Couple takes in nature, beautiful views on Dickinson farm
With a storybook menagerie that includes a donkey named Moses, a mule named Ginny, two frisky goats, a hen that lays blue eggs, three dogs and a cat, it seems fitting that the Humble Camp Peach Farm should also include a little house on the coastal prairie.
At only 1,400 square feet, the diminutive house in Dickinson first appears as not much more than a splash of yellow amid 13 acres of rolling green. Down a long driveway, the details of Jim and Janet Guidry’s Dickinson farm begin to appear, however — hay bales drying in the sun, farm equipment as colorful as a kindergartner’s crayons, an orchard of 300 peach trees, and their near-Noah’s ark of animals.
It’s a far cry from the couple’s previous residence, a much-too-large Texas City town house. Today, the Guidrys have traded not only indoor seclusion for outdoor spaces, but their “little house” represents an innovative approach to residential design.
“Very few houses today are designed for two people,” said Jim Guidry, a subcontract manager for a Clear Lake-area engineering firm. “Our former home was so oversized for our needs that there were rooms that no one even went into. We also enjoy being in touch with nature, and a town house just wasn’t doing it.”
Armed with a tape measure, the couple decided to investigate just how much space in their existing town house they actually used.
“We were surprised to discover that all we really needed was 1,400 square feet,” Jim Guidry said. “Another surprise, however, was that there were almost no plans on the market for houses that small.”
In frustration, Janet Guidry, a pharmacist by day, took on the role of after-hours architect. With pencil, paper and a ruler, she began combining elements of a log cabin the couple had admired with a house plan purchased off the internet. An additional challenge was that their new home was to be designed around a treasured antique tiger oak mantelpiece the couple had kept in storage until such time as it could become the heart of their permanent home.
Today, that same mantelpiece stands proudly in the Guidrys’ living room, providing a striking variegated base for the home’s interior color palette of buttercream, aqua, brown, terra cotta and several variations of blue and green.
Structurally, the home is designed to “pull in” the 13 acres of land, and large windows and glass-paned doors on all sides blur the visual demarkation between indoors and out.
“We wanted a 360-degree view of the prairie, sky and trees,” Jim Guidry said. “And thanks to directional positioning, sunsets now seem to take place just outside our west-facing windows; we can look up and see the ever-changing sky from the living room, and on nights with a full moon, the entire place is illuminated. North, south, east or west — we can look in any direction and feel the wonder of this beautiful land.”
The land Guidry so admires was found almost by accident. As he tells the story, they had been looking for property, but not seriously until a particular cow pasture with a “For Sale” sign caught their attention.
“It was that special time of day when the sun was going down and the cattle were quietly grazing,” he said. “Then suddenly, a huge flock of birds rose up, and as they flew over, you could hear the beating of their wings. We just looked at each other and said, ‘This is it — this is the place.’”
Today, the Guidrys’ yellow and white cottage on that land is filled with original artwork, including fishing scenes by Florida artist Larry Rackley and a portrait of their first two beagles done by Willie Criss, who taught art at College of the Mainland. A small watercolor of peaches was the result of a chance encounter with island author and artist Maria Elena Sandovici at a farmers market, where the Guidrys were selling fruit from their orchard.
Other produce grown on the property include oranges, lemons and vegetables from two small gardens. As the household’s designated cook, Jim Guidry especially appreciates being able to freshly harvest many of the ingredients he uses in his signature Cajun and Italian dishes.
“Although I always enjoy the process of preparing a special dish, it’s even more satisfying when I am using things I myself have grown,” he said. “The following recipe is a great example in that it uses yellow squash, zucchini, onion and basil that I often have just gathered a few minutes earlier.”
Jim’s Summer Squash Basil Pasta
Servings: 4 to 6
1 pound Texas link sausage, sliced in ¼-inch slices (can substitute thinly sliced chicken)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow squash, sliced
1 large zucchini squash, sliced
8 to 10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
Large dash Italian seasoning
Dash of seasoned salt
8 ounces penne pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese
Over high heat in a large skillet, sauté sausage, onion and garlic in oil until onions are clear. Add yellow squash, zucchini, basil, Italian seasoning and salt, and let simmer, stirring frequently. Don’t overcook squash. And don’t drain off the juices, as they are the best part.
Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, drain and dump into the skillet with the other ingredients; toss lightly until combined.
Serve topped with Parmesan cheese to taste.
1 cup milk
½ cup real butter
1¼ cups plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
1 cup self-rising flour
2 generous cups of blackberries, frozen or fresh
Preheat oven to 350 F. If using fresh blackberries, rinse and set aside to drain well. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Melt butter.
Measure out 1 cup sugar and mix with flour in medium bowl, then whisk in milk, mixing well. Add melted butter to flour mixture, and whisk until blended.
Pour batter into buttered baking dish, then sprinkle berries evenly over batter. Sprinkle ¼ cup sugar over top of berries. Bake 1 hour, or until golden and bubbly.
If desired, sprinkle remaining teaspoon of granulated sugar over cobbler about 10 minutes before it’s done.