Posts Tagged ‘deer’

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Advertisements

Garden covers

June 3, 2009

If you’ve looked at the pictures of my garden, you probably noticed the covers on the garden frames. These covers are necessary to keep out critters of all sorts, including rabbits and deer, raccoons and opossums, and cats and chickens. The cats and chickens seem to get in the beds the most: the cats to poop and the chickens to take dust baths or to peck at bugs and sometimes growing plants. This is not good, thus we have the frames. So far they seem to be working well to keep everyone out. A couple of weeks ago, Karen at ChickenSense commented on the garden covers. I figured it was worth a post to show how they are made. I can’t claim much credit as the idea is from All New Square Foot Gardening and the work was done by Tim, with a little bit of help from the kids and me.

Tim started with 2″ X 2″ pieces of lumber and cut them into 4′ sections. Then he used a screw to connect the corners. This part made a square and is the bottom of the cover. It is the part that rests on the the 2″ X 6″ pieces of wood that we used for the frames. Next, he took the chicken wire and stapled it onto the wood. This is the hard part since the chicken wire is in a roll and he had to hold the frame down while unrolling and stapling the chicken wire to it. Tim did this by himself more than once, but said it was easier when I helped him. 

Corner of garden cover

Corner of garden cover

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

After the sides of the cover are stapled on, it’s time to cut two or more pieces for the top, depending on what size chicken wire you are using. We used zip ties to connect the top pieces with the side pieces. The little white things are what is left of the zip ties after Tim clipped off the part hanging out. 

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Side and top of garden cover

Side and top of garden cover

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

The great thing about these covers is that they are fairly quick and easy to make, while also being inexpensive. You need wood, zip ties, a staple gun with lots of staples, a few screws, and some chicken wire. The covers are lightweight and the kids can lift them so they can get a little snack of lettuce while we are in the garden. I’m not sure the covers would keep out a determined raccoon, though. I say this because we did see Swirly try to climb one and it kind of caved in. The garden is pretty safe from deer, rabbits, cats, and chickens, though. 

Eventually we plan to fence in the garden, but these covers work well. The frames can also be used to provide shade for garden plants or, if covered with the sort of plastic used in greenhouses, could be used to extend the growing season. So even after our garden is fenced in, we will still use these frames.

Picture Friday

May 15, 2009

I have some serious updates to add, but for now this will have to do. I am working on posts, I promise. For now, here are some pictures and a little bit of an update on the cats. I did post some more pictures of the garden on the May 2009 page and have been updating that almost daily. These pictures were taken on or before Tuesday, so the chickens are not exactly 9 weeks old, but are close. I have a few more pictures, but I need to charge my camera battery. 

Here is a picture of the chickens in the garden area. They mostly leave the raised beds alone, but will climb in occasionally. You can see the covers Tim has made. They help to keep out the chickens and cats, who like to poop in the beds. They also should keep out deer, bunnies, and racoons. 

Chickens in the Garden

Chickens in the Garden

This is just another picture of the chickens in the garden. There is a small hole that Mo filled with potting soil and they are digging around in it. You can see the movable coop, also.

Chickens in the Hole!

Chickens in the Hole!

This is a good overview of the raised bed part of the garden. The two beds with covers are Salad Beds1 and 3. The one between those is also a salad bed (Salad Bed 2, even though it is the third to be planted). The only thing I have in it so far is cauliflower that I transplanted yesterday. The bed in the foreground of Salad Bed 1 is the Pie Bed. It has rhubarb and strawberries in it, and blueberries as of yesterday. It also has a cover over it now. The big bed is the Pizza Bed, which now has tomatoes and peppers in it and will have basil soon. The unplanted bed next to the Pie Bed and Pizza Bed is an Herb Bed. In this picture it is empty, but it now has dill in it and a couple of chives. I have no idea if they will survive the rain today, though!

Raised Beds

Raised Beds

Here is a picture of Little Gray’s kittens. They were born around May 1. She had them in a box that was stacked on some other stuff, then moved them to a shelf under the workbench in the garage. They were behind a bunch of stuff and seemed safe to me, though I couldn’t manage to get a good look. Then on Tuesday she decided to move them again for some reason. I think she may have needed more space. Tim and I interrupted her while she was moving them and she was hissing and growling at us. I only saw three and was a bit worried, but later there were four. That is how I know we interrupted her. So they are all four there in a litter box filled with pine litter. It hadn’t been used, so it was clean and actually makes a decent bed. The only problem was that the kids could easily have found her. Tim ended up moving around the various bags of feed so that Little Gray can get in and out, but the kids won’t see her unless they are really poking around in there. So, here is a picture I took on Tuesday.

