A new year is always a great time to make a new start. With a new calendar ideas blossom into dreams and plans hatch with excitement. It's no different for us here at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm, but before we get to those great new ideas started we must finish out 2015's hatch.
One of our biggest goals from the first machete chop on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm was to get our vehicles off the very dusty lime rock road. Getting off the road was pretty easy, but in order to avoid the dust bowl clouds we needed to take it further off road with a driveway. We also wanted the driveway to offer some privacy so Mark carved out a winding path into the heart of the farm. With a significant investment in sweat equity and some prudent chainsaw work the driveway slowly took form. Finally on March 10th, the final push was made. A stump grinder was rented and after a solid day of grinding we were able to drive our vehicles all the way up the drive and into the center of Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. With this monumental project completed, we have easily shaved an hour a day off walking distance. Talk about productivity gains!
Going into the fall and winter of 2015 we bred the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm goat herd. One doe kidded in December, five more were due in January/February and the final three in May. January ended and the month-long kidding season started. As each week passed another kid or two dropped. In our good fortune we were attentive and lucky enough to witness two complete births and missed the rest by only a couple of minutes each. Everything went well. All does kidded in the field with no assistance. All babies thrived and are growing strong. At the end of this first round we had six bucklings and four doelings.
On the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm poultry front, the first quarter of 2016 saw eggs being laid daily. The poultry division is up and running. Yes, the hens do a fantastic job of cranking out these little jewels in array of colors that, I'm sure, make the Easter Bunny proud. In the first quarter of 2016 we achieved a MAJOR GOAL; eat fresh food produced off the farm. We are eating farm fresh eggs daily and have enough to share and barter for necessities.
Turning the page on that calendar means a new bee year as well. First quarter in Central Florida means serious bee work is in order. The honeybees really started buzzing. Mark spent time making new queen bees and stocking nucleus hives. With good weather and a solid nectar flow these will grow into full hives by summer. If the weather is good and favorable these hives might even make enough honey for a fall honey harvest.
One of our biggest joys on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm is that there's always something new happening. First quarter of 2016 is now history and the farm provided us with new life, new food, new visitors - all of which was a joy.
July, August, September Wrap-Up
Twinkling Christmas displays are all aglow and the feed rations for the farm critters were prepared last night, so it’s time to hammer out a Both Feet In blog update. As I write this latest Must Bee Kiddin’ farm update the outside temperature at 5:30 a.m. is pushing 80 degrees. I know, total antithesis to this article’s title, but the dog days of summer; July, August and September are history even though the mercury has yet to settle at consistently lower winter temperatures. Sure, Santa will soon be on his way, but surely he’s packing Bermuda shorts and a cold boat drink for this leg of his deliveries.
It’s been a spell since we’ve been able to come up for air and get a formal farm Wrap-Up posted to Both Feet In. Apologies to anyone following along from the start. In an attempt to keep the blog's chronology orderly, here’s the Wrap-Up for the July, August and September; the dog days of summer.
July was a milestone month at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. We celebrated our one year anniversary of land ownership and starting the work of creating the farm. Wow, unbelievable! It is true that time flies when you’re having fun. Yes, all the hard work and sweat is still the most rewarding work we’ve ever done. Every day when my feet hit the ground, rolling out of bed after a solid night’s sleep and that first ache hits, I remind myself of what Newton told us…a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Powering through the discomfort still comes easy and with a smile--suck it up, buttercup.
Just before July's heat and humidity turned ridiculous, we completed the farm's first full grazing tour with the goats. The goats are doing a great brush control job and the land becomes more and more manageable with each grazing rotation. This accomplishment also gives a better feel for our land's carry capacity and can now adjust our final stocking rates accordingly.
Early in the month we received the fantastic news that our county tax appraiser had granted us an agricultural exemption. This approval was critical to making our farm work financially. We submitted our agricultural application to the county in December, 2014 and by July, 2015 it was approved. Being recognized as a “bona fide” agricultural enterprise by the “man” helps in so many ways. We not only get a new tax designation for the property, but this also solidifies all the protections granted to us through Florida’s Right to Farm Act. Florida is a state dominated by folks retiring from heavily urbanized areas and the threat of neighbor complaints from crowing roosters or crying goat kids are alleviated with this protection.
