Category: general

Newport News-Times article

My new brokerage printed an article announcing that I joined their company! Here’s the full text…

Advantage Real Estate in Newport is happy to welcome Laren Leland to the team. She brings three years of experience as a broker in Portland.

Leland just recently relocated to the area with her partner in order to spend more time at her family’s farm. Blossomwood Farmstead is located seven miles up Yachats River Road. Together, they are creating a bee sanctuary and permaculture learning garden.

Leland strongly believes in being stewards of the environment in all areas of life. This starts at home with energy efficient upgrades, using sustainable materials, planting pollinator gardens, and installing native landscaping. She is an Earth Advantage Certified Broker and a OSU Master Gardener and can connect people to resources that take these considerations into account.

In addition to working as a broker, she also personally invests in and manages various estates as part of her family’s business. This gives her ongoing practical experience with a wide range of activities, in everything from preparing properties for sale, updating homes for renters, and setting up properties for Airbnb.

Leland is an active supporter of the LGBTQI+ community, wholeheartedly embracing her fellow members by organizing and participating in community events and organizations.

Leland’s professional background is in graphic design and her Master’s Degrees are in Intermedia Art. She spends any free time she can find writing and creating.

She is also looking forward to becoming part of the coastal community. Check out her web site for updates on the farm, real estate posts, and fun projects. You can find it at: larenleland.com.

Leland can be reached via text or phone at 503.883.1511. Advantage Real Estate is located at 205 E Olive St in Newport.

 

June blooms!

What is blooming for pollinators at Blossomwood Farmstead in June? Here’s a huge list, though I may have missed some!

Bird’s foot trefoil. Lotus corniculatus. Origin: Eurasia and Northern Africa. Often used in wildflower seed packets. Invasive weed in North America. Bumbles love it!

Borage. Borago officinalis. Origin: Europe. Edible herb. I’ve heard that it releases new nectar every 45 minutes!

Blackberry. Rubus. If I remember correctly, this is our native, crawling blackberry plant. We also have invasive Armenian Blackberry. The bees love both!

Climbing rose. Rosa multiflora. Orgin: Asia. Planted in the US originally for soil conservation, it is now considered invasive. Although I am not happy it is climbing our trees, the bees absolutely adore it!

Clover. Trifolium sp. Naturalized, originally from Eurasia. Usually classified as a weed when it occurs in grass, bees love clover! (There’s a bumble right in the center of this image below.)

Dandelion. Taraxacum. Actually, this is a false dandelion, (Hypochaeris radicata) but we have both blooming in June! Origin: Europe. Naturalized. Commonly regarded as weeds, loved by bees.

Daphne. Daphne. Depending on species, native to Europe, Asia, or North Africa. Very fragrant!

Foxglove. Digitalis. European origin, but naturalized here very thoroughly. I’ve seen bumblebees visit foxglove, but not super often on our Farmstead.

Lavendar. Lavandula. Origin: Europe.

Red hot poker. Kniphofia. Origin: Africa. Favored by bees and humming birds.

Thimbleberry. Rubus parviflorus. Native! Delicious wild raspberries later in the season.

Queen Anne’s Lace. Also known as wild carrot. Daucus carota. Origin: Eurasia. Naturalized in the US.

Rose. Rosa. (We have a few different varities.) According to Wikipedia, “Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwestern Africa.” Many cultivars are not visited by pollinators a great deal compared to other great bee plants, but sometimes they are for sure.

Penstemon. Penstemon. Native to North America and Eurasia. Favored by humming birds.

Sage. Salvia officinalis. European. Kitchen herb and favorite of pollinators.

Snowbell. Styrax japonicus. Japanese origin. Loaded with pollinators and very fragrant!

Wild lilac. Ceanothus. Native! One of my favorites, and the bees too!

Yarrow. Achillea millefolium. Origin: Eurasia. The first photo is a cultivar, the second is a naturalized common yarrow with white blooms. I see flies on these more than bees — flies are pollinators too!

Yellow flag iris. Iris pseudacorus. Origin: Eurasia. Considered invasive. Pollinated by bumble bees and long-tongued flies. (I haven’t ever personally witnessed a visit by a bumble bee, but there are ants below.)

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

energy efficiency

We all want an efficient home so that our bills will be lower, our homes more valuable, while also doing something good for the planet! But how to do it?

Here are some steps you can take to make your house more energy efficient!

