Giving up for now

Well, it happened again, this morning.

The new bird feeder was knocked down and emptied.

Remarkably, my quick fix using cord held, while the metal crimp at the other end gave out.

We have no way to keep it from the deer right now, so we’re giving up for now. Once the snow is gone and there is food available elsewhere, the deer stop coming to the feeding station, so we will wait before putting the feeder back up.

Which is too bad, because the birds were really happy to have it back!

We certainly expect to have issues with squirrels and raccoons getting at the hanging feeder. I never expected to have issues with deer going after it! We’ve had hanging feeders there since we brought the stand from where we found it in the maple grove to this area, and the deer had never gone for it until this year. Mind you, with the wind constantly knocking the stand down, they didn’t have to. Now the main post is buried in the ground, so that might be making the difference. That and it’s March, and there’s still lots of snow on the ground, so they’re probably getting pretty hungry.

Which reminds me.

Since we had to dig out the septic tank, we now have access to that corner of the house. The roof faces north, and is the only place we still have snow. It builds up in a corner where the old kitchen roof joins the main part of the house, where a huge ice dam forms. Most snow remains on the north facing roof of the old kitchen.

This morning, I brought over the extended pole roof shovel to see if I could break through the crust that has formed on top of all the snow, and get some of it down. It actually worked, more or less. I got a lot more down than I thought I would, though even with the pole extended as long as it could, I still couldn’t reach parts of the snow. In some places, it was because the septic tank lid itself was in the way.

Still, I got quite a lot of it down. The ice dam in the corner now has several feet of built up snow cleared away from it, so it should actually start melting faster, as it’s no longer in the shadow of the snow pile. I must say, though, walking around on that insulated tarp was its own challenge. That thing is so slippery! However, the snow I got down mostly landed on it, so when it melts, it will flow away from the house. I guess that makes one benefit for the insulated tarp that straw doesn’t have. I still think we’ll go back to covering the tank with straw, though. Much easier to access the tank with a lot of snow on the ground!

Ugh. I really should be heading into town right now, but I just don’t want to go.

Well, that didn’t take long

Guess where I found the new bird feeder, this morning?

*sigh*

On the plus side, for the most part, it wasn’t broken. There was only this…

One cable end was torn right off.

This is what it is supposed to look like.

This suggests to me that it was the deer, trying to get at the feed and pulling it down. Critters like the Racoons would knock it off the hook, not actually break the cable. They don’t have the mass or strength for it.

I did keep that in mind when I fixed it as best I could for now.

I slipped a spare hose washer over the loop. That will make it much harder to fall off the hook, whether from the wind, or because a critter is swinging off of it. This also solves the problem of the cable sliding down as I’m stretching to hang it.

You can also see what I did to the broken end of the cable. After threading it back through the various holes it needed to go through, I folded the end and tied it off with some cord. If this works, I’ll replace the cord with wire, or maybe pick up some double crimps.

The cable is noticeably shorter now but, thanks to the rubber washer, the loop no longer slides down, so it’s actually easier for short little me to reach than before. It should keep the loop on the hook, but it won’t do anything about the deer. That is a whole different problem!

The Re-Farmer

Morning Mystery

Well, it looks like we’re down another bird feeder.

This is all I could find this morning. The top cap and the base.

There is no sign of the seed canister and the frame.

The canister is somewhat understandable. It’s just clear plastic, so it would be harder to see if it ended up under the lilacs or something. The frame, however, is red. It should be easily visible.

There is no sign of either.

I’m sure we’ll find them eventually, but I am curious what happened to them. With the winds we’ve been having, I’m almost willing to accept that the feeder was blown apart in the wind. On the one hand, that doesn’t make too much sense, since at least the top would still be on the hanger, and the pieces would be nearby. On the other hand, it seems very unlikely that critters did the damage, because of the weather conditions we had last night. Critters would have been taking shelter, not climbing posts for bird seed. Especially since there are still piles of sunflower seeds on the ground from when the big feeder fell down and broke apart.

Curious, indeed!

The Re-Farmer

Well, that’s it for that one

This morning, I came out to this.

*sigh*

That feeder was almost completely full, as of last night.

I’m actually surprised it took until now for the hinged lid to break apart, considering how many times it’s landed upside down and open.

At least I can say the base finally held!

The screws tore right through the old wood of the feeder’s platform.

I don’t see any point in repairing it at this time, but I’ll be keeping some of the parts and pieces, should we find ourselves with the materials to build a new one.

