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?

Mission Reach

River Fun Down the Mission Reach

by Celia Hayes

It is one of those grand civic plans to extend the Riverwalk from downtown towards the north and south – especially to the south to connect up all the ancient missions once established on the banks of the San Antonio River. The original section of the Riverwalk, which together with the Alamo itself is San Antonio’s primary claim to touristic fame, was just the very beginning. After all, San Antonio was established where it was because of the river… and for a long while in the last century, the river itself – aside from the landscaped stretch in downtown – was little better than a storm drain, running through industrial areas or at the back of commercial establishments.

But the Riverwalk extension to the north – the Museum Reach has now gone almost as far as Breckenridge Park. Some time ago we walked it from the Pearl Brewery well into downtown – and this last weekend we hiked a length of the new Mission Reach, between the Riverside Golf Course and Padre Park. It had just opened with some ceremony and celebration the day before, but Saturday was hot and presumably crowded, and Sunday was not. We went venturing, armed with a map of the new reach and were most pleasantly surprised. The Riverside Golf Course is most astonishingly upscale, green and manicured. All the new park pavilions along the way were newer than brand spanking new, the finished trail was wide and beautifully finished, every turn of the trail with a pleasing aspect was furnished with an assortment of benches and picnic tables positioned for best effect. There are not so many trees shading the path, though – although there are some groves of tall pecan trees off on either side. The pecan trees along the river provided sustenance to the Indians from the earliest days; I wish there were more of them, but as one of the ladies whom we talked to said – it’s still a work in progress.

It is all very new, though – and although there were enough people venturing on it – by foot, bicycle and kayak, there were not as many as we thought would have been there if the Mission Reach was more well-known, and if the various establishments on either side were more orientated towards it. If this was Europe, my daughter ventured – there would have been families picnicking at every table, and children playing on the various greenswards. Men would have been trying their luck at fishing in the river – and contra the warning signs here and there, there would have been people swimming and wading in it. There would have been ice cream vendors on bicycles towing little coolers after them, selling cold drinks and ice cream cones to all. Commercial establishments with an eye towards the view would have had outdoor dining areas looking toward the riverbanks – and those people sufficiently fortunate to have houses with back yards overlooking it would be building their gardens with an eye towards the view. A couple of mobile home parks that we spotted would also have made their Riverwalk-Mission Reach location a major feature of their appeal. Very likely the rejuvenation of the old Hot Wells Resort will play into this. The old tourist cabins on the ground – overgrown in thickets of small trees – are as ruinous as ever, but looking through the fence at the edge of the main property, we could see that work is being done. There is even a new roof on part of the old bathhouse building.

We walked more than four miles today – and consequently are pleasantly exhausted and somewhat sunburned. That was my weekend – yours?

Urban Living

The Geography of Urban Life

 by Celia Hayes

I suppose that moving to a new location every two or three years as an adult sharpened my antennae with regard to house-hunting, just as a childhood spent with parents who were extremely energetic about all kinds of D-I-Y home and garden improvement projects instilled a certain degree of optimism in me about tackling them. Just as we never bought a brand new car, we also never bought a brand new home, up until my parents’ retirement house, and true to character, they oversaw the building of that, as well as doing much of the work themselves. Otherwise, we made do and made the best with what already existed. Which, I will point out – my parents were very, very good at.

I had already decided that I would buy a house, at whatever location turned out to be my last active-duty assignment. Halfway through the next-to-the-last assignment at Yongsan, ROK, I learned that I would be assigned to a base in San Antonio for my last active-duty assignment; I procured a city map, contacted a local realtor and appealed to a number of friends at Yongsan who knew San Antonio well for advice. One of them was an Air Force security policeman who went at it from the law-enforcement perspective. Each time I had a thick envelope of printouts from the MLS, I would give them to him, and he would scribble a brief note on each one: notes like, Very Good, Good, OK, Eh, Bad ‘Hood, Very Bad ‘Hood. The listings for Bad ‘Hood and Very Bad ‘Hood were discarded immediately, although it later was a curiosity for me to discover that many very good neighborhoods were merely blocks away from the Bad ‘Hoods, and that many charming and historic neighborhoods of well-kept late 19th and early 20th century house were embedded right in the middle of tracts of Bad ‘Hood and or light industrial districts. This was an interesting experience for me, since in Los Angeles the extremes were usually separated by miles, rather than mere blocks.

