A stone raised bed full of flowering perennials, planted to attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. An apple tree dangles in front of the shot, and backyard chickens are in the foreground, enjoying the garden.

Our Homestead


Oh my, how far she’s come! When we first bought this home back in the summer of 2013, she was a blank slate. A couple of mature trees, a few useless mismatched shrubs in odd locations, a front and back yard full of crabgrass “lawn”, and side yards with bare dirt.

We were essentially blank slates ourselves too. I have an education in sustainability and environmental studies, and we’d casually puttered with a couple small raised garden beds in rental homes in the past, but aside from that – we had little to no knowledge or experience with building, landscaping, or homesteading! I don’t think either of us even knew what that concept was when we started this journey. Nor did we intentionally set out to do it.

Yet with minds full of ideas, (home)bodies that don’t like to sit still, and a passion for being outside, we consequently have poured most of our free time, energy, love, and very modest disposable income in to transforming all of our outdoor spaces, little by little, from lifeless “yards” into flourishing and purposeful edible and medicinal gardens…

…a food forest, I like to call it.

Before we knew it, our home had become a homestead – a living thing that feeds not only our bodies, but our minds and souls too. Here, we grow and preserve about 85% of the produce we consume, raise chickens (as dear friends who happen to also provide eggs!), and pursue sustainable living practices like rain water capture and several methods of composting. We share our indoor space with 33 house plants and 3 kitties – Quincy, Figaro, and Dalai.

We dream, sweat, collaborate, compromise, relax, laugh, and love here. Most times, there is no where we’d rather be. In essence, we have created our own paradise, and it’s a paradise for local wildlife too! In 2018, our property became an official Monarch Waystation as well as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Located just about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, we reside in a small beach town in San Luis Obispo County on the Central Coast of California. Known as “SLO Cal”, not SoCal. There is big difference between here and there! This area is fairly rural, with a handful of modest-sized towns surrounded by vineyards, beaches, farmland, and open rolling hills.

We are right on the border of USDA gardening zone 9b and 10a. But unlike most similarly-numbered zones, it is very temperate and doesn’t get hot here often. This area is considered a Mediterranean climate, though being only one mile inland from the ocean, our summers are quite foggy. We actually struggle (or don’t even attempt!) to grow certain heat-loving crops like corn, melons, or fat heirloom tomatoes. Frost and freezing is also very rare here. I know, I know… we are spoiled rotten. Though an ideal climate sure does help, it is not necessary to have a thriving garden!

The gardens aren’t the only thing that makes our homestead special. Our town isn’t quite “urban”, and we definitely are not in suburbia, but we are surrounded by neighbors. However, our property is tucked back away from the street, located behind another property and only accessed by a long private driveway – leading to our little secret garden. A decent yard was a MUST when we were house shopping. You can image how absolutely giddy and blessed we felt when we came across this property that virtually had two private yards, the front yard doubling like a second backyard. With a very tight budget in an extremely competitive market, this was a shining diamond in the rough for us! I knew where I wanted the chicken coop right away, and the rest transpired and evolved with time.

Peeking through passion fruit vines into a front yard garden. There is no grass in the front yard. A modest blue house with yellow door is in the distance. In the garden, there are several redwood raised garden beds, small blue gravel around them, large stone pathways between the beds. The garden beds are full of kale, cabbage, and other winter greens. Other areas of the yard have flowers, perennials, and fruit trees.
A peek into the front yard ~ our very own “secret garden”.
Fun side story: When I was a little girl, I spent a week running around my neighborhood, uprooting (errhm… stealing) bulb flowers and small plants from other yards, re-planting them within a grove of bushes in our front yard ~ my first secret garden. Yes, I got in trouble.

Before you go getting too heart-eyed, overwhelmed, or green with envy (please, don’t!) over photos of our garden, remember to keep scrolling and take a peek at the collection of before and after photos at the very bottom of this page also! These are some of my favorite things to share on Instagram; they help people to see how – with a little time, energy, and love – a perfectly average, even boring space can be completely transformed into something magical. Also keep in mind that this did NOT happen overnight! We have tackled one or two large projects per year, over the last five years. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it! If you haven’t yet started creating your dream garden, you may enjoy this read ~ “How to Start a Garden: 101”

If you desire to, you can do this too! I believe in you.


