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july-08-032

So what is urban homesteading?

For me, it’s a mindset that places high importance on producing as much of your own food as you reasonably can. Many years ago, I had a sheep farm in upstate New York. That was extreme. These days, I’m no extremist. My husband and I have an ordinary small suburban lot and we’re both busy professionals. I don’t brew our auto fuel, and I don’t refuse to eat anything that came from over 50 miles away.

I consider myself a local-food activist, and I have  a website, LocalFoodAlbuquerque, devoted to the subject of growing and eating local. But mainly, I spend my free time making things and seeing if it’s worthwhile to continue making them. This blog is the journal of my experiments, and so it’s richer and more interesting than the website, in my view; it’s full of works-in-progress and includes honest assessments of projects that just didn’t pan out for one reason or another. I put a heavy emphasis on growing food, but mostly I grow things that are better when fresh. Most vegetables are better when very fresh, but I don’t use my precious space on storage onions, because organic onions from the nearest food co-op are just as good.  I grow extra to preserve in some cases, but not when the preserved product isn’t truly wonderful. Homemade salsas and roasted tomatoes are wonderful canned, and roasted peppers in the freezer are a delicious meal waiting to happen, while frozen green beans have nothing special to recommend them. So I spend my time and energy on the tomatoes and the peppers. I buy local food from local growers whenever I reasonably can, but I don’t give up if a really good product isn’t available locally; I just get it from somewhere else. I use edible weeds intentionally as part of my food gardening, forage both on and off my property, and practice what I call semi-permaculture.

Fanaticism doesn’t last. Healthy habits do. So this blog is not for local-food fanatics or nutrition fanatics or make-everything-yourself fanatics. It’s for people who would like to eat more vegetables, more salads, healthier fish and meat, and maybe  try growing a little food for themselves. It’s for people who have lots of demands on their time and don’t like to be told that they should change their whole lifestyle right now. Big changes come slowly, and they build on small changes. And if you force yourself to do something, you won’t enjoy it, and if you don’t enjoy it you won’t continue it. Start with a small change that you enjoy, and see what else follows. When I moved into Albuquerque, I didn’t intend to be an urban homesteader. But just a few years later, I grow all our vegetables for three seasons and a certain amount through the winter, produce some meat at home, and all our other animal-based foods are grass-fed or sustainably fished. It happened gradually, and I had a lot of fun along the way. I hope that you do, too.
As a physician, I wholeheartedly agree with Sir Albert Howard who said that the health of soil, plants, animals, and humans were all one great question. As a psychiatrist I believe that our mental health as well as our physical health are dependent on this one Great Question. I firmly believe that we can’t be healthy in the setting of an unhealthy relationship with the earth that feeds us.
Many thanks to all my readers, Heather Wood
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26 responses to this post.

  1. I love your site. Keep it up !

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  2. Love your practical approach to urban farming. Just discovered your site and will be back! Happy to make this find!

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  3. Posted by punkybee on September 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    A woman of my heart! Lovely site and some yummy-looking recipes, we’ll be back!

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  4. Great site, thanks for sharing!

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  5. Posted by grdngrl on April 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Love your site! I’ve been vegetable gardening in the city for 12 years now. Can’t wait to try some of your recipes.

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  6. I’m enjoying your blog! I was looking for info about garlic and onion scapes and used your advice to have a tasty treat today!

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  7. Posted by Deanna on August 9, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    My family just moved to Abq from Vermont where we had a CSA share, garden, and great relationship with local farmers from whom we purchased our meat. I know where to get a CSA in Abq and where the farmer’s markets are. My question is: do you know where I could buy large amounts of local beef? Like, half a cow to be butchered to our specifications? Thanks for any advice!

    Deanna

    P.S. I’m so glad I found your website. I’ve been dying to plant a garden in my yard but I have no idea what grows here! Now I know. I’m especially excited to try sweet potatoes. Yum.

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on August 10, 2010 at 6:21 pm

      My usual sources for all things beefy are our local fishhuggers, Kenny and Brenna, at http://www.fishhugger.com. They do 100% grassfed and grass-finished beef. I buy by the piece, but I would think that they would be delighted to sell half a steer. You can find them at the Los Ranchos farmers’ market on Saturday and the Corrales market on Sunday. Please let them know that Heather at Local Food Albuquerque sent you!

      Reply

  8. Posted by Jill on January 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Cheers to your wonderful garden and inspiring lifestyle and blog!
    I am a backyard farmer in the Albuq. heights with a small CSA. I want to add 7 more members to my CSA this year and humbly request you to add a short paragraph about my call to add members in a short paragraph and photo I can email you about my garden. Gracias.

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  9. Glad I discovered your site, I love to hear what others are up when it comes to farming and gardening, keep up the good work!

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  10. Posted by Nerissa Barry on March 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Hi,

    Seeing that you’re a green advocate (and blogger) I wanted to reach out and see if you were interested in an article that I recently have written. It’s on the Olympics and the steps they’re taking to go green and decrease the environmental impact that it has. While sports is something far from the topic of your blog, I think that you will find it interesting and informative, and not overwhelming on the sports content, besides a few facts on the last Olympics, it is primarily about the Olympics going Green.

    I’m looking to spread awareness of the fact that even though the Olympic Games are fantastic and unifying, they are it’s quite a carbon-rich event and are not that environmentally sound.