  1. Get an energy audit from a local, professional company. They will do an inspection of your home and give you a game plan for how to up your efficiency. Here are some local companies to try: Green Savers PDX, Revival Energy Group, and Bull Mountain Heating.
  2. Fix leaks! This is a pretty low-cost way to make a big impact. Lots of doors and windows have spaces around them that let cold air in. Also, take extra care when checking out your basement and attic. More air than you think exchanges between these spaces and your main living areas.
  3. Insulate! Do you know what is in your walls? Sheetrock didn’t come into use until the 1950’s, so if your home is older than that you probably have lath and plaster. (This isn’t all bad, it lessens noise and helps suppress the spread of fire.) However, traditionally lath and plaster doesn’t involve insulation, but you can hire a professional to inject insulation into the walls. With drywall, just cut holes, fill up the spaces, and replace and seal.
  4. Upgrade your windows. Many old homes have single pane glass. These are somewhat like holes in your walls! High efficiency windows make a huge difference. If you can afford it, try wood frames instead of the old aluminum. If you can’t afford all new windows, try for storm windows in the winter.
  5. Upgrade doors. Especially if you have an hollow doors, replace them with new energy efficient ones.
  6. Upgrade appliances. Most appliances today come in models that take energy efficiency into account. Tankless waterheaters heat water only when it is requested, saving energy and giving you an endless supply or warm water.
  7. Solar! There are even companies who will lease your panels to you. This is a low cost way to harvest energy directly from the sun.

If you get through this whole list, your house will be very efficient! Let me know how it goes.

what do you plant for a bee sanctuary?

I have been so pleasantly surprised every time I dig a hole for a tree on this land. I’ve heard the term “fertile river valley,” before — but never experienced it to this degree! The soil is gorgeous.

Since part of this adventure is a hope to share what we learn, I wanted to post about what we have planting on the farm in our past three months of stewardship. The season is right for planting trees now, so we are trying to get the year’s plantings in now. I’ve also included our wish list for the future.

Pictured above is our peach tree of the Frost variety. In speaking with neighbors we learned that was the best variety for the region. (Some said the only one that would give us peaches.) Fruit trees are generally a great bet for bees. Others we have planted include: crabapple, two plums, and quince. There were already four old apple trees, so I gave those a good pruning.

 

IMG_2613-1Above is a photo of heather. Two days after we planted it there were 5-7 bumble bees on each of three plants! In the bushy category we have also added three ceanothus plants, lavender, red osier dogwood, Indian plum, daphne, and flowering currant.

Here’s the flowering currant, right by the bridge to welcome visitors.

IMG_2618

I also chose that general location for the magnolia, so that at the first of the season we’ll have a burst of colorful blooms right at the entrance.

As far as flowering trees goes, I did a previous post about the Arbor Day Foundation, where you can buy very affordable seedlings. Of course, this is an exercise in patience since it will take years (decades) for them to grow into large trees. We have ordered, Northern Catalpa (2), Sourwood, Red maple (free with order,) Washington Hawthorn, Tulip Poplar, Forsynthia (2 free with order), Little Leaf Linden, Witchhazel, Black Tupelo, Sugar Maple, and Eastern Redbud. These are all spectacular bee forage trees. I encourage you to research them all. Gorgeous trees.

I’ve also ordered some willow. Most willows are great food for bees. I have a pink pussy willow known as Mt. Aso coming, as well as a curly willow and a basketmaking purpuera. The purpuera is also good for creating living willow structures, which I am excited to try out!

Last, but not least, we have some things started in the veggie garden. For the bees we have borage, poppies, and echinacea. For us we’ve put in an asparagus patch, ginger, and tumeric. Much more to come!

One challenging aspect that we are not very familiar with is how wildlife (including quite a large herd of elk!) will impact what we plant. We have caged the trees for their protection. We have a fence around the veggie garden, which we will fortify in time. We might build quite a bit more fencing than we have now… we will have to see how it goes. So far it seems that the elk avoid the areas near the house, but I have heard that can change pretty quickly.

Here’s some of our wish list for the future: (some for bee forage, some for perennial edibles)

More bee trees and bushes (with groves of like-species, but we’re starting with one of each to see how they do.) Japanese snowbell, winter jasmine, serviceberry, lilac, beautyberry, aralia, vitex.

Persimmon, pomegranate, paw paw, pear, hardy kiwi (I am rooting starts right now!) figs, grapes, rhubarb, artichoke, ramps, sea kale, sweet potato, ground nut, good king henry, lovage, french sorrel, plus every herb and medicinal plant we can find (with plans to build a formal herb garden.)

I’m sure more will get added… if you know of a great bee plant or perennial / self seeding non-invasive edible that would do well in Coastal Oregon, please let me know!

