Hanging Gardens of Spring Creek Forest

The Splendid Hanging Gardens of Spring Creek Forest – Spring 2014

by Celia Hayes

All right then – I confess that after last year’s disastrous tomato adventure – in which that which wasn’t killed by the heat was demolished by invading rats – I could be forgiven for giving up entirely. But darn it, the year before was so bountiful … well, not really all that bountiful, but a good many dinners enlivened with fresh sliced tomatoes on the salad. I hunger for fresh garden tomatoes, and it’s too darned far to drive down to Trader Joe’s for a box of their assorted baby heirloom tomatoes every day or so, with gas over $3.00 a gallon. I stocked up at Rainbow Gardens on a wide assortment of heirloom tomato starts, after the unseasonable hard freeze at the end of February, and embarked again on the adventure of a thriving backyard garden.

Some of the tomatoes are growing in the hanging containers, or in single surviving Topsy-Turvy, but most are in large pots, or in a pair of round raised beds – the suggestion of a commenter on a gardening discussion forum. It seems that you can take a length of hardware cloth or other wire mesh, or even chicken wire, make a circular form about the size of an oil drum with it, line with landscape fabric or weed barrier, dump leaves, grass, twigs, etc to fill it up to within ten inches of the top, then fill the rest with garden soil or potting mix. The stuff underneath composts merrily away, even as the vegetables grow … and in colder climates, the rotting compost even keeps the tomatoes going well into late fall. Lord knows, I have a sufficiency of leaves, what with the Arizona trashtree, and my next door neighbors’ oak molting frequently and generously, and little space to compost them. May as well put them to use as a basis for raised beds

The good garden news this week is that the two sapling fruit trees I bought at Sam’s Club for a pittance sometime in January have both begun to put out tiny green leaves. I thought the peach tree would be OK, as it had noticeable buds swelling the ends of the branches, and when I cautiously pruned an end of the branch, it was supple and green underneath, but the plum was more of an enduring question. It just sat there, sullenly, week after week, all bare twiggy limbs long after the peach began putting forth tiny green leaves. This week, the plum began bringing forth leaves of its own, and I was relieved. Naturally, it will be years before we have any fruit from them, but the speed at which the two crepe myrtle trees and the fig tree grew encourages me no end.

The new flowerbed by the front door – that one which my daughter and I built up when we re-did the brick step – is also doing very, very well. All of the bulbs have come up, the rose bush is thriving mightily, some of the scattered seeds have produced … well, something, and the four narrow planters where I planted mesclun salad greens have done well enough to have been harvested for salads several times already. I planted another round of mesclun greens in back, in two lengths of guttering nailed to the fence – another suggestion from an on-line garden discussion. Cap off the ends of a length of gutter, fill with garden soil, and there you have – a vertical garden. I’d really like to have this be the year that I hardly have to purchase any produce at all.

Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market

The Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market

by Celia Hayes

It’s one of my habits – established when we lived in Athens in the early 1980s – going to the local street or farmer’s market. It was the custom of the country that every neighborhood had a day of the week, when a three or four-block length of one of the main streets in the suburb would be blocked off, and the local vendors and farmers would set up two rows of booths and sell to the community, beginning just before dawn and continuing through midday. It was usually seasonal fruits and vegetables, and each little booth pretty much specialized in one item – lemons, or artichokes on long stalks, or potatoes with patches of the damp soil they had been grown in still clinging to them. There was an egg-vendor, who sold the eggs in cones made up of newspaper, and a storekeeper with a larger trailer who had a variety of dried beans and macaroni, and often a crate of live snails, rustling and clicking their shells together. All was absolutely fresh, straight from the farm and cheaper than cheap.

