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.
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.
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.
I will freely admit to anyone that I have chainsaw anxiety. It's not a made up, drama queen, kind of attention seeking behavior, but true, honest, anxiety. I grew up around chainsaws - it was how wood was cut and that wood was used to heat my Grampa's garage and my Dad's home. The adults in my life who used them were safety conscious and had respect for the machine, and they taught me the same.
I must have been about 7 or 8 years old when my Grampa had a chainsaw accident. He hit a knot, there was kick back and he was cut from his neck down the middle of his chest. The way the story was told, he grabbed his handkerchief, covered up the cut, walked into the house and told my Gramma that he had an accident. He waited on the front porch for the ambulance and walked down the front path to meet it. He recovered in record time - missed the jugular by about a 1/4 of an inch.
As an adult, I've had anxiety whenever I've been around chainsaws. I knew that I would have to deal with it sooner or later when we bought this tree rich property. I trust my husband implicitly, and feel I have done very well being around him chainsawing the hundreds of trees we've taken down. I've had to stand very close a few times, and kept things in check. I have my escape route planned out well ahead of time and use it even if it's not necessary. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
So, today, we had to take down a 13 inch in diameter, 50 foot tall (45 year old) sand pine. Mark turns to me and asks me if I want to do it. Um...okay. I think. I don't know what the heck I'm doing, but I observe a lot and knew this tree was a textbook felling and one that would be easily manageable for me. At least that's what I told myself.
Mark cut the wedge out of the front of the tree and then turned the saw over to me. We talked about how to hold the chainsaw, how I should stand, how to use the throttle/gas, and how to move it through the tree. We went over my escape route and what to do when I heard the tree start to move.
I had a little trouble moving the saw through the tree, but Mark helped me and I heard the crack! I pulled the saw out, took a few steps back and watched it fall. My heart was literally beating out of my chest and I felt like I couldn't stop smiling. It was the purest of adrenaline rushes, but it was also so much more than that for me.
I faced a real fear, head on.//tr
While a little late, this video will show you the beginning of our driveway progress. This enabled us to park in the center of the land, off the road on our own property. It was the beginning of the "fridge trail" and "south line link trail" making easier access to the entire property.
August was a long, hot month. The hottest August we've had since living in Florida. It definitely gives meaning to the term dog days of summer. In looking back on what we accomplished over the last month it's quite amazing. In no particular order:
While the heat tried it's best, it didn't beat us. We pushed through and made a lot of progress. Stay tuned - September is going to be so much fun!!!
This video shows the south border and completes the preliminary tour of the land. Next up will be setting fence posts!!!
This tree was 65 feet tall, circumference at cut was 58" and it was only a 42 year old sand pine. Unfortunately, it would impede on the fencing progress, and contribute to fire risk with dropping it's dead, shaggy, dry branches. Such is life, some monuments both made-made and natural must yield to progress. In other words folks, you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet.
This video will give you an idea of what your east border is like. This border sits alongside our road.
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.