Houzz Tour | Forest & Ruai Gregory

My latest offering on Houzz.com is about a couple living off the land in Eastern Oregon. Here's the opening paragraph from the article:

Whether you consider the tiny-house movement, the work of The Minimalists, Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemaker website or Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it’s clear that we are experiencing a cultural shift that prizes sustainability and simplicity. But the idea of getting back to basics is nothing new. In the late 1970s, Forest Gregory left his home in downtown Denver in search of a simpler life and some acreage. He landed in the wilds of eastern Oregon in 1977 and set about building his own home from the ground up. “I have always felt the call of the natural world, and feel most alive in nature,” Gregory says. “I felt caged and out of place in the city, so it was an easy choice to make.”

Please find the whole article and all of the photos HERE on Houzz.com.








She Sheds

I'm so excited to announce that my photography is featured in She Sheds, a beautiful new book by Erika Kotite available through Cool Springs Press. It was featured in Architectural Digest this week and is available via Amazon. The two featured sheds that I provided photos and contacts for belong to Dinah Lundbeck in Central California and Tymmera Whitnah in Eastern Oregon. Both spaces are so special and totally unique. To see even more She Shed goodness, follow the book on Instagram!






Summer Chickens

My backyard hens are doing well in the summer heat, although they get a little pissy in the late afternoons. I've been letting them eat around the edges of my vegetable beds. This adds a healthy dose of kale, mint, and oregano to their diet. Their favorite snack is still a handful of meal worms, though. When it gets over 100 degrees, I usually take a shallow pan of ice to the hens. The ice melts quickly, but the water is cool and refreshing for the ladies. Gladys likes to stand in the water and cool off her feet.










Hot Garden

Here in Dallas, we've had temperatures in the high 90s for about a week. The heat is hard on the humans, but the tomatoes and melons seem to love it. My garden has definitely made the transition from spring to summer. The green beans are done and almost all of my greens are giving up the ghost. Now the cucumbers, melons and tomatoes are marching forward for their moment in the sun.

I took a carbon gardening class today at the Texas Worm Ranch. It was super informative and I'll be able to apply my new knowledge to my own garden as well as our school garden. If you're in the area and would like a hands-on garden education, please check them out. They have on going classes HERE. Here are some snapshots from the garden this week!


Kale and Nasturtium Salad

Baby Cucumber and Tomato Relish

Edible Nasturtium Blossoms

Waiting for Tomatoes

Canteloupe

Wisteria is still kicking out some blooms!

Lemon Queen Sunflower

Pearl the Hen

Heirloom French Zucchini

Fresh Eggs from the Hen House

June Garden Report & Natural Mosquito Repellent

The garden is pretty idyllic right now. Everything is lush, but not overgrown. The pollinators are having orgies over all of the new life and our family is harvesting food every morning. Kale, chard, eggs, herbs, onions, yellow neck squash, French zucchini, green beans and more. Even our salads get a colorful sprinkling of Nasturtium flowers for fun and color. Our tomatoes are almost ready and this year they look plentiful! I'm so thrilled. There are six varieties of tomato in our garden this year, many of which we've never grown or eaten. It will be a new adventure!

Natural Mosquito Repellent Tip
Also - I want to talk about my new successful method for keeping mosquitoes at bay. These buggers are thick this year in Texas. We didn't have a real freeze this winter, so they're especially bad right now. I hate all of the chemical sprays, and even the essential oil based sprays have a really intense odor and residue on our yard. So, I've started burning incense in the garden to smoke them out. It gives our garden the feel of sacred space, smokes out the bugs and smells divine. I just bought the huge pack if India Incense from World Market. It's inexpensive and beautiful.

What's growing in your garden right now?









Front Porch Spruce-Up

I switched out some patio furniture this week. The weather has been great and I've been hanging on my front porch. Spending more time out there made me realize that the little metal chairs were really uncomfortable! So I swapped out these teak arm chairs. They were a hand-me-down from a neighbor. The side table is a mid-century kitchen cart that my mother gave me and the ceramic pitcher was picked up at a local yard sale for 2 bucks. Here's a quick look at the new set-up.







May Garden Report

May is here and I'm so happy for the glorious weather and growing greens! This weekend, our little upcycled coop was featured on an urban coop tour. My favorite description of it came from a neighbor who called it "a steampunk gypsy wagon". Perfect!

The garden is in great shape. The heat of summer is still a ways off and the scattered rain has kept my beds deeply watered and happy. Right now in my garden, I have 6 heirloom tomato varieties, lazy wife pole beans, one pickling cucumber, four different varieties of squash and zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, kale, chard, red and yellow onions, basil, mint, oregano, sage, lavender, sunflower, nasturtiums and one lone strawberry plant. I also planted a Jersey Black Apple tree this spring. It won't see fruit for a few years, but it's nice to plan way out in advance. I also have a happy Asian Pear tree and a Meyer Lemon, which is in its first year of bearing fruit!

Here are some photos of my May garden. I'll be transplanting the watermelon elsewhere in the garden this month, because I can already tell its going to take over! I'll keep posting throughout the summer so you can see what thrives and what dies. (Something always dies. I'm a trial and error gardener, so I don't mind when something tanks.)

How is your garden this month? 
What are you growing? 
Are you trying something new? 
What are your old favorites that you always grow? 
I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!








We had a post-coop-tour afterparty and this was the cake!
So cute, right?


Spring Fever

The crispness of early spring has definitely shifted here in Texas to welcome in the humid air and slow breeze of early summer. Everything in my garden is green and growing fast because of recent rains. We're gearing up for a coop tour happening on May first. It's called Peep at the Coops and the tour showcases urban chicken coops. All proceeds benefit a local school garden. So in preparation, I've been cleaning the beds, wiping down the patio furniture and adding some annual color here and there. Here are a few shots of my back yard to end the week. Have a beautiful weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday!












Do you live in Dallas?
Are you interested in attending Peep at the Coops?
Find the information below:




My Favorite Backyard Farm on Instagram

If afternoons on the back patio, chicken in lap and handcrafted Belgium ale in hand, sounds good to you, then let me introduce my friend Deanna - who I met briefly back in school days in Santa Maria, CA. Deanna and her husband are urban homesteaders in Santa Barbara County who share their work on Instagram. Its my favorite feed on the web right now and I thought I'd share it with YOU! (Although, as evidenced by her almost 19K followers, you may already know all about her.)

Deanna and her husband grow veggies, raise hens, can and ferment their harvest, make Kombucha by the batch and build awesome shit in their yard. I'm envious. Not in a cloying grass-is-greener kind of way, but in an inspired get-out-there-and-make-the-world-a-better-place kind of way. Take a look at Deanna's photos below and definitely hop over to her Insta-feed and enjoy!



















Find her on Instagram HERE

How to build a school garden.

Hello dear readers. Did you miss me? I have been a busy bee these past three weeks. For the last two years I've been planning and fundraising to build a school garden at an underserved Title 1 school in Dallas. It has been both an arduous and an exhilarating process and one that came to fruition this week. I've had no time for writing or blogging because I've been project manager on a school garden construction site. But I didn't do it alone, of course. I enlisted (and sometimes begged) for support from businesses, neighbors, school officials and friends. And they got on board in a big way. I'm filled with gratitude for those who made this school garden possible.

This weekend saw the official ground breaking. All of the hard work paid off and the garden, which serves 800 students and 90 staff members, is open. How did we do it? Here's a little photo line-up that tells our story.


Identify your space...



Dream on paper and make a plan and a budget... 




Find a fabulous local landscape architect to help you... 

Drafting by Curtis Scoggins.


Hit the streets for community partnerships and funding... 




Form a committee of awesome people to do the focused jobs...




Advertise the school garden and talk it up...




Design a poster and ask a local business to cover printing costs...



Once the district approves your plan, lay out your garden...




Seek press opportunities and say YES to press inquiries...

From The Advocate Magazine - April 2016


Enlist your school art teacher to create a mural with students...




Host work days and create neighborhood partnerships... 




Invite the kids to help...




Borrow tools from friends if you don't have your own...




Work with handy parents who know how to build stuff...




Secure your rain water collection system...




Revel in the moments when it all comes together...




Stand in awe of your school art teacher's work...


Artist Emily Ash

Artist Emily Ash


Work with fabulous Girl Scout Troops...




Build a beautiful fence to protect what you've created...




Ask for seed donations...




And ask for transplant donations...



Host a Glove & Shovel Drive to supply your tool shed...




Clean up your construction site and get ready to break ground...



Break ground and invite EVERYONE...










Then invite the press back to your launch party...
All photos below are from The Advocate Magazine.







This has been such a fulfilling process.
Thank you to everyone who had a hand in making the Skyview Harmony Garden possible.

Interested in knowing more?
Follow us online:


April Garden Report

I've been away from the garden for a month, but spring came all the same. I left my raised beds with a fresh round of kale, chard, onions, romaine and a smattering of herbs, none of which need a lot of tending. So when I returned, they were full and ready for cutting. The onions of course will stay in the ground for a few more months.

It's so lovely to see things return from winter, blooming and inviting the pollinators to come and play. We've had a wonderful flurry of bees over the past few days. I returned from California with some new additions for the garden, namely a haul of succulent cuttings ready for propagation into containers.

And this week, I put a new apple tree in the ground - a grafted Jersey Black variety that I bought from Seed Savers Exchange. It won't fruit until the 5th or 6th year, but I'm a planner! This week, I also started seeds for my summer and early fall garden: heirloom French zucchini, pickling cucumbers, pole beans, Lemon Queen sunflowers, Paddy Pan squash and golden squash! Even after only a few days, I've already got germinating sprouts!

Tell me what's growing in your garden?







