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From Mercado Central to Texas Hill Country Farmers Markets

When I was a little girl growing up in Central America, I loved going to the Mercado. I was blessed to have a Costa Rican mom and an American dad, which resulted in spending the wonder-filled days of my childhood in Costa Rica. We lived in the capital city of San Jose and its Mercado Central is huge, taking up a full city block. As a child I still remember the many colors of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and other wares and all the hustle and bustle, combined with the fear of getting lost in the crowd. I remember the smells of food cooking, coffee brewing, leather and raw meat. I remember the noises, the loud voices of vendors shouting and customers haggling over prices and usually some form of music…maybe a man playing a Marimba with a bowl set out to collect coins. Going to the Mercado was a symphony of multi-sensory delights and always an adventure for me.

When farmers markets started making an appearance in towns throughout the Hill Country, I hoped that I might find some of what I experienced in my childhood market experiences. I wondered if going to a farmers market might be worth more than just the usual weekly spin through the produce aisles at my local grocery store. I wasn’t disappointed.

I started out with my hometown farmers market in Fredericksburg, which gathers on Thursdays. I was delighted to find some of the same aspects that I remembered from my childhood. I could hear a guitar playing as I got out of the car. I was met with booth after booth of colorful seasonal fruits and vegetables. There were also coffees, wines, honey and organically grown meat.  I took a bite of a sweet apple from the vendors at Apple Valley Orchards and had a small cup of savory, Tomato Basil soup from another booth. The smell of pizza baking drew me to the JoJu Bakery booth where I also found a variety of freshly baked breads. I kept bumping into local townspeople, who had come to shop, enjoy the open air eating, and socialize with one another. It was clear they had come here to enjoy the people as much as the produce.

When asking a local organic farmer friend, Becky Ottmers, about the various places they sell their produce, she raved about the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market in San Antonio that operates on the weekends. My daughter and I decided to make the drive to check it out.  After we found a spot to park, we followed the noise, the smells and the crowd to find the lines and lines of vendors tucked in along the streets around the old brewery plant.

We found booths selling all kind of produce, honey, soaps, breads, meats and baked goods.  We sampled a delicious chunk of freshly baked bread dipped in olive oil from Sol Y Luna Baking Co. and we shared a hot chicken empanada from Artisan Empanadas. We were tempted by the Nutella Crepes at CrepeLandia, but refrained because the line was so long. There was a musician crooning his tunes surrounded by tables of people eating the various offerings of the market booths.

We finally found my friends’ Ottmers Family Farm booth.  I looked over their tomatoes, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, leeks, onions and eggs. It all looked so good. I finally settled on a variety of squash to buy.

I found that going to a farmers market is still an adventure and a delight to your senses. I plan to explore a few others in towns nearby. I encourage you, as well to check out a Texas Hill Country farmers market!

 

Texas Hill Country Farmers Markets

Fredericksburg Farmers Market

Thursdays 4pm-7pm

May-Aug at Market Platz Square

Oct-Nov at the Pioneer Museum at 325 W. Main

www.fredericksburgfarmersmarket.com

 

San Antonio-Pearl Brewery Farmers Market

Saturdays 9am-1pm

Sundays 10am -2pm

Year Round

312 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78215

http://atpearl.com/farmers-market

 

Burnet Farmers Market

Saturdays 9am-1pm

May-Oct

211 E. Jackson Street, Burnet, TX 78611

(956)286 7775

www.farmergeorge.market

Round Rock Farmers Market

Saturdays 9am-12noon

Year Round

201 University Oaks Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665

(956) 286 7775

www.farmergeorge.market

 

Sun City Farmers Market

Tuesdays 9am-12 noon

Year Round

2 Texas Drive, Georgetown, TX 78633

(956) 286 7775

www.farmergeorge.market

Bastrop 1832 Farmers Market

Tuesdays 2pm-6pm

Saturdays 10am-2pm

Year Round

13202 Chestnut Street, Bastrop, TX 78602

(512) 360 4799

www.bastrop1832farmersmarket.org/

 

