30 March 2012

March Chronicle

I thought February was busy, but it was a cake walk compared to March. Maybe this is why I'm so tired?  
  • Started to spring clean the house.  The weather was been wonderful. The windows have been opened to let the house breath and all the winter bedding has been cleaned and put away. 
  • I celebrated a year of blogging in this space by offering a giveaway from Butter Design Lab.  
  • We did loads of yard work.  The trees, shrubs, grasses, and rose bushes were all pruned.  Weeds killed with white vinegar and pulled.  Took the yard waste to the farm to compost rather than throw in the landfill. 
  • Test drove several cars this month.  I'm thinking of going with a Ford Edge. It's American made and Ford didn't take any bailout money.
  • One of my favorite kiddos started soccer this month so I've been on the soccer fields cheering her on.
  • Attended a charity auction and won a John Deere bicycle for my nephews. I'm going to be the coolest aunt ever!
  • The garden is planted with the exception of the tomatoes.
  • My sister leased a space for her new salon.  Loads of minutes on the phone with her talking about dreams and now plans! 
  • Continuing to raise money for the Collin County Adventure Camp.  It was the February challenge and the campaign will wrap up this weekend.  There is still time to give.  
  • I missed the worm moon on the 8th because of the rain, which came full force for a couple of days.  Most of the lake levels are back up to normal and I'm thankful.  
  • I upholstered my studio chairs.
  • I ordered seeds and tomato transplants from Seed Savers Exchange and they arrived and are planted.
  • I ordered 1,500 ladybugs for natural insect control in my garden and they just arrived.  
  • 4(for) green acres was spotlighted on the Plant.Eat.Create. blog.
  • Watched the entire first season of Dowton Abbey and I'm hooked.
  • Made a library sack for my new nephew's books I got him.  
  • Planted a fig and peach tree in my yard. 
  • Mom sent me a 10 lb. bag of Nebraska grown and milled flour.
  • Celebrated spring and updated the by the season page.
  • Created two brackets for the March Madness basketball tournament. I've lost on both of them! 
  • Researched bookbinding and ordered supplies from Dick Blick.
  • Harvested two rounds of lettuce from the garden.
  • Took a spring break trip to Oklahoma with friends and won $480 at the casino. 
  • Taproot, the inaugural edition, arrived in my mailbox! 
  • In an effort to complete March's 4(for) green acres challenge I tried to track down the source of my oats.  I got the run around several times by the company.  In the end the only information I collected is that it comes from America.  I think I'll be changing brands until I can get a direct answer. 
  • I got the largest bouquet of flowers from my uncle.  I wasn't expecting it and it was a brilliant surprise.  
  • Grams and I took the plunge and planned a trip to Alaska this summer.  
  • Took a quick trip to Austin to have lunch with Catherine Austin Fitts.
  • Talked about a major life decision.  I realize this statement is evasive but it marks a turning point in my life that I at least want to note. 
  • Hired someone new at the office and started the training process.
  • I went to see This Means War and The Vow this month.  
  • Inspirations the month: tribal prints, yellow accents
  • Natural observations: magnolia, red bud, and pear trees in bloom, bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, poppies, snapdragons are blooming, and bees are everywhere indicating the population in our area is thriving. 
I hope you had a great month as well.  

29 March 2012

Collections | Aprons

It hasn't been until recently that I've found an affinity for old aprons.  My collection has been growing due to the fact that I can find them pretty cheap at estate sales. An apron seems to say so much about a person's personality and sometimes their resourcefulness.  Some have detailed stitching and embroidery and others are made out of pillow cases or other fabric scraps.  Each one holds a story of a family in another time.  Dinners, holidays, and parties are threaded in every little flaw.  

These are a few of the favorites from my collection.  I particularly like aprons with big pockets.  I wear them to cook, garden, clean the house, and work in the studio.  The pockets hold anything I need in a moments notice.  

When my favorite girls comes over to make chocolate cookies they request an apron as well, so I had to find a few little versions.  

This little birdie apron has a lot of love.  It has holes and stains, but it is certainly a favorite that makes it hard to share between the two.  

Can you imagine the stories from the women that wore these aprons in their kitchens?

27 March 2012

Road Trip | Austin

I'm not sure if it's the change in time or the fact I was away from home two weekends in a row, but I am exhausted.  I've got a to-do list a mile long and while I can see the results of my labor the list doesn't seem to be diminishing.  All in time I suppose.  In addition to the spring break weekend we went to Austin last weekend and I'm sharing a few pics of our impromptu road trip today. 
We went to have lunch with a woman that cc follows.  Her name is Catherine Austin Fitts and she has an amazing story.  I walked in as a favor to cc and I walked out a believer.  It wasn't that kind of meeting.  I just found other like minded folks around my table.  Let's just say that the word permaculture has been added to my list of things to conquer. 