    Reply

  11. Very cool blog. I love your thoughts on mixing the locavore movement with common sense. Life is too short to avoid great food just because it came from more than 50 miles away. I look forward to reading more of it!

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  12. Posted by Becky Dakin on September 5, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Dear Homesteader-type folks,
    This is a GREAT website and I really appreciate the healthy culture. My husband just accepted a job in Albuquerque that starts in Nov, 2011 so we’ll be moving there from Northern Colorado. We currently raise/sell goats, chickens, and pigs for meat. We also sell eggs. (Our other critters are 4 llamas, and 2 sheep). I garden for our own eating pleasure and am striving to be more self-sufficient each year.
    Would any of you be willing to take part in a conversation regarding raising farm animals in the Albuquerque area? Do you have contacts or websites that I should be sure to check out?
    Some of my questions are as follows:
    Chickens don’t like to lay eggs in extreme temperatures (too cold/too hot). How do you handle this in ABQ?
    Is there a market for meat goats? (Boer goats)
    Pigs: do you know of anyone who raises pigs to market weight and sells to local friends/neighbors that I might talk with? Do you need to compensate in any way for the heat?
    Thanks for getting me excited about the Albuquerque area and starting our new adventure!
    Becky – Meadow Muffin Acres – Loveland, CO

    Reply

  13. Posted by wooddogs3 on September 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Becky, I used your questions in a post, and you’ll find my replies and readers’ responses at the post “Local readers, your input is needed!” posted today.

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  14. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your Rss feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group:

    Reply

  15. Well, hello there! So glad I found a great Albuquerque site. I’ll share it with my readers!

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  16. Posted by Sheila on February 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I went to a couple sites, Pecos Valley meats and Sunshine farms and both were not available. Are they no longer in business to the public, or do I have a computer problem?

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    • Posted by wooddogs3 on February 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

      I’m sorry to say that the Pecos Valley farmer that I used to buy from is no longer in business. I now get all my beef from the good local people at http://www.fishhugger.com. There are radical differences between different grassfed beef suppliers, because most butcher too young; the result is beef that’s very lean, dry, and not as flavorful as I’d like. Fishhugger beef is, in my opinion, the best currently available in our area. They go to Arizona for the winter but in season you can find them at the Los Ranchos farmers’ market on Saturday and the Corrales market on Sunday. I haven’t used the Sunshine Farms milk for a couple of years because I now have a couple of backyard dairy goats and produce my own milk. I couldn’t find them either when I looked in response to your comment, so I presume they have gone on to other things. Unfortunately, small farming is a tough and not very profitable haul, so producers come and go. Whenever you find something that you like, try to drum up other customers, in order to encourage the farmer to keep at it.

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  17. Posted by Monica P. on May 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Greetings from Virginia! Discovered your blog while looking for pictures of curly mallow. Did you know that it can be used as a poultice to draw infection out of wounds, skin eruptions, etc.? My mom & grandmother used to grow it for just that purpose. I never knew it was edible! Btw, you mentioned you used to live in upstate NY….I grew up in Orange County! My family farmed onions. Thanks for supporting small farmers, and keep up the good work!

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    • Posted by wooddogs3 on June 13, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Thanks Monica! Yes, I strongly believe that small farmers are crucial to our future. Are you doing any farming or gardening?

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  18. Posted by Nikki on June 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I live in Ohio City (a near west suburb of Cleveland) now and I’ve been part of a community garden for 2 years (there are 10 of us). Here in the Midwest we have had very good luck growing several different types of vegetables and fruit. This year we just planted blackberry and raspberry bushes (from a stalk–will take 1-2 yrs to germinate fully). We also got a donation of strawberry plants. We are trying our luck at hops (we plan on using it to make beer) this year which is exciting. We have planted and had luck with several different types of herbs. Routinely we grow corn, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, green beans, peas and flowers. This year we are trying eggplant, carrots, kale, and broccoli, too. In addition to our lovely garden, we also have 6 beautiful hens. I have recently been offered a chance to move from Cleveland (where I have lived most of my life) to work in ABQ. Before I even can consider the option, I wanted to check out the local food movement there. Being a part of my community garden has been a very big part of my life, and I love it. Any advice you have on getting involved in this type of thing would be very much appreciated.
    Thank you and love the blog!

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  19. I just heard about this blog because of your review of Bauder’s great book. I’ll be interested to get your take on mine since I’m down in Silver City. My book is not nearly as hard core as Pascal’s, and is more recipe focuses – foraged and farmed recipes from my restaurant. Due out in Sept. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on April 12, 2016 at 9:05 am

      I would love to look it over. Thanks for thinking of me. Send me the final title as soon as you decide on it, so that I can watch for it to come out. I’ll be taking a look at your blog, too. The name intrigues me😉

      Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on April 12, 2016 at 9:17 am

      I have just seen your website and am very excited about this book and will be pre-ordering soon. I was also unaware of your restaurant in Silver City. Sounds strange that I could not know about it, but I spend most of my spare time gardening, foraging, and cooking and don’t get out much😉. I will definitely make it to Silver this summer and hope to eat there.

      Reply

  20. I’m always happy to find folks growing food in arid, urban environments. Cheers from Las Vegas, NV!

    Reply

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