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.
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.
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
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!!
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.
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
It seemed like we blinked and September was over. It was another hot month here in Florida, and the progress on our property has continued to moved forward. Once again the south line gave us some serious fits trying to get it exactly fence post ready and put us behind by almost a week on our list of goals. We beat that thing into submission, finally!
What we accomplished in September:
Thank you to everyone for following and commenting. It really means a lot to us both. October will be another exciting month for us and our property. Stay tuned for more articles, pictures and videos!//tr mr
This video shows the west border cleared and ready for fence posts. This was a pretty straight forward area to clear.
This video shows that the north border is ready for the fence to go in. This was the first border we cleared and in many ways it was very easy because we had the neighbor's fence to use as a guide.
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.