A Note from the Richardson Tribe:
Most adventurous things we do tend to be away from home. However, we are blessed with a beautiful little piece of property and numerous family members living nearby. This page is dedicated to the benefits that are a result of living in the country. This page is all about the adventure of self- sufficiency. Connecting with nature and history. Learning how to tap our natural resources just as our parents and those that came before them did.

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, peppers, grapes...

The Richardson Tribe


Here are some additional pictures from the garden and kitchen: Scroll down for more information about how we started this green adventure.


Jalapeno Peppers

Cucumber Blossoms

Boston Pickling Cucumbers

The first of two snake skins found in the garden this year (2013). Another reason for vertical gardening.

Grape Tomatoes

Tomatoes on the Vine

Snapping Pole Beans

Blanching Pole Beans for Freezing

Beans ready for the freezer

Heath taste testing Concord grapes

A variety of dill pickles - plain to spicy!

Strawberry Preserves




Latest Updates: (scroll down for more)

A PB&J Micro Farm Update:

December 2015 - January 2016
We are in the process of renovating the animal enclosures for new animals, and we'll be getting the greenhouse started-up soon. Stay tuned!

April 2014
Our Nubian doe Lucy gives us an unexpected surprise: Li'l Ricky. Here's a video

August 2013
  Last year was our first attempt at a real backyard garden and we learned a lot. This year we incorporated some of our new found knowledge and have since reaped the benefits (literally).

Last season we expanded the goat's domain to about an acre of woods with heavy underbrush. Well, formerly with heavy underbrush. Goats are amazing weed eaters and have completely stripped all the honeysuckle and bushy saplings from the ground to about 5' and up.

Additionally, we made the goat's habitat a little more livable with an elevated deck on their Kidd Kondo. Goats don't like rain and wind, and the elevation makes them feel safe, secure, and extremely lazy. All of the floors inside and outside are slatted so their wonderful little fertilizing pellets drop straight through to the ground beneath.

Pre-Season Preparations:
With a year's worth of poo accumulated in the goat pen and chicken enclosure, we got busy shoveling, loading, and hauling to the garden's compost pile. We
ended-up with the equivalent of a pickup truck load of wonderfully rich organic fertilizer. We have since used much of the pile but have another 7 months worth of accumulation to put in the beds this fall. The kids are sooo excited!

Next, with last year's addition of a compact greenhouse, we started our own cucumbers and tomatoes in mid March. We were so excited to plant our own greenhouse starters that we jumped the gun, planting after the published "last frost" date of  April 15 (N Georgia). Two days later we had frost, but we protected them and they came through just fine. Unfortunately, the next freakish frost (@38 degrees) got them all. Off to the nursery we went.

Last year we learned our lesson about weeds and grass in the beds. Without a plan and/or a lot of work, they can easily take over a garden, especially if you plan to use no herbicides. This year we used the old trick of using newspapers as a wee barrier. As of August 8, the plan has worked perfectly. Simply place around 6 sheets of newspaper around the plants and wet them down. Then you can spread a layer of compost or straw on top to hold the paper in place. Eventually the newspaper composts, so there is no waste or mess to clean up.

This is just the second year for our beds, so we are still adding some amendments for moisture control. Otherwise, we are using our own compost for fertilizer.

Vertical Gardening:
When we initially began researching backyard farming, we learned about vertical gardening. There are numerous advantages to growing vegetables vertically, but our favorite reason is not having to bend over to pick the crops. Another advantage is the wise use of real estate. Vertical gardening requires less space making it a natural choice for a small garden.

For our garden, we built several sturdy trellis frames using chain-link fencing support poles and hand rail hardware to connect the poles to one another. We then attached vinyl netting to the trellis frames with plastic ties. It's relatively inexpensive and sturdy enough to use year after year. This year we have trellises in all three beds supporting two varieties of cucumbers, three varieties of tomatoes, and our coveted heirloom pole beans.

Last year we planted a wide variety of vegetables in our garden, then proceeded to give (or throw) much of the harvest away. We learned the hard way that there are just certain things the kids will eat, and other things they'd rather not. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any pizza seeds, so we had to draw the line somewhere. This year we decided to concentrate on things we could preserve to eat and use in recipes year round. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans were of primary interest.  We also planted some yellow squash, zucchini, pepper, cantaloupe, watermelon, lettuce, and spinach.

As the season progressed, the garden was fairly easy to maintain. We'd had a very wet spring which really stressed the tomatoes. We added a calcium supplement to the soil to help prevent "blossom spot rot," and it worked wonderfully. Last year we threw away many tomatoes because of this little problem. We also noticed that healthier tomato plants resist insect invasion much better.

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.

Last year we planted two varieties of grape: Riesling and Concord. We didn't really know why, that's just what the nursery had. We hadn't a clue the vines would start producing so soon, and so abundantly. We used t-posts and plastic coated wire cabling to support the vines, but have learned this season that grapes are very heavy, and the posts were bent to the point that grapes were actually touching the ground. To solve the problem, we plan to add some wood fence posts to the end of each row (we have added another this summer for a total of 3). So far this season, we have canned Concord jam and Riesling jelly, and we still have lots of Concord grapes on the vine. 