San Marcos Farmers Market

Saturdays 9am-1pm at 155 E. San Antonio Street

Tuesdays 3pm-6pm at 312 E. Hopkins Street

Year Round

(512) 757 2000

www.sanmarcosfarmersmarket.com/

 

Wimberley Farmers Market

Wednesdays 3pm-6pm

Year Round

14050 RR 12, Wimberley, TX 78676

(512) 264 1637

www.visitwimberley.com/marketdays/wimFM.shtml

 

CELTIC FESTIVAL AND HIGHLAND GAMES

Celebrating Scottish Heritage and Celtic History

The stirring sound of Highland Bagpipes announced the opening of Highland Games. Members of Silver Thistle Pipes and Drums marched to the stage with precision, pipers piping and drummers drumming. It was a cool misty November day, shrouded in low, gray clouds and as the beautiful notes of the bagpipes rang out, it seemed as if you were in the midst of the Scottish countryside, breathing in the scent of heather on the hills and moors.

In reality, it was the first day of the 19th Austin Celtic Festival (ACF) and Highland Games. www.austincelticfestival.com. Austin’s Silver Thistle Pipes and Drums band has been performing for audiences for over 30 years. Their authentic costumes, outstanding sound and showmanship delighted the audience as they played a repertoire of songs. www.silverthistle.org.

Celtic (pronounced kell’ tick) festivals and games are held throughout the state, popular not only as a gathering site for those of Irish, Scottish and other Celtic heritage, but enjoyed by anyone who fancies a wee bit of fun!
Originating centuries ago, Highland Games may be one of the oldest sports competitions in the world, perhaps used to single out the best warriors. Some games held abroad may include track and field events, but most games’ events measure strength.

In the Weight Put, Weight Throw or Weight for Distance, weights are thrown for distance scoring. A metal weight, usually 28 to 56 lbs., depending on the event category, with a handle attached by a chain, is thrown with one hand. The technique is usually a body-spinning motion. In the Weight Over Bar event, a 42 to 56 lb. weight is thrown one-handed over a horizontal bar, which is placed higher and higher. The participant has three chances at each height. Winning score is the maximum height reached with the fewest misses.

Perhaps the best-known and most popular of the games is the Caber Toss. It challenges participants’ strength, accuracy and balance. The caber is a tree log from 17 to 23 feet in length; weight varies between 90 to 135 lbs. The cabers tossed at ACF were said to be 120 lbs. One end of the caber is pared-down to be smaller and rounded-off in order to be more easily cupped with the hands. The thrower leans the caber on his shoulder, then gradually squats, cups the bottom and hoists the caber straight up, maintaining its balance. He makes a short run, stops and flips, or tosses, the caber so that the large end hits the ground and the small end flips over. The thrower is imagined to face the 12:00 clock position and he is scored on how close he tosses the caber to that 12:00 position. The object is not for distance, but for the straightest toss, so that it lands pointing directly away from the contestant.
And there are women’s divisions in the weights and caber toss competitions, too! Some Highland Games also feature other sports such as hurling competitions and Gaelic football.

Attending a festival is like being inside a fairy tale. Everywhere you look are Scots in kilts and tam o' shanters; tartans are flung over shoulders and secured by brooches; there are costumed Irishmen, Druids and Vikings. Hooded and cloaked “villagers” sell their wares from pointed-topped, scalloped-edged tents which appear to have been transported from the grounds of a castle.

Following the pipers, throughout the day during the ACF, the main stage was site for well-known Celtic music groups and legacy performers from the U.S. and abroad, including Derek Warfield and The Young Wolfe Tones; Bua; Ten Strings & A Goatskin; Crawford, Vallely and McGiver; Keane, Moore and Milton; The Alt; The Tea Merchants; The Selkie Girls; Mari Black Celtic Band and many others.

Let’s take a stroll through some of the fair’s booths and exhibits, stop for scheduled events and take in the sights and sounds of the day:

On one side of the green are archers who look the part of Robin Hood and his merry men of Sherwood Forest. Mae Wynne, with her flowing, long wavy red hair, dressed in a full-length tapestry hooded cloak, is the epitome of a medieval English maiden. They are members of the Greenwoode Medieval Archery and Artisans. Children and adults line up to be instructed by the archers, then try their aim with the longbow at the dozen or so targets set up on the field. www.facebook.com/TheGreenwoode.

