10 Questions With Ashley English

image credit: lark crafts

Today I bring you, hot off the press, a new 10 Questions With…. I’m so excited for this one that I can barely contain myself. I had the opportunity to sit-down (via our respective computers) with one of my true blogging inspirations—author and blogger Ashley English.

Ashley lives in a small mountain community in rural Candler, North Carolina, where she blogs about the important little things in life on her site Small-Measure. She has a strong passion for homesteading, which can be seen in her wonderful book series, Homemade Living, published through Lark Crafts. There are currently four titles: Canning & Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Home Dairy, and Keeping Bees (all of which are chockfull of wonderful content, not to mention adorned with extremely cute covers). In addition to her fabulous books and blog, she also writes a weekly column on the popular DIY blog Design*Sponge every Friday. So, simply put, she’s pretty much amazing.

That being said, you can only imagine how excited I was when Ashley agreed to do an interview with me for Handjobs. We began e-mailing in mid April and an instant connection was formed. She’s my one and only lady crush, I swear, and now a dear friend. So without further rambling, I give you 10 Questions With Ashley English.

image credit: lark crafts

How did you start blogging, and what inspired you to do so in the first place?

I wanted to get back into the habit of writing. I’ve long been an avid reader and have written a good deal in the past, but had fallen out of practice. I was also looking for somewhere other than a diary in which to chronicle my homesteading adventures. Blogging was starting to really take off and after finding, and following, several that I really liked, I thought “why not just start my own?” Blogger was suggested as an easy, intuitively laid out blogging site, so I just jumped in. 

Beekeeping has always been so fascinating to me. How did you start that journey? Is it easy? Do you get stung a lot? Do you ever think of selling your homegrown honey?

We’re very lucky to have a super active local beekeeping club here in Western N.C.. This club puts on a bee school every winter and I attended it for two years before acquiring my hives. I also read up on the topic considerably before taking the apiary plunge!  I wouldn’t call it either easy or difficult. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s fairly routine. In the beginning, when you’re just learning all of the terminology and bee vernacular and habits and equipment and such, it can seem quite intimidating! I don’t get stung, ever, actually. Then again, I’m one of those “fully suited up” beekeepers. I use my hands far too much to lose writing time due to a sting! 

image credit: ashley english

Living in a rural part of North Carolina, have you ever wished to live in the hustle and bustle of a major city?

Never. Ever. I lived in D.C. for 4 years and that was all of big city living I’ll ever need. The setting I live in with my husband and son is so insanely beautiful, poetic and awe-inspiring that I miss it even when I’m away in town on errands. Asheville is also only about 15 minutes away, with amazing food, culture and shopping. On account of that, I rarely ever feel deprived of big city amenities. We’ve also got award-winning music venues, so lots of performers make stops in the area. That said, I love visiting big cities. San Francisco, London and Rome are much-loved spots. Give me a week there, though, and I’m pining for my home in the forest! 

What are some of your favorite spring canning projects? And what advice would you give to any novice canners out there?

Well, we’re almost into autumn now, so I’ll list those favorites: Cardamom Apple Butter (I’m bananas for all things cardamom!), chutneys, and late-summer pickles, like cherries and okra are some of my most loved canned goods. For those just “taking up the jar lifter”, as it were, I say get some good reading material on the subject. You want to be well acquainted with food safety issues when your water bath or pressure canning, so get your hands on some reputable books on the topic and give them a thorough read-through before firing up the stove top.  

All of your recipes within your books are absolutely fabulous. Did you grow up in the kitchen or are these skills you’ve picked up along the way?

My mom loved to cook, although we cook very differently now. And my grandmother was a big canner-she had a large garden, chickens, a U-Pick blueberry farm. Between the two of them, I learned to love all things food related. It’s from my father, though, that my intense domesticity and penchant for perfection derive, though. He’s quite house proud, loves to clean and decorate and entertain, just like I do! 

image credit: ashley english

What is your favorite DIY project you’ve done in the last year?

We purchased new windows for our home last September, knowing we were due to have an infant in the house. We wanted to bolster our 1930’s bungalow from whipping winter winds. With the old windows, we made  cold frame for starting seeds. I loved that we were able to upcycle something lying around into something so incredibly useful. You can see images of the cold frame here at Design*Sponge.

What is your favorite tool in your kitchen? In your home?

Oh, goodness! We have so very many. Well, maybe our collection of microplanes. We use them for everything from grating hard cheeses to fresh nutmeg and chocolate and citrus zest. They’re indispensable. I’m also a big fan of my Dyson vacuum cleaner. Although we have hardwood floors throughout, with 4 cats, 2 dogs, 1 messy spouse and a baby, the rugs on those floors can get some kind of nasty, some kind of fast. The Dyson makes short work of the clean-up process. 

Your books are fantastic; are there new additions to the series in the works?

At the present time, I just completed a new book that is not a part of the “Homemade Living” series. This new book may itself, however, manifest into another food-related series. We’re in the in-between stages at the moment. My publisher, understandably, wants to see a good return on their substantial investment on the first four books in the HL series before committing to more, so we’ll just have to wait and watch how the series does for the time being. 

image credit: ashley english

What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers?

Comment! Make friends with other bloggers. If you want to get a foothold in the blogging world, become a regular presence on other people’s blogs. It can go so very far towards creating lasting relationships of a reciprocal nature. Also, write regularly. Even if you feel like you’ve got nothing to say, you really do. The more you write, and read, the better your writing will become. Along with that goes the development of your own blogging “voice.” The most well-trafficked blogs on the web are all penned by bloggers with characteristic voices. The more you write, the more your own voice will emerge. 

And lastly, what are some of your favorite blogs that you follow?

Oh, so many! I have a list of links on small measure that I update regularly and add to. The blogs I check in on a regular basis, though, would have to include: 

Orangette
Cold Antler Farm
Saipua
Emerson Merrick
Unruly Things
What Possessed Me
Soulemama
Farmama
Door Sixteen
Crackers (Homemade Crackers)
and, of course, now, 
Handjobs (For the Home)!!!!!!!!

Be sure to check out Ashley’s blog Small-Measure, and run, or click, over to your favorite book seller to purchase all of her stellar books.

PS: if you liked this post, make sure you read the previous interview I did back in June with Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars!

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5 Responses to “10 Questions With Ashley English”


  1. 1 citygirlfarming August 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks for the interview. I LOVE Ashley English’s books…the look, the colors, the words, the photos. They’re wonderful. 🙂 Fun to read interview!

  2. 2 Jen August 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    What a great interview! I have been reading Ashley’s blog for a while and actually had the chance to meet her a few weeks ago when she hosted a canning class at her home. I can see why she would miss that lovely place when she’s away!

  3. 3 Yasmin August 25, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Wonderful interview! I’m definitely going to check-out Ashley’s blog (I love that she, too, is in NC). And, I’ll always keep coming back to your site…

  4. 4 elisa August 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    great to know more about you ashley. especially that you studied a couple of years before taking up bees – i am a slow sort and sometimes feel like i need to research until there’s nothing left. luckily i have your book which should give me a jumpstart on that! x


  1. 1 Ho To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese « Handjobs (For the Home) Trackback on August 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm

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