Tessa McDonald: The Five Question Interview

Tessa McDonald hails from the great state of Alaska. After serving in the U.S. Army she relocated to Texas. She owns and lives on Green Woman Farm amid an edible forest she is cultivating with her husband. With the aid of their sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, guineas, and turkeys they are regenerating the land without pesticides. Tessa’s interest in studying best practices in harvesting and preserving herbs led her to create hand rolled Incense, blended herbal teas, herbal extracts, and dried herbs grown on the farm. 

1. Why did you move to Elgin? 

I found my love for gardening quickly outgrew my backyard and wanted to start a farm with an lots of animals and an edible forest. I fell in love with Elgin’s downtown and how close knit everyone was like back home. After we settled, we quickly noticed we made the right choice with our community and don’t plan on ever leaving.

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

The need to discover is what got me on my journey of gardening, herbal remedies, & tea brewing. Many people don’t know how much one herb can help with so many problems, so I started to explore this and the many methods of preservation. I wanted to be able to take a small seed, and make that plant into natural cleaning supplies, dried herbs, soaps, extracts, anything my imagination could make. I take time to study, fertilize, and grow my plants. I put them to good use, and surprise myself a lot with the things I make and what can survive here.

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

I think my biggest lesson is learning when to stop. Farming is a nonstop job, but the need to slow down and rest is also just as important.

My second thing would be stuff doesn’t happen on my time. Mother nature will send us winter storms, spring hail, and sometimes drought and we have to move with it, not against it.

My third would be to let go, sometimes a plant or project cant be saved and you just need to yeet it & start from scratch and that’s just the circle of life.

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

So my current thing to do is binge watch tv at night while I roll incense. I just watched Ink Master and I’ve moved on to watching Greys Anatomy. I’m harvesting my collection of culinary and medicinal herbs to dry out and putting them to use in incense, oils, vinegars, teas, & extracts. As for music, I constantly have some blasting on the farm while I work, so mostly Electronic Dance music so my goats get a mini rave. My current favorite songs are My Best Life by KSHMR and Legacy by the Sidh. As for what I’m nose deep in reading, I got this new book the Lost Book of Herbal Remedies that’s inspiring me to expand the herb garden once again.

5. Cake or Pie?

Pie… and I know this won’t win me southern points but I love pumpkin.

Learn more about Tessa and Green Woman Farm…

Instagram @greenwomanfarm20

Website greenwomanfarm


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Bernadette Noll: The Five Question Interview

Polaroid by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

Bernadette Noll is a writer, maker, and lover of thrift stores and crafting. She is an enthusiastic advocate for making a home and creating beautiful things with repurposed items. She’s written three books and her writing has been featured in Mothering, Parents, and other publications. She is currently living in both Austin and Smithville.

1. Why did you buy a home in Smithville? 

I visited Smithville about 6 years ago when a friend moved from Austin. She was sitting in her little backyard studio next to a firepit and I was instantly in love with the setting. Everytime I visited it felt like summer camp as there were so many people there, old and new, making art and creating simple beauty. Another friend had a couple old houses there that he had moved onto properties in Smithville. He offered one to me in early 2019 and even offered to be my financier. It was an old house that was built in Zilker neighborhood in Austin in the 1930s and he had moved onto a property on the south side of Smithville. The stars aligned and I was lucky enough to get the house. I’m only there part time because I have a high schooler in McCallum HS in Austin and because my mom moved in with us during the pandemic. If it were just me I’d be there full time but alas, it is not just me and so I bide my time until I can get there fully. The hardest part has been learning to be present with my current situation and not pining for Smithville! I am there a couple days a week. I’ve since rented a little booth space in one of the antique shops there and a couple more friends have moved in near my house so the summer camp feel continues! Art. Craft. Music. Reuse. Friends. All the things I love! My mantra is “I am here now.” It helps me be content and satisfied with what is. 

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

Mostly the materials inform the projects. I use only reuse materials in all my projects (well, except for thread of course but even that I get second hand at Austin Creative Reuse. My statement for 2022 is #usewhatyouhave so I am making things that use all my little bits I’ve saved over the years. I’m remaking old tote bags into pretty amazing and functional bags using all the little scraps I’ve saved and I am making postcards every day using all my random ephemera. I have two amazing work spaces in my home in Austin. One is my desk which is where I do my paper crafts #postcardprojectatx and the other is my sewing table which nicely is in my mom’s space so it’s a way I can spend time with her without feeling like I am “just sitting”. Sometimes I work late into the night and she loves falling asleep to the sound of the sewing machine.