I eventually finished up in an established suburb on the northeast side of San Antonio, almost to the outside 1604 ring road, although I did keep looking wistfully at some of the old neighborhoods inside the 410 Loop. Alas, I could never afford a house in the nicest – such as Alamo Heights and Olmos Park – and the ones which I could have afforded were either in need of extensive rebuilding, or located in – as my security policeman friend said, Bad ‘Hood, or at best, an Eh. Still, it is interesting to note the progression of gentrification along the margins, like along North New Braunfels near Fort Sam. There were many houses and old duplex units along that route which once looked as if they were about to fall down – and now they have been propped up, painted, and renewed. I used to look wistfully at the 1920s era Spanish Colonial style houses along Mahncke Park, and think of how I would love one of those. Back then, a lot of them looked to be sadly run-down, but not any more. Government Hill, on the other side of Fort Sam also looked pretty slummy, but now many of those Victorian cottages have been rehabbed and renewed for another good few decades. I guess that the genius of gentrification is to figure out where it would be a good bet to buy and renovate – and have the wherewithal to do it. Just as a pie in the sky wild guess, I would say that the stretch of neighborhood along Blanco between Funston and Woodlawn might the next trendy focus for renewal, since it is in between a pair of very nice old neighborhoods, but is itself a little seedy at present.

Our Little Backyard Garden in April

April in the Garden

by Celia Hayes

Ah, the rain which fell last week; glorious, bountiful rain, just when we had given up all hope of seeing such again. And just about when I had concluded that we had skipped over spring entirely and gone straight into summer. Having to run the air conditioner because it’s ninety degrees outside – freaking ninety degrees! – in March! That is just wrong … especially when most of the rest of the northern hemisphere is suffering cold, rain, snow. If I could have figured out a way to swap about twenty degrees of Fahrenheit for about ten inches of rain over a week or so, I would so do it.

On the other hand, the cycle of undue warmth and a sudden generous rain has worked out in the long run, so I ought not to complain too much. The big raised bed is filled with squash sprouts – zucchini, golden and the round greenish ones which my grandmother always called ‘patty-pan’ squash. This is a promising start, for as of yet they are only sprouts: Whether or not my ambition to have squash by the bag-full to inflict on the neighbors remains to be seen. The five seed potatoes that I planted at the far end of the bed are also sprouting vigorously. I had a thought – potatoes might make a very attractive bedding plant, if interspersed with some kind of flowering annual. And at the end of the season, you could harvest the potatoes; ornamental and edible!

Now the small raised bed, full of three kinds of beans is going to town. I thought that all three of kinds planted there were bush beans – but it seems that the middle row is sending out exploratory tendrils towards the chicken wire that I wrapped the raised bed in, so as to prevent the dogs from trampling all over them. My ambitions are to have two more small raised beds, so as to keep the bean crops going as long as possible, and now I see that a trellis of some kind will have to feature in them.

I had three ornamental wire plant towers, bought here and there, now serving as either tomato cages for the tomatoes that I planted in earth boxes, or as supports for sugar peas. I planted the sugar peas just last week, and after seven days there are tiny green slips sprouting in the earth box. The tomatoes in the home-made hanging containers are also thriving; they were started the earliest and so are already putting out embryonic tomatoes. The largest is the size of a marble. Several weeks ago I discovered Rainbow Gardens as a source for exotic tomato starts – a veritable rainbow of colors of tomatoes. I loved the little lemon-yellow tomatoes that we had last year; ‘Yellow Pear’ was the name, and so that’s one kind that we’ll try again. Last week I bought a huge, gangly variety called a ‘Black Krim’ which comes from southern Russia and is supposed to thrive in heat … which we can guarantee!

I’ve held over a number of plants from last year; notably various peppers which had been growing in the pepper topsy-turvey. They did OK in the topsy – not spectacular, but OK. I put them all in pots – much, much better. I will never have to purchase cayenne or jalapeno peppers ever again, and as for bell peppers – a single plant from last year now has nearly a dozen half-sized green bell peppers on it.

And that was my week in the garden – how was yours?

