Changed the website theme

I have changed the theme of the Yellow Cottage Homestead website to match the one I use for my Dejus blog. Mainly because I like that it shows large images, instead of wasting a lot of horizontal space on a sidebar.

The sidebar is still available; just click/tap the “hamburger” (three horizontal lines) in the upper-left corner of the page.

I removed the header images from both sites, since they just require extra work to scroll past. I would like to add some links below the header row, but haven’t figured out how to do that with this theme yet; I probably need to do more customizations.

Finally, I’ve also changed the background color on both sites, to help distinguish them; yellow for Yellow Cottage, green for Dejus. Not sure I’ll stick with that, since it’s a bit unusual, but we’ll see.

Bee tweaks

An update on my previous post about the bee hives: I said that we put the Ross round super on the pink hive, but later that same day we swapped it for a regular medium super, since we weren’t confident that the the Ross would work, and that hive was dangerously close to running out of room.

Good thing too, as we later realized that the reason it wasn’t being used was we’d forgotten to add the foundation:

D’oh! I guess we’ll try that again next year.

Yesterday, I added starter strips to two medium boxes of frames, just in case we needed them (spoiler: we didn’t, yet). A starter strip is a thin bit of wood that is glued into the top of the frame (they’re upside down in the pics below), to give the bees something from which to build the comb. I just ripped these strips from some scrap wood from the cat house project:

This morning, before it got too hot (though certainly hot enough even in ventilated bee suits), we did another quick inspection to see how they were doing.

Some good festooning on the new honey super; that is where the bees link legs to start forming the base of the comb off the starter strip:

Due to the extreme fire danger around here currently, we used a “liquid smoke” spray instead of the usual smoker:

We had a look at the Flow super (on the purple hive); definitely a bunch of honey in production, so we should be able to do one more harvest this year:

The hive that the Flow super is supposed to be on (that recently swarmed) is recovering nicely; a bunch of capped brood, showing the (presumably new) queen is doing her job:

Some honey, too; they’ll need every bit to survive the winter:

The bottom brood box on that hive has some activity, but not much, so we swapped the two boxes, to encourage them to populate it. Bees tend to work upwards, so it’s best to have empty boxes on top:

We’re nearing the end of the honey production season. We’ll probably remove the honey supers in early September, begin mite treatments, and let the bees build up their winter honey reserves.

More pictures of the feral cats

I’m still enjoying watching the feral cats using the new cat house, so thought I’d share some more pictures for others who also like that. Please let me know in comments (on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, or if you want to see more, or are sick of cat pics.

Here are three cats exploring inside the shelter after dark:

Poppy after eating:

Exploring the Cat House Saloon shelter in daylight hours:

Coming out of the shelter:

Traffic jam in the feeder:

Happy smile:

Still getting visits from the family of raccoons in the wee small hours:

Disappointed that the food wasn’t available yet at 05:17; I’ve just adjusted the timer to dispense breakfast at 05:00, since that’s when the cats start turning up for food:

A satisfied customer:

I hope you enjoyed those photos. I have lots more, and will continue to capture them from the cameras watching the cat house, if only for my own interest and future reference. No doubt I’ll post more periodically, but don’t want to overdo it.

Bee successes and failures

We did an inspection of the beehives today.

I’d noticed that the Flow hive was looking unusually quiet over the last few weeks, and when we looked at the frames, they were pretty much empty — very little honey or brood. But we did see the queen. So we think that the bees swarmed at some point. That is where the queen takes about half of the bees away to find a new home, and a new queen is hatched. That usually happens when they run out of space, so we may have triggered it by adding the Flow super too late, despite getting a couple of harvests from that. So not sure the timing makes sense.

Anyway, since this hive has basically reverted to a new hive, we took the Flow super off, and resumed feeding them.

The purple hive had a Ross round super on it, to make comb honey… but they hadn’t built any comb there for the past two inspections. So we replaced that super with the Flow one, to see if they prefer that. There’s certainly lots of activity in the purple hive.

Of the two new hives, the blue one has always been the weakest; it was much lighter when we got it, and it hasn’t improved. There are very few bees, and very little honey or brood. So that one probably won’t survive the winter. If it does fail, we’ll replace it next year.

The pink one, however, is doing really well. It was pretty much full of excellent brood and honey. Just look at these beautiful frames packed full of honey:

So we decided to try the Ross round super on that hive, to give them more space to expand into. We normally wouldn’t harvest honey from a first-year hive, but they’re doing so well, I think they could support it without endangering them. We’ll check next weekend to see if they start building comb in the super; if not, we might give them a regular box instead. Don’t want to risk them swarming.

Lots of bees on the outside, most of them queuing to come in, after Jenn scraped off excess comb:

Finally, a rare picture of me (David) in my bee suit:

Feral cats using the new cat house

Our little colony of feral cats have quickly taken to eating from the feeder in the new cat house. They aren’t living there yet, as expected, but I’m hopeful that once the weather gets cooler, and I plug in the heating pads, they’ll enjoy the warmth.

Here is the first cat to eat in the new feeder, the night of installation:

A couple of cats exploring inside the shelter:

Four at once:

Contented smile:

I was moving the old feeder towards the new location, with a breadcrumb trail of wet food dishes guiding the way, but since they very quickly found and explored the new house, I decided to accelerate the move.

