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

archives for 09/2017

Cow tooth

Isn't it funny how when I used to go out in the woods with goats, I noticed trees and flowers? And when I go out in the woods editing a werewolf book, I instead find dinosaur bones?

(Okay, so I'm pretty sure this tooth actually started life inside a cow. But for a solid minute there, I was positive I'd made an archaeological discovery!)

Posted Fri Sep 1 07:21:34 2017 Tags:
Cutting carrots on cutting board.

Slicing carrots the old fashioned way because I packed away the chopper attachment to the mixer.

Posted Sat Sep 2 11:59:13 2017 Tags:
Russell County Fair

Like summer, fall seems to be arriving early in 2017. Two years ago, the Russell County Fair was sweltering. But despite happening on the same weekend this year, I had to dig out winter clothes to attend the event this time around.

Four piglets

With lows likely to drop into the forties by the end of the week, the critters will have to snuggle even closer to brave the unseasonable cold snap. Stay warm, little piggies!

Posted Sun Sep 3 07:18:56 2017 Tags:
2008 yard drawing with barn and golf cart.

So, will this translate into a more hands-off gardening style in the future?


The plan so far is to be less spread out as we started here. Having a large garden was great for doing multiple experiments but the new style will start with a large fenced in area to keep predators out.

We might also not grow as much for the Winter if the Athens farmers market turns out to be as good as the word on the street says it is.

Posted Mon Sep 4 07:28:44 2017 Tags:
Anna Dairy show
Cattle show

Kayla met me at the Russell County Fair Saturday to watch the Junior Dairy Show. I was highly impressed by the skill of these kids as they led massive cows around the arena, nudging feet into proper position with long poles and guiding headstrong beasts into just the right conformation.

This girl was particularly skillful, rubbing the cow's belly gently to soothe her as the pair stood at attention. No wonder she won first prize!

Posted Tue Sep 5 07:28:21 2017 Tags:
Wikipedia image of sliced radish.

Do you or Mark have a food you just don't like and never have?


We are lucky that we both seem to like most of the same things.

Neither Anna or I care much for radishes...and have not tried to grow any.

Image credit goes to Wikipedia.

Posted Wed Sep 6 07:01:07 2017 Tags:

Aerial photoOur farm is now SOLD!

Flooded creek

Before you get excited, please be aware that access is this property's major downfall. It's what you might call Extremely Private. You'll have to cross half a mile of Carrying a goat across a creekoff-road terrain between the parking area and core homestead and the creek floods past its banks a few times a year.

That said, for the right owner, the resulting tranquility and isolation is an asset rather than a curse. Pet owners will never find a safer paradise for their cats and dogs. Okay, yeah, and maybe for your wife's goats, mules, chickens, and other critters as well. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Gathering mushrooms and firewood

Anyway, back to the selling points....

Our farm is 58 acres, but only the center acre or so is in use. The rest is forest that ranges from 20 to 50+ years old and offers woodland walks, abundant firewood, and tasty mushrooms.

Farm in 2013

The interior includes a little over half an acre of no-till garden. The area looks considerably weedier at the moment than is shown in this picture from October 2013, but the soil is rich and ready to go. I even planted a bed of fall lettuce to get you started!

Bearing perennials currently include raspberries, strawberries, grapes, apples, hardy kiwis, asparagus and more. Basically, we've been feeding ourself almost entirely off this property for over a decade. It will be easy for you to step in and do the same.

Star plate barn

Milking stanchionAnother half acre of the homestead is fenced with cattle panels and contains a 110-square-foot, five-sided barn. Rotational pastures outside and a milking stanchion inside make this space move-in ready for your small herd of dairy goats.


Okay, okay, you know where the goats are going to live...but what about you? The center of the homestead is a 10x50 foot mobile home (1960s era) with a new metal roof and two large porches. We're leaving behind most of the furnishings, including the fridge, Trailer interiorstove, and chest freezer, so it won't cost much to get your center of operations up and running.

I should warn you that the trailer interior is very rough in places, but it's livable. Utility hookups include electricity, phone, and cable internet fast enough to stream Netflix.

Two water systems are also available --- drinking water from a well (pumped through a sediment filter and UV light for purification) and irrigation water from the creek (stored in a 1,000-gallon tank that gravity feeds into the house). The creek pump can be hooked up directly to a system of sprinklers as well.


Composting toiletAdditional living space is found in the 8x16 foot cabin with porch and metal roof. Meanwhile, the 36x45 foot tobacco barn (pictured previously) was reroofed in 2012 and is full of potential. Finally, a composting toilet/deer blind rounds out the outbuildings.