I’ve always hoped that our farmer’s markets here could duplicate that experience; and the goods are fresh and straight from the farm, but alas, not as inexpensive as they were in Greece. The farmer’s markets here do have their advantages though; the one held every Sunday morning save Easter in the parking lot of the Quarry Market is a perfect example; as half the venders seem to do the traditional fruits and vegetables, the other half a wide assortment of prepared gourmet foods. [Curious though, I didn’t find the Quarry Market on the GoTexan Farmers Market list. (They probably should be listed.)] Cheese and chocolates and pies, oh, my! Imagine a pie made with fruit or nuts from Nanette Watson’s Frio Farm, with their own eggs, butter churned by Nanette herself, and with her very own home-brewed flavoring extracts. That is a piece of pie that it is a delight to savor.

We cruised the two rows of booths – threatened rain didn’t seem to hamper turnout at all, though there were some vendors on the Quarry Market Farmer’s Market list who didn’t seem to be there because of it. Most everyone had samples on offer – and scrumptious they were. La Panadaria’s chocolate bread was absolutely scrumptious, and the chocolate samples from High Street Chocolate were out of this world. Peggy at High Street (she lives in Comfort, of course) is adventurous with flavoring, too – she has one flavor of chocolate, called Spicy Aztec which features … well, red pepper, among others. That is a chocolate with an interesting burn, which sneaks up on you. My favorite is a thin expresso-flavored chocolate, which I believe would be absolutely divine as the chocolate element in gourmet chocolate-chip ice cream … and if Peggy could work with Nanette at Frio Farm, and combine home-made ice-cream from Frio Farm’s eggs, cream and vanilla … I believe they would have something which would make Ben and Jerry’s finest taste like something from Tasty-Freeze.

The final booth that we visited was – I think – the Lemonade Company, purveyors of fresh-squeezed lemonade and orange juice. The scent of the oranges teased me from three booths away. There is nothing so evocative to someone who grew up in Southern California as the scent of fresh oranges and lemons – and the sublime flavor of the juice freshly squeezed. Nothing like it in the world, and it has spoiled me ever since for supermarket orange juice. And that was my Sunday morning – yours?

Jams and Preserves A Specialty Shop in Fredericksburg

A Little Local Home Grown Company

by Celia Hayes

So, I came to San Antonio for my final tour of Air Force duty in 1995 – but I think it took a little while for me to discover Fredericksburg, and the lovely, tasty specialty food products put out by Fischer and Wieser, of Fredericksburg in the Hill Country. It is in my mind that for the first couple of years, Fredericksburg was the only place that you could buy them anyway. Certainly all the little gourmet food outlets along Main Street had a good selection of Fischer & Wieser jams and preserves. There was an annex to Das Peach Haus in a teeny former residence near to the Nimitz Museum, which is where we usually bought those items which took our fancy.

Looking at the company website, it appears that was about the time that Case Fischer developed the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle sauce, which in movie parlance, was a tiny little local biasness’s First Big Break. Roasted Raspberry Chipotle is magnificent, by the way, but at first it must have seemed to be one of the weirdest concoctions ever proposed. Smoked Mexican chipotle peppers … and runny raspberry jam? Together? Hoooo-kay… But it put Fischer & Wieser – and chipotle peppers on the map. (For my money, the best thing on grilled shrimp is the ginger-habanero sauce, though. After driving past Das Peach Haus every time we came in to Fredericksburg by the road from Comfort – we finally stopped and went inside, and realized that – oh, my, it is bigger than it looks! There are little patches of landscaped garden all around, shaded by a grove of pine trees. And there are resident cats, too – always a good indication of quality, no matter if the product is books, garden stuff … or gourmet foods.

But the peach orchard which was the genesis of the company has been around since the Wieser family bought the property in the 1920s, and their son Mark opened a roadside fruit stand in 1969. There are a lot of seasonal roadside fruit stands on the main roads leading to Fredericksburg, and the Peach Haus was just one of them. The family sold fresh peaches, of course, and home-made peach preserves. Mark Wieser also taught school – and one of his students often helped out at peach harvesting time. Case Fischer was so keen on the possibilities of a specialty-food, development, marketing and entrepreneurship, that he went off to college and studied all that … and when he came home to Fredericksburg, he teamed up with his old teacher, and set about innovating, creating and producing quality foods; sauces for meats and pastas, mustards, jams and preserves, pie filling, salad dressing and dips.

