On New Year's morning we spend a few hours at the farm feeding the goats and checking on their general well-being. Because our time was limited, we divided the labor. Mark wandered down to visit the beehives to make sure they had enough food, while I walked the interior of the net fence to make sure there were no issues there. I walked a little ways around, goats following faithfully behind me, and looked down, maybe about 3 feet from the fence was a dead rabbit.
I called Mark. He inspected the rabbit and found one small bite/mark on his neck (yes it was a boy, I checked). Knowing that a dead animal was nothing but predator bait and not knowing what the predator was, we took the little guy home to take care of him there. During New Year's dinner, I gave the entire scenario to my father-in-law. He's been around the wilderness block a few times and has a healthy amount of knowledge. Before I ever finished my explanation, he was ready and named our culprit. Weasel. Okay. Weasel.
Mark, suspicious of the unusual suspect, Mr. Weasel, took a more traditional tack and named Mr. Bobcat as the culprit, while I was basically clueless, but leaned in the direction of my husband...until we Googled weasels in Florida. It was all over the internet, so it had to be true. They are generally menacing creatures who hunt down rabbits. By the end of the Google search were kind of scared of Mr. Weasel. Father-in-law still had it! Okay, this was easy stuff! We can deal with weasels - baited rat trap at the base of a tree.
Saturday night we camped out. What I didn't mention in the post was that we took our little dog with us. He's a Cairn Terrier and is always, always on alert to scents and noises. He is the main reason we did not sleep well. He kept sensing, something, weasels maybe, all night long and barked to let us and everyone around us know. Along with our little dog there were other farm animals in the general vicinity that night making quite a racket. There were the ducks and geese and roosters from up the street. Down the way a bit a donkey was giving something the what for as well around 3 am.
We have a trail camera set up on the south west corner of the property. We've seen squirrels, a raccoon, an opossum, a coyote, a rabbit and an escaped goat on it, but no weasels...ever! Mark pulled the SD card today and we anxiously put it in the computer to see what was on it. Are you ready for it?
It's not hard to figure out, we now have a Wampus Cat, a.k.a. bobcat, hanging around the property. It's time to dispatch the predators. We have two more goats that are pregnant - one is really, really close and the other not too far behind. It's kind of funny, because we were chatting with our neighbor Saturday afternoon and he mentioned seeing some BIG cat tracks on the dirt road. No mention of weasel tracks.
We don't need these types of visitors. A nice rug for our bunk house will be nice.
Now I wish it was a weasel.//tr
Yep, sure enough 2014 just flew by and the new year just rolled right in with what seemed to be a blink of the eye. Before we let 2014 get small in the rear view mirror here's the latest tour of the property's west line as it stood on the last workday of the year. Of course the video shows the state of the west line but I'll also bullet point the main items outlined and discussed.
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.
We knew there were critters out there snooping around. We caught a critter on our trail camera back in September, but it was only an opossum. We never caught the baddies. The night our kids were born, Mark spent it on the property. About midnight he heard the eerie chatter of several packs of coyotes all around the area. One group was too close - right on the SW fence line. He was never able to spot them but we knew setting up the trail camera would help us pinpoint their movements and provide valuable intelligence that will aid in the upcoming meadow war.
The threat to our goats is real, and as we move forward with our growing herd we want to do our part to help protect them. As our herd grows with upcoming kidding seasons dealing aggressively with coyotes is necessary. A neighbor just up the road lost a mamma and baby alpaca this summer, and there are other stories of entire goat herds being wiped out in a single night.
These pictures were taken this week.
Okay, this shepherding stuff is proving to be a tad bit more challenging than planned, BUT things are improving. So far shepherd school score is “N”. Remember that grade score from back in Mrs. Brown’s second grade? That’s right, “N” = “Needs Improvement”.
Since our shepherding “Needs Improvement”, the one thing I am grateful for is the inherent drive for goats to herd. With all this being said, today all the goaties are accounted for. That’s right, all six have been sighted multiple times and they are herding well. They are hanging together towards the middle of the property in a live oak thicket that is surrounded by sparse woods. This location gives them security with all the cover and affords them good sight.
While trying to gain their confidence I was able to note a couple interesting things. The neighbor to the north of the property has two “deer” dogs. He’s got a bloodhound and a young walker. Both dogs have excellent noses and our goats smell, well, like goats. Now, I just mentioned where the goaties have chosen to hunker down and it’s about fifty yards away from the kennel run on the neighbor’s dogs. When a good breeze carries the whiff of goatie past the dogs they start baying and going absolutely crazy. Once the dogs get all lathered up the goaties perk up. As the dogs’ antics reach fever pitch the goaties actually start gravitating towards them. The farm we purchased the goats from used two border collies to work the goats and two Annatolian shepherd mixed dogs as livestock guardian dogs (LGD). The conclusion I’ve arrived at is that the goats know what a barking dog is all about and that these dogs are not the dogs they know, but they must seem to feel that getting closer to a barking dog is better than being far away. This makes perfect sense since coyote pressure on goats can be pretty high and a barking guardian dog would be an alert for the herd to gather close, not scatter. So, the neighbor’s barking and baying hound dog might be driving the neighborhood crazy, but it’s keeping the goaties herded up nicely.
The second observation I made while trying to gain the goaties’ confidence was their reaction to the perimeter fence. At one point I made it to within twenty or so feet of the herd and they simply trotted off towards the northwest corner of the property. All the fence lines are nice and clear, but the goats decided to shy away from the easier walk along the fence line. At one point the neighbor’s dogs started barking and the goats trotted towards them, but once they sighted the fence the goats doubled back and actually came within ten feet of me before they trotting back to their previous bedding position amongst the live oak thicket. The conclusion I came to with this behavior was that the goaties have obviously experimented with the fence and FELT IT. That’s great! The whole point of electrified fencing is the added psychological deterrent the shock instills in addition to the physical barrier. It appears that a couple of the goats have sampled the power of Thor and don’t like it.
Although the goats have yet to be fully contained to the “planned” level, they are providing a good lesson in goat behavior. All we have to do is be patient and take the time to observe and gain their confidence. The good news from the second day of shepherd school is that all the goats are gathered together and safe in the middle of the property. A good day of observing and learning goat behavior to boot. Not a bad day at all.//mr
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.