Looking good!

I’m happy to say that when I came out to do the cat stuff this morning (bringing 2 gallons of warm water, since we now have such a large heated water bowl), there was still liquid water left in BOTH heated water bowls!

The smaller metal ones were, of course, frozen. At this point, I think maybe we don’t even need them anymore, other than it allows for more cats to drink at the same time. It’s less of an issue with the water than the kibble. They don’t usually all try to drink at the same time, so having the four water bowls so close together works out. When the kibble comes out, though, they are all after the food at once. Not only do they not all fit in the kibble house (I counted “only” 25 this morning), but some of them don’t get along with the others. To avoid aggressive behaviour, along with the trays in the kibble house, I put a couple of handfuls of kibble into two of the shelf shelter shelves, a long line of kibble on the cat house roof – sometimes two, if I can reach – handfuls at three openings to under the cat house, the two trays under the water shelter, a tray just inside the entry into the cat house, a tray just under the eaves of the water shelter (the same spot it was in when the kibble house was there), and finally into a bowl under the shrine across the yard. Rosencrantz in particular prefers to eat at under the shrine, well away from any other cats. She’s gotten meaner to the other cats this year!

It sounds like a lot, but it’s still just a gallon sized container of kibble that’s spread out. This way, even the littlest, shiest and most picked on cats still get some food.

When I was finishing up my rounds, I found the bitty baby and Broccoli in the water shelter. Those ramps are being well used.

Broccoli got her name because she looked so much like Cabbages. This year, Broccoli had two calico kittens. (I think they’re both hers, plus a tortie. I’ve lost track!) I’m thinking we should call the new calicos Brussel and Sprout.

But I digress!

The bitty seems to be handling the colder temperatures really well, and has no hesitation about going outside and playing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see what the temperature was inside the cat house. The two south facing windows were frosted over on the inside, and the big east facing window…

… was full.

Actually, there was too much reflection in the window that I couldn’t see past, but it was really funny trying to peer in and realizing just how many kittens were crowded at the window! Including both of Broccoli’s calicos. Several had run away when I came close, but I can still see at least seven in the photo.

One of the things I made sure to do this morning was stir around the smoldering ashes from the branch pile, then bank it up again. The pile is slowly getting smaller! What’s interesting is that some of the cats have figured out that they can sit near it and keep warm. When I was first starting the burn, they were a problem, because they were so used to going into the pile and playing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep it lit, and had to keep chasing them out of the branches. Once it really got going, though, there was enough heat that they kept away. Now, it’s just a warm, smoldering heap, and every now and then I’ll look over, and see a cat or three, loafed on the snow-free ground around it, enjoying the warmth.

Speaking of warmth, I was just looking at the 10 day forecast on one of my weather apps. Apparently, we’re only going to have one day with the high dropping down to -10C/14F – but 10 days from now, we’re apparently going to get highs above freezing!

That would be a good time for the roofers to show up. So far, no word on when that is going to happen.

The Re-Farmer

Rearranged

Well, it’s all done. The girls and I got things fixed up, moved around and set up with the cat shelters.

The first job was to open up the cats’ house and get things taken care of in there.

There was a whole bunch of incredibly shocked kittens looking up at us when we lifted that roof!

While one daughter was on safety duty to make sure the roof didn’t fall back, the other crawled in to put the heat shield back, then attach the holder for the thermometer.

Safety duty is extra important with so many cats crawling all over.

Including straight up the open roof to play gargoyle!

While they did that, I plugged in the second extension cord and got it through the entry with the other one, then checked to see if we could plug in the new heated water bowl.

As expected, nope! The bowl’s power cord wasn’t long enough.

Which meant a daughter and I did some shelter shuffling, while the other kept kittens distracted.

We really need to put handles of some kind on the water shelter and kibble house. They are really awkward to pick up and carry!

Here is the new set up.

I’d say they like it!

I’m going to have to get larger hooks to hold the cords up, but the small ones will have to do for now.

