Monthly Archives: August 2012

18th Annual Sweet Sorghum Festival

Cooking Sorghum Syrup

Cooking Sorghum Syrup

Join us on Monday, September 3, 2012 for the 18th Annual Sweet Sorghum Festival at Brazos de Dios. The festival will be from 10 a.m until 5 p.m, and there is no admission fee.

Watch as we make sweet sorghum syrup—from pressing the raw cane with a horse-powered mill to cooking the juice into rich, golden brown syrup. Sample some sorghum syrup on  freshly baked cornbread made from stoneground cornmeal!


At this year’s festival:

  • Horsedrawn Hayrides
  • Outdoor Barbeque
  • Freshly Cranked Ice Cream
  • Demonstrations of Various Fine Hand-crafts
  • Various Make-Your-Own Activities for children
  • Free Seminars on Sustainable Living
  • Special Music at Noon

About Sorghum Syrup

Over 70 years ago, sorghum syrup was a common sight on the dinner tables of rural Texas. Many farmers grew a small patch of sorghum in their fields. At harvest time, they brought their cane to a neighboring farm that had a mill, and the families worked together pressing cane and cooking syrup.

Pressing Sorghum

Pressing Sorghum

At Brazos de Dios, our annual sorghum harvest preserves this community tradition. We hand cut the 10- to 14-foot-tall canes and haul them from the various family farms to our sorghum mill. Here, we feed the raw cane through a 100-year-old horse-drawn press. After squeezing the cane, we allow the juice to settle 2-3 hours before channeling it downhill through underground pipes to the sorghum house where we cook it over a wood-fired furnace.

The green juice bubbles and boils its way through the channels of the hot, 12-foot-long copper pan. After the excess water evaporates, the juice reaches the end of the pan as a thick, sweet, golden brown syrup ready for bottling. Be sure to try a sample of this year’s syrup at the sorghum mill or at our restored homestead gristmill!

Driving Directions

The sorghum festival is hosted at the Homestead Heritage Traditional Craft Village at Brazos de Dios, which is located 5 miles north of Waco.

Take I-35 to Elm Mott Exit 343; go west on FM 308 for 3 miles, then north on FM 933 for 1 1/2 miles. Turn west onto Halbert Lane and proceed a half mile straight ahead to the entrance.

View Larger Map


For further information, call 254/754-9600.

Trip Report: Ax-Making at Gransfors Forge

Tools Caleb made in the Class

These are the finished axes and laminated knife blades I made in the class.

Gransfors has a forge, a pottery shop, a museum and a cafe. The first morning there, I took some time to wander around the shops and the museum. I watched and talked to one of the ax makers who has worked there for over twenty-five years.

Gransfors Museum

Tour of the museum. Gabriel Branby (left) is the CEO of Gransfors.

They have had an unusually cool and wet spring in Sweden, and everything is very green. The flowers are gorgeous.

Gransfors Bruks

The creek that runs behind and forms the border of the Gransfors property.

In the ax-making workshop that I’m taking, there are eight students, including me.  The other students are from England, Denmark, France, Wales, Sweden and Germany.  We are quite a cross-section from our occupations also, ranging from computer techs to military civil engineers and from gardeners (what we would call lawn work in the U.S.) to blacksmiths.

Ax-making class

The ax-making class.

Lars Enander is teaching the class. Lars is a native Swede. His teaching method is European in that he wants to let you figure things out on your own. He kind of gets you headed in the right direction and lets you go without a lot of explanation. But he is also very willing to answer questions if you ask. He is a very knowledgeable and helpful instructor and went out of his way to make sure that I learned a lot during the class.

Lars Enander

Lars Enander, our instructor, preparing for the next session of the ax-making class.

Lars started the class by giving us each a bar of 3 1/2 cm x 2 cm steel to make a slitter that we will use to punch the eye of our ax later in the class. We also made a set hot-cut from a piece of 33 mm x 37 mm bar. I also had time to make a drift. I also started making a candle holder and a rose while waiting for the other students to finish.

Making slitter

Here I am, making a slitter that I will later use when making axes in the class.

July 12: While the other students were finishing their hot-cuts and tongs, I finished making the candle holder.  When everyone had finished the tongs that we made to hold our axes while we work on them, Lars showed us how to make a laminated knife blade by folding the end of a piece of mild steel flat bar (approximately 1/8 x 3/4″ flat) over 2 1/2″ or so and placing a piece of carbon steel the same width and thickness and two inches long in between.

Tool racks

A view of the tool racks.

We left a little space in the fold of the mild steel that will be welded and then drawn for the tang. We then forge-welded the “sandwich” and cut the bar off at an angle, removing the end of the welded pieces to remove anything that did not weld. The purpose of this exercise was mainly to give us practice forge welding carbon steel between mild steel, which we will be doing in making our axes.

Laminated knife blades.

July 13: I made three knifes before lunch, and Lars asked if there was anything he could help me make, such as tools I might need. I told him that I would like to make a scythe, but I didn’t know if that was something we could do. He said that he should know something about that . . . . So I made a couple of tools that would be used when shaping the scythe and started a small scythe, which I finished today. It was only about 18″ long and not perfect, but it works, and I learned a lot and had a lot of fun making it.

Scythe blade

The scythe blade that I made during the class.

July 16: The last three days we have spent making axes! The method we learned is very old and was used in times past, when steel was hard to make and not readily available. They would make the body of the ax out of wrought iron and laminate a piece of steel into the edge, which is the only place that needs to be hard.

Seating the edge steel

Seating the edge steel into the mild steel of the ax head.

Thank you to everyone who contributed toward this trip.

Caleb Nolen