Category Archives: Events

Homestead Fair – Thanksgiving Weekend

Homestead Fair

November 23-25, 2012
Friday and Saturday, 9 A.M. To 9 P.M.
& Sunday, 12 noon to 5 P.M.

25th Annual Homestead Fair

This year, The Ploughshare together with Homestead Heritage is cosponsoring the 25th annual Homestead Fair on Thanksgiving Weekend, Friday – Sunday, November 23-25, 2012. We invite you to attend.


Activities for the Entire Family

Everyone in the family can watch, learn about and participate in a wide variety of activities, including milking a goat, making soap, helping to raise a timber frame barn, preparing and spinning cotton into yarn or watching a master craftsman fashion a fine Windsor chair straight from a rough log. Other activities include hands-on projects, sheepdog herding, horse farming, pottery, blacksmithing, woodworking, quilting, weaving, spinning, basketry, boot making, cheese making and much, much more.

Great Food

Sample the multicultural dishes from our food court—from hamburgers to Israeli falafels, sourdough pizzas, tacos and gorditas, egg rolls and more, all home made fresh from the farm. Enjoy a delicious sorghum pecan ice-cream cone, apple cider donuts, or a bag of kettle corn while touring our farm on a horse-drawn hay wagon.

Hands-on Activities

Children especially enjoy the hands-on activities, in which they can learn to:

  • make a candle
  • weave a basket
  • build a bird feeder
  • make a toy sailboat
  • weave a coaster
  • hand-hammer a brass spoon
  • shell popcorn
  • braid a dog leash
  • or many others

Adults can try their hand, too, and one of the high points of the Fair is parents working with their children on these projects.

Seminars on Sustainability

The Fair also features a number of in-depth and practical seminars on sustainability. Most seminars last about 30-40 minutes, with a time for questions afterward. Topics are still being finalized in preparation for the Fair, but the preliminary list includes:

  • Seminars on important aspects of sustainable culture
  • Small-scale family farming
  • Sustainable gardening
  • Raising and caring for backyard chickens and other poultry
  • Beekeeping
  • Food preservation
  • Cheese and bread making
  • Sustainable energy
  • Sustainable building with local materials
  • Creative writing workshop, and more.

Music and Singing

Lively and moving music is a central part of the Fair, with our bluegrass musicians, our Homestead orchestra and adult’s and children’s choirs.

Unique Opportunities for Holiday Shopping

You will also find unique opportunities for holiday shopping with a great variety of unique hand-crafted items, from soaps to leather goods to pottery, quilts and other products made by our craftsmen and children.


Parking passes—good for all three days of the Fair—are available for $10.00 per vehicle on site, or you can pre-order them for $7.00 online. There is no entrance fee.

More Information about the Fair

For more information, including driving directions, camping and lodging information, food and events at the fair, visit the Homestead Fair website at:

We hope to see you at the fair.

18th Annual Sweet Sorghum Festival – A Photo Essay

Nearly 1,500 people came to our 18th Annual Labor Day Open House and Sweet Sorghum Festival yesterday. Here is a photo-essay of the event along with a description of a few of the activities.

Making Sorghum Syrup

Beginning at 3:30 a.m., about a dozen young men began harnessing mules. Using hay wagons, they hauled sorghum canes, which they had cut and loaded the prior day, up to the sorghum press.

Sorghum Press

Mule-powered Sorghum Press

This sorghum press is considered a “third generation” press, based on its design. It was originally built in the late 1800’s or the early 1900’s. The press, or mill, as it is also called, is powered by a team of mules. The long boom to which the mules are hitched turns several vertically-mounted rollers within the press. Young men feed sorghum canes, a few at a time, into the press. The rollers pull the canes into and through the press, crushing them and releasing the sap. The sap drains into one of three stainless steel holding tanks adjacent to the press, while the “chews” (the crushed canes) are slowly ejected out of the press.

Pressing Sorghum

Pressing sorghum with a mule-powered sorghum press

After filling a holding tank, we let the sorghum sap settle for about two hours before processing it further.  Having three tanks lets us fill one tank, while sap in the second tank settles, and while sap in the third tank is slowly piped downhill to a wood-fired copper cooking tray, where it is cooked into syrup.

