I stumbled unto the Portland Homestead Supply Company earlier this spring during a visit to Portland, Oregon. What first caught my attention was a rack of vegetable and herb plants that were on display right out in front on the sidewalk.
From there I noticed crates containing small livestock like chickens and ducks, and knew that I would have to take a peek inside to find out just what was in store with this unusual business that was surrounded by more typical small town shops, restaurants, and even a small micro-brewery.
Exactly What is a Homestead Anyway
Once inside I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing clearly, on the right was a guy with a strange bird tucked under his arm, above in a loft-like room were people checking out fermenting crocks and food preservation equipment, and out back was a manger with a pair of goats posing as if they were local celebrities.
That was when the words “Portland Homestead Supply Company” sunk in and I realized exactly what it was that I had stumbled onto… you just don’t find many places like this out on the East Coast, and that’s a shame!
Growing up I thought a homestead was something that had to do with taxes and legal exemptions on property, when I left D.C. and moved to an organic farm I discovered that a homestead referred to living off the land, growing your own food, and self-sufficiency. In this instance homestead supply refers to a place where urban homesteaders go to purchase stores, attend unique classes, and gather together to talk about everything from agriculture to canning, and from cheese-making to wine pressing.
Make It, Grow It, Preserve It, or Domesticate It!
The Portland Homestead Supply Company offers all that and more to a mix of city slickers and country folk that all share an interest in a slower pace of living and larger degree of self-sufficiency. If you want to make it, grow it, or domesticate it, instead of buying it, this is a place to get the knowledge and supplies to help you start out.
You’ll pick up on the friendly, laid back, and accommodating vibe as soon as you enter the place. As you wander around you’ll rub elbows with wide-eyed newcomers just learning the basics, and also experienced veterans to the homesteading scene who are happy to chat and share their knowledge with anyone who’ll listen.
On the livestock front urban homesteaders will find goats, chickens, and other animals that are more commonly found on country acres rather than city blocks. I still can’t forget the unusual sight of those odd goats that stood on the wall out back as if they were hanging out on a rocky ledge.
Day-to-Day Activities of the Urban Homesteading
Of course gardening is a big part of any homestead and the Portland Homestead Supply Company stocks a range of seeds, plants, tools, fertilizers, and information in the form of books and magazines to help start and manage a large vegetable plot.
Before harvest times you can pick up canning supplies or take a class to brush up on your canning technique. I also noticed one of the glazed fermentation crock that has been on my wish list for a very long time. If you’re not familiar with fermentation as a food preservation method just think pickles or sauerkraut, then substitute just about any other garden vegetable into this low-tech food storage method.
Fermentation is touted for the nutritional benefits that the natural occurring bacteria and microorganisms offer in the diet. I’m more intrigued by the possibility of preserving food over extended periods without the need for any electrical usage in the preservation process.
Homesteading is definitely an empowering and self-sufficient lifestyle that more people are trending towards for a variety of reasons. And there is a good deal of charm and satisfaction to be gained by utilizing old-fashioned skills and your own resources to do things like make herbal soaps, bake bread with grains you grind yourself, can homegrown produce, or make candles with wax from your beehives!
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