Urban Homesteading

The Joys of Less and More

Wow – I sure have neglected this space, haven’t I?  I can almost see the virtual cobwebs.

I want to tell you about where I’ve been and why it hasn’t been here.

We are renting a home here in Texas now, and the back yard is fully shaded, and there is really nowhere to garden.   My gardening commitments have been reduced to our 4×8 foot plot in the community garden a few blocks away.  There are no chickens here for us to care for.  Our compost has been moved to tumblers which are easily maintained.  We use the city trash and recycling.  I have no clothes line.  I have no bee hive.  We get food seasonally from a local CSA and we shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  Yes, I use the refrigerator, but no, still no microwave.  My canning supplies – all of them – have been packed away in a box in the garage, since I have no room for them in this house.  They’ve been there almost a year; no pickles, no jam.  The single freezer we brought with us from Colorado is in the garage, unplugged.  The dehydrator is in its dusty box.  A homesteader, I am no longer.

Since moving to Texas I’ve experienced an incredible amount of free time, what with buying jam instead of making it and drying all my clothes in a dryer.  You’d think that would leave a lot of time for blogging, but it really hasn’t.

Instead of blogging, instead of Facebook, I’ve been playing with my kids.  I’ve been homeschooling.  We’ve been exploring the hill country and visited the beach.  I’ve been (albeit slowly) meeting my neighbors… and, well, that’s pretty much it.

I really, really miss homesteady things.  I miss fresh eggs and the bees, and I miss my garden most of all. But less of all of that has left room for more joy within our family.  Less DIY projects every weekend, less taking pictures of every. single. step of every meal, planting or project has left more room to enjoy what we are doing when we are doing it.

A year (and even two years) ago, I felt very much obligated to the blog.  I felt obligated to come up with ideas, and to take better pictures and to write about every little thing my family did.  But seeing my husband and kids sigh as I had to stop projects at every single step for another picture, began to wear on me as much as it did them.

And then we moved, and the to-do list evaporated.

Because of being displaced, I suddenly didn’t have much to write about.  I took pictures of the black soldier fly larvae in our compost tumblers, who could amazingly consume our kitchen scraps overnight, and I took pictures of the bat house Rick made me for Mother’s Day.  I took photos last January of a friend’s bug-out bag contents to share in this space.  But I just didn’t have the words anymore.

After my social media fast in May, I never went back to Facebook.  I was happier, my kids were happier.  I was freer and more tuned in to my family.  But the fast had another effect, and that was I really didn’t know what to write anymore.

Creativity is like that sometimes.  Like inertia in a way… if you’re writing, you can write, but if you’re not… well then you’re not.

I thought the urge to write the post I started about the evils of BPA would kick in eventually, or that I’d get those bug-out bag pictures edited and put up.  But I haven’t.  I had hoped by just writing something the muse would visit me again and I’d be inspired to create something worth posting.   Alas, the posts I was able to turn out last year (and there weren’t many) felt very forced, unnatural and were, frankly, not very good.

I have very much loved writing in this space for the last seven years.  But I think, for now, I’m done.

I’m still trying to live with a minimal footprint, and plan on packing as much as I can into our garden plot.  We’re thinking of getting bees again.  But I’m not planning to blog about it.  I’ve found joy in less blogging and more living.

I hope you continue to enjoy my archives here and that they continue to help people.  I still read all the comments I get and I still respond to them.

Who knows what the future holds… I may write again here.  I am very, very grateful for all the relationships, both virtual and real, that have formed through my blogging journey.  Thank you, friends.

Now go live life!

Categories: Simple Living | 17 Comments

Gratuitous Puppy Pictures

After my Bacon Dove Poppers post I realized that I, in fact, did not tell y’all we got a puppy.  (Look, I said “y’all!”  I’m so Texan now!)

His name is Jasper and he is a standard poodle.

