Recently, Alyssa visited Portland, and we made a special trip to the International Rose Test Garden. Thousands and thousands of roses are in bloom all at once. It’s absolutely intoxicating and brings me back by scent to a special time in my life. It may be cllche, but there is something I adore about roses. Their elegance, the thorns, the soft velvet of their petals. My favorites are red or yellow.
I’m excited to bring you my first Portland interview! Sarah was one of the first people I met when we moved into the Sellwood neighborhood. She was at the meeting the neighbors held to discuss the mural design for the Sherrett Square intersection. She showed up without shoes on in late March, and my curiosity was piqued!
Jamie: Tell us a little about yourself.
Sarah: I’m a 23 year old artist and playful living extraordinaire! I spend my days working on creative and collaborative projects and try to be as helpful and goofy as possible! I believe that the best way to inspire others to do good in the world is to live your truth. I love graphic novels, harmonizing, loukoumades, and playing my soul sport ultimate Frisbee.
Jamie: I’d really like to know more about your barefoot philosophy-how did you get into it? Do you ride your bike without shoes? Do you go into restaurants without them?
Sarah: Well sure! It all began many years ago down in the Rogue Valley where I grew up. We lived on a few acres of land surrounded by meadows with views of mountain ranges and I’d spend hours upon hours romping around in “the back 40” unshod. My mom would insist that I wear shoes, but after many futile attempts, she finally conceded to allow me to play without a scolding because I’d never listen. Going barefoot wasn’t even a question. It just made sense. It felt right.
I wore shoes or sandals in public places when I had to and at school. Shoes became more of an installation in my life during my high school years what with sports and the desire to fit in being larger factors. At some point, I started to realize how odd and almost nonexistent it was for adults to walk around outside of the house without shoes. This was troubling because I felt the most like myself, I felt the most comfortable barefoot, and I didn’t want to be chastised or gawked at for it. At that time I was getting into film and I thought it would be a great documentary topic from a social commentary point of view. I began researching feet and barefooting and discovered that there were several organizations that were totally dedicated to barefooting, which was awesome! I also discovered that many myths surrounding laws and the dangers of going barefoot in our modern societies were false.
I shelved the idea for a while, but kept coming back to it excitedly. While at university, my activist fires were ignited and with my new found confidence I felt empowered to be more vocal and active in my barefooting. I gradually moved almost completely away from shoes and over the past couple of years have been working on the preproduction of my documentary film Foot.
All of the research I’ve done over the years has expanded my knowledge of the scientific and health related reasons for going barefoot, but the deeper truth was there all along. I knew it as a child, as I think we all inherently know it. When we go the beach or park and slip off our shoes without a thought, instinctually gripping at the sun warmed sand or luscious grass beneath us. Our bodies and hearts know that it’s good because it’s how we come in to the world to experience it. It’s how we connect to everything. To the past, present, and future. To life!
I try to be barefoot as much as I can, but I usually bring sandals with me if I know I’ll be going into buildings that may have an issue with being barefoot. I’ve asked all of the places I frequent and about half of them are fine with me coming in unshod. Usually it’s liability that folks are worried about which is unfortunate. I do bike without shoes. Two summers ago I biked to the coast barefoot!
Jamie: You are onto something there with the idea about instinct for sure. When we truly connect with nature, we do instinctually take off our shoes. But what about winter? Don’t your feet get cold? And in this climate in particular, a lot of people take off their shoes when entering a house, how do you navigate that custom if your feet are wet or muddy?
Sarah: People who live primarily barefoot actually have warmer feet because their circulation is better. When you use all of the muscles in your feet to support and move your entire body instead of relying on the support of shoes, your feet demand more blood flow which your heart is happy to provide. A lot of times in the winter I’ll start out with wool socks in sandals and a half hour later I need to take them off because my feet are too hot. This isn’t always possible as it does get very cold and wet in a lot of places, so I do wear wool socks with sandals or shoes that I make. I’m crafty and love tedious projects, but there are handcrafted moccasin-like shoe producers out there. The closest to Portland I know of is in Corvallis and they are named Soft Star Shoes. (Website below). They’re really wonderful!