Yesterday, I transferred the food dispenser into the new feeder, and discontinued the old one.

Here you can see the dispenser on the drawer:

With the drawer pushed into place, the dispenser is above the tube that leads to the food dish below. You can see storage of spare food, too, and the water dispenser below:

Here’s a view of the dispenser through the window. That’ll be handy to quickly see the level and such:

Yesterday evening, the cats had no problem eating from the new location:

Midnight snack:

The masked bandits found the feeder… but there was probably no (or very little) food left by then. The dispenser is safely out of reach:

Breakfast is dispensed at 06:00:

I do enjoy watching the cats, and hope they like their new restaurant, the Cat House Mercantile, and in due course move in to the Cat House Saloon.

Building a cat shelter: decorations, electrical, carpet, installation

The new cat house has now been completed and installed!

Where we last left the construction progress, I installed the windows, doors, and feeder.

Next, I worked on some decorative touches. Firstly I made some shutters for the windows:

But I had misgivings about them, since they’re a bit busy, and not particularly western-themed (based on pictures of old west buildings). So after trying them (without attaching):

Jenn and I decided it looked better without them:

I could always add them later if I change my mind.

I also added some decorations by the shelter entrance, including fake saloon doors, wagon wheels, and barrels (the latter two of which I got via Etsy). The barrels have a functional purpose too: they help hold the maintenance door in place:

A closer view of a wagon wheel and the barrels:

Next I added the two heating pads to the lower level of the shelter, plus a camera inside the shelter. The wires go inside the facades:

I added a power strip in the storage area of the feeder side:

The heating pads are now unplugged, since they don’t need extra warmth in these summer months, but I’ll re-connect them when it gets cooler.

All of the holes the cords go through are closed with screwed plywood panels:

Then I started adding carpeting to the floor and walls of the shelter:

The carpeting not only makes it more cozy inside, it also helps cover the wires for the heating pads. On the upper level, there are also a couple of thermal blankets, that reflect the heat of the cat:

That was the last step of the construction!

It was finally time to install it. As you may recall, I built the cat house in multiple pieces, so it could be moved from the workshop to the final location. We changed where we wanted it; originally it was going to be just below our deck, where the old shelter was. But the cats haven’t used that much of late, both because they didn’t need the heat as the weather has warmed up, and also they aren’t too keen on us and our dog Rory being nearby, as we enjoy the deck in the summer. They are still feral, after all.

So we decided to install it by our small pond. Still close enough to the house so they can pay their rent by taking care of mice etc, but hopefully far enough away to avoid crowding them. We’ll see!

Anyway, here we’ve brought over the facade and maintenance doors:

The floor, leveled and on concrete footings:

The walls, still sitting on the cart for transport:

Much appreciation to Jenn for her assistance in moving the heavy components!

The walls and roof added to the floor:

Fully assembled:

A slightly different angle:

The back:

The various components were then screwed together:

Very basic back steps; in the original location, they wouldn’t have needed steps here (since it sloped the opposite way), but now they do; I might build some nicer steps sometime, but this will do for now:

I moved the old shelter to next to the new cat house, as a hint for the cats. You can see how much more space they’ll have in their new digs:

Lastly, I moved the old feeder a little down the path. I’ll slowly move it towards the new shelter, to show the cats where it is. We’ll see how quickly they figure it out:

It’s exciting to have completed this project. Like with the chicken coop, I may have gotten a little carried away with my design… but I really like how it turned out. I started back in February this year, so it’s taken me about 5 months of part-time work. But it has been a fun hobby project.

Now I just hope that the cats approve. They may or may not move into the shelter for a while, but they’ll hopefully accept the feeder, and may enjoy the warmth of the shelter once the weather cools off.

Building a cat shelter: windows, doors, and feeder

More progress on the new cat house. (Previous post: roofing.)

I installed the Lexan clear plastic windows, the window trim, and decorative muntins:

I also installed cat doors in the front and back, plus ventilation grilles:

The vents can be closed in winter to keep it nice and toasty inside:

The cat door on the front is held open with a short bungee cord, to encourage the cats to enter. Eventually, once they get used to going through the door, the cord will be removed:

I installed the side door on the feeder part, with a continuous hinge, gate latch, and handle:

Inside the feeder, I installed a 2″ pipe to take the dry cat food from the dispenser to a metal dish (cake pan). Here you can see the tube (with excess pipe at the top) with the central shelf removed:

I made a drawer on top of the shelf, with notches for the tube:

Here’s the shelf re-installed, with the drawer pulled out. This will make it easy to refill the feeder:

The drawer pushed back in. I’ll store spare food in the space to the right:

Here you can see the nozzle of the food dispenser positioned above the end of the tube:

The food drops down the tube into the dish:

I also attached the signs to the facades with construction adhesive and screws from the back:

I added several roller catches to hold the front of the facades on:

I had planned to have the facades hinge down, but the roller catches seem to hold it securely, so I’ll just remove the front entirely when accessing inside the facades (which will be very rare; it’s basically just a conduit for power cords):

Here’s the (almost) completed front, with the windows, facades, signs, etc:

Front view:

The exterior is now basically complete, other than some decorative touches… which is probably the next step. It’ll be a week or two before I can get back to that, though. Stay tuned!