Posts by Harriet Fasenfest

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder’s Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding.


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Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Householding CSA update

A recap

By
March 7, 2013

There are times when a person must go for cover, when life presents obstacles the rational mind cannot digest. At those times, it is best to go all limp and wait for the clouds to clear. Fighting windmills will do no good.

Which is my way of saying forgive my absence, and please welcome the return, for the sun has returned — and just in time for my 2013 Householding CSA order.

But let me not get ahead of myself. First, a recap of 2012.

As you may recall, back in January 2012, my good friends at Dancing Roots Farm and I worked out the terms for a Householding CSA. The objective was to create shares that would allow for big-vat food preservation and storage.

Continue reading Householding CSA update »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

What is a Householder CSA?

A preserver-friendly arrangement

By
March 13, 2012

It is CSA time. Farmers are planning, plotting, and planting their fields, while eaters are considering their seasonal needs. In a perfect show of mutual support, the two come together each year in a system of farm-direct purchasing known as community-supported agriculture.

The CSA system is brilliant: Eaters pay up front for a farm share (to offset some of the farmer’s early planting costs) and farmers, in return, offer the best their fields will yield. Together, they have nurtured a farming renaissance in this country.

There is a maturity to this union, since some years are better than others. As it turns out, the harvest will not be manhandled. The good earth can be fickle. A great year for tomatoes will not necessarily suggest a great year for potatoes. Those who cannot abide the vagrancy of CSA farming might balk; their sights have been set on a different model. They are yet looking for the blemish-free, perfectly shaped, tweaked, and modified bonbons of produce land. These shoppers are harder to win over.

Continue reading What is a Householder CSA? »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Lessons in food and life

‘We knew how to be poor’

By
November 10, 2011

I recently went to the rolling and colorful hills of Vermont. It was a lovely trip replete with fall colors, old friends, new friends, farmstead parties, fabulous food, and a multitude of conversations with activists in the local food-security movement.

It is not for nothing that Hardwick, Vermont, has been called "The Town that Food Saved." The place buzzes with high hopes and hard work. These folks ain’t gentlemen farmers. Nope, there’s dirt under those fingernails, and sun on those necks. These are folks who put their shovel where their mouth is, and I dig it.

Continue reading Lessons in food and life »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

A “chat” with Wendell Berry

The good-news view

By
October 4, 2011

It would be safe to say that I am obsessed with Wendell Berry. And I am not alone. Judging by the crowds that gather whenever he accepts a speaking engagement — which ain’t often — I know I am in good company.

Still, if I am not reading his novels, I am re-reading his essays. If I am not speaking of him, I am speaking to him, if only in my mind. And what we talk about these days is how “The Economy,” “The War,” and “The News” are needing a new narrative.

Continue reading A “chat” with Wendell Berry »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Praising farm wives

The spirit can exist in anyone

By
August 30, 2011

These days we can’t help but love the farmers, for their work is what we need and what we want — good farmers, sustainable farms, healthy soil, clean food, well-fed families. All this I know well. But by golly, with all the love going to the farmer, can I hear an amen for the farmer’s wife — or, to be more modern about it, the farmer’s partner?

I must repeat, as I have said many times before, that being a householder is not a gender-specific act. That I write now of the farm wife (as opposed to my normal bill of fare) is because that role is too often forgotten. But just as we speak of the farmer, so must we speak of the farmer’s partner, and “wife” is as good a word as any. It means something, and I do not care who says otherwise. Besides, I know the spirit of which I speak.

Continue reading Praising farm wives »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Urban peasantry

Coming to terms with one’s food values

By
July 12, 2011

It was a sunny morning in July, the first good sun of the year. I was feeling renewed, reborn, sorta single (or just separated), and ready for what life would offer. And so, woven plastic Mexican grocery bag in hand, I decided to make my way to the farmers’ market.

I thought I would pick up a little something special that I had not the time, inclination, or space to grow or make. But mostly, it was about the outing. This was the beginning of a glorious summer, and I was going to make the scene.

Continue reading Urban peasantry »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Of restaurants and householders

Home cooks deserve major cred

By
June 7, 2011

Today I consider two separate but interrelated topics: prosciutto and restaurant work.