And instead of just keeping it a local thing, Fischer & Wieser went national. Within a couple of years, I didn’t have to make the long drive up to Fredericksburg for some Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce – it and other products were on the shelves at the local HEB – even my own local, which usually is a little light on the gourmet goods. Even better – they are available in military commissaries and on Amazon.com. Not bad for a tiny local enterprise which started as a roadside fruit stand. Yes, indeedy – they did build that business.

But look out for the Ghost Pepper BBQ sauce … more than a quarter of a teaspoon can be lethal. I think it’s made for people who think straight Tabasco is just too darned bland.

Making Homemade Broth

Lentil and Brown Rice Compost Broth

This was one of these things that I read so long ago that I don’t remember when, or who, save that it was an interview with a rather clever and creative chef being interviewed, and just about that time I had despaired of finding any broth – canned or as a bouillon cube – at the commissary or local supermarket which wasn’t expensive, unbearably salty, or both. Now HEB, Sprouts, and Trader Joe’s all offer a nice variety of flavored and low sodium broths and I have used them for some splendid soups, especially when nothing sits very well on on a fractious stomach except chicken broth with a smidgeon of rice or fideos in it … but nothing beats home-made broth made the way that I did, following the advice of the very clever and penny-pinching chef.

What he advised was to keep a special container in the freezer, and whenever you had vegetable scraps, cut ends or clean peelings, or even whole veggies past their best-by date, to throw them into the container. Onion ends, mushroom stems, ends of celery – in fact, everything but broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower scraps could be used. Omit anything spoiled, rotten or moldy, of course. If you are not a vegan, then bones and trimmings from various meats – chicken necks and ham-bones and the like – can be added as well. When the container is completely full, empty the frozen scraps into a large stockpot, and add a handful of fresh parsley (or any other fresh herbs you have available – thyme would be fantastic), and some whole peppercorns, and fill with bottled or tap-water up almost to the top of the pot. Cover the stockpot, set it on the stove over low heat, and just let it simmer for a good few days, until all the vegetables are cooked to softness and the broth itself is a rich deep brown.

And that’s it: after a couple of days, take it off the heat, let cool, and pour the broth off. I like to run it through a fine mesh strainer, and package it in 2-cup to quart quantities for the freezer out in the garage. Nothing makes a better base for soup – and one of my very favorites to use broth for is a lentil and brown rice soup, from Nava Atlas’s Vegetariana.

Combine in a large pot:
1/2 Cup dried lentils, washed and picked over
1/3-1/2 Cup brown rice
2 TBSp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSp soy sauce
2 Bay leaves
3 Cups water or vegetable broth
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Then add:
2 additional cups water or broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
Handful of finely chopped celery leaves
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes with liquid, or Ro-Tel tomatoes with chili peppers.1/2 Cup tomato sauce or tomato juice
1/4 cup dry red wine or sherry
1 Teasp dried basil
1 Teasp paprika
1/2 Teasp dried marjoram
1/2 Teasp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and simmer for half an hour or so, until lentils and rice are done. You can take the onus of being vegetarian off it by adding about half a pound of kielbasa or other smoked sausage sliced into rounds, towards the end of the cooking time, and serving it with a little grated cheddar cheese on top. I made it once with imported green lentils from France, and people almost swooned.

