Chick Brooders Before and After

It’s good to know how to improvise what’s needed. Remember the makeshift chick brooder we’ve been using for the guinea chicks? A free-standing tub in a back porch, a heat lamp and thermometer. Messy, smelly and inconsistent temperatures, but it worked well enough for the guineas.

Well, now that we know we can, we decided to go for convenience, and it’s been great! We ordered 50 chicks for our egg-laying operation a few weeks ago. Did you know they come in the mail? The chick producer texts us when they ship and we make sure we can go pick them up the moment the post office calls. There’s a limited window for how long the chicks will survive in the box.

We had assembled the new brooder the day before so we were ready. The brooder is a large, square metal box with some great features. We put it in the tool room so we could better regulate the temperature. The new chicks need to be at 90 to 95 degrees, and the brooder comes with two blue, heat-producing bulbs. We put a small heater in the room as well. The tool room has a window for light, and we removed the gas-powered tools because of the fumes. Here’s a video.

New chick brooder at Golden Acres Ranch

The video shows feeders on three sides of the chick brooder, one of which we used as a water container. Chicks and chickens will poop anywhere, so these feeders let them stick their heads out. We adjusted the space for their heads as needed. For the first week, even the smallest opening allowed the chicks to get out, so we put the feeders on the inside.

You can see it has a thermometer easily accessible. And a sliding door to open in the back. Moving the tops of the brooder panics them a lot, so we check them from the door.

Inside, the chicks walk on a grate that (mostly) lets the poop fall through to a paper-covered tray in the bottom. We changed the paper daily.

There were two ‘huge’ chicks in the batch we got. The company we buy from always asks if we want an ‘exotic’ chick. Usually, it’s a rooster. But maybe this time, it was these two large chicks. Well after the first week, we realized they couldn’t get their heads out of the small openings needed for the other chicks, so we made a coop with a heat lamp in one of the barn stalls for them. They did just fine by themselves. In week three, all the chicks had grown so big, the brooder was too crowded, and the smaller breeds were getting pecked on by the bigger breeds. So we moved about 20 of the chicks to the barn brooder.

Temporary chick brooder in the barn

They did great for a week and so this morning we moved the rest of them to the barn, and put in another lamp.

No, we’re not selling chick brooders! Just telling you the story of our new egg-layers. For those of you Red Hills region, you can buy our eggs at the Online Market or come buy the farm. Contact Us first (email is better!) to make sure Bobbie is here to get you oriented.

We’re getting a lot of eggs lately, and when these 50 chicks grow up, we’ll have even more.

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Learn Ranching by Volunteering

Milk goat, Queenie, with twins
We’ve now been in the farming/ranching business for 15 years. I don’t count the first year we bought the place. That was mostly cleaning the property and getting our sea legs or should I say our “critter” legs. Those of you that have been acquainted with us all this time know we started with Tennessee Fainting Goats, then chickens (given to us by a friend), sheep or rather lambs, bought cheaply from another friend, and the Mayhaws that were already on the property. Thus the adventure began.

It took a lot of research and mistakes to arrive at our current destination. All of which I have enjoyed but often to the chagrin of other nameless family members. Slowly I’ve gained knowledge from ole’ timers, extension agents, other producers and by actively becoming involved with numerous agriculture boards. Then there is all the dirty work such as cleaning shelters and coops, giving shots and de-worming medicine, and then the sad part of having to bury a barnyard animal.

The farm is run without a lot of big or expensive equipment. We have a vintage tractor for mowing mainly. We do use it to move the portable chicken coops. Our Gator (ATV) now has over 1,000 hours of working time and is used mainly to carry feed to the animals. Everything else is done by manual labor.

We use our own locally produced manure from the goats, sheep and chickens in our compost pile. Our pulling up and burning skills are used for weed control. We are also fortunate to have the help of family members for chores. Everything from removing debris after a hurricane, internet skills, feeding, cleaning pastures, record keeping along with hoof trimming and doctoring animals when needed.

Golden Acres Ranch now has two well attended festivals each year. The Mayhaw Festival each spring and Farm Tour each October. It was known for years as the New Leaf Market Tour (now supported by Millstone Plantation). Our ranch has been one of the thirty plus farms or ranches in the event for the last nine years. Our farm alone has 300 to 500 visitors over a two day period for either of these events. This experience has allowed me to make many acquaintances and friends. I’ve also gained a tremendous respect for the full agriculture community.