Homestead Specs:


Our property itself is a modest .2 acres – approximately 9,000 square feet – but that number also includes our long driveway. The house itself is fairly small, at just under 1300 square feet, and that’s perfectly okay for us. Less house means more outdoor space! We had never really measured and taken inventory of our individual yard spaces, so we just popped outside to do so! Here is the verdict:

The front yard garden is 2,430 square feet. A couple hundred square feet of planting space was just added here in the fall of 2018, when we removed a portion of the driveway, and a whole mountain of useless pest-infested ice plant, expanding the yard into its place. In terms of edibles, the current residents of the front yard include: two avocado trees, a fuyu persimmon tree, two pineapple guavas, a strawberry and lemon guava, a dwarf weeping mulberry tree, four fig trees, a loquat tree, three passionfruit vines, two blueberry bushes, and various rotating veggie crops amongst the five raised beds and handful of wine barrels used for planting. That doesn’t include the plethora of other perennials, herbs, and annuals – some for medicinal purposes, some for the pollinators, a few simply there for the pretty. A 140-gallon rain barrel is hooked up on the front porch to collect a small portion of our captured rain water, with the monarch enclosure nearby.

Another view of the Homestead and Chill front yard garden. There are four large redwood raised garden beds that are overflowing with homegrown produce, including kale, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, mustard greens, and turnips. There are wine barrels with fruit trees, gravel pathways, and the small blue house in the distance.
The front yard garden, winter 2017-18. The pollinator section (closest half to the house) was only a few months old, full of baby plants yet to grow in! We removed the lawn in two phases ~ the closer half with raised beds in fall of 2016, the half near the house in fall of 2017.

A view of the Homestead and Chill front yard garden, as seen from the roof looking down, almost like a drone shot. The pathways between the raised garden beds and flower planting areas form two large peace signs. There is no grass. It is an edible oasis, and a certified wildlife habitat!
Peering down on the front yard garden from the roof. Nope, no drone (yet)! This is late summer 2018, after we expanded the corner to the top left, just-planted and brand new.


The L-shaped backyard garden is 1,780 sq feet. Here resides the patio garden: our concrete patio that is now surrounded by five raised beds, fully enclosed with trellises attached to the yard-side of the beds designed to keep the otherwise free-ranging chickens excluded from this space. The archway leading to the rest of the back yard is covered with evergreen passionfruit vines, creating even more of a verdant courtyard vibe. On the patio, we use dozens of containers to grow everything from cacti to pineapple guava to cannabis and a dwarf Fuji espalier apple tree.


The patio garden, surrounded it with raised beds and trellises, doubling as a enclosure to keep the chickens in the rest of the back yard. There is a large arch, covered in passionfruit vines, leading out to the rest of the back yard. A table sits in the middle of the patio area, with a colorful outdoor rug and striped pillows. The setting sun is beaming through the trees.
The patio garden. In early 2015, we surrounded it with raised beds and trellises, doubling as a enclosure to keep the chickens in the rest of the back yard.
Peering out from the patio garden to the "pollinator island" beyond. The kale in the foreground is Dazzling Blue Lacinato ~ our favorite kale variety! The pollinator island is full of blooming flowers of every color, and a happy free-range chicken explores the yard.
Peering out from the patio garden to the “pollinator island” beyond. The kale in the foreground is Dazzling Blue Lacinato ~ our favorite kale variety!

Heading out through the passionfruit arch, you find yourself in the “chicken yard”. Basically, the spoiled-you-know-what chickens get free range of the backyard all day, while instead we strategically fence off and protect certain areas of it, like the stone raised pollinator island. We call it “Stoney Island”.

In this backyard area, we were fortunate enough to have several mature fruit trees in place when we moved in: a Meyer lemon, an Anna apple, a mandarin orange, and a pomelo – like a white grapefruit. We have also added a fig, lime, kumquat, finger lime, and second meyer lemon tree to this space.

A raised, curvy garden bed made of stone. It is a dedicated space for pollinator-friendly perennials and annuals like verbena, sunflowers, yarrow, and sage, all blooming in purple and yellow.  The patio garden is to the left, with several raised beds. The chicken coop and additional garden area are straight ahead past the stone island.
“Stoney Island” ~ a dedicated space for pollinator-friendly perennials and annuals, added in early 2018 to replace the dirt patch that once was lawn… until, chickens happened to it. The patio garden is to the left, and the “coop garden” and chicken coop straight ahead.