Nearby are the popular miniature horses and other animals. There are lots of well-mannered dogs, many of which will strut in the bagpiper-led mid-afternoon dog parade. As humans have their Irish and Scottish societies and alliances, it seems to be a reunion for Irish wolfhounds, too! There were lots of the huge dogs - most of which weighed well over 100 pounds - all getting along, docile and friendly. There were Corgis and Collies and of course the cute little Scotties - Scottish Highland Terriers - and more.
At many Celtic festivals, Border Collies and other sheep and cattle dog breeds, demonstrate their sheepherding skills for the public.

At the ACF, The Texas Coritani recreated the Iron Age in the British Isles and Viking Age re-enactors from the Viking Invasion confederation demonstrated their sword and shield prowess. Afterward, energetic young kids had a lot of fun when they were allowed to take the field with pint-sized, safe “swords” to practice their Viking skills.

Young students at the Inishfree Austin School of Irish Dance performed Irish step-dancing, Hill Country Highland Dancers were slated to demonstrate the unique forms of Scottish dance and the Scottish Country Dance Alliance invited folks to join in their dancing sessions. SCDA also maintained a large food area providing homemade baked goods. Hearty whole-grain breads, Irish soda bread, various flavors of scones and loaves of sweet breads perfect for tea time: Breton Breakfast Cake; Orange and Cranberry Tea Bread; Barm Brack, a loaf with raisins, golden raisins and currants – and so many more varieties and flavors, it was hard to choose.

Shopping at “the fair” was equally hard to narrow down, as there were all manner of Celtic-inspired designs from clothing to jewelry. Festival-goers could purchase finely-made kilts or cloaks or beautifully sculpted stone Celtic crosses. The Village Leather Shoppe from LaGrange offered a wide array of handmade leather purses adorned with historic Celtic designs, liquor flasks encased in tooled leather and a wide variety of sporran (what you might otherwise call the “purse” worn by men in kilts). www.myvillageleathershoppe.com.

No day would be complete without food booths. There were funnel cakes and corn dogs and some of the usual carnival fare, but in keeping with the Celtic theme, there was fish and chips and the Oz Highland Farm food trailer from Auburn, KS, offered traditional English, Irish and Scottish food. Stand in line here to get traditional Irish sausage; bangers-n-mash; Highland beef rib steak on a hoagie; a special type of haggis-n-mash; Scottish sausage; scones with strawberries and cream. I chose Mince-n-tatties: minced Highland beef with peas and carrots in thick brown gravy over mashed potatoes. On a cold, wet day it was good, hearty fare. And to wash it down, Irn Bru, said to be imported from Scotland and advertised as the #1 best selling soft drink in the U.K., an orange cream flavor.

And continuously in the background, from several separate smaller stages throughout the festival area, wafted the lilting sounds of Celtic music: flutes, drums, guitars, bouzouki, fiddles. Well-known Celtic bands and small trios set the tone all day. Story-tellers, face painters and hair braiders added to the historical education and amusement of participants.
It’s easy to see why Celtic Festivals, Highland Games and Clan Gatherings are fun for all, no matter your heritage. The ACF event was held in a greenbelt area, on the banks of a loch (that’s “lake” in Texan). Even after the “mist of the moors” lifted, when the rainclouds parted and the Texas sun dried the mud, the ancient, otherworldly mystique remained. This is not the usual, run-of-the-mill carnival midway. Attending a Celtic Festival or Highland Games can be a day of fun, discovery and education for the whole family. So lads and lassies, gather yer kith and kin and hie ye over to the next gathering!

Annual Celtic festivals and Highland Games are held throughout Texas, many within the Hill Country area or in close proximity: Celtic Fest in San Marcos, January 31; South Texas Alamo Irish Festival, in San Antonio, March 19; San Antonio Highland Games, April 2-3; Kerr County Celtic Festival and Highland Games in Ingram, in August; Austin Celtic Festival and Highland Games in November; Salado Scottish Games and Clan Gathering in November. Before making plans to attend, check exact 2016 dates by searching for the event online or by contacting local Chambers of Commerce.

