It's March 20th and the calendar tells me it's the first day of spring. Well, happy spring to you. But, more importantly this means we're transitioning from lion to lamb mode. It may be the first day of spring, but i'd have to say it's feeling more summerish around here.
The greener trees and warmer temperatures sure gets the Eager Beaver in us going, but the most noteworthy word of that last paragraph is "transitioning". Yes, "March in like a lion, out like a lamb" says it all. March is a key transition month here in Central Florida. This is USDA growing zone 9 and early to mid March still holds the real threat of frost which spoils any Eager Beaver (cheating) attempts at getting an early planting start. All those days in the high 70's to low 80's with mild overnight lows can seem like a year ago when Jack Frost is threatening a cameo on the edge of a sweeping northern front. Here, March 15th serves well as a final frost date. The first day of spring certainly does put Old Man winter to bed for us.
And as March rolls ahead bringing the "official" start of spring, my thoughts linger on the weather. We've written about the importance of making a weather map when planning farm outlay strategies. March is one of those months that the weather starts shifting and paying attention to that is critical.
We're still technically in Florida's "dry season", and this March is living up to that moniker. Dirty rooster tails plume from the backs of passing cars along our farm's dusty road frontage. That being said, rainy season starts in May followed quickly by hurricane season. But, for now we'll be happy to just let all that loom large for a bit. A previous life taught me that killing off Eager Beaver passions is good for your wallet. Best to just try and time a good planting in front of some rain. For now, an ear towards the weatherman we must lend.
But, before we get too much into looking forward, a brief look back at the lion of March's early roar is in order. Late February served up a little wind storm that gave us some surprises, least of which was putting our high tensile fencing through it's paces, and made some immediate and future work for us.
After bucking a tree off the perimeter seven strand high tensile fence, a little walk around the property revealed how strong the winds were. Mother Nature threw a pretty good fastball our way and lets just say we're lucky that it wasn't worse. I believe some straight line winds strafed the farm dealing most of the damage.
So, as we welcome the first day of spring and begin playing planting's "hurry up and wait" game, enjoy some images Mother Nature created for us in the final days of February, 2015.
A friend made a Facebook comment a while back that got me thinking. It actually stirred up about 3 or 4 blog posts that I know we need to make, but I really wanted to address the reason why I take as many pictures as I do of my animals.
He mentioned that when he was growing up on farms, there were not a lot of pictures being taken. Then my brain starting wondering about the statement. Of course, we can attribute much of it to so many people having a camera in their back pocket these days. I think I probably use my cell phone more for the camera than I do for talking. Back “in the day” cameras were a luxury and you had to send the film off for developing. Today it's instant and immediate. I am one of those people who sees something and wants to put it out there for all world to see. Snap that shot and upload it to Instagram and Facebook accounts simultaneously – yup, that’s me folks.
When we were in the talking stages about buying property Mark did the technical, scientific, and scholarly research. I read blogs and message boards. We compared notes about what the other learned, and decided that when we had our farm we would start a blog. The main purpose of our blog is a journal for us. With our family and friends spread all over the world, what better way to share our triumphs, tribulations and the occasional outright failure than to put it all out there. I still continue to read and learn so much from blogs – the folks who have been there, done that. I want to share our journey so that hopefully some young couple 5 or 10 years from now will stumble upon our blog and know that it’s possible for anyone to live their dream.
I take the hundreds of photos that I do for a couple of reasons. First and most important is to document where we have been and what we are doing. Another reason why I started was to change the view of our livestock. When we told people we were going to raise goats there were some comments that were not favorable. Many people have ill-conceived notions about goats, and I wanted to change that view. I like to think I have converted a few.
To some people there is a downside, but for us, this is our business plan and the future of Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. We are raising meat goats. We are raising livestock. We are not raising pets. Oh sure, if we win the Powerball then I can afford to keep every goat as a special pet, but currently that’s just not possible. Some of the goats that we are caring for will not spend their entire lives on our farm. Some might. Many of the goats will wind up being sent to an auction, sold to someone who is looking for meat to feed his family or for a special occasion, bought for a pet, or sent to the slaughterhouse so that we can sell the meat off of our farm.
