Archive for July, 2011

Oregon Live Features Our Shop

Here’s a little excerpt from the article. Read the entire article here:

Portland Homestead Supply Co., located in Sellwood, opened June 14. Bridge hopes it will serve as a one-stop shop for Portlanders wishing to get back to the basics. The store carries supplies for canning and pickling food and for making soap, candles and laundry-soap. It also carries natural cleaning supplies, garden tools, bulk animal feed, and soil nutrients such as jersey greensand and blood meal.

The store also hosts a range of classes on canning, tool sharpening, butchering, cheese making, and “bath bombs,” orbs of bath salts that immediately start fizzing and disintegrating when they hit the water (they happen to be particularly popular with kids, Bridge reports).

Bridge, who co-owns the business with her husband Doug, estimates that about 100 people visit the shop each day. “We’ve had a wonderful response,” Kristl Bridge says. “More come through the door than we anticipated.”

The Start of a Seed Exchange

It’s reassuring to know that somewhere in the arctic tundra, tucked safely in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are thousands of seeds ready to share their genetic wealth when the world needs it. I shudder to think of the numbers of native varieties of plants that have become extinct over the years; our genetic diversification becoming that much more narrow. And as important as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the National Plant Germplasm System, and other seed saving systems are, what’s most important is that we, as individuals, start taking the initiative to fight the further loss of genetic diversification.

It sounds like a daunting task, and in a way it really is.   But, when everyone works together, it can be easy and fun. It can be a Seed Exchange!  So we’re calling on all gardeners and farmers to start saving your seeds to share with others.  Here’s how it works: we provide the materials and space, and you provide the genetic diversification.

Beginning in August, we will have a table set up in the garage with various jars, envelopes, bags, labels, spoons, and markers. For those who are new to the art of seed saving, there will be a couple of guides to explain proper seed collection, cleaning, and storage. If you have an abundance of rare, heirloom, or open pollinated seeds, bring some in to share with others.  If you are looking for some seeds to plant in your own garden, come in and take what you need. It’s all free and it’s a great way to expand your garden selection and meet your neighbors. In other words, it’s a win-win.

Answering the Question

On Tuesday morning, June 14, we opened the doors of Portland Homestead Supply Co. quietly, with no fanfare, to see how our shop would be received.  We were, as one customer put it, pretty stealthy about it. On that very first morning, a woman walked in, took a quick look around at the canning jars, cheese molds and grain mills and said, “Who on earth would ever want to do all this stuff. I’m a city girl and we pay people to do this stuff.”

As I frantically tried to fire up a few synapses and come up with a witty answer to her question, she wished me good luck (not a real good luck, but the kind that means ‘good luck you poor fool’), took a sip of her triple caramel macchiato and was gone. So, two and a half weeks later, I thought I would take this, my first blog, as an opportunity to answer the question posed on our first day. I’ve given up on any attempt to be witty, and decided to turn to the most practical and eloquent gentleman on earth and borrow a much overused quote from Wendell Berry and his essay “The Total Economy”:

“What has happened is that most people in our country, and apparently most people in the ‘developed’ world, have given proxies to the corporations to produce and provide all of their food, clothing, and shelter.  Moreover, they are rapidly increasing their proxies to corporations or governments to provide entertainment, education, child care, care of the sick and the elderly, and many other kinds of ‘services’ that once were carried on informally and inexpensively by individuals or households or communities. Our major economic practice, in short, is to delegate the practice to others…The trouble with this is that a proper concern for nature and our use of nature must be practiced, not by our proxy-holders, but by ourselves.  A change of heart or of values without  a practice is only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life.”

So that is it then. That is why people might want to do all this stuff – as a way to navigate out of our ‘passively consumptive way of life’. That, I guess, is what modern homesteading is all about, and that is why we’re here.

The self-doubt of that first morning evaporated quickly as more people stopped by and shared their enthusiasm for the store and for learning the practical skills of keeping a home. In fact, I’m not sure we could have landed in a more accepting and supportive community. We’re so glad to be here and look forward to meeting all those who are ready to start on this homesteading journey. Happy Homesteading!