In July Must Bee Kiddin' Farm launched its poultry division. We fired up the incubator we purchased in June and by July's end we had thirteen chick chirping away in a storage tote in the bathroom. Now, applying the law of probability to our hatching would mean we should have an even distribution of cocks to hens. Well, I guess it runs streaky then. The birds from that first hatch have grown out and we now find ourselves overrun with roosters. Winner, winner chicken dinner!
The victories of July melted away and our personal life’s fortunes took a turn. The facts of life hit hard in the final days of July and we spent all of August and September dealing with a full-force family emergency. The farm was left on autopilot with not much time for anything other than the daily chores available. Farm development ground to a halt. It was a stress test for both us and the farm. We pulled together as a family and with help from both immediate and extended family members we found our way through the crisis. The good news was that our family's crisis didn’t spiral into tragedy. It’s times like these that make you realized what the expression “at least I have my health” REALLY means.
As an aside, anyone thinking they will move to the country and start farming once they fully retire and are caught up in marking time until then...STOP. Quit fooling yourself. If you’re able-bodied and really want to get on the land, you need to find a way to make it happen sooner than later. The recliner and television are instruments of death from our contemporary life. Their seduction literally sucks you in, placating you with fantasies and dreams until you die. I look back at what we set out to do and have to say that starting Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm in our 40’s was almost too late. There's so much to do. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The lingering effects of the August scramble lasted throughout September. We powered through and slowly built momentum back on the farm. The final milling of timbers into lumber from felled trees on the farm was completed. That lumber was used to build chicken coops for our poultry enterprise. September also saw our second hatch completed. With the help of a farm neighbor (Thanks Ray ;) with more incubator capacity, we added more heritage poultry lines to the farm mix. The final push for launching the Must Bee Kiddin’ poultry division in the field was complete. By September's end we had two range coops up and running on an electrified paddock.
With working days on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm cut short due to familial obligations from the August fallout, progress on the farm has shifted to a lower gear. Deeper access into the farm property is the priority. The farm’s driveway started taking shape, but by the month’s end was still far from completion.
There you have it. With Christmas closing in hard we’ve finally updated the blog through September. Life’s ups and downs will pummel you from time to time and things such as blogging get lost in the scuffle. No worries. Tough people outlast tough times.
June was a busy month on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. On the cusp of completing our first year of our farming adventure, June had a lot of hard work and a surprise or two in store for us.
This past June saw the arrival of a future herd sire. We had been casually looking for a buck for quite a while, but the search kicked into high gear in May. We did find a nice buckling in Georgia, but before making any “ buck trek” we committed to staying as local as possible with our buying decisions. We believe in trying to support as many other local farms and ventures as possible, and when it comes to livestock, locally adapted is usually a better choice.
In late May and made we visited a local farmer that had some kiko bucklings for sale. Fortunately, we were able to find a good fit for our herd from his current stock selection. This was nice since it saved us from the Georgia “buck trek”.
On June 7th we picked up the kiko buck tagged 608. 608 spent the rest of the month finding his niche in the herd. He’s the ever-present figure lurking the herd fringe among the twisted live oak shadows. 608 is Shadowman.
The bees on the farm have been on quite a ride this year. Several of the nucleus hives that were looking promising in the early spring have crashed. Although this sounds bad, the few that have made it are flourishing and will result in a good foundation for future hive expansion on the farm. Overall, our hives are looking good with our overall hive numbers growing. Early June is the last “easy” period for honey bees in our area. The days become long and hot. Summer’s dog days take over. After the early June honey harvest (not much of one this year) it’s pretty much a waiting game as the summer dearth takes hold. Late June becomes a time of scant blooms, intense heat and waiting, waiting, waiting…
As June turns up the heat and frequent showers drench the afternoons in our area of Florida, the work tends to slow a bit. There’s a solid six hour window where one can get a lot done, but once late morning melts into early afternoon it’s best to play things on the loose side. This time of year Thor welds the skies and uses Florida as his anvil. Making ambitious gains in the larger projects is something that can be hard to come by.
