Bonus snow

We got some about an inch of unexpected snow yesterday. Some pictures from this morning.

Chickens in the veggie garden with snow:

Chickens in the veggie garden with snow

Beehives in the snow:

Beehives in the snow

Snow sliding off the greenhouse:

Snow sliding off the greenhouse

Brown gazebo with snow:

Brown gazebo with snow

The pond isn’t frozen:

Pond with snow

Retrobatch to the rescue!

Inspired by a conversation on with @jack, here’s the Retrobatch document I use when manually setting the date metadata from the filename, and adding a watermark:

Retrobatch screenshot

(The details in the sidebar are out-of-order; look at the nodes in the circles for the order they are executed.)

I use a similar document when doing it automatically, with the input coming from a Folder Action in the Finder. I can just capture a still from a camera watching the feral cats, chickens, etc, and it is saved in a folder that has a Folder Action script to open in Retrobatch, the metadata date is set from the filename, the watermark added, and saved to another folder, that then has another Folder Action workflow to import into Photos.

Here’s the Folder Action script to open the images in Retrobatch, then trash the originals:


This is the Retrobatch document (again, the sidebar is out-of-order). It takes the input files from the folder (via the above script), sets the copyright notice in the IPTC metadata, sets the date metadata from the filename, adds the watermark text, and saves as a more efficient HEIC format (since the input is inefficient BMP images):

Convert to HEIC Retrobatch document

The processed images are saved to a new folder, which has it’s own Folder Action. Here’s the Folder Actions window in the Finder:

Folder Actions

The output Folder Action runs this workflow to import the images to Photos. It is supposed to also trash them, though that doesn’t work:



Before Retrobatch, all that was a tedious process of looking at each image and manually adjusting the date by reading the datestamp in the image, and manually importing. Now, I just click one button, and all the rest happens like magic. A huge time-saver!

Cat update for week ending February 16

We start this Caturday with some lingering snow, and a cat peeking out of the shelter:

Cat peeking out of shelter at snow

The cats have been somewhat absent during the day this week, though did show up for food, and occasionally spent a night in the shelter.  Here are all five cats in there:

All five cats inside shelter

Birds in the snow:

Birds in the snow

A bird on the heated water dish:

Bird on heated water dish

I set up the old automatic feeder in the back of the shop, so I can eventually control the amount of food Pansy eats, since she’s somewhat overweight. Initially I had both feeders there, so Pepper still ate back there. A few days later, I moved the manual feeder and a new water dispenser to the front of the shop, where Pepper lives. So this is probably the last time we’ll see Pepper in the back:

Cat in the shop

I’ve got some new cameras for the chickens and ducks, so will move the old camera from the old chicken coop to the front of the shop, to watch Pepper’s food. Probably more on that next week.

Here’s Pansy, eating from the auto-feeder. Currently it is dispensing too much food, but I’ll slowly reduce the quantity to match the level she eats, then a little less over time:

Cat in the shop

Back outside, here’s a cat drinking from the heated water dish, while another eats their dinner. This is the last of the snow, too:

Cat drinking from heated water dish

A cat having a good stretch against a tree:

Cat stretching

Dinner queue. I don’t usually show pictures from this time of night, since the contrast between the darkening outside and the lighted feeder area doesn’t work that well in pictures, but hey, something different:

Dinner queue

The theory with the feeder light was that a bright light would deter the possums and raccoons, since they can’t see in that brightness… but they just feel around for the food, so that didn’t work. I suppose I could turn the light off, but I haven’t; it might help a little, perhaps, and makes it easier to see things via the camera in there.

Two cats on the deck after dark:

Two cats on deck

A cat eating, when a raccoon turns up outside. The cat kept eating, then quickly evacuated when the raccoon got closer (there was no food left):

Cat eating, raccoon outside

I think this is the first time I’ve seen a rabbit on the camera:


Three cats waiting for breakfast:

Cats waiting for breakfast

The breakfast rush:

Breakfast rush

Four cats:

Four cats

Finally, some disappointed alien visitors. A small possum:


An orange cat:

Alien cat

A bigger possum:


A raccoon:


Duck house: cutting floor & walls

As mentioned in a previous post, I started work on building the duck house on Sunday. So far, I’ve just cut various pieces.

