The EcoGrrl Interview: Ashley

Ashley

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Ashley English is a rockstar in the homesteading world, having evolved from blog goddess to writing her Homemade Living book series and her recent bestseller, A Year In Pies.  She lives not far from Asheville, NC, all domestic & awesome with her hubby and little boy Huxley.  I’ve loved following her journey since becoming a blogger myself five years ago, and hope to be able to finally sip a cuppa joe with her sometime this year when I do my east coast road trip!

What or who inspires you most?
Nature, pure and simple. The natural world is rife with examples of sustainable behaviors and modalities, so I try to learn as much as I can about biomimicry and ways to model human behavior on natural principles.

What do you turn to when you need strength?
Again, nature. A walk in the woods behind my house or by a neighboring creek or lake restores me beyond measure. Also, a hot bath or a mug of tea and I’m back to feeling fine.

How can women best support and/or empower other women?
By complimenting each other, without agenda or hope for reciprocity. I strongly believe in the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” I’m constantly scratching the backs of my lady friends. I’ll go out to bat for any woman I really believe in, and I do it for them, not for me.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday?
Oh, everything! Especially hardy perennials like culinary and medicinal herbs, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, fruit trees, sorrel, and asparagus. Tender annuals are my nemesis, what with flea beetles and squash vine borers and organic gardening. I’m determined to eventually grow pumpkins successfully!

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but you haven’t?
I love to bake, especially during the cooler months of the year. I love great fiction, as well, and can loose myself in a good book. And both bread-baking and fiction-writing are endeavors I intend to pursue.

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element?  
In small, natural settings. I’m a fish out of water in a big city, but give me somewhere cozy and intimate, and I thrive. If there’s a rocky, craggy coastline and/or mountains nearby as well, I’m in heaven.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  • Heifer International – they do amazing work by providing people with livestock whose outputs offer them economic returns.
  • The Xerces Society – they do enormously important work, I feel, in their efforts towards education about invertebrates, with a heavy emphasis on wild pollinators.
  • Buckminster Fuller Institute – they award individuals annually with a cash prize towards implementing a “world changing” idea (all entries must be beneficial to the planet and humanity at large).

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next?
I’ve been buying almost all of my son’s clothing from an online children’s consignment retailer called Thred Up. From the comfort of my home, I can browse and purchase attractive gently used clothing at a great price. We’ve also been purchasing a good deal of his toys this way. As for what’s on the horizon, a second woodstove would be wonderful; we’d never have to turn on the propane heat in our house again!

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why?
Again, the woods around our home are my comfort zone. I love it here. That said, the redwood forests of northern California and the western highlands of Scotland both soothe me in indescribable ways. I’ve also long felt a pull towards the San Juan islands of Washington state and hope to someday get there.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d tell my 12 year-old self that small, slow, steady steps are the best way to make change. I was shy and uncomfortable in my skin when I was younger. It took some time for me to grow out of that and become the confidant person I am today.

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?
Vote with your fork. A great deal of pollution occurs based around agriculture. Support sustainable agriculture, farmers, future farmers, and mindful land management.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?   What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did?
I first got hip to environmentalism at age 14. There was a girl in my high school who was both an international teen model and an environmental activist. I thought she was the coolest person on Earth and got intrigued by what motivated her. It’s important to realize the power of role models!

How do you live simply?
I work from home, as does my spouse, and find pleasure in simple, easy, everyday activities. Sitting around our wood stove sipping hot tea or working in the garden or having friends over for a home-cooked meal and a cocktail is all we need to feel incredibly satisfied.

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours?
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” ~ Plutarch

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