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!