Meeting with Michael Reed—gardener, thinker and doer in Albuquerque’s South Valley—gives me a new and clear understanding of what it means to be grounded. He is engaged less with the rhythms of hard drives and internet connections and more with those of plants, days and seasons. Michael runs La Orilla Farm with his wife, Susan, and teaches the Mother of All Back-Yard Gardening Courses; he is also part of the Erda Gardens and Learning Center’s core group.
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When I arrive at La Orilla Farm, Michael is out front, keeping an eye open for me. I stop and put the window down. “You must be Michael Reed,” I say.

“Yes,” he replies, smiling and looking around. “I must be.” Continue reading

Trash Fashion

This weekend, the annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival returns to town for its 15th year. “The country’s largest and oldest recycled art market” kicks off with tonight’s trash fashion show, followed by two days of of more than 200 artists—whose works consist of a minimum of 75-percent recycled materials—from around the country. The trash fashion show, says Thalia Gibbs-Jackson, a a third-year participant in the festival, “is where everyone—a regular person, to a high school student to an old grandma and grandpa—gets to be a fashion model for a day.” Gibbs-Jackson, who designs, among other products, unique tote bags made of recycled materials, says the artistry is breathtaking. “I was blown away, totally blow away. The quality of work in the show is very very high.” In their own words, two young women participating in this year’s Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival at the Community Convention Center tell their stories:

Jasmine Russell

I have been an artist from a young age. I am 18 now and am currently a high school senior at the Public Academy For Performing Arts in Albuquerque. I love working with impractical materials, it makes things much more interesting. If you want to be a successful artist, it’s important that your work be unique and interesting. I make accessories and portraits out of duct tape and I make collages, accessories, jewelry, wall art and clothing out of found/recycled materials. My first year competing in the Trash Fashion Show was in 2010. I refer to this as my practice year. I was still learning the basics of clothing design and I didn’t know much about the show itself. My dress that year was a combination of my two favorite mediums; duct tape and newspaper. I didn’t place that year, but I had a marvelous time and I learned a lot. In 2011, I used fabric from an old mattress and a patio umbrella to make my gown. I took first place in the teen category that year.

Last year, 2012, I made a ’20s inspired dress out of cigar bands, pieces of soda cans, and a patio umbrella. I placed second in the teen category. I participate in a wide variety of arts based events throughout the year. I sing, I compete, I make clothes, I sell my art in big events. Recycle Santa Fe is by far my favorite event. I look forward to it all year. From being part of this event, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve been presented opportunities I never thought I’d have. Not to mention, it’s a blast! I’ve met some great people these past few years, and even though it is a competition, the atmosphere is inviting and relaxed.

Chiara Brandy

I am 16 years old and I’ve been doing the fashion show for about 6 years now. In the past I’ve used many materials for my dresses including, target bags, candy wrappers, plastic inner tubes/ pool toys, maps, and last year’s newspaper bags and Chinese fortunes. I got into the fashion show by word of mouth and because of my love of fashion design that had started at an early age. My grandmother, Gioia Tama, an amazing seamstress, had been in the very first Trash Fashion Show and was thrilled when I wanted to get into it as well!

When I participated my first year it was fairly last minute and my sewing skills were more taping skills if anything! However, the next year I was back, with a dress I had designed and sewed each candy wrapper myself. Of course, in the first two years I walked in the show, all of us younger girls back stage whispered to each other and admired the outfits in the older categories which had the opportunity to win a prize for their creation. So the next year I asked my grandmother to help teach me how to cut out a pattern for the target bag dress that ended up taking 2nd place in the show. Every year since then, the show has been something I look forward to as a chance to show my creativity and style in a really fun and unique way. Working with unconventional materials has not only given me a challenge as a young seamstress but also broadened my clothing constructing skills greatly because of this.

Last year, my grandmother, who I was extremely close to, passed away. So, for me, the show is more of a tradition; a memory of my grandmother and my creations and hard work together that i will always hold in my heart. I knew that making my dress would be a completely different experience this time, which was difficult. Remembering everything she had taught me about sewing, from pattern construction to needle choice i made a dress i knew she would be proud of. And I added the fortunes that her and i had been saving for years to finish it off. Walking on stage last year in that dress made me feel alive. All of us who do the show are creators and artists. When we see the outfit that we put our hearts and spirit into go out onto that runway, its a really special feeling.

Over time, I have meandered away from the career choice of fashion design, however I know that I will always hold a special interest for it, especially when designing once a year for the Trash Fashion Show. I look forward to this year’s show as it just gets better each year!

For more information on the Trash Fashion Show and Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, visit For more information about Thalia Gibbs-Jackson’s work, email Photos by Lavelle Jacobs, courtesy Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival.


hugelkultur garden layout

Hugelkultur Garden

by Gail Snyder

“Hugelkultur” is the kind of word my dad would’ve loved. If I’d called him up and said, “Hi, Dad! I’m making a hugelkultur garden,” he would’ve interrupted me immediately, giving it endless variations—hoooooglekultur; hewglekultur—of Dr. Strangelove pronunciations, laughing at his own wit. It’s the kind of word that encourages silliness.
And actually, as a gardening technique, hugelkultur totally lives up to the wacky spirit of its name. It’s virtually rule-less, so there’s no way you can screw it up. It uses a ton of unconventional materials—trash, basically—not ordinarily associated with gardening. And so if, like me, you hate following recipes and instructions and you love madcap adventures, hugelkultur is for you. Continue reading

Schoolyard Gardens

santa fe waldorf school gardenSchoolyard Gardens: Waldorf

Anyone who thinks that kids today are lazy hasn’t met Michael Oellig’s third grade students.

These nine- and ten-year-old Santa Fe Waldorf School students are an enthusiastic bunch. They greet visitors with a Ute blessing that sounds like a lilting song, look adults in the eye and…think plowing a garden by hand is fun.

It’s a bright Friday afternoon, the sky outside painted with pale cirrus clouds. The kids have just come in from recess, and their cheeks are flush from running around the playground through the cool late-winter air. Their south-facing classroom is sunny, warm and welcoming. Potted plants thrive along the windows, and the deep yellow walls cast everything in a golden light. An inspiring sense of calm pervades the room, even as the kids move furniture about. They laugh with each other as they quickly set up chairs in a large circle, then stand patiently until everything is ready for what will be a vibrant discussion about one of their favorite things about their school: the garden.

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Erin Wade

Erin Wade’s Nambé farm is home to a curious cast of characters.

There’s the large flock of what Wade calls “ridiculously hormonal” chickens ranging freely over the property. They keep the pests down, roost in the trees and sometimes break into the house. Four very large pigs root around in a sturdy pen above the driveway. They spend their days taking mud baths and arguing with a bold pair of ravens over savory tidbits of slop. Charlie, Wade’s “egg-suckin’ hound,” pokes around in the shadows looking for wayward chicken eggs.

Finally, there’s Hopkins, a little orange cat that showed up on the farm one day and decided to stay. Hopkins is named after poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. She follows Wade around the farm, wagging her long striped tail and basking in the sunshine. She’s a cat that thinks she’s a dog.

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