Korean Food Can Be Spicy

Korean Delights

by Celia Hayes

So, many of the headlines this week concern themselves with Korea, a country which I have some slight connection to; that is where my father was serving a tour when I was born. And a good few decades later, I did a year-long tour there myself. About the very first thing that I realized was that Korea in the 1990s looked nothing like the TV series MASH … and only very little like what my father remembered. Dad and his platoon with their mobile radar set-up lived in several different tent encampments near the DMZ. I spent the year living at Yongsan Garrison, in the heart of a bustling and very cosmopolitan Seoul. The garrison was itself a fairly un-crowded green island in the middle of a very built-up city – rather as if there were a substantial military base set up in half of New York City’s Central Park.

I very much enjoyed the year in Seoul, by the way – and I very much liked the Koreans that I met and worked with; tough, jolly, and rather outgoing. Someone once described Koreans as the Irish of Asia, which I don’t think was too far off. Being that San Antonio is a military-oriented town, and a lot of military – especially Army – have been rotating in and out of Korea for the last sixty years, there is a nice little Korean presence here in San Antonio. I know of no less than three different Korean church congregations in my immediate neck of the woods. Then there is the little ‘TigerPop’ fast food place that my daughter and I sampled a year or so ago. And when I first came to San Antonio, someone told me that the first and best Korean restaurants were all scattered along Harry Wurzbach, Austin Highway and Rittiman Road, in proximity to Fort Sam Houston – because those first restaurants were all started by the Korean wives of retired Army NCOs. Don’t know if it is true or not; but it looks like some the most assuming places with excellent food are along those streets.

Be warned, though – Korean food can be very, very spicy, even to Texas tastes. (Not as spicy as Thai food, though.) The dish that most of us have heard of is kimchee; basically pickled Napa cabbage, but with a kick – or as one of my military friends used to call it, “sauerkraut” with an attitude.” Very closely related to Japanese sushi is the Korean kimbab; cooked rice, and other things, rolled in a sheet of seaweed nori. The difference is that in the Korean version, the contents are most often cooked. And sometimes, they are made with a sliver of Spam. No, really – Spam is enormously popular in Korea; something that I had heard, but never quite believed until I saw assortments of Spam for sale in fancy baskets in Korean specialty groceries. The other very popular Korean snack food among my friends was yakimandu – pan-friend dumplings, which were as much like Chinese pot-stickers as to have no difference at all. Many of these delights were sold from street stalls, to the horror of the military health authorities, but to the best of my knowledge, I never heard of anyone getting sick from eating them, mostly because they came right from the burner to your plate. And against the red peppers and other hot spices, disease-causing organisms never had a chance.

And now I’m hungry for yakimandu … guess a trip down to Koreana on Harry Wurzbach is in order…


HemisFair Park in the Heart of San Antonio

HemisFair Park

by Celia Hayes

HemisFair Park, in the heart of downtown San Antonio is a bit of an anomaly as far as San Antonio parks go. It’s fifteen acres stretches from the entrance to La Villita on South Alamo, all the way to the Institute of Texan Cultures, roughly bounded on one side by the convention center, and on the other by Durango Street – now renamed Cesar Chavez, although many maps still say ‘Durango.’ HemisFair Park was not a patch of farmland or open scrub left undeveloped, (Hardburger, Comanche Hill, or McAllister) or a particularly scenic piece of property designated as parkland from the earliest days, (San Pedro, Breckenridge) or even neighborhood amenity, (Woodlawn) or even stretches along various creeks left undeveloped because of the danger of flooding. HemisFair Park was deliberately carved out from an existing residential neighborhood to serve as the venue for the 1968 World’s Fair.

Some of the urban neighborhood thus renewed was undoubtedly blighted, but a fair portion of it was not. Over a hundred buildings threatened with demolition were of some significance, either architecturally or historically and a portion of them were retained within the park bounds. Some of them seem now to be in use as office space, but others are boarded up on the ground floor – which is a pity, since they are all clustered at the La Villita end of the park, and might make some rather nice studio, retail and exhibition spaces. There is a multi-faceted plan afoot to renew and restructure the various areas of the park – to include using the the half-dozen historic mansions for just that, so here’s hoping it won’t take too many decades longer. Part of the plan also includes re-establishing part of the original street grid, to tie in HemisFair to the Southtown, and Lavaca neighborhoods on one side, and to LaVillita and downtown San Antonio on the other.