First up, the floor. Here you can see a 4×4’ square of plywood in the background, which will be the floor of the duck house, plus another full sheet of thinner plywood in the foreground, to be cut for a couple of walls:

Plywood floor for duck house

I want to use 2×2” boards for the corner studs, but don’t have any on hand, so I made some: I “ripped” (cut lengthwise) a couple of 2×4 boards to make 2x2s:

Ripped 2x4 stud

Here I used a chalk string line to mark where to cut the plywood for the roofline:

Chalk string lines marking roofline cuts

After cutting; there are actually two identical walls stacked here. These will be the front and back (aka west and east) walls:

Cut wall

The front wall with studs laid in position, and the duck door marked:

Wall with studs

Several cut pieces of plywood, including the front wall on top of the floor in the background, and the back wall, shelf, and dividers in the foreground:

Several pieces of plywood

Next weekend I’ll start assembling the pieces.

Chickens in the snow

The snow is melting, helped by the rain. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m ready for it to go.

Our chickens would prefer no snow too; they don’t like walking in it.

Here are a bunch of photos of the chickens in the snow, from yesterday and today:

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Duck house: plans

Today I start construction on my latest project, a small house for the ducks we’ll get in May, as mentioned in my first post on the ducks. Refer back to that for info about the ducklings we’ll be getting, and general info about my house design and where it’ll be located.

I thought I’d mark this occasion by doing an update with the latest plans.  Again, these were drawn on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, in the excellent Linea Sketch app.

Here’s the latest drawing of the external elevations. There are only a few minor changes from the first edition in that previous post; mostly that the duck door is a little higher, and the south wall vent door will now slide vertically, instead of hinging down:

Duck house plan

Having the vent slide vertically will allow more flexible opening sizes. It’ll be held at various heights by bolts that slot into holes on either side.

The updated top-down view. The main changes here are the aforementioned vent door, a pull-out inner floor, and a small hatch between the food cupboard and main area:

Duck house plan

The inner floor will just be another sheet of plywood on top of the base floor, that can be pulled out to aid cleaning, kinda like the poop tray in the chicken coop.

The new hatch could be used to toss in treats from the food cupboard, without having to open the north maintenance/cleanout door.  A little more convenient.

Here’s the side cross-section. The updates include the new hatch and inner floor:

Duck house plan

The inner floor will be on thin boards that will act as runners to reduce friction, and to prevent trapping moisture between the two layers.

A new drawing, showing a different cross section. This one shows inside the food cupboard, with the food jug and tube, the treat hatch, and the nesting boxes below:

Duck house plan

That is also a screenshot of the Linea app, showing the palettes. Such a great app.

Lastly, one more new drawing, showing 3/4” and 1/4” 8×4’ plywood sheets, and cutting plans for the various components. I may not stick to this, since I can probably cut many of the smaller pieces from leftover scraps from previous projects, but this shows that I can get all the bits I need from the sheets I have on hand:

Duck house plan

Let’s get started!

Cat update for week ending February 9

It’s a snowy Caturday!

We got a trace of snow last Sunday.  The area around the cat house is somewhat sheltered by trees:

Cat with trace snow

Looking across the small pond to the cat house, with a dusting of snow:

Cat house across the small pond

Lots of cat footprints in the snow on the path to the cat house:

Cat footprints

Another angle of the cat house through snow-covered branches:

Cat house with snow

A view from the driveway through the fountain garden, with the cat house visible through the trees in the middle:

Snowy landscape

Some snowflakes on a cat in the feeder:

Snow on cat

More snow overnight:

Cat in snow

A bird making poor life choices, snacking in the cat feeder; fortunately for it, nobody was home at the time (I do have bird feeders too):

Bird in feeder

Porcini looking from feeder:

Cat looking from feeder

Pommie with her tongue out, drinking from the heated water dish, about the only non-frozen water available:

Cat with tongue out

Cat tracks in the snow across the driveway:

Cat tracks in snow

The cat house with lots of cat footprints out front:

Cat house with cat tracks

The side of the cat house, through snowy trees:

Side of cat house

A cat on the front path, watching me:

Cat on front path

Just for fun, I made a couple of very rough mini-snowmen by the cat house.  Here a cat is poking at one:

Cat poking snowman

A rare sighting of a cat-head snowman:

Cat head above snowman

Three cats:

Three cats

Five cats toasty inside the heated shelter overnight. That makes me happy:

Five cats inside shelter

We had more snow overnight:

Cat in snow

Likely more snow on the way over the next few days, so there will probably be more snowy cat photos next week. Stay warm out there!