SUSANNA’S KITCHEN CONCERT SERIES proudly presents…

SHINYRIBS

Shinyribs is the continuation of Kevin Russell’s musical journey which began in Beaumont,TX when, at 14, he found his father’s guitar under his bed, along with a sewing machine, a billy club and a box of comic books. Luckily he chose the guitar. Following his family’s oil boom and bust migratory path he landed in Shreveport,LA where he formed his first band. Picket Line Coyotes were a Husker Du meets Elvis Costello hybrid that lived and died between the “Arklatexabamassippi” borders much like their unfortunate animal namesake. That’s what took him to Austin where The Gourds were born from those Coyote ashes. That storied band of pumpkins came to an end after 18 years of good times and hard travelin’.  And from that point on Russell has been riding high on the Shinyribs river of country-soul, swamp-funk and tickle. A Shinyribs show is an exaltation of spirit. It’s a hip shaking, belly laughing, soul-singing, song-slinging, down-home house party. All styles of American music are likely to be touched on, squeezed on, kissed on by this world class band featuring Winfield Cheek on Keyboards, Keith Langford on Drums, Jeff Brown on Bass and the Tijuana Train Wreck Horns. Whether on his 6 string Uke or his Electric guitar or singing acapella Russell will entertain you like no one else. The freedom with which he moves coupled with his incredible voice is an experience in and of itself. His original songs laced with magical-realism along with novel interpretations of popular songs old and new (George Jones, TLC, Leadbelly, T-Pain) are the true art that runs throughout. He’s Burl Ives meets Al Green, Hank, Jr. meets Teddy Pendergrass. Wendell Berry meets Chuck Berry.  Truly something not to be missed. A unique musical experience and an original expression of our colorful musical heritage.

There really isn’t anything not to love about this Austin band. Fronted by the always jovial Kevin Russell of local legends The Gourds, Shinyribs is about having the best time possible.

Located at RR 12 and CR 1492 in Wimberley, Susanna’s Kitchen Concerts start at 7:30 pm, with doors open by 7:00 pm.  Tamales, pizza, Wimberley Pie Co. pie, coffee and soft drinks are available.  Tickets for Shinyribs are $20 at the door. Proceeds benefit Barnabas Connection and Mother’s Day Out Childcare Scholarships. For more information, go to www.wimberleyumc.org or call 512-722-3316.

Queen Bee: Queen of Everything

Wimberley’s Queen Bee has something for everyone.

Queen Bee owner Mary Van Ostrand with Tinker, the shop dog.

That’s no exaggeration. You’ll realize it’s the truth the second you step into this palace of what owner Mary Van Ostrand has labeled Fabulous Finds, Uncommon Goods, and Antiques.

Barely off the Wimberley Square, the shop is housed in a building that used to be the city’s post office on Oak Street. Open the door and prepare to be overwhelmed. It seems like every square inch of space has something on display, teasing your eyes this way then that. Even the display décor is interesting—an old fence here, an old hutch there.

Queen Bee was originally called Country Folks, but that changed a couple of years ago.

“At first we did crafts and antiques, but we kept evolving as people’s tastes changed,” Mary explains. “Antiques are no longer as popular as they once were. Our old name sort of conjured up images of grandma’s nursing home crafts.”

Originally from Oklahoma, Mary and her husband Phil moved to the Wimberley area in 1990 and she learned to do some crafts, mostly jewelry. At first she sold her wares in the Dancing Bear co-op in Gruene, then leased space in Wimberley. Impressed by its size, Mary and Phil bought the Wimberley building in 2003. The third of an acre is now home to Queen Bee, The Art Gallery behind the shop, and the Patio on the Square, a concession stand adjacent to the shop.

When you open the Queen Bee door what do you see? Everything. You know immediately that the shop is larger than most in Wimberley. You know it is filled almost to overflowing with items that you will have to take a breath and investigate. You know every theme has its own niche, which is going to make your investigation much easier and more entertaining.