We stayed at the Hotel Allandale, which was interesting.  They turned an apartment complex into hotel suites.  It was quiet and clean which is all I really need anyway.
We enjoyed the day as much as we could.  Just being in Austin is a joy.  I absolutely love it.  I would move in a heartbeat if it were ever possible.  They may go overboard with the keep Austin weird slogan, but it works.  It's weird and I feel right at home.  
We took a walk down South Congress Ave and hit our favorite shopping spots.  Then we parked it on the patio at Doc's for happy hour to slow the pace for a while.  As the sun was setting I was enjoying an ice cold beer and watching some of the most interesting Austinites.
On our way back to Big D we stopped by North Haven Gardens in Dallas.  They had so many succulents.  I wanted to buy them all.  I know they are supposed to be easy to care for, but I just end up killing them so I just admired these from afar.  We did come home with quite a few plants and worked like crazy getting things in the ground.

I'll get back in the swing of things by next week.  Are you having trouble with the time change or is it just me?  All I want to do is lay in the grass with the sun on my face and take a long, long nap.  

++photos taken with my iPhone++

26 March 2012

Spring Break

Since I'm no longer in the academic world, spring break doesn't technically apply to me, but when my teacher friend called and asked to get away for a weekend we took her up on the offer.  There is no better place than a cabin in the woods to take a break.  A much needed break.  We loaded up the car and headed to a lake in Oklahoma via the casino.  I won $480 by the way.  Lucky break.
The cabin was wonderful.  It didn't have the best view but it was dark, quiet, and had a great porch.  Enough space to get me out of my head.    
We walked in the woods, laughing mostly, which was therapeutic for us all.  We found clover in the woods.  A good sign it was St. Patricks day.
We stumbled on wood tepee art in front of another cabin.  Is this natural or manmade?  I concluded it could go either way.  
We mediated by the creek after another soul subtly guided us to do so. 
We found signs of another life buried in years of sediment that is slowly coming to the surface.

That evening, I built a campfire and pondered the fire*side reflection while I spoke with my friend.  In our former lives we built campfires in my backyard every Friday night.  It was routine, restorative and mandatory to our emotional survival.  Sitting around the campfire with her was like going back to a former self.  One that I miss dearly.  It was if I had traveled so far and yet had never left that self.  I found myself asking why I didn't do this more?  Why, if it's so important to me, does it get pushed to the bottom of the list.  After errands, and chores, and life.  Has something better replaced it?  
The next morning we arose, and we did nothing.  We watched, listened, read, and spoke not a word. This break was breaking me.  Breaking the door on the thoughts I've been trying to push back. Whispering to find that old self in new clothes.
We packed up the car and headed back to the city.  The cabin and that girl in rear view.  I wonder if I have to wait until next year to find her again.

How was your spring break? 

22 March 2012

10 Easy Vegetables To Grow In Any Space

Onion Start

I truly believe that you can grow a garden wherever you call home. If you think outside of the box, fruits and vegetables can be grown in containers, window sills, community gardens, or any grass space with sunlight. Never has there been a more perfect time to try your hand at gardening. If you truly want to know the origin of your food, start growing it yourself.

The following are ten easy vegetables to grow. I've included a link to the Old Farmer's Almanac for more detailed information about how to grow each individual plant.

1.   Beets | sow seed in spring or late summer
2.   Zucchini | sow seed in late spring
Carrots | sow seed in spring or late summer. deep, loose soil
Leaf Lettuce | sow seed or starts in early spring. lots of water
Beans | sow seed in late spring
6.   Onions | plant small starts in early spring
Peppers | plant after last frost
Radishes | sow seed in spring or fall
9.   Tomatoes | plant after last frost
10. Spinach | sow seed in spring or fall

When growing in any container, your soil quality is vital. Plants get all their nutrients from the soil. As you prepare your beds or containers keep in mind that you will most likely have to buy or make your own soil. Compost is an easy solution to nutrient rich soil and very affordable. If you are just starting out, your local feed store or gardening center will have it for sale. Your Local Cooperative Extension Office is also a great resource to see what type of soil is in your area, and what plants will grow well. They even offer soil testing kits if you plan to garden right in the ground.


