Beep Beep: Mighty Huntress

(Circle of Life warning)

Of all the outside cats, Beep Beep is notably the smallest, in every way.  Yet, now that she’s got kittens to feed, she is proving to be a Mighty and Prolific Huntress.

Case in point.

Earlier today, I was hearing an odd meowing outside my office window.  A very unusual sort of meow.  So I went outside to look at see what was up.

It was Beep Beep.  Doing this.

The odd sound I was hearing was her meowing with a mouth full of dead chipmunk.  Usually, I see her with a vole, sometimes with a bird.  This is a first I’ve seen any of the cats with a chipmunk.

Then, this afternoon, my older daughter noticed some odd meowing and went out to see.

Yes, it was Beep Beep again.  This time, with a bird.

Both bird and chipmunk remain beside the bowls of cat kibble.

As the kittens have starting coming around the house to the food bowls, I am no longer going to be putting food out for them by the garden shed.  Which means, kitties have a meaty lunch waiting for them when they come around.

The Re-Farmer

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A Beautiful morning… avoiding the snakes

Driving to and from town on the gravel road for the past while, I have been noticing quite a lot of garter snakes trying to cross the road.  Avoiding them has become a challenge.  Is that a stick on the road?  Nope, it moved!  swerve

Sadly, I’m also seeing quite a few that have been run over, too.

I had been wondering why the sudden uptick in snakes, until I remembered what time of year it is.  They are starting to make their way back to their winter dens, to the north of us.  We will likely be seeing increased numbers for a few more weeks.

It was a beautiful morning to drive my daughter to work, then swing by the lake, after.

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Usually, I walk past the wave line, but not today.

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Today, I got soaked to my knees from the waves. 😀

The Re-Farmer

A bit early, isn’t it?

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I would not have expected this many leaves on the ground, this early in the year. :-/

This photo also shows just how little rain we have had this year.  If you look in the back, near the tire planter, there is a definite rectangle of greener grass.  I had set up the sprinkler to water where the grapes are, a couple of times.  Since it was there anyway, I set it to full to water the grass as well.  When I came to harvest some grapes, I moved the sprinkler to the other side of the steps, to water the wilting lilacs at the corner of the storage house.  Just that little bit of watering made a difference!

While I will water the plants, I don’t typically water the lawn.  Yes, we are on a well and water is “free”, but running the water means the pump is running constantly until it’s shut off.  I’d really prefer not to wear it out!

I have been chomping at the bit today, wanting to start working on the spruces.  While it hasn’t been quite as hot as predicted yet, we’re still up there, and the humidex makes if feel even hotter.  I kept thinking, it’s not that hot.  I could probably get a couple of hours in…  I managed to resist working on the trees, but I did go outside to work on the wiper blades on the van.  It’s parked by the house, to make it easier to load up for the dump run we’ll be making later, and I finally remembered.  Our van’s washer fluid sprays out from the wipers themselves, but on the driver’s side, the sprayer was held on with electric tape, which seemed to be blocking it.  The other side was held in place with a zip tie.  I ended up doing both of them with new zip ties, only to find that it just sprays wonky, anyhow. LOL  Then I cleaned up and rearranged in front of the main entry, making the hand rail more accessible.  I didn’t realize how much my mother needed it to get to the door.  The bench I placed in front of the bin we use to keep garbage bags until we can haul them away was blocking her from reaching it.

By the time I was done, I realised that yes, it is quite hot out there, and heavy manual labour is not a good idea.  No matter how fun it is! 😀

Tomorrow will be cooler and…

oh!  My phone just dinged.  A severe thunderstorm watch for today and tomorrow for the area.  Hmm.  What I was going to say is that it is expected to be cooler tomorrow, but it’s Sunday, and I do try to have Sundays as a day or rest, so I wouldn’t be working on the trees, anyhow.  I guess the weather is going to be making sure of that, after all!

Seeing all those leaves on the grass has made me more aware of how quickly time flies.  I want to get as much done in the yard as I can, before winter sets in.

I know it’s a running joke to talk about the weather, but it really is a big deal.  For my neighbouring farmers, weather can make or break their entire year.  I am grateful that our income does not depend on what the weather does, it still plays a big part in deciding what we do, and when.  Something as simple as the leaves coming down early is a good reminder of that.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: west yard trees – FINISHED!

Yes!!!

It is finally done!

The maple grove/west yard trees are now finally cleared, trimmed and cleaned up.  After this, there will just be the basic maintenance to be taken care of in this area for the rest of the year.  Aside from maybe trimming the tall stumps, if we get a full size chainsaw before winter.

What a difference!

When I headed out today, the first priority was to clean up the branches and trees from last time.  In the process, I went digging around for downed branches under the last bit of trees I needed to work on, grabbed what I thought was a branch and found…

… metal.