Carding wool at Golden Acres Ranch

Where this preamble is heading…

Volunteer & Educational Programs @ Golden Acres Ranch, LLC

Lots of people ask us questions about ranching, and folks often come for tours of the farm. They bring their children and friends to see what it’s like and to experience the lifestyle. Some want to see if they can make the leap and others are just curious. Either way, we are always willing to share.

Many want to volunteer and so I’ve decided to organize something to fill that request. My ulterior motive? Could be to get additional help cleaning the barn or chicken coop. Actually, you can participate, or just watch and ask questions. My plan is to schedule a “chore” or program on the third Saturday of the month and some weekdays.

Our first three workshops are scheduled. Call if you know for sure you’re coming, or just show up – in proper clothing for a working ranch, please! (850) 997-6599

Thursday, January 19 – 9:30 AM until finished
Identifying Goat Moms and Kids recording tag number, tagging the babies, taking photos, checking hooves and for parasites. It is too early to wean. That is a chore for next month.

Saturday, January 21 – 9:30 AM until noon
Making Mayhaw Jelly – I have some personal gifts I need to prepare and samples for the Mayhaw Festival. This inspires me to get the job done and the added fun of sharing how we do it.

Saturday, February 18 – 9:30 AM as long as you want
Sheared wool, picking, cleaning and carding in preparation for roving, spinning or felting.

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2016 Farm Tour Update

Country Store at Golden Acres Ranch Florida
As you can imagine, we are totally focused on getting ready for the Farm Tour that starts Saturday. We will have processed lamb and fresh, homemade jelly in the Country Store. Charissa has crafted a bunch of Halloween and Harvest-time felt critters. And we will have some persimmons which we picked from the trees we’re about to plant in our orchard.

The Monticello Volunteer Fire Department and their mascots, Thor and Laroque will be there, along with many of the crafts and farm product people you know. We are updating our Farm Tour Event Page moment by moment! So, you can check there to see if your favorite vendors and craftspeople will be there.

Here’s the flyer.
Flyer for Golden Acres Farm Tour 2016

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Persimmon Trees in the Orchard

Last fall we planted 12 Fuju Persimmon Trees, a non-astringent type, in the back easement. Then we decided to set aside five acres of a back pasture and turn it into a full orchard. This spring we planted 14 Mayhaw Trees (No they don’t have to be in water). This week 49 more Persimmon Trees arrived. They are loaded with fruit and we are so thrilled. This is our first marketable crop. They will be harvested and ready to sell during the Farm Tour this weekend. Check them out at the Country Store.

We’ll be showing The Orchard off during the hayride. It is being irrigated by gravity using our solar well. The trees will actually go into the ground next week. I’m told it is time for them to go to sleep. We will shape them up with a trim in January and in the spring we will use our chicken litter compost to fertilize them. We don’t claim to be organic but try to avoid chemicals whenever possible. The goal is to raise native fruit trees that flourish in this zone naturally.

Persimmons are a specialty fruit particularly sought after by the Asian market. Charissa and I found a local source several years ago. Many folks tell us about eating one and how it made their mouth pucker. Well, they ate an astringent persimmon before it was ripe. Yucky!. We ripen them on the counter and bake persimmon bread. The Fuju (non-astringent) that we are planting can be eaten like an apple once it turns orange. It gets even sweeter as the color darkens.

We are looking forward to seeing you during the tour.

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North Florida Farm Tour 2016

This year, we are not only participating in the Annual Farm Tour here at Golden Acres, we are helping to coordinate the Jefferson County part of the North Florida Event.

Formerly hosted by New Leaf Co-op Market, this year’s tour is hosted by Millstone Plantation. To see all the goings on and to download a map of all the farms and ranches involved, go to Millstone’s Facebook Page.

For a more focused, Jefferson County view, go to our web page, Jefferson County Farm Tour 2016. You can pick up booklets with more details at many locations in Monticello. Look for the flyer in the windows.

Flyer for Farm Tour 2016

Get to know your local farmers and ranchers! As always, there’s lots to do and see; animals, hayrides, workshops, food and crafts. Free family fun for everyone!

Dates are Saturday October 22nd and Sunday October 23rd. Each farm keeps its own hours so be sure to find a booklet or contact them directly.

