The greatest hits of 2017 and what's to come
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The Greatest Hits of 2017 and What’s to Come

Starting the New Year always means taking a look back on the blog, finding out what worked, why it worked, then making changes and setting goals based on those findings. As a blogger, I want to learn what you like to read and share. I want you to relate, linger, like, comment, engage, come back to, and feel inspired by my content. If you did any or all of these things in the last year, then I consider that post to be a success.

When a post becomes a success, it not only validates why I love to do what I do, it helps support the little business that is this blog. I never imagined Garden Betty would become the online brand and resource that it is now, and making it worthy of your visit is a high priority — because the longer you stay on my site and the more you share my posts, the better the site does in terms of page impressions and ad views.

I realize that ads are far from popular with most readers, but they’re crucial to the business as they provide a passive form of income. I couldn’t run my blog to this extent without the support of my advertisers and sponsors, and my audience is a large part of that success because sponsors want to know that you’re engaged. So thank you for reading, for subscribing, for sharing, and here’s a look back on your favorite posts from the last year.

Most Popular Posts of 2017

10. Introducing My 10-Month-Old Baby to Snowboarding

Teaching a toddler to snowboard

Whoa, look at that little nugget! Though this was only a year ago, it feels like moons because Gemma is now a running, climbing, bouncing, babbling toddler who will be starting her second season on her snowboard soon (!!) and I am so excited to get out in the snow with her. (Assuming Central Oregon will get some snow this winter…)

What this says about my readership: I’d like to think my readers simply couldn’t resist that puffy ball of cuteness, but really, I think it just spoke to the inner child and adventurer in all of us. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to start a sport that early in life (I didn’t learn to snowboard until my mid 20s!), but it’s a sweet reminder that we all have to start somewhere, even if it seems risky or crazy.

I’ve also found through various surveys and analytics that a lot of readers are much like me: people with an interest in gardening, homesteading, or living the slow life, and who also love the outdoors, whether they’re campers, hikers, or snowboarders. And subsequently, a lot of those readers have grown with me and started their own families, and want to introduce their kids to their passions in a fun, safe, and supportive way.

9. Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required)

Easy peasy homemade tomato sauce (no peeling required)

In this post, I wrote about my tried-and-true method for homemade tomato sauce, minus all the work of blanching and peeling. For people with a glut of tomatoes in their garden last summer, it meant they didn’t have to slave over the sink for hours on end or face a basket full of rotting fruits they couldn’t use up in time.

Preserving has always been a popular topic on this blog, and this was no exception, especially with the ease and speed of such a method. While certain preservation techniques require some skill or time, this one needed no tedious prep or boiling water bath. You like taking shortcuts in the kitchen without sacrificing quality, and I hope to bring more of these tips and tricks to you.

8. Make Your Own Insecticidal Soap for Natural Pest Control

DIY insecticidal soap using pure castile liquid soap and water

This winter was the first time I’ve had to bring my plants indoors, and doing so meant I faced something I’ve never had before: houseplant pests. Because the plants are currently residing in our bedrooms, and they’re all plants we hope to eat at some point, finding a natural and non-toxic method for combating those pests was top of the list. Thankfully, one of the best solutions is one that can be made at home, often with two ingredients you already have around!

Why this ranked as a top post: Organic gardening methods are one of the main reasons people turn to my blog, especially people who aren’t regular readers and just happen to find my site organically on Google. I’ve had a new series in the works that focuses on organic pest control methods, and this year I’ll finally finish the first few posts so you have a reliable resource this coming growing season. Stay tuned.

7. How to Support a Healthy Backyard Flock Integration

How to support a healthy backyard flock integration

When our Barred Rock, Kimora, died last spring, we knew we needed to add a few more flock members to keep our last remaining chicken (of the original Three Amigas) in good company. This post explained how to integrate new hens into an existing flock while keeping everyone safe, healthy, and happy.

It was one of my most popular chicken posts because it incorporated real-life methods for managing a small backyard flock (especially one in a suburban neighborhood where you have to work with what you’ve got, space-wise). There will be plenty more chicken content coming your way this year, now that we’ve uprooted the girls and moved them to Oregon where temperatures have dipped into the teens at night! (Poor SoCal chickens…)

I’ll be giving a tour of my new coop, sharing what we’re doing to keep them warm in winter, and how we’re keeping them well fed without a garden at the moment.

6. Planting Milkweed for the Monarchs

Monarch larvae

What’s the deal with milkweed? And why are monarch butterflies in trouble? This post delved into detail about these beautiful pollinators and how you can help save them while beautifying your garden at the same time.

