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
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
Spring has sprung and it's time to keep the herd moving on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. All the paddocks are flush with green and the last of the yearling does is due to kid any day now. Yes, things are busy down on the farm and it's time we talk grazing and grazing tactics.
On Must Bee Kiddin' Farm we practice rotational grazing with our meat goat herd. We organize the farm's paddocks into half acre blocks and move the goats through them on a seven day rotational plan. With rotational grazing we can better manage the thick brush growth on the farm as well as keep goat parasite loads down.
In the southeast United States parasitic worms are a major concern for goat herds. The longer a meat goat herd stays in a set location, the higher the worm load. By moving the goats across the land on a rotational basis we avoid over grazing and keep the goats ahead of emerging worms. Healthy land and happy goats!
There is a lot more to the rotational grazing plan as a whole, but to get things started we wanted to share how we do it down on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. Looks like I'm roping myself into a grazing series...
Let's take a look at:
Live Natural Birth Caught in the Field
When we bought our goats we knew three of them were pregnant. Happy to say we got a bonus kid!
Yes, a fourth goat was pregnant. Good, but the problem in all of it was we had no clue when any of these does were going to give birth. The first two does had their kids on day 10 and 11 after introduction to the farm. We were totally unprepared. With the next two we wanted to make sure we were more prepared. We noticed their udders were getting larger and their right sides bigger, but you can read everything there is to read on the internet about goats and birthing, and unless to you know the approximate date they were bred--it's all just a crapshoot.
The biggest thing we took away from everything we read, was to know your goats. This last doe we knew. She's a friendly goat, always right there at feeding time to get her ration and a snout scratch. Her demeanor is gentle. A regular sweetheart. On Sunday, February 8th, we noticed that this goat was not acting like herself. She seemed almost aloof and didn’t come around like she normally does. We knew she had to be close.
Tuesday, February 10th rolled around and as usual, I asked Mark to text me an udder picture. He obliged. Her back-end looked really puffy and her udder was huge. Almost uncomfortable looking. Kidding was imminent!
Mark went about his daily farm chores and decided to take some time and visit the neighbor up the road. I gave him a ring and he was back at the farm. We were chatting on the phone when he returned to the farm and he was passing the current goat pen setup. Whenever we arrive or pass the goats, they usually greet us looking for something to eat which gives us an opportunity for a quick head count. Well, one goat was missing. Yep, Mrs. Preggerz.
Mark made his way into the goat pen depths and heard the short, soft murmurs of labor. Mark relayed all this in our conversation and I immediately left the office on lunch break. Mark grabbed the camera to capture what he could of the birth.
Less than 10 minutes later, we had a bouncing baby buckling! I arrived in time to see him getting his first bath and learning how to walk on those wobbly legs. It was a textbook birth in the field - something we are strive for with our herd. Resilience and natural birthing at it’s finest.
Disclaimer: The video below is the actual birth and the little guy’s arrival onto Must Bee Kiddn’ Farm. Viewer Discretion Advised
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:
We know everyone is recovering from their turkey hangovers, so we thought this little video of the kids playing would be the perfect ending to the Thanksgiving holiday. We are very thankful this holiday season for everyone who has supported and encouraged us these last few months as we began writing this exciting new chapter in our lives.
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.
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.
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.