Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hi, My Name Is…

Apple Butter

Pretty little jars filled with last year’s harvest


I’ve been thinking about it, and realized I have been volunteering in the Portland area for nearly 20 years.

It started when I was fourteen. Too young to work but my parents needed me to get out of the house and do something. So they made me sit down with a newspaper and look for a volunteer gig. And I’ve been doing something ever since.

I began with a group called Human Solutions, which helped families in transition. They needed teenagers to come in and do crafts and other activities for the little kids there. I didn’t last long there. I’ve never liked babysitting. So I moved on to Project Action, which was started, if my memory is correct, by the American Red Cross, in an effort to provide information about AIDs to the teen population. I loved working with them. My fellow volunteers and I would show up at a meeting place, be given big bags of pamphlets and condoms, and let loose in street fairs to hand things out. It was fun, and I felt very daring. This job lead to a spot on the fledgling teen speakers bureau, something I stuck with for four years.

This was serious, big “w” Work… We attended trainings and had monthly meetings and yearly working retreats to the beach. Myself and another presenter would go into a middle- or high school and give talks about AIDs and other STDs and give kids the tools to make informed decisions about their sexual health. We taught prevention but what I feel was most important was that we taught communication skills as well. And sometimes, I hear myself in conversation with a partner, and realize that the skills I was taught nearly twenty years ago are still echoing in my mind.

I didn’t volunteer when we lived in California, or when our children were small. I would help with some of the outreach projects through our church, but with babies underfoot, I couldn’t really do a whole lot.

And it’s those babies that have driven me into my latest adventure in giving back. Searching for a way to cut another corner in my food budget while still feeding my children the healthiest choice possible, I stumbled upon the Portland Fruit Tree Project. Started as an AmeriCorps project several years ago, their aim is to get fresh, healthy produce to the families who need it. Tree scouts look for neighborhood trees, and the property owners are contacted for permission to harvest. A team of harvesters come and pick the fruit, sometimes as much as 400 or 500 pounds from a single tree. Half of that food is divided and sent home with the volunteers, many of whom are living on low incomes, and the other half goes to the local food bank. Portland Fruit also offers classes in tree care and food preservation, and is working to build community orchards in the Portland area.

I’m proud of this work. It’s volunteering on my level. I cannot work in a soup kitchen or filing papers at a non-profit. But I can put on my grubby jeans and spend an afternoon up a tree. I’m happy to take home some of the harvest. Last year I brought home apples, Asian pears, Bartlett pears, Concorde grapes, and persimmons. I would easily have spent $500 on that fruit, and I had a pantry full of amazing, healthy food for the winter.

Last weekend was my first harvest of the 2013 season. A bunch of us met up in a parking lot near OMSI, and made the trek south, into wine country, to harvest 2 acres of Queen Anne cherries. My lady Velah rode with me and it was fun to see her get so into the day and hear the pride in her voice, knowing the cherries she picked were going to go to a family who needed the food. We broke for a picnic lunch on a lovely pavilion overlooking rolling filbert orchards and vineyards, and we came home with about 6 pounds of cherries each. About 250 pounds of cherries went to the Yamhill County Food Bank. And I feel pretty amazing about that. We worked hard, and, for a few hours, made the world a little better.

A lot of the volunteer events I have helped with have one thing in common. Circle time. Before everyone gets started, you gather together and introduce yourself. Sometimes you say what neighborhood you have travelled from, or what your favorite fruit is, or how long you’ve been with the organization. Then you get your talk on expectations, safety, and any other instructions, and then you are off.

My introduction is always the same,
“Hi, my name is Deana. I’m from South East Portland. My favorite fruit is whatever is in season. My favorite thing about working with Portland Fruit is seeing the food that would be wasted go to the people who really need it, and seeing how excited my children get to see their favorite fruits come home with me…”

Rebecca from Kent, Doug from North East, Tri from Beaverton, Holly from Woodstock. Sometimes the same faces show up, over and over again. Sometimes not.

And you spend two or three or ten hours with these people, many of whom you won’t see ever again. All this is in an effort to help people you’ve never met….

And it’s worth every minute.

