Thanksgiving weekend is my very favorite time of the whole year! It actually has very little to do with Thanksgiving itself, although I enjoy Thanksgiving. It is the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving that I love! For seven years now, we have gone up to Waco to visit Homestead Heritage, a Christian, homeschool, agrarian community that opens its doors to anyone who wishes to come visit for this weekend. This festival is called their Craft and Children's Fair, but it is far from child's play.
This community of believers leads simple lives, although they work very hard at everything they do. Quality is far more important than quantity. They have a strong emphasis on craftsmanship, of which they give numerous demonstrations during the weekend. One year, we watched them shear the sheep, card and wash the wool, dye the wool, spin it into yarn, weave the yarn into material, and sew the material into usable items such as clothes and blankets. The annual barn raising seems to really attract the men. They give demonstrations on making pottery (plates, serving dishes, cups, everything imaginable - almost perfect quality), candlemaking, soap making, basket weaving, broom making, quilting, all kinds of homesteading and homemaking skills. One year, we went to the cheese making demonstration. They had made a large demonstration board with a picture and instructions for each step of the process. Step #1 was "Milk the cow." There is beekeeping, herb and vegetable gardening, boat building, the grist mill run by a water wheel, hay rides through the community, many historic buildings, rope making, bread baking, goat milking, horse farming, and lots of homeschool work displayed as well. Here are a few demonstrations we saw this year.
Mike showed us how to use a lathe to make a wooden bowl.
Paul demonstrating woodworking with hand tools, some of which were 150 years old.
Last year, we commissioned them to make this solid-wood cherry bed for us, all with hand tools.
Here is the headboard detail, the Texas symbol. Each half-point of the star was inlaid separately, and the wreath is hand carved.
Pounding in the sand for the mold for metal casting to make tools.
Rip, the border collie herding goats.
The quality of their two daily musical performances is outstanding. Writing their own compositions or making changes to familiar ones, Homestead Heritage's concerts are an incredible delight. Using a wide variety of style, from bluegrass to gospel to folk (but all in a manner that glorifies God), they are unashamedly Christian in all their music and quite talented. I figure I go to the symphony or some other musical venture about once per month, but this latest adult concert by Homestead Heritage was probably the best I've ever heard. Their "Dueling Banjos" piece, which is normally a guitar being copied by a banjo, was greatly expanded to include each section of the orchestra as well. As one section would begin to imitate first the guitar and then the banjo, each section in turn would begin to imitate as well. The trick was that the guitar would then begin on a new segment, or maybe the banjo would take the lead. By the time they were in full gear, each section was playing a different segment, yet they all complemented one another. I'd never seen a symphony do something that difficult - and pull it off!
With about 75 in the adult choir, there were always great accompanists, many of which made their own instruments.
Six years old is when each child in the community joins the choir. The 6-9 year olds learn to sing solos, hit the right notes and stay on the beat. What great training at a young age.
The 10-13 year olds sing two-part harmony and rounds.
The 14-17 year olds sing 4-6 part harmony and are quite professional by this stage. If my children could have the opportunity to participate in praising the Lord this way, I'm sure it would fulfill that inborn need each of us has for music - music that glorifies God. The cows mooing in the meadow next door really added to the ambiance.
I won't normally buy fast food or fair food, but we make an exception here. Although they sell "typical" fair food, such as pizza and hamburgers and ice cream, there is a slight difference - it is all grown right there and home made. So, a cheeseburger, for instance, would be organic, free-range beef with raw, organic cheese on a whole wheat homemade bun. Their ice cream is all organic, made fresh right there, and sweetened with their own sorghum syrup they grow right there.
We always camp overnight when we go here. They just let us use part of their land to set up a tent and provide a port-a-potty for us. Less than a mile down the road was a "real" bathroom. No official campsites, no tables or anything, but lots of fellowship. There were about 30 families camping together. It's not a requirement to be a Christian to come visit, but there are lots of Christians who come to get a vision of what "church" should really look like, what living in a community is like. It was so refreshing to see families gathered separately and in groups having devotions together all over the campground, or just singing hymns and praising the Lord.
I read a little bit in a book about why they live in a community. Church is not about meeting together on Sunday, they say, but about living life together. They don't keep out the world from their community, they invite them in six days a week. But even though there was no sermon and no "love" offering, I knew that I would give almost anything to live in a community like this, except my biblical beliefs.