J before clip

In general, I don’t feel that dogs are particularly urban homesteader-y.  They can help guard a flock of hens if they are outside, but most urbanites keep their dogs inside unless they are home, and on a city lot, I’m not sure what else they contribute to food independence or self-sufficiency.  But that doesn’t stop us from wanting them or loving them.  Yay dogs!

Jasper is not just a standard poodle.  He is a hunting poodle.  After Josie, our last dog, Rick had decided that our next dog should be a hunting dog.  He wanted a buddy that could go with him on duck hunts as well as retrieve birds for upland game.  There are a few breeds of dogs that fit the bill of both upland and waterfowl retrievers… labs, Vizslas, Weimaraners and poodles.

I’m not a huge fan of labs – they are being really over-bred, they think with their stomachs, and I’ve had mostly negative experiences with them.  Vizslas and Weimaraners are gorgeous dogs, but they are very high energy, and I just didn’t think I could handle adding one to our already chaotic household.  That left poodles.

Poodles are reputed to be great family dogs and good retrievers (if you can find a breeder still breeding them to work) and they don’t shed.  Of course that last one means they have a high maintenance coat.  But I’m ok with that actually.

Rick & Jasper 8 weeks

In May, we picked Jasper up from a breeder in Phoenix.  I know Phoenix is a long way to go for a dog.  However, most standard poodle breeders these days are breeding for looks, not for working.  So back in September of last year we started searching for a breeder who was actually hunting with their poodles.

We finally narrowed the very short list of breeders down to two; one in Georgia, Louter Creek, which is the home of Cooper, the famous poodle from Duck Dynasty (no, he doesn’t really belong to Si – sorry to burst your bubble), and to Harmony Mountain in Arizona.

After contacting the breeders in October and doing tons of research (and Googling), we decided on Arizona.  Both breeders were great, and I’m certain a dog from the Louter’s would have been wonderful.  But Harmony Mountain was much closer to Colorado (which did factor into the cost for us), and it was obvious that Lori and Rich kept in close contact with all their puppy buyers.  Lori’s attention to detail, testing and keeping up to date with research made me know they were the breeder for us.


We signed on the line in December and put the deposit down on Jasper’s litter the first week of January, before we found out we were moving to Texas.

After we found out about the move, we almost canceled.  He was due to be born at the end of March, within a couple of weeks of us getting to Texas.  We would bring him home in May.  The prospect of a new puppy during all this seemed pretty overwhelming, but in the end we decided to keep our deposit.

I’m so glad we did.  After the move I actually had much more free time to give to puppy training than I would have back in Colorado.

Happy J 11 weeks

Also, if any of you knew our old dog, you would understand my fears in getting a new dog.  She was a mutt from the pound and very difficult on almost every possible level.

But Jasper… Jasper has been a dream.  He is sweet and calm and smart.  He is happy and gentle and sensitive.  He fits in here perfectly.  Nothing has been disturbed by his joining the family.  He loves to snuggle and thinks he is a lap dog.  Or possibly a cat.

By 4 months old he had already mastered sit, down, stay, shake, place, wait, come, kennel, load, off, leave it, heel… I’m sure there are more.

Jasper heels at a sit while Rick shoots some arrows

As far as hunting, he is retrieving and likes the water.  He is already responding to whistle commands.  He’s currently enrolled in obedience classes, at the end of which we hope he will have earned his Canine Good Citizen title.

I am grooming him myself.  He is pretty good about me clipping his nails and trimming his body and feet.  He doesn’t like having his face shaved still, but we push through and take it slow and I know soon it will be easy too.  I have shaved his face three or four times now.  Every groom gets faster.

Super Dog

Jasper’s almost six months old now and is about 21 inches tall at the shoulder.  He’ll continue to grow, but probably won’t be huge.  The kids love him and he them.   He’s a good sport (as this pictures shows).  We’re just entering the mischievous teenager puppy stage, but aside from a Spiderman action figure loosing a hand, there haven’t been many toy casualties yet.  Knock on wood.