Mobile Food Trucks of San Antonio

Eating on the Go

by Celia Hayes

Well, there is fast food, and then there is fast food – fast food that comes to the customer. When I was stationed in Korea such a convenience was called the ‘chogi’ truck, or as the local national employees called it ‘roooch-coachie’. It came around mid-morning to the building where I worked, dispensing hot sandwiches, snacks, candy bars, ice cream and bags of salted or sugared snack foods. But the chogi truck is to a food truck today as a Model T is to a Jeep Cherokee. They’re gasoline-powered motor vehicles, and they dispense food to the hungry … but the 21st century food truck tends to be a specialty gourmet kitchen on wheels. Certainly in a large and built-up city, there would be lots of hungry lunch-time customers.

Quite likely, a good number of those hungry workers would have exhausted all of the available and nearby restaurants and fast-food places. It’s an expensive and time-consuming operation, opening up a new restaurant in a profitable location in the big city. Conventional wisdom has it that the odds on a new restaurant venture failing within the first three years of operation are fairly high – so starting small with a food truck is a logical solution. Without the huge start-up expense of real estate and a building – all the budding chef-entrepreneur needs is a kitchen on wheels, a map of the city – and one which permits food trucks to park on streets relatively unhindered – and a lot of hungry customers. These days, it also helps to have a Facebook page.

Food trucks have a relatively long history, as these things go. According to the invaluable Wikipedia, the mobile kitchen/canteen had it’s origins in Texas – in the chuck-wagon developed by Charles Goodnight for use on the long-trail cattle drives after the Civil War, when the Transcontinental Railroad had pushed far enough into Kansas to make Texas cattle profitable in the larger markets of the East. From the horse-drawn chuck-wagon, came lunch trucks, which provided meals to shift-workers in the big cities, especially those working the night shift around the turn of the century. This trend continued, of lunch trucks serving meals at construction sites, and setting up at fairs and festivals. The US Army maintained mobile canteens – kitchens on wheels, which are most likely the direct ancestor of today’s food trucks.

According to the same source, the current popularity for food trucks coincided with the economic downturn; a plentitude of food-trucks with no construction sites to service, and a similar glut of hopeful chefs with no restaurants to work in. Necessity makes opportunities – and in this case, a very useful one. Out on 281 and Thousand Oaks, outside the 1604 Loop, a far-seeing local entrepreneur established a sort of gourmet food park – the Boardwalk on Bulverde, set aside for food trucks and customers to meet, greet, and eat. My personal favorite food truck is permanently parked on Nacogdoches, next to the Cordova Auto Center; Ericks Tacos, which has Mexican-style street food to die for and funky street-dining atmosphere to spare. Oh – and look out for the green sauce; nuclear fission in a small plastic cup. On a book trip up to Abilene, we ran across Short Bus Hot Dogs – which is a hotdog stand set up in a converted school bus. And yes, they have a Facebook page. Charlie Goodnight didn’t have any idea of what he set in motion, in 1866.

South Texas Garden Plans

Plans for the Garden – Spring 2013

by Celia Hayes

When just about everything in the garden was done producing for the year and the weather began to cool off, my daughter and I put up the folding gazebo-greenhouse which one of our San Antonio neighbors decided was surplus to needs. Into it went all the surviving plants, and the delicate things, like the patchouli plant, the pepper vine, an earth-box full of salad greens and lettuce, and another with three tomato plants which had self-seeded from last year’s crop. In advance of the first cold snap, we zipped up the window openings and doorway, and aside from unzipping the door long enough to water everything once a week, we pretty much ignored it. All the plants inside thrived on this regimen, and one of the tomato plants has already put forth baby green tomatoes the size of grapes … in late January. We do not know, of course, what kind of tomatoes they are – could be the black cherry sort, the yellow pear-shaped sort, the heirloom beefsteak variety or even the egg-shaped roma tomatoes … all of which we had in the hanging planters last year, or in one of the earth boxes. Any of them could have self-seeded – and the resulting plants are thriving. So – yes, we will keep the gazebo-greenhouse up. As a matter of fact, it was such a pain to assemble that we are extremely reluctant to take it down.

