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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 (inlucing 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.

36 Comments

  • Owie

    Hi Deanna, your blog is my number 1 homesteading reference. I love everything you put into it! Whenever I lack the energy to do gardening, I simply go to your IG and drew the inspiration! I am very grateful to have found you. Continue your passion. You inspire many!

  • Teri

    Hi Deanna – I just want to thank you for all the work you do on this blog and on Instagram. I was super passionate about gardening, healthy eating, crafting, homesteading and just basic simple creative living. And my best friend and husband was totally on board. We were a team, and we were well on our way to creating our own little homestead. We had even purchased 10 acres in the country to grow our garden. In 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2007 just nine months later. Since then, it’s been a true struggle to resurrect my passions for all of the above. At first I was simply too exhausted, then I had my own health crisis and then I just felt like it would take too much effort to dream again. Slowly over the last couple years, my passions have been poking their heads out of their cave. Slowly, I’ve been repairing my long neglected garden, rebuilding the precious soil I had cultivated. And then I found your page on Instagram which led me to your blog. Reading your articles, seeing your pictures and trying your recipes has truly drawn my passions out again. The work and effort it will take to revive my garden doesn’t seem near as daunting anymore. I’m beginning to remember the rewards and joy they used to bring to me. Do not ever think that you do not make a difference.

  • Samantha

    Hey Deanna,

    A friend recommended me to follow you on insta in 2016. I am so happy that I did and get to watch this blog blossom. You have taught me so much. I’m on my third year of making kombucha, have eaten tons of your delicious recipes, and learned how to be kinder to my houseplants.

    My husband and I just bought our first home and we were able to secure a community plot for us to start our first garden in the spring!!

    In addition to that I was able to secure a whole different community plot near my job that I will manage for my company, as part of our green initiatives.

    Its a LOT to swallow as I am not really experienced at gardening outside of some potted tomatoes. This blog is providing a treasure trove of easy and enjoyable articles. I can’t thank you enough for providing all of this knowledge in a beautiful format. It’s priceless!

    • Lynn

      Hi! I’m so glad I found your site today! I’ve been learning “one new thing” a day and I think I learned enough on your site today for a month! I had to laugh at one of the comments about Master Gardeners being full of grannies. I joined when I was in my 40’s and learned so much from making friends with the old guys; more than I ever could in their classes. I quit when the county wouldn’t consider giving organic pest solutions to consumers. I want to congratulate you, too, on your education and confide I’m a bit jealous. When I went to college (back in the Dark Ages), it was the beginning of any environmental studies degrees. There was one professor at my large state school, and he started me on my career path. I just can’t tell you how happy your hands-on experience and willingness to share your knowledge make me.

  • Dhirq

    Hi Deanna…. To put cannabis in a par with other plants, purely genius movement. I think every garden (every country) should follow your “cannabis regulation model”.

    🙂

  • Sheena Enslow

    Hi Deanna!
    I am so thankful for the day I stumbled upon your instagram account. Between that and your blog, I’ve been given information and freedom to try new things (hello, Kombucha) and new methods for a thriving garden (flowers, flowers, and more flowers) and better understanding for the care of my 23 house plants. I, too, have 4 chickens (all named after coffee origins) and I’m sure my husband thinks I’m strange for the amount of times I’ve referenced you like, ‘Deanna says…’
    I’m telling you this because I am not surrounded by like-minded folks I can glean from. My peers want to glean from ME, which is totally weird if they only knew how little I truly know (ps, I point them to you).
    Anyway, I could go on forever but what I really want to say is, keep doing what you’re doing. You provide information for people like me, 1,000 miles North in lil’ Spokane, WA. where we do have a Master Gardeners Association (filled mostly with grannies) to rub elbows with. But, I need someone like you, who listens to chill music, drinks beer, shows passion and is inspiring in an area that to some, feels like an old lady’s hobby (its not… its totally rad).
    Thank you, and Cheers!

    • DeannaCat

      Oh my goodness, you sweet thing! Thank you for popping in to say hello and for all the kind feedback! This made my morning. Truly. These kinds of moments help me stay motivated when I am feeling overwhelmed or tired 🙂 I agree about the Master’s Gardeners Programs. It is unfortunate they’re geared towards retired folks. I would LOVE to join our local class, but it is held in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday… Lol, some of us have to work! If it were at a more accessible time, I would totally be there, rubbin’ elbows with the grannies (hahaha!) Anyways, thanks for being here and for your support, my friend.

  • Tojo

    After many years micro propagating plants in the lab I found myself a little burned out, disillusioned and at a crossroads. I have recently returned to gardening as a form of therapy. Some of it is new to me as a producer (vermicomposting) vs purchasing as a consumer, some of it is familiar (seedling initiation, greenhouse management), but I watch, listen, and sometimes read all of it because it is rekindling my love of plants. There are only a few content providers I currently gravitate to, but yours is one of my favourites. It’s like coming home. So thank you!

    • Rieke Rosati

      Hi, Deanna I’m following you on Instagram since I make my Instagram. It’s about 4 years.. and I loved your plants, cats and hen so much. Your Instagram is very inspiring me. Thank you so much for being motivated me.

  • Karen

    I have been following you on Instagram and am so stoked about this blog! I find what you are doing in your garden and in your life to be such an inspiration. It’s because of your influence that I released 62 Monarchs last year and that I am on my way to becoming an organic gardener. Thank you so much for doing such an amazing job with this blog. It is so informative and easy to understand. I look forward to spending lots of time here soaking up your knowledge and experience!

  • Matt Boudreaux

    Hi Deanna,

    The information you provide on your website is amazing. Not only do you go into such great detail, but you even provide links (Amazon) of what you are referencing. Your efforts are greatly appreciated (more than you know). As a reference,I have been gardening for 5 years on and off, but have fallen more in love with the concept of gardening organically. My question is how do manage a full-time job and all of your other interests without getting worn out or overwhelmed?

    Matt

    • DeannaCat

      Hey Matt- Thanks for the very kind words and support! I really appreciate it. In regards to balance and work, I will admit it does get tough sometimes. Moreso lately since I am trying to blog on top of everything, haha! But for us, gardening is our treat, passion, and fun – so it isn’t thought of as a chore. We just do what we can, when we can, try to make it fun… like, putting on music and enjoying a beer while weeding together – an otherwise not-so-fun task. There are times I do say “damn, I don’t feel like preserving all these xxxx right now”. but then again, I try to remember and appreciate the fact that I have homegrown food to preserve, and that is a privilege – and better than sitting on my ass watching TV. It’s all about perspective. 🙂

    • Elizabeth

      Hello, Just read you post about fava beans, which I planted for the first time late summer 2019 and harvested a month ago. Yesterday while cleaning up the spot, saw lots of earthworms, never had so many in that area. I left the leaves in the same place for mulch (was not aware they’re edible), and planted marigolds there. Will put the stems in the compost. I grow lots of basil and freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray then transfer to a other container for longer storage. Better than freezing in glass.

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