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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.

97 Comments

  • Wendy Crossley

    Hello Deanna,
    I found you on Pinterest. When I read Brown University and Providence, I knew I was reading the right post! I live in Rhode Island.
    My question to you is, the walkways in your beautiful garden, (pictured above), do you have plastic or something under, what appears to be, crushed stone ? I have tried so many things around my raised beds, in the walkways , and Some how, I always have weeds coming up in the paths.
    What are your recommendations?
    Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

  • Amy

    Hello! I really enjoyed reading your story and all the informational articles I read were really easy and common sense stuff! I am 51 and my husband and I love gardening, our 5 cats and chickens, whose numbers vary as I seem to be a chicken lady who takes in others’ overstock. We live in MN, the cold is really terrible and we dream of living in a warmer climate but that is not important, we make it work for now. My whole problem is that I want to get back to the healthy busy upbeat life that came so easy only a decade ago. I grew up like you in a lot of ways. I was blessed to have a mom who was VERY health savvy. We also had NO sugary foods, pops, junk in general.. we had to have a “green” with every supper, which sometimes meant a hunk of lettuce but it was green. As I reached mid 40’s, I just started doing less and less. As you age, as you probably hear, injuries, aches and pains, energy issues, even the need for reading glasses, I mean really – all of it is bullshit, true, but bullshit annoying! We need to do MORE, we have to eat LESS, better food, more activity, more reading, more trying. We are unhealthy, lazy pains these days…So, I relish in your life, I want to read more, I want to do more and I love your yard, the flowers, all of it is inspiring. I stumbled here to read about my cabbage worms and while a lovely shade of green, are my gardening war year after year. So, lastly, we LOVE sauerkraut and grow a lot of cabbage to make it. I have failed some years, as using a safer soap affected the fermentation process. for the past 2 seasons, I use a netting product, pain in the butt, mainly because it is expensive, and I had holes pop up, idk I did a bad job. So, I have to make a choice. Either buy the whole thing, wires, good stuff. OR, I can find a product that can be applied that does NOT affect the cabbage, ie, affect the sugars and bacteria we need to make yummy sauerkraut? Last year was the best so far, but like I said a lot of work. If you had your perfect organic solution, would it be the netting? I will stick around here, I love your site. Thanks so much for the great story, you wrote it all so well! I am inspired to get back to healthy, lose a few pounds, it is time!

  • Clare Rees

    Hi DeannaCat and Mr DeannaCat, you two are amazing. I am hooked on your website, as soon as I read it I felt so inspired to really go for it on my property. I live near a jarrah Forrest in Perth, Western Australia. I’m a psychology professor and I’ve decided to retire early (50) next year to live a more simple and natural life. I’ve had some serious health issues so it’s a no-brainer to break away from the rat-race.
    We have one acre to work with, so plenty of space to create. We have 4 chickens, 2 British short-hair fur babies and 4 koi fish ☺️ Luckily when we bought this property it already had mature trees (avocado, macadamia, naval orange, grapefruit, plum, apple). I’m so excited to fully immerse myself into homesteading and chilling. I’ve been gardening while listening to your playlists. I love the fact that the information you provide is so well written and researched – I have learnt so much. I just planted a bunch of lavender so I can look forward to harvesting it and making (hopefully) a salve.
    Thank you thank you thank you. You have really inspired me and improved my mood 👍👍

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Thank you so much Clare! It sounds like you have a wonderful property to enjoy and expand upon and we look forward to hearing what you are up to once you’re fully immersed. Good for you and the best of luck, keep us updated and thank you for being a part of this community.

  • Melissa Muhs

    I just want to thank you for doing this blog. I am so glad I found you! I’m a SAHM former professional geologist in the mid-west and have 3 bouncing boys. With a desire to raise my children to make ecologically sound choices and be a voice for our future I’ve been becoming more and more interested in transitioning to a lifestyle with a lower carbon footprint but it’s a process and I’m still learning. I also have Hashimoto’s and have had to make many lifestyle changes. You’re experience and insights are inspiring me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I just made my first gluten free crackers with the discard from my GF sourdough. Once upon a time I was really into wheat baking science but had been intimidated to learn GF baking. I still have my “lab book.” LOL

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      That’s great to hear Melissa, we’re glad you found us and are happy to have you as a part of the community.

