Lovely Day for a Drive

My day was all planned out.

I was going to can 10 pounds of navy beans 10 pounds of garbanzo beans. At some point in time toward the end of the processing time I was going to make some Sambica Apple Crisp for John – who has been craving it.

Then the phone rang.

And it was time to get in the car.

New plan!

Over the river…

I’m sure I went through some woods…

To Burns Feed Store I went.

The official plan was to NOT buy new chicks this year.

So much for the plan.

Six little Cuckoo Maran chicks.

:sigh:

They’re so cute.

They would arrive on the coldest day of the year! Oh well – got the heat lamps set up, the bricks right underneath them to soak up the heat and keep the babies warm out in the coop.

More baby reports as they are available.

…Hi, my name is Dina. I have a problem. I love baby chicks. Admitting it is the first step to getting help, right?… Wait. What if I don’t want help?…

Happy Birthday, BiL!

For maybe as long as he’s been able to talk, BiL has been wanting snow on his birthday.

Today he turns 14, and he got his wish!

Not a bad thing, getting a snow day on your 14th Birthday, huh?!

Happy Birthday, kid. You make me proud.

Love, Mom.

Urban homesteading is in my blood…

My Grammy had a green thumb.


[Victory Garden circa 1943.]

She grew up in the garden, really. As did my Grampa – he was the son of a dairyman and a professional cook – both of whom believed in having a large garden out the kitchen door.

I love the old pictures of Grammy as a little girl, playing in the garden. So much of life revolved around the garden of their Booneville, Arkansas home. They lived in town – in a house that my great-grandfather built (he lost his right arm in a cotton gin when he was 11 years old – but it didn’t stop him from doing pretty much anything!) – that had a small barn, a chicken coop, and lots and lots of garden. There were fruit vines and trees, vegetables galore, and lots of “sustainable” living going on in that city lot!


[Tom Thumb wedding circa 1919.]

My Mom spoke of her love of the time spent in her Grandmother’s garden when she was a girl. For her, the love she felt related to her time spent with her Grandmother had very close ties to the amazing food grown, prepared, served, and enjoyed as a family in their lovely Southern California garden.


[My Great-Grandmother and my Mommy circa 1947.]

Growing up we always had a garden in the back yard. Mom and Dad always grew tomatoes, squash, corn, beans, peas, lettuce. Mom always had a patch of strawberries going and there were the plum trees that put out all kinds of crazy quantity of succulent Italian prunes. (Little did we know we loved prunes!)

If something important happened when we were growing up – we’d snap a picture in the garden!


[Grammy holding baby sister, my brother Joel, and I circa 1968.]

In the summers – nothing better than sharing a meal out-of-doors – featuring the very foods we’d grown just feet from our table.

When John and I married it was a no-brainer that no matter where we lived a garden would be involved. Better yet – a garden that could yield enough produce that we could preserve for future use! (I married a man with amazing skills. He’s the one who taught me how to can!)

Some of the sweetest memories I have are of my Grammy out in the garden with my own children – showing them just how it’s done!

[Grammy – age 82, and Jessica – age 2, watering circa 1994.]

When we came across this house that we live in – listed for rent – on HALF AN ACRE just a stone’s throw from downtown Portland, well – our pulses quickened a bit. Could we afford it? Could we even possibly be in line early enough to be in the running to luck out to rent it? We nearly fainted when we got the word that we could indeed afford it (barely), and that we were the first in line with a completed rental application and application fee attached.

:sigh:

A house with a garden. A REAL garden – the kind you can live off of. Just what we’d longed for.

What a gift!

What a blessing!

What an amazing God!

Yes. There is great responsibility. But oh – the benefits far outweigh any sense of burden.

But here’s the thing…

It scares me a bit how little people of my own generation, much less those of my children, understand where food comes from. It scares me significantly more that if you stood on a street corner and surveyed the folks walking by – asking if they could grow a garden given the resources – that the vast majority would look at you with a blank stare.

There are so many deep philosophies at play here – this beautiful thing called urban homesteading represents.

Accountability.

Appreciation.

Availability.

Historicity.

Patriotism.

Stewardship.

Sustainability.

…the list could get very, very long.

For me – bottom line – it goes back to WHO I am accountable to in my life. I believe with every fiber of my being that there is a God and He is Creator and that He has gifted us with this very precious resource. I consider it nothing short of Worship to be able to steward this little corner of the world. We consider it our privilege and honor to take the yield from His blessings and our labors, preserve them, and to gift excesses to those in need in our community.

NOTHING about any of this is new.

It is the way it was done in my Mother’s day.

It is the way it was done in my Grandmother’s day.

It is the way it was done in my Great-Grandmother’s day.

…and for generations prior.

My fervent hope is that my children, my children’s children, and for generations to come – it will continue to be an important part of life. That they will never take for granted the beauty of this thing.

If you’re an urban homesteader, consider joining us in celebrating this beautiful thing we do – and make a stand for the unrestrained right to proudly declare so. There is a Facebook group to check out here. Other excellent posts to read here and here.

Spicy Sausage Lasagna

When I was considerably younger – gosh, like half of my current age. (Gee, that was a while ago!) I worked at Nike International, Ltd. Not too terribly long into my employ there I met the nicest, funniest, most gracious lady by the name of Ardy. She was not only nice, funny, and gracious, but she – oh, so importantly – shared my faith, and an appreciation and love of good food.

Early on into our relationship Ardy learned I knew how to crochet. She proposed a swap… she had a lovely antique dining table that she’d like to have covered with a crocheted table cloth, and I had a Bible that was in tatters… she thought I could perhaps crochet her a table cloth, and that perhaps she could have my very favorite Bible rebound in leather.

