Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply

Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, Portland, Oregon

I met a friend about a year ago at a new coffee place — the kind of place where they roast each bean with immense care and they really care about every part of the coffee production process. A classic Portland coffee place.

I get migraines sometimes, so I don’t drink traditional coffee. When I drink it at all, it’s got to be decaf or I risk a debilitating headache. So when I walked into this very Portland-y coffee place, I scanned the menu for a decaf option. I asked the barista at the counter, and he was visibly annoyed.

“It’s just not as good if you order the decaf,” he argued. “The regular really brings a bouquet of flavors.”

For a minute I felt a little defensive. Just let me pay you five bucks for some stupid decaf so I can go talk to my friend!, I thought. But in the days after that, I reconsidered that this man was someone who is completely immersed in the quality of his product. That’s pride and expertise, and I’m glad I live in a city like that (most days).

Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, Portland, Oregon

At Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply, they have pride and expertise and a similar attitude about helping people discover gardening, composting and all the rest of it. They are experts.

I bought a house last year with a big yard. The yard, in square footage terms, is like five times the size of the house. So I’ve needed to get familiar with plants and gardening and all the other things that come along with home ownership on a huge lot. Through that process, I’ve learned to love gardening books and the people who love them. Especially in Portland, where there is so much great info on organic gardening and so much emphasis on cool plants and animals.

Naomi’s made me want to rip out everything in my yard and start from scratch — with the beautiful plants strewn throughout the space. Fig trees? Yes, please. Olives and passionflower and manzanita, too. Visiting Naomi’s is inspiring — but that’s even before you’ve had a conversation with Naomi herself, who is a walking encyclopedia of organic gardening. Some days, they have chicks (in the spring), goats and even bunnies for sale in the shop, which adds an incredible cuteness factor. Add in a great selection of gardening books, and that’s what I’d call a one-stop shop.

Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, Portland, Oregon

Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply is located in SE Portland’s Reed neighborhood, at 2615 SE Schiller St. Their blog, plus workshops and event info is on the Website.

Thicket

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

I didn’t grow up in the kind of family that went hiking. But my college boyfriend loved it, and all things outdoorsy.

The diplomatic way to describe myself back then is out of shape. Although there is some debate about whether I had been in shape before that. The bottom line? I didn’t have a lot of endurance, a lot of dexterity or a lot of experience hiking. But Eric didn’t know this, and suggested we hit a nearby trail for the day. I agreed.

Colonel Bob, in the Quinault Rainforest, is not what you would call “a beginner’s hike.” It’s steep, it’s long and it’s not for chubby girls who don’t work out. We arrived at the trailhead, my stomach churning with dread and anticipation, and we started to hike. We hiked down into a valley, down further.

“Isn’t this supposed to be an uphill hike?” I asked Eric, after about 30 minutes of steep downhill. We paused, we looked ahead and around, and we finally discovered that were were going the wrong way. By the time we got back to the trailhead, I was exhausted. And we hadn’t even started the hike. I had an elevation gain of 4,492 feet ahead of me. I wanted to cry.

I did not cry though — not right then. The crying happened later — a couple of hours later, when I was completely sapped of energy, my legs burned and my lungs burned and Eric had been carrying my backpack for at least a mile. I wanted to make it to the top so badly, so that he would see that I could be a good sport. But I just couldn’t keep going. I slumped down onto a stump and started to cry, a little over halfway up the hill.

“We have to go back,” I said. “I can’t hike anymore. I’m done.”

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

I’ve since made peace with hiking and I love it, but this was not a great place to start. I now love to appreciate the nature along the way, and my legs and lungs are usually up to the task (although I still haven’t been back up that particular peak).

Nature can be overwhelming or nature can be the perfect oasis from our daily lives. At Thicket, it’s an oasis. This hidden gem is just a half-block off Alberta on NE 23rd, and it’s a garden supply shop that’s set in what I wish my yard looked like.

It’s green and lush but it’s also a place to sit for a moment and be inspired. All the plants inside look like they were chosen individually and cared for. The whole place thrives, and I turned bright green with envy when I saw the overhead canopies and the vintage-inspired potting shed. This place is worth a peek, a stroll and a few deep breaths. You’ll be hooked.

Thicket, Portland, Oregon

Thicket, 4933 NE 23rd Ave. in the Alberta Arts District of NE Portland. Thicket also has an inspiring garden blog.