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.
Hurricane Hermine churned and bobbled in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico for Wabout 13 days before she decided what she wanted to do. All eyes were on the weather, almost hourly, because we were situated on what would be the south east quadrant - which is not the best spot to be. As we have said before, we don't live on our farm yet. We are a short distance away, which made for a sleepless night for at least one of us (the other slept like a rock because HE knew he would be the first to arrive at the farm and start dealing with the potential damage).
At our home, Hermine showed just what she was made of about 2:00 am Friday morning. The wind howled and the rain was sideways for about 2 solid hours. When daylight came, the damage to our immediate neighborhood was not horrible.
Must Bee Kiddin' Farm came out okay, but not unscathed. There were about 5 trees down on our fence, and countless trees down in the interior of the property. My employer was kind enough to let me leave early on Friday so that I could help clean up and get the fence line cleared.
As for the livestock - well, we are thrilled to report that we have Category 1 Hurricane Proof goats and chickens. We are very lucky. No losses of coops, interior net fences or loss of livestock life.
We are still cleaning up, and will be for a while, but we are very grateful.
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.
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.
This is a border tour of the south line from September, and yeah, we know we are that far behind on blogging. In the video, Mark touches on some of the specifics regarding the electric fencing configuration as well as future plans for the south line (meadowing). This video brings the south line up to date as far the September wrap-up.
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.
It's been awhile since we put up a video, and thought you might like to see our completed fence. This first video shows the completed east fence line.
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
SUBTITLE: Double Secret Probation
We pulled down our road bright and early this morning and saw a crowd standing around the front gates. My heart sunk into my stomach. We pulled up and the crowd started chattering away. It's all kind of a blur now, but basically two of our goats were spotted by the passers-by and they were in need of rescuing. They were rescued and they are okay.
Back Story: Before starting on this farming adventure, we decided that we wanted to use a 7-strand, high tensile fence for the perimeter of the property with a big charge on it. We would further contain our goats with net fencing that also had an electric charge. We practiced with the net fencing and made sure the electric going to it would work a few weeks ago. Friday evening we set up the area we wanted the goats to start working on when we unloaded them. The net fencing was not able to hold a charge due to the tight space, thick underbrush conditions and undulating terrain. Well, you all know how that went. We left the four goats in what we had hoped would be a safe and secure area that again, did not have electric running through the net fencing.
Disclaimer: While this is a blog and everyone's intent is to want it to be sunshine and lollipops all the time this blog also serves as our personal (albeit public) journal. We want to share our experiences even if they are not all positive. Everyone can learn from the trials and tribulations of others. I hope to serve that purpose for anyone that wants to take on the challenge we have.
Today: After chatting with the wonderful neighbors who scaled the gates (and didn't get zapped) and cut two of our goats from the net fencing that was NOT electrified, we decided we needed an entirely new game plan. We gave our name to animal control who had been called, profusely thanked the neighbors, exchanged phone numbers, and slowly took in the new reality that instead of two goats bounding around our 10 acres, we now had all 6. Animal control? Yes, animal control was called by the good samaritans, who thought they might need back-up or extra hands. I think the animal control lady was happy she didn't have to shag down 6 goats bounding across the county.
Our barely passing average from yesterday at 66% dropped to Double Secret Probation. I could hear the goats echoing, "Toga, Toga, Toga" from deep within the farm.
Regroup: We took a quick walk around the area where they had been sort of contained. The damage was minimal and easily repaired (net fencing is designed to be cut and repaired easily). We took a longer walk around the main arteries of the farm trying to see if we could spot any goats roaming about. Unfortunately, we didn't see any signs of them. Our hopes were that because they are herd animals, they would gather up and feel safe in one group.
Thinking: The goats we purchased were basically on an open range/pasture. They spent their time in a herd and interacted with humans for food, worming and being sent off to auction. This is fine. This is in our future plans, but like I said in yesterday's post, we didn't have a clue. You make plans, you have a vision in your mind of how things are going to be, and then like the quote from the infamous Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth."
Plan Roll Out: What had once been an undesirable place to work, was now the best area to try to trap our wayward herd - the south line! We took one run (160 feet) of the net fencing, heavy metal t-posts and fiberglass, step-in posts (to sure up any sagging) down to the meadow and set our plan into place. We set up a "trap" of sorts. Our hope is that they will seek out food and water and this is the area that they will find all they need. We shook the food can, hung out for about an hour after everything was set up, and still didn't see any sign of the ladies. We left the farm with high hopes they will hang out with the food and we can hopefully trap them into the properly laid out net fencing.
I guess we can always change the business plan from farm to wildlife management area...//tr
If setting the property’s corner posts was declared as the first milestone, then completing the perimeter fence must be the second milestone. With that logic chain established I make the OFFICIAL announcement that we have completed the property’s second milestone. The perimeter seven strand high tensile electric fence is DONE.
Yeah, I know it’s kind of anticlimactic since it was detailed as the main feature in the September Wrap-Up, but you know player...that’s how we roll. The Internet crowd is the last to know. Heck, there’s barely enough time in the day to get all the work done and catch the latest episode of the Walking Dead (thank goodness for the DVR). Hmmm, I wonder what effect 9 kV would have on a walker?
Yes, the fence is finished and has been juiced with a consistent charge of at least 8.5 kV on all five hot lines. The deep cycle marine battery powering the fence is doing a good job and needs to be rotated for charging every 6 days. Not bad at all. The plan for now is to simply rotate the battery out and bring it back home for recharging. A solar charging station on the property is planned, but not in the works as of right now. Of course I’ll be detailing all the fencing particulars in detail one of these days in an article. I hope to detail the labor involved as well as disclose a full accounting of the costs. You know, get some real-world information and data out there for the folks actively researching this fencing stuff like I was for about the last 18 months. What I will say is that high tensile fence installation is very affordable and can be installed with limited labor (yep, a single person sure can run all those lines as long as they don’t mind the miles).
Since completing the MAJOR fencing project lots of people have been asking, “what’s next?”. Well, we’re chomping at the bit to get a bunch of smaller projects started. But, our main focus as of right now is getting some help with the land. Land clearing efforts are still in full force and can be a daunting task. Well, we’re happy to say that everything is full steam ahead and we’re actively recruiting workers right now. That’s right, we’re scouting recruits for help with land clearing efforts and we’ll update that exciting search as it unfolds. Stay tuned, this farming thing is about to get out of hand!//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.