Have I mentioned I’m a suck for the cats?

It was a gorgeous afternoon and evening yesterday. Not only a pleasant temperature, but even the mosquitoes weren’t as bad. I didn’t want to go back inside when I was done what I needed to do!

One of the things I did was re-do the shelf shelter for the cats. I noticed that the little kittens have been climbing all the way to the top shelf, which was actually use to store stuff, and have been snoozing in a corner, where I’d stacked some smaller pieces of rigid insulation.

The insulation over the bottom two shelves were getting ratty, so I decided to empty the whole thing, give it – and some of the insulation pieces – a hose-down and redo it.

Including making a next in the corner of the top shelf for the kittens, even though it meant not being able to fit everything back in again!

The sheets of insulation lining the bottom shelves were used again, since they fit the best and, aside from a few edges, still intact. When covering the fronts, I left the openings wider than before. When startled, the cats would dash out, catching on the edges of the insulation, sometimes hitting them hard enough to pull them right off the nails holding them to the shelf. I decided to try reducing the height of the openings. I want it open enough for them to easily get in and out, but small enough to let less of the weather in. Hopefully, they won’t get ripped right out by a startled cat!

As for the top shelf, I tucked a small pedestal plant stand in the corner and used it to support two levels with the rigid insulation for the kittens to lie on. There’s more space in front with an insulated floor, and there is insulation along the side and back walls, too. An extra piece across the front, and the kittens have their own little cubby hole to settle in.

Now I just need to clean up and redo the outside of the shelf. It had been wrapped in plastic to protect the wood from snow and rain, with an extended “roof” of rigid insulation, but the wind tore the plastic to shreds, and the cats have broken up the insulation. I’d like to find something sturdier to replace them with.

After I had emptied, swept and hosed down the inside, I had to give it time to dry before continuing, so I started another project.

A new cover for the rain barrel.

A couple of years ago, we made covers for the rain barrels out of window screen mesh and hula hoops. One for the barrel at the corner by the sun room, and the other for the barrel we fill with the host, at the far corner of the garden. The covers were partly to keep debris out, but also to make sure no critters fell into the barrels.

After a couple of years, however, the plastic hula hoops became brittle and started to crack. The cover for the garden barrel had been stored in the old garden shed for the winter, and it looks like something chewed holes in the mesh, too.

The sun room barrel’s cover is held in place with a board weighed down with bricks. When the barrel is getting full enough that more rain would cause it to overflow, the board and bricks hold the rain diverter in place.

Not long ago, I found the cover and its mesh broken up. Something had jumped onto it or something. The mesh had torn, but thankfully whatever did it, did not end up trapped in the water. Then we heard a commotion one night, and I came out to find the board and its weights, and the rain diverter, all knocked off the barrel, and the cover damaged even further. I put the board and its weights back, then found some pieces of rigid insulation to cover the rest of the barrel, with weights to hold them in place, to ensure no critter could access the water, until a new cover could be made. Even that ended up being pusher around a bit, as if some critter was trying to get at the water below – even though we have several bowls of fresh water critters can drink from. A new cover had to be made quickly.

Which is what I did while the shelf shelter was drying.

The materials used are much sturdier!

I considered using some chicken wire, but the openings are too large and the wire too easily broken. I went with some half inch hardware cloth I had, instead. The hoop is the same PEXX tubing I used to make arches to support netting over the old kitchen garden beds you can see in the background.

I used the barrel itself to measure the size needed to make the hoop, then cut a square of the hardware cloth to size, removing excess mesh from the corners to make it closer to “round”. The hardware cloth is a lot stiffer than chicken wire, but the extra strength is, I think, well worth it being such a pain to wrap around the hoop. Definitely glad for gardening gloves! The last step was to use a hammer on the underside to get the mesh right up against the hoop as tightly as I could.

There was, however, one problem.

The top of the barrel is not round. It’s more of an oval shape, and a wonky oval at that. The old hula hoop I’d used before was quite a bit larger than the top of the barrel, so it didn’t matter, but this hoop was cut for a more snug fit. The less sticking out, the less likely a critter will knock it off, even with the weights. I thought I’d still made it large enough to fit over, but the barrel’s shape was just too wonky.

I ended up tying some paracord around it as tight as I could, then used a metal tent peg to twist the cord even tigher.

Yeah. That bend up piece of metal was a tent peg.

Between the paracord pulling the top of the barrel into a more round shape, and the hammering of the hardware cloth tight against the hoop, I was finally able to get it in place. The board and weights were added to support the diverter when we need it, and the extra brick at the back, just in case something knocks the board off again, so the whole thing doesn’t flip off.

I might still add window screen mesh to this, since things like small frogs or insects, as well as small debris, can get through the half inch mesh. As it is right now, a cat – or even a racoon – could jump onto the cover and it’ll hold their weight without issue. The PEXX tubing will also last a lot longer, too.

All in all, I think it worked out rather well for using stuff I got for other projects! 😁 It didn’t even take that long to do. It took long enough for the washed out shelf to dry, at least.

So we now have a shelf shelter for the cats all cleaned out and ready for winter – on the inside, at least – and a cat and other critter proof cover for the rain barrel.

Ah, the things I do for the kitties!

The Re-Farmer

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