Left: Another view of the Stoney Island. They're hard to make out, but our most productive fig tree and Meyer lemon tree are in the far corner behind it. A kumquat and finger lime (both dwarf trees) are planted in the island itself. Right: Peeking through some stunner sunflowers to the chicken coop and coop garden beyond.
Left: Another view of the Stoney Island. They’re hard to make out, but our most productive fig tree and Meyer lemon tree are in the far corner behind it. A kumquat and finger lime (both dwarf trees) are planted in the island itself.
Right: Peeking through some stunner sunflowers to the chicken coop and coop garden beyond.

Turning left from the pollinator island into the next section of the L-shape backyard, you’ll find what we call the “coop garden” area – four large raised beds near our chicken coop. As you can see, it is also strategically fenced to prevent access from the winged monsters, err…  I mean sweet dear beloved chickens. This garden space is along a south-facing wall – maximizing sun exposure along with radiant heat – an ideal orientation for gardening if you live in the Northern Hemisphere like we do.

The Homestead and Chill "coop garden" area. It is a U-shaped garden space, made up of four large redwood raised garden beds. It has wire fencing to prevent the free-range backyard chickens from getting in, that are shown in the photo next to it. The beds are full of very tall kale plants, peppers, and flowers like calendula and marigolds. A stone pathway and small stone patio complete the space, with a place for us to sit and enjoy a beverage with the girls in the evening.
The “coop garden” area, complete with a place for us to sit and enjoy a beverage with the girls in the evening. That’s the pomelo tree to the left, always dropping fruit that we struggle to keep up with.

The Homestead and Chill chicken coop. It is homemade coop, about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide, and protected from predators with hardware cloth. The coop is green with blue shutters, a little window, and small planter boxes with succulents mounted on it.
Our DIY-built chicken coop, complete with an automatic solar-powered door ~ Currently home to four spoiled princess birds.

Beyond the chicken coop to the left is a long, narrow, 550 square foot side yard. This once all-dirt barren space now houses so many productive and important things: the chicken run, a 6×8’ greenhouse in which we start all of our garden seedlings in, a milkweed nursery to support our monarch butterfly fostering passion, a large compost bin that can be used passively or turned into an active hot pile, a massive passionfruit vine that doubles as a privacy screen, and two large 530-gallon slimline rain capture tanks, bringing our total rainwater capacity to 1200 gallons!

A modest greenhouse sits on a stone foundation, with river rock around it, and a stone path leading to it's door. To the left, a huge lush passionfruit vine grows. There are several fabric pots with large pepper plants growing in them.
The “side yard garden” and greenhouse, added in late 2016. One of the compost bins is to the left, tucked under the wing of that passionfruit vine. Beyond the greenhouse, you can just make out the end of the chicken run that leads to the back yard. Note the rainwater capture running to the tanks beyond.

On the opposite side of the house, there is another smaller side yard where a few homestead essentials are stored – a couple modest storage sheds, a homemade potting bench, and the small-but-mighty worm bin.

So, as you can probably gather, we try to make good use of every single inch! Every space, no matter how small, holds unlimited potential ~ you just need to look past what is already there and think outside the box.

One day we hope to have a larger property and even more space to grow and play – I want goats, and bees! And a yurt for you all to come visit! A place to hold workshops! –  but for now, we are more than fulfilled… and plenty busy!

Welcome to our home!


Video tour via Instagram


Before and Afters

*I will work on writing posts about the details of all of these projects, including the steps we took, materials used, and lessons learned!


The Evolution of the Front Yard Garden

A before and after shot of our front yard. The "before" after shows a barren half-dead lawn. The "after" photo shows all of the grass removed, and in it's place, tons of raised garden beds, potted plants, fruit trees, gravel and stone pathways, and a new place full of life.
Above: The front yard, when we purchased our home in August of 2013 versus now, winter 2019. This happened in MANY stages, over many years!


Above: In 2014, we added raised beds to the middle of the front lawn. Even though we dug out the grass from directly below the beds, they quickly became invaded with weedy crabgrass. This was a mistake. Then in the fall of 2015, we corrected our mistake. We pulled out the beds (yes, the soil too), removed all the grass and roots from that half of the yard, put down commercial duty weed block landscape fabric below, then put down the beds and gravel.
Above: In 2014, we added raised beds to the middle of the front lawn. Even though we dug out the grass from directly below the beds, they quickly became invaded with weedy crabgrass. This was a mistake.
Then in the fall of 2015, we corrected our mistake, shown in the bottom half of the photo. We pulled out the beds (yes, the soil too), removed all the grass and roots from that half of the yard, put down commercial duty weed block landscape fabric below, then put down the beds and gravel.


A before and after photo, when we moved in, August 2013. The yard was all grass. The bottom photo is September 2017, when we had just finished removing the rest of the lawn and planting a pollinator paradise instead, full of flowering plants, gravel and stone pathways, and raised garden beds.
When we moved in, August 2013, versus September 2017 ~ we had just finished removing the rest of the lawn and planting a pollinator paradise instead.


Before and after. The top photo shows July 2016 from the roof, with just a couple garden beds and a lot of grass remaining. 
Bottom: Spring of 2018 from the roof, the new pollinator paradise in full bloom, and the rest of the grass is gone.
Top: July 2016 from the roof, with only half the lawn removed yet.
Bottom: Spring of 2018, with the new pollinator paradise in full bloom.

When we purchased the house in 2013 compared to fall of 2018. A peek into the front yard from behind the new avocado tree. The before photo shows a barren yard and had dead grass. The bottom photo shows a yard overflowing with edible plants, flowers, fruit trees, no lawn, gravel and stone pathways, and raised garden beds.
When we purchased the house in 2013 compared to fall of 2018. A peek into the front yard from behind the new avocado tree.


When we purchased the house in 2013 compared to fall of 2018. A peek into the front yard from behind the new avocado tree. The before photo shows a barren yard and had dead grass. The bottom photo shows a yard overflowing with edible plants, flowers, fruit trees, no lawn, gravel and stone pathways, and raised garden beds.
August 2013 versus Summer 2018. Standing in the furthest northwest corner of the front yard, contemplating the next plans to come.


Top half: A photo from the front yard from our real estate listing when we bought in July 2013. A bare lawn and childs play set.  Bottom half : August 2018. Note the white picket fence to the left is missing, and so is that mound of ice plant. We are about to get part of the driveway cut out and removed, and expand the front yard garden by a couple hundred square feet! Everything is lush and grown in, just waiting for the new corner to be finished.
Top half: A photo from the front yard from our real estate listing when we bought in July 2013. Bottom half : August 2018. Note the white picket fence to the left is missing, and so is that mound of ice plant. We are about to get part of the driveway cut out and removed, and expand the front yard garden by a couple hundred square feet!


Top half: Spring 2018
Bottom half: Fall 2018. Note the new corner addition, terracing, and fence we built! Instead of weedy pest-laden ice plant, the corner now houses 5 fruit trees and dozens of perennials.
Top half: Spring 2018
Bottom half: Fall 2018. Note the new corner addition, terracing, and fence we built! Instead of weedy pest-laden ice plant, the corner now houses 5 fruit trees and dozens of perennials.


Top: Spring of 2014. We had started to plant the existing top terraces, and put in a couple very small raised beds along the white fence.
Bottom: December 2018. A whole new world, full of life.



The Evolution of the Backyard Garden

Before and after: A shot from the July 2013 real estate listing for our property, with a plain concrete patio and grassy yard.
Bottom: The patio garden in fall of 2018, completely enclosed with raised garden beds, overflowing with plants. The chickens free range the back yard on the other side of the raised beds.
Top: A shot from the July 2013 real estate listing for our property.
Bottom: The patio garden in fall of 2018. The chickens free range the back yard on the other side of the raised beds.


Top half : The back patio, not yet a garden, in fall 2014. The chickens sure did like hanging out under the table, pooping.
Bottom half: Just after we finished enclosing the patio in early 2015. With raised garden beds, trellises and gates added to not only to create more space to grow food, but also exclude the chickens from this area. The patio garden is born!
Top half : The back patio, not yet a garden, in fall 2014. The chickens sure did like hanging out under the table, pooping.
Bottom half: Just after we finished enclosing the patio in early 2015. With raised garden beds, trellises and gates added to not only to create more space to grow food, but also exclude the chickens from this area. The patio garden is born!