Once everything was in place, they were given their evening feeding and the water bowls were filled. The container we use to bring warm water out holds about 1 gallon/4L, and that was enough to fill the new bowl, with room to spare.

The board that was used for a ramp into the water shelter is too long for where it is now, so I found a short piece of scrap wood that I could set up near the entrance to the cats’ house. After I took this picture, I found a slightly longer one that is now set up in the middle and braced against part of the sledge under the cats’ house. The ramps are mostly for the bitty baby, since its the only one so small, it would have difficulty climbing our jumping up into the water shelter. Once the ramps were in place, they immediately had kittens using them.

After everything was done and the girls went inside, I hung around for a while longer, seeing if anything needed to be changed and playing with kittens. I ended up shifting one end of the kibble house closer to the water shelter. I’m debating shifting it more, to close that gap a bit more, but I haven’t decided yet.

When my daughter set up the thermometer in the cats’ house, she angled it so it could be seen from all three windows, so we can read it at different times of the day. This time of day, for example, the light is coming in through the smallest window in the entry, and reflecting on the plastic cover on the thermometer, so I couldn’t read it from the window you can see in the photo, but I could see it from the small entry window just fine. After being in there for a while, the thermometer was at about 5C/41F, which is what the temperature in the sun room was when I came inside. The outside temperature was -4C/25F. It should be interesting to see the temperature in there when things get really cold outside.

I think this new arrangement will work well. Everything is still easy to reach for refilling, and the two heated water bowls should make a big difference in the coming winter.

The Re-Farmer

Water shelter is done!

My daughter and I were able to get the metal roof onto the water bowl shelter, and it’s now all set up.

We cut the sheet of metal roofing in half, which was a challenge. We started off using an angle grinder, which did NOT work well at all, and was insanely noisy. The cats and kittens were very alarmed by it. We ended up using tin snips. Later on, when attaching the metal to the top edge, we had to use a drill. Not as loud, but still enough to scare many of the kittens. Not all of them. Gooby, the most socialized one (the friendly grey and white tabby has gooby eyes) would actually try climbing my daughter while she was working! Half the time, one of us would be trying to keep kittens away, while the other one worked.

Once the roof was done, we moved it right up against the kibble house. Then we had to pop open the roof of the cat house, so we could unwind the slack on the extension cord out the door. I put some hooks under the kibble house roof to hold it elevated. Unfortunately, the working heated water bowl has a shorter power cord. I ended up having to move the whole thing in about half a foot to get the power cord out of the way. The good thing about it being tucked so far under the overhang is, we don’t need to put a waterproof case around the plugs, like we do with the cord powering the cat house.

When we opened up the cat house roof, there were only two bitty kitties inside – the two we had been trying to snuggle and keep warm, before we could put them into the cat house and they would actually stay there.

I’m hoping the other two were hidden under the cat house, along with several other kittens I later saw peeking out. When topping up their food for the night, I put kibble at the various spots they use to get under there. Not a lot of kittens showed up when I topped up the food; most were still in hiding from all the noise and activity. I really hope the bitties are okay!

Once the snow starts accumulating, I’m hoping the set up will shelter the inner “courtyard”, and keep it from drifting in front of the kibble house, as it sometimes did last winter. We’ll still be shoveling the space out, of course, but it would be good if there will be less of that!

We shall see how the kitties like the new set up!

The Re-Farmer

Oh, no, two!

It’s windy and damp and chilly, but I headed outside anyway. I wanted to keep an eye on the sudden kitten, and used that as an excuse to clean up the trimmed willow branches for the burn pile, and see what I could do with the wattle weaving.

I did not see any sign of the kitten I saw earlier, but then I found this.

The wind was blowing bits of plastic packaging from the shingles, and the poor thing was hissing and spitting at every movement.

I was able to go up to it and pick it up. Unlike the earlier kitten, which seemed okay with that, if more interested in finding mama, but not this one! This one was a little fireball, hissing and spitting and showing me claws. So I quickly put it into the cat house, where it immediately quieted down.