So there he is, Jasper, our hunting poodle.

Categories: Hunting | 5 Comments

Bacon Dove Poppers and an Update

As you can tell, I’ve had a hard time keeping the blog updated lately.  I have really been enjoying Texas.  We’ve taken a few trips to the beach and we have a camping trip or two in our future as well.

Homesteading wise things have been going slow.  Very slow.  Thank goodness for the CSA shares.

The garlic I smuggled down here to S.A. with me from Denver did not make it.  I thought I would cry over it, but instead I just bitterly yanked out the plants from their pots.  Our compost bins (a tumbler set-up we bought when we got here) is awesome, though.  Full of black fly larva (!!) and cooks in just days.  It’s truly amazing.

We finally got a plot in the community garden in our neighborhood.  Its a 4’x8′ bed.  So far we have tomatoes, chard and kale planted.  It feels strange to be planting things now, but we are happy to have our hands in the dirt.

I began work on organizing a chicken coop tour here.  There was a lot of excitement generated at the beginning but it has fizzled out a bit.  The interest is really strong, but the city ordinances restrict the number of allowed chickens to three without a permit, and I had quite a few coop owners back out for fear of getting caught with too many birds.  Sound familiar Denver?  We’ll try again soon and hopefully the tour will actually happen.

Otherwise I’ve been busy with schooling the kiddos and trying to meet people, as well as checking in with friends and family to see that they are safe in all the flooding back home in Colorado (so far they all are).

Rick had a work sponsored dove hunt a couple of weeks ago.  He took H with him and they had a grand time.  H got to have is first (and second and third) soda pop.  He had two Sprites and a Coke, plus a Gatorade.  He filled up on chips and beef jerky, came home with a pocket knife (the prize for being the youngest “hunter”), a rubber copperhead snake which he found near a truck tire, a $20 bill for retrieving the birds, and a bag of spent shotgun shells, which Rick promised to pay him a nickel a shell.  He had over 200 shells.  He was the youngest of only a handful of kids there, was newly missing his front teeth, and Rick’s boss and co-workers completely spoiled him.

They brought home 8 doves and a pigeon.  Rick froze the pigeon whole and kept the wings to train our dog with later (I did tell you we got a dog, right?), and breasted out the doves.

We had a nice heap of jalapenos from the CSA, so of course we made poppers.  They are simple to make, and as with all things made with bacon, delicious.  We tried some with and some without cream cheese.  I preferred them with and Rick preferred them without.  But they were good both ways.  Also in our pictures you can see a couple of bell pepper pieces in there which we used to make a mild popper for the wee kids.

Grilled Bacon Dove Jalapeno Poppers

Breasts from 8 doves (16 pieces)
8 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
Cream Cheese (optional)
8 slices of bacon, halved
16 toothpicks

After slicing and scraping out your jalapenos, schmear each pepper with some cream cheese.  Lay one dove breast half on each pepper.  Wrap each pepper half with a half-a-slice of bacon and skewer closed with a tooth pick.  Place poppers into a grill basket, and grill over a hot fire until the bacon is done, turning often.  Keep an eye on them as the bacon fat can easily light up the coals.  Remove toothpicks and enjoy.

Categories: Hunting, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

What I Made This Week: Catch-Up Stir-Fry

If you’ve been a member of a CSA for a time, say four or five weeks, you might find yourselves getting behind on using your veggies.  Maybe there are a few too many peppers than you would normally have use for.  Maybe you have too few beans for a full meal.  Perhaps you don’t know what to do with that eggplant.  And there are always too many squash.

Over the last few years I’ve discovered a solution… stir-fry.  Just chop everything up, throw it in a pan with some seasoning, and serve it with rice or noodles.  It’s faster than soup and more tolerable in the summer heat.  And it can stave off the panic of having two full crisper drawers on the night before you have to pick up your next share.

