2014 – the year that was

2014 has been a strange year for us. A year of ups, a year of downs and on the whole I must be honest and say I’m glad to see the last of it. Bring on 2015! πŸ™‚

Still, it’s definitely not been all bad. As I’m having a few challenges stringing my words together today (not hung over πŸ˜‰ ) so I’m going to copy what I saw on the Suburban Jubilee blog (a wonderful blog about frugality and sustainability) and share some of the things we achieved this year in photos. πŸ™‚

He's hopeful

We tried breeding Anna but with no success so it turns out.

An allium abundance

We harvested our potato onions with great success.

These don't seem to be holes in the cheese but just the softness sticking to the knife.

And made cheese.

It's like a rocket stove and a kettle all in 1. Light the fire underneath, put the kettle on top and then feed the kettle by dropping fuel down the chimney int he middle of the kettle. It's completely hollow!

We bought a Kelly Kettle to heat water in summer when the fire is not burning

Holding the cream of the crop on display. There are some green ones which are no good for eating but we've got a goodly supply there and 4 more beds of spuds plus 2 more plants out front to harvest as well as several pots of spuds too.

Our potato harvest. We lost a lot to green (a potato with any green is poisonous) which we threw into the compost area. The chooks won’t eat raw potato but they scratched everything else into lovely compost and those green spuds became this years seed potatoes and they are growing like topsy. πŸ™‚

My Nanna

My beloved Nanna passed away February 15th 2014 at just over 92 years of age. So much of what I do now she has done before me and I only wish I could have told her about my sewing, knitting, bottling, veggie gardening and more before her memory went. I miss you Nanna but I know you’d be proud of what we do.

And down the hill to my new compost heap with pathetic pumpkins (which are coming out) in the foreground. There are pieces of chimney flue on the stakes for safety until I either remove the excess stakes or get my coconut cream cans on top of them.

March saw the revamp of the veggie garden, removing the raised beds and putting in tile paths and a terrace. We imported manure and lake weed from Wendouree in Ballarat and fenced it off for the chooks to work over.

One of my fertilised female pumpkin flowers. The bees beat me to this one.

Pumpkin flowers turned into baby pumpkins.

My new worm farm. Salvaged bath tub. We put a little scrap of fly screen over the plug hole, then some rocks pinched from our overgrown and weedy drive before some used mulch and lots of horse manure. There's a nest of wet newspaper for the worms to rest in and in a little while I'll start adding in pureed food scraps. :) On top is a piece of recycled carpet (thanks Lynda) and a scrap of chipboard or some such pulled out from under the house. When it gets a little cooler I can look to planting out some trees to shade the worms during the heat of summer.

We finally set up the worm farm, a bucket underneath the plug hole which we blocked off with wire mesh and gravel to allow all liquids to drain easily. We filled it up with more lake weed, some pea straw mulch scrounged off a now defunct garden bed and ageing (no longer hot) manure. Our friend S donated a 2L ice-cream container of worms from his own worm farm and away we went.

Put all the bits together, move and balance the stove on 2 rubber poles and light it up. Check!

In April we had a shot at building a rocket stove. Although we never finished this one it worked a treat and boiled 1L of water in 8 minutes.

Freshly cut soap. Cutting it is like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

I had a go at making soap at home for the first time.

One of the 2 tubs of apples.

Ballan is surrounded by seed grown apple trees, all likely sowed from the apple cores thrown out car windows. These were turned into apple juice. 32L of it. We still have several litres remaining.

This was one of the prettiest liquid amber trees I have seen with green, red, yellow and brown.

In May we raked the local park clean of its fallen leaves.

Both the trees are down and all but cleared away too. Well done guys.

We brought down the biggest of the poplar trees on our property too.

Making sausages by hand. Meat cleared of excess fat then hand cranked through the mincer before being flavoured then piped into the casings. Plenty of casings left too. :)

And we got stuck into learning about all things lamb meat.

My best cabbages so far. They're about the size of a newborn baby's head so far. Brassicas are heavy feeders so I need to spread some aged manure around them today.

In June we saw the first of our cabbages growing well.

The removed bed is now in the corner here. Once the chooks have done their work the wire will be removed and reo mesh upcycled into trellis for the grapes I'm planting here. They will in turn shade the rest of the bed from the early afternoon sun onwards, providing a micro-climate. Well, that's the plan.

And moved onto phase 2 of the vegetable garden overhaul. 6 months ahead of schedule mind you!

 

In July our builder J started to enclose our back deck into a passive solar greenhouse using windows taken (with permission) from a house earmarked for demolition.

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We also started to install our rocket stove.

Crushing the old tiles for a driveway.

In August we hired an excavator to come and pull out all the poplar tree stumps and level out the gardens.

Face mask?

We saw some warm enough weather that my kids stripped down and ran out to cover themselves in mud. Several times!

I had to move the banana up tot he deck as the frosts once again toasted it in the greenhouse. The inside of the trunk is still green though so I have a little hope for its recovery.

We started planting out the deck area with rubbish bins turned into wicking beds.

The finished product. I bought the buttons to sew throught he cushions but decidedin the end I liked the cushions as is.

Our couch covers reached the end of a long life so I purchased some corduroy fabric and started sewing. All the couches have new covers and look so much better for it.

13 solar panels that after a very brief period of no power, started generating power from the sun for us.

Finally in September we got our solar panels installed. Sadly it took until the end of November before the smart meter was sorted out and we could start to reap the benefits.

Allegra holding Purpley with Jas and the rest of the ready green cabbages .

We harvested our cabbages and turnips and got stuck into fermentation too.

Braced at the front, braced at the back, tied to the front and bolted to the deck. It really wasn't moving anywhere.

The kids helped to turn our garden into more of a kids paradiseΒ in October with the building of our sandpit and the platform above it onto which I installed their cubby house.

Hay!

We arranged for 3-4 bales of very old and rotting hay to be delivered which was spread out to mulch an area designated to become the hugelkultur orchard.

A conga line of chicks

In November our lovely Silky hen Dandelion hatched out 4 of the 5 eggs she sat. We now have 4 Isa Brown X Barred Plymouth Rock chicks. It appears 2 of them may be roosters if the sparring I saw last week was any indication.

And now it’s the end of the year, December once more. It’s been a busy time for us with all manner of things going on which is why I’ve not been very presentΒ in the blogosphere. We have not been idle though. Here’s just some of the things going on around here.

Blueberry experiments. I have grown these from seed that I saved from frozen blueberries.

Potatoes that mostly came up from the green potatoes we threw in here last autumn.

Potatoes that mostly came up from the green potatoes we threw in here last autumn.

Hops vine going crazy. My neighbour assures me it's a male vine though. As I grew it primarily for its shade I am not too concerned. :)

Hops vine going crazy. My neighbour assures me it’s a male vine though. As I grew it primarily for its shade I am not too concerned. πŸ™‚

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Piper nigrum AKA black pepper. πŸ™‚ And green pepper and white! It’s all from the same plant at different stages of ripeness. I bought this months ago where it sat and did absolutely nothing all winter that I could see that is) until about 3 weeks ago when it warmed up sufficiently for this tropical vine.

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Meet my baby pomegranates grown from the seed taken from a supermarket purchased pomegranate. Food forest plans for these babies in a year or so.

 

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My husband and the whipper snipper- 1. Waldo the thornless blackberry – 0 Me – 6! 6 new blackberry bushes that is. It’s a thornless blackberry and not as vigorous as the thorny “weed” that we are not allowed to propagate or plant.

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One of my larger garlic bulbs. I thought last years garlic crop was awesome but this years blows it out of the water! AND 5 weeks earlier than last years too!

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Excuse the (ever-present) mess. See our new pergola? Well, old/new one I should say. Thanks again to that house marked for demolition. We will finish weeding underneath and then fill it with gravel, sand and pavers.

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One of our fruit harvests this year. We had a few cherries lost to cherry slug but as these are right up against the front deck the birds don’t bother them. We had a handful to enjoy on Christmas Eve and this bunch are ripe now.

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Thankfully the whipper snipper never touched the 2nd year cane. It’s the fruiting one and absolutely laden! We’ve had a few berries each and likely some more are ripe right now.

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I had more garlic than I have been able to give away! These are both quart jars (946ml). I made the powder by dehydrating whole cloves which took ages and the granules by dehydrating crushed garlic (well, Thermied garlic anyway) and it took a mere 24 hours! The powder is perfect for adding to mashed potatoes.

WE have also added mulch beds with almonds, pumpkins and potatoes planted out in the front garden, more sauerkraut made, a Christmas dinner harvested from the garden (except the broccoli), home education with the kids, visiting friends, dehydrating apricots and so very much more. πŸ™‚

So, as you can see, we finished off a busy year with lots more busyness. I didn’t manage toΒ do the things on my list of things to learn for the year (smoking meat) but I did learn so very much more that I am quite content with how the year went for learning.

I hope that 2015 brings on many more dreams of self-sufficiency realised (garlic and pumpkins this year and cabbages too) and with a brain shoved full of even more wonders of permaculture. Β A very happy and safe new year to you all and let’s bring 2015 in with a great big eco-green bang!

So what has been your favourite thing of 2014?

 

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17 thoughts on “2014 – the year that was

  1. Anne Wilson says:

    Our favourite thing? without doubt getting pigs again raising them then making our own dry cured bacon and smoking it. Second in line great garlic each bulb weighing at least 130grams.
    Happy new year to you, here’s to good gardening!

    • Drooling at the thought of homemade bacon. πŸ™‚ I didn’t think to weigh my garlic. I’ve saved my biggest and best though to plant again next year so I will have to break out the scales and check. πŸ™‚
      Here indeed is to good gardening in 2015. I’ll raise a glass to that.

  2. What an inspiring post. You’ve achieved a lot in 2014. I was lucky to get 6 chooks for a birthday present this year and they have been a real joy. They have to come in at number one for the year, followed by my attempts at cheesemaking. All the best for 2015.

    • It’s always good to look back and realise you’ve achieved a lot more than you thought you had. πŸ™‚
      What a wondeful birthday gift of your hens. I am so glad you’re enjoying them so much. And well done with your cheesemaking. Which cheeses did you make?

  3. Jo says:

    Wow Jessie, what a busy year you have had. Well done on all that progress, it looks great to see it all at once – I expect you are very chuffed with yourselves! I had the idea to dehydrate garlic and make garlic powder this year, but didn’t quite get there, so well done you! I use garlic powder in my home made taco mix.

    My favourite thing for 2014? Our lovely rescued puppy, and, just squeaking in, my new vegie garden:)

    • I saw your new garden on your post and it looks splendid! Can’t wait to see how your garden grows. Silver bells and cockle shells? πŸ˜‰ With carrots all lined up in a row. πŸ˜› Puppy is so cute too. The dried garlic is also so that we have a supply from about July-November when the previous years harvest is going a bit manky and the new season garlic isn’t quite right for harvesting.

  4. Lynda D says:

    Wow, it does look like so much when you put it all together. You left out one very big thing that most of us only dream about. YOU PAID OFF YOUR HOUSE – NO MORTGAGE!!!!! Goodness me. I love how we all inspire each other and share in each others successes and yes, sometimes failures. It truly is a wonder how out of thin air, friendships are formed. Now im looking forward to 2015 and all that we get up to and share.

  5. narf77 says:

    What an amazing amount of accomplishments you made this year Ms R. Hippy. You have done some amazing things with that unerring determination that drives you and you leave all of us twitching in your wake. I love all of your new edible futures. Great idea about the blueberries. I am just about to start picking blueberries so might save some and have a go at growing some from fresh. Great idea about the pomegranate but I am yet to see one grace any supermarket shelf here in Tassie this year ;). 2015 will see us all working towards our dreams and step by step we will get closer to where we want to be. The best bit is that we have a wealth of community and opportunities to learn and understand out here in the blogosphere and 2015 is going to give us whatever we choose to take from it. Here’s to starting off as we mean to finish up and have an awesome New Year Ms R. Hippy πŸ™‚

  6. foodnstuff says:

    Certainly was an awesome year for you. I can’t claim to have done even a tenth of what you did. So now I’m going to try drying garlic and growing blueberries from seed. It was interesting that you used frozen ones. I was wondering if stratification would be necessary and have just done some Googling and yes, it’s recommended. So by using frozen ones you already had bypassed that step. I’ve got some in the freezer and I’ll also try freezing the last of my crop and see how that goes, too.

    And congrats about the mortgage, too. That must be a VERY nice feeling.

  7. We are in utter awe at the amount you have managed – and no mortgage…swoon πŸ™‚

  8. Leigh says:

    What a great post! You have accomplished so much. It’s inspiring to see it in photos this way. May 2015 be as productive!

  9. CJ says:

    I’m thrilled to have discovered your blog, and I’m quite amazed at what you’ve achieved in a year, especially with three small children. I’m looking forward to followin along in 2015.

    • Hi CJ, welcome. πŸ™‚ I guess I look at what we’ve done and think of all the days where we achieved a whole lot of not much and I wonder just how much I could have done had I been motivated this year. I think I post these posts, looking back and seeing what we achieved as much for myself as anyone else. It does me good. πŸ™‚
      Thanks for following and here’s to a great new year.

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