I hung around to see what happened. Caramel showed up and seemed to be looking around. Could Caramel be their mama? I was sure I saw Caramel with slightly older kittens, and that a little grey tabby that we’ve been seeing by itself was hers. That one looks old enough to be newly weaned, though, and these ones are maybe 3 weeks old.

After a while, I saw the first on emerge from under the cat house, looking around. It came out when it saw me, so I was able to pick it up and put it in the cat house with what I assume is its sibling.

Caramel looked around for a while, then took off. Whether that means she’s gone to bring another kitten, or they’re not hers, I have no idea.

One thing I noticed since we set up the water bowl shelter is that the water is not being drunk as quickly. Usually, I’d find at least the metal bowls mostly empty, and half the big plastic bowl gone, too, by morning. Now, they’re still almost full. One reason may be that other critters had been drinking the water overnight, and the new water bowl shelter is preventing that somehow. The other is, the floor of the water bowl shelter is a lot higher. I think the smaller kittens are having a harder time getting into it. I see them drinking from other places now, where they usually wouldn’t.

So, I tried this.

It’s one of the leftover scrap boards we used for the walls and floor of the water bowl shelter. One end is split, so I tucked that end under the sledge the cat house rests on, so it won’t be easily knocked about. If nothing else, the kittens will be curious enough to go up it and into the water bowl shelter. Once its roof is done and the shelter is positioned close to the kibble house, I’ll see if it’s still needed. Depending on how they line up, cats should be able to go from inside the kibble house up into the water bowl house.

I have a shorter board that I’m thinking of putting in front of the cat house entry, so the bitty kitties can use it to get in without help. I just have to find a way to stabilize it while still keeping it temporary.

As an aside, I shared a picture of our set up with the water bowl shelter added in. She asked if she could use the picture to show as an example of how to make cat shelters! She works with rural rescues only, so she sees a lot of farm cats that don’t get a lot of help. A lot of people say to let nature take its course, or to just shoot them. Well, with our outside cats, we know nature will take its course no matter what we do, but we can at least provide them with food, water and shelter by the house, and the closer they are to the house, the better their chances. She wants to use our set up to show people that they can still provide shelter for their feral and semi feral cats, using what’s on hand. Of course, I gave permission to use the photo, and gave more details about them that I hope are useful. Especially about adding heat in the cat house. Which I really hope will be enough for the newest babies!

I wonder if I’ll find another bitty kitty when I go outside again, later?

The Re-Farmer

Progress on the old kitchen garden bed and water bowl shelter

To continue working on the low raised bed in the old kitchen garden, I couldn’t use the mini chainsaw any more – the batteries just don’t last long enough for a job like this.

It was time to break out the electric chain saw. It’s very handy. The only problem is that I was moving around so much to reach the corners, the extension cord was in the way.

It still made the job much easier and faster. There was one log that was so bumpy, I spent more time trying to smooth it out than all the rest of the work put together!

You can see in the background that the kittens had been playing in the soil on the tarp, spreading it out quite a bit!

The whole thing wasn’t very stable, though. Something needed to be done to stabilize it, so it wouldn’t fall apart when the soil was added.

I decided to sacrifice some of the plastic coated metal stakes that I’d used to hold hoops supporting netting over the spinach bed.

I used an auger bit to drill holes into each corner of the bed, then hammered in a length. A couple had to have excess length broken off, but I think the other two actually went all the way through and into the ground below.

This made the whole thing quite sturdy. Now I could start filling.

On top of the wood chips I’d added earlier, I added some of the contents of our compost pile. Vegetation, apple pieces from straining the apple cider vinegar, coffee grounds, and even a few eggshells went in.

Next was a layer of dry grass clippings. One of the logs at the end had a fair bit of space under it, so I stuffed it with some grass clippings, too. Then it all got a thorough soaking before the soil was returned.

Once the bed was full, soil was added around three side of it, to fill in the gaps left from digging out a larger hole than the bed itself.

Which, of course, a kitten promptly tried to use as a litter box!

