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Party with a purpose at the Farm December 15, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , 1 comment so far

Saturday dawned misty and chilly, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds who flocked to the Last Organic Outpost Saturday to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the group’s Emile Street Farm, learn about food security, forage for wild edibles, eat organic tamales and meet interesting folks.
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(photos by Mona Metzger of Houston Green Scene)

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Last Organic Outpost’s Greenfest on video November 11, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

In case you missed it, the best of Houston turned out on the farm for the Community Greenfest at the Last Organic Outpost’s Emile Street Community Farm.

Channel 39’s Going Green With Yolanda Green caught a great slice of celebratory life in a two-part video tour, now available on their website – and here. Enjoy!

 

 

Going full boar at Catalan September 24, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Food, Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

Every now and then, a meal becomes an event you’ll never forget. That’s what happened Sunday at Catalan, one of Houston’s top-rated restaurants.

Chef Chris

Catalan, an anchor of the newly thriving Washington corridor, has caught the eye of many a writer in the couple of years since it’s opened, right up to the New York Times, and master chef Chris Shepherd is a big reason why. His bold, no-holds-barred, what-the-hell style has earned him a following that’s as passionate as his own commitment to his art. But what really drew me was his staunch advocacy of the buy local movement.

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He plans his entire menu around what he finds at the local farmers’ markets and what local growers can provide him.

“It’s not just the right thing to do; it means better quality,” he explained when I met him on Friday. He was already cooking up plans for Sunday’s feast, and when he invited me, of course I couldn’t resist.

It all started when Farmer John Laughlin showed up on his doorstep with a wild boar. Laughlin’s farm kept getting raided by these wild hogs, and nothing he did could drive them away.

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Roads Less Traveled hits the Houston Green Scene August 11, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

I’m excited to announce some new collaborations that will be taking Roads Less Traveled to a greater audience and in a greener direction.

YolandaGreenChannel 39’s Going Green With Yolanda Green, Houston’s only TV program dedicated to sustainability, is now featuring my blog on its website, www.39online.com. Going Green is an exciting initiative in itself, with Yolanda bringing conservation initiatives to a whole new audience. From the new smart grid technology to invasive species, Yolanda is on it, and all her episodes and a whole lot more can be viewed on the website. Since my focus is sustainable travel – including attractions here at home in Houston – it seemed a perfect fit. Scroll down to the area next to Going Green Highlights to find Roads Less Traveled.

HoustonGreenScn121I’ll also be collaborating with Houston Green Scene, which will feature a weekly column from my blog pertaining to sustainability at home and sustainable travel elsewhere. Houston Green Scene is an innovative new website and forum founded by local entrepreneur Mona Metzger covering green initiatives in the Houston area.

Especially if you live in the Houston area, but even if you don’t, take a minute to check out Going Green With Yolanda Green and the Houston Green Scene. You can also follow them on Twitter – @HoustonGreenScn and @YolandaGreen39 – and on Facebook.

Other environmental initiatives I’ve become involved in are the Last Organic Outpost, an urban farm in the inner city that’s currently planning a knockout Harvest Festival and the Transition Houston group, part of a rapidly growing global movement preparing for a sustainable transition to a less petroleum-dependent future. More on both of these later — but meanwhile, it’s good to know that there’s a whole lot going on in Houston’s green scene, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Biking Bohemeo Style July 11, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Biking, Houston, Texas , 2comments

Last night I followed up on a welcome invitation from Patrick Taylor, organizer of a new biking group over on Houston’s East End. I couldn’t think of a better way to meet new friends and explore my new city than this one — so I packed up Bessie and headed east.

Bohemeo’s, it turns out, is a pretty cool little cooling-off spot in itself – tucked inside the Tlaquepaque Market (an East End community center that’s as much fun to visit as it is to say), it’s a coffeeshop (yes, free wifi), restaurant, bar, and art & music venue all wrapped up in one.

Bohemio's, the East End's first art and music coffeehouse

Bohemeo's, the East End's first art and music coffeehouse

And now, it’s also the departure point for the city’s coolest new biking club.

Patrick Taylor checks Lajla Cline's tires in preparation for our inaugural ride.

Patrick Taylor checks Lajla Cline's tires in preparation for our inaugural ride.

It quickly became apparent that this group was not going to be like the bicycle club I trained with for the MS 150. No padded bicycle shorts or gloves here, and barely a helmet to be seen. The important thing here, I was told, was to have a good time.