Last night was stir-fry night.  I’ve been known to make stir-fry out of anything.  Last night I used okra, two kinds of summer squash, a bell pepper, the yard-long beans, garlic and a can of chickpeas.

CSA Stir-Fry

The key, I’ve discovered, to making a stir-fry taste good using anything, is to not over-cook the veggies and use a good sauce.

The sauce can be really simple: 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar, minced garlic and fresh ginger, some red pepper flakes.

You can change it up by adding some lime juice, green onions, or fish sauce instead of soy.  Use a little sesame oil if you want a deeper flavor.  If you like it sweeter, add orange juice or brown sugar.   Make extra and thicken it up with a corn starch slurry if you want it to coat your noodles.

Or you can use a peanut-based sauce, especially if you’re trying to use up basil.  Peanut butter and rice vinegar or lime juice, some fish or soy sauce, and a good dose of sriracha.

After a big stir-fry, I can breathe a little easier, knowing there is room in the fridge again for next week’s veggies.  The kids always like it (H ate three servings last night).

What do you cook to catch-up on your veggies?   What are your favorite stir-fry sauces?


Categories: CSA, Recipes | 3 Comments

In the Shares This Week

Koch Week 4

Anyone else drowning in squash and okra? These past weeks we sure have got a lot of both.  Monday I shredded about 8 cups of summer squash for Rick to use for zucchini bread.  And we have tried okra almost every way we can think of.  Our favorite okra recipe so far has been from Scott Arbor.

It’s simple:  just trim the okra, slice it in half lengthwise, toss with olive oil and salt and roast at 450° for about 35 minutes, tossing about halfway through.  It comes out a little crispy and not at all slimy.  The kids loved it as much as we did and it is a quick way to eat up a pound or more of okra at one sitting.  Rick commented that it was like fries… only okra.

SA Week 4

We also plan to freeze some okra as well as some shredded squash for bread this winter.  It feels good to be putting a little something in the freezer for later.  It’s not hard-core food preservation or anything, but sometimes just the baby steps we take can make a huge difference.  Every bag of okra we freeze is one meal less that we have to buy this winter.

The last couple of weeks, San Antonio has had their Hatch chile festival going on at the grocery stores.  I don’t even know if they do this in Colorado.  Back in Denver, around chile time, there are big roasters on the side of the road and little farm stands that pop-up where you can just stop and buy chiles by the bushel, but I don’t think I’ve seen them advertised at the grocery stores.  Not here.  Rick went to the market and bought 4 bags – by that I mean about 4 quarts, of roasted chiles.  They were labeled mild and “spicy.”  The spicy ones were still pretty mild by my standard.  But we peeled them and put them away in the freezer for winter pots of green chile and pozole.  I hope to buy more before the “festival” is over.

In the mean time, we’ve made lots of pizza. I’m finding that it’s too hot and I’m too lazy to stand over the stove and cook this week.  If you haven’t yet tried roasted green chiles on your pizza, I HIGHLY recommend it.

Our menu this week looks something like this:

Sunday: Homemade pizza with bell peppers, green chiles and fresh tomatoes
Monday:  –we ate out–
Tuesday: Pizza with sautéed squash, peppers, sage and mozzarella
Wednesday: Crepes with cream cheese and yogurt, roasted okra and peppers
Thursday: Chick-pea and summer squash stir-fry with noodles
Friday:  Eggplant lasagna with spicy greens
Saturday: Beef and calabacita tacos

Last week’s menu highlights (since I forgot to post them) were:  stuffed peppers with garlic sausage, chicken and sage risotto, chicken chilli with Hatch chiles, and beef and okra stew with tomatoes.

What do you do with the veggies that overwhelm you in the summer?  I’d love links to recipes, if you have them to share!

I’ve linked up to In Her Chucks’ What’s in The Box.