Finally, some grass clippings were added to mulch the top, and it got another thorough watering. I was also able to clear off the stepping stones at each end.

This bed is now done, and ready for planting next year.

My next job will be to try and weed along the whole side of this garden, before we start figuring out the low wall we want to edge it with (my daughter wants to use rocks – we have lots of those!) and top it up with some of the leftover sifted soil. The next bed I want to work on, though, is the L shaped bed that goes around the double lilac. Even if it only gets a supporting wall on the inside of the L shape, that will help. Trying to work about that lilac bush is a pain, and there are so things trying to grow into the space from there. We’d already tried to remove so many roots over the past couple of years, but it’s just getting worse! As with this bed, the L shaped bed will be only 2 feet wide, except possibly the tip of the short part of the L shape, where it can be accessed from three sides and is already wider than the rest of the bed.

Little by little, this garden will eventually have all walled, low to middle height raised beds. I was wanting to make this our kitchen garden, with things like herbs and salad vegetables that get used the most often over the summer, in here. My younger daughter wants to make it into a flower garden. Considering most herbs have lovely flowers, I’m sure we can come up with a compromise. 😊

Speaking of my younger daughter, when I was done working here, I helped my daughter out with her project.

By stealing kittens.

You’ll notice one of them has yellow paws. My daughter was painting the water bowl shelter, and that kitten would NOT leave her alone! The only way to keep him out of the paint was to put him on her shoulders – which means her skin and the tank top she was wearing got paint, too!

The first coat is done. The underside won’t need another coat, except for the legs. She was able to crawl inside and paint there, too. Carefully, as the roof is resting on bricks to hold it off the ground, and it’s not particularly strong. I think she even got the floor done, as well as the underside of the roof. After the legs and walls get a couple of coats, we’ll flip it right side up again to do the roof and whatever else can be reached at that point.

I’m surprised more kittens didn’t end up with paint all over them. They really, really love playing in this thing! Once it’s done and set up with the water bowls, they’ll have three roofs they play on. 😁

When I picked the colour, I tried to get a yellow as close as I could to the colour used on the kibble house. I couldn’t remember where we’d bought the original paint from, so I figured it was a different brand’s colour and would be slightly different. My daughter remembered that we bought it at Canadian Tire, too. It turns out I really did pick the exact same colour! We used up an entire gallon on the kibble house, but the water shelter is smaller, so we should have enough left over to do the tree stump bench out by the main garden area, too.

It feels good to have visible, tangible progress done! A lot of the fall clean up work doesn’t look like a lot got accomplished, because things get taken away, rather than added.

Little by little, it’s getting done!

The Re-Farmer

Some evening clean up

My original plan for the day had been to go into the city for our second stock up trip, but that just didn’t happen. Not only was I very tired from being up so late making and canning the tomato paste, I was in a load of pain. Arthritis sucks at the best of times, but everything else was hurting, too!

By the afternoon, I was feeling a bit better, so I went outside to do some clean up. I figured I would give the water bowl shelter a quick scrub down, and tomorrow we could start painting it.

Ha!

That worked out well enough until I went to flip it upside down to scrub the bottom.

The first time I flipped it on its roof, two floor boards fell off.

Most of the boards are nailed in place, but this salvaged wood is pretty warped and starting to dry rot, so they don’t hold well. I did have 1 3/4 inch screws in a few of them, and those ones held, so I flipped it back again, nailed the boards that fell off back in place, then added some screws.

Then I flipped it upside down, and a different board fell off. And that one did have screws already!

I fixed that and added more screws, flipped it back and…

That board has several screws in it, and it still fell off. It’s basically too warped for the screws to hold. I need longer screws, but the next size up I’ve got are 3 inch screws, and those are just too long. Especially since I’m doing this by hand.

So tomorrow, I’ll pick up some 2 inch wood screws and get those back on. It only has to hold long enough for us to paint it. After that, it won’t matter.

I let the girls know the status of things, including that I was unable to scrub the inside back wall, because I couldn’t reach it, then moved on to something else.

I did some chop and drop around the haskap berries, now that my mother’s flowers are past their prime. I’ve never bothered to do this before, leaving the stems to clean up in the spring, but this year they got SO tall, the completely covered the haskap berries. So now they will be a mulch, and the haskap are finally getting some sunlight.

I had lots of company while I worked.

I like this baby. He spends most of his time just hanging out nearby.

We had haskap

We had no berries at all this year. The male plant bloomed, but I never saw flowers on the females. Hopefully, next year will be better, but I think I just need to move these to a better location.

While I was working on that, one of my daughters came out and worked on the water bowl shelter.

She tacked the floorboard back on, crawled in and got that back wall scrubbed.

If we’d had the paint earlier, we would have scrubbed and painted all the parts and pieces first. That would have made things much easier!

Ah, well. We’ll manage.

That tuxedo really likes the water bowl shelter. He’s always hanging around in or under it!

Once the shelter is dry, it’s going to need another brush down to get the stuff currently stuck in place because it’s damp. With the condition of the wood, we don’t want to use a hose on it any more than we absolutely have to. It’ll be good to finally have it painted and set up in its spot by the kibble house and cat shelter. We’ll be creating a sort of U shape with them, which should help reduce drifting, too.

Little by little, it’s getting done!

The Re-Farmer

Water bowl house, in progress

My younger daughter starting working on a shelter for the water bowls, and we got some more progress on it last night. This is being built with whatever scraps we can find in the barn.

Construction is almost complete. A couple of floor boards are not nailed down yet. It got too dark to see. The scrap boards used for the floor and walls are pretty old, and there was a fair amount of rot on the ends. For the walls, I laid the boards so that the strongest wood could be nailed in place, then the rotted ends were sawed off. The same boards were used for the floor. Since this is to hold water bowls, there are spaces left in between, so that if any water spills, it’ll run through the gaps and not accumulate inside.

I might be able to cover those triangle shaped gaps at the sides. I was originally going to just leave them, but they are pretty big. Big enough that I think too much snow might blow in during the winter.

Once the construction is complete, it’ll get a scrub down and a paint job.

It’s big enough to hold the four water bowls we have, though it won’t fit as many cats at the same time as the kibble house can. That won’t be a problem, as they don’t crowd around the water bowls the way they do for the kibble.

Once painted, this should actually last a few years, in spite of how bad some of the boards are. The frame is made with sturdier wood, so it’s actually pretty strong.

It will be good to not have to dig the water bowls out of the snow this winter!

The Re-Farmer

Some evening activities

After the onions were harvested, and my daughter no longer needed help with her build, I headed over to the platform bed frame the girls have been slowly getting painted. The top, where the litter boxes will be sitting, got several coats of paint. They’ve been working on the under side. It’s the legs that need the extra coats of paint, now that we know the newer basement floor can get water seeping in, despite the weeping tile.

There was just one last coat of paint to add to the leg ends, plus around the edges. The platform is upside down on the picnic table, so I went to put a couple of bricks under it, to elevate it enough to paint the edges, and not the picnic table.

As I came around the back, I found this.

Well, so much for my trying not to get red paint on the blue picnic table when I was painting the bench I made!

The platform now has its final coat of paint, though. We’ll be able to bring it back into the house and into the basement any time after tonight.

Meanwhile, my daughter got some good progress on the water bowl shelter today.

As you can see, it’s already kitten approved!

She worked on this without any detailed plan; just a general idea of the build, adapted to what materials were available. I found the scrap piece of half inch plywood in the barn, so that became the size of the shelter.

The smaller cross pieces at the bottom, inside the uprights, will be the supports for the floor. Another cross piece will be added for extra support. We might have some scraps in the barn that will work. With the floor lower that the top of the cross piece in the front, there will be a lip to prevent the bowls from being casually knocked out. When we built the kibble house, one of the first problems we discovered was that the skunks would pull the kibble trays right off, scattering kibble all over the ground and making an awful lot of noise. Putting a board across the front solved that problem. My daughter made sure that would not be an issue this time!