Here at Golden Acres, we’re getting our vendors and activities together. We’ll get you all updated in the next email.

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The Life of a Mayhaw Pond

September 12, 2016

For those of you who were following the Berry Barometer leading up to our Mayhaw Berry Harvest Festival last May, I thought an update would be in order. Especially since our natural Mayhaw Berry tree stand goes through such radical changes through the year. Here’s a recent video.

The whole seasonal series can be found on our YouTube channel.

In the little bit of pond that’s left are lots of white birds! We are lucky enough to have a kind of rare, black-headed wood ibises, a couple of large blue herons and a flock of cattle egrets. They won’t let me get near them, so my pictures are not great. Here’s one of the heron with a bunch of white birds.

Great blue Heron and Ibises

And Then Came Hermine

Hermine, plus strong storms every night for the last few, have filled up the pond again.

Someone new to biology might think it would be impossible for animals to live in the zone of the Mayhaw Pond where water comes and goes. This rapidly changing area at a lake or at the seashore is part of what’s called a ‘littoral zone.’ Lots of plant and animal species have adapted to this zone.

We can tell you that frogs don’t seem to mind the shifting habitat. Even after long periods of dryness, fresh rains brings them out. At night, they can sound like trucks roaring. At the other range of the sound spectrum, I’ve heard what I thought was a timer dinging somewhere in the house. And come to find out it’s one of the frog noises. Fortunately, this does not go on every night!

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Coding Classes, Part One

When I arrived here in Monticello, I started looking for the coding/programming community. And found out there isn’t one!

So, I’ve decided to cultivate one if I can. Right now, I’m doing that in two ways: 1) By teaching students to code and 2) By encouraging the whole community to consider the benefits of a tech-friendly environment.

Beginnings of my Coding Classes classroom

In the teaching aspect, I was fortunate to meet with Mona Lewis who started her Education Services business just as I arrived. She loved the idea of having a Coding Class at her offices so I set one up. It was a 5-week class and I had four students. It went well and one of those students attended my FIRST “Saturday Sessions” class on September 10th.

The photo above is an early version of my classroom on the 2nd floor of the business offices in the ‘Old Library.’ My niece is ready to learn! In a couple more years, I’ll get her a robot to program.

What is Code?

I hear this question a lot, and it’s a good one.

In simplest terms code is instructions for computer programs, or ‘machine language.’ I’m a ‘front-end developer,’ which means my code looks like this:

<h1>This sentence is the Page Title</h1>

And tells your computer browser to do this:

"Browser, make this sentence big and bold for humans,
and tell Google search robots it's the page title."

Which results in you seeing something like this in your browser:
Heading in chrome

That’s just one line of code. Developers and Programmers learn how to write hundreds and thousands of lines to get browsers, robots, software, databases and more to do something useful.

A Browser is a software program on your computer that “DISPLAYS” web files, by the way. The most common browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.
Browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer

Google Search is a program that “SEARCHES” for web files. It then gives your browser a list to display.
Google Search screenshot

For more basic information about using computers, definitions and how-to’s, LIKE my Facebook page.

Saturday Sessions

During the first, 5-week class I did with Mona, I learned that students become so busy during that school year that Saturdays might be the only day they could add another extra-curricula activity. So I’ve started a series of classes called “Saturday Sessions.” Two Saturdays a month I’ll teach a new topic. The first session of each month is the Intro session that everyone must attend as a per-requisite for any of the others.

Saturday Sessions - Learn to Code in Monticello FL

The kinds of students who might like coding are often the quiet types, those who just don’t seem to ‘fit in’ with the outgoing, sports and partying crowd. If you know anyone like that, encourage them to join these classes. Learn more here:


NEXT TIME: Part Two, The Surprising Benefits to the Whole Community When Kids Learn to Code.

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Farm to Family through Johnston's Meat Market
Our Monticello neighbor, and long-time business owner, Hal Bennett has come upon a great bargain for those of you interested in buying beef from whole steers.

Hal is the owner of Johnston’s Meat Market and is running a Farm to Family promotion right now. Buy a whole, half or quarter cow and save a lot of money for 100% all natural, grass-feed beef. The steers he has access to are young, only 500 to 900 pounds, not the usual 1,000 or so pounds usually available. This means the total cost is less.