First, the prosciutto. As you might remember, I’m attempting to make one. It hangs now, some months after my first post, in my friend’s cold basement pantry, covered in mold. My friend, Fred, says not to worry. He instructs me to brush it off (both physically and emotionally).

Which I do. I am offering up some images (go to the bottom of this post), but I warn you, neither the before nor after shots look particularly delicious. But the leg smells good, which, at this point, is all I’m hoping for. It is a startling thing, and I will feel so vainglorious if it comes out tasty. So I keep brushing and keep hoping. I will continue to give updates as we go along.

Continue reading Of restaurants and householders »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

A preserving game plan

Preserve this — not that

By
April 15, 2011

To say that early April’s cool, wet weather has been getting me down is an understatement. The other day I looked at national temperature averages, and Portland, Oregon, was darn near the coolest place in the country. What is up with that?

Those in the forecasting business have suggested that changes in climate conditions will not be so much dramatically altered as regionally enhanced. Think weather squared. For us, that might mean “cool and wet” will be the new “hot and sunny.” Look to Pacific Northwest runways everywhere for neoprene bathing suits, the all-terrain wear.

Continue reading A preserving game plan »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Farmers are her friends

She also digs dirt

By
March 7, 2011

I have a fancy for farmers, for their heart and hard work. Not that I know, really, what it is to live such a life. I cannot. I am a city girl. Still, I love the little things about them, like the dirt stains driven deep into the creases of their hands, or the red blush of sun and sweat on their skin.

I love the glimmer of sky in their eyes and the twinkle of heaven and earth. I love their fortitude and the fruits of their labor: the blushed peach, crisp apple, and perky sweet berries of the season. I love the ritual of the harvest and am proud when they remember me — last year, this year, and hopefully for years to come.

Continue reading Farmers are her friends »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Pork Day 2011

Adding value at home

By
January 28, 2011

I was excited. It was Pork Day 2011. The 253-pound Chester-White cross raised by the great folks at Square Peg Farm was ready for slaughter.

On Monday, they brought the animal to a USDA abattoir in Dayton, Oregon, and on Wednesday, the great folks at Northwest Premier Meats picked it up for butchering. On Thursday, my friend Myo and I went to pick up the first of our order — the stuff that we wanted fresh for curing on Friday. The rest we would pick up on Monday the following week, once it was frozen.

Continue reading Pork Day 2011 »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Frugal soup

Cook again

By
December 15, 2010

I must write about frugality today. I must write about cooking and how it relates to frugality. I am writing about chicken necks and backs and about produce at the farmers’ market that is going “downhill” and how you can turn all of it to good use. I must write about how barley, oats, or beans added to the soup that you made with chicken necks and backs, along with the limp carrots they sold, or gave you, at the market, can make good eating.

Yes, I know we must know something about cooking before we can cook well and cheaply, but how much? Is it really a matter of income and education, or about inclination?

Continue reading Frugal soup »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Paying their way

Budgeting and householding

By
October 25, 2010

The other day my husband said something startling. He is apt to be a tad clumsy in his phraseology, but even for him, the sentiment was bracing: “Your efforts towards householding are corrupt unless you pay your way.”

Now, I understood what he was saying. Nothing, not the food we eat, soil I grow it in, house we live in, or the everyday comforts of my life would be possible if he did not pay the bills. Someone, somewhere, needs to pay the bills. That fact does not elude me.

Continue reading Paying their way »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Shun the photo op

When food is plain

By
September 28, 2010

I love good food — the way it grows, the way it tastes, and, frankly, the way it looks. I have been buying and reading glossy cookbooks since the early 1970s and held the adage “The eye eats first” like a hammer over the head of my restaurant employees when they sent out breakfast plates that looked, well, worse for wear.

Fact is, my staff used to mimic me. “What is this?” I would ask, holding a sad limp orange slice in my hand. “I tell you what it is: Garbage!”

Continue reading Shun the photo op »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

The meat, the butcher, and the strappy blue sandals

The lost art of butchery

By
September 14, 2010

I am meat-obsessed. Not so much in the eating, but in the buying. Not so much in buying retail, but in the purchasing of farm shares. And not any farm share or any animal, but in a very particular farm share and animal raised, as it turns out, in a very, very particular way.