Take the kitchen area, secluded from the rest of the shop so you won’t get confused. Here you’ll find hot cocoa and stationery, placemats and aprons, packaged food items like chili mixes, salsa, and beer bread mixes from Fredericksburg Farms along with samples to whet your appetite.

In another area are a variety of home décor items—from lamps to signs to vases to picture frames—from casual to elegant.

Over there is a nook full of quilts and decorative, colorful pillows.

Over here is an area with all sorts of fragrant candles.

Looking for special soaps and creams, lotions, potpourri, note cards, bridal gifts, wraps and scarves, books, insulated mugs, sleep shirts, decorative magnets, dog leashes and food bowls? They’re here. And there.

On shelves nearly everywhere you will find jewelry. Lots of jewelry.

In one area that you might mistake for an alcove at your grandmother’s house, you’ll find plates and glasses and pitchers and containers and trays.

And don’t miss the room full of children’s clothing and toys. It has Mini-Blankies, finger puppets, plush animals, and kid-friendly night lights.

Go all the way back and you’ll even discover a guy niche with cowboy signs, T-shirts honoring Texas and John Wayne and Willie Nelson, caps, cups, key fobs, bottle openers, books, horseshoe picture frames.

Queen Bee is even helping with the recent Wimberley Flood by offering special T-shirts with the Ranch Road 12 logo and the slogan, “We’ll Get By With Help From Our Friends.” Six dollars of every shirt sale goes to the Crisis Bread Basket in town.

You see? Queen Bee does have something for everyone.

“I go to Dallas Market and try to buy as much Texas-made and U.S.-made items as I can,” Mary explains.

The Dallas Market she speaks of is a huge wholesale trade center showcasing the newest and best in fashions, furniture, home accents, lighting, toys, jewelry and accessories, gifts, and more.

“I started small enough to learn the business and learn how to spot trends,” Mary says. “When I go to Market, I watch the younger buyers and notice what catches their eyes. They’re where the action is.”

It’s obvious that Mary has a passion for this.

“It’s a challenge,” Mary says. “It’s a challenge to see if I can sell this or that and be successful. It’s a challenge to find things people like enough to want to buy. I do have a passion for this.”

For More Information: Queen Bee is located at 100 Oak Drive in Wimberley, 512-847-2113, www.queenbeewimberley.com.

 

Behind the Music: Songwriters Featured in New Music Festival

 

What makes a singer great? Is it the tone of their voice, or the way they swing their hips?

While both can catapult a singer into stardom, usually, it's a song that takes a singer from the small stage, to the world. 

A song can take an unknown and send them straight to the top of the charts.

In celebration of those guys and gals who pen the words to those songs, Jim Halfpenny, Laurie Halfpenny and Dave Niemeyer have organized the 2015 Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival.

For the second year, songwriters from around the world will come together in downtown Dripping Springs to sing the songs that they wrote and tell the stories behind them.

Over the weekend of October 16-18, singer/songwriters will perform at six intimate venues, located in historic downtown Dripping Springs. There will be more than 25 shows a day, featuring local, national and international songwriting talent. Almost 40 musicians are lined up for the 3-day event.

All performances throughout the day are free to the public, and with each of the venues within easy walking distance from each other, audiences will be able to enjoy multiple shows.

Event stages will be located at The Barber Shop Bar, Mercer Street Dance Hall, Mazama Coffee Company, The Mercantile, The Sidecar Tasting Room and Hudson’s On Mercer.

Special performances by GRAMMY-nominated songwriters will cap off both Friday and Saturday. On those two evenings, performers will take to the Main Stage at Mercer Street Dance Hall.

On Friday, local Austin artist Drew Womack will open for Allen Shamblin and Scotty Emerick.

Shamblin has written a number of award winning songs, including Randy Travis’ “He Walked on Water”, “The House That Built Me” (Miranda Lambert), “In This Life” (Collin Raye), “Life’s a Dance” (John Michael Montgomery), “Where the Blacktop Ends” (Keith Urban) and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt), among others.

Scotty Emerick is the writer behind several Toby Keith songs, including “I’m Just Talking About Tonight”, “I Love This Bar”, “Whiskey Girl”, “As Good as I Once Was”, and “Beer for My Horses”.

