June was a busy month on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. On the cusp of completing our first year of our farming adventure, June had a lot of hard work and a surprise or two in store for us.
This past June saw the arrival of a future herd sire. We had been casually looking for a buck for quite a while, but the search kicked into high gear in May. We did find a nice buckling in Georgia, but before making any “ buck trek” we committed to staying as local as possible with our buying decisions. We believe in trying to support as many other local farms and ventures as possible, and when it comes to livestock, locally adapted is usually a better choice.
In late May and made we visited a local farmer that had some kiko bucklings for sale. Fortunately, we were able to find a good fit for our herd from his current stock selection. This was nice since it saved us from the Georgia “buck trek”.
On June 7th we picked up the kiko buck tagged 608. 608 spent the rest of the month finding his niche in the herd. He’s the ever-present figure lurking the herd fringe among the twisted live oak shadows. 608 is Shadowman.
The bees on the farm have been on quite a ride this year. Several of the nucleus hives that were looking promising in the early spring have crashed. Although this sounds bad, the few that have made it are flourishing and will result in a good foundation for future hive expansion on the farm. Overall, our hives are looking good with our overall hive numbers growing. Early June is the last “easy” period for honey bees in our area. The days become long and hot. Summer’s dog days take over. After the early June honey harvest (not much of one this year) it’s pretty much a waiting game as the summer dearth takes hold. Late June becomes a time of scant blooms, intense heat and waiting, waiting, waiting…
As June turns up the heat and frequent showers drench the afternoons in our area of Florida, the work tends to slow a bit. There’s a solid six hour window where one can get a lot done, but once late morning melts into early afternoon it’s best to play things on the loose side. This time of year Thor welds the skies and uses Florida as his anvil. Making ambitious gains in the larger projects is something that can be hard to come by.
But, with all that being said, we made solid progress on finalizing the driveway into the farm. Several towering pines were felled and the drive’s final shape took hold. Completing the driveway is the primary project on the agenda right now. Once it’s completed we’ll be able to drive right into the middle of the property. This will make things super easy for dropping off any building materials as well as cut down on a lot of the daily leg work.
There’s always a bunch of little things happening and June was no exception. We finally got the bamboo we purchased in late April into the ground. All the varieties chosen are clumping bamboos, not running bamboos. We planted giant timber bamboo (bambusa oldhamii), graceful bamboo (bambusa textilis gracilis), and golden goddess (bambusa multiplex). Bamboo is a foundation planting on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm which means it will satisfy many roles on the farm. Another good reason to get it in the ground!
The last week of June we were notified by the county tax assessor that the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm property will receive an agricultural designation. This was outstanding news. Obtaining agricultural status for the property was a primary goal for the property in year one. We can now say that goal has been achieved. The agricultural designation was a critical detail that is essential for green-lighting our farm's expansion.
We also purchased an incubator in June and made contact for obtaining hatching eggs. The incubator is a simple table top model, but it's the start of our poultry division plans.
We told ya'll this farming thing was going to get out of hand! //mr
A year ago today, we started down a path carrying a few hand tools and a back pack. Today we walked that path with 7 of our goats and barely touched a branch.
A year ago today, we couldn’t walk through our 10 acres.
Today we criss-crossed our way through well-worn paths to get from one side to the other.
A year ago today, we were run off by a thunderstorm in the early afternoon - taking refuge in my tiny Honda Civic.
Today, we worked through the thunderstorm, getting soaked to the bone because goats needed to be fed, watered and other farm chores done.
A year ago today, we would let the thick underbrush give us a feeling of overwhelm.
Today, we see that underbrush as food for our goats
A year ago today the neighbors that passed by our farm would slow roll by probably wondering what the heck was happening.
Today, our neighbors honk and wave and stop by to chat. We’ve made some great friends in the last year.
A year ago today, we made a list.
Today, we are crossing items off that list and adding new items every few months. We are accomplishing goals and making plans.
A year ago today, we made a promise to each other to have fun and enjoy this new adventure in our lives.
Today, we are able to laugh and enjoy the hard labor we do each day and can really see the possibilities for our future.
A year ago today we started to live our dream.
Today we are continuing that dream.
Here’s to the start of year two at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm!
We have divided the herd recently. While this did not go exactly according to plan – more on that in another post – it’s actually working out quite well in many ways. Mark recently built a ½ acre semi-permanent pen. The original plan was for this to be the bachelor pad for our two bucks, but they both had their own ideas and we ended up keeping them in the net fences that we use for rotational grazing. We had to get the youngest doelings away from the boys, so we moved them to this new pen along with one doe – the mother of the twins.
