The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The best of 2014

Four-leaf clover

I really enjoyed wrapping up 2013 with a post highlighting my favorite on-farm moments, so I couldn't resist picking a top-10 for 2014 as well.

Miniature goat

Starplate coop1. Goats! How could my list not begin with these delightful caprine companions who've made the last three months fly by? It was also a thrill to finish the starplate coop, which initially housed chickens and soon turned into a goat shed. But, really, 2014 is all about the goats.

Goat on a log

Flowers on our homestead

Hatching braconid wasps2. Flowers. Taking the time to turn the front of the trailer into a riot of blooms (that later produced edible beans) added about five hundred smiles to 2014. (Yes, of course I counted them all.) Plus, getting to watch braconid wasps hatch along with other bits of daily life right outside my window was truly inspiring.


3. Working with friends. My favorite times on the farm are nearly always when Mark and I are working together as a team. Add in Kayla's occasional smiling presence, and chores become a party.

Training high density apples
Broccoli and strawberries4. The year of the apple tree. Even though a late frost wiped out most incipient fruits, I had a ball training our high-density apples on a monthly basis. Adding in a grafting workshop shared with a friend, then the pleasure of watching those little grafted apple trees grow all summer, and 2014 definitely became the year of the apple tree. While I'm talking plants, 2014 was also a particularly awesome year for blueberries, peppers, and broccoli, and we tasted our first homegrown hazelnuts this fall, which was quite a treat!

Tapping a sugar maple

5. Maple syruping. The great thing about homesteading is that every kind of weird weather is an opportunity for something. A very hard winter made it worthwhile to harvest maple syrup in February, even though the sap is usually too watery to be worth collecting our climate. Cold weather never tasted so sweet!

Building rain barrels

6. Rain barrel. Speaking of attending workshops with Kayla, I was surprised by how much the rain barrel we made together brightened my summer life. The reservoir saved hours of lugging water and also made it easy to wash hands and feet right outside the front door. Plus, the blue color just looks cheerful.

Invading deer
7. (Almost) no deer in the garden. Boy do my stress levels stay lower when four-footed nibblers don't come in the night to wipe out all my hard work. In a year or two, I may forget to applaud Mark's fences, but for now, I'm still reveling in the ability to keep deer out of the garden. (Unfortunately, lack of deer in the garden equates to lack of deer in the freezer, but that's a compromise I can live with.)

Mulching with humanure

Black-soldier-fly bin8. Full-circle compost. Scooping out the first humanure to feed the garden felt good since our fertility cycles are now more complete. Meanwhile, we also added a black-soldier-fly bin to our composting complex, which provided hours of entertainment for me and lots of yummy pupae for our chickens.

Building a raised bed
Tree frog amid the tomatoes9. Experiments with terraforming. I get a geeky kick out of trying out different methods of raising soil above our high water table. As an added bonus, we were able to eat the results of my experiments. Plus, wildlife loved the open water.

Winter camping

Snow man10. Remembering to have fun. Okay, so I only had about a 40% success rate in my goal of making up my own holiday for each month of the year, but there were also several additional fun days thrown in here and there. For 2015, I'm trying a new technique for chipping away at my workaholic tendencies --- I used a random-number generator to pick one day per month as a flash holiday, and marked all of the dates down on my planner immediately. Let's see if I can hit at least an 80% success rate this time around!

Ducklings learning to swim

Us at the beachI should also mention the ducks, who were absolutely adorable when young but soon turned out to be not quite our cup of tea. On the other hand, I always would have wondered whether waterfowl were better than chickens if we hadn't given them a try.

And then there were minor events like a trip to the beach and signing a contract for two more print books to hit bookstores in 2015...but how could any of that compete with the endless pleasure of apple trees, teamwork, and goats?

Starting a mowerBattery-powered chainsawAs a final caveat, I feel obliged to add that this list is completely Anna-centric. If Mark were writing a best-of-2014 post, I'll bet it would include the battery-powered chainsaw and fancy new mower. Or maybe all the time he got to rest and relax while I was writing up a storm this fall and early winter? Regardless, 2014 has turned out to be a top-notch year. Let's see if 2015 can top it!

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Thanks for the entertainment this year- I check in daily, but admit when Anna starts getting all science-y with the plant biology I do get a tad lost.:)

Did Anna ever get the book I sent (Journeying earthward) back from her mom? I'm waiting on that review. :)

Comment by Eric Thu Jan 1 10:20:03 2015
i've loved seeing all the things you and mark have worked on over the last year and enjoyed the glimpse into the workings of your homestead. wishing you both the very best in the new year.
Comment by melina w staal Thu Jan 1 19:14:28 2015
I really enjoy reading every day about your adventures on the farm and admire both of you so much. This past year, my favorite posts have been about the goats and ducks. I'm not sure if I could ever live the life you do, since I'm a spoiled city girl, born and raised and still living in Appalachia VA since 1955! Wishing you the best in 2015!
Comment by Kathy Kleineick Fri Jan 2 08:37:23 2015
Eric --- Sorry to be such a slowpoke about your parents' book! I nudged my Mom, who had forgotten all about it, but she dug it up and is enjoying it greatly. Hopefully a review will be forthcoming soon!
Comment by anna Tue Jan 6 10:15:45 2015

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.