How I constructed my garden boxes
How I Plan My Garden
Best planting dates for seeds Seed Starting Plan
Container Gardening Planner
Square Foot Gardening - Planner
Square Foot Gardening - Plant Spacing 
Smart Gardener
Old Farmers Almanac

20 March 2012

By The Season | Spring

It's the spring equinox and I couldn't be more excited.  Spring is my second favorite season and I've got big plans this year.  The garden is well on it's way and the weather has been contagious.

I think we get the most out of life when we live by the season.  It's healthy on so many levels and a great reason to cultivate your 4(for) green acres.  I've created a page dedicated to the current season that you can visit at any time by clicking on the by the season icon in the sidebar.  I've updated it for spring.  Jump on over.

19 March 2012

Wauneta, Nebraska Roller Mills

It should come as no surprise that I love the history of a small town, especially if that town has something to do with Nebraska.  I have a fondness for my home state, and especially for another, slower way of life.  Recently, my mom called to tell me a story about a flour mill close to home that is still in operation, but rumor had it was looking for a buyer.  I, for a split second, gave in to the daydream of being a small town business owner.  But, alas, it would never work, so I bring you the story instead. 

My mom is very supportive of my 4(for) green acres movement.  When I posted the March challenge about food origin and my desire to grind my own flour she did a little research on the mills.  She travels a seven county area for her job and is always coming across a part of living history on her travels. 

Bert Maxfield opened the Wauneta Roller Mills in Wauneta, Nebraska in 1925 and started milling wheat from local farmers to sell as flour in 48 pound cotton sacks.  For a bit of history, the cotton was then typically used by the women to make aprons, dresses, and skirts.  At the peak, there were 300 mills in operation across the state.  Times changed, and that meant shutting the doors for most of the other mills.  Maxfield and his family weathered the economy and offered a variety of sizes in cotton and paper bags. 

Over time Bert's decedents, Raymond Maxfield, 92; Jean Maxfield Maris, 86; Dorthy Maxfield Dudek, 82; and Jim Maxfield, 69 kept the mill in operation and in the last few years has expanded into the feed business.  Specialty blended feed for cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals is also produced at the mills.  There are no computers, which means all of the calculations are done by hand, and to a science.  

While flour is still the leading seller, specialty feeds have given the Maxfield family flexibility to stay in business.  Now registered as a historic landmark, the family has gotten older and the rumor was put to rest.  The Maxfield family has indeed sold the mills.  According to my mother's interview the new owners are also a father/son pair and doing well.  Oh, and they sell the flour in her grocery store in town. 

I thought that was going to be the end of the story.  That is until I received a box in the mail.  Much to my surprise it was a 10lb. bag of flour.  To say it made my day was an understatement.  I realized I now have a source for flour straight from the wheat fields in Nebraska.  Chances are, I may know a few of the farmers.  It doesn't get any better than this. 

When purchasing, you have a choice of bleached or unbleached flour.  A choice of paper or cotton sack, and a variety of sizes.  They have a lab in house where they test the wheat that comes in from the fields.  The wheat they use is high in protein, which is apparently good for baking.  I intend to find out next time I bake bread.  
I'm very excited about the yellow gingham pattern and I think it may look great on the cover of a garden journal. 
Upon doing a little research myself, I found out you can purchase it over the internet and they will ship it to you via UPS.  While I'm certain the office in Wauneta still does not have a computer, a local Colorado company buys the product wholesale and will then ship it to you.  This is a much easier process than growing and grinding wheat myself.  Better yet, I can always pick it up when I'm home!

16 March 2012

The First Toll Road

On one of my many excursions into Oklahoma I ran across this old bridge.  The Red River divides Texas and the Okie state so that leaves little opportunity to cross over if you're not near a major highway.  I was lucky enough to run into Carpenters Bluff, and semi-abandoned community that still utilizes this old railroad bridge for commerce across the border. 
The bridge was built in 1910 to connect Texas to the lines running through Oklahoma with the intention of withstanding floods.  It rises high above the river, and includes a wagon shelf which is pictured in the second photo.  It was used for anyone traveling by horse, carriage, or on foot, and they had to pay a toll to cross. 

Since the decline in railway traffic the railroad deeded the bridge to the counties it connects.  It has since then been converted into a one lane road for cars, trucks, and tractors.  It's fairly beat up and a hub for local graffiti artists.  Driving across is a little scary, given its wobbly nature, but the view of the river is spectacular!  I never would have found it if I didn't take the unbeaten path.

