Cat update for week ending May 25

Just because we’re in Hawaii, doesn’t mean you need to suffer the loss of a Caturday post! Here’s a post with pictures from the few days before we left.

It’s bothered me since building the cat house that the signs weren’t very readable, as they just had a stain without any color difference of the carved lettering (you can see them towards the end of this construction post). So I recently used a marker to color the lettering, making them much more visible:

Cat house

Here’s a closer view. The coloration of the scull shape is just natural weathering:

Cat house

Breakfast time:

Breakfast time

A scrub jay has visited several times to grab some kibble out of the feeder:

Scrub jay

Going back for more:

Scrub jay

A squirrel:

Squirrel

The squirrel leapt onto the camera housing. Flying squirrel!

Squirrel leaping

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a cat post. Here are the twins:

Twin cats

Two happy cats inside:

Cats inside

The alien orange cat has been visiting a lot recently. Here he is inside the shelter:

Orange cat inside

Another time, the orange cat arrived when a cat was inside. Harsh words and swipes were exchanged, and the cat rapidly exited through the back door:

Orange cat facing cat inside

The next morning, the orange cat arrived when Porcini was obliviously eating in the feeder:

Orange cat with cat in feeder

Orange cat with cat in feeder

They didn’t exchange any words, but the orange cat wandered off after a minute:

Orange cat with cat in feeder

Then he ate a bit:

Orange cat in feeder

But was startled by more food dispensing:

Orange cat startled

Pepper in the shop:

Pepper in the shop

The alien gray cat also stopped by briefly:

Gray cat

Another squirrel:

Squirrel

And scrub jay, with food in its beak:

Scrub jay

That’s all for now. I may include some pictures from while we’re away in the post next week; most cameras record about a week’s worth, so I’ll review them when we get home.

Bee inspection: new queen; emergency & swarm cells

We did a couple of beehive inspections over the weekend, and found some interesting things.

But first, a normal-looking hive frame, with brood:

Beehive frame

This hive (the orange one) was the one that appeared to be missing their queen on the previous inspection. On reviewing the photos while writing this post, I spotted a queen; circled in red in the following picture. It seems likely that this is a new queen, hatched from the emergency cells we saw then:

Queen bee

Next we looked at the Flow hive. Here’s a Flow frame with honey underway; starting to fill up and get capped:

Flow frame with honey

Another normal frame:

Frame

But then we saw an emergency cell:

Emergency cell

And more concerning, a couple more emergency cells, and swarm cells:

Emergency & swarm cells

Here’s a closer look at the swarm cells, upside-down. They are capped, which means the hive is preparing to swarm (take half of the population to find a new home):

Swarm cells

A closer look at one of the emergency cells, uncapped; that could just be practice. There are also a lot of drone bees visible, mooching off the hive resources (they’re the larger ones):

Emergency cell

The end frame of the Flow hive was full of drone cells, which are pretty useless. That could be a symptom of a worker laying eggs, hence the emergency cells, or caused by weather changes:

Drone frame

Lots of bees:

Lots of bees

We decided to remove the drone frame, replacing it with an empty frame, both to ease the hive resources, and as a way of reducing the mite load of the hive, since the mites tend to go for drone cells. Here Jenn is brushing the bees off the frame:

Brushing off bees

Bees outside the hive:

Bees outside box

After a visit to her mentor, Jenn decided to re-inspect the hive the next day, to split some frames into a nuc box. The bees weren’t in the mood for an inspection, though:

Cranky bees

Here’s the nuc, with some old frames:

Nuc

We couldn’t find the swarm cells anymore, though it didn’t look like they had swarmed, so maybe they changed their mind? We left the nuc box next to the hive, in case they did decide to swarm, so hopefully they’d move into the nuc:

Flow hive & nuc

We’ll keep an eye on this hive. Hopefully it won’t swarm (again; it did so last year), since that’ll set back the honey production. Though it’s early enough that they might have time to build up enough before fall.

Cat update for week ending May 18

I had 71 cat pictures this week, but pared it down to just 18. You’re welcome.

More dinner please? A couple of cats waiting for more food in the evening.

More dinner please?

