Growing a garden can be a great way to spend more time outside, learn valuable new skills, and even reduce your family’s grocery budget. Furthermore, you can also help feed those in need in your community simply by growing fresh produce in your backyard.
Remember that whenever possible, it’s better to shop locally. Buying from small and local businesses helps support the entire community and promotes a sense of shared responsibility. Look for who is helping to get the word out in your area, like PDX Local in Portland OR.
Steps to Starting Your Garden
If you’ve never planted a garden before, you might be confused about where to begin. Whether or not you’re a green thumb, getting acquainted with the soil and the various types of produce has huge payoffs. But first consider these ideas as you set out on your gardening venture.
To plant, tend, and harvest your vegetables, you’ll need some durable gardening tools.
Test your soil to see what level of acidity and nutrients you’re dealing with, then address high or low levels with appropriate treatment, such as adding nitrogen.
Once you have all of the tools and supplies you need, you’re ready to plant. Follow the helpful tips below on growing vegetables, herbs, trees and more!
Tend to your garden each day to ensure that your plants are healthy and promptly harvest fresh vegetables.
If you’re stumped on where to begin, consider hiring help from a local gardener or landscaper. You can survey backyard landscaping companies to help pave the way for your garden.
Preserving Your Delicious Harvest
It’s possible to plant and grow just enough in your garden for you and your family to consume, plus a little for friends, too. But if you end up with more fruits and vegetables than you know what to do with, these methods will allow you to preserve them so that they don’t spoil.
Canning your surplus vegetables is a great way to keep them fresh for months.
Stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables for soups and other dishes.
Whip up homemade jam to make your breakfasts taste a little sweeter.
Serving People in Need
Food insecurity exists in every community. In addition to selling your produce at the local farmers market for a discount of what the grocery store charges, here’s how to ensure that your extra produce goes to the people who need it most.
Encouraging your children to help you distribute food to vulnerable people can teach them about the root causes of poverty and other forms of injustice.
Host a food swap to exchange produce and canned goods with your neighbors!
Consider working with others in your neighborhood to establish a community garden where people can tend their own plots and share fresh produce.
Gardening on a Small Scale
Perhaps all this sounds great but you’re looking around at your small apartment and thinking there’s no way you can maintain a garden in such a small space. Think again! Granted, you obviously can’t feed an army in a small space, but there are plenty of people who maintain successful gardens from apartments.
When you begin your garden, you may have to go through some trial and error as you learn the ropes. But when you’re cooking up delicious dinners with your veggies and helping your neighbors put food on the table, you’ll be happy that you took on this rewarding project!
PDX Local is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping get the word out about important community resources and small business. Call 971.412.2493.
Can vegan chocolate ever be as good as the real thing?
So many people can’t have dairy or follow a vegan diet. They don’t want to settle for hard, bitter chocolate. You can still get great tasting chocolate with that creamy mouth feel and not have dairy in it. We use coconut oil for a silky-smooth mouth feel. You get that milk chocolate mouth feel without the dairy.
How do you ensure that your products are ethically and sustainable sourced?
We order from companies who source their ingredients from reputable sources. Our organic cacao powder comes from the Dominican Republic and other locations in South America. It costs more but it’s worth it.
What are some of the health benefits of coconut oil? Why choose this over other dairy alternatives?
We chose coconut oil because of the truffle like texture it provides. It also a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT’s). It helps keep you satiated or feeling full. This means that only a few pieces of Cocacao will satisfy a craving.
We are a refrigerated chocolate due to the coconut oil. We use only 3-5 ingredients in Cocacao and no stabilizers or preservatives. Due to the low melting point of coconut oil we need to be kept in the refrigerator. It doesn’t go bad if it is left out, it only gets soft in a warmer environment. In stores you can find us in the refrigerated bakery, grab-n-go, or even by the dairy. Each store is different since refrigerated space is very limited.
I am always asked what do you do with Cocacao? YOU EAT IT! Cocacao is a decadent, delicious treat that is made from 3-5 simple ingredients, no refined sugar or dairy, silky-smooth texture, pre-portioned pieces, and will satisfy in small amounts. You can melt it in short bursts in the microwave (5-10 seconds), stir and pour over granola or ice cream (creates a magic shell). People will drop it in their coffee or smoothie. But really it is just a decadent dessert that everyone can enjoy, no matter what their diet looks like.
What is your favorite flavor?
