Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week we meet Kristen, the Saskatoon blogger behind the site Shifting Roots, where she helps beginner gardeners grow their own food!
Name: Kristen Raney
Blog name: Shifting Roots
Where were you born? Humboldt, SK
Where are you living now? Saskatoon, SK
Why did you start your blog?
In short, I started my blog because I knew I couldn’t be a full time musician anymore. I had the successful 60-student-voice-studio I had always dreamed of, but the lifestyle was killing me. At the time, I was travelling 3 days a week to teach the students that didn’t come to me, parenting a 2-year-old who we suspected was Autistic, and caregiving for my 90 year old grandmother, all while doing it mostly alone because my husband had a job that required him to be away for weeks at a time.
It all came to a head when one weekend my grandma was sent to the hospital and clearly needed to be in a nursing home, and I discovered that what I thought was a nagging sickness was actually mono. From that time forward I resolved I would figure out a way to change careers and have a lifestyle that didn’t take so much out of me. I didn’t know at the time when I started Shifting Roots if I could actually make it into a new career, but I decided that a blog was the lowest-cost way to give it a try and I was determined to make it work.
How did you decide on your blog name?
My blog names comes from my decision to go back to the root of what I loved as a child. I had always loved singing and it will always be my first love. But being a musician is a demanding career and I felt I had to give up practically everything else that I was good at and loved in order to do music. I’m just “shifting my roots” and focusing on food, home, and garden instead.
What do you blog about?
I help beginner gardeners learn to grow their own food with confidence and teach them how to preserve what they grow. There are no “perfect gardeners” in my corner of the Internet. Everyone kills a plant at some point.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
My blog is my business and I’m really excited to ramp it up in the next two years. I’m still not at it full time, but it now matches and some months exceeds my voice teaching income, so I hope to be at it full time soon!
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
This post for No Churn Sour Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream most sums up me and my recipes: It has to be as simple as possible, sweet, and bonus points for being very Saskatchewan. The recipes I create usually have some connection to a memory I have of growing up on my farm. As much as I complained about weeding and planting vegetables and fruit trees, I loved that feeling of feeling connected to the earth and all the generations of my family. While we’re not a farming family anymore, I hope to be able to pass on my love of gardening to my kids.
I also love sour cherries and am a huge fan of the U of S varieties. In my next backyard there will be at least 3 sour cherry trees!
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
I wish this post on Haskaps Tarts would do better, but I understand why it hasn’t. Haskaps are one of those little known hardy fruits that could desperately use a publicity agent. They’re so delicious and one of the first fruits to ripen on the Prairies. (For those of you who haven’t tried them before, I think they taste like a cross between a raspberry, blueberry, and rhubarb.) I’m really hoping this year is a good year for them so I can make more Haskap recipes on my blog.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
The post that started my niche into garden blogging—28 Perennials You’ll Regret Planting. It was my first true viral and continues to drive a good chunk of traffic to my site. I wrote it as a half serious/half funny look at my experiences gardening in bad yards with overgrown perennials, plus I included the experiences of members of the Gardening in Saskatchewan Facebook Group. If you’re ever bored, read the comment section for a laugh. Apparently I’m an uneducated kitten killer who hates gardening.
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Doing everything I want to do! I have so many ideas for this blog and there are only so many hours in the day. I also love to keep learning and take courses to improve my blogging skills, but there’s only so many you can take and implement at one time.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Focus on the tasks that bring you closer to your goals. Stay consistent and serve your people and good things will happen.
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
Being able to use blogging as a way to help provide for my family and create more balance in my life. The move away from being a full time musician was a painful process mentally, but blogging lets me explore this whole other side of me that is deeply fulfilling and immensely creative.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
Milk and Honey Nutrition. Mary Ellen is a Registered Dietitian who is also a diabetic. When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes I started making recipes from her site and each one is so delicious and turned a frustrating situation into a positive one. Now that I’ve had my baby, I’m still going to eat mostly this way because, once I’ve gotten used to it, I’ve never felt better.
Sweet Sugar Bean. Rene’s recipes are the bomb. I first met her at the FBC Conference in Saskatoon and with one bite of the cookies she made, I was hooked. Every recipe I’ve tried in her cookbook “All the Sweet Things” is a winner, and her writing style is so warm and heartfelt. Seriously—I cried reading some of the stories in her cookbook—who cries reading a cookbook!?! Even though I may never write a cookbook, its so encouraging to me to see that a small town Saskatchewan girl like me can take a blog and turn it into something big.
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
My husband and I are obsessed with October in Saskatoon. It’s this out-of-the way ramen place in a strip mall on Arlington, but it has they best ramen and sushi we’ve ever tasted, and everything is reasonably priced. Croissants from The Night Oven are also the best I’ve ever tasted.
What are you working on next for your blog?
I have a lot of things planned! First up is the re-launch of my gardening course. I’m adding more content—videos, a vegetable by vegetable growing guide in pictures (so you don’t rip out a vegetable instead of a weed), and done-for-you garden plans that you can either follow as-is or use to jump start your own.
My husband is also joining me as a partner on my blog and is going to add more DIY projects and be in charge of our expansion onto YouTube. He’s way more passionate about video than I am, and can build the projects I want so much faster than I ever could.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your About me page?
I feel anxious if I don’t have a good book on the go. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and although I don’t read nearly as much as I would like to these days, I need to have a real-life book in my hands as often as possible. A Kindle just doesn’t cut it, unfortunately.
What makes your blog unique?
There aren’t a lot of gardening blogs out there to begin with, and most of the ones out there are from much warmer growing zones in the US. I only know of 5 of us who garden from zone 3. I’m also not a homesteader or into essential oils - though those things are great! I’m just a gardener who gardens in a typical city backyard who wants to make the most of the space I have and teach you what I know along the way. I’m also not afraid to share my failures, and I think people like knowing that it’s okay if they kill a plant too.
How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?
Most of my community happens on Facebook and Instagram. I ask my people lots of questions and am starting to feature more of their gardens and progress pictures. Nothing makes my day more than when one of my readers posts a picture of their garden or the results of one of the recipes on my site.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
I love the articles on upping your food photography game! I still have a lot to learn about being a better photographer. I also really appreciate the Facebook community, especially when you have a question that’s specific to being a blogger in Canada.
Connect with Kristen and Shifting Roots on Social Media