The same cats a few minutes later, relaxing on the deck:

Two cats on the deck

Another arrives:

Three cats

A cat is startled by the sudden arrival of another, and rears up:

A cat is startled

Four cats at breakfast time:

Four cats

Waiting for more breakfast:

Waiting for more breakfast

I got a bale of straw for the duck house, which I put in the shop, and Pepper has been having fun playing with loose bits of straw. I think she’s been sitting on the bale, and scratching at it, too. I’m fine with that; she’s also guarding it to make sure no mice nest in it:

Pepper playing with straw

A scrub jay making poor life choices by eating cat food while a cat is in the house, as captured by a screenshot of my iPad cam app (it was fine; the cat was too comfy to move):

A bird making poor life choices

Still very comfy:

Comfy cat

Squirrel:

Squirrel

The orange cat paid a visit:

Orange cat

Followed by a possum 17 minutes later:

Possum

And a raccoon a couple of hours after that:

Raccoon

A couple of cats watch a couple of deer:

Deer & cats

The deer have been hanging around a lot recently, nibbling on our flowers (grrr):

Deer

A rare sighting of Pansy in the back of the shop:

Pansy

A cat at the bee water pool (that linked post included a couple of night-time cat sightings too):

Cat at bee water

Three cats:

Cats

Bee water pool

Like any creatures, bees get thirsty. So they have to get water from somewhere, for themselves and their hive. They also use water to control the humidity of the hive, as part of the process of making honey.

We have a big pond they can drink from, but it’s easy for bees to drown if they’re not careful. We also have a stream, and in summer a swimming pool, but those aren’t ideal water sources either (Jenn has rescued several bees from the pool when swimming).

So we also have a small kiddie pool that has rocks in it to act as safe landing zones for the bees. It is by the closest tap to the hives, near the greenhouse. Bees will fly for miles to find water, but if they have a ready source close to the hive, they don’t need to go to less ideal places.

The pool was immediately below the tap, but that made it hard to turn it on to top up the pool, when lots of bees are buzzing around. So I recently added a splitter and a couple of short hoses; one going into the pool, which can now be a bit further away, and another for use when working in the greenhouse (until I get around to adding taps in there):

Hoses and bee water pool

I also added a couple of bits of wood as additional landing pads for the bees:

Bee water pool

As a temporary thing, I set up the mobile cam above the pool, so I could watch the bees using it, just for fun. In the above picture, you can see the beehives and greenhouse in the background, to give a better idea of the location.

One interesting observation was that birds and cats also take advantage of the water source. Here’s a crow drinking from the bee pool:

Bird drinking from bee water pool

A cat drinking:

Cat drinking from bee water pool

Bees drinking from the pool; notice some on the wood, some around the edge, and a bunch on the rocks:

Bees drinking from bee water pool

If I zoom in on the pile of rocks, you can more clearly see lots of bees:

Zoom on bees

A crow drinking again; it doesn’t care about the bees:

Bird drinking from bee water pool

Another cat:

Cat drinking from bee water pool

The crow decided to walk across the platforms, somewhat unsuccessfully:

Bird walking in bee water pool

Planting veggie garden

Jenn and I spent most of today planting the veggie garden.

We got 3 yards (i.e. 81 cubic feet, or 2.3 cubic meters) of 3-way mix soil (basically topsoil, compost, and other stuff) delivered to top up the veggie beds. Here’s Rory sniffing the pile while on rounds a few days ago, to give a feel for the size:

Rory by pile of soil

So my first task was to shovel that dirt into the beds:

Shoveling dirt

Dumping the dirt:

Dumping dirt

Meanwhile, Jenn was planting:

Cart and plants

Here’s the whole veggie garden, with everything planted:

Whole veggie garden

In the front-left bed, we have tomatoes and salsa ingredients:

Veggie bed

In the front-right bed, we have lettuce and kale (for us and chickens):

Veggie bed

The potato planters have seed potatoes; the boards and more dirt will be added as they grow up, resulting in many layers of spuds:

Potato planters

In the back-left bed we have zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, and decorative gourds:

Veggie bed

In the back-right bed, we have onions and corn:

Veggie bed

Inside the berry cage, we have a couple of Hood strawberry plants (and will add more to this bed later):

Veggie bed

(Existing) blueberries:

Veggie bed

The first of a few hops plants:

Veggie bed

Huckleberries hiding behind the existing gooseberries and currants:

Veggie bed

Ever-bearing strawberries (these were existing from last year):

Veggie bed

Cat update for week ending May 11

Welcome to another Caturday.

A good yawn:

Good yawn

Four cats:

Four cats

Big stretch:

Stretch

Dinner greetings:

Dinner greetings

An alien cat:

Alien cat

Three cats; eyes in the dark:

Three cats

Breakfast:

Breakfast

A scrub jay helping itself to cat food, several times:

Bird

Pepper contemplating her water dish in the shop:

Pepper in the shop

The scrub jay returns:

Bird

I currently have the mobile camera watching the small pond next to the cat house, as it recently had a leak where water was overflowing the liner of the stream, causing the water level to go down quickly. The camera was so I could see when it was low and top it up. I’ve since fixed the leak, but have left the camera there for now. It captured a cat drinking from that pond:

Cat drinking from pond

They have a water dispenser in the feeder area, but I’m sure pond water is tastier. Here’s the cat looking through the grasses:

Cat by pond

Bee inspection: missing queen, marked queen

A quick post on last weekend’s beehive inspection.

