Category Archives: Community

The Giving Chair

Artichoke seedling on the giving chair.

Artichoke seedling on the giving chair.

On my little porch, there is a little chair. When it was black, it wasn’t much to look at. Now it’s a cheerful shade of yellow.

Succulent babies on the giving chair.

Succulent babies on the giving chair.

At first, it was just a chair, but soon it became a place to exchange gifts with friends and neighbors. The more I share my skills and passion for homegrown food with the community, the more they give back to me. I often come home to find happy little surprises waiting on the chair and I am ever grateful.

Egg cartons on the giving chair.

Egg cartons on the giving chair.

During an egg exchange, when I left eggs for her and she left empty cartons and other goodies for me, my neighbor called it the giving chair. The name stuck and it continues to give.

Figs on the giving chair.

Figs on the giving chair.

Yesterday, a friend dropped off some fresh figs she picked. She left them for me on the giving chair. After a long day of prepping and planning for the first week of school, I put my hair up, got out the water bath canner and got to work making some fig jam. It turned out so good, I decided to enter it into the Puyallup fair this morning. The giving chair might have just given me another blue ribbon! Fingers crossed!

Heads up!

My last canning class of the season, the only one that is not yet sold out, will be this Sunday, August 25th! Have you been wanting to can, but just aren’t sure how? Take this class and I’ll show you how! Click here for more information!

Urban Farm and Garden Resources You Need to Know About

heartI found myself emailing this information to a reader the other day. I wanted to make sure you knew about these awesome resources in our area that I love.

Seattle Seed Library

It’s happening! A group of Seattle gardeners and seed savers have organized a seed library in Seattle! What’s a seed library?

A seed library offers a simple means of preserving, diversifying and sharing seeds. When you’re ready to plant something new in your garden, borrow seeds from the library – FOR FREE! It doesn’t cost anything to be a member or to borrow seeds. Member donations keep the library stocked for the next season.

Saving seeds has become an important part of my garden and I can’t wait to contribute to this community seed library! I’ve been reading about them lately (check out this article) and wished we had one around here. Now we do! Click here to learn more.

Übr Local

Übr Local is a cool urban food network where you can create a profile and then buy, sell or swap your homestead goods with others in the area. Their mission:

We are building a collaborative food economy that values human energy, under-utilized space, and the power of neighbors helping neighbors. Together we can rebuild an uber local food economy!. We define uber local as anything produced and consumed within roughly 10 miles of each other or within city limits.

It’s like a super specific, urban farm version of Craig’s List that allows you to connect with other gardeners and urban farmers in your neighborhood and in other communities. I recently created a profile and am excited to post some of my harvests to swap or sell! It’s like a virtual egg stand! Click here to create your own profile.

Backyard Barter

Similarly, Backyard Barter is a network of gardeners connecting with each other around Seattle in order to barter or trade their homegrown food and related food and materials. They host monthly bartering fairs, which I have yet (emphasis on yet) to attend, but definitely will one of these days.

Seattle Farm Co-op

Surely, you know the co-op already, but I had to include them in case you don’t. I have learned more from their Yahoo group and skills share classes than I have learned from anywhere else. When I started raising chickens, it was like having friends I could trust if I had a question. Even now, with years of experience under my belt, I still learn and benefit from this amazing co-op and community of urban farmers. If you have not visited their physical warehouse or home on the web, you should. They are an incredibly valuable resource in this community.

Summer Fruit for Winter Smoothies

blueberriesYesterday, I went blueberry picking for the first time this season. You know how much I love blueberries – they’re my favorite! Rachel and I made it a sister date and enjoyed over an hour of picking with practically the whole farm to ourselves.

I decided to buy a membership at Blue Dog Blueberry Farm in Carnation, which means I can go blueberry picking on their farm whenever I want! You weigh and pay for the blueberries yourself. Sunset blueberry picking? Sure! Monday morning picking? Absolutely! Whenever I want, like it’s my farm!

Photo1 (1)As I looked at my pantry, still full of last summer’s fruit, and I decided what to do with this year’s harvests. I’ll be freezing all of it. I just don’t eat jam as much as I think I would. What I do know is that I use my new Vitamix all the time and if I can put up enough fruit to add a little summer to my smoothies all winter long, I’ll be a happy girl!

What’s your favorite way to preserve summer fruit?

Urban Farm Shirt Love

IMG_6932My friend Shango and I have always been kindred spirits with a hunger for a simpler life. Our friendship was forged as we exchanged home-canned goodies and shared gardening resources. He visited my bathtub brooder when I started raising chicks and I celebrated for him when he made the move to Vashon Island to live the homestead life. We’re longtime homestead partners in crime. And now, he’s making fun and colorful t-shirts “for homesteading enthusiasts” and I couldn’t be more excited for him! As I saw each new design, I squealed, “Oh! I love that one! That’s so me!” And that’s because he is walking the talk and is as enthusiastic about this way of life as I am.