We love this land. Thank you for reading about our adventure!

Oregon Mushroom Show

I went by the Oregon Mushroom Show today. This is a yearly event organized by the Oregon Mycological Society. It was a great source of information for mushroom classification, propagation, and much more.

Did you know that you can dye fabric using mushrooms? Or use mycology inoculations as a way to remediate a brownscape? (Brownscapes are abandoned or underutilized sites, often associated with industry, that contain some degree of real or perceived contamination.)

I got to smell and touch some local mushroom varieties that had been found just today. It was great to see them first hand and get to ask questions of the volunteers, all of whom seemed quite well informed. Comparing edible mushrooms with lookalikes that are poisonous was quite instructive. They were also demonstrating how to do a spore print, which is an excellent technique for identification.

If you want to find out more information about mushrooms in the area, try joining the Facebook groups: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Northwest Mushroom Identification and Information Forum.

Here are some images from the show today!

IMG_1958 IMG_1966 IMG_1965 IMG_1963  IMG_1957

grow your own shiitake mushrooms!

Hey guys. I want to share how easy it is to grow your own delicious shiitake mushrooms at home. I bought a loaf-like mound from a local shop called the Urban Farm Store, which is in SE Portland on Powell.

The kind I got there is grown on a mound of sawdust. It comes with instructions, but basically you soak it (in non-chlorinated water) and then mist it twice a day. You put a plastic bag over it (held up by chopsticks) to keep the air around it humid. Then, one day (a few weeks for me)… voila!

The following images show how big they are when they are full-grown. They are so fresh, delicious, and have many health benefits. Plus, organic shiitake’s sell for around $11.99 a pound! (I think the mound was around $25, so it hasn’t paid for itself yet… but I think it will and then some.)

IMG_9494(1) IMG_9495

A more aesthetically pleasing way to go about it is to buy a mushroom infused log. I bought this as well, but just started it so we haven’t seen any mushrooms yet. Here’s a local source. It’s pricier at $50 per log, but they say it will continue to produce for five years.

 

house tour Feb 3, 2015

If you have ever wanted to move to Alameda Ridge in Portland, you have your pick of houses now. Quite a few are for sale at the moment. Our office went to check out homes there, and a few other places also in NE Portland today. Check out some highlights below. Click the addresses for more info.

1912 NE Couch St offered at $620,000

This was a lovely little house situated between two multi-unit complexes. Loved the attic. The whole house was cute.

IMG_0989 IMG_0990 IMG_0992 IMG_0993 IMG_0994

3445 NE Davis St offered at $765,000

Very nicely finished. I love the sun-burst detail over the front door.

IMG_0996 IMG_0997 IMG_0998 IMG_0999 IMG_1000

4455 NE Alameda St offered at $949,000

We don’t see houses painted black every day. Beautiful. I appreciated that there were bookcases built in to nearly every room.

IMG_1002 IMG_1003 IMG_1004 IMG_1005 IMG_1006 IMG_1007 IMG_1008

3630 NE 32nd Pl offered at $985,000

IMG_1015 IMG_1014 IMG_1013 IMG_1012 IMG_1011 IMG_1010

3930 NE 26th Ave offered at $1,175,000

Very cool double lot.

IMG_1016 IMG_1017 IMG_1018 IMG_1019 IMG_1020

3727 NE 10th Ave offered at $299,000.

And last, a sweet little house. Very nicely finished inside, but too many brokers to get photos in there!

IMG_1021 IMG_1022

 

Save

Tree School

Do you want to learn more about harvesting truffles? What about beekeeping? Or managing forestland? If so, it’s time to register for OSU’s extension program called Tree School. This is a great opportunity to learn about all kinds of fascinating topics that relate to owning land in Oregon. You also get to meet and network with other like-minded people. It’s $60 for an entire day of classes. Register here.

My favorite class title?  Operating Chainsaws safely for women. Full class list here.

I’ve already sent mine in — hope to see you there!

10 Steps: shift toward green

Many of us want to be better global citizens, but where to start? This article offers ten steps to consider if you’d like to contribute to positive change.

I have cared deeply about the environment for as long as I have understood the concept. However, for much of my life my choices did not reflect my concern. The issues we face are institutionalized and run incredibly deep. It’s difficult to figure out how to live in this world without contributing to hugely problematic systems.  Beyond that, it might seem like too big of an issue for any one person’s actions to even matter. However, paradigm shifts happen one person at a time until a tipping point is reached and then large-scale change becomes a reality.

