Our final day of work at Micnic Farm in Hudson, FL came with some relief. We made it!
Five and half months of some of the hardest, back breaking work we have ever done. On top of that were the personality clashes, broken unreliable equipment, troubles getting tools and supplies and conflicting work priorities. We were getting direction from two or three different people and their requests often conflicted with what someone else had already asked us to do. As a result we were often jumping around from job to job without being able to finish anything. It was very frustrating.
In spite of it all, we are glad we took the job. Instead of paying $800-900 per month or more to be crammed into a campsite among hundreds of others we earned over $10,000 and camped for “free” on a beautiful piece of property practically by ourselves. The 200 acre farm was quiet and peaceful with nature all around us. We got to experience some incredible Florida wildlife that was all so new to us. There were so many new birds, plants, lizards, tortoises and even some interesting insects to learn about.
Rock Lake provided some great fishing, I would routinely catch and release 4-5 nice largemouth bass while fishing from the kayak for an hour or two.
We watched the fox squirrels prosper, feeding among the bounty of acorns under the massive oaks. Fox squirrels, also known as monkey squirrels, are much larger than gray squirrels and with their masked faces look like a cross between a squirrel and a raccoon.
We unsuccessfully tried trapping coyotes by the lake and took some raccoons in the traps instead. Lee skinned them out to try his hand at tanning the hides and instead of wasting the meat we tried raccoon meat for the very first time. We cooked up a couple of stews from the rich, lean meat and enjoyed some tasty meals.
The sandhill cranes were with us all winter, keeping us entertained with their trumpeting calls and awkwardly graceful dancing. One pair nested down on the lakeshore and we waited anxiously for the baby cranes to hatch. Unfortunately, we left before they hatched though they were due anytime.
We raised 35 new chicks from three day old babies to the point that they were ready to go out with the rest of the flock.
A new experience for us, we incubated and hatched out another clutch of eggs from some Sebright bantam chickens. The chicks were ten days old when we left, doing well and growing bigger every day.
The property was transformed while we were there. We turned acres of woods into beautiful park like landscapes. These areas started out as vine choked, overgrown jungles with downed trees and mangled limbs covering the ground. Our sweat and sore muscles at the end of every day proved our efforts. The beach down by the lake was the last area we tackled and it looked incredible.
A new horse barn was built while we were there and hundred of yards of fencing were built and painted by Hekrem and his crew. We smoothed and seeded and constantly watered the new paddocks in hopes of getting some nice pasture started in the sandy, dry soil.
One of our more enjoyable projects was to spend a couple of days building a wedding arbor from limbs and vines we cut from the property. Hopefully, it will be used for the wedding of the owner’s son and his fiancé at the farm in early May.
I think we learned a lot for future job prospects. We need to be more specific and get more complete job descriptions before signing on. Duties, hours expected and weekly work schedules should be described in detail. I think we also learned to try not to get caught up in the daily drama of the workplace. Just go in, do the best job possible and then go home. Trying to get along with everyone really helps and dealing with conflict is way to stressful. I think as time wore on at this job we let things just roll off our back more and more and it became much easier to deal with.
I think our efforts were appreciated though. On our last day of work we came home to find a nice travel cooler filled with fruit, cheese, chocolates and snacks waiting on our steps. There was a card with a nice personal note of thanks and a totally unexpected cash bonus. This recognition of our labor was very satisfying and we were glad to leave under good terms.
Would we return for another season at the farm? Probably not. At least not right away. If we were to return someday the heavy land clearing tasks would have to be eliminated. Animal care and property maintenance are one thing but being lumberjacks and heavy laborers are quite another. Besides, there are too many things to experience and new places to explore.