As for the base still on the post, it’s so secure, I’m leaving it for now. Who knows. I might just make a quick platform to put on there for a simple feeder.

Frustrating, but considering the condition the feeder was in when we moved here, it really is amazing it didn’t happen earlier.

The Re-Farmer

Oh, those little buggers!

Or should I say, big buggers?

The raccoons have been at the bird feeders again.

I found the big feeder on the ground again, the screws yet again ripped right out of the base. This, even after adding newer, stronger wood to the bottom, and using more and longer screws!

Then I found the other feeder.

Well, parts of it, anyhow.

Thankfully, this feeder is actually designed to come apart, so this is not broken. Just in pieces.

But one piece was missing! The part with the cable it hangs from.

I finally found it, some distance away, under a lilac bush.

The parts and pieces were all wet and splashed with mud and dirt, so it got a cleaning and is now sitting to dry before I refill it and hang it back up.

Then I turned my attention to the big feeder.

Part of the problem with it is how much it wobbles on the top of the post. I’d added foam covered wire, wrapped around the top of the post, to reduce the wobbling. This reduced the wobble, but it was still there. The raccoons are rather large, weighty critters, so if they’re climbing the post to get onto the bird feeder, they would be causing it to tip quite a bit. That is likely what is putting so much stress on the screws and the wood. Of the six screws holding the base, which had slid to the bottom of the post again, to the underside of the feeder, pieces of wood were still stuck to a couple of them, while one of the screws was gone completely. I found half of it in the ground. It had snapped right off!

So along with putting the base back on using even longer screws, which are now long enough to be going right through the added wood and into the bottom of the feeder itself, I had to do something about that wobble. Something that wouldn’t slide out of position, thicker and with less give than what I used before.

I found a solution.

I use twine, and some of my husband’s navy rope work that he taught me, years ago, that secures the ends in a way that they cannot come loose and unravel.

It took wrapping three layers of twine to get the thickness needed. The base is now solid on the post, with no wiggle, and I can still slide it on and off the post as needed.

This, together with the even longer screws, should prevent the base from being torn off the feeder again.

Of course, that leaves us with the problem of the raccoons getting into the feeders in the first place.

That will require a bit more thinking.

The Re-Farmer

What I found this morning

I tried to head out earlier to do my rounds this morning, as I wanted to make sure all the garden beds got a deep watering, and that the fall plantings got their shade covers. Last night, we never got cooler than 19C/66F, and it was already above 20C/68F by the time I got outside. We’re supposed to hit 31C/88F, with a humidex of 37C/99F by this afternoon.

They’re also saying we’re supposed to get thunderstorms this afternoon. I’ll believe THAT when I see it!

I had a few amusing surprises this morning. One of them was the filthy, filthy water bowls.

We often see where the skunks have been digging for grubs, but this was an unusually enthusiastic dig, for the dirt to be scattered into the water bowls like that!

There must be a lot of grubs right now, because I was finding little divots all over the place this morning.

Well, now.

It looks like the raccoons are not only still able to get to the bird feeder from below, but have figured out how to open the top!

Note the condition of the formerly white post.

The new hanging bird feeder was empty again. No real surprise there, as it is smaller than the old one. I didn’t find the canister on the ground this morning, but it was slid around to the “unlock” position.

It’s the support post that really caught my attention. You can’t really see it in the photo, but all up the post are little scratches in the wood. Then there’s the greasy layer of dirt stuck to it, like on the metal post supporting the big feeder. That would be from the raccoons greasy fur!

Ew.

I notice there’s a fair bit of exposed wood now, too. We’re going to have to pick up more of this paint. I don’t think we have enough left to do many touch ups.

This made me smile! The Little Gem squash is developing quite a few fruit, and this one is looking noticeably bigger, even from yesterday. When ripe, these will turn a deep, reddish orange – their other name is Red Kuri – with a round body and a little neck, and should reach 4-5 pounds.

Hopefully, enough of these will survive and ripen to make up for what looks like a complete loss on the Teddy squash. The plants are looking vigorous, and they are blooming, but it seems their developing fruit are irresistible to some short critter that isn’t triggering the motion sensor on the garden cam. From what I could see this morning, there are no female flowers, and any developing fruit there had been before are gone.

More information to file away for our garden next year!

The Re-Farmer

Morning finds

My morning rounds were a bit shorter than expected. Though we are still supposed to get a hot on – not as hot as yesterday, thankfully – we are also getting predictions of a thunderstorm and possible rain. It’s even overcast right now, so I didn’t even put the shade cloths over the fall plantings this morning.

The first “find” I had this morning was one of adorableness!

We still have separate food bowls for the kittens (except for Junk Pile’s, because we don’t really know where their home is), and I was on my way to top up the one for Butterscotch’s kittens, when I found this little cutie, just chillin’. She didn’t even run away as I went by with the kibble, then paused to take her picture. 🙂 Broccoli seems to be the most willing to put up with us humans, though she still won’t let us touch her.

The new hanging bird feeder was found in pieces this morning! I’m guessing the raccoons got to it during the night. Nothing else has the hands to turn the canister and unlock it from it’s base.

The big birdfeeder was also completely empty. The foam covered wire I’d used to reduce how much it wobbles on its post were all at the bottom of the post, with the foam torn up. Since I pruned away the branches the raccoons were using to reach the feeder, it looks like they scrambled up the post itself, taking out the padding in the process. I’m going to have to find something else to pad the top of that post, and steady the feeder.

Then there was this…

One of the new support hoops covering the carrot bed was pushed over, and the carrot greens beneath were looking a bit squashed.

I’m glad I had those tent pegs, as well as the weights, along the edges of the netting!

I was a bit concerned about how well the one hoop would hold out. When I was setting it up, I could hear the wooden dowels supporting it, making cracking noises and I bent the pipe onto them. It would have been better to use metal rods of some kind, but we don’t have any. The dowels are about 18″ long, and they were embedded into the ground by at least a foot, but the flags they were on have been out in the elements for the past year, so it’s no surprise that the wood was brittle enough to crack under the stress of holding the PVC pipe. I was able to straighten it up again, without having to take everything apart. We’ll see how it holds.

I actually think this was done by cats. Possibly even kittens. They like to roll around in the garden, and I’ve had to chase them off of, or out of, the mesh before. The opportunity to roll around on the mesh and on plants, at the same time, would have been too much for some of our kitties to resist!

Aside from being a bit flattened, though, the carrots are fine. Another reason I think it was the cats. If it were a woodchuck, they would have gotten through pretty easily, if they wanted to!

I’m happy to say that Potato Beetle is still with us! He seems to have simply moved back home, as if he were never gone for almost 6 months! The only down side is, he’s aggressive to the other cats. I realize they’re establishing their pecking order, but it looks like he’s already driven off Nutmeg, who was very much a beta cat. Creamsicle Baby is also showing submissiveness to Potato Beetle, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping him. He’s even going after the mamas. Normally, the males don’t go after the females like that. He’s even growled at Butterscotch; his own mother!

I’m hoping things will settle down as they get used to each other again.

The Re-Farmer

Things fixed and things found

The first chance I got, I headed outside to take care of the bird feeders, starting with fixing the base of the big feeder.

I was able to find some longer wood screws that weren’t so long, they’d go through the wood I added to the base. Hopefully, the 6 screws will now be enough to hold! Then I got the loppers out and pruned the Korean Lilac. The raccoons have been using it to get to the feeder, and they’d already broken a couple of branches. Though they look close, the ones in the background are well away from the feeder. I also pruned some low hanging branches from the Chinese Elm in front of the kitchen window, as much as I could. Once I’d removed the weight of the first branches, the main branch lifted out of reach! Hopefully, the raccoons won’t try to use them, because their weight would bow the branches down to the feeder. I don’t think they actually used the elm at all, but I wanted to at least take away the option!

It wasn’t until I unloaded the van that I noticed the new hanging feeder didn’t have a cable to hang it from! The instructions didn’t even show one, though there were holes in the top for it. I ended up using the one from the broken feeder, so that worked out.

This feeder hold a bit less than the old one, but I think it will be easier to refill. Instead of trying to pour the seeds into a small hole at the top, the container comes out and can be used to scoop the seed. It even has a convenient handle. We shall see if it really is helpful. Unfortunately, so much seed has been lost to the breaking of feeders, we’re running out of seed, and the amount in the bin was too shallow to scoop the new feeder full.

As you can see, the birds were quick to use the new feeder!

I had the soaker hose going in the garden while I did this, and spent the rest of the evening moving the sprinkler around every half hour or so, for the evening watering. While checking on the sunflowers and sweet corn, I found proof of what nibbled on the sunflowers!

This hoof print was in the row of corn nearest the nibbled on sunflowers.

The deer managed to step right on a new pea sprout!!

I could see several other hoof prints through that corn bed, which really made me wonder how the garden cam’s motion sensor missed it! Well, if we get any other visitors in there tonight, I hope the new location will be better to catch the critters!

