Down at the Farm: Vintage Heart Farm
March 2014~Stockdale, Texas
- Founded in 2010
- Owners: Ashley & Roger Flores
- Emphasis: heritage breeds (Dexter beef, Berkshire & Ossabaw pork); all things Americana
- Other projects: Vintage Heart General Mercantile (La Vernia, TX; now closed)
- Our favorite thing: If everyone invested in their local community the way Ashley and Roger do, the world would be a better place!
All About It
We first met Ashley and Roger on a chilly day this winter at the local Farmer's Market. No, make that a freezing day (we had a really cold winter in Texas this year). The first thing we noticed was their energy/enthusiasm/mad artsy skills...hard to stop at just one thing there! Ashley makes and sells all kinds of very cool items (from lard & milk soap to shaving cream to candles), and Roger built not only their barn but also their farmhouse! He also builds amazing chicken coops.
We hadn't been out to a farm in quite a while, so when we arrived at Vintage Heart Farm one sunny morning in spring, we were in for a surprise: turns out, the country is noisy! Good noise, that is. We were greeted with a welcoming fanfare from Rosie the Cow, who seemed intent on making us feel right at home. A few other cows joined in, and with the squaking of chickens we had a symphony going on! One thing we love about animals: they're always glad to see you, particularly if you come bearing gifts of food (we didn't. They forgave us, or so we hope.)
We got a tour of the farm's operations: adorable heritage piglets, Dexter cattle (for milk and meat), goats, chickens, and of course dogs and farm cats! Roger and Ashley's daughter showed us the hen house, and let us collect our own eggs from the nesting boxes. Then we headed out to their kitchen garden, where Ashley showed us her square-foot gardening method and hydroponic lettuce patch (see photos, above.)
Back in the kitchen, Ashley served up a southern classic--Sweet Tea (recipe below)--and melted down lard to make soap, candles and other goodies. She and Roger transitioned out of the city to their 23-acre farm to give their daughter the gift of a farm experience, and to reconnect with the basic concepts of self-sufficiency. They opened Vintage Heart General Mercantile in La Vernia this spring as a throwback to America at its best--simple goods, locally produced. Their inventory includes homemade pies, hand-forged garden tools, and much more.
This being Texas, conversations over lunch (burgers made with their own grass-fed Dexter beef) inevitably turned to the drought. Around here, it's more like The Drought or THE DROUGHT or even sometimes THE DROUGHT??!! Ashley and Roger bought their farm right at the beginning of this relentless four-year drought, which shows little sign of lifting this year. Farming and ranching in Texas has never been easy, but wild temperature swings, drought, and severe weather are all taking their toll on both crops and livestock. At Vintage Heart Farm, they raise Dexters, which require far less pasture to graze in than other breeds. They are also experimenting with hydroponics, which got us into trying hydroponics at home as well! It's pretty much the only way to go when the city starts putting you on water restrictions in 100°F weather.
We really enjoyed touring Vintage Heart Farm and wish the lovely, welcoming owners a rainy season in their very near future!
Ashley's Sweet Tea
- Steep 4 standard Lipton tea bags in 2 quarts of hot water for 5-10 minutes.
- Dissolve 2 cups of sugar in the tea, let dissolve completely
- Once dissolved, add 2 more quarts of water. Stir well, serve over ice and enjoy!