Posted Thu Sep 7 07:10:27 2017 Tags:

Finally got around to adding numbers to our mailbox.

It's been years now since it was last hit with a baseball bat.

Posted Fri Sep 8 15:27:55 2017 Tags:

Egyptian onionsWant to win a box of Egyptian onion bottom bulbs? Every year or so we give away a starter set of these dependable perennials to a U.S. reader who wants to expand their garden patch. This year, I'm hoping our readers will give us a moment of their time in exchange for the offer.

How can you enter the giveaway? Just share the facebook post below, and in a week I'll choose one random winner to enjoy a small flat-rate box of Egyptian onion bulbs. These bottom bulbs aren't usually sold online and they give you a year's head start over the top bulbs that are more frequently available. So hopefully they're worth spreading the word about our farm.

Thanks so much in advance! Mark and I appreciate your support as we move toward our new adventure.

Posted Sat Sep 9 06:58:29 2017 Tags:
Spider web in a concave shape.
I noticed a new type of concave sheet web at work this week.
Posted Sun Sep 10 07:34:55 2017 Tags:
Seed supervisor

Huckleberry supervised my second round of seed saving last week. "Beans are dry enough to pack away," he said. "Label the tomato varieties carefully. Leave the squash and okra seeds to dessicate a little longer."

Good thing I have a cat available to tell me what to do!

Posted Mon Sep 11 07:00:13 2017 Tags:
Volunteer tomatos in the weeds.

It's been a good year for volunteer tomatoes.

Usually they don't make it past the green stage before the first frost date but for some reason this year a few plants are old enough to ripen and eat.

Posted Tue Sep 12 07:00:10 2017 Tags:

As soon as the weather turned cool, the cicadas began to drop from the trees. This one came to visit our grape vine, sluggish now that its job of mating and producing next year's offspring is done. Imagine being an insect who lives for only a few short months above ground!

Posted Wed Sep 13 07:00:14 2017 Tags:
Helping ben replace headlight bulb.

Helping our friend Ben to see how easy headlight replacement is on a Toyota.

Posted Thu Sep 14 07:00:11 2017 Tags:
Clearing a lettuce bed

Will we be in Virginia long enough to eat fall lettuce? I doubt it, but I went ahead and planted a bed at the beginning of the month anyway. The seedlings are now up and growing even as our summer crops begin to slow and fade.

And as soon as I expressed my impatience by planting, the endless array of paperwork leading up to our close started to come in. More on the first steps involved in solidifying our foothold in Ohio coming your way soon!

Posted Fri Sep 15 07:00:10 2017 Tags:
Inaugural visit

16.8 acres of mostly bare land + a new state = the first step in a grand adventure!


There's a water tap and an old camper on the property...and not much else. I suspect the amenities will be easier to establish than they were on our first farm, though, since the area that will become our core homestead butts right up against the road.

Edibles in trunk

Okay, and I'll admit it --- the land isn't quite bare any more. I couldn't resist filling the trunk with mushroom logs and potted plants before heading up to our closing. If the deer don't find them before we drive north again, we'll have the tiniest bit of a homestead waiting for us upon our return.

(This last picture is at our AirBnB. The actual property has no houses in sight.)

Posted Sat Sep 16 06:59:24 2017 Tags:
Bowl of volunteer tomatoes.
A harvest barely big enough for a two person dinner.
Posted Sun Sep 17 07:07:22 2017 Tags:

We are now the official owners of a tract of bare land outside Athens, Ohio! Our closing was Thursday, and we went up Monday to start getting a bunch of balls rolling. Enter a mass of gut-wrenching and expensive problems that made me doubt the entire endeavor and ask Mark if I could just crawl under a rock and live there instead. (For the record, he said, "No.")

Gluten-free baked goods

In need of a quick emotional fix, Mark and I headed straight to the farmer's market on Wednesday morning. Wow! All doubts were laid to rest at this midweek gathering (about a third the size of the main one on Saturday morning)...although part of my mood lift might have been due to that excellent gluten-free brownie.

Green Edge Gardens

But it wasn't just the brownie that floated my boat. I'm so impressed by the town's commitment to locally-grown food, which varied from fresh ginger and oyster mushrooms grown by the certified organic Green Edge Gardens...

Farmer's market fruit multiple orchards with dozens of fruit varieties I haven't even tasted yet.