As it turned out for us last year, although the hanging turvy planters, the earth boxes and the pots of various sizes produced a splendid-looking assortment of vegetables, and the garden looked nearly the best that it ever has been, the actual crop wasn’t that impressive. It wasn’t enough to entirely supply our salad green and vegetable needs throughout the summer and fall, and certainly not enough that we were going around to the neighbors leaving sacks of zucchini and peppers on the doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running away.

So, this year, we’re moving on to Plan …well, by this time it is Plan C. Plan A, back in the beginning was in just digging in lots of sand compost to what is essentially hard clay – which worked for some things, but but vegetables. Plan B, which was to plant the vegetables in containers, was what we did last year – and there just isn’t enough container space. Plan C is – a series of raised beds, made from wide pine planks, and filled with compost and good potting soil. This is what we have started; last weekend I built the largest one, from a pair of 12-foot planks, which the nice people at Lowe’s were kind enough to saw into 4 and 8 foot lengths. Four pairs of corner joist fasteners and a handful of wood screws – and there we go. Fill with soil, and put square concrete pavers around the edge so that we’re not waiting through the mud every time we water … and there’s the first raised bed. We should be able to build and fill two or three more, and fit into various unused spaces in the back yard, which will offer lots more space for vegetable-growing.

We’ve carried over enough cayenne, jalapeno and bell pepper plants from last year that we need not buy any more for this year. Alas, one of the tomato turvys has split and disintegrated under the stress of two years hard use, and I suspect the remaining two are very close to following suit – so, here we go, looking for more. With the greater space available in the raised beds, we might better be able to grow more squash, zucchini and bush beans – and just today when we were at Lowe’s for some shelf brackets, I noticed that they had bags of onion starts and seed potatoes … and those are definitely things that I’d like to have. And that’s the plan for my garden this year – what’s yours?

Home Canning

Adventures in Home Canning

by Celia Hayes

This latest adventure in home food preparation was my daughter’s notion, upon noting that the aisle in our local HEB set aside for housewares and appliances had a new section for home canning supplies; including a sort of starter kit for novices; a large light-weight enamel lidded kettle, with a rack and some implements to shift around the jars … of which there were also a nice assortment in various sizes. I was certain that we had a huge canning kettle in the garage – a gift from a military friend who was moving to another state – but we couldn’t readily find it, as the garage is stuffed with items that my daughter has bought for that residence of her own which she hopes to have one day. But we might have sold the darned thing at the big clearing-out-of-useless-possessions yard sale that we had last year, anyway.

So, following her last big payday, she purchased the kit, a Ball recipe book and some flats of jars, and ever since, we have been experimenting with certain of the fruit and vegetable recipes. We are anticipating a bounty from our garden, in any case – already some of the cucumbers are monstrous in size, and if all the green tomatoes on the plants that we have come ripe at the same time … send the search party to look for us buried underneath a couple of bushels of tomatoes.

Her part-time job for Edible Arrangements is a source of certain kinds of fruit or fruit scraps … waste not, want not, you know. Anyway I’ve always loved the descriptions in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books of how our pioneer ancestors went through a frenzy of canning, smoking, curing, and otherwise preserving the bounty of their scratched-out gardens, to last through winter and other hard times. I am an epicure when it comes to food, but I am also a tight-wad. I have elevated tastes, but a need to pinch the pennies until a booger comes out from Lincoln’s nose. I think the historical person himself would sympathize. After all, he grew up relatively impoverished and in a milieu where people did for themselves…

Anyway, it was a natural progression from home brewing, to home cheese-making, to home canning – although I don’t think we’ll go as far as getting a high-pressure canning thingy. But if high-end gourmet ready-prepared food items get any more expensive relative to the raw materials for them remaining relatively inexpensive, we might be tempted… even if I am not any more enthused about the joys of botulism than a normally intelligent human being would be…

This is a recipe for a pepper and corn relish which I copied out of a Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet Magazine, lo these many years ago. This relish which can be eaten fresh, or processed in the canning kettle for fifteen minutes. It makes about 5 pint jars.

