Our little broody hen, Merica, proved to us that embracing her broodienss was a wise decision. Our broody hen was unflappable in her desire to become a mother to some chicks. Trying to break her broodiness quickly became a tiresome task that was totally unnecessary. There is nothing like watching a broody hen and chicks take off across the farm in search of fresh scratching ground.
It is hard to name one scene that exemplifies the simple joys animal husbandry has to offer, but a broody mother hen and chicks has to be up there. A brooding hen has certainly proved to be a welcome addition to Must Bee Kiddin' Farm and now something we fully embrace. Our broody, Merica, proved to be a great mother with fantastic instincts.
This is part two of Operation Mother Merica. Here we follow the broody hen and her chicks as they get a bit bigger. Merica shows us how keen her watchful eyes and ears are when it comes to her chicks. She's proven to be a great broody hen that can take a clutch of eggs all the way to chicks and get them off to a great start on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm.
Operation Mother Merica: Part 2
The Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm poultry division is now in full flight. The chicks that arrived in mid April will soon be to the point of lay and the hatch we incubated in July has moved from the brooder to range. The first assessments of cockerels from the April chicks have been done and this past weekend we actually processed the first five birds that didn’t make the cut. We’ll be dining on some fresh free-range birds over the coming weeks, yummy!
In addition to the April chicks that will serve as our starting seed stock and the conventional incubated hatches of June and July, we had a poultry first. Must Bee Kiddin’ farm had its first successful broody hen become a mother. Although we initially tried discouraging her broodiness, the hen’s persistence convinced us to green-light her motherhood.
Our hen, Merica was the first successful broody to become a mother on the farm. As stated, we tried breaking her broodiness, but it was just easier to let nature take its course and let her fulfill her mothering dreams. The whole experience was very positive and we look forward to employing more broody hens to do some of the hatching work on the farm in the future.
Merica performed like a true pro. She earned her keep and proved her mothering skills were well up to the task. We placed nine eggs under her and she hatched a total of six chicks. All the chicks were hatched out in the field on the farm where Merica also raised them. Merica took great care of her clutch and raised those little fuzzies up right. From day one she had them out on range scratching and pecking. Operation Mother Merica, the name we christened this first broody hen experience with, went off without a hitch.
We captured the highlights of Operation Mother Merica and put together a two part video on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm’s first broody hen becoming a mother hen. Take a look and watch nature find its way and Merica’s broodiness run its course all the way to motherhood.
Without further ado...
Operation Mother Merica: Part 1
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
The first in a three part series of articles that will give you some insight as to why we chose this particular piece of property.
When chronicling any endeavor or adventure it’s always best to start at the beginning. This certainly holds true when it comes to establishing a sustainable farm in ten acres of heavily wooded Florida pine scrub. Property hunting certainly calls for some selection criteria. It also demands some soul-searching, vision and a very good sense of humor. The property hunt and how we finally settled on purchasing the land we did is as good a starting point as any. Here’s what made our latest purchase the right place at the right time.
Access is a major concern for anyone seriously hunting for a piece of property to farm or homestead. On our criteria list it was a primary concern. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to developing a homestead or farm on a scratch piece of land, being able to get to it as easily as possible is critical. Anyone that has ever shopped for any real estate knows the saying “location, location, location”; well, when it came to finding the site to build our vision the saying morphed to “access, access, access”. Access is such a determining factor that it can not only determine the property’s success or failure, but can alter the final geography of the purchase. After all, what good is that majestic mountain overlook or secluded bend on that river if your first purchase has to be new vehicles and timing your travel according to the latest weather report?
That example may sound extreme, but it’s closer to reality than most people care to think. In this day and age of suburban sprawl, deed restricted communities and farmland scarcity, finding accessible land that’s affordable can be difficult. Also, when considering a potential property’s access there’s an amount of focus and leveling with yourself that has to occur. Yeah, that secluded cabin dream (delusion) may be really beautiful in the mind’s eye, but can you escape it in the face of a wildfire or hurricane? Better yet, can your invited guests easily and comfortably find you?
Tropical storms that blossom into hurricanes with tidal surges are a reality in our subtropical area. Happy to say that our property actually has some elevation (rare in coastal Florida) and is located outside the tidal surge evacuation zones. That’s a huge factor when you consider livestock and other agricultural assets that cannot be moved easily for evacuation.
