Gratitude Project

Down on the Farm

I went to a Natural Dye workshop today, which turned out to be one of the coolest things I’ve done in Dallas thus far. My friend  Kara and I headed out this morning to Ponder, TX, which is a stone’s throw from Denton, the “Austin” of the DFW area. The workshop was at a cool little farm called Cardo’s Farm Project. It’s cool because the farmers are young and they wear hats and 80s glasses. They are decidedly non-overall-wearing kind of people.

The farm is small, but they produce (or will produce) about 2 acres of vegetables next spring. They use eco-friendly processes, compost their own stuff, and use chickens and turkeys to help keep the bugs down. The staff (who all go by “Farmer _____”) live in ramshackle buildings on the property. Their community kitchen, which is the one that we used to make the dyes, is completely open on one side.  Farmer Amanda gave us a tour of the place and it’s quite an impressive, inspiring operation. They have kids come out to the farm and they really want to use it to educate the community about local, slow food. It made me want to be a farmer for about 30 minutes.

Now, back to the dye workshop. You could have divided the group of “students” up a couple different ways, but Kara and I decided that the best dividing line was “Those that drink out of Mason Jars” and “Those that brought Plastic Water Bottles” (alternatively, “Those that might dye and sew their own black clothes”and “Those that probably own some article of clothing with the Cowboys logo on it”). There was a certain hipster feel to the whole thing, which only added to my love of hipsters that I developed in Nashville.

Our instructor, Sarah Westrup,  graduated from UNT last year and now she’s a fibers artist.  We ended up making 9 different dyes out of things as varied as rosemary leaves to red onion skins. They provided some cloth for us to play around with and we ended up using a “shibori” (read: glorified tye-dye) technique. The results were pretty amazing (I accidentally made a silk scarf that simply looked like a dirty handkerchief with turmeric on it, but I fixed it so don’t worry).

Sarah said that she likes using natural dyes because they speak to the region from whence they came. She’s from the border region in Texas so she likes using avocado pits and black beans. It’s her heritage. It means something to her.

One of the unintended benefits of becoming a vegetarian has been my “connectedness”.  When you eat plants, things that grow in the ground, and your food hasn’t been processed into oblivion, you start to really appreciate the time and the beauty of where this food on your plate came from.  It was refreshing to be out and about for a day- to clear my head, to be reminded that there are people that don’t have their faces shoved in an iphone 90% of the time. It helped me feel connected.  For me, natural dying feels like a natural extension of my vegetarianism because it’s thoughtful and beneficial and it means something to me.

So, I’m going to buy a candy thermometer, some big ole’ pots, and some fair-trade organic cotton and I’m going to dye my own curtains. When people ask me where I got them, I’ll be able to tell them a story.

I’m tired of buying things that mean nothing. I want my possessions to tell a story.

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