More Extreme Recycling

Recycling and repurposing are not novel concepts, though at times it seems that here we’ve taken them to an extreme. Originally it was a matter of necessity; finances dictated everything so we learned to creatively make do with what was available in a variety of instances. Somewhere along the path, though, we got stuck in that mode. Then, we had a kid, and he got stuck there, too. Situations have varied from the mundane and expected, to significantly more extreme.

This was taken when Jordan was three fourths of the way to securing his engineering degree at Purdue University, it was apparent at that time that he’d already achieved a PhD in Junk Management and Logistics. This particular acquisition was the result of careful negotiations with parties in at least three central Indiana locations. It included outdoor furnishings, building materials, automotive components, appliances and previously used beverage containers.

Summer of 2022 saw the addition of another family member with an affinity for thrifting. The wedding was to be here on the farm, and Jordan’s bride Kaiti had a vision. After terminating a less-than-capable wedding planner, she got a (thrifty) plan of her own. The day Jordan showed up with A BOX TRUCK FULL of decorations that she’d made, I had no idea of what she had planned. I was mostly freaking out over where it was all going to go. I pestered him for details as he carried box after box in and stuffed them amongst the HoofPrints inventory – his answers were vague and I became increasingly more concerned about what this was all going to look like.

What gainfully-employed young person doesn’t need their own box truck to, you know, haul around bunches of random stuff in their spare time? This one’s a repurposed Marketplace find, having served a construction company in its previous life.

One of the most worrisome inclusions in the whole lot was the hoard of empty glass liquor bottles. Nobody counted them, but suffice to say there were hundreds. Hundreds. Something was said about “lining the path” and “lights inside”… I was more than a little skeptical. Visions of people impaled by broken glass shards in the dark danced through my head. As he carried them in, Jordan pointed out some of the more unusual bottles, sharing that he’d fished them out of a dumpster behind the somewhat-famous Stoneville Saloon, a biker bar in Alzada, Montana.

THAT’S SOME SERIOUS DEDICATION TO RECYCLING: dragging bottles from the trash 1,200 miles to be used as wedding decorations. I worried that the guests would think that we’d consumed all that booze. When I found out that the “lights inside” were, in fact, the purpose of the super-sized Amazon carton of glow sticks, I added worrying about whether they’d be bright enough to my list of concerns; trying to calculate the relative lumens of a glow stick and imagining guests wandering around lost in the poison ivy that we’d failed to get under control… (I won’t even mention the angry ground bees that we discovered in the process of trying to get the poison ivy under control. I didn’t realize at the time, but bees were to bee-come a recurring theme.)

Here’s a daylight shot of the bottle-lined path that leads from the parking area to the tent where the wedding ceremony was held. The big oval mirror among the trees on the left is also repurposed; Kaiti cut vinyl decals to embellish it with “Welcome to Our Beginning” and decorated the top with flowers from the craft store.
On wedding day, a handful of friends activated all the glow sticks and dropped them into the bottles shortly before dark. By nightfall, the effect was truly magical. It’s unfortunate that the photographer had left by then; the only pictures we have are from cell phone cameras that didn’t come close to capturing what it really looked like.

Earlier that summer, when my Facebook friends started asking me if I’d chosen my mother-of-the-groom dress, it occurred to me that I’d forgotten to worry about that. Not only did I forget to worry about it, I hadn’t even thought about it. Unconcerned, I went to my fave websites; the ones I never actually buy from but I thought if I ever did buy nice clothes I’d get them there. Surprisingly, I wasn’t finding anything suitable and as the days wore on I became increasingly anxious about what I was going to wear.

I knew better than to go to Etsy, but I did it anyway

To say things spiraled out of control from that point forward would be a massive understatement. The words “It seemed like a good idea at the time…” came to mind as I subsequently found myself all-in on a custom order for a dress made, you guessed it, out of RECYCLED MATERIALS. And, just in case recruiting a stranger to construct a garment I’d be wearing for this Most Important Day, that would be seen by a couple hundred people and exist forevermore in photographs was not dicey enough, I upped the stress ante even more and commissioned a stranger FROM SWEDEN.

What could possibly go wrong? In yet another bizarre twist, the maker herself turned out to be EXACTLY MY SIZE, which sorta felt like a little nudge from above that it was going to be okay – as I am 5’10.” Google says that I’m in the 99th percentile in height for women my age, so the odds of my randomly picking a dressmaker my same height and build are infinitesimal at best. This removed any worries about whether or not it would fit as expected.