Pretty pies

I'm really looking forward to being part of a community that puts such a value on high-quality produce. A wise person once said that all boats are safe until they leave the harbor...but if you never leave the harbor what's the point of being a boat? Despite some squalls, I'm starting to get my sea legs under me as we continue to navigate our transition.

Posted Mon Sep 18 07:02:29 2017 Tags:
Red sweet peppers.
Red sweet peppers at harvest time.
Posted Mon Sep 18 15:32:26 2017 Tags:
Checking out a trailer

Despite parental dismay that we're planning to live in a trailer again, the first phase of our closing trip to Ohio involved hunting for a new mobile home. Well, actually, for a used mobile home.

Trailersteading gives details about our first mobile home, which Ancient trailerwe were given for free since the structure was windowless, ancient, and a liability to the trailer-park owner. Given our budget at the time, that trailer was the perfect choice. But we've since saved our pennies and wanted to move to the next step up. The question became --- how high should we go?

Just out of curiosity, I took a look at the selling price of new mobile homes. These started at $24,000 and definitely seemed like a very bad financial decision even if we'd Trailer bedroomhad the spare cash on hand. If we'd had to borrow to make the new mobile home a reality, the financial situation would have been even darker, involving a high-interest loan. Bad idea!

At the lower end, I was still able to find free mobile homes for sale on Craigslist. One didn't look at all bad...although the listing did mention an infestation of bedbugs. Elbow grease would definitely have made these livable...eventually.

Then there was the Goldilocks middle ground. For $3,000 to $7,000, there are a slew of trailers to choose from. We made a list then started making calls. More on the results in tomorrow's post!

Posted Tue Sep 19 07:39:34 2017 Tags:
Trailer living room

So what did we look at when we started considering potential used mobile homes? Given that the abodes are technically wheeled vehicles, I turned to used-car know-how. First on the agenda --- finding one as young as possible within our price range.

Two by four walls

Our current trailer is about 50 years old...which puts it before the cutoff when mobile homes beccame manufactured homes. On June 15, 1976, HUD tightened their rules and changed the name of the result. So this is a smart age to look for --- if you can afford a trailer that dates past this era, you're likely to end up with thicker walls, better insulation, and overall higher quality of living. (Plus, you can rightly tell your parental units that you didn't buy a trailer --- you bought a manufactured home. Bonus!)

Mobile home

Next up --- potential trouble spots. Roof leaks and bad floors are two of the most likely flaws of a used trailer. I go into this in much more depth in Trailersteading, so I won't bend your ear again here. As when hunting an ugly-duckling property, it's just a matter of figuring out what you can live with (and fix) and what you can't.

Old trailer

In the end, Mark and I got lucky. Our septic installer is also a trailer mover, and he knew of a 1993 Skyline Sabre less than a mile down the road from our new place. There are some obvious trouble zones we'll have to fix --- a few holes in the floor, lack of a furnace, pipes that likely burst when the space sat unheated for three years, and single-glazed windows being the worst of the downsides. But the trailer was a steal for $1,500 and will be very cheap to move given its proximity to the eventual destination. Success!

Posted Wed Sep 20 06:43:50 2017 Tags:
Golden oyster mushrooms
We couldn't resist trying these golden oyster mushrooms from the Athens farmer's market.

Sauted with salt and pepper, they tasted almost exactly like our ordinary oyster mushrooms.

I still prefer shiitakes.
Posted Thu Sep 21 07:20:40 2017 Tags:
Soil test hole

We've racked up a bunch more reader questions about our upcoming move --- time for an answer post!

"When are you moving?" --- Everybody, including me

We've opted to do everything by the book this time around, which means lots of slowdowns and bureaucracy. Heck, it took three solid hours just to have the trailer put officially into our name and permitted to move a mile down the road!

At the moment, we're waiting on the septic system to be installed --- getting approved already took a month and a thousand bucks. We're also working out the kinks on getting the trailer set up and  hooking up electricity.

Speaking of which:

Mobile home
"Are you going to be able to connect to the grid in your new location?" --- Chris

We are. Although off-grid living is inspiring, solar panels aren't yet within our budget if we want to stay out of debt. So we've put in our work order with the electric company and are hoping cleanup operations down south go quickly so residents of hurricane-damaged regions can get back on track...and Ohio workers can return north ASAP to hook us up.

New property
"Why does the house need to be butted up against the road?" --- Chris

The property we're moving to is another big parcel without very much "usable" land. Only the half acre or so closest to the road is flat and easy to manage, so the rest will be earmarked for hikes and mushroom gathering and (possibly) pasture if I get the animal itch again. Despite my hankering for privacy, I'm willing to make this swap in exchange for easier accessibility of off-farm manure!