The Harvest:
A southern garden will provide a season of harvests starting as early as late April through October. Much of the early harvest such as lettuce and cucumbers were gobbled-up before we could blink. Then the volume started, and we were quickly up to our ears in green goodness. But we had a plan...

We decided early-on that we would preserve what we couldn't eat, either by canning or freezing. We even bought a new freezer for the basement and a bunch of new Mason jars. We tried our hand at canning last year with pickles and pickled peppers. We experimented and ended-up with a variety of results, some good,  some not so good. Funny how honest kids are when they want to be. I think we now have it down to a science.

This year, along with pickling over 40 quarts of cucumbers and peppers, we have frozen a good many quarts of tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, blueberries, and corn (from the farmers market). We have made salsa, strawberry preserves, peach preserves, honey peach (low sugar) preserves, Concord grape jam, and Riesling grape jelly. And guess what: WE AREN'T DONE YET!

It's Just August:
This year we have had such fun canning and freezing, we want to keep the garden going as long as possible. On the first weekend of August we pulled all remaining cucumber plants out of the beds, cleaned the vines from the trellises, and planted a pole beans in their place. We plan to do some pressure canning of green beans in the fall, and the way these things grow and produce, we should have plenty. We have harvested all the Riesling grapes and made jelly, but there are still many Concord grapes on the vines. We're thinking Concord grape jelly this time around. At this time, we still have around 80 tomatoes on the vine and a good many in the kitchen waiting for a purpose. Those that don't make it into sandwiches will be frozen for later use in soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, and salsa. Our pepper plants are like little trees and will produce more than we can eat for some time to come.

Chickens -n- Goats:
We would be remiss if we didn't mention our chickens and goats. Chickens are wonderful (although the scratch-up the pine straw in our shrub beds, grrrr). They eat pesky insects, are very low maintenance, fun to watch, and produce enough eggs to keep us happy. We never have to buy eggs!

Goats, on the other hand, are a bit more work. We have a meat goat (Henry) that we will never eat (don't name your livestock!), a pygmy goat (Brie) that is just a pet, and a Nubian doe (Lucy) that we hope will give us milk some day. We're still waiting for Henry to do his job and get Lucy pregnant.

Daddy, I Like Being a Farmer:
One day as we were checking on the garden, our youngest child John Micah said "Daddy, I like being a farmer." Well, we're not really farmers, but we do have a new appreciation of plants and animals and the work and knowledge it takes to grow and maintain them. We are all learning new skills, the skills of our grandparents. Skills that may one day come in handy.

Life on the PB&J Micro-Farm - June 1, 2012
A lot has happened since our last PB&J Micro-Farm update.
The vegetables in the raised bed garden have progressed quite nicely, and we have already been enjoying our own home-grown food. The first treats from the garden were radishes. They came up quickly, and matured just as fast. Soon afterward, the lettuce began to produce... BIG TIME!. We are pulling the lettuce leaves from around the outside of the plant, and they keep producing. We are having a lot of salads, and giving the excess to the bunnies and other family members.

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
When we started this part of our micro farm project, we knew very little about raised bed gardens. Our parents had gardens when we were children, but as adults, we've never undertaken such a project. Rebecca purchased a book titled Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Bret Markham., and it proved to be an invaluable resource which I repeatedly reference as the project progresses. Additionally, various gardening blogs, videos, and governmental and educational websites have provided guidance, albeit sometimes incorrect or dated.

Being on a shoestring budget, my first big investment was the purchase of 18 used railroad crossties for the sum of $90. They're heavy enough to stay in place and they'll last forever. For peace of mind, I used heavy gauge plastic to create a watertight and airtight barrier between the crossties and the garden bed. I used cheap 1"x 2"s as stakes to hold the crossties in place, then filled and packed dirt between the beds to stabilize them. Shimming with bricks to level the crossties created beds between 12-16" of amended and finely tilled topsoil. After their installation, the
18 crossties established three 24' x 5' beds for a total of 365 square feet of garden space.

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.

In 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 in mid-April).

So, will we save money on groceries? Probably not this year. The expense of establishing the garden outweighs the fiscal benefit, at least the first year. Next year will be a different story. We'll have our own compost (thanks to the goats, rabbits, and all organic kitchen waste), and labor will be minimal compared to this year. We have to remember the other benefits too. In addition to providing the family with fresh healthy food, we're all learning a lot about plants, how they grow, and what they need. I also believe the kids will be much more inclined to eat the veggies they've helped grow.

Getting Started... March 15, 2012
Sometime in mid 2011, Rebecca mentioned that she represents the first generation in her family that hadn't learn the old-timey methods of self sufficiency. Ours is the age of convenience. Everything comes from the store processed, pre-packaged, and ready for mass consumption. Just pop it in the microwave, washer, or whatever electric device fits the need. We take for granted our day to day needs because they are typically right there at our fingertips or just a short drive away. In our travels, we have visited many parks and museums that display and demonstrate the tools of the past, and we're always amazed at how resourceful and creative people can be. These folks knew how to solve problems and prepare for the worse. They raised, preserved, and prepared their own food, made their own clothes, heated their own homes, and taught their children how to do the same. Life was tougher back then, but their skills could sustain them when times were bad. Those skills are important, even (especially) in this day and time.

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 something!

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