I’d never been involved in a project like this before, and the process was absolutely fascinating. Carolina Nord is a self-taught seamstress; she’s been crafting since she was a young child. Throughout the few weeks that we worked together, I bombarded her with questions about how she’d arrived at such a unique and creative style of dressmaking. Here’s her story:

“I think what inspired me initially, is when I was seven, my very kind and (in my eyes) almost magical teacher in first grade. She made dramatized fairytales with tiny handmade dolls. This lead me to make my own little dolls out of various materials, small rags and scraps that I’d collected on my adventures. When I was eleven I started to create outfits for my barbie dolls inspired by the fashion in music videos on MTV. I cut my mothers nylon stretch tights into tiny pieces and made a gorgeous outfit inspired by (eighties Swedish singer-songwriter) Neneh Cherry!

I’m greatly energized by Nature, and particularly by Swedish children’s book author/illustrator Elsa Beskow’s paintings of fairies, elves, flower people interacting with flora and fauna as well as children. Creating clothing with this theme, and colours from the outdoor environment, has come naturally as a result of this influence.

I began experimenting with dyes in high school, when I got an old tie-dye kit from my boyfriend’s mother. I became obsessed with blending colors to get the perfect shades and I have learned colour knowledge from years of experimentation. It’s sometimes hard to get the right colour, with different materials, because some of the whites are bleached, and that can make the colors accept dye differently. This process takes place in my kitchen sink.

~ dressmaker Carolina Nord, Hässelby, Sweden

Carolina’s dresses start out white; the base is a simple cotton gown, to which the magic is added. The women in my family were avid needleworkers; I learned to crochet at an early age, and I immediately recognized some of the bits that were being added as remnants of handmade doilies, bedspreads, and tablecloths. Her mastery of the dyestuffs became apparent as the shades of teal and purple that I’d asked for emerged, along with colors I’d not considered; olive, taupe, and glimmers of magenta.

I had jokingly told her I was striving for a “feral mom” look, and she took me at my word

What showed up next in the progress pictures took my breath away. Tiny glass beads. And colored pearls. Bits of gauze and intensely colored silk string. AND BEES. Carolina had no way to know that the site of the wedding where this dress would be worn had been previously a tract of mono-culture farmland. Productive for crops; for creatures, not so much. The past two decades we’d spent changing that; repurposing that flat field into a pond with surrounding windbreak shelter and prairie habitat, planting carefully selected native trees, shrubs, biennials and perennials – all with the goal of attracting wildlife, birds, butterflies, and of course, pollinators. Right there, prominently placed on the front of my feral mom dress – were two tiny brass bees. A fun nod from beyond that having this dress made from other peoples’ recycled textile parts was a fitting decision for this special event.

Carolina was as stoked as I, and from that point on she made speedy progress. She finished well ahead of her projected completion date and the dress arrived here in fine shape shortly after. It fit perfectly and was even more unusual in person than it was in the photos. More than once I found myself awash with anxiety; “WTF have I done here – showing up at our son’s wedding looking like a bag lady!?” Then, I’d remember the bees, calm down, and decide once again that everything was going to be okay.

The wedding day came and my tattered, cut-up lace curtain and doily-encrusted, bee-laden dress was no longer taking up one bit of space in my head as I (along with 180+ others) witnessed the union of this couple; the beginning of their new life together.

You can see the pond in the background in many of the wedding pictures. The same pond that Jordan and his dad dug together when he was just a boy. We planted every one of these trees, repurposing this little corner of an unremarkable Indiana farm into a home and haven for creatures and humans alike. It was as if it were all planned to fit into this special day; box truck, bottles and bees included.

Wanna read more?

  • Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! is my “real” job.
  • You can read more posts about horses here
  • For more fun on the farm, go here
  • Adventures in remodeling are here
  • Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here
  • Laughable housekeeping advice is here


  1. Really beautiful story & lots of laughs involved! What a wonderful wedding day & how well put together it was. I completely “get” recycle & collect! My son who was a Ford mechanic years ago has managed to save loads of “parts” for cars & everything else – much in my garage!!!
    Thanks Gina

    Liked by 1 person

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