Leaving their mark, and planning ahead

With the temperatures staying warmer, and the days getting longer, I’ve been starting to bring back my evening rounds. I was all ready to head out the door yesterday evening, when I saw three deer, running and jumping through the outer yard, from the direction of the barn!

Then they stopped and seemed hesitant.

I had a suspicion as to why.

I was right.

There were other deer!

These two were already hanging out at the feeding station.

I was able to open the inner door without startling them, so I could see them better. I could tell they saw me and were watching me, but they didn’t run off. So awesome!

The three made their way into the inner yard, but eventually left rather than joining the two at the feeding station.

There they go, all in a row! 😀

I was losing light fast, so I took the chance and went outside. They actually watched me for a bit, before running off.

As I was checking things out in the outer yard, and making my way to the back gate, I had to pause to take these photos.

I was in the path I mow to the back gate, half way between the fences for the inner and outer yards. The line of snow is what was hard packed from so many hooves, it left their mark in snow that’s taking longer to melt away.

Last winter, they seemed to prefer to jump the gate by the old garden area, where it is more open, but this winter, they definitely seemed to prefer going through the maple grove, then jumping the fence near the massive old willow.

Every time I see them making their way through the trees, or along the spruce grove, it makes me glad we were able to clear the trees out so much. It’s not only much easier and more pleasant for us to be able to go through the trees, but the deer prefer it, too!

While doing my rounds this morning, my daughter joined me as I took a closer look into the spruce grove, where we have SO much clearing to do. I had earlier identified 6 dead spruce trees that we’d like to cut down, on top of the 3 that are closer to buildings that we plan to hire someone to take down. We were able to go further into the grove and look more closely.

It’s not 9 dead trees. It’s a full dozen.

And that doesn’t include any others further into the grove, but just along the Western edge, where we need to work on cleaning things out first. It also doesn’t count the dead trees that have already fallen, and are either on the ground, or leaning on other trees, that need to be cleared away.

Looking in the area behind the garlic beds, it’s almost all little poplars, and those cherry trees that aren’t right for our climate. They bloom beautifully, but produce almost no cherries. They’re all relatively small, so I will be taking them right out. The little bendy poplars will be used to build trellises and arches, among other things. The cherries… they don’t look all that good. They have been killed off by late frosts, then regrowing, so often, none of them are particularly big, and are growing in clumps around whatever parent plant had died off in the middle. They might just end up being really nice wood to cook over.

The size of this area that has no large trees in it is pretty significant. Any spruces that used to be there have died off long ago – I expect to uncover more stumps as we clear back there. It also gets quite a bit of sunlight, so this will be a good area to plant some of the food trees and bushes we are planning on.

Once it’s all cleaned up and cleared away, I expect to see a lot more deer cutting through the spruce grove, rather than skirting around it!

As for the additional trees we identified as being dead and in need of removal, I noticed a couple of groups of three. Depending on the condition of the stumps, they might work well to use as the supports, to make a table with a bend on each side. We are wanting to create pleasant little seating areas throughout, where we can sit and enjoy the wild roses and red barked dogwood that we plan to leave as undergrowth, along with the Saskatoons we are finding (we’ll be taking out the chokecherries, though), and the other trees and bushes we intend to slowly plant in the area.

Like the mulberry tree that will be shipped late in the spring, so we’re going to need to get those dead trees out sooner, rather than later!

Plus, in other areas of the grove, we intend to transplant more spruce trees, into the spruce grove!

This whole area is going to be completely transformed over the next few years.

If all goes well, it will be a haven for both humans and deer. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Just a bit earlier, today

With how bitterly cold it has been for the past while, I have been doing my morning rounds much later in the morning. It may only have been a couple of degrees warmer, but I was taking anything I could get! Usually, by the time I came out, the outside cats were hovering around the door, looking for me to come out with warm water.

This morning, I headed out at a more usual time, even though it was -31C/-24F with a wind chill of -33C/-27F

Absolutely none of the cats came out to greet me! LOL

The only cat I saw was Nosy and, other than lifting his head to look at me, he did not move! Considering that he is curled up right under where the terrarium bulb is, I’m guessing it’s still working.

My brother’s dog was visiting again. He’s loving this cold so much! 😀 I didn’t have any cats joining me for my rounds, but I did have him to keep me company! You can even see him in the photo below.

We have deer paths all through the garden area and the East yard, but none are as well worn as these, here. We used to have a trail cam facing where they would cross the road from my brother’s place and jump our fence. One of these days, I’d like to set one up again. I miss seeing how many deer used to cross here!