  • Debbi Friedlander

    I just found your website while searching for making CBD/THC infused balm. What a gift you have given us, DeannaCat! Such simple, clear directions and explanations are what I most appreciate, as well as the beautiful photos and well organized pages on so many subjects. I immediately sent a link to my sister in Oregon and a friend in Germany who just finished writing a book about her communication with her chickens. I am an avid gardener and this year, 2020, meant that I had a wonderful reason to spend more time in it. I was especially grateful since my 6 year old granddaughter was quarantining with me. I feel very blessed and lucky to have had the opportunity to revel in the experience of changing seasons in such beautiful surroundings. Thank you for the inspiration and advice on how to keep it all going. Keep up your wonderful work. Your spirit shines through.

    • Allison Hebler

      I too have had pancreas issues, I have half of a pancreas due to a cyst life became very challenging. Ten plus years I figured out how to balance food. Any way I have always been a gardener and recently I am trying my hand at hydroponics and I am getting a greenhouse this week, so my question is how to keep the greenhouse warm in the winter? Love the look of your front yard. Sincerly Allison

  • Tom

    I love your website. I recieve your news letter. But I hate the video advertising that come up over top of article’s while I’m reading. I hate any auto play advertising. I know large colorful websites are expensive. And knowledge has a value and should be rewarded. But the advertising should not waste bandwidth, or use a large portion of the pages data. Up here in canada our data is amongst the most expensive in the world. Other then that, please keep up the good work.

    Tom

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Tom, You can simply close the ads with the X box as they appear. We do need them… they pay our bills. Thanks for tuning in!

  • Caitlin

    So happy to have found your page! I prepped your butternut squash recipe last night! Can’t wait to share it this afternoon. Keep up the amazing work!!

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Caitlin – Thanks so much for saying hi! Ironically we’re making butternut squash soup today! Hope you love it, and thanks again!

  • Diane K. Mattison-Nottage

    I really appreciate how your blog is organized and written. Sorry, 31 years as an English teacher makes me appreciate good writing! (-; I find your articles highly informative and interesting and they provide practical, doable ideas and solutions. I have a raised bed vegetable/flower garden here in good old Willamette Valley, Oregon (FYI slug central!! Filbert (Hazelnut) shells work to deter the slimy little buggers) and am working to expand what I grow in the space that I have. Thanks for the article on tomato cages and trellises, it was very helpful. I’ll definitely be following along and catching up on some of your other articles. Thanks!!!

    • Kay Hollon

      I just read about you and losing your Daddy made me cry! I was always a Daddy’s girl, also and I lost mine when he was 88 and it about killed me and I felt like I just wanted to go with him, too. We were that close and I still miss him and always will! My best buddy and we done everything together on our farm. Even killed hogs for a meat source. We had chickens and cattle, also.
      We HAVE to go on living OUR life’s, though and our Daddy’s would want us to do exactly what we are doing and BE HAPPY! 😍❤️😘

      • DeannaCat

        Awww, hi Kay. Thank you for taking the time to reach out. I am sorry about your Daddy too. Sounds like he was able to lead a long, fun, and love-filled life! Hold on to those precious memories… Thanks again for saying hi! Wishing you nothing but the best!

        • Sarah Hacholski

          I am so glad I wandered on Pinterest the other day and found your site. The most intimidating thing for me to start the process of “homesteading” or living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle is “where do I begin?” Your articles and the timeline you shared about your experience makes this less intimidating for me. I’m really excited to start this journey, albeit slowly, with the resources and knowledge that you so clearly write about. Your photos are the best part!!!!! Thank you for your positive and non-judgmental approach to spreading this valuable expertise!!!!!

          • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

            Thank you so much Sarah, we’re glad you are finding the site so informative and thanks for being here!

  • Marla Lobotzke

    You are my new go-to for the good feels! I’m in my 50s but I’ve been gardening just a few years, having never learned or had space before, and I’m gradually becoming interested in other homesteading practices. I really appreciate your clear and friendly advice, and your attitude of non-judgement. I started a worm farm 2 weeks ago because I stumbled on your beginners video! Anyway, from one California Girl/Chico Grad to another, thanks for all you’re doing, you’re inspiring more people than you know. (Most, like me, benefit but don’t know what to write lol)

    • DeannaCat

      Hey Marla! Thanks for stopping to say hi! I really appreciate your feedback and kind words, so the feeling is mutual. Enjoy your new worm friends, and budding homesteading adventures. There is always something new to learn. Speaking of – Go Chico!

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