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Meet DeannaCat

Hi! I’m Deanna, but a lot of you may know me as DeannaCat. I am all about simple living, growing (and eating!) plants, and tending to my family and ecosystem the best I can. My hope is to inspire a love for a similar lifestyle or hobbies in others, by sharing real-life tips and tools to make “modern homesteading” activities easy, relatable, and enjoyable ~ so you can learn and dive in with me!

It’s always a bit awkward to talk about yourself, but I suppose it’s good to open up and share some things with you, to give you a better idea about my background, passions, and where I am coming from with all this.


DeannaCat in her personal Garden of Eden, surrounded by kale trees and chicken friends



So hey! I’m the face behind this blog, a garden mentor to many over on Instagram, and also work full-time as an Environmental Health Specialist. In my personal life, I am the wife and best friend to Aaron, a part-time monarch butterfly doula, and mama to 3 kitties, four chickens, 37 houseplants, 300 outdoor plants, and a bin full of worms. Yes, I have my hands full – but also have a very full heart! 


When I’m not busy in the garden (or writing about gardening), you can likely find me in the kitchen, cuddling with the kitties, walking on the beach, or doing yoga ~ preferably in the patio garden on a sunny day. It probably isn’t surprising to hear that I am a Cancer and total homebody. And for the record, everything is better with music. (You can listen to our favorite tunes here!)


If you catch glimpses of a smiling, dark, handsome man here and there – that’d be Aaron. For the record, he may seem “behind-the-scenes” here, but is an immense contributor (maybe even more than myself!) to the care for this homestead, plants, and animals! He also assists with photo shoots, proof-reading, idea-bouncing, and all sorts of other helpful contributions that I am beyond grateful for. We are a team.


Deanna and Aaron, Team Homestead and Chill
Team Homestead and Chill

So, how’d we end up here – doing this whole gardening, mini-homesteading and blogging thing? I guess it boils down to this: 


Back in 2013, a friend of mine told me I should get on Instagram. “You’ll love it, it’s pretty much just pictures!” she said. See, I have always loved photography. As a little girl, I had to save up my allowance to develop rolls of film because my mom got so overwhelmed at the amount of photos I was taking! Long before the days of smartphones, I was always “the friend with the camera” –  ready to capture the beauty and memories of any moment. 


I started sharing photos of what was happening in our life on Instagram, which was (and still is) mostly gardening and homestead projects, with a little bit of food and cats mixed in. Through Insta, I began connecting with like-minded folks – and also started getting a lot of questions about our projects and lifestyle, which I really loved! So I started doling out answers and explanations, and quite detailed ones at that. In addition to sharing images, this new outlet for information-sharing was totally jiving with a huge part of me that felt “missing” at the time.


Back in college, I was really involved on campus and led several environmental and sustainability-related campaigns. I was always out there – trying to engage people in conversation, connect, share ideas, and even maybe teach folks a thing or two. In case you’re wondering, I have my B.S. in Sustainable Coordination and Resource Management from CSU, Chico and a Master’s in Environmental Studies from Brown University. After leaving college and jumping into “the real world”, I felt a huge disconnect from the exciting, progressive, and creative energy I was so accustomed to. So I poured it into our yard, home, and Instagram instead. They became my outlet. My means of outreach had to shift drastically from in-person to internet-based (including starting a blog, because there is only so much you can convey on Insta) – but hey, that’s okay! That is why I am here now. And I am SO glad you are too!


Speaking of college, that is when I started my first garden. Back in 2007, I plunked down my first little raised garden beds (and worm compost bin) in the side yard of my tiny Chico rental cottage at the time. Since we were moving around a lot then, we kept it small and manageable: just a few tomato and squash plants.


My first garden and crookneck squash, circa 2007


Then when we moved into an apartment in Providence, Rhode Island, we weren’t able to garden much at all. Not only because of the living situation, but more so because I was busy working on my thesis. To get a break from my studies, I picked up the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (highly recommended!). It was then that the light bulbs for our future really started to go off in my head. I felt so inspired by the idea of not only growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs, but also raising chickens, preserving food, sacrificing non-essentials, and truly living and eating with the seasons. After reading that book, I decided I wanted to do more than casually garden – and dreamed of creating a mini homestead one day.


When I finished grad school we moved back across the country to California, landed jobs that brought us to the amazing Central Coast that we now call home, and began saving to buy a home. We purchased this property in 2013, and started our first flock of baby chicks in 2014. Project-by-project and year-by-year (remember, these things don’t happen overnight, and that is totally okay!), we have been slowly transforming it to make our urban homesteading dreams come true. We hope to move to a larger property one day, but are making damn good use of every square inch of this place in the meantime! To read more details about our homestead, click here



But wait.


How did I get interested in gardening and sustainable living in the first place? I get asked this question a lot, so I am going to jump back even further in time for a moment. This is going to get more personal here, but bear with me… it’s relevant.


My history with healthy eating and fear of toxins runs deep. Growing up, my mom was a dental hygienist, so processed sugar and many snack foods were a big no-no and a rarity in our house. She switched gears and became a registered dietitian/nutritionist while I was in late elementary school. So we started to look at everything we ate a little more closely, not just sugar. Then one day in early high school, my pancreas decided to quit on the job. Suddenly, on a genetic fluke, I became Type 1 Diabetic. Talk about putting everything I ate under the microscope! While my friends were spending their lunch breaks cruising around getting fast food, I was bringing sack lunches and counting carbs.


Flash forward 6 years. I lost my dad to aggressive kidney cancer when I was only 21. It was absolutely devastating. I was and always will be a Daddy’s girl. Who knows exactly how and why cancer decides to rear its ugly f***ing head, yet I can’t help but substantially blame his enthusiastic love affair with meat, butter, Ben and Jerry’s, and processed foods, along with the medications used to mask the symptoms of the issues that those all caused. See, my parents were no longer together by then, so they ate very differently in their households. When he passed away, I was already at a crossroads in college, considering studying nursing or physical therapy but not sure what direction I wanted to go.


Losing him made me take a serious step back to process what happened and reevaluate what was important to me. I quit my part time job at a local gym and started crafting as therapy. It was then that I started my journey with sustainability and healthier, natural living. Within the following year I changed my major, got a sustainability coordinator position at the university, started selling up-cycled crafts and photography at our local farmers market, became a vegetarian, and started my first garden. Oh yeah, and got dreadlocks.


Sounds a bit like a quarter-life crisis, right?! But it wasn’t a temporary dance with insanity. It was the start of my purpose. Over the years since this interest bloomed into a passion and into a lifestyle that I will never go back from. Don’t get me wrong, we are far from perfect over here. We by no means lead a fully self-sufficient or zero waste life, but we try our best! We aren’t fault-free with our diets either – we all have our vices! Mine happen to be good craft beer, organic kettle chips, and dark chocolate.


So, here we are!


All of the above naturally leads me to this – creating a blog about the things that light my fire, and I hope will light yours too! To me, this space is so much more than “just a blog” ~ it is my creative and artistic outlet, my motivator to keep learning and doing, and a way to connect with you, share, and hopefully inspire. I want to help people live healthier, happier lives, in whatever way I can. I also want you to know that I am not here to preach, and never to judge! You do you. No matter your level of knowledge, interest, or involvement in a similar lifestyle, you’re welcome here. Good vibes only.



In loving memory and dedication to my Dad, because I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today without him. I know he would be so proud of both.

DeannaCat, a little blonde smiling girl, sitting in a red wheelbarrow at the age of two. Her dad is holding up the wheelbarrow, looking down at her, smiling.
Oh, did I say I started gardening when I was 21?
I clearly meant two.

85 Comments

  • Yvonne

    So glad to hear about worm beds, Can you give me an address for worms for sale: Eisenia fetida close to Missouri?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Yvonne, check out for a list of companies that sell worms in Missouri. Hope that helps and good luck with your worm adventure!

