Planting the front garden

Another garden project was to plant our front garden. It used to have a tall hemlock tree, but it died and had to be cut down several years ago — some large rounds of that remain at the back of the garden. We had a grand plan to add a stream and such, so left it empty for years awaiting that, but we finally decided to not bother with that, and do a simpler design.

Here’s the garden cart with the green Japanese maple tree, barberry, nandina, and Japanese forest grass, plus the empty garden:

Cart with plant and empty garden

We planted the Japanese maple tree in the center of the garden, then laid out the other plants around it:

Laying out plants

While Jenn did the planting, I installed irrigation pipes and emitters. Here’s the result:

Planted and irrigated

Manual water timer:

Water timer

Another angle, showing an overview of the finished plants and irrigation; the pipes will eventually be hidden under bark:

Plants and irrigation

A closer look; irrigation for the green Japanese maple:

Plants and irrigation

Wide-angle irrigation for three triangles of Japanese forest grass:

Plants and irrigation

Individual irrigation for barberry and nandina plants:

Plants and irrigation

The view from my office window upstairs:

View from my office window

Much nicer than the empty garden!

We might add a few more plants to fill in some holes. And as mentioned, later we’ll add a layer of bark to give it a finishing touch.

Preparing the veggie garden

Yesterday I evicted the chickens from our fenced vegetable garden, and prepared it for planting — which Jenn subsequently did.

Here’s a wide-angle photo of the veggie garden as the chickens left it, mostly bare of plants (and dirt strewn everywhere):

Fallow veggie garden

I started with a layer of homemade compost, from the three old plastic compost bins:


Here’s the veggie garden with piles of compost:

Veggie garden with compost

Then a layer of soil on top:

Veggie garden with soil

And with some of the beds planted:

Veggie garden with plants

There are tomatoes in this bed, plus some sunflowers in the potato planters on the right (we’re not going to bother with potatoes this year):


Pumpkin and zucchini in here (a few chickens visible in their run in the background):

Pumpkin and zucchini

Finally, tomatillos, jalapeño, cherry tomato:

Tomatillos, jalapeño, cherry tomato

We’ll probably add some more sunflowers in the fourth bed, plus some lettuce and kale (which are primarily as treats for the chickens).

The plants are all very small at present, but they’ll grow fast!

Cat update for week ending May 8

This Caturday is a bit of a yawn… two yawns, actually. And some fun GIFs and such.

Porcini peeking at me from a cabin:

Porcini peeking from a cabin

Two cats at the cat house:

Two cats

A GIF of Porcini jumping onto the camera housing:


Porcini looking up at birds in a tree:

Porcini looking up

A GIF of Porcini looking around:


Pommie in mid yawn:


Here’s a GIF of her yawning:


The twins, Spud and Pommie:


Porcini watching me from under a tree:

Porcini under a tree

A GIF of Paladout next to the cat house, when another cat runs by. I’m not sure who was more startled:


Bella chilling on the deck:


Another yawn, this time Porcini:


Three cats at the cabins; Spud, Porcini, and Pommie:

Three cats

Flock Friday for May 7

For Flock Friday this week, an assortment of chicken and duck pictures, plus more of nesting ducks and broody chickens.

Let’s start with some pictures of the chickens:





And ducks:







Here’s Betty nesting on her clutch of eggs in the duck house:

Duck house

Sonja has also started laying some eggs in a different nesting box:

Duck house

Two of Sonja’s eggs:

Duck eggs

Yesterday I needed to refill the duck food dispenser (the jug at the top of the feeder tube), so had an opportunity to peek at Betty:

Duck food and Betty

I try not to disturb her too much, as she huffs like she’s stressed when I open the door, unsurprisingly. But she relaxes after a few seconds once she realizes I’m not a threat to her nest:

Betty nesting


Betty nesting

Some of the chickens want in on the fun; there are currently three broody chickens… though they’re wasting their time, since we haven’t had a rooster in years, so the eggs are unfertilized:

Broody chickens

Broody chicken

Bee shed: finishing touches

Yesterday I finished work on the bee shed project!

I started by digging a small ditch on the uphill sides, mounding dirt against the base of the walls, so rain will be diverted around the shed, instead of seeping under the walls:


I then scraped off the worst excess of the expanding foam filler.