Categories: CSA, Menu Planning, Recipes | 4 Comments

CSA Shares This Week

Last week I fielded several, “What is a CSA?” type of questions.  CSA stands for community supported agriculture.  Essentially it is when a farmer or rancher sells “shares” of produce (or meat) to members of the community before they are harvested.  These shares provide the farm with capital for operating expenses and saves them from having to market.  It assures them their produce will be sold, and guarantees an income, rain or shine, for the farm.

In return for paying upfront, the members get a “share” of the harvest. It is usually high quality, harvested right before you get it and, in my experience, a lot of produce.

Because of the inherent risks of farming (it all depends on the weather), members and farmers alike are not guaranteed anything. You may have a light year of tomatoes, but great harvest of corn or melons. You basically get what you get.  By using this direct sales method, farmers guarantee that they have sold their crop which reduces their financial burden and consumers (members) get really great produce at a really reasonable price.  Win-win.

We’ve purchased a CSA share every year since 2008.  Both in Colorado and now that we’re here in Texas.  I’ve written about it quite a few times.  You can read all my CSA related posts by selecting the CSA category here or from the drop-down menu on the right side bar, and I’ve provided a few links to CSA related posts at the bottom of this post.

This is what we got in Sunday’s share from Koch Ranches:

Koch Week 2

Okra, 3 green bell peppers, eggplant, 4 saucer squash, 2 yellow squash, arugula, collard greens, 4 pints of cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, another cucumber that I think might be a white Puneri Kheera cucumber, 2 field tomatoes, purple carrots, radishes, sage, basil, parsley, garlic chives, 1.6 lbs beef short ribs, 1 lb ground goat, and a dozen eggs.

Wednesday’s share from Scott Arbor had:

SA 8/7/13

A cantaloupe, basil, eggplant, yard-long beans, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, jalapenos, sweet peppers, cucumbers and okra. 

With all of this, we are planning to have:

Sunday: Herb flatbread with a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad.  I substituted homemade pizza crust instead of making the naan bread, since I didn’t have buttermilk on hand. I guess it was really fresh herb pizza.

Monday: Goat sliders with grilled saucer squash and green beans.

Tuesday:  Eggplant focaccia bread and cherry tomato salad

Wednesday: Ratatouille with pasta

Thursday: Beef short ribs with mashed potatoes and okra

Friday: Herbed sweet-pepper omelets with arugula-cucumber salad 

Saturday: Bacon-jalapeno poppers with yard-long beans, grilled squash, and whatever else we have left and can throw on the grill.  Yep – that’s how I roll. 

I guess I better make some pesto.  And I might try to persuade Rick into making some zucchini bread if we haven’t eaten the zucchini by Saturday.

A side note, San Antonio is getting ready to have a Hatch chili festival.  I am very excited about this, since being a Colorado girl, I am missing my green chiles.  What is UP with TexMex and no sauce???

Categories: CSA, Menu Planning | 2 Comments

What’s in the Bag(s)?

Koch Week 1

I thought I’d show off what we received in our share bag last week and what my menu plan for the week was.  I know I’ve always been curious what other CSA shares contain, but up until now I had only ever had the one from the Monroe’s in Colorado.  Also, the blog, In Her Chucks, has more than once invited me to be a part of her CSA box roundup, so I thought I’d finally take her up on it.

From Koch Ranch, we are receiving the full-mixed share which means vegetables and grass-fed meat.  Since my camera is NOT behaving, and only wants to take blurry pictures indoors, here is a list of this week’s vegetables:

A bag of okra, four turnips with lots of greens, four saucer squash, four yellow summer squash, two green bell peppers, small bunch of kohlrabi greens, carrots (with tops), small bunch of chard, one eggplant, a pint of tomatoes, one red onion, two pickling cukes, two fancy cukes (I think, I’m not positive), one kohlrabi, a watermelon, a honeydew melon, four peaches, and bunches of herbs: garlic chives, purple basil, another kind of basil (not sure what), parsley, sage, and some tiny hot peppers.