 

Little Gray nursing her four kittens

Little Gray nursing her four kittens

Garden Experiments

April 28, 2009

I’ve been doing daily updates on the Garden in Progress page, but it’s time for a longer post about the goings on in my garden. Our original plan was to get the garden area tilled, then fence it in to protect it from deer, rabbits, raccoons, and all the other critters that live in the woods right by our house. The tilling has not been possible due to rain and mud, so perhaps this year we will skip the tilling after all. I am really waffling on the issue of tilling, but the weather might be the deciding factor. If we end up not tilling, then we will still spend money on compost and soil. However, if the raised beds do well, then we will be set for next year. We’ll just have to add compost, which we are in the process of making, and mulch and rotate crops next spring, I think.

While waiting for the tilling, I’ve been experimenting with killing grass. I have three 4′ X 4′ garden frames built and they are all out in the garden. For Experiment 1, I put newspaper on the bottom to try to kill the grass. I was too impatient and went ahead and put some potting soil and compost in the frame. I finished marking off the grids with nails and yarn, just like I did with the bed where I dug up the sod. In the middle of the last week I planted two squares, one with spinach and one with cosmic purple carrots. Then on April 25, I planted two more squares of carrots and yesterday (April 27) I planted another square of spinach and two squares of romaine lettuce with radishes in the corners. So I have 7 squares planted in that one, and will probably transplant the broccoli to the top/north most facing row.

For Experiment 2, I put down cardboard instead of newspaper, mostly because I had cardboard and didn’t have any more newspaper. The grass is dying, but not as quickly as I would like (did I mention I get impatient?). I don’t really want to put soil and compost over the cardboard. I know it will decompose eventually, but not nearly as quickly as the newspaper will. I think I will take the dug out sod from Experiment 3 (see below) and put it on the bottom, then add compost and potting soil to finish it off. That bed is too close to the others to do any vertical crops, so I think I will plant my herbs in that bed.

Experiment 3 isn’t really an experiment anymore. I dug out the sod and poured soil and compost in the frame and already planted. This is the first bed I planted and happens to be the north most one, though eventually I will have other beds north of this one. So, I will be calling it Bed 1. Here are some pictures of the progression of this bed:

Partly dug up sod

Partly dug up sod

Garden helper

Garden helper

Partly filled raised garden bed

Partly filled raised garden bed

Filled with potting soil and compost

Filled with potting soil and compost

Grids marked with yarn

Grids marked with yarn

Bed 1 (Experiment 3) fully planted

Bed 1 (Experiment 3) fully planted

This last picture was taken on April 22. Since then, bibb lettuce, radishes, spinach, parsnips, and leaf lettuce, and onions have started sprouting. It’s quite exciting. To the left of the picture (which is the north side and what I think of as the top) are the broccoli transplants that Scott the Farmer gave us and helped us transplant. We planted onion sets in each corner of the broccoli squares. The column to the right of the broccoli is where we transplanted some leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce, with some onion sets in the middle. The next column is kind of a mixture, with two squares of bibb lettuce seeds, with radishes in the corners. Then there is a square of spinach and a square with two celery transplants and some onion sets (not sure how many since the kids were helping!). The column all the way to the left (or what I think of as the bottom row) is leeks, carrots, parsnips, and onion sets. Those squares are not quite a full square foot, so instead of planting 16 of each vegetable, I only planted 12.

So far, no bunnies or deer have bothered this one, but I need to make a cover for it. There’s a quick and easy plan in All New Square Foot Gardening, so I just need to sit down with the book in front of me and try to build. Eventually I will have to use the saw myself, despite my fear of cutting off my fingers. So the next step is to build a cover (UPDATED to say this is done and there is a picture here) for the beds planted, build more frames and trellises for the vertical plants, and get an area ready for the corn, beans, and squash. I’m not going to make frames for those because that seems like a waste of wood. I will, however, try to make a raised area for it.

In a related note, I was doing some research on herbs in the square foot garden and I came upon this site, which I’ve added to my links. In particular, the page about plant spacing and herbs in the square foot garden were very useful. There’s a lot of other really good information, but I leave it to you to explore that page on your own.