15 March 2012

DIY Upholstered Chair

I've been saving this fabric for something special.  I rescued it from a box that was headed to the dumpster.  Oddly enough it turned up in our office one day.  The box was filled with fabric swatches, yarns, every size of knitting needle, and old family photos.  Since they didn't see a use for any of the contents the box was going to be tossed in the trash, but I saved it instead. This fabric is my favorite in the box.  I love the seventies color palette and wicker pattern.  I finally found a good use for it.  
I don't have a typical office chair in my studio.  I use this old barley twist dining chair because it makes me sit up straight, but it lacks a little color.  

I decided to pop out the seat and use the staple gun to recover it with this salvaged fabric.  I left the original leather and stretched the fabric right over the top.  It immediately added character to the chair and it only took me about ten minutes.  Why haven't I done this sooner?

14 March 2012

Five Local Resource Finders

March's challenge is a tough one.  It focuses on finding the origin of your food.  With global markets penetrating America's food system, you could be consuming food and other products made in a country thousands of miles away.  It will lead you on a wild goose chase. 

The point of the challenge is not to stress about finding the answers.  I've come into a few roadblocks myself.  I have found out that many companies don't really want you to know where your food comes from, and this doesn't sit well with me. 

If you are struggling with this challenge, twist it around and make a decision to move forward with as much knowledge on your future purchases as possible.  There are many communities, large and small, that support locally grown food and products, and now, thanks to the internet, those resources have been compiled and easily listed for you by typing in your zip code. 

I'll admit, the challenge is a little overwhelming.  It's not always convenient, you have to do research, and it's much easier to just go to the store.  But if you're not up for a little work you probably aren't reading this blog anyway, and if you need the research to back up the value of eating local, fresh food I'd be happy to share that with you.  The blessing about these five resources is how easy they make it for you to source local goods.  Many of them even offer on-line ordering and shipping right to your door, which takes out a lot of leg work, so to speak. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, my suggestion would be to take it one step at a time.  Instead of replacing everything, start with finding a farmers market and commit to buying your produce at the market for the season.  Once you're comfortable, move on to switching out your meat with a local rancher, and so on.   

To jump over to these websites simply click on their logo.

1.  EAT WELL GUIDE | Not only will you find lists of farms, markets, grocers, CSA's, and U-Pick orchards in your area, you can download local guides by major city or by state.  This is a great resource when you are traveling.  At the touch of a button you can find a local restaurant.

2.  EATWILD | This resource lists grass fed meat and dairy suppliers.  In most cases you have to pick up the meat at the farm, unless they serve a particular market, and this website lists the ranchers that will ship to you. 

3.  GREEN PEOPLE DIRECTORY | The Organic Consumers Association lists a wide variety of local goods.  Not only can you find food, they list information on health, pets, gardening, events, and clothing.  It's a fantastic resource for all things green. 

4.  LOCAL DIRT | I'm excited to try this new to me resource.  They have an app you can get on your smartphone that assists you in finding local vendors.  It also allows you to set up alerts when new suppliers are added.  For example, if you're searching for a place to pick blueberries you can set up an alert to notify you when a vendor has them to ready. 

5.  LOCAL HARVEST | This resource has been around for awhile and seems to have the most comprehensive list.  Like a few of the other resources you can find much more than food.  This is a good place to start if you're looking for farmers markets. 

What are some of your struggles and how can we eliminate them?  Sustainable food is as close as the community around you.  Who knows, you might even meet a new friend. 

12 March 2012

DIY Gift Sack

This weekend was fairly laid back because of the wet weather hanging over Texas.  I ended up watching the entire first season of Downton Abbey. I can see why everyone is hooked.  I loved it and I can't wait to start on season two.  

The weekend also lent a lot of time in the studio.  I finally got around to making this gift sack for my new nephew.  I'm the auntie that likes to fill their library so I got him three wonderful books in honor of his arrival to our family, and I needed a little library sack to send them to him.  I used remnants of some fabric I had from another project, and used a piece of twine for the drawstring.  

These sacks are easy to make and can add a little something to any gift you are giving.  The bonus: they're reusable.  They won't tear like paper sacks and they can be used for other purposes.  This website has a variety of patterns.    

10 March 2012

My Roots Of Grass

I don't normally post on weekends but I was honored to be featured on Plant. Eat. Create yesterday and I wanted to share the link with you so you could stop by and visit Laura and Kristin's amazing blog.