I’m writing this post not because Shango’s a good friend, but because I believe in this new local business and think it’s just too fun not to share! I decided to ask him about what Shangobrand is all about:

FCSML_flyer_branded_websizeSo, Shango, where did your interest in homesteading start? How did you get into this lifestyle yourself?

Homesteading really startled me as an adult when I first took a ferry over to Vashon Island from Seattle for a farm to table dinner at Kurtwood Farms. The proprietor there, Kurt Timmermeister served a seven course meal entirely produced on his farm, except for the salt, wine, olive oil and coffee beans.  I was floored by the tastiness of the food, the plated colors and the magic of sitting at a long dinner table with 20 people all cross-chatting after strolling through gardens.  I was filled with a vision of a better way of living.  Of course, there were other people just like me coming to similar realizations all over the country.  I owe my food and lifestyle enlightenment to folks who blazed the trail like Joel SalatinMichael Pollan, Kurt Timmermeister, Chef Matt Dillon, and Michael Hebberoy’s One Pot underground food events.  Of course also, The Foxfire Books and oddly enough, S.M. Sterling’s, Emberverse series of novels.  While there are plenty of folks who ushered in the food revolution, these are the folks who I personally listened to and where I caught homesteading fever.

ShangoLos_withLamb_bio_unbranded_1000pWhat was the catalyst for starting Shangobrand? What inspired you?

After that first trip to Kurtwood Farms for dinner, I began coming over to Vashon Island for weekend volunteering trips at different farms where I would help with harvesting or building a goat milking parlor and then sleep in the back of my car overnight.  On Sundays though, I had to return across the ferry to Seattle and really preferred not to go back to my fast paced tech entrepreneur life.  Then in 2011, I received a traumatic brain injury and everything stopped for me.  I was in a daze of migraines and pain and anxiety and sleepiness.  I had to stop working and spent the better part of a year staring off into space.  My neurologist told me if I really wanted to heal I should move out of the city and so I relocated.  What I could not have expected was that this reflective period allowed me a large swath of time to consider what I had done so far in life and what it all meant. I was proud of the interesting experiences I had sought out up until that point, but I realized that my extreme multitasking, appetite for fine culture and caffeine driven head were leaving me stressed, eating processed foods, unfamiliar with nature and with high blood pressure. The last two years I have lived rurally and begun chopping my own firewood, gathering eggs, buying organic food from my farm neighbors and learning the names of the local wildlife has left me 40 pounds lighter, off all medications, and more patient with others and myself.

FCSML_YellowLapis_branded_websizeIt was through talking with folks about the changes I, and often they, were going through as part of the new rural movement that led to the Shangobrand t-shirts starting with “Farm chores saved my life.”  We were all excited and we wanted to connect.  You can’t tell who is into homesteading by just looking at them usually. Anybody might have chickens at home nowadays. The t-shirts make community building easier and I am proud to rock a shirt with a Kombucha “mother” on it.

Kombucha_asphalt_branded_websizeTell me about the designs. How do you decided what kind of image makes it on a Shangobrand shirt?

These are essentially my hobbies.  As I learned about canning, then chickens, then kombucha, then fermenting veggies, water kefir, beekeeping, heritage skills, heirloom seeds and the like, I began keeping notes in a copybook of the shirts I would like to make for people.  At the beginning of this year when I was declared healed, I decided not to go back to my old life and set up a homestead business towards a better life instead.

Who is the artist behind the cute images?

I do the product development myself but I rely on the talents of experienced artists to create the drawings.  It is my goal to work with an array of artists and am talking with folks now for the next wave of shirts.  I have to give the drawing credit for these shirts to Gigi Gungadee from Nature Invincible.  She provided the hand drawings and a great deal of design support along the way.  Before I jumped in to create homesteading t-shirts, I made a line of Neocaridina shrimp aquarium hobby shirts with her for NatureInvincible.com.

EggsSangria2_product_life_webDo you have a favorite shirt so far? Which one and why?

I love the color of the Egg Nest shirts the best, but it is The Waltons shirt that I wear the most often.  Not only does the shirt reference The Waltons TV show from when I was growing up, but the design of the shirt also riffs on the Experimental Jetset designed shirt that was hot street fashion in 2001.  The Waltons shirt straddles the odd line between club fashion and farms.  I know I am not the only raver who went rural as I got older.

Microgreens_kidsIndigo_branded_websizeAnything else you’d like to share about your new venture?

An uncommon aspect of the shirts is that they have no brand mark on them.  You get the art on a comfortable shirt but there is no Shangobrand logo or name anywhere.  It is a clean and honest shirt.  No spam.

Please tell your friends about Shangobrand.  The media space is clogged with corporations and flashy videos.  If the Shangobrand message is to make it through the noise to all of our lovely homesteading friends, I’m going to need some help from like-minded people by reposting and emailing.  Working together we can continue to heal our communities through food and skilled craft.