Why this worked: As one of my most popular sponsored posts last year, it proved that a partnership can feel genuine and natural if the right sponsor is chosen. With every sponsored post, I put myself in my readers’ shoes and try to envision what they’d want to learn from it. Can I provide a helpful or inspiring resource for my reader while making my sponsor happy?

The answer is a resounding yes, and this post was not only educational and full of lovely photography, it linked several sources for milkweed seeds and milkweed plants, making it useful year-round (which is what we strive for from a blogger’s perspective).

In my site survey last year, a few readers expressed disappointment that sponsorships had to exist at all, but I’ll be straight: I am immensely proud of the sponsored posts I’ve had the opportunity to create, the sponsors I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with thus far, and the resources I’ve been able to provide as a result of these sponsorships. They’ll continue on the blog and I promise that every sponsorship proposal will be carefully considered to ensure it vibes with my blog and offers value to you.

5. Defending the Dandelion: It’s Not Just Another Weed

Dandelions aerate and condition stressed soil

In this post, I gave reasons for why the dandelion is sometimes misunderstood as a weed. The truth of the matter is, it’s one of the most beneficial plants you can have in your garden and the entire plant, from root to flower, is edible — for you as well as the wildlife it supports.

I think this is a popular post because it goes against what mainstream society tells us to do or tells us is “right.” I feel like gardening is a form of resistance, and no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, we can all agree that growing our own food, working toward self-sufficiency, and taking care of ourselves and our families are all good things.

4. Simple Spice Drawer Organization

DIY spice drawer organization

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to tackle that messy spice cabinet but you don’t know where to start, you’re in luck. I shared my own organizational system that’s easy to replicate, works exceedingly well, and looks beautiful to boot.

Thanks to social media, this post really took off last month when I first posted it and it continues to do well all over Pinterest. People just love a good simple DIY, and in fact, my magnetic spice rack tutorial (from my last kitchen) still ranks highly on the blog.

3. Checklist for Your Spring Garden Tune-Up

Checklist for your spring garden tune-up

This post laid the groundwork for a successful growing season with tips and reminders for the chores you should start in March, no matter what climate zone you’re gardening in (as none of the chores involve seed starting or planting). I know it’s only January but it’s still worth a peek if you’re already dreaming of tomato transplants!

These general how-to posts do really well because they apply to everybody, not just the ones who are interested in special techniques like soil solarization or aerated compost tea brewing.

I’ve leaned toward more advanced tutorials in recent years since it was the direction I was going in my own gardening, but the site has gotten a surge of new gardeners as well and I think many of us could use a refresher when it comes to our routines. I’ll try to include more of these types of posts in future content while continuing to share the little-known nuggets of information I love to dig up in my research and practice.

2. Leggy Seedlings: What Causes Them and How to Correct Them

Beet seedlings leaning toward the light

At one point or another, we’ve all encountered long, skinny seedlings (especially if they were started indoors). This post offered some possible causes for a common problem, and help for how to fix it and how to prevent it from happening again.

This post topic was consistently searched for and clicked on all year long. You come here for answers, and answers are what I aim to provide in the most concise yet descriptive, research-driven yet real world experience-based, visually stimulating way possible. This is the kind of stuff that gets me all giddy and geeked out and I’m so happy to know that it’s a large part of why you’re here.

And the #1 post of 2017 was…

1. Video: My Spring 2017 Garden Tour

Video: my spring 2017 garden tour

Looking back on my old garden in Southern California makes me miss it big time… especially right now when we haven’t set anything up for winter. (And honestly, we’re still a couple years away from having a “real” garden again. We want to wait until we move into our next house before we build a permanent garden flourishing with fruit trees and a food forest full of in-ground plants… sigh.)

It’s no mystery as to why this post resonated so well with all of you. There’s an inherent voyeurism in seeing the real-life suburban homestead of someone you follow, and let’s face it, garden tours are just plain fun and fascinating. Will and I are working on a different kind of tour this year that will give you a better view of what we’re doing on our current property (more on that below), so you will definitely be seeing more posts like this.

How to safely freeze liquids in mason jars

There were other posts that consistently ranked high on my blog (through organic searches and social shares) and some of them ranked even higher than last year’s crop of top 10 posts. With the exception of #8, these are all older posts that still have staying power, and because of that, I’m going to revisit some of them this year, update the images, and republish them as current content.