Top half: Another real estate photo from July 2013.
Bottom half: February 2018, when we completed the new stone pollinator island. We left this area grass for a long time, for the chickens sake. And then they ate it all. So...
Top half: Another real estate photo from July 2013.
Bottom half: February 2018, when we completed the new stone pollinator island. We left this area grass for a long time, for the chickens sake. And then they ate it all. So…


Top half: August 2013, when we moved in.
Bottom half: Summer 2018, a few months after the "pollinator island" was built, and starting to fill in nicely! The fencing keeps the chickens out.
Top half: August 2013, when we moved in.
Bottom half: Summer 2018, a few months after the “pollinator island” was built, and starting to fill in nicely! The fencing keeps the chickens out.


Top: Another from when we moved in, lugging precious soil with us in trash bags from our rental house garden beds! The space was bare dirt.
Bottom: Summer 2018 ~ The patio garden redone, with new tall raised beds, chicken proof fencing, very tall kale trees and flowers, and free ranging chickens.
Top: Another from when we moved in, lugging precious soil with us in trash bags from our rental house garden beds! It was the only thing we could think of!
Bottom: Summer 2018 ~ the summer of kale trees.


Top: Summer 2013
Bottom: Summer 2018. The passionfruit arch is a focal point, and also excellent privacy feature from the neighbor behind us!
Top: Summer 2013
Bottom: Summer 2018. The passionfruit arch is a focal point, and also excellent privacy feature from the neighbor behind us!


Top: July 2013, the last real estate listing. A plain grassy back yard.
Bottom: Winter 2018. A completely transformed space, with raised garden beds surrounding the patio, a stone raised bed full of flowers on the outside of it where there used to be grass, a flagstone pathway winding around it, chickens roaming, and fruit trees.
Top: July 2013, the last real estate listing.
Bottom: Winter 2018. I can tell it’s winter because Zoey is molting, hard.

40 Comments

  • Amanda

    Hi Deanna! I’ve been following you for about a year on IG and am always so inspired by y’all’s space! I hope to start making some changes to my new home soon too! In the backyard areas where you do not have pebbles/gravel, is it just brown mulch down on the ground? It doesn’t appear to be just dirt, but I can’t tell. Thanks! 🙂

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Amanda! Yes, the backyard has mulch over the soil. We use a combination of shredded redwood bark and small redwood bark, which works well with the chickens. They churn it up and it breaks down (with their poop too, free fruit tree fertilizer!) and then we add more fresh stuff every year. Small-medium bark will take longer to break down and need less frequent replacing than the shredded stuff. I hope that helps! Cedar mulch is also awesome, but not good for chickens.

  • Tracy

    CONGRATULATIONS and HAPPY 6 months to the blog! THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge, your passions, and your experiences with us. Thank you for inspiring me! Thank you for your transparency, vulnerability, and willingness to give what you know! It is appreciated ❤️. And tell Aaron we thank him for sharing YOU! Y’all make a great team! Thank you!!

    • DeannaCat

      Hey there! We manually removed it with shovels, and edging/cutting shovels too. Once we just dug out about 2×2 ft squares at a time, getting sever inches deep, below roots. Another time we solarized it first (as we removed it in stages). Solarizing is the process of covering it in plastic for several weeks during the hottest time of year to kill it first, which is supposed to make it easier to remove and also kills seeds. Some people solarize, then lay cardboard on top, then mulch, and don’t bother removing it at all. Ours was very invasive weedy crabgrass, so we wanted that stuff GONE. We also laid sheets of rolled painters paper and commercial duty weedblock fabric down under the beds and pathways. There are some other sod removing machines that may be quicker and easier, but a) we couldn’t afford one b) we were worried about how deep the cut – might hit irrigation lines. I hope that helps!

    • Christina Lawson

      I’m so happy to have found your blog. This is my first year of converting my Urban space to a homesteading version and I love it. I have Quail and call ducks now too. I am very inspired by your before and after garden pictures.

    • Bianca

      Thank you for sharing and in such wonderful detail. I love that you have achieved all of this on a modest sized block of land. You are going me some fantastic ideas for my own little patch.
      Thank you!

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