As far as going into homes goes, feet are much easier to clean than shoes for one thing, so it’s usually enough to just wipe on the doormat a few times. If it’s particularly mucky out, I may bring along a hand towel just in case, or I’ll ask for one when I arrive. Also grass is a great bath and mat all in one!
Jamie: I am also very interested in the work you do with the Planet Repair Institute. Could you talk a little about that? (And in particular, the project you did about making your bed!)
Sarah: Sure. Well PRI is the home I share with four others as well as a demonstration site and permaculture school. We all work together on experimenting with all kinds of urban homesteading projects such as growing our own food, installing rainwater catchment and other water systems, straw-clay insulation, and community asset sharing. Every year we participate in the Village Building Convergence as a site and we host a 15 day Permaculture Design Course that’s spread out over several months in the summer and fall. We all also have our own projects outside of the house, but at the same time are all very invested in this place. Mostly we’re all very interested in exploring ways in which we can sustain our needs at home, instead of outsourcing them and spending most of our lives apart from the place and people we love.
My bed project is expanded upon on our blog listed below, but basically I needed a new bed one day and didn’t want to purchase one because beds are weird and chemically and I have no idea where or how they’re made. So I thought, “why not make one!? How hard could it be?” Fortunately because we do a lot of building around here, we had all of the tools and spare lumber for the job. I did source some nice scrap untreated cotton canvas for the mattress and bought some localish straw to stuff it with.
I love making my own things. It’s one of the most satisfying activities to partake in. I’m so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to spend a large portion of my days making my own furniture, clothing, food, and artwork instead of performing ultimately meaningless tasks for someone else hours on end so that I can pay for yet another person to provide for my needs. It’s not perfect, certainly not always so dandy or easy, but it is always rich and meaningful. And that’s what matters.
Jamie: Would you share some of your favorite internet links?
Sarah: http://www.softstarshoes.com/ – Awesome shoe company in Oregon
http://www.barefooters.org/ – The society for barefoot living’s homepage
www.planetrepair.org – Permaculture demonstration site and home
http://cityrepair.org/ – Great Portland organization that puts on the Village Building Convergence
www.gardensglory.com – My garden inspired earring website
http://www.taprootmag.com/ – A magazine that I really love!
Look out soon for my film’s website!
Thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time to answer my questions! You are so interesting, and this interview only scratches the surface. Please everyone reading this, feel free to ask her more questions, and I will make sure she sees your comments.
I first met Jessa through my work at Liberty Market. I run the twitter and facebook, so there are a lot of people that I interact with pretty regularly even if they don’t know it’s me right away. Jessa and her husband Dan were coming to almost every single community dinner that Liberty Market ran each month. (I think maybe they missed one?) So, I would chat with them there while I was taking pictures, and eventually we’d get to chatting when we would run into each other during the week as well. Jessa is someone who runs hot! She’s always got several pokers in the fire-she’s making things happen!
(more photos from the May 2012 community dinner found here.)
Jamie: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jessa: A favorite quote of mine is “Give me dirt & I’m happy.”
I’m a country girl living in the city and in my very limited amount of free time, I find myself wheeling & camping with my Toyota FJ to find dirt. Nature is my rock, my home, my everything. When life becomes too much, I find myself in the middle of nowhere soaking it all in and even getting married in it! I am in love with photography so anyone that follows me on Instagram can see who I am and what I like in a nutshell. I’m simple…but complex at the same time since my mind goes a mile a minute.
I’m not one to talk about myself… But I could go on and on and on.
Jamie: I can relate. I feel so much more connected to myself when I am out in my yard or my community garden. There’s something about the smell and things growing that really centers me. Are you actually from the country or do you just gravitate towards it? I was born in the middle of downtown Phoenix, but sometimes I think that my family’s roots as dairy farmers in upstate New York runs deep. Where did you get married?
Jessa: I was born in Tempe and grew up in Gilbert backing cotton fields and even the well-known Morrison Silos. As a kid I remember the bus ride passing all of the fields and stopping at the small farm houses to pick up the farming kids. I always wanted to be them. My family is originally from Danville, Illinois, and I’ve heard that my great grandparents had a large farm. Must be in my blood….