I mentioned last time that I wasn’t entirely happy with the top panel of the door, so next I replaced it with a clear panel, and caulked it:

Replaced top panel of door

The caulk goes on white, but cures to clear, so it’ll be less visible once dry:


I may need to top up the caulk once it has cured, if I missed any spots.

Here are the finished walls and door; you can also see scraped off filler foam on the ground, which I cleaned up later:

Finished walls and door

To make it easier to close the door from inside, I added a handle on the inside of the door:

Handle on inside of door

It’s easy to lift the latch to open the door from inside.

The door wall from inside:

Inside door wall

The next step was to finish the shelving, with plywood panels:


Cutting shelving:

Cutting shelving

The completed shelving:



Looking in from the doorway:


Open door:

Open door

I could then move the hive feeders, boxes, lids, etc onto the shelves; I’ll move more equipment from the workshop in due course:

Hive boxes on shelves

Hive lids on shelves

The last step (other than removing the wood scraps and tools) was to install a mirror. These are reflective self-adhesive plastic sheets; not as smooth a reflection as a glass mirror, but safer, and good enough:


The reason for a mirror in the bee shed is to help put on our bee suits in there. Though it’s fairly likely we’ll continue to put on the suits in the back of the workshop, as the bees can be a bit aggressive after an inspection, so getting some distance from the hives before taking off the suits is usually preferred.

Here’s me in the mirror, in my work overalls and hat; definitely some distortion, but not too egregious:

David in mirror

That concludes the bee shed project! I may do some minor tweaks, like touching up the caulking, but it’s basically done now. It will be a more convenient location for our beekeeping equipment, no longer needing to lug hive boxes etc on a cart from the shop, or going back to the shop to grab something in the hot bee suit.

Our cat graveyard

Earlier this year wasn’t a good time for our cats; we had three cats die within a few weeks. Back in March, we lost the mother of the outdoor feral cats, Poppy. Then in early April, we lost Pepper, one of the two feral shop cats. And a few days later, our elderly pet Pippin rapidly declined.

We buried each of them in the little cat graveyard near our pond, around some grasses that were planted in memory of an earlier cat, Pixel, who loved them. Each of our cats is memorialized with an engraved stone:

Cat graveyard near the pond

It’s appropriately below a weeping willow. There used to be a katsura tree and catmint there too (yes, puns), but the deer destroyed those.

A closer look at the cat graveyard, with the three recent graves and others:

Cat graveyard

Cat graveyard

Here are all of the stones, from the most recent. Our pet cat Pippin, 2007-2021, buried next to his littermate Padmé:

Pippin 2007-2021

The shop cat Pepper, 2015-2021:

Pepper 2015-2021

The feral momma cat Poppy, 2016-2021:

Poppy 2016-2021

A non-engraved stone for a black alien cat that someone hit crossing the road in 2018:

Black alien cat

Pippin’s sister Padmé, 2007-2016:

Padmé 2007-2016

Our last cat from NZ, Pixel, 1999-2013; he was our oldest cat, which was remarkable since he had diabetes and insulin shots for half his life:

Pixel 1999-2013

Our first cat (who also came with us to the US, though isn’t actually buried here), Piwhacket, 1994-2007:

Piwhacket 1994-2007

It’s always sad to lose a cat, whether pet or feral. Giving them a respectful burial and memorial stone gives some sense of closure.

Cat update for week ending May 1

Happy Caturday to you! This week, some fun GIFs of the cats, several pictures of Porcini as usual, some of Paladout, and cat feet.

Here’s a GIF to start off; Spud walking between the cabins occupied by Porcini and Pommie:

Cats GIF

A still from that of the three cats:

Three cats

Porcini having a drink of water:




Spud (or Pommie? I still can’t always tell) and Paladout:

Spud and Paladout

A GIF of Porcini and Pommie arriving and going into cabins:

Cats GIF

A time-lapse GIF of a couple of cats playing around the cat house:

Cats GIF

A GIF of going up and over the cat house:

Cats GIF

Pommie (I think) and a rare Bella sighting; Portabella doesn’t sleep in the cat house or cabins, only turning up for food:

Two cats

Two cats

I spotted Porcini near a backyard path:


Porcini and Paladout:

Porcini and Paladout

Spud and Porcini:

Two cats

Porcini watching birds from the front steps:






Spud in the breezeway:

Spud in the breezeway

Finally, a relaxed Porcini in the cat house: