Category Archives: DIscover Brenham

Garden Market

People in the country know how to make the most of space.

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The new Garden Market & Bakery opened recently on Blue Bell Road in a rather unlikely spot, next to a large landscaping company.

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They’re related, actually; a nice patio area out back that serves as the “showroom” for all of Glasco’s hardscaping options is being readied and will be available for special events.

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But you don’t need any special reason just to stop in for a cup of coffee and a pastry. The goods also include a nicely curated selection of gifts. Note to self: Gifts. That means you are not shopping for yourself. No cabinet cluttering allowed!

Discipline with Excess-ories

Living small is not about acquiring more.  The consumer orgy known as Round Top is not a good place to be if you are trying to learn to let go of stuff. The event long ago stretched beyond the idyllic burg of Round Top for miles in both directions along Texas Highway 237, about 20 minutes from Brenham, bringing a wild mix of antique, collectible and junk fairs twice a year, in early April and early October.

Hard to resist, especially when the vendor explains that she's making her chandeliers on the spot from combined parts.

Hard to resist, especially when the vendor explains that she’s making her chandeliers on the spot from combined parts.

If you have just a smidgen of shopping gene in you, Round Top exerts a powerful pull. My niece Lesley hadn’t ever experienced it, so I took her out for a very long day earlier this month. She’s contemplating her first apartment, and apparently planning to fill it with Coca-Cola memorabilia. We found plenty of that in the fields at Warrenton, which is where you go when you don’t mind a serious scavenger hunt. (If you want the goods beautifully curated and marked up accordingly, head to Marburger Farm.)

Some people grumble that Warrenton, long a junker’s paradise, has been overrun with cheap imported goods. But further back in the fields, you can still score a treasure here or there and find vendors with garage sale-like setups, where everything’s thrown on a few tables and marked $5 or $10.

Made here in Brenham, as it turns out.

Made here in Brenham, as it turns out.

It’s best if you’re on a mission. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the visual cacaphony can overwhelm you pretty fast. My goal this time was simple: I’ve coveted Margaret Meier’s vintage European flax linens for years. Based in Florida, she sets up at the Rose Field in Warrenton as Vintage Fabrics & Etc. I had a project in mind: recovering a much-loved chair we bought for $75 years ago in the mountains of North Carolina.

European flax linen: Stay tuned. The chair should be ready in three weeks.

European flax linen: Stay tuned. The chair should be ready in three weeks.

My eyes fell on a 13-yard bolt with a double butterscotch stripe in a darker-than-usual color. Margaret, a subtle but sure saleswoman, assured me I’d made a great choice: the butterscotch was rare, she promised, especially on a bolt so wide. Almost $700 later, it was in my trunk. And we’d been out less than an hour, with the full day ahead of us. Dangerous.

Of course you don't need it, but these vendors sure know how to make you think you do.

Of course you don’t need it, but these vendors sure know how to make you think you do.

My discipline held up with objects like bird cages and lanterns. But because the garden yields so much joy, and it needs to be brought inside or shared with friends, I have allowed myself to continue collecting small vases. As luck would have it, a booth that clearly stood out as something different was at the aptly-named Excess show, where a lot of the dealers make and sell goods from repurposed industrial objects.

I could see these hanging from the living room ceiling.

I could see these hanging from the living room ceiling.

Many of these vendors are regulars but I hadn’t seen John Norton before. A chemist from North Carolina, he buys up lab glass from factories — test tubes, beakers and such — and “Silver Flashes” them. He says that unlike mercury glass, his pieces hold water; although he warns against shoving in thorny rose stems, which can scratch the silver.)

Lesley shops the Industrial Age Antiques booth at Excess.

Lesley shops the Industrial Age Antiques booth at Excess.

Norton’s beakers exude the coolness of objects you might see in a MoMA catalog. In fact, he said MoMA had contacted him about selling them. Look for them in the museum store soon if you’re in New York. In the meantime, Norton’s company, Industrial Age Antiques, also has a website.

I cratered.

I cratered.

I managed to keep my purchase to just small bulb-shaped vase. Lesley couldn’t resist, either. She’s a fast learner.

Home Sweet Farm comes to town

The entrance to Home Sweet Farm Market on Baylor Street in Downtown Brenham.

The entrance to Home Sweet Farm Market on Baylor Street in Downtown Brenham.

As if I needed another reason to love Brenham!