The cooking tray is essentially a large, flat rectangular pan, partitioned with metal baffles every few inches in an alternating pattern.  Sorghum sap is gravity fed through a pipe slowly and continuously into the near end of the cooking tray.

A wood fire beneath the tray heats and boils the sap, while it is guided slowly through the tray. As you can see from the steam, a lot of water is boiled off during the cooking process, and by the time the liquid reaches the far end of the tray, it has been distilled into syrup, which occupies about one-tenth it’s original volume as sap. While cooking the syrup, we use skimming tools to skim off impurities, and we slowly guide the syrup along between the baffles. It takes about 30-45 minutes for thin, greenish sap entering the near end of the tray to exit the far end of the tray as a thick, golden-brown syrup.

Cooking sorghum sap to make syrup.

Cooking sorghum sap to make syrup.

Inside the sorghum house, the finished sorghum syrup flows from the copper wood-fired cooking tray through cheese cloth. After filtering the syrup multiple times through cheesecloth and skimming off the foam, we bottle it up into jars.

Sorghum Syrup

Some of the bottled sorghum syrup.

Sustainability Seminars

Meanwhile in the LaRue barn, The Ploughshare gave two seminars, one on sustainable gardening and a second on beekeeping. Both seminars were very informative and very well-attended.

Sustainability Seminars

There was a lot of interest in our sustainable gardening and beekeeping seminars.

Grinding Blue Corn

Year-round, we grind wheat and other grains in our gristmill. In addition to this, Joe Claborn set up a portable mill for grinding cornmeal and demonstrated how it worked. This portable mill is powered by a single-cylinder “hit-or-miss” engine. The engine uses a centrifugal mechanical governor, which adjusts how often the engine fires in order to keep a nearly constant speed (rpm) whether the engine is under load or idling. Ground corn is fed into a sifter that uses two screens to separate the corn into fine cornmeal (for making cornbread), coarse cornmeal (for making grits) and chaff.

A single-cylinder hit-or-miss engine powers a gristmill for grinding corn

A single-cylinder hit-or-miss engine powers a gristmill for grinding corn.

Kiln Opening Sale

As we’ve discussed previously, we recently finished building a wood-fired pottery kiln. Our potters had their first “Kiln Opening Sale” today with lots of beautiful pottery. (We hope to have more kiln opening sales in the future. If you would like more information about them, please give us a call at 254-754-9600 or leave a comment below.)

Kiln Opening Sale

After firing our wood-fired kiln during the weekend, we had our first kiln opening sale.


Fiber Crafts

In our fiber crafts shop, there was a lot of activity. One spinner was using a conventional flyer wheel to spin cotton, which we had grown on our farm, into yarn. She intends to weave her cotton yarn into cloth, then sew it into a garment.

Several other people were spinning cotton on tahklis. The tahkli is a small supported spindle (similar to a drop spindle, except that you support it rather than drop it) that works well for spinning cotton. Tahklis are inexpensive and very portable, and someone with experience can spin on the tahkli nearly as fast and as effectively as someone spinning at a wheel.

Spinning cotton on a tahkli

Practicing spinning cotton on a tahkli.

Make-Your-Own Crafts

Many children (and parents/grandparents along with them) enjoyed our make-your-own crafts.  Children hammered out brass spoons. They also wove coasters, shaped clay “pinch pots” and built toy boats. I particularly enjoyed seeing the faces of the children using spokeshaves to carve wooden spatulas for the kitchen.

Making a brass spoon

Hammering out a brass spoon.


Thank You

Thank you for coming out and enjoying the day with us.


As always, if you have questions about our crafts, seminars or other activities, we would like to hear from you.  You can leave us a comment here, or call us at 254-754-9600.


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.

Online Benefit Auction for The Ploughshare

Online Benefit Auction

A few of the items in our online benefit auction are shown above. To see all the items in the auction, visit

We invite you to participate in our 2nd Online Benefit Auction.

The auction features:

  • One-of-a-kind Heirloom Furniture
  • Hand-sewn Quilts
  • Award-winning pieces

There are 21 pieces in all.

All proceeds will go to benefit The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture.

