our crops did well because the rains have been quite abundant, even into the summer months, which is unusual for this area. 

Brother Grady and Sister Erin are now overseeing the farm. This year we began a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. This is a way that community members who want to participate can have a more formal relationship with the farm. Members support the farm by paying a fee at the beginning of the year and commit to helping with planting and harvesting. Each family takes a share when the crops are ready. 

Members can also choose to get beef, chicken and eggs from the CSA, while other members will produce those foods on their own homesteads. We have been slaughtering and distributing 200 chickens a week. Members are looking forward to receiving wheat and corn, our first harvested crops, in September. 

This summer we grew corn, popcorn, wheat, oats, black beans, pinto beans and southern peas. We also grew sunflowers and okra for oil, and pink eyes, corn and okra for seed. Sweet potatoes and peanuts are still growing, and we are gearing up toward the fall, which is a good season for many crops here. 

Apprenticeship Initiative 

We have also launched an apprenticeship program on the farm for young men and brothers. There are several different levels available, from full-time work to several days a week. Our hope is that this apprenticeship will help to perpetuate the agrarian vision within our communities, both here in Texas and abroad. Our vision does not stop with growing crops and animals but extends to growing farmers. The apprenticeship provides a context through which skills, education and character can be imparted. 

Celebrating Wedding Unions

Blake and Faith 

Blake Loree and Faith Beckworth were married on July 31 at the Fellowship Hall. Due to the pandemic, the wedding was limited to family and close friends, but was beautiful nonetheless. Their friends pitched in to create several pieces of beautiful furniture, a hand‑stitched quilt and numerous other household and homesteading gifts. 

Robert and Abigail 

Robert Johnson and Abigail Fowler were married on August 14. After the wedding the family hosted a farm-to-table reception, serving chicken raised on the Fowler’s homestead, vegetables from family gardens and fish caught in nearby Lake Whitney. Friends in the community provided the couple with, among other items, a handcrafted bed, wall-mounted night stands, a handmade porch swing and a kitchen island. 

Refurbishing a Familiar Landmark 

We are in the process of refurbishing the red barn. This building was not insulated, so it was very hot in summer and very cold in winter! We have insulated it, re-sided it and painted it with red trim. This week we are pouring a concrete patio in the front. The refurbished venue will be much more useful for meetings, weddings and other community events.