A few of the exhibition spaces built for the Fair are still in daily use although perhaps for other than the original purpose – like the Lila Cockrell Theater and large parts of the convention center. The Institute of Texan Cultures was originally the State of Texas pavilion for the fair, and the round US District Court building was the United States of America pavilion – and the Mexican Cultural Institute is presently housed in the original, but expanded and renovated Mexico Pavilion. Others, like the Women’s Pavilion are still there – but closed, pending restoration, or as support offices. One of the most eye-catching structures created for HemisFair is the “Tower of the Americas’ – still about the tallest man-made building in San Antonio. Everyone should go up to the observation deck at least once, for nothing other than to admire the peerless view in every direction. It’s also a very useful landmark for navigating around the city. The remaining grounds were re-landscaped with gardens, walkways and water-features in the mid-1980s … but pretty much everyone acknowledges that unless there is some special event going on at the park, not many people are drawn to it – especially at night. In many ways, HemisFair Park is still a work in progress.

HemisFair, although attracting a lot of attention and very well attended, unfortunately fell very short of breaking even. The fair also took a hit when it opened – two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Attendance never came close to matching estimates, and the Fair eventually lost over 7 million. Some of the local construction firms were owed substantial amounts by organizers; according to legend, they were paid with blocks of tickets – which they went out and sold on the street, recouping just enough from ticket sales to pay their suppliers and workers.

Halloween for Dogs

Halloween for Dogs

by Celia Hayes

Since our household does not contain any small children, we normally make an effort to dress up the dogs in costumes instead. Cats are normally reluctant to cooperate in this kind of amusement, although I do wish that we could get some of the black cats to pose fetchingly with pumpkins, cauldrons, brooms and witch’s pointy hats. This would so take care of decorating the front porch for tricker-treating. A couple of years ago we did borrow the grandson of our next-door neighbor when he wanted to dress up like the Prince of Persia and our neighbor confessed herself quite unequal to that particular challenge. We fitted him out in a tunic and sword-belt and turban, and I roughed out a sword and dagger from thin plywood, and he was so pleased with the whole effect that his grandmother had the greatest trouble in getting him to take it off and put on his pajamas to go to bed. This is not a problem we have noticed with the dogs.

They don’t seem to care one way or the other, although Spike the Shi Tzu – who craved attention from anyone at any time and for any reason – seemed to like a costume for the attention it gained. She had a whole collection of costumes, hats and accessories, mostly because there are a lot available and on sale at reasonable prices in small-dog sizes. Connor the Malti-poo has inherited the gender-neutral costumes from Spike, and wears them with panache. This year we will dress him up in a purple cloak and fabric-sculpture crown, I think. He’s not particular – he likes everybody and everybody likes him, costume or not.

The Lesser Weevil is a large and rawboned boxer mix, and her costume wardrobe is not as extensive. The bigger sizes in dog costumes are rarer and more expensive … and compounding that is the fact that she is a dog who is as sensitive to being laughed at as your average thirteen year old girl. Given the wrong sort of costume, and the wrong public reaction to it, the Weevil would be hiding under the bed and crying her eyes out. My daughter sometimes amuses herself by dressing the Weevil in a ballet tutu skirt and gauzy fairy wings, but I believe the Weevil has begun to figure out how comic this appears. I think that she probably prefers to just appear as a dog. We’ll probably just dig out the enormous black spider costume for her again; better to be slightly scary than totally ridiculous.

We have seen some very clever dog costumes in past Halloweens and at the Buda Wiener-dog races this spring, where many of those who brought their dogs had made an effort to dress them up – some even as hot-dogs, with fabric ‘buns’ strapped to their sides like long saddle-bags. There were some very clever costumes on display at the yearly dog costume parade at the Christmas celebration at Goliad on the Square, including one white standard poodle who was colored green – to be the Grinch, of course, and a pair of Pekinese dogs dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
So, that’s our costume epic for this year – how is yours?