I did not start out this way, but after a couple of years of purchasing farm shares and, well, after writing a book that goes into the nuances of the same, I can honestly say it’s a little hard to pull the wool, errrr, grass, over my eyes. But that was not always the case.

Continue reading The meat, the butcher, and the strappy blue sandals »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Eat a peach

Harriet celebrates peach-picking day

By
August 31, 2010

It is early in the morning. I’m drinking my first cup of coffee. The weather has tempered to a sensible cool. I have Veteran peaches in the garden house begging to be processed. I will rise to the occasion as soon as the caffeine has entered my brain and body. I have no choice.

Despite yesterday’s blistering heat, I went to the orchard. I almost thought better of it, but was worried about the forecast of rain. Would a gentle shower or furious downpour ruin the legendary tenderness of a Veteran peach? Who knows, but I didn’t want to risk it. I figured if I got out early enough, I could beat the heat.

Continue reading Eat a peach »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Soil woes

Making the best of city garden soil

By
July 22, 2010

Hello. I am back and by no particular demand. If you remember, I was the one with a jones about householding — the wisdom of stewardship, self-reliance, and thrift as set forth by our forefathers and mothers, before industry usurped the laws and logic of the universe.

Back then, I was wondering what householding could possibly mean to this 56-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool boomer girl. How the dickens could I actually go backwards in time without appearing to be a complete Luddite?

Not that I wanted to play country comfort. Heck, I like canning as much as the next gal, but householding isn’t just about canned peaches or stocked pantries — not really. It’s about imagining an entirely new way of seeing yourself in the world.

Continue reading Soil woes »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Southern charm

Of food and habitat

By
March 31, 2009

I recently returned from a visit to Georgia. I went to see friends and to attend a memorial service for Millard Fuller, the co-founder (with his wife, Linda) of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing.

I worked for Millard as his scheduling secretary in the mid-1990s. His sudden death saddened people all over the world. At the time of his death, Habitat — whose mission is to eliminate poverty housing worldwide — had built more than 200,000 homes and housed more than a million people.

Though showing my respect to Millard was a large part of my journey, it wasn’t the only reason I went. I had been thinking about the South, about my time there, about my friends. I had left rather quickly and never said goodbye as I should have, to my friends or to the region. Having lived in Americus, a semi-rural community, there were many things about the soil, air, and foliage I missed. Funny, but I felt I had not bid the land a proper farewell.

Continue reading Southern charm »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

What is householding?

Making the choice to stay home

By
March 12, 2009

Editor’s note: Read about Harriet Fasenfest in a recent Oregonian feature. Also, check out her Culinate member page for her Portland-only food-resource recommendations.

It’s funny, the way I get so cerebral about homemaking. You’d think that, after talking to my mom and her friends — now in their 80s — I’d be more down-to-earth about it all. Certainly that’d be the case when I heard what a chore it was and how happy they were when they could finally stop cooking, cleaning, and raising kids (not all did, to be sure, but enough did). Right?

Continue reading What is householding? »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

A sense of place — and taste

Slow Food delegates bring back stories of real food

By
February 10, 2009

I went to Ecotrust recently to hear Portland’s Slow Food delegates speak about their experiences at Terra Madre, the international Slow Food event held every other fall in Turin, Italy.

The delegates were a committed group of food activists — chefs, farmers, educators, administrators — all speaking of their varied impressions before, during, and after the “main” event.

To a point, they all acknowledged the “glorious mess” of Terra Madre, a phrase coined by Linda Colwell, a member of Slow Food Portland’s board, a chef, writer, and consultant in food, farms, and school-garden education. (She founded the Garden of Wonders school-garden project and the scratch kitchen at Abernethy Elementary School in Portland.)

Continue reading A sense of place — and taste »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Phyllis McGinley: a woman of her time

A piece of the puzzle

By
January 21, 2009

About two or three weeks ago, I read a New York Times Magazine profile of Phyllis McGinley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and advocate for all things domestic.

