New Kayak!

DSC_0057.JPG

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.

DSC_0061.JPG

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??

DSC_0068.JPG

 

A Visit to Petroglyph Park

DSC_0039.JPG

Although I only live a few minutes away, I’ve never been to visit this little park until today. Despite being a gorgeous sunny day, my dog and I were the only visitors, which is just how we like it.

DSC_0017.JPG

This park has been described by many online as “disappointing”. To be sure, it is small, surrounded on all sides by housing developments and the highway, and the “modern” petroglyphs are beginning to take over, see below:

DSC_0033.jpg

Pretty sure this one was carved recently

The original petroglyphs can be hard to make out, since they have become overgrown with moss and debris. Here is the main frieze as it looks today, but the individual images are hard to distinguish.

DSC_0014.JPG

Here’s an image taken from the internet of how they looked when the site was freshly prepared:

11970165325_dfd7c562e0_c.jpg

A little more impressive! It’s interesting to think that so close to my home, Salish people were here carving these images into sandstone over 1000 years ago.

DSC_0034.JPG

Two headed bird?

One of my favorite parts of the visit were the dozens of pink and purple fairy slipper orchids that I saw everywhere. I’ve never seen this variety in the wild before and they were exceedingly charming. Apparently the corms used to be a food source for native peoples.

DSC_0012.JPG

I also saw a few white trilliums, a flower that always reminds me of my childhood back east, where the woodlands behind my house were wall to wall carpeted with them every spring. Sadly, Google Maps reveals that most of that magical forest is cut down now to make way for housing developments.

DSC_0002.jpg

One of the best things about this miniature park is that not too far in and up and you are treated to this pretty breathtaking view:

DSC_0025.JPG

Definitely worth a visit!

Rat’s Nest and Cooper’s Hawk

DSC_0004

Yesterday while I was working outside, my dog was also hard at work. We have a couple of rats that have dug some burrows near the chicken coop, and she has been diligently trying to excavate them. She was extra intense about her task yesterday and it wasn’t long before I heard the telltale squeaks of baby rats. I went over to see that she had uncovered a rat’s nest containing seven baby rats, about a week or two old.

She pulled them out one by one, dispatched them each with a quick bite, and continued her search for the adults. I am very pleased that there are now seven less potential rats living here and I hope mom and dad rat have been reminded yet again that this is not a safe place to set up house.

DSC_0003

The baby rats were tossed onto the compost pile, and the next morning I awoke to see what I think is a large female Cooper’s hawk perched on the edge of the bin. She is a young (passage) bird as you can tell by her juvenile plumage. This is the first time I’ve seen a hawk of any kind in my yard and I quickly grabbed my camera and got the best shots I could, which are unfortunately not very good. I’ve definitely been spoiled by being able to photograph raptors up close at the Raptor Centre. Anyway, at least I have some evidence of her visit!

DSC_0004

When I went outside a little bit later I noticed that all seven baby rats were gone from the pile and I assume she ate them. I’m glad she was able to get such a good meal here and I’m once again happy I do not use poison as rodent control.

If you’d like a more up-close shot of a passage female Cooper’s hawk, I just happen to have one here for you:

DSC01050

 

 

Controlling Rats in the Chicken Coop with a Weasel Box

DSC_0007

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.

DSC_0003

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.

DSC_0005

June Garden with Dogs

DSC_0038

Red Hot Poker – I’ve always wanted one of these in my garden

We are technically in a drought right now but my gardens have been doing great with minimal watering. I owe it to the very thick layer of mulch that I try to maintain. My morning ritual once I’ve fed the kitties and let the dogs out is to check for eggs and do any watering that needs doing, mostly in the container garden. Today I decided to walk around with my camera and capture some shots of what’s been growing and blooming.

DSC_0039

Scabiosa – These flowers were part of my sister’s wedding bouquet so I wanted to get a specimen

DSC_0021

Mammoth Russian Sunflower

DSC_0043

There are flowers on my European Olive tree. Does that mean I get olives?

DSC_0045

Hydrangea

DSC_0044

The beginnings of peaches

DSC_0046

Hoku wants to play

DSC_0035

Prickly Pear cactus – the pads and fruit are edible

DSC_0028

Morrocan Tea Mint

DSC_0030

E.T. helps me water

DSC_0049

Lovely Comfrey blooms

DSC_0027

Baby Mouse Melons and my Salad Burnet

DSC_0040

The blueberries are almost ready

DSC_0042

Volunteer California Poppies

DSC_0023

Tiny, Green Fingers Okra

DSC_0033

The Liatris getting ready to bloom

DSC_0052

My salad patch, arugula and mustard greens

DSC_0034

Conadria fig tree is finally in the ground

DSC_0053

The leeks are looking good

DSC_0056

Hoku waits for broken quail eggs

DSC_0032

I love dill!

DSC_0050

Tomatoes are in – now what to do with all the extras?!

DSC_0026

Containers are taking over

DSC_0051

Purple and yellow cauliflower starts are in

DSC_0059

The yacon is doing great, can’t wait to try it

DSC_0054

The calendulas are finally beginning to bloom

Crappy Pigeon News

DSC_0028

I think I’m alone now

Well, right after I posted that last update, I decided to catch some pigeons and leg band them so I really knew who was who. They weren’t very happy about being chased down, and my favorite little hen was even shaking with fear, poor thing. They all got treats afterwards and went right back to fighting, so no harm done.

The unfortunate news after banding is that it appears I may have only two or three hens. Two are white and one is my check hen with the white eye stripe.

I also decided to cull two older cocks while I was at it. This was a tough decision, but there are just way too many males, and letting them go is not an option, they’ll just fly back to their old loft where they are no longer welcome. I also wanted to try pigeon meat and see what the dressing process is like. I was surprised by how enthusiastic the dogs were about the leftover carcasses. They pretty much went crazy for them even though they are both usually very hesitant to eat dead birds that I give them unless they are cold or frozen.

The really unfortunate news is that when I decided to band the squabs, the smaller, white one died in my hands. There’s nothing like killing a baby bird just by the stress of taking it out of the nest. It’s not a very good feeling. Not to mention it was my favorite of the two and was probably a female. Oh well. It’s a very good lesson, and maybe I don’t want birds that die when handled in my line anyway. Still sad though.