I wanted to write a 1-year anniversary piece today, but thought I should incorporate a larger introduction to Province for those of you who are new to the blog. My partner AK and I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in February of 2015. We lived out of Airbnbs for five months until we found the perfect house. It's actually a pretty typical mid-century ranch, perched on a hillside in northeast L.A.'s Glassell Park neighborhood. What makes this "pretty typical" house "perfect" is its location and landscape. It has great privacy, views of downtown L.A. and Elysian Valley, and, most amazing of all, the property is nearly an acre with mature citrus, avocado, and black walnut trees. Considering I grew up in a vast wilderness, an acre should seem pitiful. But here in L.A. that much land is increasingly rare. One year later, I'm finally sharing a photo tour of our work-in-progress, homesteading and micro-farming, labor of love.
I realize most people don't share a slideshow of their house with the general public. Considering AK and I are fairly private people, I admit it's outside of my comfort zone to share personal information on the blog. But I have my reasons, and Province is NOT a brag blog, so here's the Province backstory and how our new home is at the heart of it all.
First and foremost, to share my experience is to share my philosophy. Not only was I raised with strong values of frugality and self-sufficiency, I was cautioned about over-consumption. Humans tend to be voracious consumers of EVERYTHING—a behavior I witness constantly and weighs heavily on me. By sharing my philosophy through my experiences, I hope it gives readers pause to think about ways of living more consciously. The old mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle" is a good starting point. And from there, living in harmony with the Earth, coexisting with wildlife, learning methods for self-producing what we want and need, living at slower pace, being more mindful of our surroundings and our choices, and fostering a curious appreciation for the beauty and wonder that is everywhere. I'm by no means perfect, but I do put forth effort on these fronts.
I'm acutely aware that this blog and its associated social media accounts don't follow the conventions of success. The best advice tells social sharers to stick with a consistent theme, whereas Province seems to post about all manner of earthly things. (And I haven't even started sharing recipes yet!) But upon closer inspection, there is indeed a theme. Everything I share is born out of the philosophy I shared above.
I'm not interested in preaching or lecturing on life lessons. I'm interested in sharing experiences. It's as simple as the sage advice hammered into the young minds of Writing 101 classes: "show, don't tell".
I'm also not interested in taking center stage or becoming the next famous blogging personality. Not everybody in Los Angeles has those ambitions. Which leads me to another point about Province and this blog. First, a little background on how Province came to be...
Province began in Chicago in 2014 as an urban-rural/farm-to-modern lifestyle blog and shop. We (my mom and I) wanted to start selling vintage and handmade items online and in a little brick-and-mortar shop. Province, as a brand, espoused the values and philosophy I shared above by selling objects that left a minimal ecological footprint. If vintage, our products would have provenance, be made from lasting materials, have value, and be timeless. If newly created, our objects would be made from lasting natural and renewable materials, be handmade, retain value, and not add more garbage to the waste stream. These days it seems like everybody has a product line and, as cute as much of it may be, it's a ton of unnecessary plastic.
In the late fall of 2014, when Province was ramping up, AK and I were getting word of our potential relocation from Chicago to L.A. In preparation, I made the decision to shut down my previous blog. A rudimentary Wordpress template, it was my first foray into blogging and it too was a "show don't tell" kind of blog. A foray into urban rooftop gardening. I decided then that my next blog would be bigger—encompassing not just the Province shop and a new garden blog, but tiptoeing into new territory like vegetarian restaurant reviews, recipe sharing, and urban experiences. Again, this was to be a wide reaching urban-rural lifestyle blog and that was a big bite to chew.
It's now been one year of living in our new home and one year of experimenting with these expanded parameters of blogging and social sharing. Since I no longer run a brick-and-mortar Province shop, the online shop was relaunched from our home a couple months ago and I'm gradually adding inventory to Etsy and Ebay. There are still over 1000 items in our inventory that are waiting to be listed.
So who are "we" exactly? I guess this is the part where I do have to take center stage a moment. I, Brad, run the Province blog and coordinate the online shop. When I'm not running Province I am taking care of the "outside stuff" like gardening or rescuing the occasional animal. My formal job is that of career coach-consultant. I help people land jobs and develop fulfilling careers.
On weekends I enlist my partner AK to help with vintage buying for the Province shop. We've been a couple for 13 years and he has a very demanding consulting career in downtown Los Angeles. So other than joining me at estate sales, he doesn't have an active role with Province. He's moral support and the voice of reason who can be heard saying, "Do you think we might be buying too much today?"
The other person in the collective "we" is my mom, Kathrine. She is a career-spanning artist who has paintings for sale in our Etsy shop. She is also a regular buyer for Province, shipping inventory to me to be listed in the shop. Plus, she's the reason I know how to raise chickens, grow veggies, take on construction projects, and shrug off a flesh wound.
Finally, there's our mascot Mia—our 9 year old Yorkshire Terrier/Bichon. She shows up in many of my photos because she's our obsession. But I won't go into that for risk of sounding like a crazy dog person. Then again, my long term goal IS to become a reclusive crazy animal & antiques hoarder (in a good way) by the time retirement rolls around.
So now you know who we are, where we are, and why we do what we do. Now you can finally see what that all looks like. A small amount of land where our story comes together: a philosophy, a small shop that operates in line with that philosophy, and a place to live a quieter life while learning and sharing experiences that go deeper than our proximity to Hollywood. Maybe that all seems a bit heavy and contrived, but it's how the past few years unfolded and it comes from the heart. We encountered overwhelming stress along the way, so I'm proud to kick up my feet, enjoy the view, listen to the roosters crow, and feel proud we made it this far.
In a city that gets a bad rap for promulgating consumptive excess and misguided priorities, I think it's important to show what's possible in L.A.'s backyard. When I wake up and hear those roosters crowing in valley below, when my neighbor tells me one of his favorite features about our neighborhood is the family of red-tailed hawks, it affirms on a daily basis why I feel driven to share stories about this incredible and incredibly misunderstood city.
Some people will drop by this site to buy stuff, some will come to check out the progress on our little acre, and others will stop by to try a new vegetarian recipe. I feel humbled when anybody who stumbles across this little blog chooses to stay a few minutes, so I thank you so much for reading this far. I announce new posts on Facebook and Twitter, and overshare on Instagram. Hope to see you around.