Cat update for week ending April 27

Welcome to another Caturday. Some new alien cat sightings this week!

But first, a relaxed cat inside the shelter:

Relaxed cat

Even more relaxed:

More relaxed cat

Perhaps too relaxed — almost fell off, but scrambled up:

Too relaxed cat

On to the parade of aliens.  Firstly, the alien gray cat (with a collar) we’ve seen before:

Alien gray cat

A new alien cat; at first glance looks like one of our ferals, but is a bit larger, and doesn’t have they ear-tip marking as a fixed feral:

New alien cat

A possum:


A raccoon:


The orange cat:

Orange cat

Speaking of, the orange cat went inside the shelter, and was followed by a possum. They had a bit of an encounter, and the orange cat chased off the possum:

Orange cat vs possum

Another new alien cat:

New alien cat

There certainly are a lot of cats in the area!  We keep our two pet cats (Pippin and Paladin) indoors, for their safety, but it seems many of our neighbors don’t.  Growing up in New Zealand, it was standard to have cat doors and let them go outside at will, but there are a lot more dangerous wildlife in the US. Not only the possums and raccoons, but coyotes and several others.

The outdoor ferals are a different case; they grew up outside; it is their home. But they have a much more dangerous life. I do what I can to make it more comfortable for them, by providing the heated shelter and feeder.

Anyway, enough seriousness; let’s have some cuteness. A peeking cat:

Peeking cat

Porcini was early for breakfast:


Four cats at breakfast time (one is mostly hidden behind the others):

Four cats

A cat nose from above the camera housing:

Cat nose

Four cats:

Four cats

Mirror images:

Mirror images

Three cats outside. Can’t see the third? look in the field to the left of the cat house:

Three cats

New bees

We picked up two nucs early this morning, from a bee farm half an hour away.  Nucs are nucleus hives; a box with fully established frames, including a queen, workers, some honey stores, and brood growing.

In this case, the nucs were in cardboard boxes, each with five frames.

Here’s Jenn transferring the frames from the first nuc box to their new home, the orange hive (named for the base color). The hive box has three extra frames for them to expand into, for a total of eight:

Bee nuc

The bees were not in a good mood, probably due to being shaken around on the journey, and the liquid smoke wasn’t working. One stung Jenn on the side of her hand through the thin gloves she was wearing.

Here’s the new hive installed, with a sugar syrup feeder, and a pollen patty inside. The nuc box was left in front, so the bees remaining in there can find the hive:

Bees installed

Jenn put on thicker gloves and fired up the smoker for the second nuc. Here she’s looking at a frame while transferring it into the hive:

Bee frame

Another frame, in a cloud of smoke:

Bee frame

The second hive was easier; the smoke really helps. Here Jenn tipped out most of the remaining bees from the box:

Tipping out bees

Both hives (all four, actually) have a pollen patty to help feed the bees:

Pollen patty

The new orange and purple hives:

New hives

All four hives:

Four hives

Four hives

Duck house: vinyl tiles

A small update on the duck house project: adding stick-on vinyl tiles.

Although the entire duck house (inside & out) is painted with exterior paint, I thought I’d add vinyl tiles to the floors and base of the walls to make it even more waterproof, since ducks are very damp.

I chose self-adhesive vinyl tiles that have a beachy look, to fit the theme of the duck house.

Here I’m adding them to the inner floor, marking where they need to be cut on the backing paper:

Stick-on vinyl tiles

The tiles are in nesting boxes too:

Vinyl tiles in nesting boxes

And the base of the walls:

Vinyl tiles in duck house

Here’s the inner floor in place; both floor levels are tiled:

Vinyl tiles in duck house

Other than a few minor tweaks, that concludes the construction of the duck house!

Next up: some earth moving at the pond edge where it’ll be installed.

Bee inspection & treatment

Yesterday we did another beehive inspection and mite treatment.

Here’s the yellow hive pulled apart to inspect and treat the bottom brood box:

Pulling apart beehive

A bunch of bees on top of some frames:

Bees on top of frames

Jenn inspecting a frame:

Jenn inspecting a frame

A closer look at at that frame, which has lots of capped honey on the sides, and uncapped honey in the middle:

Closer look at honey

Inspecting another frame, with a practice queen cup aka swarm cell visible hanging off the bottom. If the bees ran out of room, they’d use these to grow a new queen, and the old queen would take half of the bees and go find somewhere else to live, aka swarming. The bees make these as an insurance policy when things are going well, so isn’t usually anything to worry about:


We did see the queens for both hives, which was gratifying. Though I didn’t get good pictures of either.