  • Judi

    I love your helpful blog and videos — especially on vermicomposting. Quick question: I followed your instructions on setting up a bin and bought 2000 red composting worms from Uncle Jims about a month ago. No matter what I try, MANY of them try to escape each day. Any idea why this would keep happening? Bedding is not too wet, I keep the bin in my basement where temp is almost 60, they’re well fed, bedding is coconut coir, soil, shredded newspaper (and other paper), leaves, some sand. Not sure what I’m doing wrong 🙁 I’d really appreciate your advice!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Judy, those pesky worms can be quite the handful! It looks like you are doing everything right, maybe try layering a couple sheets of newspaper or brown paper on top of your bin and bedding material as that seems to work for us. Even if some escape, they do a surprisingly good job of repopulating themselves so hopefully you will still have a healthy population even after the mass exodus is over. Hope that helps and thank you for your support!

  • Star

    I found Homestead & Chill last spring when I got quite into gardening. I love this website and all of your helpful, lovely videos. This is my favorite gardening site. Your homestead is charming, beautiful and impressive, I have always felt a connection to plants and kept several about. I know a lot about the various properties of certain plants as a master herbalist of two decades. I am keeping to less plants/far less gardening for the foreseeable future, however, since it was just too much work on my own with a family not into gardening. I’m thankful for the knowledge I’ve gathered along the way – much of which came from you.

    I do have a question as to bacterial blight. I suspect my most treasured geranium – a two foot-tall, two year-old, crimson-bloomed wonder (and that I’ve overwintered for two consecutive years) has come down with it. I am devastated. Last year, it overcame edema (a common issue in this damp, cool, northern climate) and bounced back beautifully – now this which I’m worried there will be no bouncing back from. Most of what I’ve read said when it comes to bacterial blight, it’s ultimately fatal for the plant. Still, I thought I would pick the brains of the team behind Homestead & Chill. Would either neem oil or hydrogen peroxide help (as I’d heard they might)? How about grapefruit seed extract (my own idea)? Please and thank you.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Star, thank you so much for sharing your story and your support of Homestead and Chill! I don’t believe we have much for blight issues here but most of what I’ve read, the outcome isn’t great. It seems that the main recommended preventative treatment are copper based fungicides but once the disease is present, it is almost impossible to treat. I’m sorry that the life of your beautiful plant may be coming to an end, something you can do in the future is take cuttings of favorite plants as to always have additional plants in case you lose an especially interesting or beautiful one. Hope that helps and good luck in the future, hopefully we will still see you around even if you cut back on gardening somewhat.

  • Bridget

    You really have inspired me! I’m in humid Northern Virginia and wish I could have a lot of the plants you have outside! =) your place looks fantastic and I have learned so much from you. Maybe I have to go to CA one day so I can have everything I want outdoors. haha

    My biggest takeaways so far have been the importance of worm castings (though I had to buy straight up castings and not use vermicompost), and your tricks with aloe vera.

    I had just a zz plant when I started, but now have a sweetbay magnolia on my deck, a variegated pink lemon that goes in and out depending on temperature, tons of aloe now, and the list goes on.

    My biggest issues so far have been aphids on the magnolia and powdery white fungus on a cloth pot of watermelons. I don’t know if you would try neem oil, but I’m going to go that direction and fingers crossed.

    Anyway, keep up the great work! You’re so committed and it’s quite impressive. The house looks FABULOUS.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Bridget, thank you so much for the kind words and we’re happy to hear that you found the “joy” of plants! Routine applications of neem oil will take care of the aphids on the magnolia and prevent them from returning in the future. Thanks for your support and we look forward to hearing from you in the future.

  • Sharon Lewis

    DeannaCat,

    Simply energizing! I too, am so connected to nature, I just clicked on your blog and can relate. Thank you for the joy. LOVE your garden.

    I would love to know the name of the veggie on the side of house that is growing with a huge stalk and looks like a palm tree it’s the photo with you and adorable chickens.

    Thank you for sharing your journey into gardening , hoping more people will enjoy nature that is all around us.

    I’ll be sure to read your book recommendation as sounds interesting.

    Love your homestead, cats, chickens, veggie, plants. All that keeps me moving each day.