What I found this morning, however, is that the top barbed wire is loose from one post, and it was twisted around the middle wire. It had been torn loose when a deer didn’t quite clear the fence! I’m going to have to find some U nails and head out with a hammer to fix it.

Long term, we’re going to have to find a way to stop the deer from entering our yard around here at all. As much as I like them, I don’t want them eating the garden! Privacy is also a goal, and not just from our vandal creeping about. Even with the lilac hedge and other trees along the fence like, people driving by like to slow down and peer into the property. Particularly if there are deer at the house. The fence posts around the garden area all need to be replaced, and I want to get away from barbed wire completely, so building a privacy fence around the garden area that the deer can’t jump over is right in line with our goals. When we can do that is another question entirely! 😀

Speaking of gardens…

This morning, I noticed that the label for the bunching onions in the small tank had been knocked over. Though I had blocked the opening in the lid, a cat had still managed to reach in and bat at things. When I lifted the lid to fix it, though, I could feel it was noticeably colder than the room!

Clearly, lining the inside of the tank with insulation was not enough. The above picture is from when the trays were first put into the tank. Not only did a cat knock over the label, but I found one of the peaks of cardboard in a corner had been torn off!

The light on this tank is LED. It provides no warmth. The light on the big tank is fluorescent (I had thought it was LED, too, but was remembering incorrectly), so it does help keep the seedlings warm. The little tank was way too cold for the seeds!

After thinking about how we could warm up the inside of the tank, I remembered something. Years ago, I’d bought a small, recessed bulb, light fixture to provide spot lighting while I was working on crafts, etc. I stopped using it because it had a tendency to get very hot, even with an LED bulb. The bulb would be cool, but the fixture would get hot. I kept it and we even brought it along when we moved here. So this morning, I dug it out, then went through a bag of bulbs we have. We replaced almost all of the light bulbs here with LED bulbs, plus we still had some that the movers accidentally included when packing our stuff. Lo and behold, I found a full spectrum incandescent light bulb in the mix.

Perfect!

So I set the light fixture up on the edge of the tank, with the lid propped on it to hold it in place. I also dug around our aquarium supplies and found the little tank thermometer. The suction cup doesn’t work anymore, but I could still set it up inside the tank so that we could monitor the temperature.

It worked. In only a few minutes, I could feel a significant difference! (The thermometer will need more time to read accurately, since it was in the old kitchen, where it’s below freezing temperatures.)

We can only have this light going while someone is there to supervise, since it could literally melt the plastic of the lid. Since the tank is lined with insulation, once it warms up inside, it will stay warm for quite a while, so a few minutes here and there will be adequate.

On the down side, the cats still try to jump on the lid, even when it’s propped up over the light fixture.

I did not expect the small tank to be less cat proof than the big one!

The Re-Farmer

Foggy morning, and more looking ahead

It’s past 10am as I start this post, and we are still surrounded by fog!

The camera automatically cleans up images, so this photo does not reflect just how dense the fog was when I took it!

Not only does fog normally disappear quite a bit earlier than this, but it’s also pretty breezy out there. I’m used to winds and fog on the coasts. On the prairies, a stiff breeze usually blows the fog away in no time. Not today!

I just had to share this high traffic zone picture!

There are deer paths cutting through the old garden area, but most of the tracks are all long here. When we first moved here, you couldn’t walk under the spruces, because of all the overhanging branches. The deer seem to be very happy that it’s all cleaned up!

Down the middle of this area, between the spruces and the crab apple trees, we are planning to plant Korean Pine Nuts. They need to be kept shaded for their first 5 years (the transplants are typically sold at 3 years), and this location is prefect for that. We will still put covers to shade them more, but also to keep the deer from trampling them. After 5 years of being really tiny, they are supposed to have a sudden growth spurt. It would be another 5 years or so before they have edible pine nuts. We are hoping to buy them and get them started next year.

This is another high traffic zone for the deer. The open space in front, past the ring for the compost pile, is also where we plan to build the outdoor bathroom.

Not getting that started last year, as I’d hoped, may turn out to be a blessing. While taking this photo, I took a good look at the spruces in the background. There was one I had already identified as needing to be cut down, but looking more closely, there seems to be at least 6 or 7 dead spruces that we’ll need to cut down. Possibly 8 or 9, if I count the ones closer to the house (we’ll be hiring someone to take those ones down). I wouldn’t want any of them falling on our shed after we build it! Plus, if we cut them down before they fall down, the wood might still be usable for projects. Usually, by the time they fall, it’s because ants have made nests in the trunk and they are left basically hollow.