Combine and simmer for half an hour: 5 ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, 1 finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 finely chopped green bell pepper, one medium onion, 2 carrots, also finely chopped, 1 ½ cup sugar, 1 teasp dry mustard, ½ teasp celery, ¼ teasp turmeric and 1 ½ cup vinegar.

Next weekend, we may be going to Buda for the Annual Wiener Dog Races … and we’re starting another garden project; a raised bed in a relatively unused corner of the yard. Enjoy!


Time for Golf?
Call The Randy Watson Team of Mission Realty at 210-319-4960

Texas Made Texas Good Locally-produced and Locally Grown Foods

Created Friday, 19 November 2010 14:13

Texas Made, Texas Good

Doing the rounds of various local farmer’s markets, special events and festivals over the last year or so around San Antonio has really brought it home to me that there is an incredible bounty of locally-produced and locally grown foods out there. It’s gone, way, way beyond just Texas-made wines. Local olive-oil, sheep-milk cheeses, pastas and BBQ sauces, smoked meats and sausages . . . it just never ends, even just keeping to a limit of that which is available within a day’s drive of San Antonio. Some of my favorite places and venders are strictly local; that is, you actually have to get up and go there, as mail-order is not an option and – for some of them – the internet is just something that happened to other people.

The Riverside Market in Boerne – on Main Street and SH-46, and the Dutchman’s Market in Fredericksburg, on Main Street opposite the entrance to old Ft. Martin Scott fall into this category: Both of these places offer incredible home-made jerky and smoked sausage, and the Riverside also has incomparable brisket and whole roast chicken. Fortunately, some of my favorite purveyors of fine Texas comestibles have that fully-functioning website option. A handful of them are even represented on the shelves of the neighborhood HEB. Like Opa’s smoked sausages – they’ve been firing up the smoke house for sixty years now. The New Braunfels Smokehouse products may not have penetrated quite so far into the local grocery store, but they – like Opa’s have a substantial brick-and-mortar physical presence as well as the website for those who simply must indulge in a smoked tenderloin, a whole turkey or a sun-dried-tomato-and-chipotle sausage.

Fischer and Weiser foods – jams, jellies, sauces, salsas and salad dressings are also represented in San Antonio grocery stores; when I first began exploring Fredericksburg, though – they seemed only to be available in various gourmet foodie places in Fredericksburg itself. Their roasted raspberry-chipotle sauce is one of my constant favorites – as well as an answer to the question of what do you get when German and Mexican cooking traditions clash. I’ve had a bottle of it in the pantry pretty constantly since 1995. I am also pretty sure that I saw D.L. Jardines’ smokin’ hot salsas and sauces in the HEB also – but they have a website as well, and are available at places like Rustlin’ Rob’s and other foodie emporiums in Fredericksburg.

RayAnnVentures isn’t at the point of being available at the grocery store everyday – they are still doing the rounds of the weekly markets throughout the the Hill Country with their output. Last fall I caught up to them at the Wimberly Market days – and oh, my. Fantastic pickles and jars of jelly that looked like cut-glass jewels, in the home-style two-piece-lid canning jars. Like home-made, only better. (BTW, RayAnnVentures ships homemade jelly and jams overseas to APO/FPO addresses.)

Now, the last provider of specialty comestibles which tickled my fancy at local market-days has succeeded in making the leap to a permanent retail outlet: Shayne Sauce Foods opened a brick-and-mortar outlet in Artisans Alley, on Bitters Road in San Antonio. They do jams, sauces and mustards but their main thing is whole-wheat dried pasta, in every shape and flavored with everything from black-pepper-n-garlic to chocolate, curry-spice and roasted red pepper. And strawberry dessert pasta – which I guess you would serve with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. No, I haven’t worked up sufficient sense of adventure to try that yet . . . maybe for New Years.