In her 1960s heyday, she had many detractors — not surprising, given the fact that she was writing during a peak of feminist activism. I admit my interest was piqued, given my own commitment to all things home and garden. I ordered one of her books immediately.

Sixpence in Her Shoe is a compilation of essays which, according to the book jacket, “delightfully escorts us through the House as she [McGinley] understands it.” Sections entitled “The Wife,” “The House,” and “The Family,” were preceded by “An Unapologetic Preface.” I liked that tact.

Continue reading Phyllis McGinley: a woman of her time »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Busy work

Homemaking is no small thing

By
November 26, 2008

So here is the truth: When I am working at a full clip and doing all the things I set myself up to do in the home, I can easily work six or seven hours a day. Of course there are break times and nap times and days I choose to do nothing. But what I am really noticing is that I am very busy in the home making a home, particularly in a manner I feel is responsive to the issues of the day.

It may seem bizarre to be so fascinated with my work schedule, but I am. But it is not just my work. I’m thinking about the entire system of home economics, what it takes and whether re-evaluating the means and methods of doing so can offer solace and solutions to the conditions of the world economy. In essence, I’m wondering how political and transformative the personal can be, or, to use the vernacular of another day, if being “a good little homemaker” will finally, truly, be good and not so little a thing.

Continue reading Busy work »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

The lost art of householding

Urban homesteading means reevaluating your appetite

By
November 10, 2008

Editor’s note: Harriet Fasenfest was featured in a recent New York Times piece on root cellars.

Now that I am locked and loaded for winter and the rain is giving me permission to consider life from the inside out, I’m on to the next part of this experiment: planning meals from all the stuff in my packed pantry, freezer, and root cellar.

Managing this is not as obvious as it might appear. More than one food preserver will admit to never eating some of the stuff he has so carefully prepared. Marge, my now-retired partner in Preserve, offers many cautionary tales, such as, “If you don’t like applesauce, don’t make it.” Easier said than done, Marge. When you have lots of apples to contend with, and applesauce is oh-so-easy to make, you inevitably end up with lots of jars staring you down come April.

Continue reading The lost art of householding »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Blowback

Some days you just need to embrace your fashion self

By
October 28, 2008

So here is the moment, or one of them, I have been waiting for. It is not one that makes me particularly proud, but so what? I’m posting honest musings from an urban homesteader, not packaged ones. No gift wrap and bows here. Just the real dirt, inside and out.

So what’s the story? Well, for some reason I can barely stand to look at the garden these days. I walk outside, enjoy the last of the sunny autumn days, look at the garden beds planted with “green manure,” consider the few kale, sorrel, basil, pepper and yet-producing cucumber plants out there, and run back inside the house, exhausted by it all.

Continue reading Blowback »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Food and the current economy

A shift from fancy pantries to local food

By
October 10, 2008

So what do financial meltdowns have to do with food and why do you need another amateur assessment of the fallout? The answers to those questions are “everything” and “you don’t.” But because I have been writing about the questionable premise behind economic systems themselves (or at least their role as the holy grail), it makes sense that I would want to weigh in. Somehow the current stock-market debacle has made these long days canning tomatoes easier to bear.

There are lots of ways to interpret the causes behind our current financial correction. Is it born of a lack of oversight and federal regulations? Is it about overheated markets making the cyclical and necessary adjustments? Is it a comeuppance for investor greed in the housing market?

Continue reading Food and the current economy »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

The year in review

Why soil is more important than anything

By
September 18, 2008

I suppose, in review, that the year and my efforts in the garden offered much by way of substance. I do not know if I will ever get the chickens or goats I think about, even though they would round out the homestead. Evidently there is a limit to my time and space.

If I were a younger woman, I might move to a larger spread. But this experiment, this living off while on the grid, is the thing I am most interested in. And even though it is still unclear to me what it means to be an urban homesteader, slowly I move closer to a life that feels sane.