A bunch of bees on the edge of a frame:


Inspecting a frame with a lot of drone brood (the lumpy cells):

Drone brood

And a frame with worker brood (the flatter cells):

Worker brood

A closer look at bees on a frame:


Smoke across the top to get the bees to go down, so we can add another box without squashing them:


We added a queen excluder and the Flow super, to start collecting some honey.  It’ll probably take them a while to start up there, since they have space below, but it’s good to make sure they have plenty of room when there is good nectar flow:

Added Flow super

Bee closeup:

Bee closeup

Another closeup; you can clearly see the pollen sacs:

Bee closeup

Cat update for week ending April 20

It’s that time of the week again!

Three cats arrive for dinner:

Three cats arrive

They often travel in groups, though can be independent too. I sometimes see one run ahead, then wait for another to catch up. Cats get a reputation for being solitary creatures, but they are really social ones, on their own terms.

Porcini waiting for breakfast, with a smile on her face:

Waiting for breakfast

Four cats inside, enjoying the heating pads:

Four cats inside

A couple of cats looking out the back door (which they only use as an emergency exit):

Looking out the back door



The alien orange cat arrives, with a cat peeking out the door of the shelter:

Orange cat

They exchange words at the entrance of the shelter, before the orange cat departs:

Orange cat encounter

Hey look, more snuggles:


Pansy in the back of the shop, reaching for food:

Pansy reaching for food

A cat watches as a deer walks past; there were several in the field, too:


One cat eating, looking back at another cat arriving:

Arriving cat

Me mowing the field near the cat house. No cats home at the time, unsurprisingly:


Pepper walking over floor joists of the duck house (I did leave a clear path next to it, which she usually uses):

Pepper walking over floor joists

Can we have too many snuggles? I think not:


Scratching; I did recently give the cats a flea treatment in their food, though only one or two of them ate it; it’s hard to ensure they all get a dose, so all I can do is put it out and hope it helps:


Chicken coop tap repair

Sometimes the pipes for the garden taps will freeze or get cracked over winter, despite turning off the water supply and draining them. I often don’t discover that until I turn the water on again in the spring.

So, when I turn on the water, I examine each tap (we have lots) to see if there’s any leakage. This year, the only damage was from the two-headed taps next to the new chicken coop, which had cracks in the top of the vertical pipe, and above the T-junction:

Burst pipe

So yesterday I removed the damaged portion:

Cut pipe

Then replaced it with new pipe bits (reusing the taps):

Repaired pipe

Here’s a view a bit further back, showing the pipe cutter, silicone tape, primer, and cement (and my plumbing toolbox):

Plumbing tools

Duck house: electrical & floor joists

A little more on the duck house project: electrical stuff, and floor joists.

I added a strip of LED lights to the central ceiling beam, plus a temporary heat lamp for the first few weeks of the ducklings:

LED lighting & heat lamp

The heat lamp is only needed when the ducklings are very young; they need about 95°F for the first few days, dropping about 5° per week until fully feathered. The lamp is red as that keeps them more calm.

I tested the heat lamp temperature with a couple of thermometers, to measure the temperature directly under the lamp, and a bit further away:

Testing heat lamp

I mounted the power strip and the timer for the LED lights in the cupboard. There’s another mount point for the timer for the pond pump (which is currently outside). The power strip also has an Eero Beacon to help extend the Wi-Fi range to the duck house (for the camera). The wires aren’t arranged tidily yet; I’ll add some hooks to make them a bit tidier later:

Electrical stuff

Next, I built the floor joists; beams that will go under the floor, resting on concrete footing blocks:

Floor joists

The cutout in the foreground is to allow for the plywood panel that the maintenance door roller catches are mounted on.

I also included an angled mount point for the ramp from the duck door into the pond, which will be added later:

Ramp mount

The ramp mount is angled at 20°, which seems a nice gentle slope, but I can tweak that when installing the ramp if necessary.

The ducks won’t be able to go into the pond until they’re old enough to swim without limits, so I could add the ramp after they’re living there, though will probably do it after installing the duck house.

Next up: vinyl floor tiles (I would have done that first, but they were only just delivered).

Duck house: roofing

Next on the duck house project: roofing.

But first, a delivery of materials from Home Depot:

Delivery of materials

This was mostly lumber for future projects, but also stuff needed for the duck house, including roofing shingles, drip edge flashing strips, and treated lumber.

The projects, from left to right, are: greenhouse shelving (some of the 1x2s, plus some spare), spare 2x4s (handy to have), duck house floor joists (treated 2x4s), duck house ramp (treated 2x6s, though most are spare), and bridge over the waterfall stream to the duck house (2x10s and some 2x4s):


When I get a delivery, I always order more than I need, to allow for errors, replenish my stocks, and make the most of the delivery (since they charge a flat fee no matter how much I get). Fun fact: this was the first order from Home Depot for the duck house; all the plywood and boards I used to build it were stuff I already had on hand, spare from the cat house project.