Another critical access issue worth major consideration was that many lesser residential roads throughout the county are maintained by the individual property owners along those roads. Paved roads that lead past mailboxes at the end of secluded drives aren’t a reality for many county residents in the area. Some locals will tell you, “If you want that, go find yourself a deed restricted community”. Potholes and washouts are a reality and a major concern for many properties we visited. We visited properties that had swaths of spare carpet laying alongside the road not as trash, but as a community service for those unfortunate enough to get bogged down in sugar sand stretches. Other roads were so rutted that imagining pulling a trailer full of kids (baby goats) to auction or beehives destined for orange groves offered some much needed comic relief from the property hunt. The conversation one-liner, “Look at it this way, it’s affordable...and nobody will ever visit” went from punchline to property classification after the first week of serious searching.
Purchasing new vehicles and repairing roads before even thinking about setting the first fence post started to hit home with us. Marketing livestock, selling farm-fresh products, going to town for supplies and hosting customers for on-site farm sales was more than just a consideration--it’s the business plan! It didn’t take long to realize basic property access does come with a price tag and quickly became a critical selection criteria once framed within our ultimate vision. With a paved county road and steady traffic within sight from the property’s road frontage, local foods such as pastured pork, farm-fresh eggs and raw honey straight from the farmer can easily become a reality for our county’s residents.//mr
There is something special about using hand tools. Sure it would be easier and quicker to rent the equipment or hire the workers to clear the land, but what fun would that be? In just one day using only hand tools we were able to clear away a path about 4 foot wide and 200 feet long. We are both extremely pleased with that.
It is an exercise not only in clearing the fence row, but in access. The property is thick with scrubby underbrush which makes maneuvering through it very difficult. The exercise in clearing the land is also one that will enable us to learn about our land. We will learn where the live oak stands are, where the trees we need to remove are, and where the bumps and depressions are. We can decide where we want to put meadows, gardens, and our home site.
Yesterday we hacked and sawed and machete'd our way along the North boundary. Today will be much of the same. It's not easy, but strangely satisfying. The quote by Robert Frost: "The only way out is through" kept creeping into my mind to keep up the momentum. I love the feeling of accomplishment I am already feeling from just a mere 200 feet of open space. Only 400 feet to the pin!
Did you hear the one about the couple who walked into a real estate office and put a cash offer in on 10 acres?
No joke there! That was us – May 22, 2014.
We’ve been looking for the perfect piece of property for a couple of years now, and while we’ve found it a couple of times the factors regarding those had just never fallen totally into place. We came really close once earlier this year. So close in fact, the offer that was accepted was put in mere hours before we called to put ours in. If you believe in fate, then that wasn’t meant to be.
Then The One popped up!
To the normal person, it would appear to be a nightmare, but we are far from being normal people. We like distressed, difficult situations. We like chaos and occasionally uncertainty. We like to create a vision in our minds and bring that vision to reality through blood, sweat and tears. We love to challenge ourselves. We study, we dream, we create. We are the same couple who bought a distressed 1920’s bungalow that was crawling with drug addicts, roaches and filled with dirty diapers. Yeah, we’re that couple! We are the same couple that wanted to add a small koi pond in our backyard. The plans were never put on paper. That evolved into a more than 3000 gallon lake in our small, urban backyard of the above said distressed, now fully renovated bungalow.
I’ve walked on the property only once. It was interesting in the fact that there is so much undergrowth that the sunlight has probably not sparkled on parts of the space for years. In other places a wildflower stands tall and proud in a chink of light that’s ripped and clawed its way through an opening of the canopy made possible by a falling pinecone, giving life and allowing growth. Reindeer moss covers the floor beneath the pines and oaks, making me wonder if an army of fairies take refuge through the night to rest after a long day of roaming the woodlands with the other creatures residing there. It was cool and moist among the live oaks and hot and dry on one edge. The bugs flitted about and the birds sang out to one another.
Normal sounds are dulled as we walk further and further back along the property. I look out over places where I can see through the dense foliage and try to imagine what the future years will bring as we sculpt and chop and create. I cannot wait to walk this same fence line in a few years time listening to the dulled sounds again, but this time I will hear the roosters call back and forth with the goats and ducks. I’ll be able to see a potting shed peeking out in all its rustic grandeur, proud of the tiny seeds it protects before they are sowed into the meadows that will dot the landscape in between stands of live oaks.
Imagination is going to have to sustain me, at least for a few more days while we wait with irritable impatience for closing day to arrive. There is always one more hurdle, one more piece of paper and one more hoop to jump through before we jump with both feet in and walk away into dense wood. Machete’s in hand, of course! //tr
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.