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.
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.
Who is Molly Muriel? What inspired you to choose that name?
The name Molly Muriel was inspired by my dog. That was her name, and she was my biggest inspiration when I started this company. She was just a pup back in 2002, and sadly left this Earth last year, at almost 16 years of age. So she had a very long and happy life. Her legacy lives on with this business, and she is still a great inspiration.
I read your story on the website. Can you tell us more about the journey from a candle making class to your own line of vegan soaps, balms, and cosmetics?
After spending a good year trying every kind of candle I could find info on, I wanted to branch out. I’m not sure why soap was my goal, but I quickly dove in and tried my first batch. Back then there wasn’t so much information online like we can find now, so I was reading books on fixed oils, fragrances, colorants, and pretty much tried them all. I truly feel that not being able to access so many recipes and info gave me a huge advantage of completely understanding the process of formulation and saponification from the ground up. Through many mistakes and troubleshooting came the beginnings of the product line that exists today.
What does being vegan mean to you? Do you personally practice a vegan lifestyle?
I’m not one to love labels, i.e. vegan, vegetarian, etc. I live my life more from a conscientious standpoint. I’m a clean eater, avoiding processed and chemical derived foods. As for environment, I try to avoid plastic when possible, and use as many recycled goods as possible. Veganism is such an individual thing and can mean different things to many people. Being a lover of animals, I do what I can to respect them in all of my life choices, including the food I eat, the clothes I choose to wear, and the goods I purchase.
What goes into your testing and product development process?
My process begins with research and development. I do a lot of investigation on ingredients I want to implement. I read about their nourishing attributes, as well as potential allergens or irritants. I also dive deep into sourcing to make sure that the ingredient that reaches me is the best quality. As for testing, my friends and family are usually my best test subjects. They give me honest feedback about scent, function, reactions, or anything else that may pertain. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by great people who will take the time to try some of my creations.
What are some of the challenges of marketing, manufacturing, and distributing an independent, plant-based brand in a crowded global marketplace?
Marketing is a huge part of business, it has the largest impact on getting my brand out there. It also happens to be my least favorite part of running a small business. But I’ve found that it’s very necessary to have a great marketing strategy or you won’t get the information about your products to the people that are looking for it. I’ve done everything from trade shows and cold calling to emailing and visiting potential stores in person to try to connect. It’s a lot of work, but can also be very rewarding. Manufacturing can be challenging as well, as I’ve gotten to points where I’ve had to purchase ingredients in larger quantities and make bigger batches, there’s always a learning curve with each step forward. I still go through that now, 16 years in! As for distribution, I’ve realized that my industry, natural beauty/body care, has been on the rise and will just keep going, so I don’t try to compete with large companies. I have a vey different product that will appeal to those folks that seek natural and healthy lifestyles. I do what I can and figure that beyond that the products will speak for themselves, and so far they have.
What are some gifts you would recommend for vegans? (These can be from your store, but they don’t have to be.)
Of course I would suggest anything from my product line. However, one of our lines stands out for vegans. It can be very difficult to find vegan lip balm, most is made with bees wax. We use candelilla wax and floral wax instead, which is so very nourishing to chronically chapped lips. My favorite is the lavender mint. Outside of my product line, I really love Queen Bee products using vinyl instead of leather. They also have a 25% discount buy-back program that rocks! Also, a gift certificate to Blossoming Lotus or Sweetpea Baking Company would be excellent, two of my favorites! Yum!!
What is the most popular item / product among your customers?
Our bar soaps have always been great sellers, specifically the Volcanic Bliss bar. I can’t seem to keep that one in stock. During the winter months we sell a lot of candles, the Spice It Up being a big hit, it has cinnamon and clove essential oils and is warm and spicy during those winter months.
This isn’t a question but I have to say that as someone with perennially chapped lips, your lip balm is truly the best thing I have ever tried. Better than all the national brands. Thank you.
Founder Branda Tiffany
Well, thank you! I find the same thing to be true. I had chronically chapped lips for years and did research to formulate this product for myself. The mimosa floral wax I use helps not only to heal tissue, but is a great protectant against the elements. I’m sure that’s why it has been so great for me 🙂 I’m so glad that you’re experiencing the same thing!!
You’ve been in business since 2002. Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say, put your focus on feeding your soul before your bank account, and this can be a very sustainable venture for you in the long run. Of course we have to be practical, but true happiness comes from choosing to do something that we love and the money will follow. Don’t give up, just keep your eyes and ears open, and listen to others’ advice, whether you take it or not. One of the worst things we can do is to be stubborn and let our ego get in our way. If we move that aside we can be very successful in all the ways that matter.
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.
A small, self-organized group of individuals decided to take on the task of cleaning up the Willamette River Beach near Cathedral Park around noon this Sunday. We had fun, and our efforts had a noticeable impact! The organizers hope to set up regular impromptu cleanups every 4 to 6 weeks. If you would like to be notified of these events, contact PDX Local.