I quickly agreed to her proposed course of action and glibly told her it’d take me a few weeks to make her tablecloth.

HA!

Over the course of the :ahem: year-long making of said (even if I do say so myself) lovely tablecloth I would stop by her lovely home to have the table try the tablecloth on for size.

We, of course, would have to make dinner.

Ardy was one of those people who just encouraged my heart by being. She had this amazing fullness of all of the good things that get stuffed into who you are when you’re a child of God and just kinda ooze out of every pore because you’ve started to become more and more like Jesus. Having the very precious honor and privilege to share a meal with she and her husband in their lovely home was nothing less than a balm to my soul.

We talked food a lot, Ardy and I. One day she said, “Oh – I make the world’s best lasagna!” To which I said, “I don’t know how, because I make the world’s best lasagna!” We laughed, and then she proposed that one our next table-fitting, we combine forces to take over the lasagna-making world. I, of course, agreed!

When I learned to make lasagna years and years ago by a mostly only Italian-speaking older lady who did a lot of pointing and gesturing and speaking rapid Italian at me in the hopes that I might somehow learn a thing or two, it was always made with a mixture of lean ground beef and sweet Italian sausage for the meat portion. Honestly – it was fabulous – and you can find the recipe for it here. But Ardy made a lasagna with a sliced spicy Italian sausage – and honestly, that was the really only significant difference, the meat sauce factor – and it was fabulous.

I thought it only fair to share the fabulousness with you.

Here goes…

First, you start with cooking a pound of lasagna noodles:

I use my deepest stock pot – I think it’s a 7 quart size, and put about 3 Tablespoons of sea salt in there, get it going to a boil, and then drop in the noodles one at a time. Once they’re all in, let it cook for 10 minutes.

While the noodles are cooking, slice up the sausage. I found these at Costco – they’re an organic hot link, beef and pork, and honestly, not burn your lips off spicy, but they’ve got a lovely little level of heat in there.

I slice them fairly thinly.

Once they’re all sliced up, transfer them to a large sauce pan, and sauté them. The goal here – in all honesty – is to just brown them up a bit, and sweat off some of the fat.

Once the sausage is warmed through and browned up a bit, drain the fat off and return it to the pan.

Now you’re going to add in 2 29-ounce cans of tomato sauce, and 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste. I also add a couple of Tablespoons of dried parsley, about 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper, a couple of Tablespoons of dried basil, and about a teaspoon and a half of dried oregano.

Remember that the sausage is pretty flavorful, so you don’t need a ton of doctoring here.

Go ahead and stir it up completely, slap a lid on, and keep it at a simmer while you move on to the other components.

About now the lasagna noodles are cooked. Go ahead and dump out most of the hot water, and then run cold water over the pot of noodles:

Once it’s all cooled, lay the noodles out on a sheet pan or a sheet of aluminum foil so that they’ll dry out a bit. Just set them aside.

Now, time to shred the mozzarella. Yes, you could pull out the food processor and do this in moments. BUT – one, the food processor weighs a ton and is a lot to clean up, and the truth of the matter is that it’s only going to take a few minutes longer to do so with a box grater. This is two pounds of mozzarella.

Now, time to put together the cheese sauce.

This is two pounds of Ricotta cheese, one pound of cottage cheese, six lovely fresh eggs laid just today, about a cup of shredded parmesan cheese, a couple of Tablespoons of Garlic Salt, a couple of Tablespoons of dried parsley, and about one Tablespoon of dried basil. Pull out your hand mixer and mix this baby up until it’s all nicely incorporated. Here’s what it’ll look like:

A quick word about cottage cheese. It seems like it’s a love it or hate it kind of ingredient. If you say – I hate cottage cheese so I’d leave the cottage cheese out – that’s fine – live it up. The truth of the matter is that I absolutely DETEST cottage cheese. A good portion of the fact for that being that I’m allergic to a lot of dairy stuff and cottage cheese is one of those things that once consumed makes me wish someone would shoot me and put me out of my misery. The beauty with this is that once it’s cooked, there’s really no discernable cottage cheese – and somehow the cooking of it kills off the bad enzyme that kills my gut, and makes it a very happy thing to consume! So…. if you’re convinced cottage cheese is evil, you just might find that in this application it’s not quite so bad.

Okay – so time to assemble! Using half of each ingredient, start layering.

First, a layer of noodles. I make sure that they overlap a bit:

Next, cheese sauce:

Now, meat sauce:

And now a layer of mozzarella:

Now repeat:

I should mention that on the second layer of lasagna noodles I change the primary direction of the noodles. First layer they went width-wise. This layer they’re length-wise. I use left over noodles to patchwork any gaps.

Also – I should also mention that this is a saucier lasagna than some others. You just need to know that going in. It’s sloppy and messy – but well, oh so very worth dealing with!

Here’s what it looks like ready to go into the oven:

Probably important to point out that this is a HUGE batch of lasagna. I typically make a big batch like this once every month or so. We’ll eat on it for lunches and snacks over the course of a week – and believe me, there are never any leftovers that don’t get consumed in that period of time.

If I’m feeling extra thrifty, I’ll purchase several disposable aluminum pans and portion this out to make two or three smaller lasagnas – one to eat for now, the balance to put in the freezer for later.

So – it goes in a 375 F oven for about an hour. I want it to temp out between 150 and 160 F.

Once it’s done, remove it from the oven and let it sit.

Like for at least half an hour.

Seriously – it needs the rest – and you’ll be a happier camper for the wait.

And that’s pretty much all it takes. We love this dish – it’s so yummy. And yes, it’s not a 30 minute meal – but it’s worth every minute invested in creating it!

See?

What did I tell you? Messy! BUT – totally yummy!