Continue reading The year in review »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Fall spices

The rest of the harvest

By
September 17, 2008

As I write this, the grapes are turning into raisins and the paste tomatoes are getting ready to become all that a canned tomato can be. Along with my alliums, my tomatoes are the thing I am most sure of. Cooked and canned, they actually release nutrients a raw tomato will not offer, such as lycopene. They will be canned up quickly as diced or puréed beauties, or given more time to become ketchup or barbecue sauce — all things my son deems necessary for life.

Besides pantry stocking, there have also been the innumerable meals we have eaten fresh from the garden. I can comfortably say that a person can grow, on no more than a city lot (house included), enough for a side dish to every meal throughout the spring and summer seasons. It takes a little planning and experience in succession gardening, but it can be done. It also takes the willingness to eat the same thing day after day when it is in season (even spinach and summer squash can get old), but that is something necessity will take care of. “Hunger,” as my mother says, “makes the best cook.”

Continue reading Fall spices »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

The September garden

Tallying up the year’s harvest

By
September 16, 2008

So it is September and I’m taking a moment to consider the fruits of my labor. Is it a matter of conceit or reality check? I am, after all, looking for a replacement logic to shopping my way towards stewardship. But how much can I really do in a small backyard garden? How much can I either grow or harvest from other small farmers that will end up as the substantive offering in a meal? Or am I spending all my time making flourishes for the table? Am I, in the end, simply talking chutneys and chow chows?

Continue reading The September garden »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Side-dish gardening

And a good use for green tomatoes

By
August 11, 2008

With a little space between classes and the summer planting done, I’ve been granted time to ponder and write. I am still tethered (by choice) to the beauty and vegetal madness of the place, and soon I will plant my winter garden, but at the moment I am thinking about the harvest and a new field in backyard farming: side-dish gardening.

Growing for side dishes is a particular niche. And not just any kind of side dish. I’m talking about keepers, stuff that holds up well during the dark days ahead. Sure, anyone can slice a tomato and lather it with olive oil and basil to pop, fresh, in the mouth (and to be sure, that is a great moment in the garden). But I’ve got my squirrel hat on and am thinking about tomorrow.

Continue reading Side-dish gardening »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Homesteading means home

Future dreaming

By
July 30, 2008

Well, friends, it’s official. Homesteading, rural or urban, is a movement. It is growing faster then my bean vines. If I ever thought I had a new idea in my head, I do not now. And it is the kids, young couples with children, single 20-somethings wanting to find a better way of living, and a few holdouts from the counterculture generation, who are doing it for real.

And no doubt are working hard. I mean real hard. Reading the tons of blogs and websites from countless numbers of folks both in and out of this country is awe-inspiring. But then I’m still a city girl and will no doubt always be a city girl. I admit to liking to sashaying up to the coffee shop to read the paper and visit with friends. I like going downtown to enjoy lunch or the museum. I like the energy, the efforts, and the culture of the city. So urban homesteading turns out to be a happy middle ground for me.

Continue reading Homesteading means home »

Rhubarb jewels

Sexy time in the garden

By
July 14, 2008

I came home the other day from a week of “vacation” with the full knowledge that leaving Portland and my backyard in summer is just plain silly. I mean, what could be better then sitting quietly in the garden surrounded by the lush growth and blue skies of our long overdue sunny season?

Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but with all the seasonal birthing and production of vegetal offspring going on, the fecundity of the place is off the hook. Add the heat and kaleidoscopic colors, the smells (poet’s jasmine to be sure), and a teeming microbiology (birds do it, bees do it, even single-celled microbes do it), and I am rendered nearly breathless. It can set the mind to wandering.

Continue reading Rhubarb jewels »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Berry worries

Planning a vacation around a garden is tough

By
July 1, 2008

I am annoyed by pectin. Well, not all pectin, and certainly not the type that occurs naturally in fruit. Rather, I’m talking about the stuff that comes in boxes. You think you need it, but you don’t. Those boxes look so important, but they’re not. In fact, boxed pectin belies the process of jam making, which for much of its history in the kettle has had no such addition.

Just read the introductions in the older editions of the Joy of Cooking on the subject of jams and jellies. They tell it like it is. Using boxed dry and liquid pectin requires tons more sugar then you should really ever use. The reason has something do to with how industry has translated large-scale systems into home-scale systems and, in the process, created a product no one really needs.