Critters and gardening

March 23, 2009

One of the fun things about living in the country is that you have to protect your animals AND your garden from critters. It seems that every animal that won’t go for the chickens will go for the vegetables. We need to build a fence around the garden to keep out the deer, rabbits, moles, squirrels, birds, and who knows what else. Those are just the ones I know of for sure. Some of the animals that will be interested in the chickens would also be interested in the garden, too.

Our neighbor, Jeff, has an electrified fence around his garden. He probably has it down in the ground, too. I was just reading that to keep out moles, you need to put fencing down 24″ (about 61 cm). We have lots of moles. I don’t think they are over by where the garden will be, but I am sure it won’t take them long to find some newly plowed, healthy soil full of bugs and worms.

This is just a reminder to myself that I also need to join the nearest community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, just in case we don’t get a lot of our own veggies this year. We have a lot to learn, especially about keeping out critters. I don’t mind sharing with the wildlife, but I also want some for us.

That Darn Deer

March 11, 2009

On our way into town we pass only a handful of houses. First is our neighbor’s place, then the Amish house where there are often clothes hanging on the line. Opposite of the Amish house is Sam’s house. I know his name because we met him once shortly after we moved in. His house is far from the road as ours is, so there isn’t much to see.

After the Amish house is the pig and cow farmer. We haven’t met him yet, but he has pigs and cows ranging together and has a lot of cats. The guy a little further down the road, who happens to be my aunt’s cousin, also has a cat or two, as well as a few horses. There are a few other houses after that, but I mention these houses because of the cats. The cats are always right by the road, it seems. At first, I thought it was just one cat. I always slow down or stop (somewhat suddenly) so I won’t hit the cat. I started calling the cat “that darn cat” and the kids thought it was funny. It turns out that there are several cats, so “that darn cat” evolved into “those darn cats.” Now every time we drive home or to town, we are on the lookout for those darn cats.

One day last week we were on our way into town to go to the YMCA. We were on the four lane highway that takes us into Macomb. It’s not really that busy; it is certainly not like a highway in the city. I say this in advance so that no one will think I am a negligent parent! As we were driving on this highway, we saw a deer right near the road. I slowed down, of course. Hitting a deer is not something to be taken lightly. I am concerned for the poor deer, but even more concerned about my car and the passengers. People can get hurt very badly and even die if they hit a deer. So, I slowed down in case the deer bolted towards the road.

I also wanted the kids to see the deer. We must have a ton of deer on our property, but we never see them. We see their tracks in the snow and the mud. We see their trails when we go hiking and occasionally we hear them. We wake up too late to see them in the morning, I guess. The point is that they are all around us, but we hardly ever see one. So seeing one right off the highway was worth pointing out to the kids.

However, we did more than just look at it. I figured when it saw or heard a car that it would run off towards the woods. It didn’t move towards the road or the woods. I ended up pulling over so the kids could get a good look and so that no one else would hit the deer. I got out of the car to try to scare it away because I didn’t want the doe or any people to get hurt. I got out of the car, but still she did not run away. She just kept munching on the grass right near the road. I stomped my feet, yelled at her, reasoned with her, threw rocks near her. Nothing worked. I was amazed. Finally I got Aidan and Moira out of the car. I held onto Moira’s hand and told Aidan to stay right by the car. We all yelled and stomped to no avail. She must have been hungry or found some really good food.

Anyway, I was standing on the side of a not-busy highway with the kids trying to scare away a wild deer and wishing I had my camera. I thought that the people driving by must have thought we were crazy. I started thinking we were crazy because we could not scare this doe away! Eventually I put Mo back in her car seat and told them we would go and just hope that no one ran into her. Then Aidan asked if he can try to pet her. I told him he could, but to go slowly in case she looked like she would kick or something. He did and he got close enough to pet a deer!

After that I put him in the car and told him to strap himself in so I didn’t have stand near any cars. I got in the car and I beeped the horn. The doe looked up, but didn’t really move. I could tell it startled her, but not enough to get her to move. I tried it again, tapping the horn so it would be a sudden, short sound. After a few times of this, she finally did move off towards the woods. She didn’t go quickly and hadn’t gone far when we pulled onto the highway to continue into town.

It was crazy and amazing. Everyone we told this story to said it was unusual. Now we call that deer “that darn deer.”