Measuring tree heights

Every year at this time I wander around the property measuring the heights of select trees, to see how much each has grown. Here’s a post about this last year.

Once again, the incremental growth throughout the year becomes more obvious when compared with measured heights from the previous year.

Here’s my spreadsheet recording the heights (in inches):

As you can see, some trees didn’t survive, and some got shorter (due to damage by deer), but many grew quite significantly.

Here are a few examples, in the same order as last year’s post; compare to last time to see the growth.

Firstly, the Sweet Gum:

The “behind white gazebo fir”:

The weeping willow is looking really good:

A field leyland:

The coral bark maple:

Cat update: various vistors

Another week, another cat update! Yay!

This past week had visits from the raccoons and possum on most nights, as usual, plus the alien gray cat, and a new alien orange cat.

Firstly, here are a couple of our feral cats in the feeder, disappointed at the lack of food. I remotely dispensed more shortly afterwards:

Three outside:

Post-eating nap inside:

Watching a bird:

As mentioned, the raccoons have visited on some of the nights; about every second one on average. Usually they’re disappointed to find nothing, or only crumbs:

Too close!

The possum visits most nights… and once lucked out with lots of food, when few cats had turned up during the day. It can be hard to get the balance of food right, when the cats are inconsistent in how often they turn up to eat:

Looking at the camera:

Three inside:

Enjoying a morning sunbeam:

Spud on our front steps, where the feeder used to be:

Stretch!

The gray cat visited a couple of times. The first time, nobody else was around:

But the second time, two of our ferals were enjoying afternoon snuggles inside:

One of the ferals went to investigate, and there was some disagreement. The gray cat felt trapped in the feeder:

Here’s a screenshot of the encounter from my iPad:

As usual with alien encounters, there was some hissing and posturing, some threatening eye contact, some ignoring each other, then they separated without coming to blows.

But wait, there’s more! We also had a surprise new visitor; an orange cat that we hadn’t seen before:

Fortunately, nobody else was home at the time:

Finally, let’s conclude this week’s cat post with a funny pic:

Bee inspection: third treatments and purple problem

We did the last varroa mite treatments today, following up from last week.

This hive (which we might call the yellow hive, after its base) is doing really well:

A bunch of bees on top of the frames in the Flow hive, which has recovered impressively from its earlier swarm:

The purple hive, however, is causing us much concern. It was doing really well, our strongest hive, but seems to have collapsed; there are now hardly any bees, no sign of a queen, lots of brood cells that look dead, and wasps stealing from it:

The top box was pretty much empty, so we decided to remove it, so the surviving bees can consolidate in one box:

It’s quite possible that the purple hive won’t survive the winter. They do have a bunch of honey stored, possibly enough for the reduced number of bees, so if they can make a new queen (if it has in fact lost its queen), they could rebuild. But we didn’t see any queen cells, so aren’t sure what’s going on. We’ll keep a close eye on it.

Chicken coop pop door opener

Recently the pop door opener for the old chicken coop stopped working. The pop door is the small door that enables the chickens to go from the coop to their run. It has a door that slides closed at night (on a light sensor), and open in the morning.

So, I purchased a replacement.

One likely factor in the failure of the old opener was that the cord went through the wall then horizontal then vertical, via three pulleys. This complicated system would have put more strain on the motor. Plus, I had a fairly heavy pop door. Here’s the old system, when it was first installed (in January 2016; wow, seems much longer ago):

So in addition to replacing the opener, I simplified the cord system. It still goes through the wall, since the light sensor needs to be outside, but there are now only two pulleys, on a more direct path. Here’s the inside of the new opener, and the pulley above the hole in the wall:

The opener control panel, awaiting installation:

Installed control panel:

On the inside, the hole and second pulley:

The cord now goes straight down from the hole:

The wooden door is also more lightweight now; thick plywood instead of solid wood. Not quite as secure, but should still suffice.

I expect this new setup should last much longer.

Backyard Poultry magazine article

I wrote an article that appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine, describing the chicken coop I designed and built last year.

The article covers six pages, most of it my photos. There’s an excerpt available online, but the article is only available to subscribers of the magazine.

You can see more of the coop on the Yellow Cottage Homestead blog; if you prefer, you can filter to see only chicken-related posts, or alternatively look at only posts about the chicken coop.

Cat update: just cuteness

I mentioned in the cat update last week how a possum and raccoons had an encounter, and that I’ve been tweaking the food levels via the new food dispenser to try to ensure the food dish is empty overnight, to discourage the unwelcome visitors. Well, that has been going pretty well in the past week. The possum and/or raccoons still turn up most nights, but so far have been successfully disappointed by an empty dish, and quickly departed. I’ll keep on that; hopefully they’ll catch a clue in due course.

Not much else to report this week. The weather has been more cool and rainy, so several of the cats have been spending more time in the dry comfort of the heated shelter.

Enjoy a bunch of cute cat pictures:

Three cats in the shelter:

Tracking a bug:

Three cats outside:

Kisses inside:

One eating, one looking out the shelter window:

One upstairs, two downstairs (on the heating pads):

Looking at the camera:

Lick:

Sleepy snuggles:

Porcini outside:

Normally the cats are out-and-about during the day, but Porcini spent most of the day yesterday curled up in the shelter, and most of last night too:

Looking at the camera:

Breakfast rush:

Freaking out a little when the food dispenser activates (but they’re slowly getting used to it, and coming running when they hear the noise):

A still of playing outside; see the YouTube video for a fun (silent) movie of them playing:

I hope you enjoyed these pictures.

Bee inspection: second treatments and mowing

The varroa mite treatments that we started last week are a three-week process, so we inspected and treated the beehives again this weekend.

Here’s Jenn using the smoker:

We had used a “liquid smoke” spray the last couple of times, due to wildfire danger, but it really didn’t work as well as real smoke… and we’ve had lots of rain recently, so aren’t so worried about wildfires at present. (Of course, we’re always very careful not to put the hot smoker on dry grass, etc.)

In the following picture, you can see the mite treatments at the top: the small black rectangles on the corners. In the foreground you can see bees enjoying pollen patties, one of the two feeding options, as mentioned before:

A shot of us working on the hives, from the camera I recently set up by the hives:

It was fascinating to see bright orange pollen on the bees:

Here’s a closer look at a bee with full pollen sacs:

The grass in front of the hives was getting quite long, so we decided to mow it. I don’t have any problem mowing behind the hives without a bee suit, but mowing right in their flight path seems a bit more risky, so I decided to take advantage of wearing the bee suit for the inspection to do that mowing:

I didn’t notice too much interest in me, but Jenn said she saw some bees following me, so the suit was probably a wise precaution, especially having been stung last week (which was uncomfortable for a few days, but almost back to normal now).

Here’s a shot from further away:

Much tidier: