I don’t think we have ever really written about one specific goat on our blog before. The story I am going to tell is about a 3 day old goat (who is now 9 days old) that has had more adventures than the majority of our herd put together – unless you count the original 6 and their free range escapades when they arrived at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
Recently we purchased the adjoining 10 acres. It is now fenced and there are a set of gates that connect the two properties. The new property is dense and difficult to navigate – perfect for goats – not so perfect for humans! The plan we are executing is to hold the goats overnight on the original property (behind electric net fences, as always) and then let them onto the new property during the day so they can have the all you can eat option. This will free up a bunch of time for us to do other projects and focus on some very important goals we want to achieve.
While it’s only been a few days, this new set up has been working very well.
Then a goat had a baby.
This little dude, who we have starting calling Dunk, was born on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 31st. His first couple of days went well. Baby goats sleep a lot and they are pretty unsteady on their legs until about 5 or 6 days. It’s hard for them to keep up with the herd, especially so when there is 10 acres at their disposal to free range and wander about. Goat Maa’s also tend to stash their kids in “secure” places to keep them from becoming a victim of predation.
We have our goats conditioned to meal times. They get a morning ration and an evening ration. On Thursday, they were called for their evening ration and when Mark did the head count the newest member of the herd was missing. This isn’t totally unusual, but normally their Maa’s call for them and they come back. Well, that didn’t happen. Mark fed the goats and the goat Maa kind of called for her kid, but he never came back and he didn’t answer.
In farming, you have to weigh your options. Sometimes the decisions are easy to make, and other times the decisions are harder. Mark looked for Dunk until well past sunset and the dark crept in. He’s small, he’s brown, he’s quiet – there really was no hope of finding him on 10 dense acres. Mark made the decision to let it play out overnight and see what the morning brought.
The natural instinct of a goat when darkness settles in is to hunker down, shut up and sleep. There are coyotes and bobcat in the area around our farm, and we’ve seen both very close by the fences. While we would be shattered over losing the little guy, the greater risk and possible loss of the majority of our herd would be far worse and more devastating financially, so he locked the gates, closed up the net fence, put the electric on and hoped for the best.
Mark arrived at the farm just as dawn was breaking. The little guy hadn’t shown up yet and his Maa seemed to be more interested in her breakfast and foraging. She’d call out, but there wasn’t any answer. Mark spent over an hour looking for the littlest goat, and just when he started to think that things were looking grim he sent me a text that he found him. ALIVE! What the…
He wasn’t injured and he was a little cold, but nothing a warm breakfast of milk couldn’t remedy. Life seemed great in the goat herd for the remainder of the day.
Then it was time to put them away for the night.
Guess who didn’t make an appearance? Again.
Mark looked until dark again, and called it another night. This was starting to get tiresome.
It was another early morning on the farm Saturday. Two sets of eyes spanning out and looking for the tiniest goat in the herd. We must have walked in circles for almost an hour when Mark came up with the idea to look for him grid-style. Tucked away, in the crotch of a fallen tree, under a palm frond Mark found our little Dunk. Sound asleep.
I was determined to make sure that kid spent the night with his herd that night, so we took over Nanny Duty for the day. He was a cuddly little dude and didn’t seem to mind the attention. When we left the farm on Saturday night, he was right where he was supposed to be. His Maa got the hint and kept close to him on Sunday, so we were able to get some real farm work done and his streak of sleeping in safety increased to two nights.
It’s too soon to tell what the future holds for little Dunk. He’s pretty special because he was the first goat born on the new property and he survived three (three? keep reading to the end) nights all alone on 10 acres without his herd. He’s also a male and could become a great herd sire to another farm or provide a family a freezer full of dinners (we are a farm here, not a petting zoo, ya'll) or just maybe he could be wethered and remain on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm for years to come. We’ll just have to see how this plays out.
After writing this, early Monday evening I was informed that young Dunk, less than 10 days old, made the decision that he would spend a third night alone on the 10 acres. The next morning though, when the pans were banged and the goatie call to breakfast rang out, he came a hollerin’ for milk and his Maa!
Post Post Script:
Dunk spent Tuesday night with the herd and I’ve just heard he’s going to do the same tonight. Maybe he’s just slow to catch onto the herd concept?
Let there be no doubt that hurricane season 2016 has been a bit of a stress test for us at the farm. On September 2, 2016 Hermine made landfall as a category one hurricane and trimmed us pretty good at the farm. Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle which meant we were in the southeast quadrant of the hurricane. Storm surge flooded the local town of Crystal River to the point that there was at least two feet of standing water on main street. Local business owners felt the pain through the flooding of their pubs, restaurants, gift shops and more. Wind, rather than flooding, was the main issue for us at the farm. Here's a look at what hurricane Hermine served up for us at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm.
As I write this it’s six o’clock and the shadows outside the window are already growing. We’re less than a week into autumn and you can feel darkness lurking well before sunset. Since I was a child, autumn’s arrival has always been a little bittersweet. Fall meant back to school, but also meant the snapping pigskin of Friday night football games. As I’ve grown older and my pass times have gotten less physical and more refined; autumn now means the lithe and delicate palate of white wine season’s Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs must soon yield to the peppery zing of Shiraz, bold Red Zins will now have their day and the soulful, full-body tastes of Cabernet are embraced with evening's chill.
Now, summer is in the rear mirror, no longer waning--it’s gone. The oaks in the front lawn cast shadows that stalk the front door to the house as I pass through them on my way to the supper table. Here, in Central Florida, autumn's sweetness is accompanied by less humidity and cooling weather. This means Thor’s hammer is a little less fierce and sings less and less each afternoon and will soon fall silent. Soon, but not yet.
Yes, we are cooling off a bit here in Central Florida, but we also must remember the heart of hurricane season is upon us. It seems the later into September and October we get, the tropical activity throws fits. The long, hot days of summer have left their mark in hotter Gulf temperatures which can grow otherwise harmless tropical activity into mighty hurricanes. It’s still hurricane season and I must keep reminding myself of this when I see those evening shadows at the base of the old oaks creeping across the front lawn.
This year at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm Mother Nature served up our first official hurricane. Hermine made landfall as a category one hurricane on September 2, 2016. So, before we get too far past summer’s dog days and the annual snowbird migration descends, I’d like to share Hermine's wrath on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
When hurricane Hermine made landfall as a category one, we found ourselves in the southeastern quadrant of the storm. This is often the worst area for tidal surges and wind damage. I’m happy to report that all of us at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm and our Florida extended family members rode the storm out safely, but that’s not to say we didn’t take some damage. In our previous post, Hermine Hangover, you can get a feel for some of the damage. So, to complete the hurricane Hermine experience for those that follow the both feet in blog from places outside Florida, we’ll post the video accounting of hurricane Hermine.
Once we got a feel for hurricane Hermine and where in the landfall target zone we were situated, we started making preparations. We’ve been building Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm for two years now and it’s always a bit scary to know Mother Nature can serve up a dish that can possibly undo everything you’ve built. Thankfully, Hermine was a relatively tame category one hurricane. Personally, I’m a big fan of taking things low and slow (especially in these days of graying hair) and I appreciate Mother Nature taking it easy on us for starters. So, let’s get this hurricane party started...//mr
June marks many things on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm; the halfway point in the year, official start of hurricane season and the end to our goat herd’s kidding season. The last goat kid to hit the ground was actually a couple weeks ago and weaning has started on the older kids. Yes, the farm is again living up to its Must Bee Kiddin’ name. The end to the kidding season simply means preparations for the next season; breeding season, will be starting soon. The marketing of the current kid crop is underway, and before you know it the whole cycle will repeat once again.
June also brings the start of the rainy season here in central Florida. Those afternoon sea breezes start kicking up along the coast and dump more consistent rains on the farm. So, before the year and seasons start getting away from us here’s a rundown of the inaugural breeding season and kidding season results on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
For the fall 2015 breeding season we ran two bucks. Buck 608 “Shadowman” was this season’s primary herd sire buck and MBK Buster was our back-up/clean-up (if necessary). Buster also had three specific side matings assigned. Shadowman was responsible for running the bulk of the herd. Both bucks were unproven and when introduced were still bucklings (less than a year old). At day of introduction (June 6, 2015) 608 Shadowman was six months old and MBK Buster was only four months old. Since Buster was born from within the herd and still young, we knew he would have a harder time running the does. Shadowman provided 100% kiko genetic base we desired. Shadowman was introduced directly into herd and quickly suppressed his junior rival, Buster, as he worked on wooing the ladies.
The herd quickly settled into their new order with Shadowman rising to the head herd sire position as he made his rounds. The year clipped along and Buster grew a bigger and older, ready for his side matings. We moved Buster to a separate buck pen area where we introduced the does for his mating assignments. Daylight waned and the bucks’ wooing intensified. The does became receptive. On each visit to the herd pens a soundtrack dominated by Barry White started playing in my brain. Breeding season was in full swing.
Both bucks performed brilliantly. We had a 100% cover rate by both bucks in their respective matings. Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm now has two proven herd sires. The kidding season started on December 7, 2015 and ended on May 7, 2016. A total of Nine does were bred. Of the nine does bred, three were born on the farm in 2014. This was the farm’s first complete kidding season from matings arranged on the farm.
The numbers look pretty good with the season ending closer to our goals than not. The numbers reveal that our herd fertility is good. Both bucks are capable and fertility issues with our does. Our total (gross) kidding rate is firmly above one. This means that our herd is well on it’s way to producing multiple births per doe. This is important because twinning rate is a primary criteria for selection within our herd.