The reason for this is twofold: One, it’ll bring these older posts up to date with larger images and better photography. (I’ll be honest, I sometimes cringe when I look back on my early work but I know the information itself is still good, so I leave the post as is. But screen sizes are higher resolution now, my current blog theme supports larger dimensions, and I always want this site to reflect my best work, so the most highly trafficked posts will start being updated as needed.)

And two, I feel these archived posts are extremely useful but newer readers may not know that they exist. So, I want to start bringing these posts back at timely moments throughout the year — which might help you out as well, if you’ve forgotten whether I’ve written about something before.

Most Popular Posts Overall

  1. The Trick of Knowing When to Harvest Garlic
  2. 4 Ways to Pickled Green Tomatoes
  3. A Guide to Curing and Storing Garlic
  4. The No-Brainer Guide to Starting Seeds Indoors
  5. How to Get Those Delightful Dark Orange Yolks From Your Backyard Chickens
  6. Fresh Homemade Pasta (Using What You Already Have in the Kitchen)
  7. Chimichurri the Way an Argentine Does It
  8. How to Safely Freeze Liquids in Mason Jars
  9. Why and How to Ferment Your Chicken Feed
  10. Freezing Fresh Lemon Slices, Lemon Juice, and Lemon Zest

Highlights for Garden Betty

Last year’s personal and professional highlights were dominated by three major events that set my trajectory on a wild, amazing, whoa-this-is-my-life path: Gemma turning one (I just reread that post and cannot belieeeve how small she was now that she’s nearing two!), the release of The New Camp Cookbook (you can read about the making of the cover shot, my first cooking demo and book signing at ALA, and my recent round-up of notable press), and our family’s move to Central Oregon (which included hauling all our chickens and a good number of our plants with us).

I’m beyond thankful to the media outlets that believed in my work and interviewed me for their magazines, newspapers, and sites last year: Zoom-Zoom Magazine (where I was featured as an athlete pushing the boundaries of urban sports in California), Los Angeles Times, Travel Channel, DIY Network, and KCET.

I’ve also been in talks with my publisher about writing a third book, but don’t have anymore details until we sign the deal. It’s an opportunity I’m grateful to have because of your continuing support for my books — and please don’t forget about my first title, The CSA Cookbook, as spring approaches! It’s a terrific resource for people who grow their own food or shop at farmers’ markets, not just those with CSA memberships. (What is CSA, you ask?)

What’s to Come

For the past few years that I’ve been doing these round-ups, every year has topped the last. (See 2016, 20152014, 2013, and 2012. Crazy, right?!) And then I always wonder—will this coming year be just as good? Even better? How can that be possible?

Talk about pressure as I start planning for 2018!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this post with a sneak peek of an experimental passive solar greenhouse that Will and I (mostly Will) are building in our backyard. We’ve gotten great feedback from people who are excited to see it take shape in the coming year, so we’re excited to share all that we’ve learned and implemented — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Stay tuned for more on that, here on the blog and possibly on a forthcoming YouTube channel.

Also on Instagram, I just started an ambitious 365-day project that’s surprisingly harder than it sounds. Every day for 365 days, I’ll be sharing a new image from our life at home and on the road. Hopefully, by this time next year, I won’t have missed any days!

Speaking of on the road… I realized while analyzing my archive that adventure-focused content was sorely lacking last year. And it wasn’t for the lack of adventures — we went on plenty — but with the passing of our younger pug, a book release, a big move, and a wild toddler in the mix, it was a relatively light year blogging-wise.

I’m planning to bring those back to the blog, starting with the many adventures we took in California before we moved. Collectively, I think those will be a great love letter to an awe-inspiring state that has my heart, even though we’re firmly and happily planted in Oregon now. I have so much I still want to share from past road trips in other states too, and I hope you’ll enjoy a little armchair traveling this year as I work my way through thousands of photos. (My new NAS drive just arrived today, so that should be a fun weekend project to organize and transfer all my files over… not.)

A huge thank you for all your support this year. I always learn a lot from reading your comments and emails, and you motivate me to be creative, try new things, and take it up a notch. So much heart and so much work goes into my posts (which take far longer to write than you might think… I worked on this one for three days!) and when I see that you’ve taken the time to share it with your friends — well, that is the highest form of flattery you can give.

A lot of my blog posts stem from your ideas or questions, and I’m always open to requests. As I start to shape the next year of content… Tell me, is there anything you’d like to see, read, or learn about here?

Happy 2018, everyone!

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