There are very few, so far, but it was nice to see some bigger green beans have developed.

I also checked on the sad purple peas. They aren’t as small or as chewed on as the green peas, but they certainly aren’t doing well. The plants aren’t being eaten, but the few pods are! Amazingly, we are still seeing pea flowers. With so little growth, the peas aren’t climbing their trellises as they normally would, but some of the purple peas are long enough that I would wrap them around the vertical twine. Much to my surprise, I found a couple of pods.

Dried pops.

The first one I found had three peas in the pod, and then I found one with a single pea in it.

These can actually be saved to plant next year!

I still have the envelope the King Tut peas came in, so that’s where they are now, and the envelope has been added to the packets of leftover seeds for next year.

We have officially saved our very first seeds for our own garden! 😀

In between moving the sprinkler until it was back to watering manually, the evening was so lovely and cool, I hang around outside.

With kittens.

I’ve got a camp chair set up near the steps, and was able to play with the babies a bit. They still won’t come up to me, but I can at least wiggle a stick on the ground and get them close!

From left to right is Chadicus, Bradicus, Caramel, and Broccoli, next to her mother.

While watering the south garden beds, I got to see Nosencrantz and Toesencrantz. They are much shier than Butterscotch’s babies. Not as shy as Junk Pile’s babies, though! They are coming to the kibble house for food, but if we step outside, they immediately run off in a panic, even as their mother stays in the kibble house and watches us. I don’t have much hope for socializing that particular litter!

Tomorrow I’ll be doing the morning rounds quickly again, though I’ll have a chance to make up for it before it gets too hot. I’m going to be heading out to a town north of us to do a pick up. We found a fairly local beef farm that does direct sales, and I’ll be meeting them to pick up our package tomorrow. Which is handy, since it meant we didn’t have to pick up much meat during our city shop. I got the invoice and an itemized list of what will be in the mixed pack we ordered – the contents of the pack depends on what’s available at the time – and I’m really looking forward to it. There are cuts of meat in there that we could never afford to buy before! I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a steak, never mind a high quality cut. The price per pound, compared even to city prices, is so much better! I don’t begrudge retail stores their prices; there’s a lot those prices have to pay for. Things that don’t have to be included when buying direct from the farmer. I’m so happy I found this place! I’d found another company that is further away, but does regular deliveries to meet-up locations in the city. If we’d placed an order with them now, we wouldn’t have been able to get it until November, at the earliest.

I’m really looking forward to bringing home the beef! 😀

The Re-Farmer

The watchers, and critter damage

This spot is, hands down, a favourite of pretty much all the cats…

There had been three of them here, all sitting with their front paws at the window, watching the activities outside. Susan took off before I could get her in the picture. 🙂

They have plenty to watch out there! Butterscotch’s kittens like to play on the concrete steps below the door. Recently, I moved their food and water bowls to the steps, partly to get them used to being closer to the safety of the house, and partly to have them spending less time at the junk pile, now that a grog – my daughters’ word for the woodchucks – has dug a den under it.

One time, the cats suddenly became very alert, so I went over to the living room window to see what they were looking at.

There was a grog, standing up like a little man, next to the lilacs!

Unfortunately, our hanging bird feeder got broken yesterday. I had refilled it that morning, but didn’t notice that I hadn’t hung it properly on the hook. That time of the morning, this time of the year, I get blinded by the sun when I hang it back up, and I keep forgetting to move. 😀 I noticed it out the living room window, with the hanging cable sitting on top of the hook, instead of in it. For some reason, the hook is wrapped in electric tape, and that was keeping it from sliding off. Then I promptly got distracted and forgot to go outside to fix it. A few hours later, my daughter noticed it was gone completely. We spotted it about 15 feet away, in pieces, and the seed reservoir had a chunk broken off.

Though it had been refilled this morning, there was no sign of the birdseed that was in it! It was already all eaten up. My guess is, some larger bird landed on it, it slid off the hook, cracked when it hit the ground, and then a grog dragged it off and broke into it to get at the seeds. Just a guess, but a likely scenario.

When the girls were done the evening watering and went to shut off the back tap, they found another watcher.

This adorable BIG tree frog, just hanging out on the wall. 🙂

Anyhow…

With the hanging feeder broken, I finally got around to attaching a piece of wood to the bottom of the big feeder, reattaching the metal fixture, then setting it back up on its post. The fixture is larger than the post, so I found some foam covered wire I had left and wrapped it around the post. It still wobbled a bit, but not as much as before.

The birds were happy to have the big feeder back up.

So where the raccoons.