This is what I dragged out.

I haven’t the foggiest clue what it is.

It went on the junk pile by the old garden shed.

Once I did that, I broke out the weed trimmer and went to town in all the areas I’ve been working on that hadn’t been trimmed yet.

Oh, my, does it ever look awesome!!!  (click on the pictures)

While I was using the weed trimmer, I kept having to stop and pull more branches out of the dead leaves, as I found them with the line on the trimmer.  My daughters cleaned away what they could find.  I had been taking what I cleared out of the last section (photos below) to the pile out of the yard, but by the end of the day, I was getting too tired to do both.  It was quite pleasant to work among the trees, but once I got out of the yard with the wheel barrow, or dragging a tree or two, it was like walking into a wall of heat.  So I started leaving things to the side, then the girls did a fantastic job of cleaning it all away, later.

While I wasn’t going to work on the rest of the fence line, I did go in with the weed trimmer.  I took the before picture when I last worked in the area a few days ago.

There was just the last bit to work on, over by the power pole (see below).  I went into it with the weed trimmer as much as I could, but there was a section by the gooseberry bush I couldn’t reach, because I kept getting stabbed by low hanging and dead branches!

This side will probably need to be thinned down more, but I will wait and see how the remaining trees do over the next year or two.  If the maples do well, I might trim the elms to give them more room to grow, because maples can get so huge.  If the elms do well, I may trim the maples.  The maple I’m standing next to as I take the photo (in the foreground, to the right) is going to need thinning, but it can wait.

Several times, I started to clear a maple, then thought, oh… it’s actually an elm.  No, it’s a maple.  No, it’s… both??

There were groups of trees where maple and elm were growing against each other.  !!

This next section shows some apple trees.

In the before picture, there is a crab apple tree that is part of the row of crab apples in the middle of this area, but this one had so many little apple trees growing around it.  Likely self seeded, as apples fell over the years.  As I went through them, trying to figure out what to keep and what to take out, I discovered the biggest one – the one that would have been originally planted – was almost entirely dead.  It had two younger ones growing next to it, so I left those.  They are too close together, but I will see which of them does better over the next few years, before deciding if they need to be thinned more.

The major challenge was the big ornamental apple tree.  The branches were so twisted and wrapped around each other, with living tangled up with the dead.  It was a struggle to get them free of each other.  Most of it was growing towards the East – the morning sun would be the only real sunlight it would be getting – and that’s there all the little apples is had are hanging from.

There were so many dead branches higher up on all of these trees.  The extended pruning saw got quite a workout.  Not just to pull down or cut dead branches, but to untangle them to get them down.

Sadly, I was not able to use my little electric chain saw/extended pole pruner.  I checked it over thoroughly (it’s really designed to be idiot proof) and everything looked good.  Yet when I tried to use it, it started screaming and immediately began to jam.  It was also dripping chain oil. 😦

Time to see how long the warranty is for. 😦  Or if it’s still covered.  All I can think of that’s different that might be an issue is the chain oil.  The oil it came with was perfectly clear, like water.  The chain oil I have now is generic, and red.  The paperwork did recommend using their brand of chain oil, but it seems not to be available in Canada.

This rather sucks, because it did make work go much faster, when it was working!

Still, I have the tools I need to do the job, and the next time I am able to work on the trees, it will be at the spruce grove!  Woo Hoo!!!

I love this work. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Fruit of the vine

I’ve picked our first grapes today!

Most of them are like this, still.

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But I was able to gather some ripe ones.

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They are so tiny, and each grape has a single seed in it.

Growing among the spirea, I was doing a fair bit of digging among the leaves, and kept finding more and more bunches.   Few were fully ripe, but there are a lot in there!

This bowl full will be enjoyed as is.  Over the next while, I hope to harvest enough to make some jelly or something with it.  🙂

The Re-Farmer

Oh, my shaggy friends!

Driving home from town this morning, I was happy to see the bison were by the fence – on a day when I had the DSLR with me!

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Though the orange haze of this morning was fading away, it was still smokey, as you can see in the background.

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This adolescent bison seemed rather curious about me.

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What a beautiful, shaggy face!

Oh, how I love seeing these beautiful creatures!

The Re-Farmer

Orange haze

20180816-113303_AccuWeatherIt was almost disorienting, getting up to drive my daughter to work this morning.  Instead of the usual brightness for this time of year, it was dark.  Instead of sunshine, everything had an orange overcast to it.

The cloud of smoke from the fires on the West coast that had engulfed our former home for the past few days has finally reached us.

And yet, we weren’t getting any air quality warnings on our weather apps at all – that didn’t come in until several hours later – and it didn’t smell like smoke.

I had planned to bring my older daughter’s camera along, to take photos at the beach after dropping her sister off at work.  I decided to bring it anyhow, leaving the telephoto lens on it.  I honestly didn’t expect to get any good photos, but I did manage a few.

 

(click on the photos to see larger versions)

Everything was just this greyish orange colour.  There was no sun.  We couldn’t even see any sign of where the sun should have been.

I wanted to stay in town long enough to be able to pick up some prescription refills, so along with my usual playing of Pokemon Go, I decided to walk along the wharf and the breakwater.  The wharf ends abruptly, and then there is a gravel path along the stones of the breakwater.  While walking to the end of this section (there is a gap for the larger boats, then it continues into a cove), I had my game up.  I couldn’t help but laugh.

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I can walk on water! 😀

The wharf is on the game’s map, but not the breakwater.

Interestingly, the line of buoys in the lake, marking the closest boats can come to the shore, and the farthest swimmers can go out, is on the map, looking for all the world like a sidewalk, running through the lake.

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The stones are naturally more of a pale yellow in colour, but not today!

After  while, I headed to a park that’s part of my gaming routine and stayed a while.  I was just getting ready to leave, when the sun made an appearance, at almost 9:30!

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It was so hazy, I could look directly at it, comfortably.  I tried playing with the settings on the camera to try and get how orange it was, but this is the closest I could get.  The orange that you can see around the circumference is what the entire orb looked like in real life.

Though I couldn’t smell the smoke much at all – it was more than lost in the smell of yeast from the distillery – by the time I was done walking around and returned to my van, I could feel my throat and lungs starting to get irritated.  These conditions would be awful for anyone with respiratory conditions!

I pray that the rains will come and help the firefighters put out these devastating blazes.

The Re-Farmer

Kittens, kittens, all of the kittens!

Butterscotch seems to have moved her kittens again, and from seeing her yesterday evening while I was clearing the bush, I am afraid she may have moved them off our property entirely, and to the neighbour’s across the road (no one lives there, as far as I can tell).

This evening, I brought food and refilled the water for Beep Beep and her kittens, by the garden shed.  There was no sign of them, and I went on my way around the yard.  As I made my way back, I found Butterscotch and all her kittens!

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I had to zoom in with my phone camera quite a bit, as they did not seem comfortable with me coming closer.

Eventually, I came around again and saw Beep Beep at the food.

Except it wasn’t Beep Beep!  It was her grey tabby!

I sat at the picnic table and, before I knew it, I had all 6 kittens around!  Butterscotch was still around, some of the time, too.

Here is some video I got while I was there.

Just before I was ready to leave, I did finally see Beep Beep.  She was carrying a bird in her mouth that was almost as big as her head!  She didn’t come close, though.  Her tuxedo saw her and ran after her, wanting that bird, but she continued carrying it through the garden.

It looks like she may have moved her kittens across the road, too. 😦  This concerns me.  While we are pretty isolated, that road is a main artery West from the highway, and is quite busy for a gravel road.

At least they know to come back here for assured food and water!

The Re-Farmer

Morning at the lake

After the heat we’ve been having lately, this morning was downright chilly!

No, that’s not a complaint! 😀

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I actually wore a light jacket when I drove my daughter to work. 😀  After dropping her off, I stopped at the lake and walked on the beach for a while (which just happens to help me get some kilometers in on Pokemon Go… 😉 ).  By the time I got back to the van, it was starting to be too warm for that jacket!  We’re supposed to hit over 30C today, so we’ll really be appreciating how cool the house got overnight, because it’ll stay that way for most of the day, once we close up the windows.

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Life is so much slower and calmer out here.  For all the inconveniences of the move, and the various challenges we’ve had since then, life is good!

Speaking of good…

My husband’s CPAP came in yesterday!!  He was lying down when we got back, but for this, I disturbed him. 😀  We got it set up, and he immediately lay down to sleep again – this time, with his hospital bed flat.  He’s been without for so long, he has to get used to it all over again!  Much to our surprise, he even had to reduce the pressure on the machine.  It’s an adjustable pressure machine, which means it is set at a range, rather than just one pressure.  It’s rather a big deal for him to be able to reduce that range, considering how high he normally needs to keep it.

Pretty awesome. 🙂

The Re-Farmer.

 

 

Clean up; west fence area trees

We had another cooler day today; after this it’s supposed to heat up again, so I took advantage of it to continue in the west yard trees.  I am so close to being finished here (I’ve decided not to do the rest of the fence line itself for now), I’m getting excited, because it means I can finally move on to the spruce grove perimeter. 😀  I’d like to get as much as I can done there, before I have to stop for the year.

The first thing I did was finally take down the two dead trees by the smaller willow. (The before and after pictures are taken from opposite directions)

The one that was about midway between the two willows was a bit of a job.  It was tall enough, and leaning enough, that it was well into the branches of the big willow.  Which means that, after I cut the trunk, the base just swung over to the big willow, and there it hung.  It did not want to come down!

The wood from these trees is going to be kept for the fire pit.

The tall stumps are being left until we get a full size chainsaw.

On to the next area…

There’s not a lot of visible difference here, since I worked in this area yesterday.  I took down the dead half of the maple trees.  After that, most of what I did was take down dead branches from above, except from the one mostly dead spruce that will be taken down entirely.

Next areas; the last of those rows of spruces!

Also, I found a third little tamarack hiding in them.

It really looked like a spindly, dead spruce.  I honestly probably should have taken it out, but I really want to keep the tamarack. I also should probably have thinned the spruces out more, too, because of how close together they are, but they look strong and healthy enough to make it.  So for now, they will stay.  Next year, perhaps, we can transplant the tamarack, instead.

After this, I finally got to working among the beeches.

The before picture, I’d taken yesterday.  If you look along the beeches, you can see a single trunk, slightly out of line.

It turned out not to be a trunk at all.  It was a branch that had fallen straight, and was standing there, held up by the other branches!  You can even see the broken bit it had come from.

I’ve been finding quite a lot of dead branches held up by others.  One I pulled down earlier and moved out today, filled the wheelbarrow all on its own!

In the northernmost row, I found another Colorado Blue spruce, with an elm tree growing right next to it.  Well.  Two elms, really, right up against each other.

The spruce was planted deliberately; the elm would not have been.  Because of how big a Colorado Blue can potentially get, I took out the elm and some small maples near it as well.  I probably should have taken out the maple to the right of the foreground in the after photo too, but it seems to be doing okay.  We’ll see how the spruce survives.

Here’s another view of the rows.

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By this point, I didn’t really have the energy to keep breaking down the cut pieces and hauling them out of the yard, or dragging out entire trees.  I opened the gate at this end, so I wouldn’t be weaving through trees to the gate by the fire pit, then around the pile.  Instead, I was pushing my way through really tall grass, and wearing down a path.  As I was taking down bigger and bigger dead branches, and thinning out more trees, I just started piling it all in the space that had been plowed.  I will drag it out another day.

The row of trees closest to the beeches appears to be all crab apple trees.  Most have no apples, and the one that does, has almost none on it.  This is not a good place to plant fruit trees. :-/

Moving along the rows…

This area is not complete, though I might not do much more than this, this year.  The elms in the north row needed to be thinned out; one was right up against another, and it turned out to be dead.  The larger maple to the right in the photo will also be thinned down.  The side branches would have been suckers that never got pruned back when they should have.  The main trunk in the middle is suffering for it.  I wasn’t able to get all the dead branches out of it, and won’t be able to reach a lot of them until the side trunks are cleared out.

Once that is done, it will allow more light to reach the apple trees, too.

Speaking of which…

This is where I was working when I stopped to take a phone call.  Which was well timed.  I was at the point of telling myself it was really time to stop for the day, but I kept doing just a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit…  and before I knew it, an hour had passed. 😀

I don’t know that I’ll be able to work in here again over the next few days, but when I do get back to it, I will continue thinning the crab apple trees out.  There is a big one at the end, with large branches reaching towards the power pole.  That part of it is covered with apples (it looks like another of the ornamental apples trees, they are so tiny), but only where the morning sun touches those leaning branches.  The rest of the tree is struggling, with few leaves and many dead branches.  It’s all just too crowded in there, with elm and maple tangled around each other in the canopy, blocking the light for most of the day.

The eastern end of this area of trees is where they are growing under the power line, and where the arborist will be trimming some of them back.  They can do the tall stuff.  I will do the short stuff! 🙂

When I came out after my phone call to get the last after pictures, I got a couple of others of interest.

Last month, I decided to take down a small elm tree because it was growing directly under the power lines.  As I have been doing in many other places, I left a tall stump to go back to later.  You can see it here, next to the spruce tree I’d pruned the lower branches from.

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This is what it looks like, now.

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Maples and elms are very resilient trees.  You can cut them back like this, and they will start growing back!

I could leave it to grow, and just keep pruning it short so it will never reach the power lines.

I don’t know if that’s a good idea, though.

A decision I can make another time.  For now, I will leave it and see how it does.

Later, while visiting Beep Beep and her kittens by the old garden shed, I saw something I’ve been finding in a number of places around the yard.

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A whole bunch of holes, dug into the ground.

I’ve found some in the open area between rows of trees behind the storage house.  Now that I’ve cleared up so much of the trees, I’m starting to find them there, too.  I am guessing it’s a small animal digging up insects or grubs?  Some of the holes are quite deep.

Anyone know what might be making these holes?

The Re-Farmer