Home Sweet Farm has opened a fantastic fresh market downtown, featuring gorgeous produce and other goods made within 50 miles of here. It’s open on Wednesdays and Sundays. I visited last Sunday (and again today), and was thrilled to see customers streaming in.

Last weekend, cool weather crops still prevailed. Sweetest cauliflower I've ever tasted. I roasted it and made curried cauliflower soup.

Last weekend, cool weather crops still prevailed. Sweetest cauliflower I’ve ever tasted. I roasted it and made curried cauliflower soup.

Nine years ago Farmer Brad, as Brad Shufflebeam is widely known, and his wife Jenny founded the Houston area’s first CSA cooperative. They’ve been quite successful, trucking their beautiful bounty 70 miles southeast to Houston.

The darling Shufflebeam family: Corena, Brad, Jenny and Brook.

The Shufflebeam family: Corena, Brad, Jenny and Brook.

The great irony has been that here in Brenham, about 7 miles from the Shufflebeam’s 22 verdant acres, the only farmers market for years didn’t offer much in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables. It was charming and well-meaning, but unfortunately it disappeared this winter. Word was they were offering too many homemade products – including a lot of home canned goods and pastries – without proper licenses to sell commercially.

The Home Sweet Farm Market has all the legal i’s dotted and t’s crossed. One of the last elements to be approved, Jenny said, was the bathroom – of all things! (They had to prove it existed in the space already; otherwise they’d have been forced to upgrade it to make it ADA compliant.)

Bee Good, a Navasota-based company, offers beautifully packaged honey as wekk as these pretty beeswax candles.

Bee Good, a Navasota-based company, offers beautifully packaged honey as well as these pretty beeswax candles.

The market opened April 7 and very quickly its Facebook page had 1,000 likes. I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come. This town has so much potential, and it feels like it’s really starting to gel.

Our fridge is full of fresh bounty, including strawberries, beets, carrots, cauliflower, kale, potatoes and broccoli. Tonight I roasted the farm-raised chicken we bought there. Wow. I had almost forgotten that chicken could actually taste like, uh, chicken.

Still eating the bounty I brought home.

Still eating the bounty I brought home.

Artisan cheeses are coming soon.

Branching Out

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There’ve been times in the past seven months I’ve wondered about my sanity. It’s not the reduction in square footage but this whole notion of figuring out where, exactly, we belong. It usually hits when I have to get in the car to drive to work in Houston, which is about an hour and 15 minutes door-to-door. I have never lived more than 15 minutes away from work before, and I abhor freeways.

But on mild winter evenings like this, eating dinner on the deck out here in Blue Bell Country, it all seems worth it. Our old pecan tree isn’t all that beautifully shaped, really; it leans to the north almost precariously, while behind it in a neighbor’s yard grows a perfectly symmetrical big live oak. But both are at their deciduous, ferny-looking best just before sunset this time of year, every branch silhouetted black like the fans of delicate corals in a sea of cornflower blue sky.

Squirrels are still scurrying across their branches, and the mockingbirds are chirping their last calls before morning.

Pecan Bounty

Pecans gathered on this morning’s walk with no effort.

One thing about Blue Bell Country: It’s also Pecan Country.

A Norther blew through last night, and this morning when we walked the dog our neighborhood’s  streets were so littered with pecans I filled the pockets of my Barbour. I could have loaded up a bucket or two.

Is that why a half-dozen squirrels scampered across our yard this morning like they were on speed? One of the neighbors has been out almost every morning collecting them (pecans, not squirrels, although he’s capable of that); the feed store and a few other places have had “We buy pecans” signs posted for weeks.

Three kinds of pecans: Small natives, top, a large Mahan, center and something else – perhaps a Witchita or a Cheyenne?

There appear to be at least three varieties of pecans growing here. The big old tree in our back yard is most likely a native; its nuts are compact but mighty flavorful. A block or so away, one neighbor may have a type called the Mahan; it’s large and elongated. Somewhere in between are many other cultivated varieties.

Many cultivated varieties were bred from a “mother tree” up in San Saba, Texas that is more than a hundred years old and looked pretty bedraggled when I ventured to see it a decade or so ago for a story that appeared in Saveur.

After that adventure and plenty of taste-testing, I cooked with nothing but Wichitas for years, because they have abundant oil that gives them an extra rich flavor in baked goods.

I’m less picky these days. And it looks like some baking is in order, if only I can unearth the nutcracker from the pile of boxes in storage.