The ideas gathered below should be spread, they can become part of this widespread shift. I invite you to realize this is the avant-garde. I’m ready to join the movement away from our current practices in favor of sustainability.

Please understand, I’m not claiming that all of my life choices support sustainability. I also understand that there are complicated issues of privilege, education, and access. I invite us all to commit to continually improving within our means and to face the world with growing awareness.

1. Get educated.

In fact, never stop educating yourself. Watch films. Read articles and books. Maybe you’ve already seen documentaries like, “Fast Food Nation,” “Queen of the Sun,” and “GMO OMG.” (If you haven’t, you should.) They highlight systems that support profit for some, over sustainability for all. Resources like these are important to disseminate knowledge of the issues that exit and hopefully inspire people to get involved.

However, something that I overlooked when I first started researching environmentalism is that I also needed to educate myself in positive, hands-on ways. Many subjects can provide this balance. Learn about gardening, beekeeping, passive solar designs, tiny homes, green architecture, hiking, veggie oil, biking, or anything else that sparks your interest in sustainable living.

Research indigenous leaders (example: Winona LaDuke) find explanations of forward-thinking civic projects from other countries (example: Brazil or Germany), look for inspiration everywhere you go and trade ideas with those around you. Watch this video about an inspiring LA family that grows 6,000 pounds of food on 1/10 of an acre, all while living off-grid.

2. Opt out.

I grew up in the Silicon Valley in the 1990s, believe me when I say that I’ve come a long way. I used to value pop culture and shopping malls. I had no concept of what the word “need” meant. The dominant cultural paradigm in the United States is not healthy for us, or for the planet. If you haven’t already, decide now that you will not feed into it. Do not allow shallow symbols like fancy cars, branded clothes/food, and huge houses be your touchstones. In general, pay attention to how things are crafted, what resources are utilized, what pollution is created, and how the workers who made the objects were treated.

Our culture needs to leave behind its adolescence, and finally step into taking responsibility.

3. Be aware of exploitation.

If a product is cheap, that probably indicates there’s a problem with the labor involved. Be intentional with what practices you support through your product choices. I know that when you try on an item of clothing that hugs your body in all the right ways it can be unpleasant to think about who made it, and under what conditions. Simply curtail this before you go to the store. Refuse to align yourself with places that carry items which exploit laborers. You might have to find new places to shop, but if you consider how your actions reverberate through the world when you make different choices I hope you will find it is worth the time. Think about this when you buy clothing, diamonds, coffee, chocolate, and really just about anything these days.

Think about what you ingest. If you choose to eat meat or dairy, buy it from someone who either hunted wild game or took decent care of the beast during its life. Hormones and antibiotics get passed on to you. Factory farms are havens for disease. How can eating something diseased be appetizing or healthy?

4. Buy organic. Grow organic.

Buying organic isn’t just about what you are putting in your body. It also supports farming practices that are sustainable. You can support farmers who are making responsible choices.

Watch “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” It illustrates quite well how Cuba saved its economy through organic gardening.

No matter how you feel about GMOs, the fact remains that the way they are farmed adds tons and tons of pesticides to our soil and water. This is causing countless problems throughout the world. If you buy conventional produce or processed food that is not labeled organic, you are supporting this practice.

The notion that GMOs are needed to “feed the world” is simply untrue. Organic practices have already fed the world for thousands of years and can produce the same amount of food, even more during times of drought. GMOs have created an unsustainable food system which promotes superweeds, superbugs, and destroys land. The farmers that plant them have lost their right to save seeds. Huge corporations who value profit over all else own our ability to feed ourselves.

If everyone who has access to land committed to planting an organic vegetable garden, the world will be a much better place. Grow food, not lawns is a succinct description of this idea and a great movement to get involved with. It takes much less space than you think. I’ve seen people grow veggies on urban balconies. Actually, I knew someone with urban balcony chickens in San Francisco too.

5. Identify as an environmentalist. Say it with me, “I am an environmentalist.” Repeat it. Own it.

Everyone who is not directly profiting from the pollution and destruction of our world should identify as an environmentalist. Being an environmentalist can be as simple as having an interest in a paradigm shift away from a profit at any cost model, to a vision of a world where sustainability is the goal for all endeavors.

Anything you do that genuinely stems from this place is activism. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s practice. You don’t have to give up everything to live on a farm, although that would be great if you’re up for it.

We don’t profit from these practices. Buying cheap products that break within a year does not give us freedom. The people who reap profits have colonized our minds. Decolonize yourself.