With all the goats in a holding pattern within the new pen, the forage was getting a little thin. So Mark thought we should try taking them out for a walk around the property to graze the grass along the front fence. Not only would it feed the goats it would get Mark out of weed whacking duty along that section of the perimeter electric fence. Since all the goats follow us around the pen looking for hand-outs, we figured a little sweet feed would be just to ticket to lure them along and to a lesser extent control them. What did we have to lose? Well, 6 goats on 10 acres and a bunch of plants that are just getting a good start--that’s what!
This better work!
After taking a deep breath we shoved the holding pen gate open and off we went. I was in the lead position and Mark, along with the previous bottle baby, brought up the rear. Foraging our way down the driveway the goats didn't miss many yummy, tender shoots. All us shepherds had to do was stand in the shade and enjoy the show. Not too bad. There was a small hang up once we got to the front of the property where the truck was parked. One goat caught sight of her reflection. For a brief moment we thought a fight might break out, but all went well.
We made our way along the front property line to the tall grass in southeast corner. We grazed the goats alongside the road and had fun watching both the herd react to the locals driving by and the locals reacting to the herd. Several drivers did a double-take as the kids grazed the fresh shoots along the fence. One driver, a lady, yelled “They really are goats!!!”
Recently we planted some clumping bamboo and when the herd passed by it they didn't pass up the opportunity to swarm the meager planting's fresh leaves. No worries, sweet feed to the rescue as Mark lured them up the path and away from the bamboo. I still have to master my herding skills a little bit and get a better handle on reading the goats, but pretty much all went well. We foraged back up the line, and it was amazing to watch their rumens fill with each bit they chewed.
Through mastering herding and close shepherding, we have started incorporating a new angle into our overall herd management plan--flash grazing. With the ability to walk our goats almost anywhere we want, we can eventually make a permanent containment paddock or barn area to secure the herd overnight, then herd them to the net fences surrounding the foraging paddocks in the morning. Let them graze all day and then return them to safety in the evening. This will make moving the net fences a little easier and if need be, one person can do the job. Not that we've been having problems, but by doing this we can add a layer of security that is essential during kidding – the coyotes are abundant in our area. Also, when our pasture grows as desired, we can then put the goats onto it for shorter lengths of time (as little as a few hours) and get them off the plants exactly when needed, allowing proper regrowth--not destruction. This system will also help with managing parasite load and should reduce the frequency of wormer use.
This flash grazing has become a daily ritual for the goats being kept in the half acre pen (the buck pen that has yet to have a buck in it, LOL), one that I look forward to on the weekends when I am there. The goats also look forward to it and are practically banging on the gate when they feel it’s time to go for their walk.
Now we just have to see if our remedial group of goats will eventually catch on. There are a few wildcards in this bunch. But, best of all, the perimeter weed whacking duties will be a lot less. //tr & mr
Hey June, What Happened to April & May?
Wow, time sure does fly when you're farming! Yes, I know that we've been a little remiss and neglectful of the blog over the past few months. Let me assure you it's benign neglect, LOL. The farm work has been hot and heavy (literally) so the blogging has taken a definite second seat. Remember this is only a one man and woman operation. Yes, progress is being made on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, but sometimes it's slow and tedious. Now, enough with the excuses and on to what's been going on!
April went pretty smooth and was mostly about carrying out the grazing plan with the goats. More half acre paddocks were cut through the thick brush and the goats placed on them to thin said brush. All in all it went swimmingly well considering one of us went down for a week with ankle issues that needed to be rested. As on all good teams, the teammate picked up the slack as the goats took it easy on us with no outlandish antics.
Plans for fencing a half acre with more high tensile electric were put into motion. The purpose of the fenced paddock would be mainly to hold our buck goats while they weren't being put to use running the does. Felled trees from the property that would make good fence posts were gathered and their bark stripped. The buck pen plans were now in motion.
Our comfrey patch at the house needed to be transplanted to the farm. It was as good a time as any to go ahead and divide the strong plants and bolster the comfrey patch numbers.
The goat grazing plan continued and by the end of May the goats are close to completing the grazing of the property's thickest parts. An isolated storm dropped over two inches of rain on the property late one afternoon/early evening. Returning the next morning to feed the goats, the 81 day old buckling had one serious case of scours (goat diarrhea). Coccidiosis was suspected and without delay electrolytes were administered three times daily. A quick trip to the farm supply store for an initial dose of Corid got things going in the right direction. Sulmet finished the job and the buck still made a 100 day weaning weight of 41 pounds.
To finish the month off with a bit of a bang (more like a rush), the mother to the sick, little buckling decided to test the electric netting. Well, she lost. After a sprint through the thicket she was found entangled in the netting receiving a full three joule jolt every two seconds. Needless to say, she and the whole herd were stressed thus ending the month with an adrenaline fueled headache for us.
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.