Spread the love

I’m a late-bloomer. Back in 2006 when Amy and Michele invited me to join them in the venture that became Homestayhelpers, my resume as a writer amounted to some pieces in a college anti-war newsletter, two articles for a local dance magazine (edited by a friend), and then a long stretch until I volunteered to write my garden club’s newsletter. The sheer tedium of that task caused me to leap at the chance to start a personal garden blog in 2005, where my very first rant got the attention of my future partners.

Teaming up with professional writers like Amy and Michele was exciting for me but mostly, I was nervous about performance. I remember suggesting that we not have an archive of our posts so that my subpar ones would only be seen briefly. That idea was quickly overruled.

But I loved Homestayhelpers the minute it launched 10 years ago this week, even before it started getting noticed. Its very name attracted attention in the traditionally anodyne world of garden-writing. And how about the Manifesto, the brash tagline “Uprooting the Gardening World” and the post category “Shut up and Dig!” Yes, we were having fun.

Homestayhelpers got noticed enough that a few publishers actually asked me about writing a book, which requests I always declined due to my teeny, eeny attention span, much better suited to blog posts.

(Aside to garden-book authors: You amaze me. You inspire me, though not to – god forbid – write a whole book.)

Second Career

Coincidentally, my employer in my first career went out of business the very month that Homestayhelpers launched, so I was emboldened by this new venture to attempt a second career in gardening, somehow – by ramping up my part-time garden-coaching business, and exploring income potential from garden writing. Did we think Homestayhelpers would ever pay our mortgages? Not really, as there were no examples of that anywhere. (At least among American gardenbloggers. Can’t speak for the Brits.) Good thing we didn’t count on it because after 10 years our earnings just cover expenses plus modest year-end bonuses.

Blogging for businesses does pay, though, and it’s thanks to Homestayhelpers that I got hired as an online writer by three independent garden centers. And I managed to write a few magazine articles, though I never sought out the assignments. Though not as daunting as book-writing, I’m still intimidated by print, with its editors to please and no chance to amend and correct after publication.

Still, I did support myself through coaching and writing until I retired a year ago (defined by taking Social Security and no longer working for money), but just barely and thanks to living very cheaply.

Unpaid Activism

Much more fun than writing for pay is writing for causes, and Homestayhelpers has helped launch and promote several that are near and dear to me: Lawn Reform, DC Gardens and Good Gardening Videos.


It’s become cliche to claim to have made new friends via blogging, but in the gardening world that’s no BS. We started Flinging in 2007, when we gathered in the hotbed of gardenblogging that is Austin, and next month I’ll be attending my 8th Fling, in Minneapolis.

So we gardenbloggers are friends in every way, including in person, thanks to our shared passions – gardening and writing.

And in writing for this blog I’ve gotten to know all sorts of people in the plant world. I brazenly approach people for interviews and have never been turned down. Those folks have taught me a lot.


So I’ve changed, but so has Homestayhelpers over the years. Our long-time foursome (Elizabeth joined us soon after launch) lost founders Amy and Michele due to career and life changes but we found new partners and and terrific writers in Allen, Evelyn and Thomas, none of whom actually rant.

So our dirty secret is out: at the Rant we do more raving than ranting because one does run out of things to rant about in the gardening world. (Though rest assured, if Scotts MiracleGro starts killing something else, we’ll cover it.)

So Homestayhelpers has become a blog that’s more diverse in its topics and in its line-up of writers, and it’s become a more positive and for me, a happier place than ever.

Thanks for the Decade!

To readers and Homestayhelpers partners, past or present, thanks for making this a blog that’s not just fun to be a part of but a blog that aspires to and occasionally manages to have some impact. Here’s to 10 more!

Posted by

Susan Harris
on June 17, 2016 at 8:16 am, in the category Garden Rant turns 10.


  1. Your description of your tentative and humble entry as a professional writer touched me. I enjoy your writing though I admit I have not felt retired enough to focus on gardening–beyond getting stuff into the ground on time and keeping weeds at bay. I am glad that you’ve created so much online to refer to when I need it and I hope you will continue to post links to the rant, dc gardens and good gardening when there are new or pertinent entries.

  2. Susan, it has been an honor and pleasure joining you and the rest of the Ranters. Here’s to many more years of conversations about what matters. I so appreciate all of you!

  3. I have also been a long time reader of Garden Rant. It may be cliche to claim new friends from blogging but many of my blogging friends have been friends as long as GR has been around. That makes them old friends by now. Congratulations on ten years of blogging.

  4. Well done Rant ladies, you inspire us all!
    So terrific to find a blog that actually has a real fun and spicy personality.! I am not such a wall flower myself!
    At what point in these 10 years did you decide writing all the posts yourselves was more that you could manage? To find writers that also have spice cannot be easy!

  5. Are you referring to our guest Ranters? I think we always wanted to include them. With the initial 4 and now 5, there’s still uncovered days and we love our guests. Susan

  6. I loved Gatden Rant…but now that I’ve retired and downsized I only have roses, peonies and boxwood jammed into my front city garden. I loved writing about you guys, though!

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