6. Learn to do more things for yourself.

Who doesn’t want to know how to make their own jam? Just think about the new skills you could gain. There is always more to know. Increase your mastery of cooking, sewing, leatherwork, gardening, carving, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, knitting, canning food, paper making, cheese making, yogurt making, building, shoemaking, brewing, raising chickens, and the list goes on and on. Pick up a book on homesteading.

6. Downsize and reduce consumption.

As a real estate broker, I’m all too aware that most people equate a nicer house with more square footage. This is finally starting to change. There are really exciting things happening with the tiny house movement. More people are getting interested in passive solar and off-grid living. I would very much like to someday trade my Portland foursquare home for a smaller house with more room to farm and garden. But we should all start where we are and maximize the potential of whatever we have. Don’t wait until you finally get to move to your dream homestead.

No one actually needs to replace their wardrobe seasonally or buy an overabundance of Christmas presents. (Of course, no one needs as many shoes as I happen to have, either. I’ve stopped buying them, I’m starting to donate.) Buy quality products, learn to care for them, and keep them until they are no longer repairable. Then reuse them for something else.

Every time you pick up a non-degradable item to purchase, ask yourself if its worth it to have that thing — whatever it is — around for countless generations.

7. Reduce emissions. This is part of the reason why “local” is a buzz word.

Drive less. Walk, run, rollerskate, skateboard, bike, live closer to work and play. Use public transit. Share cars. Figure out veggie oil. Drive a smaller car. Drive an electric car. Look into how biodiesel is produced in your area, that could be a good option.

Buy local goods. With focus only on profit, shipping great distances might seem like a good idea (especially if you can rely on exploiting workers elsewhere.) Buying a cheap product that was produced somewhere far away is not the best option.

Learn to sew. Find a local tailor. Look for fair trade brands. Buy from Farmer’s Markets. Research products made locally and responsibly.

8. Adopt.

Children and pets share very few similarities. However, in both instances, consider the virtues of adoption. I read a compelling article by a woman who claimed that choosing not to have a [biological] child is one of the greenest decisions that anyone in today’s world can make. It struck me as harsh, but it’s true.

I think most people are quite versed in the dangers of puppy and kitten mills. Rescue animals are incredible additions to your family. I speak from experience, I have a rescue cat and two rescue dogs trying to overtake me with affection as I write this.

9. Raise the bar. Lead by example. Invite people to join you. Be excited.

Have the courage to expect more from yourself and others. Be gentle with people.

Stay positive and meet people where they are, no one likes their choices to be harshly judged. I hope that we are all doing our best, and that we all would like to do better.

10. Join clubs. Volunteer. Organize. Get civically involved.

Get out there and meet other people who are interested in these things. If you don’t have your own land, find a community garden. Join a beekeeper association, a mushroom hunting club, tour local organic orchards, take classes, attend a permaculture conference. I live in Portland, which is an oasis of opportunity on these topics, but I have to believe there are ways to get involved everywhere. If there aren’t, take that as an invitation to start something.

Join your neighborhood association. Sit on a local board. Maybe you can get a project going to plant bee flowers in intersections or empty lots. Perhaps you can convince your neighbors to award grants to those who want to start gardens.

Advanced level. Start an organic farm. Live off the land.

I know it’s not for everyone, but we need to take back our land and stop letting it get drenched in chemicals. There are crops that are known to help return land to a less polluted state. Hemp is a good example. Compost works wonders.

I struggle with wanting to do this myself and worrying that it might be a romantic delusion. But people really do it. I’ve met them, it’s possible. Check out this video about young farmers from the Bioneers conference.

In the meantime, I’m gardening my little urban farm in SE Portland. I’ve got chickens, garden beds, bees coming in the Spring, and I’m learning everything I can.

I’m working to make my backyard a certified backyard habitat for birds, which involves planting native species and ridding my yard of invasive species. I’m signed up to participate in the OSU Master Gardener extension program, which is a combination of classes and volunteering.  I belong to the Portland Urban Beekeepers club. I voted for GMO labeling. I attend my neighborhood association meetings and help where I can.

I’ve got my eye on bigger plots of land with smaller houses… we’ll see what the future brings and how brave I am. I would really like to have space to care for milking goats.

And… will someone please help me figure out how to create change on a grander scale? I can take ownership over myself, but I want laws that prioritize sustainability over profit. Companies and individuals should not have the right to make profit while doing harm. How can we get the FDA to protect us from unsafe food? How do we get our politicians to listen to these concerns and take action? How do we fight against corporations with so much money and power?

 

If you are interested in publishing this article elsewhere, please let me know!