Berry cage: finished!

This post has been waiting for a few days to be published, since the blog has been busy with snow photos this week. Hence the lack of snow in these pictures. With the snow on the ground this week, it’s almost hard to remember what the place was like without snow!

I have now completed the berry cage project.

The last step was to replace the old fencing wire with the new, narrower gauge stuff.

So I started by removing the old wire:

Fence wire

I left the nails that were holding the old wire, so I could reuse them to attach the new wire:

Fence without wire

Here’s the berry cage portion of the fence without any wire:

Fence without wire

I could then add the bottom course of new welded wire. I also kept the second layer chicken wire at the bottom, which is to keep smaller animals like rabbits out of the garden:

Adding wire

Attaching the wire:

Adding wire

The bottom course completed. The wire curves out onto the ground, anchored by rocks, to avoid any gap at the bottom:

Adding wire

A close-up of the wire and nails after adding the second course:


The door area, with the completed fence:


The completed berry cage fence:

Finished berry cage

It is always very satisfying to complete a project. On to the next one!

Sunny snow

We haven’t had any more snow for a couple of days, but it’s been below freezing most of the time, so what’s here isn’t significantly melting. The forecast calls for more snow this weekend, so the current stuff will solidify into a layer of ice, with fresh snow on top.

Here are a few more snowy pictures, from yesterday and today.

Gobs of snow on a dogwood tree:

Snow on dogwood tree

Snow on the beehives, with icicles hanging off the roof. The snow is melting above the brown one in the foreground, which is a good sign of warm bees inside. It isn’t melting as much on the other hive, which may mean they aren’t doing so well, or the roof might just be a better insulator:

Snow on beehives

Looking up at the ceiling of the berry cage. It’s holding up nicely so far, though I worry about its capacity to cope with lots more snow. But I’m not going to try cleaning it off; I want to see what it can handle, and will repair later if needed:

Snow on berry cage

A close-up:

Snow on berry cage

Some interesting graupel patterns on the frozen pond:


The pond and snow-covered trees beyond:

Pond & trees

Me shoveling the snow from the driveway, so Jenn could go out (the car is parked inside the shop, for now, though she’ll start parking it in the breezeway next to the shop, so I can work on the duck house in there):

Clearing driveway

Snow shovel:

Clearing driveway

Icebergs sliding off the hoop house:

Snow sliding off hoop house

Morning sun through the trees:


Sparkly snow:

Sparkly snow

Frozen garden ornament, with the brown gazebo in the background:

Garden ornament

Interesting morning light, with sparkly snow, and snow-covered trees beyond the field:

Sparkly snow

Frozen small pond:

Frozen small pond

Hummingbird feeder heater

With the sub-freezing temperatures recently, I have hooked up my hummingbird feeder heater, so the hummers have some non-frozen sugar water to drink.

This consists of four parts: a thermostatically controlled outlet, a small waterproof heating pad, paperclips to attach to the feeder, and an extension cord to connect the outlet to the heater.

Here’s the thermo outlet, that switches on the power when the temperature drops below 35°F, and off when above 45°F, so the heater is only on when it’s cold enough to need it:

Thermal power outlet

And the heating pad, originally designed to heat engine blocks, held below the hummingbird feeder by paperclips:

Hummingbird feeder with heating pad

The heating pad gets really hot, enough to keep the sugar water liquid. I use the clips to avoid melting the plastic base of the feeder.

Here’s another angle:

Hummingbird feeder with heating pad

A customer on the feeder:

Hummingbird on heated feeder

It’s a bit of a hack, but it works really well.