But, with all that being said, we made solid progress on finalizing the driveway into the farm. Several towering pines were felled and the drive’s final shape took hold. Completing the driveway is the primary project on the agenda right now. Once it’s completed we’ll be able to drive right into the middle of the property. This will make things super easy for dropping off any building materials as well as cut down on a lot of the daily leg work.
There’s always a bunch of little things happening and June was no exception. We finally got the bamboo we purchased in late April into the ground. All the varieties chosen are clumping bamboos, not running bamboos. We planted giant timber bamboo (bambusa oldhamii), graceful bamboo (bambusa textilis gracilis), and golden goddess (bambusa multiplex). Bamboo is a foundation planting on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm which means it will satisfy many roles on the farm. Another good reason to get it in the ground!
The last week of June we were notified by the county tax assessor that the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm property will receive an agricultural designation. This was outstanding news. Obtaining agricultural status for the property was a primary goal for the property in year one. We can now say that goal has been achieved. The agricultural designation was a critical detail that is essential for green-lighting our farm's expansion.
We also purchased an incubator in June and made contact for obtaining hatching eggs. The incubator is a simple table top model, but it's the start of our poultry division plans.
We told ya'll this farming thing was going to get out of hand! //mr
Hey June, What Happened to April & May?
Wow, time sure does fly when you're farming! Yes, I know that we've been a little remiss and neglectful of the blog over the past few months. Let me assure you it's benign neglect, LOL. The farm work has been hot and heavy (literally) so the blogging has taken a definite second seat. Remember this is only a one man and woman operation. Yes, progress is being made on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, but sometimes it's slow and tedious. Now, enough with the excuses and on to what's been going on!
April went pretty smooth and was mostly about carrying out the grazing plan with the goats. More half acre paddocks were cut through the thick brush and the goats placed on them to thin said brush. All in all it went swimmingly well considering one of us went down for a week with ankle issues that needed to be rested. As on all good teams, the teammate picked up the slack as the goats took it easy on us with no outlandish antics.
Plans for fencing a half acre with more high tensile electric were put into motion. The purpose of the fenced paddock would be mainly to hold our buck goats while they weren't being put to use running the does. Felled trees from the property that would make good fence posts were gathered and their bark stripped. The buck pen plans were now in motion.
Our comfrey patch at the house needed to be transplanted to the farm. It was as good a time as any to go ahead and divide the strong plants and bolster the comfrey patch numbers.
The goat grazing plan continued and by the end of May the goats are close to completing the grazing of the property's thickest parts. An isolated storm dropped over two inches of rain on the property late one afternoon/early evening. Returning the next morning to feed the goats, the 81 day old buckling had one serious case of scours (goat diarrhea). Coccidiosis was suspected and without delay electrolytes were administered three times daily. A quick trip to the farm supply store for an initial dose of Corid got things going in the right direction. Sulmet finished the job and the buck still made a 100 day weaning weight of 41 pounds.
To finish the month off with a bit of a bang (more like a rush), the mother to the sick, little buckling decided to test the electric netting. Well, she lost. After a sprint through the thicket she was found entangled in the netting receiving a full three joule jolt every two seconds. Needless to say, she and the whole herd were stressed thus ending the month with an adrenaline fueled headache for us.
February is a transition month here in Central Florida. We usually experience all four seasons during this very short month. This year was no different. We had beautiful fall and spring weather, one winter morning of 25ish degrees and the final two days of the month were hot and muggy like summer. While you may often hear us complain about morning temps. in the 30’s and 40’s, the weather really isn't horrible. Just get used to dressing in layers with a warm hat and you're good to go.
February was also a transition month for us at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. Things are really starting to take shape with the farm and we have finally mastered the net fencing and the moving of the goats every 7 days, 14 if we really want an area cleared. Although February is a short month, the list of accomplishments wasn't:
Complimentary butterscotch flavored selenium samples
Goats were informed as to their ages by teeth structure analysis
Body conditioning score (BCS)
Free FAMACHA scores with worming where indicated
March is going to be another month of firsts for us at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm - stay tuned!!!
