Coop run is finally starting to take shape

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Because we have mountain lions, bobcats and bears (oh, my!) we need a secure and covered chicken run attached to the new coop so the chickens can get out for fresh air and exercise while still being protected.  We  are building one this week in the hopes that the older hens can go out into it by the end of the coming weekend.  The plan is to put a solid heavy duty plywood roof on it, and then waterproof that with metal roofing.  The sides will be heavy duty 2 x 4 mesh stock fencing with galvanized hardware cloth over that to the first supports, and a buried apron of it around the perimeter to prevent digging.  All soffits will either becovered with solid wood or hardware cloth.

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The coop already has a locking door to the outside and we are planning to cover the badly-cut door on the side with a layer of heavy plywood, then cut out a more even new door to replace it.  The eventual plan calls for an autumatic door and opener, but it may be a while before we pick one out.  In the meantime, the new laying boxes should be coming in soon and we got the parts to make an automatic watering bucket.

Baby season

Well, it is apparently “baby season” here.  Today we saw another ruffed grouse – this one with a couple of really tiny fluffball chicks following her!   And later, to our delight, a doe with a brand new wobbly fawn at her side.

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It is difficult to see them because we are so far away and it was raining, but here is a picture of the pair.  Here is another.

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We didn’t want to frighten them too badly, so we stayed back and just let them wander their way back into the woods when they were ready.  They headed off into the area close to where the new house site will be located, which coincidentally is where the trailcam is set up.  Could this be the obviously pregnant doe we saw in the trailcam pics when we retrieved the card a couple of days ago?

We plan to check the trailcam again in another day or so.  Maybe we will see mama and baby again in the next batch of pictures!

Update:  saw a doe and fawn pair again on the road today (May 27)  It’s hard to say if it’s the same set we saw yesterday, or if it’s another duo.  There are probably a fair number of deer on the place, so I think either is just as likely.

Yesterday’s wild and flower finds…

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Wild foxglove.  We saw these in white, cream, light to dark pink, and rich purple pink.

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Buttercups.  These members of the ranunculus family are all over the place here.

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Lonicera ciliosa – native orange honeysuckle. This is listed as “uncommon” but if we have our way it will be a lot less uncommon here in a few years, as we intend to propagate it and use it in our new landscape.  As a bonus, it attracts hummingbirds!

First real trail cam pics from the property!

It took a few days after we and the loggers left, but wildlife is beginning to return to certain areas of the property, it seems.  And while we haven’t seen pictures of our suspected black bear yet, we did find these beauties waiting for us!

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This looks to be a night picture of pregnant Columbia Blacktail doe.  I have heard from another western WA resident that the does have begun in some areas to drop their new fawns for the year.  I suspect this one may have already done so, as this picture is about a week old now.

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This looks to be an adult deer, feeding in the clearing where the new house will be.  This one looks to possibly be an adult male, who is just beginning to grow back his antlers for the fall breeding season.  We thought it might be the pregnant doe from the earlier night time picture, but now that we’re pretty sure those are horn buds, that kind of disproves that theory…

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Although we are not completely sure this isn’t the same deer as in the previous photo, we think it is a different one.  It is lighter in color, and more slender.  It is, however, another buck if it is a different deer.  You can see the horn buds pretty clearly on this one.

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This is a picture of a mother coyote with her two pups.  This was a bit of a surprise, but we did know there were coyotes in the area, so it probably shouldn’t have been.

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Here is the same picture with the pups circled in red, to help with spotting them both. I can hardly wait to see what we capture on the trail cam this week!

What a difference a few weeks makes!

We thought things were green out on the property before – but, well, we were wrong.

Everything from the trees to the grass has exploded with growth.  Places that were walk-able just a few weeks ago are no longer passable and paths have to be hacked or stomped through them.  If this were an area with venomous snakes, you wouldn’t catch me tromping around through all that brush and tall grass for any reason – but, luckily this is western Washington State.  All we have to worry about are bears, cougars and coyotes, oh, my!

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Something wicke… immune to blackberry thorns… this way comes!

Speaking of bears…

This is a picture of some bramble patches near what will some day be our new home site.  We made a point to visit this area pretty much every day that we were out there earlier this week to try to get a feel for where the house, outbuildings and garden areas would be placed.  So when we stopped by this area on Monday, we noticed right away that something was different.  A five-foot wide tunnel had been burrowed through a twenty-foot wide patch of very tall blackberry vines.

Whatever did this was strong – many of these blackberry vines are between a half an inch and three-quarters of an inch in diameter.  It was also thick-skinned – these are Himalayan blackberries, and the thorns are formidable, to say the least.  The only thing we can think of that lives in the area and has these two characteristics – in abundance! – is a black bear.  So, we’re pretty sure we have one on the property.  At least part time.  The scat we found in that same area – large, dog-like in shape, but full of plant matter – lends further evidence to this.

So, our trail cam is now facing the entrance to this new tunnel, and hopefully when we return in a couple of weeks, we will have a picture of whatever it is that is visiting our new home site.  Then we will know.  But even if we don’t see any new evidence on the trail cam, we plan to be more cautious when out and about. Make lots of noise, carry bear spray and perhaps a small sidearm.  And keep the silly pups on leashes, since they would probably try to give chase to any bear they saw.

New toy – a Trail Cam!

Aramis coming out the back door - again.

Our male cat, Aramis, apparently likes to go outside at night – a lot.

Yesterday, we received in the mail our newest toy – a Moultrie trail cam.  Jim picked up batteries for it on the way home from teaching last night, and before we went to bed we attached it to a tree just outside the back door, aimed right at our doggie door.  I figured we’d have maybe eight or ten pictures this morning, but we actually found FIFTY on the card when we retrieved it!  Apparently our back dog and cat door sees a lot more activity than we realized.

For instance, our male cat, Aramis, who is seen in the picture to the left, seems to go in and out of the door about every hour or so.  I should have realized this, because during the night he most often can be found sleeping on my hip.  He doesn’t sleep the night through, though – he is a cat after all and cat naps more than sleeps for long periods of time.  He generally leaves me several times during the night and I have usually been able to tell what the weather is like outside from his condition when he returns.  I’ve referred to him for years as my “Weather Cat” because as the old joke goes “if he’s cold, it’s cold outside, if he’s wet, it’s raining, if he’s got little ice balls on his fur, it’s snowing, if he’s all ruffled up, it’s windy…”  Since he immediately jumps up on me as soon as he returns, I generally get an all night long weather cat report on outside conditions.  (Luckily I am always able to go back to sleep quickly each time, or I’d be a mess every day and he’d be locked out of our room at night.)

Back to the trail cam report…  According to the time on each photo, Aramis went outside at 11:33pm, 11:56pm, 12:04 am, 1:46am (cat-napped on mama for a short time, apparently), 4:13am (bit longer cat-nap on mama), 5:12 am and 5:16am.   Gudgekin only went out twice that we could see, and seems to have stayed out longer each time.  The pups went out once in the night and once early in the morning around 5ish.  We need a revolving cat and dog door, apparently.  I wonder if they make that kind.

We’ll keep the trail cam on for the next few days until we leave on our next trip to Washington, and learn how it works and what kind of photos and videos it can display.  We plan to leave it near some of the trails once we get out there again, and each time we return, retrieve the photos so we can see what kind of information we can gather on the animals living on the new place.  I suspect we will find that there is a lot more activity than we expected out there, too!