The GardenThe good: We are still raising a good garden each year. It seems like our main crops are lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, potatoes, squashes, and tomatoes. We still use a slightly modified Mittleider method which means yes, we do add some fertilizers. Patrick is an engineer by day-job and we can guarantee you that our little bit of fertilizer a) add less salts and b) has a lower carbon footprint than all "organic" gardening you can compare it to. We also utilize our home-grown chicken, rabbit, and goat manure/manured hay for soil building and nitrogen.
The bad: We lose our sweet corn almost every year to raccoons. We have decided that they are smarter that we are. Also, we could not get peanuts to germinate last year - we don't think it was our fault but want to try again. Oh well, we aren't giving up!
The GoatsThe good: We still have goats. We peaked out at 8 and right now we are down to 3, soon to be 2. We sold the Nigerians and went exclusively French Alpine. We love the sweet disposition, beautiful coloring, and decided lack of drama our Alpines provide. Goats are just wonderful creatures.
The bad: We lost our first and favorite Alpine nanny to Barber Pole Worms in 2015. Needless to say, a good worming program is a must. It seems like the Alpines are less hardy than the Nigerians in this regard. Also, we aren't milking goats any more. That's not to say we won't ever again but it is a lot of labor for the small return. And by small return I mean only 1 or 2 of the 6 of us will drink it so it's a waste of time. Advice: get your dairying in gear when your children are very small and they will never remember switching away from store bought. Otherwise, it may be a hard sell!
Outdoor Wood FurnaceThe good: It's still going after 8 years now and we probably have the warmest house around.
The bad: We did buy a nice new Stihl MS362 but we are starting to wish we didn't have to mess with firewood all fall and winter!
ChickensThe good: We have the meat chicken thing down to a science now and we have lent our plucker out to many people. We have refurbed our 17 year old coop and as of 5/24/16 and we have 25 little buffs brooding. Looking forward to fresh eggs this fall (we hope).
The bad: Our egg layers got wiped out in 2015 (yes all those buffs and Australorps) by, you guessed it, the sweet corn eating raccoons. Hence, the coop refurb in 2016!
Cooking and Food PreservationThe good: Still canning lots of things and cooking most meals from scratch.
The bad: Patrick weighed almost 275 by January of 2016 (see below about being a Pastor!). Patrick read a book by Gary Taubes called Why We're Fat and What to do About It so we have stopped baking bread and biscuits. He has eaten a lot of butter, deer meat, ribeye steaks, eggs, and cheese while giving up all sweets and breads. He has lost 40 pounds without being hungry and hopefully will lose about 20 more. But we miss baking, especially during winter months.
UsThe good: I (Patrick, not Michelle - tee hee hee!) surrendered to preach in 2014 and after just a couple of months became the interim Pastor at a local church. I was ordained in July of 2015 and am now the Pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Balsam Grove, NC. This church is only a couple of miles from our home and we are grateful God would let us serve in a local somewhat-agrarian community.
The bad: Wow are we ever busy! Between church, home, school, and work our family is constantly on the move. We are learning to treasure our time around the dinner table and before bedtime.