Earth star
"I wonder what your projected tax savings are over say 10 years. Cheap land, cheaper house?" --- John

Our taxes will actually be a bit more up there than they are down here. But, it's true --- living in a trailer is going to be a huge savings based on Ohio rates! I'd say we'll pay a third to half as much as if we'd chosen the same-sized plot of land with a conventional house on it. Definitely a bonus to the pocketbook....

More once we have anything to report. In the meantime, I'm launching two fiction books at once and starting on the third since writing up a storm is my best approach at pretending to be patient. You know what they say --- fake it 'til you make it!

Posted Fri Sep 22 06:51:41 2017 Tags:
Heat pump water heater diagram.

We are currently weighing the long term advantages of a Hybrid heat pump electric hot water tank.

There is a substantial 500 dollar rebate from the company providing electric that will eventually go away.

Does any readers have any first hand experience with this new technology?

Posted Sat Sep 23 06:51:44 2017 Tags:
Hardy kiwis

We enjoyed a tasting of our first indoor-ripened hardy kiwis a couple of weeks ago, and now a few are starting to ripen on the vine. So what's the consensus?

If you eat with your eyes, you're unlikely to be pleased. These little fruits aren't at their flavor peak until they're quite soft on the inside and wrinkly on the outside (like the one in the upper left of the photo above). That said, the taste is quite good and very similar to the fuzzy kiwis from the store (without the need to peel the fruit).

I couldn't tell much difference between the vine-ripened kiwis and those I'd ripened in the house, though, so I picked the rest Friday to ripen up. Looks like we'll have some snacks to take with us to our new land!

Posted Sun Sep 24 06:23:40 2017 Tags:
Chevy S-10 for sale.

As our moving date gets closer we've decided to sell our old farm truck.

1993 Chevy S-10. It runs good with a new fuel tank and mud tires.

4 wheel drive. The steering is a little loose but the engine sounds solid.

800 dollars price should help to move it fast.

Posted Mon Sep 25 15:44:47 2017 Tags:
Groundhog eating squash

We didn't realize how much a homestead depends on a dog until Lucy was gone. For example, the groundhogs are so brave they're starting to scamper up onto the porch to gnaw on curing butternuts!

Will we get another dog at our new place? I'm starting to lean in that direction, although there are also positives to having so few animals we can be footloose and fancy free. I suspect we'll wait and see what our new life style is like before making any far-reaching decisions like choosing a canine companion.

Posted Tue Sep 26 07:18:22 2017 Tags:
Tomato pepper harvest.
Sweet peppers are just a shade darker than our Tommy toe tomatoes.
Posted Wed Sep 27 07:27:13 2017 Tags:
Homesteading party food

Happy birthday, baby D.! Kayla's almost-adopted foster daughter invited us to a huge party at the corn maze last weekend to celebrate her second birthday. We had a great time hanging out, riding on the hay wagon, and sampling party food cute enough to star on pinterest.

Thanks for the invitation, Kaya! Putting physical distance between us is harder than leaving the farm I've nurtured for the last decade. Let's plan to meet in the middle soon!

Posted Thu Sep 28 07:00:12 2017 Tags:

I used to only know sumac as the tree my mom used for making a strange tea. The sumac trees here, planted behind a retaining wall, I paid little attention to for years. Until I noticed how plump and vibrant the clusters of tiny red berries were at their peak. Snipped off dozens with scissors, as high as I could reach.

After drying my sumac harvest and rubbing the berries off the bobs, I ground it by hand with mortar and pestle.

Passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and stems, an amazing spice emerged.

This is the first time I've processed a spice. It reminds me of processing tobacco in the barn as a kid. So tactile, hands become sticky with dry sap, and it smells amazing.

I'm looking forward to trying the tart earthiness of sumac in many dishes this fall.

Posted Fri Sep 29 07:00:10 2017
Moving trailer

A huge thank you to Rose Nell and Jayne, who brought us this moving trailer two months ago and took a huge amount of pressure off our transition! We've been filling it in dribs and drabs ever since, and now everything that made the cut is packed away and ready to move north.

Today's the big day! We won't have electricity (or water or septic or pretty much anything except two whiney cats cooped up in a trailer) at first, so please don't worry if your comments sit in moderation until I head to town and let them out days later. I suspect that within a week or so, we'll be back to normal. In the meantime, we'll be thinking of you all as we embark upon our new adventure!

Posted Sat Sep 30 06:21:33 2017 Tags:

Anna Hess's books
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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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