Winterizing the Garden

Winterizing Our San Antonio Backyard Garden

by Celia Hayes

So, now that it is cooling off a bit, and maybe the seasonal trees are about to start thinking about the possibility of perhaps changing color sometime soon, it’s time to sort out the garden for winter. A few of the hanging tomato plants still had a few slowly-ripening tomatoes on them, but the rest were pretty well done for the year. So this last week before the rain kicked in, we pulled them up, and tossed them into the mulch pile, and moved the hanging frame around to hang facing the kitchen window. Oddly enough, the eggplant, okra and various Bell and jalapeno pepper plands are still going great guns, and I intend to let them go on as long as they can. I once had a jalapeno pepper plant that went through three seasons, due to being planted against the south-facing wall of the house, and sheltered from cold winds. So, all to the good, now that summer is over – we certainly will not have to buy any more pepper plants in the spring.

Having gotten through the worst of summer, now we must face the worst of winter – and there will be a worst, I am certain. There will be some days and nights where the temperatures will plunge to the twenties and even below … and now we have even more plants which will need sheltering. The spider plants and the hanging baskets full of herbs will not handle cold at all well, and there is really not enough room now to bring them inside, or shelter them in the garage. But this year, we have a solution to that. But I am getting ahead of myself…

Some of the bedding plants which I had optimistically set out just as the summer heat reached apogee did not thrive as expected, in spite of daily watering, so we had to reconfigure that back corner of the garden … perfect for the folding greenhouse.

This was an item put out by one of our neighbors this spring – a large, round carrier, and a bag of stakes, and another of support poles. They put it on the curb with a note saying that whoever wanted it could take it. And we did, although to be honest, we thought it was something else – the white gabled oblong structure that we had seen in their back-yard. We thought this was something which would exactly fit over the raised bed that we planned to build in a tiny square space at the back of the house … but on Monday, when we unzipped the carrier and took out the body of the greenhouse, we discovered several things; it wasn’t the white gabled oblong … it was actually clear plastic, round and simply huge. It was a name-brand portable conservatory – and originally a rather pricey item. I have no idea why it became surplus to our neighbors’ garden needs, although the difficulty of putting it up and taking it down might have something to do with it.

No, it wasn’t as easy as advertised – it took the two of us two hours, spread over two days. Slightly used in condition, it is still a very cleverly-designed product, and it looks positively magnificent. We zipped the windows open, moved in the garden table and two chairs, and a number of plants in pots – and there we are. When it becomes cold, all the other tender plants will be moved into it, the whole thing will be zipped up tight – and there is even a little flap to run an electrical cord for a heater, or maybe even a single light-bulb, to keep it all warm. Winter can come any time, now … although since it is expected to be in the eighties this first week of October, I don’t think winter is in any hurry about it.


Woof Wednesdays

Woof Wednesdays at the Animal Defense League

by Celia Hayes

… At the Animal Defense League; every Wednesday until the end of this month, the adoption fees for dogs over the age of puppy are reduced … which is a very generous concession indeed, considering that the dogs available have been spayed or neutered, chipped, and up to date on things like rabies vaccinations and heartworm medication. We are not in any particular need of another dog at present, as the pair that we have are completely satisfactory, fairly young and in good health. But if we were looking for another dog, and the fates that dictate these matters didn’t present us with a suitable candidate straight off the streets of our own San Antonio neighborhood (as was the story with Connor, who was found running loose, and the charming little Pom, also found running loose) we would certainly consider adopting from the Animal Defense League. They have a sprawling compound off Nacogdoches Road, near the Wurzbach Expressway; a dozen buildings, an animal hospital facility, and a large area set up as a dog park.

So, hearing about this – and my daughter also heard that there is a thrift shop involved – we decided to stop by the place and actually go inside, and see if I could take some cute pictures of the cats and dogs and do a blog post about it. I had only been driving past the place for nearly fifteen years, so it was about time. We did explain that we weren’t interested so much in adoption, as we were encouraging other people to do so. The management in the adoption center were perfectly amenable to this, so we circled through two of the small dog buildings … but first, my daughter had to look at the kittens. There is nothing cuter than a basket of kittens, and there were some terribly appealing ones on hand in the so-called ‘Kitten Room’- including a little all-black one suitably named “Salem” who kept reaching out with his paw through the wire as I was taking pictures of the infant flame-point Siamese brother and sister in the adjacent cage. “Me!” it was as if he was commanding, “Me! Pay attention to me!”

