“Now listen…”

Now Listen…

This is how our neighbor Julia began her sentences when she was making a point. She was usually pointing a finger at me too.

When we first bought our home we had a lot of work to do, we installed central air, pulled up carpeting, refinished the hardwoods and seemed to have a paintrush in my hand Friday-Sunday. We stayed in our rental in Austin for a month, and drove out here every night after work and on the weekends to work. I would leave work, go by and grab Roscoe and head out to the “new house”in Elgin. Our meals were mostly of the drive-thru variety. 

One Sunday morning during that month Julia invited us to come by for lunch at noon. We cleaned ourselves up and head on over at noon. She had been cooking all morning for us. She’d made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, rolls, and chocolate pie. We were blown away at such hospitality and knew we’d made the right move to this small town. We love telling that story to people who wonder why the hell we moved from Austin to a small town who’s claim to fame is sausage and bricks.

While we were getting excited for our first Christmas in our new home, I’d noticed she had all the candied fruits and nuts to make fruit cake, but she’d recently taken a fall and said she wasn’t up to the task that year. I’d never made one so volunteered to help her. Once the fruit cake was baked, she covered it with cheesecloth and pulled a plastic wrapped bottle of Mogen David from her deep freeze, unscrewed the cap and drizzled it over the top. Julia was a good Baptist woman so I assume this bottle had been in her home since I graduated high school in 1983.

The next morning, I walked next door to give her the molasses I’d picked up for her at HEB, so she can make her rolls. Mind you she was moving in a week and was hell bent on baking rolls for her family’s holiday meals. She’d tried to substitute with the sorghum she had, but she said they tasted nasty. She told me that she started baking her rolls every October, and just put them up in the freezer until they came by to fetch her to spend the holidays with them. She was really sad that she wouldn’t be able to do this anymore.

Julia gave us the buffet that is now the work table in my print studio. She gave me her yarn tote too, though it fell apart years ago. She crocheted, she said it was her constant companion and reached for it beside her chair every night when she was watching TV, much the way I do with my knitting.

In September of 2007 Julia was beginning to pack up her to move into assisted living close to her son and his family. She was a few months shy of her 90th birthday and had been living alone since her husband Roscoe died in 1993. She was a pistol, and lived in that house since before ours was moved from San Marcos and plunked down next hers in 1950.

As we were getting closer to actually inhabiting each room of our home, and hanging artwork and family photos, Julia was next door taking hers down. 

We miss her being next door, but luckily the new owners are great neighbors and renovating the old house to reveal its original beauty, they love it as much as Julia did. 

I only wish I’d remembered to ask her for the recipe for those rolls…

Grow + Share

Holy guacamole! How is my garden still producing so many peppers and cherry tomatoes! There has been so much rain this summer that I’ve hardly watered and fully expected my garden to shrivel up by now. What’s a girl to do with such an embarrassment of riches? Well, it’s Tuesday, so I know one of our community food banks is open so I picked what I could, washed my bounty, bagged it, and dropped it off with volunteers at the Elgin Community Cupboard.

Did you know that most local food pantries can accept home-grown produce? Contact them first, but many of your local organizations will gladly accept washed, home-grown produce to offer their clients. Ample Harvest  has a Find a Pantry link in the Gardeners Donate Food header in the main menu to help you find a local food bank or soup kitchen that would love to accept your produce and backyard eggs.

Links:
Ample Harvest
Elgin Community Cupboard

Spread it on!

Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese

Serve this spread with the usual crackers, spread on a sandwich in place of a slice of regular cheddar. I promise it will not disappoint.

Makes 4 Cups (recipe easily halved)

2 cups jalapeño jack, shredded
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup chopped pimentos
1/8 cup chopped pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s is my favorite)
1/4 sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2  teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2  teaspoon granulated onion
1/4  teaspoon cumin
1/2  teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of sugar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a standing mixer bowl. Mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment until creamy and the pimentos are well distributed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Pimento cheese will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pro Tip: While you can certainly use pre-shredded cheese (and I have in a pinch) your spread will be creamier and the shreds less separated if you grate your cheese with a box grater.

Spa by Tractor Supply

A cool dip with a cold Topo Chico

Last year I finally got around to filling up this galvanized stock tank pool, and it may have been one of the best things I did all summer.

The water is always cool and the tank is deep enough for the water to reach our shoulders and long enough that we can both sit in it, or I can just float if I want to. I always want to. I love nothing better than jumping in after yard work and then drying off in the warm hammock. We originally set it in the sun and the tank itslelf was too hot to touch after a day in the sun and the water felt like bath water. Not the refreshing dip I’d envisioned. We moved it to the courtyard and found the perfect palce between the pines against our neighbor’s garage.

We decided to keep it simple and not add a pump or chlorine, but we hooked up a hose to the spout to drain the water for the Oak Leaf Hydrangea and trees in our courtyard.

Read this article for tips on setting up a hillbilly soaking tub of your own.