Continue reading Berry worries »

Harriet’s list

Better than a personal shopper

By
June 25, 2008

So I’m looking through the paper this morning, and I discover yet another invitation to get a “personal shopper.” This is not a new concept; those with the resources can have a fashion slave shop the racks for them. I understand the appeal, ‘cause I hate clothes shopping, but then I have another approach: I just don’t go.

I guess if I loved new clothes, had disposable income, and had a shopping phobia, I would hire a personal shopper. But then, that’s about fashion and clothing and expendable cash for expendable goods.

Continue reading Harriet’s list »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Ask yourself why you garden

Urban farming isn’t for the merely romantic

By
June 16, 2008

Hello again. It’s your reliable urban homesteader, in from the wet and the wild to give you an update. I’ve been busy planting and planning and have been generally rewarded by both. Today the potato plants are thigh-high, the spinach waves tall in the wind, and the lettuce holds forth with vigor and endless days of salads. I stand breathlessly over my tomatoes and eggplants, hoping to see some growth, but no luck. It’s still not their season, and they know it.

Those things which season and custom would normally bear, like my strawberries and currants, are being stunted by recent oh-so-chilly weather. But I hold out hope that those days are numbered. As for my preserving classes, they are being held indoors, as it is just too cold to teach in the lovely outdoor space we built. That too will change, and I look forward to the months ahead, when all can go according to plan.

Continue reading Ask yourself why you garden »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Balabosta

She who gives herself to the work of the home

By
April 2, 2008

There is a word in the Yiddish language given to the man or woman who excels in all things related to the home. Though largely forgotten, it was meant as a high-minded compliment, one judiciously dispensed. It suggested a knowledge base expertly expressed in both style and substance, a caring not only for the tools and trades of the home but for the soul and spirit as well.

To be deemed a balabosta (balaboster in the masculine) was no small thing. It was a status offered with respect and carried with pride. To find a relative term today is difficult. Not even my notions of urban homesteading cover it exactly. I think the phrase Earth Mama (or Papa) came close, given the anointed’s connection to all things Gaia, but even that has faded from our terminology. In fact, call someone an Earth Mama (or balabosta, for that matter) today and they might well get insulted. It’s not the high calling it once was.

Continue reading Balabosta »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Harriet’s garden

Spring cleaning, inside and out

By
March 24, 2008

Hello, friends. I am back for a moment from all the early plantings and planning of the season. The path, “gazebo,” and garden plan are in place, and I am just waiting for a few clear skies before direct-seeding a few other crops.

In the space between, I’m taking advantage of inclement weather by staying indoors and embracing the ritual of spring cleaning — everything from the floors to freezers, from basement to bookshelves, from windows to winter clothes. This is a thorough cleaning and what’s most remarkable about the task is that I don’t resent it.

Continue reading Harriet’s garden »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Advice for the beginning gardener

Harriet starts plotting

By
February 19, 2008

Now that I have laid my cards on the table regarding my motivation for becoming an urban homesteader (was it ever in doubt?), it’s time to limit my commitment to words in lieu of deeds. Not that I don’t love writing, but planting season is quickly approaching and I am remodeling my very own victory garden.

Actually, the remodel is more of a tweak, since the garden has been going on for some time now. As any gardener knows, garden design and tending is never done in the way “done” is known to be done. Rather, it’s a process of constant re-evaluation and renewal motivated by new interests and practices in gardening. Sometimes it’s as ethereal as a babbling brook (which I don’t have) or as functional as a new raised bed (I have lots of these). Some years, like this one, it’s a big-picture overhaul designed for a little bit of whimsy, a certain amount of function, and a whole lot of yield.

Continue reading Advice for the beginning gardener »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Self-reliance in the city

Is urban homesteading about politics? Or skills?

By
January 30, 2008

“I don’t care what it’s called, I just want to learn skills,” she said. It was a forceful statement. It took me aback. I questioned my agenda in organizing the first tentatively dubbed Urban Homesteading meeting at my home.

Evidently, for the 20 or so folks crammed into my tiny living room, the sentiment was mostly the same. This was not political; this was about skills.

