Irrigation & bark

Yesterday I added irrigation for some of the new trees in the field. I didn’t have enough parts to do all of them, so will have to go to Home Depot sometime to complete that, but at least a bunch of them are now getting watered:

The corkscrew willow tree is putting on some leaves:

As is the tulip tree:

Irrigation for the leyland cypress additions:

And extended the irrigation to two of the new apple trees, but the new third row doesn’t have irrigation yet, since I didn’t have enough pipe:

Here’s one of the apple tree additions:

Blossoms on one of the new apple trees:

I also shoveled a bunch of bark onto the triangle area between the veggie garden, old chicken coop, and back lawn. This area used to be part of the lawn, so has just had dead grass for a couple of years, so good to finally get it barked:

Another angle:

Feral cats: an update

Yesterday I linked to an excellent video that the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (FCCO) produced that featured our feral cats. So I thought I’d do a little update with some new photos of the cats.

They’re all still doing well, and are enjoying scampering around and laying in the sun on these warmer days. This morning was a bit damp, but of course they still turned up for breakfast from the auto-feeder, and took turns eating.

Here you can see Spud sitting on top of the feeder roof, one cat eating and another queued behind her, and Portabella in the foreground:

Can you see two cats in this picture?

Look closer: Poppy sitting amongst the flowers next to the lawn:

They’re still enjoying their heated shelter, even on warm days like yesterday:

Sometimes ya gotta stretch out:

And yawn!

I am continuing to work on a fancy new western-themed combo shelter and feeder for them. Check out the cat shelter blog posts for details of the building process.

Here are a couple of recent shots, showing the current state:

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Bees: adding honey supers

We did another inspection of the beehives over the weekend, and added honey supers to the two older hives.

One part of inspections is correcting undesired behavior: sometimes bees build comb outside the frames, so we need to scrape it off. If left intact, eventually we wouldn’t be able to pull out the frames:

The new bees are doing well, expanding into their extra frames; here you can see some capped honey:

One of the older frames, of the new bees, with a bunch of worker and drone cells. The worker cells are the flat ones in the middle, and the drone cells are the lumpy ones towards the bottom. You can also see an open queen cup towards the top-left, which they build just in case it’s needed (but when towards the top, is more for practice than expected need):

We did a sugar-shake test for mites on this inspection:

Inspecting one of the older hives:

Some nice honey comb:

This hive was ready for more space before we could get to it, so they started building comb under the roof; again, not an approved place:

So we scraped off their hard work:

It’s not entirely wasted; the bees will recover most of the honey. It wasn’t worth us taking this honey, as it is likely at least partially sugar syrup from the feeder. If you look closely, you may notice the grass full of bees that were shaken off this comb (don’t worry, they’re fine):

We then added the honey super to the hive, resting on top of a queen excluder — which, as the name implies, is a grid that lets through the worker bees, but the queen can’t pass through. This ensures that only honey is stored in the honey super, not brood (baby bees).

This particular hive is a Flow hive, which has special frames that let the honey be harvested more easily:

Roof and strap back on, and looking at the harvest hatch:

Our apiary, with the two older hives on the left, with honey supers, and the two new ones on the right:

Turning on garden water

During the winter months, I turn off the water supply to the gardens, to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting. Once the overnight temperatures are safely above freezing, I turn them on again, which I did yesterday.

This year, I didn’t have any burst pipes… but I did have one broken tap to repair, that was probably kicked by a landscaper or deer:

An easy repair:

I could then turn on the water. For the east side, I have a valve box that I installed last year, that lets me individually control the water to the chicken coops, veggie garden & shop, and pond/gazebo areas (plus an underground tap that I used over winter to refill the chicken water):

For the west side, there’s another valve box. The boxes tend to fill with dirt, which is fine as it protects them from freezing, but has to be dug out a bit:

I then added water timers to the various garden beds. Large areas typically have automatic timers like this:

Here’s the repaired tap again, with a manual timer attached. We use these manual timers for lower-priority irrigation areas:

I then started filling the fountain. Here’s the frog that lives in the center of the fountain:

The fountain nearly full. We plan to remove the flower girl statue part of the fountain at some point:

I also scooped leaves out of the small pond at the end of the stream. That took a while; it was pretty much chock full of them. Here, you can see the pump:

Then I turned on the pump, and the stream started circulating. So nice to have that running water again, and I’m sure the cats will enjoy it too:

Finally, I mowed all of the lawns and the field:

Mowing selfie:

A busy day of garden maintenance!