I’m behind in my indoor seed-starting, but lots of things have self-seeded out in the raised beds. I don’t know what absolutely everything is but glad to see life returning!
The long cold winter is finally giving way to warmer days and the garden is slowly coming back to life. Whenever I spend time out in the garden I have my little furry companions out to help me. They’re so cute!
The valerian near the chicken coop is going to be huge this year, I can tell. The lungwort is blooming, the lupines are pushing up with their star-shaped leaves and the rhubarb has definitely multiplied!
Here are a couple of pots of wild mint that I harvested down at the river last year, don’t know what kind exactly but glad they made it! It has a fresh, mild minty flavor.
Of course, not all the girls wanted to join me in the garden today, this little one was content to lounge inside on her heated cat bed until my photo-taking woke her up!
I always leave boxes and packaging out for shipments I’ve received so the cats can fully exhaust their “usefulness”. They loved this fancy shredded paper from Scotland! It will be destined for the compost pile after hanging out under some rabbit cages for a bit.
Of course it means waking up to this scene every day for a week. Totally worth it.
I have boats on the brain today!
I’ve always wanted a kayak, but even more so after my boyfriend introduced me to ocean kayaking a few years back. He has a pair of SOT (sit-on-top) kayaks that we enjoyed using for sightseeing, short journeys out to nearby islands and rockhounding along the shore. However he’s once again back up north, this time taking position of editor for a paper in Inuvik, NWT. I miss him already!
So it was finally time to get my own!
I initially had my sights set on basically the same kayak my boyfriend has, an eMotion around 6-8 feet long. Too bad it’s nearly impossible to find this brand in BC, but there are some models by other companies that are very similar. I had also read in a few places that these smaller kayaks can be shoved into the back of a hatchback, which is exactly what I planned to try.
I wanted something suitable for fishing, since if I’m out on the water alone I know I won’t be able to resist. There are a wide range of fishing kayaks on the market, but they are all in drab colors and outfitted with more fancy gear than I think I need. I want something small, light, uncomplicated and with room to bring the dog who probably loves boating more than I do.
I decided to settle on the Perception Tribe 9.5 in sunset. I would have preferred another color, but this was the only one in this model they had left. That’s ok, I like the high visibility of the yellow/orange/red and since it’s nearly September, the new kayak shipments won’t be in until February. If I want any paddling this season it was this little boat or nothing!
I really like the stability, self-draining and unsinkableness of the SOTs. You can easily swim off them, stand upright on them and take them in quite rough ocean. This one can hold 300 pounds and weighing only 46 pounds I can just manage to carry it myself.
I also picked up a fiberglass paddle, lifejacket, floating tow line (regulation), a pair of neoprene shorts, a paddle leash and a fishing rod mount that I will install myself.
It turns out this 9.5 foot boat CAN be shoved into the back of a hatchback, which is great, but I’m hoping to rig up a foam and strap system to put it on the roof, as having it in the car restricts visibility a bit. I’ve done the research and I know I can secure it safely.
Now where to go first??
When I got my bees one of the things I wondered was would they get along with my cats? Would they think the kitties were small furry threats and attack them?
Well, what has happened is that the cats have decided they like the bees very much and I usually have at least one small furry supervisor for each hive inspection.
If they’re not lounging on top of empty brood boxes or trying to sharpen their claws on queen excluders, they’re posted on or beside the hives keeping watch. The bees don’t seem to mind one bit.
These are three things that I love very much. There is an old saying that if you have only $2 left in the world, with $1 you should buy bread, and with the other $1 you should buy a hyacinth bulb. I have always thought that this is such beautiful advice.
The Mushrooms in this case is the kitty. She is a darling little thing.
March has not yet hit, but the garden is already back in full force. Some things like the kale, calendula, and chamomile have been going strong all winter long.
I wandered around today with Parsley the cat as my companion and took some pictures to share with you. I think we’re going to have a prolific year!
Eventually, unless your chicken pen/coop is built like a fortress, you will have rats. Especially in an urban setting like mine, where rats already exist due to human presence, the lure of eggs, chicken feed and sometimes even young chicks is too much for them to resist. A desperate rat will even munch on feathers and chicken poop.
The best rat control of course is always a good cat or dog, but some rats are too tough for the average farm cat or too wily for the average dog. My cat Parsley is usually the RCO around here (Rat Control Officer), but she will often come home very beat up from a rat fight, with scratches on her little face, neck and ears from the battle.
My dog will kill a rat if she can catch one, but she comes inside at night and that’s when they’re most active. Between them we’ve kept our minor rat issue under control until now, but now we have a special rat who refuses to be caught.
This extra intelligent rodent has decided to dig a maze of burrows underneath my chicken pen. It knows that the cat and dog can’t get at it if it comes out only inside the chicken pen at night, which is fully enclosed but does not have a wire mesh floor. It stays cozy and snug in its burrow by day, and raids the chicken and duck feed at night. The area around the pen looks like swiss cheese, and I never know when the ground beneath my boot will sink into a rat hole. Parsley has come home more than once with torn ears from battling this menace.
Now this particular rat has also developed the audacity to begin stealing eggs. Even though there is always an abundance of feed and grain inside the coop, this rat has cultivated more refined tastes. I have a basket hanging on the outside of my coop that I use to collect quail eggs. I usually bring them inside but some nights I forget. Just the other day, I noticed two quail egg shells laying on the ground that looked peculiarly like they had been nibbled open. He had climbed up, stolen two eggs out of the basket and eaten them at his leisure. Time to get serious!
The issue with catching rats inside a coop full of birds or in a yard with a lot of small pets around, is that you don’t want one of your cats or chickens getting injured by mistake. Rat traps are serious business and they could easily crush a delicate paw or feathered neck. I won’t even get into using poisons, as that can be even more dangerous for pets or wildlife who may later consume a poisoned mouse or rat. No, I want to use a good old fashioned Victor rat trap, but it needs to be used safely.
After doing a little research I came across the idea of the weasel box. A weasel box is a little wooden box about the size of a large birdhouse, that is used with bait and a trap inside to catch weasels. It has a hole at one end for the weasel to enter, and a smaller hole at the back covered with wire mesh, so air can flow through the trap, wafting the scent of the bait out and also reassuring the weasel that there is an escape route.
Now I’m lucky enough to not to have weasels where I am, but one day I plan to get a larger and more rural piece of property where they will no doubt be an issue. Until then, this seemed like a perfect solution for my rat problem. I built it in one evening, purchased my rat trap and set it up near the base of the coop, baited with two fresh quail eggs.
I made mine with scraps left over from my fence construction, but you can easily build one with a single 1″ by 6″ wide , 6 foot long cedar fence board. Simply cut 3, 12″ pieces for the bottom and sides, one 17″ piece for the lid, and two 6.25″ pieces for the front and back. (Mine needed to be 7″ as my lumber was actually a full inch thick and 6″ wide instead of 3/4″ by 5.5″ like most dimensional lumber.)
The front piece should have a 2″ hole drilled slightly above center, and the back should have a 1.5″ hole drilled in the center, and covered with a square of 1/4″ wire mesh. I attached mine with a heavy duty staple gun.
It’s the perfect size to fit one of the large Victor rat traps. Put your bait next the mesh end of the box, and set your trap so the yellow or copper bait pad is next to it. This is so the rat doesn’t jump over the pad when entering the box, and also to keep the dangerous part of the trap as far away as possible from curious cat paws. If you have the kind of cats who like to stick their hands into hidey holes, you may have to attach an extender to the front entrance hole so they can’t injure themselves.
The rear of the lid should be attached with hinges, and the front can be fastened with a hook and loop type closure. I don’t have these parts ready yet, so for now my lid is held closed with a bungee cord. The trap is set up tonight for the first time, and hopefully I’ll be able to report its success very soon.
Technically it hasn’t taken me two full days to get this far along, I’ve only worked a total of about 6 hours and that includes driving to pick up materials. I need more daylight hours!
The first bed is nearly complete, it just needs the triangular bottom board on the far side put in and a couple of bracing boards installed to keep the sides from bowing out. I’ve decided on 2 foot wide pathways between the beds instead of 3.
I have been discovering renegade potatoes as I excavate, as well as a lot of grubs and cutworms, which are quickly dispatched by my two-chicken clean-up crew. I even managed to get 3 or 4 wheelbarrow loads worth of chicken pen flooring dumped in, just the spots that were soggiest and had compacted down. I’m leaving the nice, dry and crumbly earth for a top dressing.
Next I’ll start emptying my overflowing compost pile and dump in most of the fresh stuff consisting mostly of rabbit manure, urine-soaked sawdust and cat litter (I use chick crumble for kitty litter) so it will rest deep on the bottom and continue to break down with the help of the worms.
I’m not concerned about putting cat waste into the bottoms of the raised beds since my cats are parasite free and they’ll most likely use the gardens as a litter box anyway. Heck, the chickens think the clumps of cat pee/chick crumble are special treats.
I’m not overjoyed that this Stellar’s Jay had to die, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to see one up close as I like them a lot. I don’t remember ever seeing one back east when I was growing up so they are a little bit special to me. I heard somewhere recently that no birds have blue pigmented feathers, they just have tiny random structures on them that scatter light and appear blue to our eyes. Well this guy sure appears to be pretty darn blue.
I’ve decided that I’m going to try to preserve this little bird with taxidermy. It will be my first try at this interesting art, and I hope I do him justice. He’s in pretty good shape since Parsley usually tries to keep gift birds alive for me, but I guess I came home a little too late for this dude. I’m sure he put up a good fight. He will be relaxing at the ever-popular Freezer Camp until I’m ready to process him.
I think knowing how to taxidermy will be a fun and rewarding skill. I’m planning to teach myself via Youtube, like I learn how to do most things. Wish me luck!