To view all items in the auction, visit the link below:

View Items in the Auction

To register so that you can bid in the auction, visit the link below:

Register for the Auction

More Information

Here is your opportunity to purchase a one-of-a-kind heirloom piece of furniture or hand-sewn quilt while supporting a worthy cause.  This auction has expanded significantly from the first auction, held in 2011, and will feature several unique, custom furniture pieces hand-made by a number of craftsmen including Frank Strazza, master woodworker and teacher at The Ploughshare’s Heritage School of Woodworking in Central Texas. The auction items are available to view online now, and bidding will open on Thursday, June 21. Bidding closes at 8PM Central, Sunday, June 24.

All proceeds from the auction will go to support The Ploughshare in our efforts to continue to expand our class offerings and student capacity.

Again, this is a great opportunity to own a unique and valuable piece of artisan craftwork while investing in a worthy cause—helping to promote and teach traditional trades, crafts and sustainable living skills to people around the globe.

To view the items in the auction, click the link below:

View Auction Items Now

Register for the auction by clicking the link below:

Register to bid in the Auction

Plans to Attend the Mother Earth News Fair, June 2-3

The Ploughshare will have a booth (#711) at the Mother Earth News Fair on June 2 and 3, 2012 at Puyallup, Washington. The Ploughshare’s Butch Tindell and Josiah Wheeler will be staffing the booth.

The fair is located at:

110 9th Avenue Southwest
Puyallup, Wash. 98371

The Fairgrounds are 35 miles south of Seattle and 10 miles east of Tacoma.

The fair will be open:
  • Saturday, 9AM-7PM
  • Sunday, 9AM-6PM

If you can make it to the fair, drop by and visit us at booth #711.

The Mother Earth News Fair will feature practical, hands-on demos and workshops about gardening, small-scale agriculture, renewable energy, green building and more.  To find out more about it, visit:


Our 2011 Homestead Fair is just around the corner

We will have our 2011 Homestead Fair on Thanksgiving Weekend, Friday – Sunday, November 25-27, 2011, and we invite you to attend.

Activities for the Entire Family

There are many activities for the whole family.  Help milk a cow, take part in a timber frame barn raising, or watch a master craftsman fashion a fine Windsor chair straight from a rough log.  Sample the multicultural dishes from our food court or enjoy a delicious maple pecan ice-cream cone while touring our farm on a horse-drawn hay wagon.

Other activities include hands on projects, sheepdog work, horse farming, pottery making, blacksmithing, woodworking, quilting, weaving, spinning, basketry, boot making, cheese making and much, much more.

Hands-On Activities

Children (and adults) can learn how to make a candle or a leather key fob, weave a basket, hand sew a keepsake bag, make a soap ball, fashion a brass spoon, make a handwoven dog leash, build a toy sailboat, or participate in our more than 30 hands on activities.

Seminars about Sustainability

We’ll have a number of seminars on sustainability at the fair. The seminars are 30-40 minutes long, with a time for questions afterward.

  • Small Scaled Diversified Family Farming
  • Sustainable Gardening
  • Backyard Chickens and other Poultry
  • Beekeeping
  • Grass-fed Beef and Milk
  • Canning and Preserving Food
  • Cheesemaking
  • Breadmaking
  • Possibilities for Renewable Energy on a Small Farm
  • The Human Dimension of Sustainable Culture
  • Children on the Farm – Chores and Activities

Parking Passes

Parking passes are $10.00 per vehicle, good all three days of the fair. They are available at the fair, or you can order them online for $7.00 each and receive with a special discount coupon if you order before November 15.

More Information about the Fair

To learn more about the fair, including driving directions, camping and lodging information, food and events at the fair, visit the link below:

Homestead Fair Website

We hope to see you at the fair.

Craft Fair Goes on the Road!

Although we’ve been putting on a craft fair at our own property in Central Texas for over 20 years now, we’ve never taken it elsewhere. This past year we were asked to come to Mississippi and Idaho and “bring our fair”! We are excited about this opportunity to meet new people, and to share with others our crafts and even a little taste of our popular classes on sustainable crafts and agriculture. Please click on the “Events” tab above or go to for more information on these fairs.