Wednesday, October 31, 2012


As we drove through a nearby town, we kept noticing lots of decorated scarecrows. So while I was out grocery shopping yesterday, I decided I’d drive around and take some photos. I did a little research and discovered that this was the first year the town had done something like this. At last count there were over 30 around town. These are my favorites.

Happy Halloween!

Doctor's office

Hair salon

High school


The bank

Home help



Monday, October 29, 2012


I love pecans. I have loved them ever since I was little and would go around my grandmother and aunt’s front yard picking them up from under the trees. I’d shell them and eat them on the spot. I grew up eating pecans in everything, even jello. My mother thought if something was good, it would be better with pecans in it.

I’ve always thought that some of the best pecans came from East Texas. So I was excited to see that there are several places nearby to buy them. I’ve been waiting for the new season pecans to arrive. I bought several pounds from several places. The price this year is $10.95/pound for whole halves. Hopefully, at some point in the near future, we will be planting some pecan trees. But until then I will be content to buy them.

My favorite way to eat them is either raw, straight from the bag, or spiced up and slow roasted. Maybe I’ll give you the recipe for that later.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Half Day

Daughter had her first a half day at school today. It was the end of the first quarter, I think. So we decided we’d celebrate a little and do two of our favorite things. Unfortunately, neither of them are nearby, so we drove about 55 miles to get to them. Luckily they are next door to each other. And yes, we got chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cotton Festival

Towns around here will use any excuse for a festival -  hogs, chickens, pecans, roses, hot peppers, syrup, and even chiggers. Mostly they are just an occasion to get out and visit with your neighbors, spend some money and eat too much.

The Cotton Festival started out several years ago as a means to raise money to build a new library for the community. It continues to bring our small community together by hosting events and entertainment for the day. The festival is also a good reminder that cotton was the main source of income for local families for many years.

Town comes alive for this festival. The typically empty main street was a hive of activity. Midweek a circus arrived, and later a carnival was set up. Then trailers, stands, tents, signs, and balloons arrived. It was obvious that weeks of planning had gone into the few hours of the event. We were pleased and a little amazed that the day was so well organized.

The day began early with a run/walk to benefit the scholarship fund. They ran. I walked. We got the t-shirt to prove it. Once we could catch our breath, we walked across the street to a pancake breakfast.

Later in the day, after a brief rest and tidy up at home, we came back to have a better look at all the exhibits, stalls, activities, and, of course, more food. A local vintage airplane club did a fly-over. There was a stick horse rodeo for the children. Local antique tractors were on display. Lots of food to choose from including a chili cook off and an ice cream competition. So much to see and do.

The Fun/Run t-shirts

The 1K walk through town

Daughters finished the 5K in 36 minutes and with a sprint.

The airplane fly-over town

The stick horse rodeo in the park

The antique tractors on display

One of many musical performances during the day

Read more about the festival and see some great photos here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

R.I.P. Big Tex

If you don’t live in the Dallas area, you may not have heard our sad news yesterday.

Big Tex caught on fire and burned down. Apparently he started smoking from around his neck area where there are motors and wiring for his moving mouth. Once he caught on fire, he was gone in a matter of minutes. Witnesses to the event said they thought at first it was a pyrotechnic show. Many stood in disbelief and said prayers.

Big Tex has become synonymous with The State Fair of Texas. In fact their website is “”. So it probably won’t come as a surprise when you hear that they have promised Big Tex will be back next year - bigger and better.

We are thankful we were able to see him when we went to the fair earlier this week. We are sad. Town is sad.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Homestead Heritage

I think most people thought we were a little crazy when we first told them that we’d bought 80 acres in East Texas and were planning to do some farming. Admittedly, we don’t really know what we’re doing yet. But our one big comfort has been that we knew we were not alone.

When we first visited Texas last year looking at properties, we heard about Homestead Heritage through my cousin’s neighbor who had family living in the community. We stopped by one day while out looking at potential properties and were very impressed with what they were doing. We learned about the classes they offered on sustainable living and planned then to take as many classes as we could when we got settled.

We thought a good place to start was to take their three day course on Homesteading. The course is provided by The Ploughshare Institute which is located on their property collectively known at Homestead Heritage just north of Waco. We would urge you to visit them if you are ever in the Waco area. You will not be disappointed.

We had two main instructors for our course - a more seasoned veteran and a younger man. Both were very knowledgeable about their subjects. Their goal was to encourage and inspire by removing the mystery and to show us how sustainable homesteading could be attainable. The course was intended to be fairly general but gave us the tools to reason and make wise decisions as we plan. As they warned us, we would be “drinking from the fire hydrant” at times because there was so much to take in. It would be silly of me to think that I could condense down three days of instruction into one blog post, so I won’t try to do that. But here are a few highlights of our course.

The Ploughshare Institute at Homestead Heritage is in a restored barn.

Most of our classes were held in the middle building.