Results? Here’s the 2015/2016 kidding season by the numbers:
Herd Sires: 2
Total number of does bred: 9
Total number of viable kids born: 12
Total number unviable or aborted kids: 2 (one doe twin set)
Total twin sets: 5
Total viable twin sets: 4
Total buck/doe ratio: 50/50
Net buck/doe ratio: 58/42
Total kidding rate: 1.5
Viable kidding rate: 1.3
2016 stillborn rate: 0%
2016 miscarriage/abortion rate: 11%
Historical herd miscarriage/abortion rate (2 seasons): 7.7%
Although the numbers are good, the season was far from flawless. The glaring disappointment this season was the unfortunate aborting by a first time kidder of her twin set. That is a hard pill to swallow, but that’s farming. Although the exact reason for the aborted pregnancy will never be known, we strongly suspect it is was due to a first time kidder that is low within the herd hierarchy. Rough-housing lower status herd members is a fact of goat life. Since our herd is on pasture 24/7, 365; herd dynamics are always in play these things happen.
So, there’s the results. Not a flawless season, but definitely a successful one. So, as the calendar rolls off another month to the year’s halftime mark, it’s time to get the market kids weaning done and the replacements grown. Time to make and log final herd notes. Culling decisions need to be made and completed. It’s time to arrange the 2016/2017 season’s matings and get ready to do it all over again. Must Bee Kiddin’...//mr
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.
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
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.
Before we get too deep into 2015 I wanted to post the final look of the Fridge Line as it stood in the final days of 2014. If you recall, the Fridge Line is the central trail that bisects the farm into north and south. It terminates at the back of the property in the exact middle of the western line. The trail name, "Fridge Line" comes from the broken down and decaying fridge that sits beside the trail. The video highlights:
If there’s anything universal when folks start thinking about farming, it’s, “what are we going to name our farm?” You know, the simple question is easy to bandy about and arriving at an appropriate name is even easier when the farm is still in the visionary phase. The second the ink dries on the deed, throw all those names aside, because not a one of them is going to make sense or ring with that same sweet melody it initially had when you are standing at the edge of your property and see what you have actually done to yourself. Yes there’s always the path of least resistance that has a long standing tradition, the old family name followed by ranch, farm, homestead, compound, etc, but let’s face it, that ain’t us. Come on people, easy just isn't the way we roll.
Embodying the spirit of our farming philosophy as well as conveying our central business purpose were two essentials when it came to naming our property. The common driving factor at the core of our farming passion is fun. If we are not enjoying what we are doing, something is wrong. Now as far as the business side of things we both agree with the KISS philosophy all the way...keep it simple stupid.
So, one gloomy Saturday we were heading to the property and were passing the farm of the county’s hay baron when Mark muttered in jest, at first, a simple three word name that actually sounded plausible. We played around with it, using it in sentences: “Let’s get a dozen eggs from XXX XX XXXX Farm”. “Did you see that XXX XX XXXX Farm is selling honey and goat meat?” “Let’s drop by XXX XX XXXX Farm and see what’s in season.” Damn, it was actually working. Snatching up a scratch piece of paper and scrounging a pen from the depths of the glove box, Mark scribbled the name so all would not be lost before the pain of manual labor erased our memory banks.
Rounding the final turn to the property, the overcast sky cracked. Collecting our tools from the trunk and mustering strength from the warm sunlight we trudged into the depths of the property, and I muttered to Mark, “we’ll see if it sticks.”
Over the next few months, our property grew into a farm with the addition of our livestock - goats and honeybees. And believe it or not, it stuck. Yeah, sometimes under our breath we would mutter the name with a sarcastic note, but hey, it still worked.
So, what’s in a name? Like we said before, everything. And that’s why we have decided to name our little farm and future farmstead, Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
PS: Thank you to all of you who helped in the naming of our farm. We’ve heard that line out of the mouths of more than a few of you, and we’re sure even more have muttered it to yourselves after a casual conversation with us or reading a blog post.
It was decided a proper camping trip was in order this past Saturday night. We camped out a few weeks ago, in our tent, without proper cushioning. It's Florida, the ground is sand, how bad could it be? It took over a week to recover from that night! We came right home, got online and ordered up two proper cots.
Getting set up was a bit of a problem, because, well, the cots didn't fit in the tent. Not even one of them. So we improvised. We started with a nice open area with a lovely view of one of our small meadows. We gathered a large tarp, a hatchet and some wood poles.
We erected 4 corner poles, and attached the tarp to each to give a break from the dew and fog moisture through the night. Low temperatures that night were only supposed to be around 68 F - one of the many benefits of farming in Florida! We put the tarp up and due to a late afternoon rain shower and a very old tarp we had to make a slight adjustment to the cover by adding two additional poles and a middle cross beam to shed the water.
Next we added a campfire, a couple of chairs and some cozy bedding and there you have a nice camp for the night!
For the most part, the night was uneventful. I didn't take into account how damp it gets at night, and did not bring ample covers. Luckily we have more than enough fire wood and were able to keep a hot fire going all night. We heard coyotes off into the distance howling at the full moon, but they never put any pressure on our property.
Can't forget our breakfast of champions!!
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.