“I work hard enough during the daytime,” said Elise, who was fetchingly attired in a denim dress and pink headscarf. Her hobby is biking from bar to bar, and “the getup is really important for that,” she confided. Note to self: I need to work on the getup!

There was an impressive turnout for the group’s first ride. I guess it shows the power of Facebook – and Patrick’s organizing skills. Or maybe it was just a good idea whose time had come.

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

Our first ride took us down the new Columbia TAP Trail, a rail-to-trail project inaugurated in March, and past scores of new trees planted as part of Mayor Bill White’s Million Trees + Houston Initiative. We cruised through East End neighborhoods and the TSU Campus to the McGowan Street Trail, a bike trail that parallels Brays Bayou and runs through the so-called “River Oaks of Houston,” a wealthy black neighborhood where you’ll find the mansions of famous locals like Beyonce Knowles.

The bayou here is sadly paved in concrete, unlike the Buffalo Bayou in my neighborhood, which was mercifully left intact. But the skies opened up here to the prettiest sunset I’ve seen in awhile, and I can honestly say the breezes were refreshing.

We did seven miles on this first round, and got back to Bohemeo’s before dark — in time to drink a cold one and enjoy some live music. A little soggy for a public appearance indoors, unfortunately — so the music will have to wait!

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

A farm with art – and heart July 6, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , 4comments

After a month of travel, these thirsty boots were aching for something more than the road — a place to dig in and put down some roots in the heart of this vast city. And right in the heart of one of its most blighted neighborhoods, I found it.

Cidette Rice, 5, Last Organic Outpost volunteer (and rock star)

Cidette Rice, 5, Last Organic Outpost volunteer (and rock star)

It’s a place where I can roll up my sleeves, grab a tray of squash seedlings and a shovel and put them in the ground. A place where I can reach down and run my fingers through dirt as soft and rich as that of my mother’s garden. A place that draws kindred spirits from far and wide and from right next door to work that soil. Folks like Cidette, who worked side-by-side with me to plant about 100 squash plants on Saturday, and a host of others who have contributed to an exuberantly lush expanse of vegetable abundance on a back street in Houston’s Fifth Ward.

The Last Organic Outpost is more than a garden, it’s an urban farm. It’s the brainchild and the lifework of Joe Nelson Icet, who has poured his sweat and his muscle and his life’s savings into this acreage and the other lot that surrounds his home.

“It’s not just about gardening; it’s about building a community,” Joe said.

Joe Nelson Icet, founder of the Last Organic Outpost, at the gate of his community farm

Joe Nelson Icet, founder of the Last Organic Outpost, at the gate of his community farm

About 10 years ago Joe was trying to figure out what to do with himself after a rough divorce. His job as a refrigeration maintenance man paid the bills, but didn’t fill the hole in his soul. He was looking for a mission, and as he began to plow up his yard and fill it with vegetables, he found it: to create an urban farm belt on the vacant lots in the inner city.

He found other abandoned lots to cultivate, and a community of people to help him. He found artists to come and lend their creative touch to the spot. And then he found the love of his life to help him – or, more accurately, she found him.

The vivacious Marcella Murff is now the red-haired, barbecue-cooking, bikini-wearing muse of the garden, and Joe’s never been happier.

I discovered the Outpost just days before departing for a monthlong global sojourn, and I lamented the fact that I wouldn’t be around to help for awhile.

“No worries,” said Marcella brightly. “Just think of how your garden will have grown when you come back.”

The whole story is here in Lisa Gray’s account in the Houston Chronicle, the article that first led me to Joe, and I’ll always be grateful.

“Fertility is the gateway to the soul,” Joe told me. “We start with the land and we heal it, and we end up healing ourselves.”

I looked around me at the assorted crew that had gathered to weed and hoe, a group as diverse as the vegetables they’d come to tend; I looked down at my own too-white, too-soft hands, and I saw that he was right. I grabbed a shovel and I dug in.

Farmer Joe gives Maddalena Romano a lesson in weeding.

Farmer Joe gives Maddalena Romano a lesson in weeding.

Time for a photo break!

Time for a photo break!

Patrick Taylor, flower child of the day

Patrick Taylor, flower child of the day

Art Car Parade Rocks Houston May 10, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Houston, Texas , 1 comment so far

“You’ll always remember your first one,” promised my friend Dwight. He was right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much creative whimsy and automotive sacrilege in one place in my life. But where better than Houston, where local fortunes have been built on the fuel that powers them?

Click on “View All Images” for a tour of the 2009 Art Car parade. Without the sweltering heat – or the sunburn!

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