I happened to pop outside some time after midnight and startled at least two of them. One ran off into the darkness, while the other ran up the tree outside our kitchen window, and just stayed there, frozen, until I left.

Unfortunately, they came back.

*sigh*

This is how I found it this morning. I’m going to have to find me some longer screws. Most of what I have are actually too long, and would go right through the base of the feeder.

I was heading to the city today to do our monthly shop, so I had to do a quick version of my morning rounds, which is when I found this.

Three sunflowers in one row, and one in another row, have lost their heads! The three with the twine around them were the larger, transplanted ones.

Given the height, I would say this was done by a deer, but when I finally got to check the garden cam, whatever did this did not trigger the motion sensor. I would have expected something as large as a deer to trigger it, but if it were something smaller, like a grog or a raccoon, it would have eaten the bottom leaves, or broken the stem, pulling it down to reach the heads.

The plants are far enough along that they will grow side shoots to replace the missing heads, but it will certainly slow their development.

The critters invading our yard this year are causing some issues of their own.

Having moved the kittens’ food bowl closer to the house also means the skunks will be coming closer, too. Which I’m not too worried about. They just eat the kibble, not our garden. When my daughter came around the house on her way to the garden, she startled a skunk at the steps. It ran off and went under the old garden shed.

Then suddenly began chittering like crazy, ran out and ran off.

The garden shed began making grog noises.

It seems the skunk ran to hide under the shed, only to run face first into a woodchuck.

I’m amazed it didn’t spray!

In other things, I’ve hit a bit of a delay in working on the bench I was doing to make, over the pair of stumps near the garden. I brought out the electric chainsaw to cut the stumps flat across the top, and to even heights.

The first curiosity was finding the chainsaw’s oil reservoir was empty. I’d only used it once since we had it services, and even then, just for one cut, before moving on to other tools. Once that was refilled, it was doing the job all right – until it wasn’t! The chain stopped turning. It didn’t stop running, though. After fussing with it, the chain started turning again, then would stop soon after.

I’ve had this thing services twice, and no one spotted anything that would cause this.

I noticed the chain was really dry, too. I don’t think it’s getting oiled as it runs, the way it’s supposed to. It has a button to push to oil the chain, but it doesn’t seem to do anything.

I don’t think I’ll bother getting it serviced again.

I’m hoping to be able to use our reciprocating saw to do that job, instead. The last time I used it, however, it was having issues, too. It’s a cheaper brand, and has seen a lot of use, so that doesn’t surprise me. It does, however, have a blade on it that’s longer than the bar on the electric chain saw, so if it does work, it’ll actually be easier to use on the larger stump than with the electric chain saw.

I think it will wait until tomorrow, though, which is supposed to be a bit cooler.

For now, I’m going to start the evening a bit early, since I wasn’t able to water the garden beds this morning.

The Re-Farmer

Some garden stuff, and new critter damage

While heading over to put some kibble out for the junk pile kittens this morning, I found this.

Just last night, I was looking closely at this lilac, to see why one of the branches had died, and found it broken at the main stem. Now think I know what broke it. My guess is a racoon was using the lilac to get at the bird feeder, and it broke under the weight.

Which is what I think happened to this bird feeder.

When we cleaned up and painted this bird feeder, we found only two bent screws were holding it to the metal piece that fits over the pole. We replaced those and added more.

I could only find two.

What I’ll likely do is attach a new piece of wood to the base of the bird feeder, then attach the metal fitting to the new wood. Hopefully, that will prevent this from happening again.

Now that I had good light, I got a picture of the unrolled potato bags. I think this will do well to protect them from further critter damage. I’m just glad that what damage there was, was minor.

I saw no new damage in the old kitchen garden. This edge of the beet bed had been left alone until after the soap shavings were added. This end has hot pepper flakes on it.

Also, those flowers blooming in the foreground are incredibly resilient. When we ended up digging out a whole bunch of soil to make the path along the house, all the flowers and whatnot that were growing there were disturbed. I took out as many roots as I could, and the excess soil got moved over to the rose bushes and honeysuckle. The entire area was disrupted, and this far from the house, everything was buried in the dug up soil, then torn up as the soil was moved again. Yet these guys managed to push their way through the hard packed soil and mulch, and are now merrily blooming!

This morning, I worked on getting rid of the woodchuck den I found under the stairs at our dining room door. In the process, I noticed a splash of colour.

This one little cherry tree has developing cherries. There are two others, here, and they barely even bloomed this year.

I’m glad there will be at least a few cherries this year.

The Re-Farmer