Bon appetite – and go, Texas!

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2011 Annual Herb Festival At Pearl Brewery

20 Herbs to Remember

Written by Randy Watson

The 20th Anniversary of the San Antonio Herb Market presents the “20 Herbs to Remember” … at the Pearl Brewery Complex, 312 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, TX. Saturday, October 15, 2011 from 9:00am to 4:00pm.

The 2011 San Antonio Herb Market. The free SAWS-sponsored event features cooking demos, lectures, and activities for the kids! Purchase fresh herbs and other plants, handmade soaps, olive oils, books and other products to delight your herbal senses. Visit with experts on organic gardening, and choose from an array of handmade gardening items to purchase for your patio, deck or yard.

The Herb Market is free and open to the public. Mark your calendars for this very special event!

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Lockhart Texas The Capital of Texas BBQ

Road Trip: The Capital of Texas BBQ

by Celia Hayes

Having reason last Saturday to go up to Lockhart, to participate in an evening fund-raising event to support the Eugene Clark Library, my daughter and I thought; let’s drive up in the early afternoon and take a look at the sights of historic downtown Lockhart; a district of several blocks centered on the archetypal Texas courthouse in a square with a number of businesses housed in classic late-19th century or early 20th century buildings.

It’s a short drive from our San Antonio home, all things considered, and a fascinating place to spend a weekend afternoon. We would hit a couple of thrift and antique shops, check out one of the four notable BBQ houses, and generally have a relaxing afternoon. Lockhart is a mere hour and a bit drive away: up IH35 to San Marcos, as if going to Wimberly, but instead of turning left and going through downtown San Marcos and past the university, turn right and just carry on until a left turn on Hwy 142, which leads straight into the heart of lovely downtown Lockhart.

There is a weekly farmers’ market in the mornings – which we missed – but we had been told about a consignment shop called the Citrus Peel and my daughter was enthused. She came up with a winner immediately; a leather Doney & Burke mini-planner . . . and a charming funky vintage handbag shaped like a western saddle. We both loved it, talked about over lunch and went back for it, agreeing to split the cost and custody, having never, ever seen the like of it before. (Looking it up online, there are a handful of them in the same design: Mexican tooled leather, but different colors and slightly different pommel/cantle detail. Not mass-manufacture; likely a craftsman in a leather-goods shop in a border-town, doing them one at a time for the tourist trade.)

We chose BBQ at Kreuz Market for lunch, which was good, if not quite as sublime as we had expected. The side dish beans were excellent, and the hot German potato salad had an admixture of sauerkraut in it – very tasty. Afterwards, people told us we should have gone to Blacks, or Smitty’s. The first rule of road-food: always go where the local people say they go.

We were also referred to the Main Street Gallery, which is set up in a lofty old building which the owner, Johnny Lay, explained had used to be a stable. Now it is fully stuffed with lovely antique furniture, stained glass panels that my mother, the stained glass hobbyist, would give her eyeteeth to be able to replicate. There is a case of Civil War era tintypes and daguerreotypes, most of them just the size to fit into a pocket, and some really splendid art glass. There was also a long shelf of books; among the few things that I could afford. This is one of those antique shops which I would love to furnish an entire house from, once I have become a very rich and famous writer. (The other is Back Alley Antiques, in Artisan’s Alley here in San Antonio).

We finished up at the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches, open on Saturdays and by appointment; which guided tour was a great deal more fun than most guided tours usually are. The single most amusing item in the museum is a concoction of dark mahogany which once belonged to showman PT Barnum: A clock-desk-music-box-organ, which was stored in a local barn for nearly seventy years and restored by the museum staff. They also have the original works from the clock in the tower of the courthouse . . . which has also been recently restored.

It’s a short drive from our San Antonio neighborhood, all things considered, and a fascinating place to spend a weekend afternoon.

 

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