Clearly, my desire to participate in a distinctly defined movement that would gain momentum and create cultural shock waves and alternatives to the political and economic inertia of our time would have to wait. We were just getting to know each other. We still wanted to talk about soap.

Continue reading Self-reliance in the city »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Revolution with a side of cheese

By
January 26, 2008

It’s always nice to meet folks who help turn your odd obsessions into something less odd and obsessive. And so it is that I thank, and feel an affinity for, the 20 or so curd-inspired folks who showed up at a Portland cheese shop (Foster and Dobbs) recently for a fun evening of DIY cheesemaker talk.

For the most part, we were all starting out at the same place as hopeful novices. With only a smattering of real expertise between us, we discussed who we were, why we were there, and what we hoped to accomplish, both individually and as a group.

Continue reading Revolution with a side of cheese »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Pantry 101

By
January 9, 2008

It is all coming together these days. I’m beginning to understand how the world of homemaking (with an eye towards self reliance) functions, or should. Nothing I am discovering is new. It is common wisdom, but it has a new context. We are homemakers, gardeners, and urban homesteaders for a sane economy and healthy environment. We are homemakers of the revolution. How exciting.

So now that you’ve dusted off your aprons and quit your job (maybe just shortened your hours), it’s time to chart out a game plan. Lately, and for some time now, I have been considering how to go about this. Other posts have examined the whys and wherefores of the effort, but now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. I’ll call this Pantry 101: the stocking of one’s pantry for a maximum of meals and a minimum of packaging. Here are some ideas.

Continue reading Pantry 101 »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Betty Crocker’s bad-ass sister

By
December 31, 2007

Oh gosh, yesterday I felt the fever. If I was ever confused about how to utilize my time in the home during the winter, it has passed. Slowly I am getting this “import replacement” effort down. Slowly I am replacing the store-bought little boxes and jars in my pantry with the boxes and jars of my handiwork. I am heavy into production mode. I am producing, ever closer to the source, what we, as a family, are consuming.

Cases in point: Gnocchi made from homegrown potatoes and served with brown butter and sage, with the potato-cooking water going into sourdough starter. Butter made from cream that I whipped with the remaining buttermilk used for starter to make cheese. Ripened tomatoes (I picked them green in October), roasted and cooked with onions and thyme in a crust made from rendered chicken fat and homemade butter. Poached and chilled chicken breasts served with aïoli made with Jim Dixon’s wonderful imported olive oil, duck eggs from Kookoolan Farms, and basil-garlic-white-wine vinegar I made this summer with produce from the garden.

Continue reading Betty Crocker’s bad-ass sister »

Cheese, indeed

But not Jewish old-world-style baked farmer’s cheese

By
December 17, 2007

My first experiment with making cheese was actually a lot more successful than my earlier post suggested. Had I waited an hour or two more before reporting, I would have changed my tune.

Just as I was preparing to turn the mass into yogurt, the miracle of curds was before me. As instructed, I carefully spooned the gentle quivering curds into a colander lined with moistened cheesecloth and placed the entire apparatus over a bowl deep enough to catch the whey.

It took three hours for the curds to drain sufficiently to tie them up in their cheesecloth package. I used the wire from an old television antenna to hang the bag on a kitchen-cabinet knob. (I suppose kitchen twine would have been more prudent, but I was in a fit of kitchen wizardry.)

Continue reading Cheese, indeed »

Harriet takes on cheese

By
December 3, 2007

Yesterday I tried my hand at cheesemaking. As I write this, I have a half-gallon of slightly soured milk (nothing near a curd) sitting on a hot pad in my kitchen nook. I’ve already assessed the damage and will try turning the failed project into yogurt.

I followed a recipe from a book in the old Time-Life series “The Good Cook” on cheese and eggs. I love that series. They have wonderful introductions and pictures along with information on ingredients and procedures that would rival many of today’s cookbooks. They can be a little hard to find, though, because they are out of print. I found a whole series at a library sale in Canby, Oregon, and was stoked by the score.

