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July 23, 2009

UW blog profile: ‘Seattle Backyard Farm’ just plain good reading

News and Information

Members of the UW community are increasingly expressing themselves in personal blogs about their interests, professional matters or some combination of the two. University Week will occasionally feature brief profiles of these blogs and their authors.


With ruminations and reminiscences on cooking, gardening, buying locally and the dramas of chicken raising, Elizabeth Lowry’s blog, Seattle Backyard Farm, is informative and entertaining. She describes it as “a beginner’s blog on mini-farming, cooking, and eating in the city.”


Lowry, an assistant director with UW Medicine News, Community Relations & Marketing, offers gentle essays on these topics. She illustrates the blog with photos and even features a narrated slide show of her daughter making her a four-layer birthday cake.


Here’s how Lowry starts a post about a mystery with one of her chickens: A couple of weeks ago after work, I opened the hen house door and, again, Pesto was sacked out in the nest box — eyes glazed and body spread flat with her feathers fluffed. When I leaned in toward her, she chortled a sad, mournful cry, moving her head slowly. She wouldn’t eat. Wouldn’t drink. She must be on her deathbed, I thought…


What’s up with Pesto the hen? Find out at Seattle Backyard Farm.


University Week asked Lowry a few questions about her blogging experience:


Q: How long have you been writing this blog, and how did it get its start?


A: I’ve been writing the blog for nine or 10 months. I’ve wanted to write a book — a memoir — about food for quite a while, and I established the blog as a way to start that writing process. Plus, I wanted to share what was going on at home with my friends and family who are spread from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma to Washington.


I’m truly a slacker gardener and cook. I plant seeds and forget what I put where. Then, I wait and see what pops up, trying to determine if it’s a plant or a weed. In the kitchen, I’ll try anything at least once. We’re pretty good now at making creme brulee, and we make our own ice cream a few times a week. In the garden and in the kitchen, I’m rarely disappointed and always surprised.


Q: Who is your intended audience?


A: My goal is to show people — particularly families — that anyone can grow vegetables, raise chickens, cook, buy local food and eat healthy. Processed food is truly evil stuff. Kids need to know where their food comes from and how to prepare it themselves from scratch. Even a tomato plant in a container on a porch is a great start.


We are so fortunate in Washington to have great weather to grow vegetables and an amazing array of farms close by where we can buy directly from farmers. My friends and family in Oklahoma have a bigger challenge in finding and growing local food because the heat, wind, lack of rain and poor soil make gardening difficult.


Q: Have you had any interesting interactions with readers, through comments or e-mails?


A: I love seeing comments and reactions to what I’ve written. A college friend, who lives in Texas, found me through Facebook and then posted a link to my blog from his, www.tokenliberal.com.


Q: What are your best — or worst — experiences in writing a blog?


A: The most difficult part of writing the blog is actually carving out the time to do it. My goal is to blog once a week, but I manage about once a month. At UW Medicine, I spend my days writing and telling stories about medical research and patient care — amazing work that others are doing to advance health care. With the blog, I’m writing about things I’m doing.


Q: Do you have any plans for where you’ll take the blog in the future?


A: Ultimately, I’d like to blog at least twice a week and use the content for the basis of a book. I hope to add some more slideshows and maybe interviews with farmers and cooks.


Do you know of a blog written by a member of the UW community that would be of interest to UWeek‘s faculty and staff readers? Drop us a line at uweek@u.washington.edu.