If you are interested in working with Portland Fruit Tree Project or the Oregon Food Bank, here are their websites:
http://portlandfruit.org/
http://www.oregonfoodbank.org/
I encourage everyone to get involved in their community in whatever way they are able. Pay it forward… the love you give out comes back to you, often when and where you least expect it.

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Effing Hippie

So, this has come up, now and again, and I wish to address it and clear the air.

I’m a fucking hippie.

I hug trees. I love the Bottle Bill, and faithfully recycle my cans and bottles. I also teach my children to do the same.

I buy from local farmers, organic whenever possible. Because I believe it’s important to keep the land around my rural Oregon home the way it’s been for a long time – berry fields, nurseries, and orchards.

I go for long soaks at Common Grounds, and I am planning my next retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs.

I shop at New Seasons whenever I can, because I want to support a local business who is doing good things in my community. And I’m thrilled about their honeybees on the roof.

I hike the Gorge. And I pick up other people’s trash when I go. Because the Gorge is amazing and people who litter piss me off.

I grow my own veggies and fruits, to teach my children about where food comes from. And because they taste amazing. And I can and freeze the results, because nothing beats opening a jar of summer produce on a rainy January day.

I shop at thrift store so I’m reusing people’s castoffs, and because I can’t afford to by clothes new, most of the time.

I teach my children to recycle their yogurt cups and water bottles, so they know that they are responsible for caring for the world, too.

I work with the Portland Fruit Tree Project to harvest people’s unwanted fruit, and I love that I am helping the Oregon Food Bank when I do so.

I fucking love yoga, and I’m looking at starting Hula dance lessons this summer.

I may or may not be considering yarn bombing the local park.

Have I mentioned I’m poly?

So, you see the label on the box? The one that says “fucking hippie”? Truth in advertising, baby. Truth in advertising.

Here I am, not quite hugging a tree. At Hug Point, on the Oregon Coast. I may also have been wearing Birkenstocks when this picture was taken.


The End

It’s a bittersweet day today.

It’s my son’s last day of fourth grade. Tomorrow is my daughter’s last day of preschool. Until September, both of them will be home all day, every day. And as much as I love both kids, I know I will look longingly at September, and a return to quiet times for creative work.

Until then, we have a busy summer planned. J has signed up for the summer reading program, which earned him a Portland Timbers ticket. There is a lovely park in front of the library, and it seems the county has a full summer planned of clown lessons, craft days, and movie nights. We will probably go to at least a few of those.

We have a camping trip at the Southern Oregon coast planned with Velah and her son. I’m looking forward to being at the beach and letting the kids run feral.

I have my usual  rush of canning and preserving, harvesting and gardening. I have my personal vacation in July. We have July Fourth and the usual BBQ and fireworks party.

There is GearCon and Renaissance Festivals and birthdays and anniversaries and, hopefully, long hot lazy days by a pool or hiking a river. Magical summer nights with a fire in the backyard and beers and marshmallows.

Lil D has learned so much this year, and grown so tall and strong. She writes her name and cracks senseless jokes and can count and do a little addition. She has friends… and not just the children of people I want to spend time with. Little girls – and one boy- with whom she has made her own special bond. Ties that will see her through the rest of her school years, whether for good or for ill, and possibly people she will know for the rest of her life.

Jay is turning into a sweetly sensitive soul, deeply introverted like me, and with a cuttingly sharp sense of humor. This year he was flagged as a gifted kid, and for the rest of his school career, his teachers have to work with that designation. At this point, he reads more than I do, and he’s grown to where he can look me in the eye, and knock me over with his hugs. He’s such an amazing little man.

There is a part of this mama’s soul that wants to hold them tight and keep them small forever, but most of me celebrates this growth. I love to see the light that is them grow stronger, get brighter. I love to watch interests develop and become passions. I love to hear them make these connections and watch their minds and bodies stretch. I wonder where they will end up, five, ten, twenty years from now. They are turning into people I would choose to spend time with… I wonder if they will continue to be such as they get older.

And I think of Lil D, the other day.

“Mama?” she said. “I figured something out. They taught me this in school. You can be whatever you want to be. Just don’t be mean about it.”

I think she’ll be ok.

Sound asleep last summer, at the hotel in Anaheim


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