Dan and I are seriously in love with nature, and we couldn’t see getting married anywhere else. In July every year the Toyota FJ Summit happens in Ouray, Colorado, and it just so happened all of our friends were going so we decided to plan a small wedding at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. To get to Bridal Veil Falls, there was an easy option and a hard, scary option-of course we chose the hard scary option of doing Black Bear Pass BEFORE the wedding! Life is Short, live it each and every day! After doing this trail and being two hours late to the “set time” to meet everyone else at the location we were happy to be on flat, stable dirt! We had one of our best friends become a Dudeist Priest online, many friends wore Fuzzy Duds, and we did our own vows around wheeling and nature. It’s a day we will never forget!
Jamie: So pretty much everyone who knows you, knows that you are the driving force behind The Gilbert Farmer’s Market, but how did that happen? What was the journey leading to it?
Jessa: This is a fun story of how the GFM was born... Yes it’s Dan and my baby!
Many people know about me because I’m the one behind the social media but my husband, Dan, is the other half to the market that many people don’t know about. We have worked with each other for years so there was no question about this partnership.
Let’s go back to the summer of 2010. Dan was in real estate working for the banks and I was working with my dad at our family’s popcorn factory. The one and only Bubba’s Popcorn where we create magical Flavors of popcorn like our number top seller’s Dill Pickle, Fruit Stand and of course Windy City.
My life is always changing, it’s something I’ve accepted since it’s been happening since my childhood. I woke up on Friday morning at 4 a.m. after a dream about a farmers market, and that it was ours! I remember this like it was yesterday, I snuck out of bed and our two rescues followed, I grabbed my laptop and sat on the floor so the dogs wouldn’t wake up Dan. By the time the sun was coming up, I had researched WHERE all of the markets in Arizona were and was ready to go learn as much as I could as fast as I could. One thing I was very strict about from this day was to not solicit at any market and instead grab their contact information and contact them later. I wanted to respect all of the other coordinators, and I still do this today.
Long story short, we did the necessary research, put together a packet, met with the town of Gilbert, and opened on October 23rd, 2010!
(picture of early morning at GFM location, taken from the GFM FB page)
Jamie: Wow. That’s really amazing. Most people say they have a dream, but they didn’t really HAVE a dream! So what are the roles that you both play? Was it hard to leave the popcorn factory? (Also, I am imagining it’s exactly like Willy Wonka’s except with popcorn.)
Jessa: The popcorn factory is a smaller version of the Willy Wonka chocolate factory, just with popcorn! We are currently rebranding ourselves and will have many more products and Flavors coming before the end of the year! Fun stuff is happening and it’s so good to see it finally growing!
I never really left the factory while I was researching for the market we adjusted a few things and hired people to cover my shift in the factory. I have become more of a behind the scenes owner for the factory.
It’s been a wild ride with the market and I’m just lucky to have done something about the dream I had, what if I hadn’t? Something I always think about now! NEVER talk yourself out of a good idea!
For the market, Dan and I cover everything together from website building and maintenance, to building a farmers’ market app for iPhones, to social media and paperwork. We have a system where we cross-check each other’s work on a regular basis so everything is very organized. We’re OCD and everything has its place from paperwork to market set up on Saturdays. It’s not an easy job by any means but we enjoy it!
Jamie: Would you like to share an internet link or two?
Jessa: I’d love to!
My Favorite AZ Rescue, who I used to volunteer at: Friends for Life Animal Rescue
This is one of our favorite towns we have ever visited and believe that everyone should see the beauty! This just happens to be where we got married as well! Ouray, Colorado
One More Link:
Fuzzy Duds: The non-official clothing of our wedding!
My newest favorite site:
We always hope to get a chance to travel to a new place and what better way than to stay with a “local” at their home! SO FUN!
Thanks Jessa for spending the time answering all my questions! Please feel free to ask her your questions in the comments below!
A lot of people have asked me lately, “Is it time to plant?” and “What should I plant right now?”