My favorite flavor is our Blueberry. It has dried organic blueberries from Oregon in it. I love the chew of the fruit in it. The Hazelnut and Sea Salt is the most popular flavor. If you enjoy an after-dinner mint, then our Mint flavor is for you. It has the cool taste of peppermint. We have a Cayenne and Cinnamon flavor that has some kick to it. Those that like a spicy chocolate will enjoy this flavor. Our Pumpkin Spice seasonal flavor is like a chocolate pumpkin pie. And those that want simplicity, our Original flavor is for you. Only three organic ingredients.
Can you talk about how Cocacao came to be?
Ours is a story of Death, Divorce and Chocolate. After the loss of Jeff’s wife and my divorce, he asked me on our first date, “Do you like chocolate and coconut?”
My answer of yes led me to not only a new marriage, but to running a company. Jeff had a health need to have a treat that would not cause inflammation and I wanted a decadent chocolate that wouldn’t cause a migraine from refined sugar. For the full story, see “Our Story” on our website.
It’s a shame that everybody in America assumes that if you’re talking about class you are Marxist. It’s a shame that in these United States populism became a dirty word — shades of racism and authoritarianism. I wrote an essay a while back trying to unpack the ways that class dynamics entrench and deepen divides around race and gender.
It was based on my own personal, lived experience. And oh yeah, there was a song that went with it.
The personal is political. That’s an ethos underlying hip hop and also feminism. I remember the day I took my friend for a walk in Forest Park. I don’t know if he’d ever been out that way before, even though he grew up in Portland. We were recording video for a crowdfunding campaign we had planned. Don’t know whatever happened to that footage. It’s probably lost until the end of time.
I don’t know what your street name is by now. You went through at least three in the time that I knew you.
I wrote this story at the end of March. Feeling a little bit alarmed that two months later, parts of this nightmare vision appear to be coming true. Ted Wheeler needs to do more to address the looming crisis of poverty and houselessness in this city. A night or two of curfew is not enough. The specter of riots and looting isn’t going anywhere, any time soon.
Imagining July 2020
by Rose C.
Successive waves of closures and reopenings have failed to stop the spread of Coronavirus, but left massive social and economic dislocation in their wake. Area hospitals have tents pitched around them, with patients being treated outside in cots. People are still lining up to get in. Grocery stores operate with armed guards outside the doors, due to periodic flare-ups of looting. Almost every other business is closed.
The National Guard has been called in to maintain order because local law enforcement is overwhelmed. A strict curfew is in place. Houseless people are being arrested and jailed. As a direct consequence, a large tent city of houseless people has grown up inside Forest Park. They are not bad people or criminals. They just don’t have anywhere else to go. Somebody has a weenie roast over a campfire. Sparks fly.
Soon all of Forest Park is in flames. The people camped there perish.
The sky darkens. The air is full of ash. Healthy people and sick people alike are choking, unable to breathe. Death rates skyrocket. The city will never be the same.
How can we avoid this fate? Very simple. Mayor Ted Wheeler needs to raise taxes and institute an emergency fund to house people and restore order. This special organization should have a different jurisdiction and coordinate closely with Multnomah County government. Distrust of the police is at an all-time high right now, but that doesn’t change the importance of the city delivering social services. It only increases the urgency.
We also need to ensure a better mechanism so that houseless / homeless people are able to vote in the fall elections.
As of a Portland, Oregon resident and taxpayer, I would gladly pay more taxes to keep my city safe in a time of need.
UPDATE: Queen Bee Creations closed its Portland retail location in 2020. You can still shop for Rebecca Pearcy’s newest designs on her website, at rebeccapearcy.com.
Interview with Queen Bee Creations founder Rebecca Pearcy
Can you describe the first bag that you made? How old were you?
Rebecca Pearcy outside her store.
I’m not sure what the first bag was that I made, but I do have a few sweet hand-sewn or crafted items that my mom saved from when I was tiny. My favorite is a little fabric elephant that is just so beautiful in that handmade by a child way that is inimitable. I was probably 3 or 4 when I made it? I have loved making things with my hands for as long as I can remember and my mom really fostered that in me. She is a fine artist and did all kinds of crafts with me growing up. Things really took off when I learned how to sew on a machine and I started sewing my own clothing, both from store-bought patterns and improvising my own designs. While I like to make and sew all kinds of things, sewing clothing is my favorite, so I didn’t start making the bags that led to Queen Bee until I was in my early 20’s. I used funky materials like fake fur, shiny vinyl, upholstery velvets, and vintage / upcycled materials. One of my first bag designs was a mini backpack out of shiny vinyl with a Wonder Woman comic image laminated and sewn onto the front with clear vinyl.
Who is the typical Queen Bee customer? Is there one?