Day 1
We learned to shift our thinking from the traditional commercial farming model to a small scale sustainable farming model. This paradigm shift will create synergy within all aspects of the farm. Defining our purpose is essential before making our plan. We learned how to evaluate our land for its best use by walking the land regularly and observing. Priority should be given to planning our vegetable garden. We learned the advantages of “double digging” and how to make our own compost. 

Here is our instructor, Butch, demonstrating the technique of "double digging."

Using chickens in a "chicken tractor" to help with weed control in the garden.

A triple composting model using wooden pallets.

Day 2
We learned the basics of raising chickens for both eggs and meat and how to plan our coop. We learned that ducks and turkeys can be a valuable addition. We walked through the herb garden and learned how to incorporate herbs into our vegetable garden. We learned how to plan and plant fruit and nut trees, and fruit vines. We learned how to best use our pastures by management intensive grazing.

The chickens in their coop.

The Herb Garden section of our course.

Fruit vines in the garden.

Day 3
We learned the advantages of cows and goats and got to milk both. We learned how essential bees are and about all their benefits. We learned about barns and sheds and water catchment and storage. And finally we put it all together and planned our model farm.

I even had a go at milking the cow.

Guv'nor milking the goat.
Guv'nor learning how to use the scythe.

We were a bit sad at the end of the third day. We had learned so much and wanted to keep learning. We had made friends we would miss seeing. We were encouraged and inspired and came home feeling confident and equipped for the task. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Yesterday was very exciting around here. 

After a restless night being woken up in the middle of the night by loud noises outside our bathroom window, I ventured out in the morning to investigate with trusty Dog by my side. We suspect we have an armadillo digging under our A/C units based on the mounds of dirt and gaping holes. It is hard to believe an animal that small could have made noises that loud in the night. It sounded like one of the girls was hammering and sawing. I think we need some traps.

Then later in the day while I was eating my lunch (thankfully inside the house) I noticed a bobcat sneak out of the woods and sit casually under the shade of one of the trees behind the house. I grabbed my camera/phone and dashed to the nearest and biggest window I could find so I could take a few photos in safety. It posed for awhile and then started stalking a squirrel on a nearby tree. Soon after it dashed and pounced on the squirrel. I was too scared to go out and check on the outcome.

By late afternoon, the cows were back in the far field. Our fencing has too many gaps in it to be effective in keeping the neighbor's cows out.

Bobcat sitting in the shade (best photo I could get zoomed through double paned window)

Bobcat dashing after the squirrel - and towards the house!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fair Day

We had a fun day yesterday at the State Fair. Neighbor and his wife invited us to go with them and they were great tour guides. We tried to see it all and were completely worn out by the time we left. They knew all the best places to go, especially for food.

The highlights of the day were finally seeing Big Tex (read more here) and also seeing the man who is the voice of Big Tex. He looked remarkably similar to Big Tex. Also, we got obligatory corny dogs and a funnel cake. We hunted down fried butter but it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment after the long anticipation.

It was Dr. Pepper day, so we got in for $5 with an empty can. Of course, I had plenty of empty cans.

Big Tex - quite the imposing figure in person

The man who is the voice of Big Tex - also quite the imposing figure

Ferris wheel - a permanent feature

Texas sized pumpkin carved with the face of Big Tex

Guv'nor and Neighbor checking out the tractor deals

And later comparing pickup trucks

The canned vegetables were a work of art - notice the green beans top right.

I loved the carrots cut in the shape of stars.

The car show included a Texas Beetle. I got free sunglasses for posting this photo to Instagram.

And finally the long awaited Fried Butter

Saturday, October 13, 2012


There seems to be an abundance of cemeteries in east Texas. I don’t know if there are just more around here or that they are all sign posted. Every small community has at least one cemetery. Some are more looked after than others.

A recent PBS documentary on death and the Civil War was very interesting although rather depressing. Before the war there were no national cemeteries for soldiers and no provision for identifying or burying the dead. Death was more a natural cycle of life and local communities and families were able to take care of their own. The Civil War changed all that when thousands died all at once and there weren’t enough people to identify and bury, much less return them to their homes. There had been no plan for the dead. The program pointed out that it is the obligation of the living to care for the dead. So true.

It seems less odd to me now saying that my grandfather owned a cemetery. It had always seemed rather morbid to me that of all the things he would feel compelled to do in his later life would be to make a cemetery. ( Do you make a cemetery? Found one? Build one? I’m not sure what the correct term is. ) He wasn’t happy with the fact that most cemeteries were overgrown with weeds and in disrepair. So he decided to create a perpetual care cemetery. Perpetual care means that the cemetery is privately owned and will always be looked after. Part of the purchase price of the burial plot is put into a financial fund and used for the maintenance of the cemetery. He bought several acres outside of town, created the plan, and developed the area. He set aside a central area for family. Unfortunately, he was one of the first to be buried there.

We’ll make a trip over there one day soon and I’ll tell you more about our family's cemetery. But for now, here are a few photos from the cemetery down the road.