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.


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.








…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.

Totally True!

Years ago, when my children were considerably younger, we were invited to attend a friend’s wedding.

William was about 6 years old, Jess about 11.

It was a little bit higher church wedding than we were accustomed to, and accordingly my Mom and I whispered instructions to the kids in the pre-ceremony hush on how to behave.

For the most part, they were angelic.

Finally, the ceremony began.

The groom stepped to his place at the front of the sanctuary, the priest – in his robes and hat, as well. Then, the processional began, and the attendants made their way to the front of the sanctuary. Finally, the bride – who was lovely in her wedding finery – made her way to stand beside her much loved groom.

I glanced at William and thought I saw a glimmer of recognition in his eye.

I thought – “What’s that kid thinking?!”

And before anyone knew what was happening, in a booming voice, William pronounced, “Mwarrige… Mwarrige is what bwings us twogwever twoday…”


I admit it.

I have warped my children!

The glimmer of recognition?

Here you go:

Bride, groom, priest, candles, flowers!

What should come next?

Only one thing in his then 6-year-old mind…

“…and wuv, twoo wuv…”

Totally true!

Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf

As I’ve mentioned previously, my Mom was not the greatest cook. The things she did well – she did EXCEPTIONALLY well. The other stuff… well, not so much. One dish that all of her children will agree that she did exceptionally well on was her meatloaf. Where on earth she came up with this recipe, I’ll likely never know this side of eternity – and well, will I really give a rip in heaven?!

I wish I could get a couple of her grandchildren – grandsons, specifically – to agree. But I’ll get into that later!

On most Fridays I take part in Fight Back Friday over at Food Renegade’s blog. She has a lovely mission statement – here, let me show you:

Who are they? Why, they’re the Food Renegades. You know who you are — lovers of SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical) food, traditional food, primal food, REAL food, the list goes on. I believe that by joining together, our influence can grow, and we can change the way America (and the industrialized world) eats!

I am so all about sustainable, organic, local, and ethical food. I try to avoid processed foods as much as feasibly possible – which is most of the time. I avoid soy, high fructose corn syrup, and foods that have labels that require you to have a chemist’s degree to understand. I mean – we try to grow as much of our own food as we possibly can, for the very reason that we want to know exactly what we’re eating!

That’s why I couldn’t do Fight Back Friday this past Friday. I had it all planned, I was going to make Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf. Only – it’s decidedly NOT in keeping with the spirit of being a Food Renegade, sadly. So I skipped.

Here’s the thing. I love my Mom’s meatloaf. Just making it today (yeah, I’m a little late – Friday didn’t happen!) just the smells alone – hmmm…. Made my mouth water! And me with three more weeks of NPO and TPN, dang it! But it’s full of some pretty evil stuff. See for yourself:

Okay, yeah, so there’s some good stuff in there, but featured prominently is Stove Top Stuffing (and don’t waste your time, Savory Herbs is THE way to go – forget any of the other flavorings!) AND Lipton Onion Soup Mix. Both are chock full of all sorts of crap! Stuff that I don’t normally buy! Stuff that I don’t normally consume! But there really just isn’t an alternative – that I’ve been able to find, anyway – so I buy this stuff, and make Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf, and love it, darn it all!

Here’s what the ingredient panel for the Stove Top Stuffing says (horrors!):


And for the Onion Soup Mix:

Onions (dehydrated), salt, cornstarch, onion powder, sugar, corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, caramel color, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, yeast extract, natural flavors, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate.

So you can see why I didn’t take part in Fight Back Friday with THIS recipe! Geesh – talk about politically incorrect!!

But, at the risk of being a complete hypocrite – I’m gonna show you show I make this mouthwatering masterpiece, cause I love it! And it reminds me of my Mommy – and well, sometimes you just gotta go there.

So – I should mention that the picture above is missing one really important ingredient – the ground beef! I can’t believe I forgot to put it in the picture! LOL! Oh well, you’re gonna need:

1 pound of ground beef
1 package of Savory Herbs Stove Top Stuffing
1 packet of Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix
1 cup whole milk
2 or 3 eggs (to your preference)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup each Cheddar and Mozzarella or Monterey Jack Cheese

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m all about doing things the easy way. So, I pull out my stand mixer for this one. And go ahead and preheat your oven to 350° F.

To start with, I dump the contents of the stuffing mix and the soup mix into my mixer’s bowl.

Then, I add the milk and the eggs.

(Look! One of the girls laid a double-yolker!)

Then I use a wooden spoon to mix it all up really well.

I set this aside and then prepare the veggies.

I shred the carrots on the fine side of the box grater. Wanna know why? Because my boys are veggie WIMPS. That’s right. Total and complete veggie wimps. MY boys. Sigh… So, yes, I shred the carrots up until they’re teensy tiny so that they’re less noticeable.

Then, to further accommodate the veggie wimps, I dice the celery really fine, too.

Only I kind of cheat. I use this little chopper dude – and it works like a charm.


Of course, if it were just John and Jess and I, I’d rough chop those veggies and we’d LOVE it! Stinking picky boys!

Here’s what the stuffing, soup mix, milk, eggs, carrot, and celery look like all mixed up.

Now about the cheese. You can use whatever kind of cheese your heart desires. I use pretty much whatever I can find on hand. Some days it’s a cup of co-jack. Other days – like today, its 1/2 a cup of cheddar and 1/2 a cup of Monterey Jack. (Same diff, huh?! LOL!) I also really like it with Mozzarella in it. And – if you’re trying to appease stinking picky boys – throw in a little extra cheese. They like cheese – a lot!

Like I mentioned, I use the stand mixer to mix it all together. It takes maybe a whole minute to mix it up well. I sometimes let it go a little longer if I’m using a ground beef that isn’t as lean as I’d like. The paddle of the mixer will actually pull some of that fatty material out of the beef and separate it. It’s pretty cool.

And here’s where Mom’s World Famous Meatloaf departs from the average meatloaf – the way it’s formed. When I was growing up, comparing notes with the kids at school about meatloaf, I was always so surprised that almost universally they all hated meatloaf. I couldn’t figure out why – I mean it was so good, and kinda fun! Then I spent the night with a friend and found out why – no one else made meatloaf as good as my Mom! Plus – they had this weird loaf thing – with red junk on top, not cute little personal sized loaves with melty cheesy stuff on top!

Pretty much, you just take a handful of the meatloaf mixture, pat it into your hand, and shape it into a little loaf. If I’m taking this recipe to a potluck or something, I’ll make them even smaller – kinda like a big meatball – they’re always a huge hit!

If you’d like you can bake these on a roasting rack – if the meat I’m using is pretty lean, I don’t bother.

Go ahead and throw them into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. I use a meat thermometer to make sure they’re cooked through – when it hits 160° F, then they’re done.

Yummy looking, huh?!

So go ahead, throw some of these together, your family will thank you – even if you are poisoning them with all sorts of chemical laden ingredients!