We added a Ross round honey super to the yellow hive, one of the overwintered ones, to try to get some comb honey. This super has frames with plastic round shapes, in which the bees draw out comb and make honey, then they can be easily separated and packaged as round comb honey:

Ross round super

Next we inspected one of the two new hives. This was concerning: we didn’t see the queen (which isn’t all that uncommon), but also didn’t see eggs. While there was plenty of capped brood, and larvae, nothing younger than a week old. We also saw some possible emergency queen cups, like in the center of this picture. So it’s possible the queen didn’t survive the installation of the hive; either we didn’t get one with the nuc, or she got squashed or something in transferring to the new hive:

Possible emergency queen cup

We’ll inspect again this weekend to see what’s happened.  They may make a new queen, or maybe we just missed her.

A closeup of bees on a frame:

Closeup of bees

Treatment and temperature sensor:

Treatment

On to the purple hive, there was a strange formation on one of the frames; not sure what that’s about:

Strange formation

We spotted the queen; she is even marked, which makes her easy to see:

Marked queen

We also added a scale to the Flow hive. This lets us monitor the weight of the hive, in addition to the temperature, which helps indicate the amount of honey, among other things:

Scale

All four hives:

Four hives

Some removed boxes between the hives, left there for a day for the bees to evacuate:

Four hives

Duck house: installation!

The previous post for the duck house project was about installing the floor joists. This time, installing the house itself!

We used a cart to transport the duck house (without the roof) from the workshop to the pond edge. So to make it easier to get it onto the cart, I raised it up onto concrete blocks:

Duck house on blocks

I then backed the cart under the house, with some carpeting for padding:

Cart under duck house

Pulling the cart and house out of the shop:

Pulling cart out of shop

I pulled the cart down the driveway and across the grass to the destination, with Jenn’s help to keep it steady:

Pulling cart down driveway

Arriving at the destination, where we lifted it from the cart to the floor joists:

Arriving at destination

Next up was the roof. To make it easier, we loaded it into the bed of our truck, and Jenn drove it off-road to near the pond. I rode in the bed, just for fun:

David in truck bed with roof

We then carried it from the truck down the hill and onto the house walls:

Putting on roof

Many thanks to Jenn for her help transporting those heavy parts.

Next, I screwed the three parts together: floor joists, floor and walls, and roof:

Screw

I also added more hooks, including for the LED light strip:

Hooks for light

And to tidy the electrical cords (the two orange ones are temporary; the one going out through the wall goes to the pond pump, and will be replaced with a more subtle green cord later, and the one on the right is for the electric screwdriver):

Electrical

More cord hooks:

Electrical

Here’s the duck house, installed:

Duck house installed

Duck house installed

Duck house installed

Duck house installed

From further back:

Duck house installed

From across the pond:

Duck house across pond

Duck house across pond

An exciting milestone! There’s more to do: finishing the landscaping, adding the ramp, adding the bedding and food and such, and of course adding the ducklings. So there will no doubt be more posts about the duck house, and its future residents, but the building part is basically done now. Three weeks before the ducklings arrive!

Duck house: pond edge & floor joists

Over the weekend we installed the duck house! That seems like such a momentous milestone, I’m going to split it into two separate blog posts.

Firstly, I took the footing blocks and floor joists to the site, and determined the positions by temporarily resting the blocks on top:

Determining footing positions

I then dug out the bank of the pond a bit, repositioned the pond liner, and moved some of the rocks, to work better with the duck house:

Adjusting pond edge

Here’s a view from the pond cam of me wading in the pond, moving rocks. The pond is about 2 feet deep at that point, with a steep slope up to a small shelf at the edge:

Cam view

Here’s the adjusted pond edge:

Adjusted pond edge

I then dug in the concrete footings, using the level to make the floor joists flat:

Footings & floor joists

Here’s the footings & floor joists in their final position, with the footing holes filled in. There’s only about an inch of clearance between the joists and ground, as I wanted it to be as low as possible so the ramp into the pond doesn’t have to be any longer than necessary. The ramp will later be attached to the angled board at the front:

Footings & floor joists

A view from across the pond:

From across the pond

Next, I added scraps of wire hardware cloth to help keep small animals from going under the house. It won’t stop burrowing creatures like moles, but it’ll help:

Adding hardware cloth

The hardware cloth was stapled onto the inside of the boards, for tidiness, and buried a bit underground:

Hardware cloth

The final footings & floor joists:

Footings & floor joists

Next up: bringing over the house itself. Stay tuned!