A Note from the
Before the age of convenience stores, the general public was always prepared. Most homes had a vegetable garden, chickens, and possibly a hog or two. They preserved their food and made their own clothes. These people weren't "Doomsday Preppers," they were simply doing what it took to survive.
In 1992, Rebecca and I experienced our first major blizzard. In an region that rarely sees snow, we received over 18" overnight. We were without power for 10 days, and the temperature was bitter cold. For the few days, interstate 75 was closed and hotels were full. People abandoned their cars on the interstate and were sleeping in hotel lobbies.
Us? We didn't last two days at home before we had to find an alternative. We were completely unprepared. Fortunately for us, Rebecca's mother had natural gas heat at her house, so we moved in with her for a few days. Today, 15 years later, Rebecca's mother is 82 and lives with us and we have four young children. We have no refuge. We want to know that, should something happen, we will have food, water, heat, and a dry place to sleep.
So, here we are,
experiencing a new adventure. It's work but it's an awful
lot of fun! Rebecca, the kids, and I are learning a lot
about chickens, goats, bunnies, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes,
Here are some additional pictures from the garden and kitchen: Scroll down for more information about how we started this green adventure.
Latest Updates: (scroll down for more)
The trellis netting strained under the weight of the tomatoes and cucumbers, so we had to place additional plastic zip-ties along the tops of each trellis frame for added support. The netting has performed wonderfully the entire season and looks like it will last another season with no problem.
Chickens -n- Goats:
Daddy, I Like Being a Farmer:
Life on the PB&J Micro-Farm - June 1, 2012
The jalapeņo and various other peppers are coming in like mad. To celebrate our first pepper harvest, the children decided to have a salsa recipe contest. The kids worked and worked on their own concoctions, and Rebecca and I were the judges. I really must learn to suppress my facial expressions when tasting the food product of my chef-like children. Hey! It was GREAT!
From the Three Sisters Bed, we have begun to harvest yellow squash, corn, and zucchini. There are dozens of new fruit on the plants, and they are growing to picking size quicker than we expected. Cucumbers, especially the pickling kind, are abundant, and the salad cucumbers are just starting to come of age. The string-trellis tomato vines are covered with over 100 tomatoes of various sizes that will be mature, red, and ripe for the picking within a week or so.
With the radishes all harvested, we used the newly freed-up space to plant pumpkins. Hopefully, they will be ready right around mid-October. Also, I'm not sure if it was because of the unusually early heat this year or what, but we had very little success with our spinach. We harvested and ate some, but it just wasn't hardy. We pulled the last of the spinach out of the raised bed and planted purple hull peas in its place. Purple hull peas are a southern delight, and they just love heat, something of which we have plenty.
The children have slowly become more an more attracted to the garden since everything is blooming and producing food. They're amazed at how fast the zucchinis and yellow squash grow (but we still can't get them to eat either). They have all participated in the planting and harvest, and one or two have helped with the weeding. It has certainly been a learning experience for all of us.
Here are a few pictures of the garden. Click on them to zoom.
Raised Bed Vegetable Garden - April 24 - 2012
Filling three very large beds with dirt could have been quite a chore. Fortunately, we have access to my father's (Paw Paw) tractor equipped with a bucket. It made short work of gathering topsoil from our little cove. The soil is dark and rich (probably from 22 years of my fertilizer and expensive topsoil running off my lawn). Unfortunately, the dirt is also riddled with fescue sod and clover roots a foot deep. We hand hoed one of the beds because out tiller was on the fritz. I ended-up renting a small tiller for the next weekend. It was $40 well spent. I added some peat and bagged garden soil to make it a little fluffier and help it hold moisture, then pulverized it. I wanted to add vermiculite, but I couldn't find any locally before planting time. I'll add some in the fall.
With the beds in place, our next concern was protecting our hard work from total destruction by our goats and chickens, or by the many deer visitors we receive in our little cove. The best deal I could find was 5' high welded-wire fence. It may seem short to some, but our deer are small than some, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed they'll not be tempted enough to attempt the jump. purchased two 100' rolls of fencing and a dozen or so 6.5' t-posts. I constructed an inexpensive gate using 2" PVC pipe and left-over fencing. Once it was all set-up, it worked great.
With the bulk of the infrastructure completed, we decided to begin planting our garden although it was just a little early for some of the plants. This year it's been extremely mild, and everything is about a month ahead. On our first planting, we sowed radishes, garlic, cucumbers, peas, corn, and planted tomato seedlings. A week or so later, we followed-up with lettuce, lima beans, pole beans, okra, squash, zucchini, a variety of peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, onions, carrots. As of mid-late April, everything is up and looking hardy. We had a three close calls with frost, but we beat the monster.
We are slowly learning what is good to plant together and what is not. I don't think we made too many bad mistakes this first time around. We are definitely experimenting with the "Three Sisters" planting scheme of squash, corn, and climbing beans and peas. I am also trying a few neat ideas I discovered from the Backyard Farming book and online. For instance, we are training our tomatoes and some of our cucumbers to climb a string trellis to save room in the bed.
Keeping the garden watered through our hot dry summers is a top priority, especially when we may be out of town several days at a time. To solve this problem, we purchased a used (like new) 275 gallon water tote (Craigslist $50), a two-zone watering timer, some soaker watering hoses ($11ea), and a variety of adapters and splitters to make it all work. I'm currently experimenting with getting a good even water coverage in all three beds. I may have to add another two-zone watering timer before all is said and done.
addition to building raised beds for vegetables, we also used
the new fenced area to plant some grape vines, blueberries, and
blackberries. Additionally, we have placed a variety of
containerized fruit plants in the enclosure including fig trees,
strawberries, and a very hardy cherry tomato (see here blooming
March 15, 2012
So, we decided to begin the process of learning some of the old-timey skills while applying some of our modern knowledge. by building a "Micro-Farm" at our Georgia home. Nothing massive, and nothing too high maintenance ( because we still want to travel). We are fortunate to live very near to my parents and other family members, so we have some help when we're away. However, I still want to automate things so that feeding and watering tasks will be minimal.
The process of building started well before Christmas. The plan was to make Christmas gifts of some of the animals and supplies. My first step was to convert an old screened-in sandbox into a chicken coop, a fiberglass greenhouse into a goat shelter, and to erect some goat-proof fencing. My experience of raising a goat as a child taught me that goats are brilliant escape artists. That skill, however, is about the only brilliant skill goats have.
At he time of this post, we have four goats, four rabbits, and eight chickens, I have made a few fencing adjustments here and there, built a rabbit hutch, built a portable chicken/rabbit run, and built a new goat condo. We are currently looking for more laying hens while building a raised-bed garden area.
This project has resulted in a lot of work, but the benefits are already beginning to become evident. For instance, Lee Thomas, our oldest (12) has created a chore list that assures the animals are fed and watered daily. He did this on his own with little resistance from his siblings. Additionally we are currently harvesting about 3 eggs a day from our four laying hens (the other two are too young), so we need more hens. The children (and Rebecca and I) are learning a lot about animals and responsibility as a result of this experience.
So, there you have it. We are
officially a family of
"micro-farmers." As I said
before, we certainly do not
intend to stop our
on-road adventures. I am
currently designing automatic
feeding and watering systems so
we can travel with some peace of
mind (and remember Paw Paw can
help too). I plan to publish
periodic updates as the farm
evolves, so keep an eye on
PB&J Adventures. In the
meantime, go somewhere, do