Thursday, February 26, 2009

Off the Grid - Almost

Posting from a Star Bucks in Brenham......

Wow, what fun. I drove what seemed like forever down a partially gravel road, after nearly 4 hours on the highway – kicking up the dust behind me in this old Ford 150, I felt like a scene in a country western music video. Finally, the road I was looking for showed up and I turned down another gravel road, this one a bit narrower, until I arrived at Acres Alegras, the home of Carol Montgomery and a menagerie of critters.

Several orange tabbies greeted me at the gate of her home, which was latched and I held my breath as I entered hoping a huge dog wasn’t waiting in lay around the corner…nope – Peanut was the only one that seemed ferocious – in her dreams I suppose, and only as big as one of my roosters, I don’t think much harm was going to come from her – a Chihuahua. Her buddy, much larger but with a tail wagging a hundred miles an hour didn’t seem too interested in eating anything but maybe a snack of salt licked from my hand. (I'll snap a few photos tomorrow, it was too dark tonight and at dawn when I saw them from my loft.)

I rang the bell to the really neat house and was greeted by Carol, a spry woman I’d guess in her late 60’s – haven’t asked yet – who seemed surprised I was here already. I had tried to call but it didn’t go through so she didn’t know I was so close, much less arrived. Nonetheless, she was delighted I was here and she showed me into her warm, welcoming home. Beautiful stone floor throughout, cedar beams above with warm, rich wood rafters. I saw a pool table on the loft and I think a ping pong table, too – what a cool place!

We went out the back door to the barn loft where I would be staying and I carried my bag upstairs. The hall light flickered on and off for a few moments before agreeing to stay lit and we climbed up the stairs to the cool loft apartment where Carol tells me, she lived for a while before her house was built.

Now, back about 20 years ago, before I’d accumulated so much “stuff”, I could see myself having lived here and loved it! One big room, claw foot tub, old cook stove – what more could you need! Oh the view is beautiful, too, and quiet – almost deafening as well as a bright show of stars at night. I wish my place was a bit darker so you could see such a show.

Carol heated up some supper back in her kitchen made from this week’s Home Sweet Farm’s CSA distribution of yellow and orange/red carrots with yellow centers, mashed potatoes and a wonderful mixed salad with purple cauliflower and an assortment of other winter goodies, and we chatted about farming and some of the city folk’s expectations of a farm diet a bit over supper. Although greens are the main staple right now, soon, she said he’ll be planting some 40 different varieties of tomatoes – wow! I’d better get busy I thought! Although our growing season starts a few weeks behind Brad’s as he’s about 200 miles south of Balch Springs. That is part of what this workshop is about, the planning of varieties and so I wanted to wait to get some recommendations before I started all of that anyway.

After supper we visited the bed and breakfast down the path a bit, where one of the presenters at the workshop I am attending will be staying, to tend to a low water pressure issue in the house. Carol’s plumber thought it may be a build up of grit in the faucet so we took that apart, to no avail. So, the plumber will have to come out before her guests hope to shower tomorrow. But it was a cute little house with wonderfully restored wood floors, old kitchen hutches, antique stove/oven and again, a view of the sky no loft in downtown Dallas could compete with – certainly not for the thousands of dollars in rent they get per month!

We had tinkered around for a good little bit while our bread pudding was cooking at the house and I went in to eat mine while she called the plumber. Don’t wait on her she said. Well, after a long drive and all, I was ready to head up to my pad so I ate a bite of desert as I admired the house knowing I’d have to take pictures before I left. The old stoves just blew me away! Where did she find them!? Carol helped me map out my drive to the fire house classroom for my morning class and we said good night.

Well, I got up here and picked out a bed to claim, not that I’d have any competition and I suppose I could change my mind and pick a different one each night, but I had to settle on one for the evening anyway. I pulled out all of my stuff and, you got it, enjoyed that claw foot tub! Now, I’d probably have drained the hot water heater trying to fill it, but nonetheless, it was a nice bath – I felt nostalgic taking a bath in it.

And, as the wind howled, I made up the bed and set my alarm – only to realize, the wind was not going to let me sleep. So, I pulled myself out this trusty old laptop and fired up my “player” to lull me off to sleep.

Sleep is not coming easy for some reason as I’ve awoken several times tonight and it is nearly 4 as I type all of this from my first day. But, I’m sure after a morning of classroom and an afternoon of hands-on learning, I’ll sleep like a baby tonight….

More later….and if I can find an internet connection, I may even get this posted before I get home.

I finally fell asleep, just in time to wake up of course, but cooked on the old gas stove (see pic) and had fresh range eggs and some pan toast - yummmy!
Breakfast - now THIS is real butter ya'll! The fridge was stocked for me.

Went to Brad's farm, poor folks down here are in a drought, too, and his crops are suffering. His CSA is 3 weeks behind. We're all praying for rain it seems. Even his cover crops were suffering...these should be 3 ft tall!

Please pray for rain ya'll. We're doing ok, but stuff is growing slow with the irrigation, but nothing beats real rainfall.

I'll take more pics tomorrow - missed the draft horse demo for another workshop - oh well. I'll catch it another time. Lots of great folks down here learning lots of great stuff. See you all soon.

I'm heading back to the ranch where there is not much in the way of internet or cell use. About 3 bars on the cell phone and no wifi that is for sure....

Eat Your Food - Naturally!


  1. From a fellow participant at the Growing for Market Symposium. Marie, you must have really had insomnia to have written all this on the first night. Your descriptive righting make for easy and entertaining reading. By the way, yes you did look like a country and western video with your pick up truck loaded with fertilizer, Golden locks blowing in the breeze from under a seasoned and well worn cowboy hat that has clearly seen much functional use and not just donned for style, wearing trusty work boots and work gloves hanging from your pocket. I know this was billed as a hands on event, but how much work did you think Brad was going to put us to?

    The highlight of the event for me was our host Brad Stufulbeam's infectious enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge and experience of developing his 20 acre organic vegetable farm. Many other people would have closely guarded all this knowledge as a competitive advantage but Brad shares openly in the belief that there is room for many more small organic farms growing and selling locally. Thanks Brad, you can't help but succeed with such an open and generous heart.

    As much as I am passionate about Horticulture I also love great food and the lunch on Thursday was the other highlight for me. Not so much a basic lunch as a gourmet treat of Organic Chicken marinated in olive oil and fresh herbs, Cabbage and Carrots from Brads farm braised in beer and new Potatoes all beautifully cooked with just enough added flavor and interest, while still letting the flavors of the beautiful fresh organic locally grown vegetables shine through. The meal was prepared by Chef Joe Apa of T'afia restaurant in Houston. I hope I don't make a nuisance of myself but I am on a mission to track down these recipes.

    Happy Gardening , Love and peace, and keep up the good work.

  2. It was a great workshop - and with Farmer Brad, I had no idea how "dirty" he planned on us getting, I was just going to be prepared!

    Thanks for commenting - whoever you are!


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