Photography by Adam Mureiko
Living in the city with light pollution and smog, it’s easy to forget how bright the stars at night can be. I’m sitting on an antique rocker on the porch of a cozy cabin, looking up at the sparkling sky. Instead of the traffic noises, it’s quiet; the only sound is the rustle of the wind through the leaves of towering trees and the chirping of frogs in a pond some distance away. This is heavenly.
I drew the lucky assignment of checking out Restoration Homestead— part working farm, part bed and breakfast—near the small town of Kerens outside of Corsicana. Here, the proprietor Bill Mureiko, a partner in the law firm Thompson & Knight, is living the country home dream, commuting from his Eden to work in Dallas. He, his wife Robin, their three grown sons Adam, Drew, John and daughter-in-law Nicole run varied aspects of the farm. The clan also includes their adopted 10-year-old daughter Lydia and John and Nicole’s sons five-year-old Paul and four-yearold Joshua.
Bill and Robin’s appreciation of a rural lifestyle was nourished by visits to an aunt and uncle’s small organic farm in Arkansas when their boys were young. “My aunt and uncle were the original Foxfire people,” said Robin, smiling. She’s referring to the Appalachianthemed magazine, which inspired a back-to-the-land movement in the ’70s. “Our boys had such a fabulous time on the farm, unplugging, playing in the woods, learning archery. We wanted to recreate that.”
In 2003, their three young sons were active in scouting, and the Mureikos purchased the property, thinking they would use it for camping. The addition of Lydia, adopted as a baby from South Korea in 2004, led them to build a weekend house on the site. Before long they made the jump to the peaceful countryside as their permanent home. At the same time, as they became aware of issues regarding mass-produced food, they began thinking about the potential of a farm.
“The animals here are not just a hobby,
they’re part of the team.”
Fast forward to the present—they are raising enough to sustain their family with overage to sell to others; and plans are in place to expand agricultural operations. Eager to educate and encourage others, they open their farm each weekend to overnight visitors.
Accommodations include the log cabin where I’m staying. They found the 1840s era structure in Ohio, dismantled, transported and rebuilt it, updating it with electricity, comfortable furnishings highlighted by heirloom family antiques, a romantic bedroom loft, and attached modern kitchen and bath.
A larger guesthouse in a secluded area of the property offers four bedrooms, two baths, a complete kitchen, and spectacular sunset views, a retreat space for small groups and families of eight to ten looking for some quiet time in the country. A fishing lake is stocked with large-mouth bass and perch.
The main house has been converted to an event space. Its central room, where breakfast is served, is large enough to accommodate group activities. An adjacent commercial-grade kitchen leads to a patio where a large outdoor wood-burning oven is under construction. Structures are also being added to accommodate crafts classes.
Above: The log cabin’s loft bedroom; fresh sourdough bread;
preparing the garden: Adam, Drew, John and Nicole Mureiko.
And, there’s the actual farm. Bill introduced me to his four-footed and feathered “staff.” A jersey cow Rosie provides the family milk. The Mureikos tease that Rosie thinks she’s a dog, and she did follow us about, nuzzling Bill in hopes of a treat. She actually kicked up her heels and danced when she was called to the shed where I had the opportunity to try milking, one of the chores farm-stay guests can experience. There are child-friendly goats, too, which provide milk to be made into cheese.
The chicken complex with its spacious henhouses and big yard is home to their pretty-as-a-picture chickens: Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rock and Ameraucana. Several Great Pyrenees patrol the area, friendly to people but ready to challenge any predators. Lowline Angus cattle gathered at the fence when they saw us coming, as did frolicking goats and a lively bunch of heritage Red Wattle pigs contained in a large wooded area outlined with electric fencing.
“The animals here are not just a hobby, they’re part of the team,” Bill noted. Both the cattle and pigs provide fertilizer, but the pigs have an especially important role. Their natural inclination to root means they aerate the soil, while they consume acorns and bugs. The pens are moved from field to field. The pigs lined up in a tidy row, neat as a pin, defying the stereotype of being messy.
“We don’t want this to be just a petting zoo,” said Bill. “When people come here, we want them to see and understand where their food comes from. We feed the animals, they generate fertilizer; it makes the garden grow vegetables for us; what’s left of the plants we feed to the animals. It’s a cycle.”
Each family member has a unique role that suits his or her interests. John, an avid baker, makes sourdough bread made with grain he mills on site. With completion of the new wood-burning oven, he plans to sell bread via a co-op arrangement. He also recently purchased an antique blacksmith forge and anticipates guests will not just see a demonstration but be able to experience making their own metal project.
Adam, a photography and graphics arts major in college, oversees the website, marketing materials and packaging for products. He also manages the chickens. Drew is in charge of the pork, cattle and cooking—breakfast at the moment. Completion of the commercial kitchen means the capability to offer lunch and dinner as well.
Nicole oversees the gardens. Last year’s bounty included watermelons, bell peppers, tomatoes, okra, green beans, pumpkins, winter squash and basil. “When we decided to put a garden here, this ground was so hard we couldn’t put a spade into it,” said Nicole.
“Now there’s rich soil here.” Nicole is also studying pottery making, with an eye toward selling her handcrafted items in an on-site shop, in addition to potentially offering classes.
It’s a happy family circle of individuals recreating a lifestyle that feeds the soul. Bill summed up the dream he and Robin have for their venture. “We would like our guests to have a time of peace and restoration away from the city. And we would like our guests to get a sense of what it takes to produce good food and how joyful the work can be,” he said.
As I look up at the sky, I realize how restorative and delightful it has been for me.
Above: The log cabin, circa 1840; Robin and Bill Mureiko
with daughter Lydia and grandsons Paul and Joshua.
VALERIE JARVIE is a Dallas-based freelance food writer. She holds a BBA in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin and became a stay-at-home mom in 1989. Having grown up in a family in which the nightly dinner together was considered sacred, her creative outlet became developing culinary expertise to share with her own growing family and friends. As an extension of this, Valerie began writing articles profiling home cooks and chefs for area publications when her children were small, working mostly while waiting in the carpool line at school. Now that her kids are almost grown, she especially appreciates the value of sharing with little ones this very important enhancement to life.