Once a floor is figured out, it will need walls on three sides. We have more of the wider boards across the front and back. They are pretty rotten on the ends, but they are also longer than needed. Most likely, the shelter will be flipped onto its roof, then boards added across the back with the rotten ends sticking out. Once they are secured, we can simply saw the ends off along the vertical support, then do the same thing on the sides. It doesn’t need to be perfectly seals. It just need to keep the snow out.

This should fit rather well beside the kibble house. The cats’ house, the kibble house and this water shelter, will together form a sort of U shape. The heated water bowl is plugged into an outlet inside the cats’ house, which has its own extension cord that is more than long enough to reach. So even if the regular water bowls freeze, they will still have at least one bowl of liquid water available.

We painted the kibble house a bright yellow, but we no longer have any of that paint left. I’ll have to pick up some more, probably next month. The kibble house could use a touch up, too. Plus, if we dig up the shingles we found in some sheds, we could do both roofs, too.

Yeah. We’re sucks when it comes to the cats.

Speaking of shingles and roofs…

This is a section of roof on the house that caught my attention today.

You can see a loose shingle has started to slide down. This is a very steep roof, but at least it’s low enough that it can be patched from a ladder. This section of roof forms the angled walls of the second floor. Both sides used to be like this, but my dad had one side raised into a low slope roof to make more room in the second floor. Unfortunately, that low slope is why there is now water leaking in through one of the second floor windows.

That brick chimney is for the wood furnace we can no longer use. When the new roof is done, that chimney will be removed completely. It needed to be redone since my parents bought the place. That’s what the chimney blocks I’m now using as planters and retaining walls were for! It just never got done, and now it never will.

This is the only section of roof that is north facing. Ice and snow remains here the longest, and you can really tell. All of the shingles are lifting. It’s worse now than it was even in the spring! This is over the attic above the old kitchen – an attic no one goes into, as the entrance is difficult to get at, so the girls have simply blocked it off with furniture.

The chimney here is to the old wood cookstove in the old kitchen. The stove can no longer be used. Not only is it unsafe, being so close to the wall with no heat shield (how did we never burn the house down when I was a kid???), but the fire box is badly damaged, and the door to the oven is broken off. Some day, however, we may be able to replace it with another cookstove, with a proper heat shield and protective flooring. If nothing else, it would be good to have something like that as an emergency back up if we lose electricity. We certainly have the option to cook outside, but if we lose power in the winter, not only would we want to be cooking indoors, such a set up would also be a heat source.

Not that we could do that any time soon. Right now, the only reason my brother was able to get property insurance was by providing photographic proof that all wood burning stoves – including the ones in the storage shed, installed back when it was a work shop – and the wood burning furnace were disabled. Without that, the cost of insurance would have been much, much higher, for things that can’t even be used. We’ll probably have our outdoor kitchen built long before we’re in a position to remove the old wood cookstove and replace it with something else.

The main thing for now it, getting a new roof.

I really hope my mother isn’t just yanking my brother’s chain again, and will actually follow through. I’m just praying that she’ll make good on her promise, and it can be done before winter. Not only because of how bad the roof is getting, but because it will probably save us money on our heating bills, too. Our equal payment plan has been reset to just over $330 per month. It used to be just under $300, but just this past month, our usage has been up 20% from last year. For January and February – our coldest months of the year – our actual usage in 2021 would have cost us almost $450 in January, and almost $600 in February. In 2022, our actual usage would have cost us almost $600 in January, and almost $450 in February – and March, too! Meanwhile, the upstairs gets freezing cold, even with their heaters. Then, in the summer, it gets so hot, their computers start to have problems. A few roof would help reduce those extremes and reduce the energy we use.

I’m afraid to hope my mother will follow through, though. I know once she sees how expensive it is now, she’s going to start backing off. I just hope my brother can persuade her how urgently it’s needed.

Well. We’ll see. The guy that came by today will send me his estimate tomorrow, and then we’ll see.

The Re-Farmer