Berry cage: holes & materials

Yesterday I started work on a new construction project that I planned a month or two ago: a berry cage in the vegetable garden.

We have a large fenced veggie garden, with multiple raised beds. Some of the beds include blueberries, strawberries, etc, which are targets for birds. Plus we let our chickens into the veggie garden after we’re done with it in fall/winter, so they can clear out the foliage and weeds. But we don’t want them grazing the berries to the ground.

So, I’m building an enclosure: a fence to split the back four beds of the veggie garden from the rest, a wire roof to keep out birds, and gates. This kind of enclosure is commonly called a berry cage.

I started work on this project by measuring the positions for the poles, cutting the fabric on the ground, and hand-digging out the top gravel layer:

I then used my earth auger to dig the holes, about 2′ deep:

Thusly:

I also dug to expose the pipe for this tap at the back of the garden, as it will be moved. I’m going to put a new gate there, to make it easier to get from the veggie garden to the new greenhouse:

Here’s a view of the back part of the garden. The holes in the foreground will be where the front gate of the berry cage will be:

This morning, I received the delivery from Home Depot of the materials:

Several rolls of welded wire fencing, a heap of 8′ and 10′ posts and boards, and gate hardwire:

A closer look at the lumber. The big untreated boards are for a new garden bed in the berry cage:

Stay tuned for construction progress. Next weekend I’ll re-stack this lumber (I need the posts at the bottom first!), cut the back gate, and start installing the posts and beams.

Should be fun.

Chicken grazing box repair

Believe it or not, we have more than just feral cats at the homestead, despite them being a popular topic of my blog posts.

We also have chickens, and I recently did a minor repair of their grazing box. This is a wood and hardware cloth (wire) cover over some grass, to enable the grass to grow without being pecked to the ground by the chickens. They can nibble on the tips that grow above the wire.

Some of the wires had come loose at one end:

So I snipped off that panel and replaced it with fresh hardware cloth, nailed down with U-shaped nails:

Here’s the whole thing:

Just a simple little repair.

Greenhouse assembly

Over the weekend (and a bit elsewhen) I assembled a small greenhouse purchased from Amazon.

Here are a sequence of images taken from about the same position, showing the assembly (with more detailed pics following):

Let’s go back to the beginning. Here’s the 90 lb package:

I built a foundation out of treated posts I had on hand (concrete would have been better, but this should be fine):

I secured the posts to the ground with some heavy-duty metal spikes:

The base of the greenhouse:

The base is secured to the foundation with several lag bolts:

I added an optional accessory, a louvered vent:

Back corner:

Openable roof vent:

Gutter:

Base of the door, with a magnetic catch:

Inside:

Another optional accessory, an automatic opener for the roof vent, that opens or closes it based on the temperature inside:

The vent open:

The greenhouse feels pretty solid, and hopefully is anchored quite well, but I also added a third accessory, tie-down anchor cables to make it even more secure:

The cables go over the top:

Hopefully we’ll make good use of this over time. It could be very useful to get a head start on spring veggie planting, and more.

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.

One year of feral cats

Yep, it’s another week, so another cat update.

But more importantly, it’s been a year since we first found the feral cats, or rather the kittens, and their mother, Poppy.

Here’s a picture from my first blog post about the kittens, published one year ago today; click the link to see more:

My how they’ve grown!

You may recall from last week that I turned on the heating pads and held open the door to the shelter part of the cat house, hoping that they’d start sleeping in there. This has worked out well. Most nights, at least one cat has spent most of the night, and often several.

Here’s the first guest, Porcini:

The following night, three cats:

Two of whom stayed all night:

However, Spud got a bit curious about the camera, disloging it from its magnetic mount (hanging on by the power cable):

Two mornings running:

Cute angled shot:

Here’s what the camera looks like:

To prevent further issues, I built a wooden enclosure, that both holds the camera in place, and protects it a bit, much like I did for the feeder cam:

Here it is installed:

We also had an encounter between the alien black cat and one of the mushroom girls:

Some words were exchanged:

And a bit of posturing, before the black cat made a hasty retreat; they didn’t actually come to blows:

Makes you want to bury your head:

Another exciting development was when we saw all five cats at once; we hadn’t seen more than four at a time for months, so had wondered if something had happened to one of them.

Here’s a screenshot of my iPad, showing one cat outside, two in the shelter, and two in the feeder:

Let’s finish off with some random interesting pics.

Mirrored sleeping cats:

Poppy:

Stretch:

A snuggly pair:

Hunting:

That’s it for now.

Cat house update

Been a week, so must be time for another cat house update!

Firstly, the gray alien cat has continued to visit every few days; I’m unsure if it’s a neighbor’s roaming pet, or feral:

We’ve also had a black cat visitor, which has been near our ferals without conflict. I wonder if one or both of those will join our colony in time; if so, we’ll have to try to trap them to get FCCO to check them out:

We’ve also still had the occasional possum visit, which doesn’t seem discouraged by the feeder light (but was disappointed to find no food on this occasion):

And raccoons, though they are a bit more discouraged by the light; only the parent is brave / desperate enough to go inside now (but did luck out in finding freshly dispensed food; I’ve since moved the schedule back half an hour):

One of our ferals sitting on a rock. That’s a favorite place to wait for food, and keep an eye on things:

A screenshot of my iPad, showing the four cat cameras in the LiveCams Pro app that I use to watch the cameras throughout the day:

It rained a bit last night, so here’s a damp cat, diappointed to find no food (breakfast is now dispensed at 05:00), but did have fun chasing a moth:

Since it is getting cooler overnight, and it rained for the first time in months (and might again tonight), I decided to switch the shelter to winter mode, a little earlier than originally planned. So I opened up the maintenance door, closed the vents at the back, and plugged in the two heating pads on the lower level:

Here’s a shot of the open shelter from further back:

Closed again:

I also held open the front door again, to encourage them to go inside. I was hoping they’d figure out the door when it was closed, but none did. If they start living in there, I might try closing it again after a while, when they’d have a stronger motivation to get back inside. If that doesn’t work, I may have to leave it open permanently, which wouldn’t be preferred:

Lastly, I also cut the feeder tube a couple of inches shorter, since I noticed them finding it a little difficult to get their heads under it to eat food directly under the pipe. This should give them plenty of room:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update!

Cat feeder modifications

I guess my “Building a cat shelter: a summary” post was a little premature, as I’ve just made some modifications to the feeder side.

But first, some backstory on the motivation (and cute cat pics).

I’ve had a periodic problem with some unwelcome nocturnal visitors to the feeder on occasion. Sometimes a possum:

And sometimes a family of raccoons (typically an adult and three young ones):

Once we had a deer too, but that wasn’t a bother (but if you look closely, you might see a pair of cat eyes to the left of the deer leg, on the deck of the cat house; the deer quickly retreated when it saw the cat, though I doubt it was a threat):

We even had an alien cat visit a few times (one that looks very much like our pet Paladin, but isn’t; he’s inside-only):

Here are four of the ferals:

Peeking:

Anyway, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the food level, trying to balance it so the cats get all the food they want, but don’t leave anything overnight, to entice the wildlife. The camera in the feeder has really helped with that, and I’ve adjusted the time and amount of food released by the automatic dispenser to achieve that goal, with mixed success. Sometimes the food runs out too early, sometimes the raccoons come at different times, etc.

So my next attempt to discourage the wildlife is to add a light to the feeder area. Hopefully that won’t bother the cats, but will put off the raccoons and possum. I expect they’ll adapt to it, but hopefully not.

I also wanted to make some other changes. The metal food dish is a bit too deep, both in the height and front-to-back sense, and the metal might get uncomfortable in freezing temperatures. So I wanted to replace that. A shallower dish would need to be more forward to line up with the pipe, so I also wanted to add a baffle to do that, and protect the camera (having been dislodged once by the raccoons).

Finally, I also wanted to caulk the edges of the wall, to prevent winter moisture seeping under it into the shelter area.

So I did that first, after removing the old dish:

(The caulk is actually clear; goes on white, but dries clear.)

I then built a wall structure, with cutouts for the camera and such. The boards sticking out from either side were intended to screw it to the feeder walls, but I didn’t end up bothering with that, since it seems plenty secure without:

The back side:

Here’s everything installed; the wall protecting the camera and acting as a baffle or backstop of the new food dish (which, like the first one, is screwed to the floor), plus the light strip on the ceiling:

The light strip color can be changed. I have it set to the dimmest red color initially, but could make it brighter, or another color, if desired.

Here’s a view of the storage shelf above the feeder area:

A closer view of the feeder area, with food in the dish, and the water dispenser in place:

The first visitor:

Let’s see how this goes!

Building a cat shelter: a summary

I thought I’d follow up on the new cat house, with a post summarizing the building process. Kinda like an old-fashioned clip show on TV.

Each step includes a link to the original post, which includes more details and photos. Even if you’ve been following along, you might find this retrospective interesting, and might like to check out the individual posts again, as with the new theme on the blog, you’ll be able to see larger photos.

February 2018

Any successful project starts with a plan; surprisingly fairly similar to what I ended up building:

Construction started with the floor, naturally enough:

I did refine the plans a bit, though things changed a bit more during construction:

The walls were next, with insulation sandwiched between plywood sheets:

More walls, and platforms:

The roof also has insulation (on the shelter side):

March 2018

The entire front of the shelter side can be slid open, to maintain the interior:

April 2018

The cat house was designed with an old west theme, so has fun facades at the top:

Although the walls are just sheets of plywood, I added some extra trim to make it look like board-and-batten siding:

May 2018

I didn’t do any work on the cat house in May, but I did post an update on the feral cats in their old feeder and shelter:

June 2018

Back to work on it, I started painting:

And more painting:

And finished painting:

Next was roofing, leveraging skills from building the chicken coop:

July 2018

Then adding the windows, doors, and feeder:

At last, after some final touches of decorations, electrical, and carpet, it was time for installation:

It didn’t take long for the cats to explore the new structure. They started eating there very quickly:

And have explored the shelter part:

August 2018

An exciting development was a couple of cats sleeping in the shelter, though only for a couple of nights so far:

I added a camera to the feeder side, and tweaked the food pipe:

Finally, I’ll leave you with this:

No doubt I’ll follow up with more photos of the cats and their new house in the future. Follow the blog to see new posts.

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.