2014: The Year in Review

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Randy Fritz and a new crop of Angelino shoe makers.

In many ways it was a challenging year for us. I have not spoken about this on the blog, but my elderly mom faced a significant health crisis in the early months of 2014. She is doing better, thankfully. Through these months we were able to keep the blog going, a measure of how important it is to both of us. We were even able to, after two false starts, launch a podcast and put out 30 episodes. Blogging is a lonely activity, and I’ve enjoyed the reminder, through the podcast, that there are indeed other people in this world.

Kelly is away with her family this week, so we’ll have to wait for her perspective on 2014, but here are some of our posts I considered significant:

January
Analysis Paralysis
Kelly and I struggle with garden design. It’s actually a significant source of marital strife, largely when I fail to listen to her. She is the one with the degree in art, after all. In January we were still pondering the shape of our backyard. And we still are. We did manage to build some nice looking, hexagonal raised beds. Unfortunately, a series of possum and skunk raids, documented on a wildlife camera I got for my birthday, took out almost all the vegetables. I think I have the critter problem solved. Then again, I thought that before. Right now, why Kelly is away, I’m working on a secret landscaping project. Let’s see if she notices . . .

February
Advantages and Disadvantages of Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening
After a successful straw bale garden in the summer of 2013, I finally got around to building new raised beds to replace some that we had taken out. Our lead and zinc contaminated soil necessitates this, but I wish I didn’t have to use raised beds for reasons I outlined in this post.

March
Is Ham Radio Useful?
The jury is still out on this question, to be honest. I got my license late in 2013 (I’m KK6HUF, in case you’re one of the tribe). I have have a handheld 2 meter/70 centimeter radio and a rooftop antenna, but I haven’t used it much other than to check in on a local net a few times. I may have to table my amateur radio activities in 2015 in order to focus on other, more pressing, projects.

April
Easter Lessons
Kelly wrote about a troubled project involving dyeing eggs with natural materials. Natural dyes are a subject that interests us both, and I suspect we’ll revisit this topic in 2015.

May
On the Documentary Fed Up and Giving up Sugar and the Debut of our Podcast
We went to a screening of Fed Up and immediately gave up sugar. Or, should I say, Kelly gave up sugar and I cheated. As I write this I’m snacking on Christmas chocolates, so I can’t say I’ve stuck with the program. I have, however, greatly reduced my sugar intake overall and I’m more conscious of sugar when making decisions at the grocery store (it’s in everything!). Personally, I plan on revisiting the sugar issue. My new fresh, homemade muesli habit (thanks to the Komo FlicFloc) has allowed me to completely eliminate sugar for breakfast.

June
Hipster Compost and How to Make Stock
In June I pondered local sources for compostable materials (but did not compost hipsters, as some people thought I was proposing). Unfortunately, I did not solve the problem of where to put a large compost pile at our small house. I’ve got one tucked, unsatisfactorily, beneath the fig tree just outside our bedroom window. Later in the month Kelly “killed it” with a useful post on how to make stock.

July
Have You Ever Wanted a Uniform?
Kelly pondered a kind of house uniform and has made significant progress towards that goal this year. She now owns a functioning sewing machine and has taken classes. So far she’s made some very professional looking pillows and a few other projects. My money is on a uniform by mid 2015. I’m hoping she doesn’t impose a “cultural revolution” along with it, however.

August
Wild Food Lab: Foraging Taken to the Next Level
We took a number of amazing foraging classes with Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich. The most revelatory class for me was Pascal and Mia proving that you can find food in hottest and driest month of the year during a apocalyptic drought. There’s a lot of people who forage, but fewer who know what to do with the wild foods they gather. Pascal and Mia are working on a book that I predict will be the foraging book.

September
Stoicism Today
In a very unlikely turn of events, an essay we wrote was included in a book on stoicism. I tried not to let it puff my ego up too much.

October
I Made Shoes
In October we hosted an intense three day turnshoe making workshop with Randy Fritz. This was one of the more commented upon things we did this year. I ran into Randy over the holidays and he promised to return for another workshop in 2015.

November
Compostible Holiday Decor
Kelly did an amazing job decorating the house for Christmas this year. No more cheap plastic crap!

December
Who Killed the Non-Electric Toaster
One highlight of this month, for me, was a conversation I had with the inventor of the non-electric, stove top DeltaToast. Finding an alternative to the modern toaster is one of those seemingly absurd and quixotic issues, until you actually disassemble an electric toaster and look at it. Then your whole paradigm shifts. Who would have guessed that my most significant “road to Damascus” moment in 2014 would involve toast?

One significant thing that I didn’t blog about was the completion of my “man cave” aka garage workshop. Now, after nearly 16 years living in this run down bungalow, I finally know where all my tools are and I have a workbench. Why didn’t I do this project first?

How did your year go? What significant things did you discover or make?

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5 Comments

  1. Workbenches are a whole other rabbit hole that can be jumped down! I started dabbling in woodworking, and it seems that you can spend the first year or so of that just reading about, building, modifying, reading more, and re-re-re-modifying your bench!

  2. Even though I have been dehydrating for about four years, I am always surprised at the results. My latest post is about the discovery that one large head/stalk of celery dehydrated to a scant 1/3 cup. That is not an earth-shattering discovery, but its implication for storing food more efficiently and cheaply is immense for me. Plus, it is here so I don’t have to go out and buy it at premium prices.

    I bought a work table that comes apart to move. The guy sold it to me for $40, a bargain considering I did not do anything but write a check and could not have assembled it myself. It is 4′ x 8′ and uses bolts and nuts of some sort in the assembly. It was completely dismantled and carried down stairs into my basement and reassembled by the seller. Even though I rarely use it anymore, it holds my junk off the basement floor that recently had 6″ of water. That work table helped me to make about ten times the cost of the table.

  3. I think our past year is best viewed as setting up the next one. We finally did the leg work toward a new shed/workshop, after 17 years in this house. We placed the order for it today. Next year, I expect to be able to find our tools and have adequate space to use them properly. This year, hubby and I both fell down craft/hobby holes, and by the end of next year we may both be selling some of our products. And the big one – this year we finally agreed on a plan to shade the south side of our house, and next year we intend to do a major exterior remodel to accomplish that goal. (We are in a wildfire zone and cannot plant trees for this purpose like normal people.) So in Root Simple terms, 2014 involved a lot of “thoughtstyling”, and 2015 will involve a lot of work!

  4. When Kelly posted an update on her Whipped Moisturizer, I gave it a try. Loved the first batch enough to make a second to give as Christmas gifts. I’m now looking into other natural products I can make to use around the house.
    We also surrendered to the army of gophers and decided since we can’t kill them all, we will take away what they are eating – weed control and raised beds in the back and removing the front lawn. Because of the drought, we are taking time to specifically plan the front yard with drip irrigation, pathways and wire-lined beds (take that, gophers) planted with native plants and trees for shade, and a front patio area where we can enjoy our labors and chat with the neighbors.

  5. I love watching TV about food, and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods show is no exception. What intrigued me the most was a segment about a man he called an ‘invasivore’, someone who cooks with invasive creatures. The man in the segment was capturing pigeons to eat (something I consider from time to time watching the pigeons near my barn), but my primary goal is to find a way to cook Asian carp, which has really taken over our rivers here in the midwest. The fish are everywhere, and they have a very weird habit of jumping out of the water when boats are near. So far the only cooking method anyone has tried is to deep fry, which I am not a fan of, not even for health reasons – it just doesnt agree with me. So I am off do the culinary course at the local community college, and am going to try to find a way to fix this fish that will appeal to others. Another invasive species troublesome in our local nature preserves is garlic mustard – I mean, with that name it just sounds delicious!! But it is a problem. Maybe I can pair the two, braising asian carp steaks with a sauce made of pureed garlic mustard. We will see how it goes!

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