Archive for the ‘Meanderings’ Category

It Takes A Village To Make An Omelet

I know it’s fall in Portland because when I woke up yesterday, it was so dark and the clouds were hanging so low I had to look at the clock to be sure it was morning. It was morning, Sunday morning, the one day a week that I make an effort to cook a nice breakfast for the two of us. I made it to the kitchen with eyes partially shut and that stiff, Frankenstein-like walk that seems to get worse with each year I make it past 45. I had nothing planned, so it meant standing in the middle of the kitchen and looking around to see what I could come up with.

The first thing that caught my eye was the carton of duck eggs from Chris Chulos’ farm near Oregon City. He delivers chicken and duck eggs every Friday to the shop and I’d never tried duck eggs before. I snagged a box before going home Saturday night. There they were, the beige and green eggs staggered in a checkerboard pattern in the carton. Perfect. An omelet it would be. Now, what else…

Last Friday Doug had a day off from school and Martha, our manager, agreed to work the whole day so that Doug and I could go to Newberg and Dundee to do some wine tasting. It was a fabulous day, but the best part of our trip to wine country was the last stop of the day when we drove out to the Beroldingen Farm for fresh goat cheese. It’s a small family farm off NE Bell road in Newberg – not easy to find, but well worth the hunt. As you drive up the driveway, you see a little red and white shed next to the big house. There are chickens wandering everywhere and little pens of goats scattered all over the property. Inside the shed is a small refrigerator and a money box. It’s the honor system, so we make sure to bring enough cash for our goat-cheese habit. Now, I’ve been making goat cheese for a few years from the milk of our little Nigerian Dwarf goats, and we both love our homemade cheese, but the cheeses from Beroldingen are possibly the most delicious goat cheeses I’ve ever tasted. The Chehalem is a mild soft-rind cheese that I tend to favor, but we always get a container of the fresh chevre for cooking – you know, like omelets.

This was a good start – eggs and cheese, but I needed more. Anyone who’s been to the shop and met Doug probably knows that he’s the conversationalist in the family. ‘Nuf said. So it’s probably no surprise that when Doug noticed a couple of guys walking past the store carrying a basket of mushrooms, he had to go chat with them and find out what the deal was with all those mushrooms. Twenty minutes later, we had some new friends and a bunch of chantrelle and bolete mushrooms. Yum – mushroom omelets!

Now we just needed a little extra flavor to help carry but not overpower the mushrooms. Voila – sitting in the onion basket, three beautiful grey shallots that Connor from Diggin’ Roots Farm brought the other night when he came for dinner. Of course, the blueberry wine and Asian pear juice Connor brought were long gone (and much appreciated), but I still had those lovely shallots with their shiny red skins and mild garlicy-onion flavor. Since Connor and his wife Sarah had just finished giving a class at the shop on growing garlic, I knew they were expert Allium growers and that these shallots would be delicious. Yes, the perfect accompaniment for the mushroom and chevre omelet.

Finally, a little of the fresh cow’s milk that we pick up each week from Colleen’s farm in Molalla and some fresh parsley from the neighbor’s garden and there it was, a perfect omelet – with the help of some friends.

The point is that we sometimes tend to equate homesteading with self-sufficiency – the idea that we have to do it all ourselves. But you know, I don’t raise duck eggs, or make amazing goat cheese, or know where to find beautiful chantrelles, or even grow shallots. But I don’t have to do all those things because I’m part of a community that shares such abundance. We each have different abilities and resources to bring to the table. The most important part of homesteading is to actually come to the table, be a part of the community and share what we have to offer. In the long run, it’s the help of friends and neighbors that gets us through the tough times. So get out there and start forging those relationships. And a huge thank you to all the friends that helped make our Sunday omelet. It was delicious!

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!