Another reason we chose the name Must Bee Kiddin’ as our farm name is because in order to meet those market demands and make a profit, we will always need those new kids.
I think back to the small town where I grew up. On the outskirts were a lot of farms, some small, some large. I loved the big red, weathered looking barns and silos. I loved the rolling green hills dotted by dairy cows with swollen udders or big fat meat cows that would grace a dinner table and fill many freezers one day. I can still hear and smell the farms in my mind many, many years later. The animals were well cared for, but were a source of income and food for the family who raised them.
I wish I could find the exact quote, but I cannot. There is a farmer in Virginia named Joe Salatin who was talking about how he cares for his livestock. He said something like, he gives them great lives, treats them very well, and they have one bad day – that would be the day of their slaughter. What would our lives as human beings be if we only had one bad day?
I will not lie and say that it’s going to be easy the day my bottle baby goat leaves the farm – however she goes and whatever her purpose will be. I never one time thought that just because she had this special treatment, that that would somehow change her fate. I was just that person who raised her, and helped her to fulfill her goat purpose in her life. We are currently discussing selling her soon, along with her twin sister. They are very friendly goats, but they do not fit the Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm program goals. To put it in sports terms, there isn’t enough room on the roster and they have to be cut from the team.
Have you ever thought about where your food comes from? I would like for you each to do one thing for me. Next time you bake that chicken or fry that pork chop or slap that bacon next to those eggs – think about where all that food comes from. Think about what kinds of lives those animals live and what conditions they endured every day. Think about how they were treated and what they were fed to simply keep them alive. All the antibiotics and steroids that were being injected or fed to them. Now, ask yourself if you would rather eat something that you know lives a better and cleaner life?
So, I guess what my ultimate purpose in taking those hundreds of pictures that I do of my livestock is that I can show potential customers how their food lives. I am not ashamed of their conditions, and am proud of how I treat my animals. I will continue to post photos and share what we do at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. Why? Because we want people to know where their food comes from. //tr
If you are interested in more photos, you can always follow me on Instagram: @tuesdayriegen
Previously, I posted about the importance of knowing the basic topographical features of the land and prevailing weather patterns. I sketched out a nice little topo/weather map of the Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm property. On this map I outlined the major wind patterns according to season. It’s now spring in our part of Central Florida and Mother Nature takes this to heart. Throwing interesting weather combos our way better than a major league change-up is something she does best.
Most everyone knows the saying, “March; in like a lion and out like a lamb”. Well, March’s roar came early this year. Just before the close of February a cold front swept through our part of Central Florida dropping overnight lows into the mid twenties. Behind this cold, deep-sweeping northern front was a warm Caribbean blast. This warm, tropical weather movement developed quickly. Pushing through like an experienced marauder under the cover of darkness on high winds, it wreaked havoc on some of the taller sand pines around Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
The stormy weather rolled through off the Gulf of Mexico and put a hurtin’ on some of the farm’s meager assets. Challenge and farming go together like a hand in glove--one of the things I love about it (yeah, I’ve got some gamble in me). But, anytime there’s a piece of knowledge, wisdom or technology that tips the odds to our favor and gives us an edge...hells yeah!
I'd like to especially thank my farm neighbor Mike. On a moments notice he grabbed his chainsaw and helped out, saving me the fifty mile round trip back to the house. Note to self; load chainsaw in truck after a storm blows through. Hurricane season is around the corner and I'm forecasting much chainsaw singing around Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. //mr
February is a transition month here in Central Florida. We usually experience all four seasons during this very short month. This year was no different. We had beautiful fall and spring weather, one winter morning of 25ish degrees and the final two days of the month were hot and muggy like summer. While you may often hear us complain about morning temps. in the 30’s and 40’s, the weather really isn't horrible. Just get used to dressing in layers with a warm hat and you're good to go.
