A new year is always a great time to make a new start. With a new calendar ideas blossom into dreams and plans hatch with excitement. It's no different for us here at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm, but before we get to those great new ideas started we must finish out 2015's hatch.
One of our biggest goals from the first machete chop on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm was to get our vehicles off the very dusty lime rock road. Getting off the road was pretty easy, but in order to avoid the dust bowl clouds we needed to take it further off road with a driveway. We also wanted the driveway to offer some privacy so Mark carved out a winding path into the heart of the farm. With a significant investment in sweat equity and some prudent chainsaw work the driveway slowly took form. Finally on March 10th, the final push was made. A stump grinder was rented and after a solid day of grinding we were able to drive our vehicles all the way up the drive and into the center of Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. With this monumental project completed, we have easily shaved an hour a day off walking distance. Talk about productivity gains!
Going into the fall and winter of 2015 we bred the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm goat herd. One doe kidded in December, five more were due in January/February and the final three in May. January ended and the month-long kidding season started. As each week passed another kid or two dropped. In our good fortune we were attentive and lucky enough to witness two complete births and missed the rest by only a couple of minutes each. Everything went well. All does kidded in the field with no assistance. All babies thrived and are growing strong. At the end of this first round we had six bucklings and four doelings.
On the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm poultry front, the first quarter of 2016 saw eggs being laid daily. The poultry division is up and running. Yes, the hens do a fantastic job of cranking out these little jewels in array of colors that, I'm sure, make the Easter Bunny proud. In the first quarter of 2016 we achieved a MAJOR GOAL; eat fresh food produced off the farm. We are eating farm fresh eggs daily and have enough to share and barter for necessities.
Turning the page on that calendar means a new bee year as well. First quarter in Central Florida means serious bee work is in order. The honeybees really started buzzing. Mark spent time making new queen bees and stocking nucleus hives. With good weather and a solid nectar flow these will grow into full hives by summer. If the weather is good and favorable these hives might even make enough honey for a fall honey harvest.
One of our biggest joys on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm is that there's always something new happening. First quarter of 2016 is now history and the farm provided us with new life, new food, new visitors - all of which was a joy.
It’s that time of year again! The time when darkness peaks, and Christmas lights twinkle in rebellion. Old Man Winter has many in his grasp about now, but has yet to really make an appearance here in central Florida. It’s also the time of year when I can’t help but get giddy. While others are filled with the anticipation of presents under their glowing Christmas tree, I'm getting giddy about bees. As Christmas Eve closes in, I'm celebrating the year’s longest night by making gallons and gallons of sugar syrup while bubbling with the anticipation of cracking hives in the morning and getting the 2016 bee season underway.
As most people dash from store to store checking off Christmas lists, I too check off a prep list. The longest night of the year means it’s time to start checking down my “Beekeeping To-Do List”. Once the longest night lifts, I must be prepared to take full advantage of the blooming light. In the spirit of the season I add this summary of the 2015 Nature Coast Bee Company’s honey bee season here on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm to the record.
The 2015 beekeeping season was one marked by early rewards and summer challenges. The big breakthrough was proving to ourselves that newly mated, fully laying honey bee queens by early March are indeed possible within our system. Why is this a breakthrough? Well, in our cyclical system of beekeeping we don’t specifically treat for mites with either chemicals or organics and do not feed anything to our hives after Halloween--pure insanity to a lot of serious beekeepers. While others are feeding to keep their hives at full strength and capacity, anticipating early pollination demands, we aim for achieving an important brood break and completion of a full hive cycle.
This strategy puts our hive growing skills to the test. Timing and execution become critical. But, with careful planning the execution can be achieved and can comfortably get newly-emerged, virgin honey bee queens mated and laying solid patterns by March with strong nucleus colonies built by late March into early April. There’s a lot to be said for zigging while others scramble with zagging.
In all agricultural pursuits the summits of success quickly reveal the the valleys of failure ahead, and beekeeping is no exception. The summer months proved challenging to many hives. The quenching rainy season rolled in whittling hive collection days down to nothing. This past summer’s dog days period from July through September proved double jeopardy for us due to the daily wet weather which grounded the hives, and off-the-ball family emergency matters that stretched beekeeping time thin. “C’est la vie”.
The silver lining to all those clouds? That wet weather coupled with the resulting benign neglect from the non beekeeping matters added important selection pressure to our hives. The result was that we had several stand-outs. Under intense pressure diamonds form. We have more than a few diamond quality queens going into 2016. These queens will provide a fantastic genetic base for our future bee building.
So, those of you reading this before or after dashing from store to store in the last-minute throngs of the Christmas season, don’t despair. And if you're in a part of the country where Old Man Winter's chilling clutch has you stoking a December fire, warm yourself knowing daylight is blossoming and this Central Florida beekeeper is scrambling. The feed will get mixed and be flowing in the morning on those Nature Coast Bee Company hives. Before you know it the preparations for the first queens of 2016 will soon be in motion. My beekeeper's list is ready and I'm already checking it down because spring is coming.
Now, cross that "2015 Beekeeping Report" off the list--it's time to get sticky!
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
It’s February, the month Cupid lets loose his love arrow for romantics and lovers. Well, in the bee yard its time for some lovin’ too. When it comes to the honey bee and queens it’s more unencumbered sex than romance. That’s right, this wouldn’t be a bona fide farm/agriculture blog if there weren’t some sex talk. Okay, call it mating if you want, but it's all comes down to sex in the end.
As queen-rearing beekeepers this is the month we start capitalizing on all the early season bee work we did back at the winter solstice. All those nights in the garage, under the cover of darkness, diluting spare honey or hefting twenty-five pound sugar bags for late night sugar syrup making sessions. Now, it’s all going to pay off. All the planning, hive arranging and manipulating in the bee yard; it’s all going to pay off. But, how?
Well, those glorious fat boy drones are popping up. This is the month when the brood comb starts to bulge with capped drone brood along the outside edges of the worker brood. The capped drone brood starts as a patch here and there at first. The capped drone brood looks like bullets when compared to the flatter and more expansive capped worker cells. As the month goes by those lovely little love bullets are now grouped into tight pattern. Valentine's Day week is the green light for queen-rearing. Brush the dust off that grafting kit--it's go time!
In late November another milestone for the farm came to pass--honey bees. Yes, the farm established its first apiary. Just before Thanksgiving three honey bee nucleus colonies were moved out of our backyard and onto the farm property.
Now, beekeeping is nothing new to us, and one might say that the honey bees were major culprits leading to our farm flu outbreak. After all, when it comes to keeping bees you can’t just have one hive. No, literally, you should try to maintain more than one hive at a time. Keeping multiple hives helps increase overall hive survival rates. Taking this fact to heart, the backyard (all .1 acres of it) had become a bit cluttered with a dozen or so hives and nucleus colonies. Finding more space for more bees was the natural progression...well, for us at least.
With the addition of the ten acre farm property we can now fully expand and get closer to realizing our vision for Nature Coast Bee Company. The added space will soon become home for many more honey bee hives. This allows us to offer honey, hive products and nuc sales through Nature Coast Bee Company to interested customers and area beekeepers. The additional space the farm property provides also allows us to establish an on-site queen rearing operation.
The extra space is certainly welcomed. Now, I just gotta get busy moving all those empty hives stored in the garage to the backyard. You didn’t actually think the backyard was going bee free? There’s .1 acres that’s just been made available for more bees.
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.