Here in Arizona, we are coming out of the dregs of summer. If you were dedicated, you may still have some plants in your garden that are thriving: peppers, chiles, eggplant, okra, and melons or squash. The rest of you have a bunch of dried up sticks. But never fear! It’s time to bust out the shovels and rakes once again! It’s time to plant all the things!
What do I plant?:
-leafy greens: including lettuce, kale, spinach, swiss chard, celery, mustard, bok choy, arugula, parsley, cilantro (all of these grow GREAT in pots too, so if you are one of those people with no actual “garden” then plant these (seeds are fine) and stick them in full sun.) You don’t need to cut the head either, you just pull the leaves off the plant and it keeps making more! Neverending salad! Also, swiss chard is an amazing one to have because not only is it a good looking plant, but you can eat the leaves in a salad or saute them with butter and garlic. I find the leaves to have a nice umami flavor-it’s a bit salty.
-broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower: And if you usually don’t like these, it’s probably because you’ve never had it fresh. These particular vegetables get really bitter when old. So give it a go.
-root vegetables: carrots (rainbow variety is fun!), parsnips, radishes, turnips, BEETS!!!!
-snowpeas and peas
-onions, leeks, garlic
How do I plant them?:
You need to ask yourself some questions:
-Where do I have FULL SUN? This means sun all of the day? None of this shady area of the yard nonsense or morning sun stuff-winter vegetables need ALL OF THE SUN.
-In this sunny area, will a garden bed fit or am I going with pots?
-How much money do I have? Starting from seeds is the cheapest way to go. But, you get the most production from plants starts. (Also, in order to get Brussel sprout production, you need to start with starter plants. Trust me, the season just isn’t long enough in Phoenix for the plant to develop sprouts. Garden beds can be as expensive and elaborate or as basic and cheap as you want. You will need to and compost and soil amendments to your soil. And a can of earthworms doesn’t hurt either. You can get your soil tested to be super scientific if you are into that, but I’m really lazy, so I would just dig up that part of the yard and add in as many bags of compost that you can afford.
-Drip system or hose watering?
Once you figure out what and where, it’s how:
Next, is the actual shoving seeds into the ground part. This sounds easy, but it actually takes a long time. It’s super fidgety. Go get yourself some wooden shims or stakes and a sharpie too so you can label all the things.
-Open your packets with scissors. (organic seeds are way awesomer, so buy them from a nursery or the internets) Tearing the packets open gets seeds caught in them.
-You pretty much follow the planting instructions on the packet. (But the general rule is the tinier the seed, the closest to the top of the soil it goes.) Almost every seed will sprout, but not always. You plant and bunch of seeds, you wait and wait until you think nothing is ever going to happen, then they all start coming up and you have to “thin” them. This means, you have to rip out a whole bunch of sprouts so as they grow into plants, they don’t crowd each other out. Expect this especially with carrots. Those stupid seeds are so tiny, and if you don’t accidentally spill half of them, you’ll lose your mind at another point and simply start sprinkling them down anyway.
-Water water water. Seeds in the ground=watering three to four times a day. You have to keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout and the roots develop. Once that happens (they look like little plants, then you can back off on the watering.
From here, it’s a matter of thinning and weeding. Any questions?
we went to portland recently, and the farmers’ market downtown was amazing!
the smells! the flowers! the food!
there were so many choices of fruits, vegetables, and meats;
i can’t believe people could ever shop at a grocery store if they lived nearby.
old timey hipster musicians
this is the kind of christianity that gives me hope.
the kind that considers the earth, the community
peter is a cat that we’ve had for probably about seven years.
i found him meowing in front of a store at a walmart plaza-no houses nearby.
a freeway on one side, a graveyard on the other, and two major streets bound the plaza.
we put up signs, but never found his owners.
i even tried dropping him off at three different shelters around the valley,
but they were all full.
so i suppose it was meant to be.
anyway, all that to say, peter loves water. he loves it from the bowl, the faucet, and more recently,
I visited my friend Stacy who lives in Colorado a couple of weeks ago.
Her church The Refuge is a pretty cool bunch who takes care of each other and the downtrodden.
They even have a community garden on the property where they meet.