    Thank you and look forward to more ideas of plants, gardening etc.

    Stay curious in nature!

    Sharon Lewis,
    Yardley, PA

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Sharon, thank you so much for the kind words. It’s really great to hear your excitement and know that it helps reenergize us as well. The plant you are referring to is lacinato (or dino, tuscan etc.) kale, the plant is probably 6 to 8 months old so as the leaves are harvested it continues to grow and produce leaves from the top crown of the plant. After a season or two of harvesting the same plant, it really shows how much food can come off of just one plant! Thanks for being a part of the community and we look forward to hearing from you in the future!

  • Jo

    Hi Deanna and Aaron,

    Thank you for your amazing posts. We are complete amateurs here in London with a very sterile garden but inspired here to do something lovely with what we have! We’ve been reading every detail your post on how to build planters on concrete and have everything on order to construct a really big one (6m x 1.2m) ourselves. It will be open bottom, but complete with the galvanised wire and landscape fabric base that you recommend.

    One question we have: we were planning to build the planter on top of the astroturf which is laid directly on to concrete. Would you recommend that we take up the astroturf first, so the planter (the landscape fabric etc) lies directly on the concrete, or could the astroturf provide a useful extra drainage layer?

    We assume a layer of gravel will not be useful either way?

    Thank you so much,

    Jo

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Jo, drainage shouldn’t be an issue with a raised bed placed on a hard surface if the bed doesn’t contain a bottom so there is no need for gravel. Placing the raised bed on astroturf could help with keeping the water runoff less messy although it may stain the area of turf surrounding the raised bed and of course the turf below the raised bed would be subjected to even more runoff which may “ruin” (as far as looks go) that portion of turf. Good luck with your new garden and enjoy it!

    • Nadia

      hi Deanna,
      I follow you because I like your energy. I haven’t been on your blog until this morning and I enjoyed get to know you, your purpose and what drives you to do what you do. I live in a big city and wish I lived in a small one surrounded with Nature, I will allow time to create what I dream off. I love the picture of your property before and the one after, you and your husband did amazing!!! Thank you for your kindness.

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Thank you so much Nadia! Hope you are able to find a special place in the city that will fulfill your need for nature until you get to where you want to end up. Good luck!

  • Ken Purcell

    I am thinking about converting my whole back yard to what you did. A beautiful Garden full of plants and food. I have a smallish backyard. 25 by 30 feet. Any suggestions or things to think about… before I start digging up my ugly lawn?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      That’s great to hear Ken! The main thing we think about when working in a small space is to leave 2 to 3 feet between beds or installations so you can easily fit a wheelbarrow through when working as things can get tight in a hurry. We always sketch out a drawing of what we want our space to look like which helps us visualize the space before we begin working. Check out our How To Start A Garden: 101 article for a little more insight and let us know if you have any other questions. Hope that helps and good luck with your transformation, let us know how it turns out.

  • Mark

    That was a great piece on worm bins and composting today. I mentioned it on the Grasscity forum. You write some great information.

  • Matt

    I found some seeds in the bottom of my dispensary oz. they around 6-7 weeks old. Can you tell what sex they are? I’m not able to add a picture to this

      • Kay Hollon

        Hi DeannaCat,
        I just wanted to let you know how I love what you are doing and I don’t do Facebook or Instagram and all that, but keep up with enough just from emails.
        I had ordered your Sourdough Starter last year and just got it started and baked my first bread this morning. It was delicious and will make more….probably like you do, once a week or two. Would love to show you my pictures of it….but don’t see any way to on this email. I’m SO proud of it, with your help! Thank You So much!
        Kay Hollon
        Stanton, Ky

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Kay, thank you for your support and for being a subscriber to the weekly emails! Glad to hear you finally got your starter going and congrats on baking your first loaf! It is really a gratifying hobby that provides delicious and wholesome food. We would love to see a picture of your first loaf or of any of your future loaves as you continue your baking journey. Unfortunately our comments section doesn’t allow for images but you can always email us through our “Contact Us” section. Thanks again for your support and we look forward to hearing from you in the future.

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