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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So glad to find you, looking forward to your newsletters!✌️
I came across your blog searching for info on starting seedlings and I’m so glad I did. I enjoy all your posts (not just about plants) and your vibe is just what I need as I am anxious about growing my first crop of seedlings, ever. So, thank you for your generosity in sharing your experiences. The blogs and videos have been very helpful. Now, if I can just figure out if my LED grow lights are at the right height (I got a compact Sunlite Grow light from Gardeners – 20 Watts) and if my seedlings are not too leggy… Since there was no instruction on where to adjust the grow light over my seedlings, I called Gardeners and they told me to keep them all the way up (18-24″ away from tops of plants). Doesn’t make sense, since it is an adjustable grow light? Any advice here? It appears you have Sunlite LED’s from the photos.
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Shelly, we are excited you found us and you are going to be starting your first seedlings shortly! We have the Sunlite high intensity LED rack and we keep the lights within 3-4 inches from the tops of our seedlings without problems. Hope that helps and keep us up to date on your progress, good luck!
Hey, what central coast town are you in? I think we might be neighbors!
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Stacey, we are in the greater 5 Cities area.
This is the coolest thing ever. So I did one of those FB things that said search your name plus the cat in Google. So I searched Deanna the cat and your picture came up. My name is also Deanna and I love cats and gardening. What a beautiful vibe you are! Keep shining!
Hi! I came across your site looking for info on how to get rid of grubs. Great article so it prompted me to join your mailing list and read your bio. I love what I’m reading and you’re a great inspiration for this San Diego (zone 10a) newbie gardener and Monarch Doulah (as you call it :)).
And I’ve been checking out your loamy-black-gold-like content yet never checked out…you!! Loved hearing about your story — surfing the impermanence of life, transitioning from one stage to another with purpose. Thank you for so much good writing and excellent info. I’m vicariously enjoying the move from thi=e adorable blue house to the much bigger ranch. I’m a person who loves the miracle of creating beauty in small places, but I’m so curious about your new endeavors. You do you, Deannacat, and I’ll keep on being inspired down here in San Diego. All the best!
Like your attitude and what you have done with your home.
Look forward to your future postings.
stumbled upon your website while looking for introduction to growlites. WOW, I love the vibe. I’m a southern california girl (well, always a girl at heart) via England, San Luis Obispo and several jaunts around the world…mom to amazing Emma and Malia. Now I live in the wilds of northeastern Vermont where growing seasons are oh so beautiful but oh so short! Thanks for the great information, I shall be a frequent visitor!