Saturday will kick off with Eliza Gilkyson, a two-time GRAMMY-nominated songwriter, opening for JD Souther.

Souther has written well known award-winning songs for the Eagles, Don Henley, Linda Ronstadt, and the Dixie Chicks. In addition to his gifts to the music world, he has also appeared on TV in the hit show thirtysomething and Nashville. In 2013, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in May of 2015, he released his newest album, “Tenderness”.

 Organizer Jim Halfpenny says, "We think it’s a refreshing change from the typical ‘Austin-palooza-music-fest’ that everyone's familiar with. We're offering people the up-close-and-personal chance to see, hear, and meet some very talented artists. You might not know their names or faces, but we guarantee you'll know their songs."

To learn more about the Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival and to purchase tickets for the evening headliner showcases visit www.drippingspringssongwritersfestival.com.

 

 

Have Goat? Make Soap!

Turning Goat’s Milk into Sudsy Bars

Perry (left) and Hazel Kuebel work together to cut and label their handmade soaps made from goats milk produced on their Blanco farm.

For generations, the Kuebel family has called Blanco County home. Their 60-acre farm, located just about four miles west of Blanco, is home to four generations, all of whom work together tending to the variety of livestock and pets that share the land that overlooks the Blanco River.

Like a lot of Hill Country farms, the Kuebels raise goats. Decades ago, Fritz Keubel,  Sr. and his son, Fritz, Jr., raised goats along the river, in the Lindendale area.  Junior bought his first herd of registered Angora goats in 1958. Ever since then, Fritz, Jr. has worked to improve his herds, winning awards and becoming well-known for his line of fine-haired Angoras.

Helping Fritz build his goat herd and a part of the resulting success, has been his wife of 58 years – Hazel.

At 77, Hazel is the heart of this large family, working hard every day keeping the farm running, as well as caring for her husband and her 98-year-old mother, Lavonia.

Hazel has always loved animals, and it’s obvious that her animals love her.

After years of helping with the family goat business, Hazel and her daughter Perry decided it was time to try something new, and in 2012 bought three Nubian nannies – milk goats, for those of us not in the know. A fourth was added to the group later.

One evening in late August, I was a guest on the Kuebel Farm.

Hazel and Perry met me at the Kuebel homestead, a beautiful historic home that faces the Blanco River. The home is where Hazel and Fritz live, and with an expansive porch and inviting rocking chairs, I imagine it has been a gathering place for the extended family for years, a place that begs for you to sit and sip iced tea as the locusts sing their summer song.

Perry, an art teacher at Blanco High School, was eager to show me the goats. Hazel, who I suspect is not one that likes to be the center of attention, led me to the pen where the nannies are kept.

Every morning, before most people are up and moving around, Hazel makes this same trek so that she can milk each of the goats. Before my visit, I wasn’t aware that goats could be spoiled.

Each nannie comes, in order, to a milking house that is quite comfortable, with heat and air, it is no wonder they make their way so deftly.  The nannie, when it is her turn, walks right up onto a platform where she stands to be milked. She is given a treat, and Hazel gets to work. It’s all very easy, or at least Hazel makes it look that way, and together, the goats produce enough milk to provide milk for the entire Kuebel clan as well as enough for the mother-daughter team to create homemade soaps and lotions that they sell in small shops and online.

Once the goats have given their all, the milk is strained through heavy cheese cloth and poured into glass mason jars and then chilled in the refrigerator or put into zip-lock bags and placed into the freezer for soap making.

The nannies’ role in this process is now complete.

In the addition to the nannies, the Kuebels have a number of babies. These goats, like their mamas, are spoiled. As I walked through the pens snapping pictures, they followed me, gently head-butting me so that I would pay attention to them and rub their heads.

Hazel and Perry knew each one by name, and like proud mothers, they have a story for each of them, as well.

Back to the task at hand – soap making!

Taking the raw milk and turning it into a finished bar of soap is not a quick process – it usually takes more than six weeks from the time they begin mixing the ingredients to when the bar has saponified (had to look that up – it’s the process of fat converting into soap) and the label is put on and the bar shipped out.