Anyway – on to the small dogs and puppies; there were not very many puppies. The uncrowned king of the puppy area was a small poodle, who was introduced to us as “Patriot” – a special, special-needs dog. Patriot is almost nine years old, and completely blind. In spite of that, he is friendly and outgoing. He gets around all right, but absolutely hates the confinement of the cage. He is actually most content, sitting in a lap or in a basket by a chair – and appears also to be allergic to grass. He’d be a perfect pet for someone working from home in a small place; his demand for walkies would be absolutely minimal.

Then we walked around to a larger building housing a number of small to medium dogs, and the attendant suggested that if we wanted to get some good pictures, just tell her which dog took our fancy. We could go out into the dog park area, and get some good pictures. Our interest alighted on a medium-small tan-colored dog named “Piglet” mostly because of her pleading eyes, and the way her ears stuck out to the sides of her head. Piglet is half Chihuahua … and pit bull. However that worked out, the mating itself must have been comic to behold. In any case, it resulted in a sweet-tempered and appealing little dog, which came along readily on the leash. She was described as being rather shy, but we didn’t find her so. My daughter is still rather surprised that she didn’t wind up coming hope with us anyway. So – that was our Wednesday. And if you are considering adding a dog to your family, consider the Animal Defense League. On Wednesday or any other day.

My Dream House

My Dream House

by Celia Hayes

I have about decided what I should like to live in, as my Texas dream house. Alas, it is not the house that I currently live in, which is a comfortable, small and relatively undistinguished tract house in a pleasant neighborhood full of other homes filled with variations on the same generic theme of brick and siding and vaguely neo-classical trimmings. Lots of tall windows, fan-lights, and fireplaces; shoot a brick at supersonic speed across those parts of San Antonio built up in the last thirty years and you’d hit two or three or four dozen pretty much like it.

No, what I would like in the way of the retirement property is pretty much what my parents got for themselves, when all of us had flown the parental nest; they built a nice house with a verandah all the way around it, on a knoll with a view out in the country. I wouldn’t go as far out as my parents did – for much of their lives together, directions to their current residence usually included the phrase, “Turn off of the pavement and onto the dirt road.” I’ve a liking for paved roads, myself – bouncing from rut to rut and dodging the gullies carved into a dirt road after a rain is not my idea of fun.

But I would like a house of a certain sort – a small one of a particular tradition. Not a single big house, but an eccentric collection of cottages, set in a rambling garden. A little house of mine – and two or three others, one for my daughter, and another one or two which would serve as guest quarters when I had company, just enough set apart that we all would have privacy. I’d love to have a well, with one of those old windmill pumps, to bring the water to an above-ground concrete or wooden cistern on legs … just as I have seen on some old properties here and there. There would be a scattering of oak trees – post oaks, live oaks, red oaks, for the shade, and to hang a wooden swing from a thick branch that parallels the ground.

The grounds around would be planted with native plants and tough adapted old roses, a tangle of jasmine somewhere, which would bring their scent in through the windows on those spring days before the summer heat sets in. There would be a wildflower meadow on the part of the property distant from the houses and I’d like a bit of a view from here and there, so my dream house and the others would probably have to be on a gentle slope. I don’t need a spectacular view, but I would like it to be mostly of countryside: Rolling hills, and all of that, maybe a glimpse of a distant creek or river. I think I would like the view to be towards the west – to catch the sunset, late in the afternoon.

As for the little houses on the property … I would love them to be Craftsman-style bungalows or small Texas farmhouses, maybe even a one or two of them might be repurposed log cabins. There are one or two lovely ones that I have noted here and there and admired extravagantly. I am thinking of the kind with a main room and a loft bedroom over, a kitchen lean-to on the back and a deep porch across the front. One or two of those would suit just fine, but even just a couple of those kit houses from Home Depot would work well, assuming that I could adorn them with vintage architectural surplus.

The final element that I would like in my dream country residence would be a separate entertainment kitchen – just one large room set up to do brewing and cheese-making, an industrial-sized stove and a deep sink, and outside of it, another deep porch with a barbeque grill and enough space to throw a good party. That’s my dream Texas dream home – what’s yours?