Ashley English is a sweet friend of mine who lives in the area and
writes for the blog Small Measure and also hosts a weekly column every Friday on
Design*Sponge. She is the author of
the "Homemade Living" book series (Lark Books) which showcases topics
related to small-scale homesteading and some of the diverse ways people are
reconnecting with their food and food communities and taking up sustainable
food practices. To quote Ashley: “I make an attempt to craft a good life with
my husband and young son in a small mountain community. I find pleasure in the
light at dusk, atlases, hard cider, cat antics, dog breath, baby giggles,
homemade ice cream and snorty laughter.” I thought it would be neat to
interview a published author and Mama who makes a living about writing about
her life as she lives it in her home along with her sustainable practices for
Where did your love for sustainable homesteading stem from?
My maternal grandmother, "Nanny", owned a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Chesapeake, Virginia when I was younger. She was the first person I saw do any home canning, own chickens, garden, or keep goats. We've always remained close and the seeds planted on her farm in my youth grew lay dormant until I met my husband and moved onto our 11-acre homestead.
Did you always know you wanted to write?
I did. I thought, though, that I'd write about the world of fashion. I was completely smitten with all things clothing related when I was in high school, thinking I'd go on to write about, and create, garments. That was not to be, though, which has turned out just fine. I have to admit, though, to still harboring ideas of someday creating a line of "homestead/work" friendly women's garments!
What is one of your first memorable experiences in
When I was around 8, my mother's boyfriend, Henry, took my mom, my older brother and myself deer hunting. We were up at dawn, dressing in camouflage, out in the cornfields of southern Virginia. It was my first experience with hunting, as well as with listening to nature "wake up" in the morning. The sights, sounds, and smells entranced me.
You are an author of several books, blogger of Small
Measure, and a full time Mama. So what we all want to know is -- how do
you do it all? How do you court balance into your daily life?
Oh, I couldn't do any of it without my husband. Having a stay-at-home working spouse has been my saving grace. He's my backbone. He loves to cook, we share the same interests, he's incredibly creative, and he's just always, always got my back.
What is something you are particularly proud of in
your career? Something you are looking forward to?
I love my "Homemade Living" book series. It's a real act in letting go, writing instructive non-fiction books. I give the text to my editor and then trust that the creative team will create a finished product that I really resonate with, and that's been completely the case with this book series. I worked with the same team again on my upcoming book, "A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Homebaked Pies" (Lark Crafts, August 2012). I'm SO excited about this book!
I also have a passion for beekeeping and would love
to keep bees one day. The documentary Queen
of the Sun (about backyard beekeeping) completely drew me in. What have you
learned from keeping bees? Any life lessons you can relate to your homesteading
The thing about bees, and with many things in life, I've found, is that, if you provide them with the right conditions conducive to growth and then sort of let them "bee", they thrive. As with my son, and my garden, and my marriage, if I nurture them all and give them space and room to grow, but don't smother them or overly intervene, they find resilience and a strength within themselves to flourish.
What practices, ways of thinking, or actions do you
feel have lead to your success as an author?
I really believe that there's room for everyone. There are other authors on the same book topics I write about, and I've connected with them, and even recommended their books to others. There's plenty of pie to go around, and I think that resonates with people. I also believe in small, incremental changes, and praising people for any efforts they take towards treading more gently and more consciously on this planet. I'm not at all interested in being critical, or snarky, or belittling. It's just not in me, and it's really not the right direction to head in if you want to inspire change in others.
Every mother is a giver, so what ways to you give
back to yourself?
I typically spend every Sunday with my mother, grandmother, and my son. They play with him and spoil him and free me up to take a long, hot bath, or attend to some things that are challenging to do with him in tow. It's good for me to let them change his diapers and give him his meals and his evening bath. He bonds with all of these generations of his family while I get a little "me" time! It's a serious win-win situation for us all!
Share a favorite recipe.
Hmmm....it's spring, and I've got wild foods and morels on the brain, so maybe a link to the recipe I recently posted on small measure?:
Here are some questions to ponder and write about in your journal:
How can you incorporate what you naturally love to do in your everyday life and into your work?
Do any sustainable practices call to you? What ways can you find time to make more connection to the Earth in a way that benefits your life?
As Ashley stated, “there’s room for everyone”. If the Universe could make room for you to do something you really desired (and it can), what would that be?
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