Speaking of plywood, here’s the roof again, back on top:

Roof plywood

The first step for roofing is to add tar paper (also on hand from the chicken coop and cat house projects):

Roofing paper

Then the new drip edge flashing strip; it goes under the paper at the bottom, but over on the sides, so any moisture that reaches this level can run off:

Drip strip

Me attaching the drip strip with my air roofing nailer:

Me attaching drip strip

Next is a starter strip, which is an asphalt strip with an adhesive backing, which helps secure the bottom course of shingles:

Starter strip

On to the asphalt shingles, installed at 6.5″ offsets:

Roofing shingles

One side of the roof done:

Roofing shingles

I actually did the roof and the awning simultaneously, but I’ve grouped them separately for the blog post. So let’s take a look at the awning process, which is like a mini version of the roof.

Firstly the roofing paper:

Awning roofing paper

Awning drip strip:

Awning drip strip

Starter strip:

Awning starter strip

First course of shingles:

Awning shingles

Second course, trimmed a bit at the back:

Awning shingles

The third course is much shorter:

Awning shingles

Finally, I used construction adhesive to attach the trim board at the back of the awning, which hides the nails and prevents water from getting under them at the back:

Finished awning

Here’s me attaching the trim (with the air compressor and hose in the foreground):

Attaching trim

Back to the roof, the final step was the ridge cap, a series of small overlapping shingles along the peak of the roof:

Roof ridge cap

For the last shingle to cover the nails, I used construction adhesive to hold it in place. Once the roof is exposed to sun, the black sealant strips will melt and seal the shingles together, but this will suffice in the meantime:

Last shingle

To hold it in place, I used a bag of cat litter as a weight:


The roofing is now done! That was quicker than I had expected… I guess prior experience, and the right tools, makes all the difference.

Let’s take a look around it; from the northwest corner:

Roofing done

The northeast corner:

Roofing done

The southeast corner:

Roofing done

Finally, the southwest corner:

Roofing done

Next up: vinyl floor tiles for extra waterproofing inside (ducks are damp!), and electrical outfitting. Definitely getting much closer to being done! Good thing, too; it needs to be finished, installed, and ready in about a month.

Duck house: hardware

More progress on the duck house project.

I painted the underside of the floor. It won’t be seen, but the paint will help protect it from ground moisture:

Painting bottom

And painted under the awning:

Painting under awning

Righting it again, captured by the duck (aka Pepper) cam:


We bought a custom-painted sign from Etsy, from the same person that did the chicken coop sign. The sign says “The Boonducks, est. 2019”, with yellow duck images. Jenn chose that as the name of the duck house, as a duck pun on “boondocks”, since the duck house will be in the area of the homestead we refer to as “beyond the pond” or “the back 40”. I also installed the duck door opener:

The opener with the door closed:

Opener with door closed

The opener with the door open:

Opener with door open

Pepper strolling past the duck house while I was having lunch:


I then stapled wire hardware cloth over the two vents:

Attaching hardware cloth

Here’s the hardware cloth on big vent:

Hardware cloth on vent

And the hardware cloth on the small vent above the maintenance doors:

Hardware cloth on vent

The view from outside:

Hardware cloth on vents

The big vent closed:

Vent closed

Partially open:

Vent partially open

A closer view of the vent and cover, showing the bolt and holes to enable opening to various levels:

Closer view of vent

The power cord cover, which is held in place with small tabs:

Cable cover

Next up was attaching hardware to the doors, starting with the small treat door; hinges, handle, and a roller catch to hold it closed:

Treat door

The same for the two cupboard doors; it has roller catches mounted under the shelf. I’m not going to add a bolt or gate latch on these doors, unless the roller catches prove inadequate (raccoons can be very clever, but I think this should be sufficient):


Attaching the four maintenance doors:

Attaching maintenance doors

Me attaching the maintenance doors:

Attaching maintenance doors

The maintenance doors installed and closed:

Maintenance doors closed

They are in four parts to allow a variety of access. Here’s one maintenance door open, by undoing one bolt, enabling a quick peek or dropping in treats etc:

One maintenance door open

The top two maintenance doors open, by undoing two bolts, which will be useful when the ducklings are young, preventing them from escaping:

Top maintenance doors open

The left two maintenance doors open as a single unit, by leaving their bolt closed, and just undoing the lower bolt. This will be useful for quickly reaching eggs not in the nesting boxes (ducks tend to lay anywhere… though admittedly so do our chickens):

Left maintenance doors open

All four maintenance doors open, enabling full access for cleaning out etc:

All maintenance doors open

I then put the inner floor in place, added the waterer, and installed the camera mount. Here’s the view from the camera:

Camera view

The camera & waterer, with the doors closed, and wires routed via hooks into the cupboard:

Camera & waterer

Next up: roofing!