The Garden Gallery in Morro Bay, CA

This weekend, I stopped to visit Morro Bay, one of my favorite coastal California towns. I was especially interested in taking a stroll through one of my favorite shops, The Garden Gallery. Not only is this a lovely place to purchase beautiful house plants and succulents, it is so artfully laid out that its becomes a meditative exercise. Here are some of my snapshots...









The best part of The Garden Gallery is the location. 
The bay and Morro Rock are just across the street. 




I couldn't leave without adopting a few friends for the road.




This is my lovely little Agave, happily perched on a table back at home in the Casita.



Feeling Prickly

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I've been living in Texas now for 8 and a half years. And in that time, I've truly grown to love plants and succulents that grow in these drier, heat-scorched landscapes. And recently, I've seen an up-tick in interior design photo spreads that feature cacti. So today, I'm sharing a little photo ode to the cactus.


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Day Dreaming About a Community Garden

I'm in the process of fundraising and building towards a school garden for our neighborhood. We are already well on our way, with lots of public support and energy. The ground-breaking is scheduled for mid-April. In these last months of winter, I've been browsing gardening sites, writing grants and anticipating the joyful actuality of this BIG project. I'm excited to bring this garden into fruition. But spring is still a ways away. I'll just have to wait and bide my time with these dreamy photos.













House Plants Heal

House plants are good for you. It's true! There is a body of extensive research that shows how house plants assist in cleaning the air you breathe by removing indoor pollutants and producing oxygen through photosynthesis. The healing effect of house plants is undeniable. Whenever I see natural green living things, I feel a sense of calm and mental order. This feeling is also backed by science. A study, conducted at Kansas State University, recommends house plants as a kind of medicine and found that viewing plants during recovery from surgery led to a significant improvement in physiologic responses as evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue as compared to patients without plants in their rooms. Amazing, right?

House plants can even help you work better. What? Yes! According to THIS study from Texas A&M, “Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration. Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.” 

Plus, they're beautiful. Everyone benefits from seeing natural green things. Caring for houseplants puts even the most remote city dweller in direct contact with nature. I only have a few house plants, but after seeing the following photos, I think I might adopt a few more. So if you'd like to breathe easy, heal faster, stay healthier and work more efficiently, then get yourself a house plant! 




















And for those of you, like me, who are unsure about what kind of house plant 
is best suited for the amount of light your home receives, here is a handy-dandy guide.




Two Years of Radical Homemaking


It is time for our weekly installment of Radical Homemaking. Interested in learning more about what that means, check out THIS post and THIS post. 


Remember back in June of 2013 when I was all fired up about the concept of Radical Homemaking and I wrote THIS? And then a week later, I made a whole bunch of plans for a backyard homestead? Well, I'm really excited to say that I did it. I turned this consumer household around! (There's more I could be doing, sure. But on the whole, it's been a success.)

Every morning, I walk out into my transformed backyard to collect eggs, cut some chard or kale for the daily meals and snip a few a herbs. I'm one of those people (perhaps you can relate) who is plagued by legions of ideas, but only follow through on some. But this big idea has really come to fruition and it's so rewarding.

Today I'm celebrating. The Radical Homemaking project I began over 2 years ago is alive and well and flourishing in my little backyard plot in the middle of Dallas, Texas. I've built and maintained two large raised beds for vegetables. I've started most of my plants from seed. I have a rain water collection system. I have a compost system. I designed a 100% recycled chicken coop and raised a small back yard flock of four from chicks to laying hens. Does it sound like I'm bragging? Well, I am. I'm really proud of myself - especially since I had no real experience with any of these things before embarking on this project. So if you're thinking about doing something like this - I say go for it! Take the plunge and see what happens. To celebrate, let's take a look back at my two year experiment via Instagram.

READ more of my posts on Radical Homemaking HERE.
















Grow Your Own Food

For the past three evenings, I've made salads from my own back yard. I even had enough produce to feed a Caprese salad to a group of 12 grad students from my husband's university using tomatoes (yellow pear) and basil from my garden. Right now, I'm pulling lots of dinosaur kale, arugula and romaine from my fall garden. I'm also still harvesting rainbow chard and yellow pear tomatoes by bowl-full. Fall in Dallas is looking up!



Early Fall Garden Report

I know its not a Monday, my usual day for writing about our Radical Homemaking efforts, but I wanted to share a quick garden report. The summer heat has finally receded here in Dallas. I keep looking at photos from my Northeastern friends and see the chilly-weather coats and orange foliage. Not so here in the south. Our fall growing season extends well into the beginning of winter.

This month I'm eating heaps of yellow pear tomatoes. These plants were great producers last year and this year is no different. I'm also basking in lots of beautiful Basil. This week, I'll be processing much of it into homemade pesto sauce. Some of it will go to the freezer and some of it will be dinner this week. And finally, my winter Kale and Romaine is ready for first harvest! There is nothing better than tender fresh picked dinosaur kale from the garden.





Milk + Honey Mosquito Spray is my favorite natural, non-toxic bug spray.