Our Agriculture

As an agrarian community, our daily activities go hand in hand with the seasons. We work our land with horses, planting and harvesting throughout the year.

We grow our crops at Brazos de Dios using only natural farming techniques in recognition that many of these methods have proven themselves in agricultural communities for centuries. The thick, lush Sudan grass we plant not only supplies forage for our larger livestock, but also doubles as a natural weed suppressant. In late fall, we plant the lower fields in cover crops of rye or oats and winter peas as part of our crop rotation cycle to rebuild the nitrogen level in the soil. When our horse teams plow them under in the spring, these plants decompose to replenish nutrients for the fields as rich green manure.

The summer brings a steady rhythm of weeding, watering and harvesting as the various crops mature in season. The hot July sun hastens the ripening of the pinto beans, sweet sorghum stalks and our yellow Hickory King corn. As the days begin to shorten and the temperatures dip, showing signs of the approaching fall, we harvest our sweet potato crop.

Family gardens flourish on the rich river−bottom land, with a wealth of tender, sweet vegetables: green beans, black−eyed peas, broccoli, carrots, okra, potatoes, pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, bell and jalapeño peppers, sweet corn and squash to name but a few. We enjoy all the produce we eat fresh from the garden and preserve the rest by canning, freezing and drying. Fruit trees planted around our homes provide fresh peaches, pears, apples and plums.

The native grasses on our upper land serve as pasture for our larger livestock: Percheron and Belgian workhorses, Morgan horses and dairy cattle. Our draft horses are instrumental in the way we cut and store our coastal Bermuda hay−the annual supply of winter food for themselves and the rest of our livestock. After using horse−drawn implements to cut and rake the hay, we haul it on horse−drawn wagons to one side of the hayfield, where we stack it in fifteen− to twenty−foot−tall haystacks. You can see these haystacks from our scenic overlook.

Our river−bottom land consists of exceedingly good sandy loam soil. It supports pasture lands, cultivated crops and an orchard of over a hundred fruit trees−peaches, pears, plums, apples, apricots and figs. Along the fences and up into the trees, native wild mustang grapes grow in abundance. Once ripened by the summer sun, we cook the clusters down into tart, deep purple grape jam. Biennially, we harvest the native Texas pecans, which we use for baking and candy making, from a hundred−year−old grove that grows alongside the Brazos River, . On this bottom land we also pasture a variety of sheep, dairy cattle and dairy goats.

These lush grasses also provide pasture for the beef cattle of our Homestead Land & Cattle Company. Grazed here at Brazos de Dios and at our ranch in Oklahoma, this naturally raised beef is among the best available. We use this natural beef at our annual Homestead Craft & Children’s Fair on Thanksgiving weekend, where our menu features our own USDA approved, select all−natural beef.

We harvest the field crops from late spring through fall, beginning with our oats in mid−May. In June, when the heads of the wheat begin to bend under the weight of the full grains, the horses pull a grain binder through the field, cutting and binding the grain into sheaves. By hand, we stack five sheaves together and place two more across the top to shed any rain while drying. When threshing day arrives, we gather the dried shocks into horse−drawn wagons and haul them to our threshing machine made early in the 1900’s. In what seems like no time at all, the separated wheat kernels fill the grain bins, and we pile the straw for winter mulch. With our gristmill, we stone−grind the wheat into flour for our community’s use.

One of the highlights of our year is the late summer harvest of sweet sorghum, an uncommon crop in this day and age. We plant our sorghum fields in an open−pollinated seed variety. This seed, derived from an old heirloom strain, has been improved to give more juice and to grow better and taller than the original variety. After we harvest the cane, we press it at our sorghum mill on the upper land by feeding the ten− to twelve−foot stalks into the horse−powered cane press. The filtered, raw juice slowly cooks as it runs through a series of channels in a twelve−foot copper pan, simmering into sweet, amber−colored sorghum syrup. Later in the fall, we also used this time−honored method to squeeze and cook down our sugar cane to make cane syrup, a milder, sweeter syrup.

As the days begin to shorten and the temperatures dip, showing signs of the approaching fall, we harvest our sweet potato crop. Families gather together for this rewarding harvest, digging and gathering the abundant coppery orange potatoes by hand. Like many Southern farmers of 70−100 years ago, we enjoy sweet potatoes as a staple. Our Homestead Farms Sweet Potato Recipes cookbook, available for sale in the Deli and at the Fair, contains a myriad of delicious recipes for this nutritious vegetable.

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The path of the rightous is as the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Prov. 4:18 NIV

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