The meat comes frozen.  Our share includes three meats per week, with a dozen eggs substituted for one of the meats every-other week.  This is a three meat week:  1.25 lbs polish sausage (beef & pork), 1 lb lamb chops, and 1 lb feral swine kabobs.

Feral Swine

Ok, two out of the three of those are new to me.  I’ve never cooked lamb before last week, and certainly not feral swine.

I decided to save the swine kabobs for something later – maybe some pozole in the fall or on a cooler day.  I also had some  kale and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used, as well as some potatoes and onions in the pantry and some chicken in the freezer.  Our half-a-week’s dinner menu looks like this:

Sunday: Polish sausage with potatoes, onion and turnip greens.

Monday: Ratatouille with pasta: eggplant, squash, peppers, basil, and tomatoes; peach cobbler for dessert.

Tuesday: Grilled lamb chops and okra with squash fritters.  Watermelon for dessert.

The rest of Sunday’s share was used primarily during lunches and snacks this week.  The kids killed off the carrots the day we got them during lunch.  The tops we donated to some neighborhood chickens.  We made a cobbler with the peaches so they could easily be shared (there were only four peaches and there are five of us).  They were so sweet fresh it was almost a shame to bake them.  Tuesday’s grilled lamb was just delectable.  We’ve decided we love lamb.  More lamb please!

Scott Arbor Week 1

We received our second CSA share of the week on Wednesday night.  This one is an all veggie share from Scott Arbor.  We got 3 large burpless cucumbers, 2 eggplants, a large bag of basil, two colored bell peppers, tomatoes, a honeydew, a zucchini and a yellow squash, and a bunch of yard long beans.

Wednesday: Steamed eggplant and mushrooms with peanut sauce and coconut rice.

Thursday:  Mustard grilled chicken with chard, kale, onion sauté, and mashed turnips and potatoes.

Friday:  Grilled pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil and sweet peppers

Saturday:  Black bean-zucchini tacos with bell peppers and Spanish rice.

The yard long beans and cucumbers made a lunchtime (dis)appearance.  Extra basil went into pesto for the freezer.

We picked up our second share from Koch Ranch on Sunday.  I’ll post pics later in the week so you can compare week to week along with me.

Are you participating in a CSA?  What does your share look like, and what are you doing with it?  Have any killer feral swine kabob recipes to share?

Categories: CSA, Menu Planning | 6 Comments

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

Tuesday I tried a recipe for the first time that I just had to share.  Squash fritters.  I have never made squash fritters before this week, but they were surprisingly easy, and everyone loved them.  Even my anti-squash eaters.

This recipe is based on the zucchini fritter recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I took her recipe and substituted what I had on hand from the CSA share this week.

Squash fritters

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

1 pound summer squash (I used two small yellow squash and a white saucer squash)
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
1/3 cup +/- fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 – 1/3 cup garlic chives, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying

Trim the ends off your squashes and then use a food processor or the large holes on a box grater to shred your squash.  Toss the squash with 1 tsp salt and place in a colander to drain for ten minutes.  Use your hands or a spoon to squeeze the liquid out of your squash.  Then place the squash in a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth and really wring out the squash.  A lot of water will come out.  This extra step is worthwhile.

Place your squeezed and wrung out squash in a large bowl.  Add in the parsley, chives, and black pepper.  Taste for salt and add any if needed.  Mix in the egg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.  Add to your squash mixture and mix all thoroughly.

Heat oil in a cast iron pan over medium to medium-high.  Once hot, place the fritter batter, one spoonful at a time in the pan.  Flatten each fritter out into a little patty.  Work in batches, making sure not to crowd them.  Let fry 2-3 minutes per side.  Flip when they are golden brown.  If they are browning too quickly, adjust the heat on your pan.

Drain the fritters briefly on paper towels before transferring them to a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish setting and keep them crisp until serving.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and lemon juice if you like.

Lamb, fritters, okra

Categories: CSA, Recipes | 7 Comments

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