February was also a transition month for us at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. Things are really starting to take shape with the farm and we have finally mastered the net fencing and the moving of the goats every 7 days, 14 if we really want an area cleared. Although February is a short month, the list of accomplishments wasn't:
Complimentary butterscotch flavored selenium samples
Goats were informed as to their ages by teeth structure analysis
Body conditioning score (BCS)
Free FAMACHA scores with worming where indicated
March is going to be another month of firsts for us at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm - stay tuned!!!
But, Before We Begin
The last kids of the kidding season are on the ground so now it’s time to turn our attention back to land development and planning. We’re now in March and the time to get the annual plantings in the ground is at hand. In order to maximize our efforts and yields we’ve got to move from sketching to cementing out ideas as far as the overall farm layout is concerned.
Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm is just over ten acres. Right now only one person works it full-time and a second joins in to help bear the workload on weekends. Ten acres may not sound like a very big spread, but when you consider that it’s undeveloped and densely wooded, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The best way to get past those feelings of overload is simply to just get working. Energy begets energy. Momentum over meditation!
With that in mind, it’s important to have some solid action plans fleshed out. At this stage of the game major mistakes are pretty hard to make since we’re still pretty much in sandbox mode. As we’ve stated before, we’ve adopted the basic tenets and guiding principles of Permaculture in the development of Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
At the center of Permaculture is a design plan that utilizes is zonal development. Permaculture design makes use of a five zone system and this drives the development and layout of the property. The zonal layout scheme Permaculture emphasizes helps with focus and keeps the thinking centered on the big picture. But, before even delving into any Permaculture zone planning we must pull back one frame of focus and look at the big picture. Before laying out any zones it’s best to chart the land concentrating on land features and the major weather patterns at play on the land.
This picture illustrates the prevailing weather patterns by season as well as highlights the main topographical features on the Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. This property picture is from 2013 and is accurate up to the time of purchase. Nothing had been done to the property or adjoining properties until the time of our purchase. The first, main feature of the farm is the fact that it’s pretty much a square. It aligns with the compass as the top property line is north, the right is east, the left west and the bottom property line is south. Thus the track of the sun is from right to left.
As I’m writing this, today’s (3/1/2015) temperature was pushing eighty degrees (F). That being said, we just had an overnight low temperature in the low twenties less than four days ago. Subtropical means contending with hard freezes just about every year. This is why this weather and land feature map is important. In not only paying specific attention, but mapping the prevailing seasonal weather patterns and land features, extremes can be mitigated. In other words, if we pay close enough attention to the lay of the land and which way the winds blow we can use this to our advantage when it comes to land development. Microclimate identification and exploitation become critical for extending growing and increasing yields.
The hilltop situated in the northeast corner of the property is the highest point on the farm. The section marked saddle is a ridge that runs to the southwest and joins with another hilltop that is situated on the neighbor’s property to the south. The elevation of that saddle is about ten feet with low spots in the southeast and, to a lesser extent northwest and southwest corners of the property. With cold winds blowing in from the northwest, the saddle acts as windbreak. Cold northwest winds are mitigated by that saddle and the southeast corner of the property becomes favorable for more tropical plantings such as bananas.
The weather map also becomes important when deciding where forest stands need to be kept, thinned or bolstered. If cold winds sweep in through the northwest corner, that’s a good place to consider a plantation of longleaf timber pines to stand guard against Jack Frost’s devious notions and Old Man Winter’s bitter bite. On the flip side, thinning the southwest and southern lines becomes important. Being in coastal Florida means hurricane season is always a consideration.
So there it is, Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm’s weather and basic topographical map. After mapping the basic landscape features and considering the prevailing weather patterns we’re now ready to get into the meat and potatoes land development plan. Developing this weather and land feature map was a pretty simple exercise, but definitely time well spent. In the next installment of the Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm development plan we’ll talk Permaculture zone development.
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.