2015's first month is already history. So, what's happening down on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm? Happy to say that the momentum built in 2014 has carried through to 2015 without any hiccups. All the necessary scheduled tasks of 2014 were completed on time in 2014 so we started 2015 with a clean slate. So here's the list for January's activity.
1. West firebreak cut. The farm now has all main firebreak lines cut. The western line was the last area posing a major fire threat. Matter of fact, last summer a local resident ended up burning his own house down after starting an outside debris burn and leaving it unattended. That residence was less than two hundred yards from the farm's western line.
2. Middle Meadow brush piles reduced. While rotating the goats through the purple area on the above map many smaller, scrubby oaks and pines were thinned. These brush piles have been eliminated.
3. The goats started their foraging and 2015 brush clearing campaign in the southwest corner of the property. Braving weasels, er...bobcats and all, they performed well and are now to the midpoint of the south line, starting to head to the north. The plan is to move them through the middle of the property and let them aggressively clear the middle where the future farmstead site will be located. Six adult does and three kids can put a good dent on a half acre of thick Florida brush in a seven day period.
4. Timber blanks moved from the farm to the house for further milling. I know we haven't been too specific regarding our milling efforts to date, but have no fear details are coming. Long story short, lots of those trees being felled at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm are going to good use as lumber for future builds such as poultry coops and bee hives.
5. January also had us moving quite a bit of material from around our home out to the land. Over the past two years we've been building up an inventory of nursery stock that we've started from seed or grafts. The plan has always been to plant these trees and bushes into any property we purchased. By the end of January we moved 50 Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia Diversifolia) starts, almost 100 Moringa tree (Moringa Oleifera) seedlings, over 70 longleaf pine seedlings, a dozen black locust trees, four yellow tabebuia trees and a couple citrus tree grafts (Meyer lemon and Persian lime) along with two eucalyptus trees (Tasmanian blue gum and Red River gum) out to the land. The reasons and purpose for these plantings will be discussed as the planting and land development/cultivation progresses.
Yep, 2015 is off to a busy start and we're enjoying the work. Things are really getting to the point where our efforts are starting to impact the lay of the land. If the rest of the year goes as January has, we're really going to be making some progress.
November was a good month for us on the farm. The mishaps and problems from October seemed to melt away. One of our biggest accomplishments this month was receiving an S (satisfactory) in Shepherd School. If you remember from October, we were on Double Secret Probation and improved slightly to Needs Improvement. We both feel like we are getting somewhere with the goats!
Now some gratuitous pictures.
October was a month of big changes for us. It was month of reality, learning, accepting, and growing. We started the month and ended the month on the south line. We cleared our first meadow, by hand, and Mark had it seeded with rye grass and clover by Halloween. Goal achieved and accomplished. Did I mention we did all of this by hand? Well, Mark did the majority of the work. I helped a little. The reason we did this by hand is because this is the way we want to cultivate our property. We want to maintain as much of the original integrity of the land as possible and by shaping it by hand without the use of heavy equipment, we are going to achieve this. It is also giving us both a bigger sense of accomplishment.
The biggest milestone of October was our transition from having property to a farm. We bought 6 goats from a farmer in High Springs, and brought them to live with us. We had high hopes and very high expectations that this transition would go smoothly. We learned very quickly that it would not. And looking back, we are now okay with that. We learned so much in a very long and very tiring week. One of the most valuable lessons we learned was that farm life will always throw challenges your way, it's how you react and adapt that determines your outcome. Within one week of bringing the goats to our farm, we went from 6 to 10. We wound up with one bottle baby, who is currently camping out at night in a box in our garage, and unfortunately, lost the little buckling on Halloween morning.
This week life around the farm has calmed down and we are getting into a good routine. The goats are starting to calm down and we have the littlest and most brave one eating out of our hand!
Stay tuned for November!!! Some really exciting things are happening!!!//tr
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
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!!!
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.