Skip to Content

Meet a Reader | PNW Farmer Denise

Today we’re meeting a Pacific Northwest reader who is my polar opposite when it comes to growing things. Denise has four gardens that total an acre!

1. Tell us a little about yourself

I am Denise and I live in NE Washington State.

person sitting on a rock in a lake.

I’ve lived here for four years, after living on the Oregon Coast my entire life. We have a 5-acre permaculture farm and I grow about 50% of our family’s food.

Denise's garden.

We have two beef cows with calves, goats, a honey hive, 15 laying hens, a large berry patch with approximately 10 types of fruits and three additional garden areas.

Denise's family harvesting

harvesting is a family affair!

I have been a part-time freelance writer (taking a break from that at the moment) and a photographer (though all of the photos I submitted for this post were just taken with my cell phone.)

For quite some time, the photos I took were in conjunction with the feature stories I wrote. Then, after I became a teacher to my children, I branched into family and senior portraits creating a small business.

Occasionally, I’ll help with some product photography for friends with upstart businesses, but that is not my specialty.

For example, my son is interning with an artisan cheesemaker and I took some photos for their website. Below is a photo taken with my cell phone of one of the flatlay arrangements. I didn’t have it quite right, but I wanted to see what it would look like.

flat lay photo of cheese and fruit.

Soon, I may wrap it all together into a website/blog/channel….but right now is not quite the time. 

I also do part-time teaching through our school district’s parent partnership program. I teach high school literature and high school botany and am halfway through my Master’s in Teaching, Secondary Science.

a porch piled with pumpkins.

I grew all of these pumpkins!

Both my husband and I have agriculture degrees and for much of my adult life, I covered freelance feature stories about small acreage farming for a newspaper and several magazines.

I took all of that great advice from the farmers I interviewed and put it into practice.

drip irrigation.

I installed drip irrigation and landscape fabric in my tomato patch this year.

I also scratch cook the majority of our meals using the food we grow.

2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

That’s a hard one to answer, but at least ten years. I was initially drawn to this blog because of the quality of photography.

I don’t know how I found The Frugal Girl, but after a few weeks, I realized how much we have in common. We’re the same age and our children are similarly aged too. We’re also a homeschooling family, and I loved reading about your homeschooling life.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

I was raised on a farm and thus I never knew a time when my family had excess money when I was a child. My husband is also from a farming family, so you could say we had no choice in the matter.

4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?

We had a goal to have our home paid for by the time I was 40. We sold our Oregon home and purchased our Washington home with cash when I was 39.

back view of farmhouse.

the back of our farmhouse

But, also, I love the power and freedom of working part-time doing what I love, which is having animals, working the land and schooling our children. I didn’t intend to home school. Our oldest is 18 and just earned his associate degree, but when he was in grade 4 we discovered that he is both high IQ and moderately dyslexic.

purple iris.

All three of our children have had specific learning needs and I’ve had to become an expert in their learning styles, which is why I began a masters in teaching. I’m seeking two endorsements: students with dyslexia and students who are highly capable.

5. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?

My husband and I are not handy with cars or mechanical/plumbing/electrical. You’d think as farmers we’d have some of those skill sets, but we just don’t.

So, we have to hire out for projects.

6. What’s one thing you splurge on?

I love great Broadway shows, and will go see live theater and productions at least 6 times a year.

If you’re wondering how we do this while living in a remote area: it feels extremely remote where we are, but we are not too far from civilization. We actually live only a 40 minute drive from Spokane, which is the third-largest city in the state of Washington.

I am 3 hours from the Canadian border and 1/2 hour from the Idaho border and really, anything an hour north of us is really quite isolated. There are many lakes in the area and many people live remotely and off grid too. 

7. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

We live in one of the most beautiful, rugged, remote regions of the country. The Pacific Northwest is both ethereal and not to be taken for granted. The weather here can be brutal. We are always prepared for scorching heat and frigid cold.

Our children are outdoorsy. They are science/nature-minded and as such, we spend much time on area lakes or skiing in the winter.

girl holding a box of bees.

Our 11-year-old daughter is the beekeeper of the family.

8. What is something you wish more people knew?

I wish people understood how cheap it can be to maintain a garden and yard. I scour the area for free plant starts.

How do I get free starts?

FB Marketplace is an excellent venue for free plants. So, too, are buy/sell/trade groups that are local to your particular area. I belong to 4 of these types of groups on Facebook. Last, asking friends and neighbors is an excellent idea. I purchase all of my garden tools at garage sales and the supplies for raised beds are also from Facebook groups/marketplace. 

I started with a completely blank slate and created our entire garden/yard/perennial garden for less than $3,000. That total includes the cost of my plants and all of the supplies to build raised beds and drip irrigation for the gardens (I have four gardens totaling about 1 acre.)

rose and herb garden.

my rose and herb garden

9. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?

Kristen taught me how to engage with an online audience with respectful discourse, something I needed to learn. My most sincere thanks.


Denise, I just wanted to say that the thing you listed as your dumbest money mistake…I don’t know that I’d agree it’s a mistake! If auto repair, plumbing, and electrical work aren’t things that interest you, I think it’s smart to hire them out.

And actually, I know of a fair number of handy people who still do hire out electrical and plumbing. So, I think you can hold your head high. 🙂

Also, I want you to know that your cell phone flat lay photo made me hungry for some cheese, so you must be doing something right!

A question from me before I open it up to readers: what’s something you don’t grow yourself?

Readers, the floor is yours!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Monday 11th of July 2022


I can't grow melons. Our season is too short. Also peaches, for the same reason. However, there are some arctic region foods that grow exceptionally here. A short list: honeyberries, arctic kiwis, elderberry, tayberry, Oregon grape, aronia berry and salmon berry. None of these are mainstream foods, but they are all delicious and I grow all but salmon berry, which needs a woodland environment.


Monday 11th of July 2022

Denise, I am so impressed with your gardening skills and success! In what ways do you preserve what you grow to eat during the winter season?

MB in MN

Monday 11th of July 2022

Denise, thank you for this fascinating look into your life! So beautiful.

Nancy in Eastern Washington

Monday 11th of July 2022

I think we must be "neighbors." I live 30 minutes from Spokane, and 5 minutes from Idaho. I also go to the Broadway plays in Spokane. I love your gardens, and the iris is spectacularly beautiful. Other than homeschooling, your life sounds very similar to the one in which I raised my family.


Monday 11th of July 2022

I love the idea of permaculture and have read about a lot, but have never had the time or space to do it. I admire that you are doing it so successfully!!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.