Once the dead trees and some of the underbrush (mostly spirea!) is cleared away, that is where we will be planting the mulberry tree we will be getting this spring. It will get full sun, while still being sheltered by the other trees. This is one tree we’ll have to make a point of wrapping up in the fall, for at least the first few years. A mulberry tree can start producing fruit by the second year, so that will be exciting! In the future, we plan to get a variety native to the more Eastern parts of Canada. It is becoming rare, so we will have to make sure to plant it away from any others we get, so they don’t cross pollinate. That might be 2 or 3 years from now, though.

One of the things I love about doing the morning rounds is looking at the progress made. Even though we are “behind” on getting this area in particular cleared out, it’s reached a point where it no longer seems as overwhelming, and I can get excited about the things we can do in the increasingly near future!

The Re-Farmer

Pretty morning

We had a light snowfall all night, with almost no wind. This morning, the trees looked like they were covered in frost!

It’s enough to almost make the junk cars in the old hay yard look pretty.

Almost.

Fresh tracks at the feeding station, and around to the ornamental apply trees in the old kitchen garden, show we had quite a few deer visits in the night!

As promised, I got a picture of the wonderful gift from my brother and his wife.

Well. The box, at least! No point in opening the box until spring!

Being the incredibly thoughtful person he is, on noticing the spikes into the soil are not very long, my brother included a length of angle iron we can pound into the ground, and wired to tie the post to it, for extra support!

I find myself thinking… if we have a fire, that might thaw out the ground enough to install this, and we can have some winter cook outs! With the fire bans, we aren’t using the fire pit in the summer anywhere near as much as I had expected to.

It’s supposed to be pretty mild for the next while…

Yeah. I’m just looking for excuses to get this set up out there! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Signs in the snow

While they don’t come around when we’re around to see them, there are plenty of signs that the deer are coming to the feeding station.

The snow was absolutely trampled this morning! You can see it all the way back to the corner of the spruce grove, before the tracks start splitting up into smaller trails.

Here, you can see their trail coming from inside the spruce grove. More tracks go through the gate and towards the barn.

We may not be able to leave much feed out – and the birds eat a lot of what we do leave out – but at least they know they can come here for a winter snack!

The suet we have right now seems to be a bust, though. When I bought it, the Walmart I found them in was out of stock except for packs with 3 different “flavours”. All mixes of seeds, nuts and fruit. Usually, the only ones I can find locally are basic seed mixes, or special mixes for specific birds. The brand is the same, though.

The individual packs were not labelled, so I don’t know which is which. The first one I put up was, as far as I could tell, completely ignored. Usually, the chickadees and nuthatches are all over it! After several weeks of it looking completely un-pecked at, I decided to put a different one in. I put the first one in the snow in the bird bath (which I am not trying to keep with water this winter; it is just too damaged for that, and I’m amazed it actually lasted another summer!).

Since then, I’ve seen Blue Jays on the bird bath, pecking away at that piece of suit, but none on the hanging feeder!

I’m thinking the larger birds don’t like the little feeder basket as something to land on, and the little birds don’t like these mixes, so they’re not bothering. Not with delicious black oil seeds for them to eat, instead! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

You can herdly tell

I had quite a surprise last night!

As I got up from my computer to do the cat stuff a bit earlier than usual – the only reason I happened to see this while there was still enough light – I caught movement out the north facing window.

Three deer had been startled and were bolting away from the feeding station, which is around the corner of the house from where I was looking, running through the old garden area and maple grove.

Did I say three? Oh! There’s number four…

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Can you tell?

Yesterday morning, when I went outside to feed the critters and do my rounds, it had already been snowing for quite some time. I had to brush several inches of snow off the platform bird feeder, but the deer feed just got put on the ground in the usual places.

Of course, it got completely buried.

By this morning, when I went to put more feed out, I found this.

Can you tell the deer were here? 😀

That is all deer tracks, except for my foot path closer to the house, and you can see where they dug into the snow to reach the feed (where you can see I’ve placed more feed).

There were a lot of fresh tracks under the overhanging branches of the spruces, as well as by the apple trees, and paths from where they jump the fences to get into our yard.

It looks like we got a lot more visitors than our usual group of 3, plus the loan buck! Either that, or they just came back more often.

The Re-Farmer