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!

Building a cat shelter: trim

Another weekend, another few hours on the cat shelter construction.

This was one of the last bits of primary building: adding decorative trim to the walls, to make them appear like board-and-batten siding.

But first, a rare photo of Pepper, one of the two feral cats that live in the workshop. Pepper lives high on a shelf in the front part, and Pansy lives in the back half:

As previously mentioned, I ordered some signs for the two parts of the structure. I actually got two custom signs from two different people, and decided on one pair that we preferred. Here’s the “Cat House Saloon” sign for the shelter, made by HarkenHomeWoodcraft on Etsy, temporarily resting in place:

And the “Mercantile” sign for the feeder:

A view of both signs:

Anyway, back to the trim work. I added 1×0.5″ boards (ripped from 1x2s) to the walls, glued and nailed in place, to simulate board-and-batten style siding:

On the front:

On the facade front:

The shelter maintenance door removed, to make it easier to add the trim on the bottom half:

The feeder side door & wall:

The front and side:

Another angle:

Peeking under the awnings; the boards laying on the deck are cut pieces for the window surrounds, so they can be painted before installing the windows:

Above the awnings:

Adding trim to the back of the facades:

And the back wall, which will probably not be visible, but still worth making look nice:

I shoved the roof forward to make it easier to do the back wall; like many other parts, the roof will remain removable until installation:

That’s basically it for the woodwork. Next up is caulking and painting.

Building a cat shelter: facades

Over the weekend I got back to working on the new cat house, in between planting trees, bee inspections, and other stuff.

This time, I built the facades at the top of the front wall, to help give it an old-west theme.

As you may recall, the structure is divided into two sides: the shelter on the left, and the feeding station on the right. So the facades reflect this, suggesting two separate (but joined) buildings, with a squared two-step facade on the shelter side, and a triangle facade on the feeder side.

Here are the back and sides:

Some interior framing added to the top:

Behind the facades is a metal roof-to-wall flashing, that will sit on top of the roofing shingles. The wall side was roughly cut with a reciprocating saw:

The rough edge of the flashing is hidden behind another layer of plywood:

Top 8×1 boards:

Front view with the top boards in place:

Like other parts of the structure, the facades can be removed, to make installation easier. It’ll be screwed into place. Here, I’m adding more bracing:

Added some corner trim:

Back view, showing trim under the top boards:

The entire front of the facades is a door that will hinge downward, to provide access to the cavity within, which will house wires and power supplies for the cameras and heating pads.

Here I added trim to the door:

The center of each facade will contain a custom sign purchased via Etsy; more on those in the future.

The door clamped in place:

A view of the whole structure:

Another angle:

The basic structure is now mostly complete; all that remains before it can be painted is some decorative trim work. There’s still a fair bit to do: painting, roofing, door hardware, some decorative touches, and more.

New beehives

We started keeping bees last year, with two hives. Those hives have survived the winter, and should be able to provide some honey this year. We don’t harvest honey the first year, as they need to build up the colony, and have reserves to take them through the cold months when they can’t forage.

Anyway, we have now added two more hives.

I built a second hive stand a few weeks ago, and installed it yesterday; see the photo of the day on my personal blog.

Then this morning we drove out to Ruhl Bee Supply in Wilsonville to pick up two nucs — nucleus hives that each contain four frames of small established colonies:

Once home, we took our new hive boxes etc out to our apiary (bee yard):

Jenn then started transferring the nuc frames into the boxes:

Inspecting each frame:

A full brood box: four nuc frames in the middle, two empty frames on either side for them to expand into:

Some bees left in the nuc box, which we tipped on top of the hive:

Putting the inner cover and top cover on:

Installing the second hive:

The little black squares on the corners are mite treatments, to protect the bees from a common parasite:

The hives closed up, with 2:1 sugar syrup feeders in front:

We briefly opened the older hives to add mite treatment to them, too:

Our expanded apiary:

A bit more snow

So much for spring; we got about an inch of snow overnight.

The feral cats are used to it by now:

The bees probably aren’t too thrilled, but have been pretty active recently, working on restoring their supplies, so will probably stay bundled up for now:

The chicken coop:

The white gazebo; the pond is still liquid: it hasn’t been cold enough to freeze:

The brown gazebo and coop:

Second beehive stand

A simple mini-project for the weekend was to build another stand for the two new beehives we’ll be setting up soon. We’ll be picking up two more nucs (nucleus hives) mid-April, so have bought more hives, and needed a stand for them to sit on. I used the same design as the first one.

Here’s the basic frame; the spacing is perfect both for the hive boxes, and to rest frames temporarily during inspections (e.g. see an empty frame towards the back of this picture):

Legs; the middle legs are shorter than the corner ones, as they will sit on taller footing blocks (for reasons; stay tuned for the installation for why):

Some hive bases demoing the fit. As with the first hive stand, there’s room in the middle for a third hive. We’ll likely add another one on each of the stands next year:

Jenn has been painting the new hive boxes fun colors: