PaperCity Magazine

July 2013 - Houston

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Handmade free-form structure. Chairs carved from tree roots in Bali. Woven chairs and tall fan-like structures also from Bali. The entry to the Center with rough-hewn beams from the property and thatched roof. Plaster walls made on site. Organic Mandarin oranges. Free-form children's play area. Heirloom tomatoes. Stained-glass Moroccan lamp. Organic Easter-egg radishes. ceilings and a collection of carved- and turned-wood furniture chosen during their travels. A large deck wraps the structure almost in its entirety. The overhanging roof shades the deck from direct sun and slopes to provide an optimum mounting surface for a series of solar panels, which supply much of the power. The main living area is raised eight feet from the ground, giving the home its treehouse connotation while taking advantage of the prevailing southern breeze and cooling the home on all but the hottest of days. But Animal Farm is much more than just a home. The grounds host a number of impressive structures, all designed and built by the Vanwoerdens. Common throughout is the use of a material called flying concrete, which allows for free-form structures to be created from materials harvested from the farm. Throughout the grounds are arches, cottages and gazebos, as well as hand-wrought stone and mortar fences that demarcate various working areas. It's important to note that Animal Farm is in fact a working farm. What began as a simple hobby garden has grown into a true organic farm harvesting produce year-round for Houston restaurants such as Monica Pope's Sparrow, Benjy's, Local Foods, Haven, Sorrel, Roots, Oxheart and Uchi. Thus began what would become a series of longstanding culinary relationships with pioneering chefs. Environmentally conscious, sincere and progressive, the farm has become an important component of the local restaurant scene and continues to promote the farm-to-table movement. Later this fall, the Vanwoerdens will host dinners by Uchi, Sorrel, Oxheart and The Pass & Provisions. With summer in full bloom, they are harvesting fresh peas and beans, squash, squash blossoms, carrots, radishes and turnips, along with their specialty baby greens, which they grow year-round. You can find these wonders at Urban Harvest's East Side Farmers Market every Saturday morning. As the Vanwoerdens continue to cultivate heirloom, organic and innovative produce, promote awareness of local producers and the food we eat, and craft their utopian compound, we, dear readers, reap the benefits. The hallmarks of the 18th-century master architect Gaudí – organic stylings, twisted iron sculpture, undulating shapes and pops of colored glass and mosaics – are all here …

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