The Company of Women

We are not all here for this shot, but from left to right are; Emily, Stacey, Martha & Emma.

I can’t beleive it’s been a whole year! This weekend She Creates Union participated as a group in the Elgin Art Studio Tour. This time last year Emma and I were hatching an idea for a group for women makers and artists whose sole function was to fully support each member creatively while helping each other navigate branding, social media, marketing, and general business best practices.

I remember talking it up with Emily (www.paintbrushprintcompany.com) while were both doing demos that weekend at G&M Drygoods.

Community

While there are groups like BossBabesATX that organize events and meet-ups in Austin, we were interested in forming a more intimate community in our small town just 19 miles east of Austin and the neighboring towns like Paige, Bastrop, amd Lexington. We particpate here in local events and will be expanding our efforts later this year to markets in Austin and Pflugerville.

Since we formed SCU we have participated in one large festival, an art studio tour, and a couple pop-up shops. We meet once a month and talk about things we’ve been thinking about doing, things we’ve done, and generally cheer eachother on.

Whether at our monthly meeting or via our Slack channel, there is always some nudging, sometimes gently, sometimes not, eachother to raise our prices. We generally suck at pricing our work, but we’re getting better.

I recently saw this quote, “You’re priceless, your work is not.” I cannot find where I saw this yet, but wil link when I do.

Always Learning

To say we’ve all learned a lot in the past year would be an understatement. We are constantly investigating and learning as individuals and bringing our acquired knowledge to the group. Sometimes these fact finding misssions look like sitting in a sales tax class, taking an online course, or visiting a craft market or festival. It’s all learning.

Out of the Kitchen

Slowly but surely the living room studio is taking shape. I need to think a little on how to best sort and store the million little bits that I use, but I have already been able to jump in and get to work without having to haul everything out of a closet or make room for dinner prep. I love it. I highly recommend carving out your own space to make things if you can. Also, it still is cozy, if not cozier. It is now my favorite room to read, drink coffee, and write my blog posts in the morning before I scoot off to work.

The natural light in this room is perfect all day, bright and golden in the morning and softer as the day rolls on. It’s the perfect place for Olive and I to watch the parade of dogs on walks, neighbors driving their riding mowers to the gas station, and the man on the yellow bike who argues with himself all the time.

I think Bee likes it here, me too.

Run Like You Stole It

No, I’m not running for city council again, but this photo pops up in my feed each May like a bad penny. It reminds me that I once did this super scary thing which was so out of my comfort zone and the rewards are still being counted. Steve and I had been living here less than 2 years (this timeline may be edited later), so this felt crazy.

I was a write-in candidate for my first election… so obviously unplanned and late. As soon as I sent off my application I was struck with fear and called the city secretary to ask about withdrawing my application. She said it was not possible, but that I could run a really bad election if I really didn’t want to win. Excellent advice.

Later that month I was chatting with some people at an art show or potluck and mentioned I wasn’t sure if I was the best person for the job. A local attorney asked me, “Well, are you the worst?”

My reply, “I hope not.”

So I won my first election as a write-in candidate, ran unopposed for my second election, had my drunk neighbor run against me for my third, and had my ass handed to me my fourth run by a candidate who had more cousins than I had votes.

The takeaway?

If I can do this, so can you. All I had to do was show up to serve and listen. A lot. In return I realized I was more brave than I’d thought and gained a host of new friends and a whole new community.

Here’s to making your world larger every day.

Best of Both Worlds

Traffic Jam, Elgin, Texas

I am often reminded of how great it is to live in a small town. Recently I was able to use my neighbors’ oven when my oven would not light and I had 2 dump cakes* to bake for 2 potlucks. This weekend a local shop offered to wrap my print job and place outside their door for me to pick up after hours, with instructions to just push a check through the mail slot or call Monday with a credit card number. Just would not happen in a large city.

I enjoy working in downtown Austin and coming home to the Sausage Capital of Texas every day. It blows my mind that I can spend a lunch hour at an art museum, shopping at a gourmet shop, or eating ramen, and return home where my friends and neighbors are dancing to a band playing at the gazebo in the center of town. The best of both worlds, I feel very lucky. Still.

*Is dump cake mostly a souther thing?

Buy This Card & Empower Lives

Down Home Ranch is a nonprofit working farm community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities located in Elgin, Texas. The ranchers and their extended community are ever present at Elgin’s many annual festivals, monthly Sip, Shop & Stroll events. Locals look forward to their tomatoes, lettuce, jellies, potted plants, eggs, and cards (like the one above), at the Bastrop 1832 Farmers Market.

In addition to their greenhouse operations and plant sales, Down Home Ranch supports an Etsy shop which sells cards featuring original art by ranchers, embroidered tea towels, and engraved travel tumblers. All proceeds support their mission: Empowering the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through social, educational, residential and vocational opportunities. I visited DHR a few years ago, you can read my post about the experience here.

Shop Down Home Ranch Etsy shop here

Find out more about Down Home Ranch at downhomeranch.org