They highlighted the 4(for) green acres project, and Laura's opening question really sums up why I started this project in the first place.
Do you ever feel like you need a swift kick in the butt to intentionally and proactively love Mother Earth? 
The project really is a grassroots effort, and I hope you'll join by participating in the challenges and post this badge on your blog or website to let others know what you're up to.  

indigo 26

09 March 2012

Steel Tubes Repurposed As Garden Containers

With a machine shop for a business you end up with a lot of surplus material that can't be used.  Most times it gets scrapped and recycled, but some pieces end up sitting around the lot.  There can be lot of different uses for these items with the right creative perspective.  I found such a way on the streets of Austin.  

I am fond of the industrial look because of it's rustic and flaw filled nature, and turning these steel tubes into planters* is a great repurpose.  They're sturdy and they will last a long time, unlike other materials that will break down.  Adding a few of these in my landscape would give it less of an antiseptic tone.  This is being added to my project list. 

*note | Heat tolerant plants and a shady spot are things to consider if using steel containers.  They will heat up very quickly and can burn the roots. 

08 March 2012

How To Make Homemade Granola

I'm a big fan of breakfast.  There is nothing better than indulging in carb goodness in the form of waffles, pancakes, or my favorite, french toast with real maple syrup.  Perfectly complimented with a hot cup of coffee and a splash of cream.  I could eat breakfast any time.  If it's loaded with sugar and carbohydrates, or a combination of both, I'm all over it.

Unfortunately, eating this way on a regular basis is not only impractical but unhealthy as well.  As much as I love this indulgence as the next person I strive to take what I eat seriously.  It is my health after all, and I'd like to feel better than lethargic and sugar comatose all of the time.  Michael Pollan, a real food advocate, has a list of food rules that I try to follow and naturally it's led me to rethink breakfast. 

Before I became interested in what I was eating, breakfast consisted of cereals with healthy benefit tag lines or toast with peanut butter, which I thought were pretty healthy until I read the labels and realized they violated rule #3; avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.  Right, pretty sure I don't keep pyridoxine hydrochloride on hand.  That eliminated processed cereal and bread. There are too many ingredients that are too complicated to pronounce in both of those options which means I don't really know what I'm eating even if the crafty marketing says it's healthy.

My options needed to change and I was happy to follow, but I also wanted a choice that wasn't an egg.  No offense to the chicken, but I just can't swallow a hard boiled egg for breakfast every day.  Since there is no time to cook before work, making homemade waffles or french toast from homemade bread is not an option during the week, and really, should only be saved for special occasions.  

In walks granola.  A staple on my backpacking trips, I hadn't thought about eating it for breakfast before, but it makes sense.  It fits into the food rules, it's filling, and very healthy with a touch of sweetness.  Now, every Sunday I bake a fresh batch for the week.  It takes less that five minutes to prep and only thirty minutes to bake.  I keep it on my counter in a sealed jar and it's easy to eat as cereal or with plain greek yogurt. 

Homemade Granola*
4 cups of organic rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup of pecans, walnuts, or almonds
1/2 cup of pepitas or sunflower seeds (unsalted)
1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon local honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup of dried fruit such as cherries, blueberries, or cranberries

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the ingredients, except for the dried fruit, together in a bowl until completely coated.  Spread onto a cookie sheet evenly.  Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing once.  Place the mix back into the mixing bowl and toss in the dried fruit.  Once cool, place in an airtight container.  Enjoy with milk, yogurt, or plain.

*This recipe is really flexible.  I start with this as a base and add different spices, nuts and fruits.  Put in it what you enjoy!

What is in your breakfast food?  Is it real food?  What would you put in your granola?  I'm always looking for ideas.  


As part of March's 4(for) green acres challenge I'm on a mission to find the origin on the oats I use.  Currently I buy oats from Market Street and Whole Foods.  I've been considering growing my own, but I don't have that how to hull them part figured out yet!  

07 March 2012

Thistle | Kansas City

While I was in Kansas City I found a new store downtown.  We happened to drive by it right before they were closing so we popped in.  I love finding new antique stores and I will definitely be returning to Thistle.

As soon as we walked in we were offered warm, apple cider out of antique china cups.  It warded off the evening chill.  As I walked around the store, my hands started to fill with milk glass vases, embroidered linens, a depression glass urn, and postcards.  If my suitcase would have been bigger, I would have bought more!

What I loved about this shop, and I haven't seen before, was the color coding of the merchandise.  Every color had a section.  I found it really easy to shop and look at every detail because I wasn't over stimulated by color. 

I snapped these photos with my phone.  I was in a hurry to load my hands and the let the owners go home for the night.  Check out their gallery for better photos of the store.  You can also find them on facebook.

Any new finds for you recently?