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

Wow. That’s a giant question. I have learned so much. One thing I’ve learned is to follow the inspiration. If an idea sparks excitement and my mind spins with ideas around that idea, I follow it. So I guess follow the inspiration is a big one. At the same time I’ve learned to be content with what is. I didn’t know my mom was going to be living with us and it has been a HUGE adjustment. I can either resent it and do it. Or I can find contentment and do it. Either way I have to do it so I might as well find the satisfaction. Another thing I’ve learned, or maybe I’m continuously learning is that everything is a bubble of time. If we look at our life in 5 year increments, in each 5 year cycle there is always something we are doing now that 5 years ago we didn’t even know existed! For example, my mom, Smithville, etc. Embrace what is and trust that if we are following the inspiration things can only get better. And since everything is  pretty good for me, that feels lucky. And yes, I acknowledge my luck in life. I’ve had a lot of it.

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

I’m making postcards everyday. It started years ago and has ebbed and flowed but recently was kicked into high gear when a good friend was diagnosed with cancer. I decided I would send her a postcard everyday until she was cancer free. It sparked a HUGE creative drive and I started seeking new ideas for what I could send her way. Now I make probably 3-4 a day and some I am keeping to introduce a “collection” and some I send. And, I’m also making the tote bags. Which I am also loving. I’m reading a James Baldwin book called Another Country which I am reading at the insistence of a niece of mine. It is a heavy read but a good one and when I finish I look forward to a discussion with her. I’m a slow reader though! I’m watching Somebody Somewhere on HBO which I started watching because a friend’s brother plays one of the leads and it is FANTASTIC! I don’t have a lot of time for listening to stuff because I can’t do it when others are around so often there is only car time for that and for that I usually prefer silence. 

5. Cake or Pie?

I do have a penchant for those little fried pies that you see in the quickie marts. Often they are locally sourced and wrapped so simply in beautiful waxed paper. So yummy! And so soothing in a strange way. That said, I do make a pretty good (and so easy to make) espresso tres leches cake and that is one of my favorites. 

facebook.com/reducereuseremake

Books by Bernadette Noll:
Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy 
Make Stuff Together: 24 Simple Projects to Create as a Family 
Look at Us Now: A Creative Family Journal


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The Five Question Interview: Rev. Amy Meyer

The Rev. Amy Meyer has been with 1st Presbyterian Church in Elgin since 2010. Pastor Amy holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and is an ordained minister in Mission Presbytery and has used her training in both church settings and as a chaplain for Hospice Austin. Before her seminary training, Pastor Amy held positions as a youth director for the Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis and as a graphic designer for a division of Trader Publishing.

She lives in Elgin with her husband, Chris and their two children.

1. Why did you move to Elgin? 

I moved to Elgin from Austin after I was selected to be the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. I stay here because I fell in love with the church and the Elgin community!

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

One of the things I love most about being a pastor is having the space to create. Whether it’s a worship service, a special class, or even a short devotional, I have the opportunity to share my creations with the people I love on a weekly basis. I usually find that the most meaningful creations contain an infusion of the holy while still being grounded in the world. I have also discovered that ‘creating’ is ‘meaning-making,’ and it allows me to explore ancient wisdom as I grapple with difficult questions.

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

1) If you have a voice at the table, use it to call institutions and individuals to the common good. Always remember to be the moral voice for the powerless.

2) Gratitude and forgiveness have a unique way of opening up a path for hope.

3) When the animal shelter tells you she’s a black lab, she’s probably a pit bull. But you will love her anyway. 

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

I’m reading “Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire.” It’s both disturbing and informative. I’d recommend it, though I’d also warn any interested readers that it’s not for the faint of heart. 

5. Cake or Pie?

Either one as long as it’s vegan. In fact, if you’re interested in some great theological conversation along with some homemade Chocolate Tofu Pie, I’m your gal! 


You can listen to her podcast Passing the Peace here or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And of course you can find her at 1st Presbyterian Elgin

Pastor Amy will be at the Holiday Luna Market with Beer & Hymns where they will be accepting donations for Advocacy Outreach.