I think a lot of our customers are similar to me – they are in my age range (I’m 45) and are pretty practical, so they want something that is functional, that is good quality, that will last, and expresses their sense of style or individuality. And they are excited to support a woman-owned business that they can feel connected to and good about.
Have you ever gotten pushback for using faux materials like vinyl instead of leather? Or do you find that consumers embrace the trend?
No, not really. Occasionally someone will scoff at the non-leather material but leather & faux-leather are entirely different beasts (so to speak). People choose them for different reasons. We are known for working with vinyl, which we did for many years, but a number of years ago we stopped making our bags with vinyl and switched to using PVC free faux-leathers. We also work with a lot of waxed canvas and some leather for handles and straps (along with non-leather options). Leather is an amazing material, in terms of it’s qualities and durability. Faux-leather is waterproof, a lot more affordable, and comes in lots of colors. It suits the rainy PNW active and non-fussy lifestyle well.
What inspired you to expand into screen printing?
In 1997, after I finished college in Washington, I went out to Philadelphia to do an apprenticeship at The Fabric Workshop. It totally changed my life – I felt like I had found something I really really loved. At the heart of my love of making is my love of fabrics. And at my apprenticeship I learned how to design patterns in repeat, make silkscreens of my designs, and print them in repeat on a 25 yard long table. It was so fun and satisfying to create my own fabric. Because of the space and equipment set up needed to do this type of printing, it took me a few years to get to the point where I could print my own fabric. That’s when I launched the Rebecca Pearcy Textiles line. Currently we have a 23’ long print table in our studio where we print all of our fabric. It’s still my favorite part of what we do and I’m working on expanding it even more to include apparel and more housewares.
Screen Printing in the Studio
How many people do you employ in Portland?
I have eight wonderful employees! They are an awesome team that include 2 production sewists, 2 production workers (cutting, prepping, finishing), 2 retail folks, an operations manager, and a bookkeeper. This small but mighty team does it all. We do all the designing, sewing, printing, production, shipping, website management, retail store buying and selling, marketing, managing the workflow, and management of the business itself.
The Studio from Above
Describe the role that Portland has had on your business and brand. Do you believe the city is still a viable home for small and emerging businesses?
Portland has been a great place to run a handmade, creative, small business. People here “get it” — many choose to live here because there’s so much going on in the creative / making realm and are stoked to support the businesses that make Portland, Portland. From attending college at Evergreen, to living and starting Queen Bee in Olympia, WA, to relocating to Portland in 2002, I have always thrived on the hotbed of creativity in the Pacific Northwest. But the way the city is changing and developing rapidly could pose a threat to businesses like mine being able to continue thriving. So that is cause for concern. Part of what made Portland so relatively easy was affordability, for space, for homes. If I was just opening my business right now and looking for space to operate out of, I’d be hard pressed. I hope that the city can preserve and value it’s artisans that bring people from all over the world so we can keep trucking on and keep making Portland a truly special place that offers diversity, variety, and beauty that you can’t find just anywhere.
Do you have a favorite handbag?
My current fave products of ours that I use the most are:
The Ramona Tote
The Becca Backpack
The Hip Holster
What designers and artists have influenced your work?
I’m a huge fan of Marimekko, for their amazing and colorful print designs, as well as Vera Neumann. And I love lots of Japanese fashion, design, and textiles. I admire Frietag for their business model of making one-of-a-kind bags from up cycled truck tarps – they were an early leader in this. I adore Bonnie Cashin bag designs from the 60’s / 70’s.
Did you know that if you run, hike, or bike on a day when the air quality is labeled “Unhealthy,” you can permanently damage your lungs? Don’t take a chance. If you want or need to be active outdoors in areas experiencing air pollution due to heavy industry, car traffic, or forest fires, these products will help keep you safe.
Everything listed below is washable and reusable. I specifically chose affordable products available online. You can save a few dollars and buy a cheap disposable ventilator mask from a hardware store, of course, but it will be less comfortable, offer less protection, and as a throwaway product, contribute to the problems we are all concerned about.
If you have yard work to do this weekend, or if you want to keep walking or biking to work—even when the air is bad—considering investing in a reusable mask.
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to give health, medical, or fitness advice. Exercise at your own risk. Consult your doctor or another helaht professional if you are unsure whether it is safe to exercise or to be outside. All opinions expressed are those solely of the PDX Local blog, and do not represent its sponsors, affiliates, or guest contributors. No paid advertising or paid endorsements have been provided for the products featured above. The reviewer makes no claims regarding the efficacy, workmanship, utility, or safety of any of the products listed above. Use and purchase at your own risk.