You can spend $20 to $25 on grass-fed steaks at high end stores, and around $8 per pound on hamburger. For these steers, you pay an average of $6.40 per pound for everything. There’s more information and an example order on the website, I read that a quarter steer can feed a family of four for 6 months.

Johnston’s ages their beef a full 21-days for the best flavor. Ask him to tell you the story about the taste test he did with a local rancher a while back. Many commercial producers only age their beef from 7-14 days. Barely edible! And Johnston’s does not add any tenderizers or flavor enhancers to their cuts, which grew up free from hormones, antibiotics and GMO’s from the start.

If you can’t afford a whole or half cow, get together with other families to buy one – ‘cow-pooling!’ You can go out to the ranch to select the steer you want, then have Johnston’s custom cut it for you. Our freezers are pretty full with Mayhaw berries, Blueberries and goat, but we might go in with a few other people. We’ll have to come up with some new recipes for cuts we’re not used to.

Hal turned us on to this rare old recipe to corn beef.
Fresh-killed beef
1 1/2 pounds fine salt (best quality)
1/2 pound brown sugar
1/2 ounce salt peter

Thoroughly scrub and clean a good oak barrel. Put as much fresh-killed beef as desired to be corned in barrel and cover with cold water. Have the water two inches above the meat. Let stand for 48 hours. Drain off the water and measure before discarding. Measure the same amount of cold water (spring water if possible) and to every gallon of water used, add the above proportions of salt, sugar and salt peter. Boil for 15 minutes and then skim. When cold, pour over the beef. Place a heavy weight on meat to keep it under the brine. Store in cool cellar.

Not a bit of corn in this recipe! And I didn’t even know ‘corn’ was a verb. Can you buy salt peter? Think I can find an decent oak barrel on CraigsList? This is all probably quite do-able, but I think I’ll finish some other projects first.

UPDATE:/strong> Since I first posted this article, I’ve learned that Hal has some boxes of quarter steers available for you to go in an pick out right now. We had steak from Johnston’s for Dad’s birthday last week and I was amazed at how good 21-day aged steak is, even when the cooks don’t quite have the right technique! (Maybe we can get each other a gas grill for Christmas!)


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Millstone Plantation October Farm Tour

Saturday, October 22, 2016 and Sunday, October 23, 2016

October Farm Tour at Golden Acres Ranch Florida

Formerly the New Leaf Market Farm Tour, it is now being sponsored and promoted by Millstone Institute for Preservation. Mom, Charissa, Mimi and I went out the Millstone Plantation a little while back for the Textile and Fabric Fest. I was impressed by the kinds of programs they are running. Here’s their Facebook Page.

We will be open 10 am to 4 pm each day. We expect to have the usual vendors and educational groups, hayrides, food, gorgeous pastoral views and the petting place with goats and sheep. I’ll be making a Event page in a couple weeks, but we wanted to give you all an early heads up about it. Mark your calendars please. The 9th Annual North Florida/South Georgia, October Farm Tour is the weekend of October 22 and 23.

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Long Hot Summer!

mom-and-mimi-august2016aWhat has been going on since the Mayhaw Festival. Mostly we’ve been trying to avoid the heat. That means chores get done in the morning, though not all that early. It’s a myth that all farmers get up before dawn. I might wake up as the first light hits the windows but my first motion is to start a pot of coffee.

It is really pleasant to sit in the living room or on the front deck to watch the sun rise. It is especially quiet that time of day. Sometimes some of the family joins me with their coffee. Mimi, at  3 1/2 years, comes bursting on the scene with a thump and bump coming down the stairs and lots of happy talk. I get to hear her dreams and imaginary conversations with her friend Brianna. Then she and Mom Charissa go out an take on the feeding schedule. Fred feeds and moves pets around the kennels. Christine takes her dog Bailey out for a nice run to start the day before she goes to her office. I check on the keets hatching and brooding. Then I take food to Roper, India and Honey and the day begins.

This spring we had the remainder of our pine tree crop harvested. These were the ones all around the house and barn. It was a difficult job with all the fences and buildings, but the harvesting crew did a great job. Not too much unusable debris. It was piled in each field for us to eventually burn. We are working on it one pasture at a time making sure we have water, manpower and equipment to keep it from getting away. I should say womanpower.  Charissa is handling most of it and I use the word “we” loosely since my contribution seems to be mostly directing. Mimi and I get out and play pick up sticks to help clean up but I don’t think we put much dent in the mess.

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