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

The best of 2015

Goats in the woods

I finally sat down with our blog archive on New Year's Day to reflect upon the twelve months past. I was shocked at how much we'd accomplished when my memory of the year mostly consists of lounging in the summer woods with the goats, weeding with Kayla, and making huge pots of soup to freeze for winter. The blog doesn't lie, though. So, without further ado, here's the best of 2015 in case you missed it the first time around.

Goat and kid

Draining cheeseGoats top the list again for the second year running. In 2015, Abigail gave birth to our farm's first four-footed baby, Lamb Chop. We played with him and loved him...then ate him.

As a result of our first kidding, I also learned to milk and to make cheese --- chevre, ricotta, and mozzarella. The process was surprisingly easy (especially since I didn't try any aged cheeses).

Goats grazing

Despite all of that education and homegrown deliciousness, though, the most wonderful part of the goat year was simply remembering how to relax outside at the end of a long summer day without worrying about any of the items on my to-do list. It was truly a joyful season!

Mushroom station

Meanwhile, we plugged some new shiitake logs and (more importantly) created a better home for the fungi to live in. That project included an IBC-tank rain barrel, which not only provided water to the logs but also helped dry up an extremely soggy spot. And, speaking of mushrooms, we added a new wildcrafted fungal species to our repertoire as well --- chicken of the woods. Yum!

High raised beds

In the garden, Kayla and I redug the a very soggy area to create a series of very high raised beds, bringing the root zone up out of the groundwater. The results were so much better than I could have predicted! Years of soil-building that largely went to waste due to waterlogging paid off with huge cabbages, massive numbers of butternut squash, and a pretty good crop of tomatoes (despite our usual blights). An inspiring success that I wrote about in the book I spent much of the year researching and writing --- The Ultimate Guide to Soil.

Brussels sprouts

There are always positive and negative sides of the harvest, but this  year was a particularly fine one for brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, and the crops mentioned in the previous paragraph. That makes for a great 2015 since brussels sprouts are Mark's favorite vegetables and I'm a nut I love nuts!

Birch and maple syrup

It was also a pretty sweet year because we spent the late winter tapping box-elders, sugar maples, and black birches. In the process, we decided that the last species (although the most painstaking to boil down) provides by far the best product.


The garden was mostly on an even keel in our ninth season of growing most or all of our own vegetables, so there's not much to say there. But I did try out solarization and fell in love with this no-till weed-control technique. I can tell solarization will be a major time saver in the future.

Range hood installation

When I let him loose from helping me keep the outdoors in line, Mark significantly improved our kitchen. He added a range hood (for safety and utility), better shelving, an oscillating fan on the ceiling, and a magnetic door latch. This winter, he plans to hit the opposite side of the room and continue bringing us closer to modern living here on the trailerstead.

Tractor pulling out a truck

Mark would also be the first to tell you that one of the year's highlights came almost twelve moths ago today when our movie-star neighbor helped us pull out the truck that had been stuck in our driveway for about half of the previous year. Such a huge relief!


I'll end by saying that (by my standards) this was also a very social year. Mom and I took a ride behind a steam locomotive and Mark and I hosted a big Thanksgiving celebration for the whole family. Mark took a film class that inspired and rejuvenated him and the two of us explored several fascinating local attractions with or without friends. Finally, the year's firewood harvest turned into a fun treat when we hired Kayla and Andy to join us in the task and Kayla and I enjoyed a grafting workshop, multiple dance workshops, and lots of wonderful days together on the farm.

I hope your 2015 was equally joyful and that 2016 is even better for all of us. Have a wonderful homesteading year!

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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.

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That is a lot! And well done to both of you. Happy New year.
Comment by Chris Mon Jan 4 02:46:46 2016

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