The process is very similar to the way that early settlers made soap, however, the Kuebels spent about six months tweaking the recipe to make it better, replacing water with the nutrient-rich goat’s milk to produce a bar soap that smells good, moisturizes the skin, and lasts.

The soap is made using the cold press method – the goat milk, which has been frozen, is mixed in with lye, which is carefully measured out by Perry and allowed to sit for several hours so that the lye can break down the milk.

Leaving that process to work, Perry and Hazel measure out and mix the remaining ingredients - Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, and lard. These are slowly melted together then cooled to just the right temperature before being added to the lye and milk mixture.

Hazel then stirs the concoction in a 5-gallon bucket, until they reach what is called a trace stage. At this point, they add essential oils to the scented versions.

Once it is blended perfectly, Perry pours it into custom, handmade molds. The soap remains in the molds for a few days, taken out, sits a couple more days, and then is put into a cutting block. Perry uses a special soap-cutting knife to slice each bar.

They are then put onto a rack to saponify, the last step before labels are applied and the soap is ready for purchase.

The process has been perfected through trial and error. Perry said, “we are able to make up to four batches per day. Each batch produces about 50 bars.”

Theirs is an easy partnership. As I mentioned, Perry is an art teacher, and her creativeness lends itself easily to this artisan business. Hazel is a doer – and quite crafty in her own right. In addition to making soap and lotions and balms, the two also hand crochet all-cotton wash cloths and tulle scrubbies.

Hazel often sits in her recliner in their display shop and crochets the clothes and scrubbies. The shop, located just beside the goat pens, displays all of their products as well as a number of goat-inspired decorations.

There’s also a cat…but he’s not real. The life-like feline is perched on a low shelf, and if you didn’t know better (aka Perry didn’t let you know) you’d swear he was.

The shop is also where the packaging happens.

At a dining table tucked in one corner, the duo sits, side by side, chatting and working, peeling and sticking, stacking and packing. They work with a familiar rhythm.

Together they not only label and package their popular products for resale, but they also create unique gift baskets.

Laundry soap, shaving kits, and more – the variety is astounding.

As I got ready to leave, Hazel told Perry to gather up some samples for me to try. I was given lotion, one Patchouli scented, one named Twilight, two bars of soap, one unscented and one Patchouli, lip balm and one face scrubbie made of tulle.

I have to say – I’m impressed. The lotion is light, soaks in easily and doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. The scents are also light; they last all day but are not overpowering in any way. The soap is great – when I use it, I can feel the ‘softness’ of the ingredients. I love using the scrubbie as well. It seems to offer the right amount of exfoliation. My skin feels softer after using it with the soap. They have done a great job on all of them.

While Hazel and Perry are the main worker bees producing the Kuebel Generations Line, they also get help from the rest of the clan.

“We consider caring for animals and crafting usable items to be a great source for stress relief. My kids say it’s therapeutic and they help when they can to do whatever we need help with on the farm,” said Hazel.

Hazel’s other children, along with their families, include Mark, Donna, Kendall, Howie, Kaysen, Henley, Kane, Jessica, Larry, Kay, Mark Joseph, Carlie, Colten, Cecilia, Brittney, George, and Walter.

All have a part in the family duties. From plowing and planting fields for grazing, picking up feed and supplies, unloading feed, making sales and deliveries, to the most coveted job of all – bottle feeding baby goats, this group works together.

Just like the senior Fritz Kuebel, Hazel and Perry are forging their own path – one that I think will most certainly be successful.

To see for yourself the great products this family is producing, visit www.kuebelfamilygenerations.com. You can also find their products at a number of retailers throughout the Hill Country. Blanco – Blanco Pharmacy, Blanco Floral, Blanco Settlement, and Gillen’s Candies; Johnson City – Whittington’s General Store; Comfort – Miss Giddy’s;  Wimberley – Marrero’s at the Junction; Stonewall and Fredericksburg- Weinheimer & Son, Texas Wine Country, and Lochte Feed & General Store; Llano – Main Street Affairs; Sonora – Sonora Wool house. New retailers can contact Perry at 830-833-5524 for wholesale pricing.