Continue reading Harriet takes on cheese »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

The beauty of everyday acts

By
November 28, 2007

A few months ago a friend of mine loaned me two books: Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, and The Zuni Café Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers. After spending some time reviewing both, I was struck by the particularity of their individual efforts. There was such lovely detail and expressed appreciation regarding the subtleties of their craft that it made me reflect on the specifics and skill in everyday acts.

In a passage from Home Comforts, the author tells of her Italian grandmother. She writes, “I heard Puccini, slept on linen sheets with finely crocheted edging rolled up with lavender from the garden, and enjoyed airy, light rooms with flowers sprouting in porcelain pots on windowsills and the foreign scents of garlic and dark, strong coffee.”

Continue reading The beauty of everyday acts »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Making one’s own everything

By
November 23, 2007

It was while reading Jane Jacobs’ book Cities and the Wealth of Nations that I first considered the idea of “import replacement.” She writes about its role in a city’s economy. It has something to do with becoming the local producers of the things we locally consume, and I think it has a great deal of merit. But then, as an urban homesteader, I’ve been thinking about its role in the health of our homes and the environment. In the end, the concepts of import replacement can present themselves in many ways and places. It just happens that I am apt to start in my home and work outward.

Continue reading Making one’s own everything »

On and off the grid

The utility of Ms. Potato Head

By
November 13, 2007

So I was soaking in the tub talking on the phone with Marge the other day when I realized how, in that single moment, I was the recipient of at least a million services of the modern world. There was the phone, electricity, indoor plumbing, and the leisure of free time, to name just a few. I have to admit to feeling a little ridiculous complaining about the very culture of convenience I was enjoying. But I suppose irony is not necessarily a bad thing if it makes you dig deeper for solutions.

Continue reading On and off the grid »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Of oxen and apples

We’ve got to rethink what we’ve traded away

By
October 26, 2007

My days are geared by the seasons. In spring and summer, growing food captures my time, since to grow well you must grow true. There is also the call of the wild and stunning beauty that will not let me go indoors. In those ways I’m not apt to care about what’s going on in the house. There is just too much to do outside.

Autumn is a time of in-between. I’m called to the final harvests, the colors, the walks through autumn leaves and putting down the tired beds to rest. But I am also called inside to start the ovens roaring and to bake and cook all that was put on hold during the long days outside. Autumn is the time of soups and stews and those things that a fresh berry would never want to be.

Continue reading Of oxen and apples »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

On becoming a homemaker

Walking the talk

By
October 24, 2007

The other day, while in search of plant hooks and wood putty, I ran into a friend of mine. He and his girlfriend used to come into the coffee shop I owned on Alberta Street in Portland. They seemed to be everything I was not: focused, career-minded, and of that planned-living mindset. They made good and thoughtful choices about their life — adult choices. He was the vice-principal of a grade school and she was a doctor. That they came to my coffee shop was the only indicator I had of their ability to stray off course. They eventually married and soon after had a child. They lived in a house he had totally remodeled. They were, in a word, “doers.”

Continue reading On becoming a homemaker »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Gleaners come over to make jam

In which Harriet tests her spontaneous self

By
October 22, 2007

For years now, I have taught classes on food preservation. How I learned is another story, but my methodology is based on the traditional practices and research of the Oregon agricultural extension service. And while the “how” I teach is by the book (unless it’s safe to wander off course), the “why” I teach or preserve is not, at least for my generation.

There is no time saved doing your own food preservation. And absolutely no time saved if you are growing or gleaning the food yourself. But the elements of time have become so pegged to a business climate on steroids that you cannot really peg it to that.

Continue reading Gleaners come over to make jam »

Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Musings from an urban homesteader

In which Harriet introduces her blog

By
October 17, 2007

I am a latter-day homemaker, an urban homesteader if you please. I use these words not knowing exactly what they mean but understanding what I think they can. The journey between where I am today — a semi-retired backyard food, gardening, and preservation advocate — to full-bore maven of everything related to home stewardship is where this blog will get its material.

My willingness to publicly navigate this investigation is no great surprise. I have had a public persona for most of my working years. As an on-and-off Portland restaurant owner during the last three decades, I have encouraged public discourse on everything from why my latest boyfriend was such a prick to issues around water privatization.

Continue reading Musings from an urban homesteader »

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