Tag Archives: aviary

Daily Drama 76 – Snow at the Not-So-Funny Farm

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Daily Drama 76 – Snow at the Not-So-Funny Farm

Snow is beautiful, isn’t it? It was so fun to look out the front door and see bountiful snow: fluffy clean snow, looking like Crisco. It’s so quiet. I forgot about that part. You see, Seattle doesn’t get much snow. Not enough to justify snow plows or snow tires, so everybody takes the day off to enjoy the magnificence of it.

This was my front steps.

I got out my snow ruler: nine inches! (23cm) And started to watch the weather forecasts like a fiend. More snow? Freezing temperatures, too? Uh oh. I started to bring in the hummingbird feeders after dusk. Get up at dawn, throw on my flimsy robe, hang them back up, hummers buzzing at the empty hanger, as if to remind me where the feeder belongs.

My official snow ruler

The back yard wild mallards landed in the Crisco snow, rapidly sinking in up to their necks, trudging back up to the surface, flying back up to the roof. Over and over. So funny! I could be mean and toss their ration of cracked corn into the deep snow, but that would be wasteful.

View from the living room. You have to imagine the thunk! thunk! of the ducks landing on the roof.

They quickly learned that the wild bird buffet was being served on the deck, right outside the kitchen door, in dishes. They had the area trampled flat in no time. There are at least forty-two of them, after all. The original pair have been here daily for a dozen years, rain or shine.

Yes, in fact some of them do knock on the door.

Dobby would have been sequestered in the kitchen for two weeks by now. There’s still about six inches of snow on the ground. The bare patches are thawing and we’re supposed to have more rain before the temperatures drop again in a couple days and they start bragging about more snow. The Prince would have been perfectly miserable, cabin fever in spades. This is one of the many reasons why I am not considering getting another capybara. Our mild marine climate is no longer to be trusted.

The Graveyard at Stacy’s Funny Farm

The graveyard‘s colors are muted, and the sun can’t illuminate the gems hanging from the arbor. The snow is so pretty, even the Dove dome is a masterpiece. That snowball in the foreground is a “Dogloo” turned igloo. The pigeon loft is behind it, and this morning I decided to take the eggs away from Phoenix and Cor-ten. Birth control is so easy for birds, imagine if we could lay an egg and simply walk away from it! Today there was a tiny fuzzy face looking out at me. I was too late. So they have a baby and I guess congratulations are in order.

The dove cage has never looked prettier.

When the snow first falls, the cats test it. Curiosity satisfied, Kitty Hawk rejoins his smarter half in the barn. The hens are smart enough to hunker down in the barn until it goes away. The ducks and geese have fancy feet and don’t mind the cold.

Goose and cat. Kitty Hawk is some kind of fool.

Well, they don’t mind it too much. Norman isn’t looking particularly happy here. It complicates his job as flock manager.

Gentle Norman. He didn’t sign up for this.

Even when there is snow, the ducks and geese prefer to sleep under the stars. In the morning, I can see where each one slept by the thawed  dirt ovals they create with their downy blankets. They pull their feet up inside the feathers, tuck in their bills, and they’re good for the night. In the photo below, you can see two ducks sleeping on the ground, and to the left, two thawed ovals where their friends slept the night before.

Tony and Vinny, snoozing midday. They are in the middle of the photo.

In the photo below, you can see the aviary netting is starting to sag under the weight of the snow. Look at the top rail of the fence, straight and true. The roof netting should be uniformly higher than that top rail, but you can see a droop near the center of the photo.

Observing the aviary from the kitchen deck after the first onslaught of snow

From inside the aviary it looked like this. I tried to smack at the snow from below, to get it to drop off the netting, but it was so light and fluffy it wouldn’t fall through the big holes of the 2″ chicken wire. Seattle snow usually falls straight through to the ground. Only deep dry snow falling quickly onto the thin frozen wires will cause significant accumulation. Even so, our usual quick return to 40 degree weather melts it away.

Crisco everywhere: above, below, even on the vertical wire fence

We had deep fry dry snow, frozen temperatures, and frigid nights. Most of the hens sleep in the barn on heated pads. Adelita still prefers her roost, next to where Conchita and Jello used to sleep. The geese and ducks still preferred the frozen ground to the cozy barn.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we got a couple more inches of snow. The net is relaxing under the weight of it. The duck pond is frozen. Beyond the fence, wild mallards gather the troops, ready to beg for cracked corn as I pass by for inspection.

Beyond the pond and fence, wild mallards accumulate with the snow.

The heat lamps come out and the Muscovy ducks come in. They are a South American breed and not as hardy as my other domestics. Their feet and caruncle can get frostbite and they love the heat lamps. The shavings in the barn don’t seem to freeze as long as they are dry, but like a fool, I provide drinking water in the barn during freezing weather and the ducks take care of the “dry” problem. It’s still nicer than the pile-up of snow outside.

新年快樂

The perennial Chinese New Year’s decorations are suddenly timely. Last night the barn lights didn’t come on at dusk. D’oh! They are on a timer and we had a six hour power outage. They have probably been cycling on in the middle of the night for the past week.

Her drinking water never froze.

About a week before the storm, I brought this little dove into the barn. She wasn’t flying up to the perches, and so I fixed her up with a cage that has a perch on the ground. Usually a week or so of R&R perks them up, but I’m also glad she wasn’t in the big dome during the storm. She’s cooing to her buddies in the dome so they all know she’s okay.

After all the snow, everyone was excited to finally see rain. It is Seattle, after all. It rained all night. In the morning, I was surprised to see robins gaily hopping in and out of the aviary. They are too big to get through the aviary netting, so that meant they had found a hole. It turned out to be a hole the size of a Mack truck. Several of them, in fact.

Coffee Bean and Grover learned to share this heated carrier.

Meanwhile, everyone became used to moving into the barn every night. When I gave the signal, Norman would march everyone in. When the netting collapsed, I realized the cats would be able to walk right out, so I locked them into the smaller portion of the barn during the day. Norman’s non-flighted flock would be okay waddling around in the wrecked aviary during the day while we worked on repairs.

Not only did the aviary netting seams rip open, each of the support posts poked a hole. The important central support was a tree that had died and was now rotten enough to splinter into several spongy logs. The central support cables tightly gripped the one remaining sound portion of the tree which was now dangling a few inches above the ground. We removed the other supports so that the netting would be easy to reach and repair.

It’s an eye test: can you see the pink flagging?

I built my first aviary in 1984 out of recycled fishing nets. Holes would rot out of it, unpredictably. The second one, in 1988, was smaller and I used Toprite aviary netting. Squirrels chewed it where it attached to the fence. I used sturdier Toprite for my third aviary, in 1991. It was an effective net, but the small holes clogged with snow quickly, necessitating hourly snow removal during the storms. A fallen fir tree once took the entire net out, ripping it to shreds. This 2001 aviary “roof” has a chew-proof stiff wire mesh edge with a 2″ chicken wire infill. For eighteen years, the snow has fallen through the netting, except where it is covered with twigs and autumn leaves. A yearly cleaning was all it took. Until Snowpocalypse.

No aviary repair kit is complete without a thousand zip ties.

I have a bartender on staff, and his job description is a moving target. I flagged all the holes with bright pink survey flagging. Where I could reach, we worked together to zip tie the holes. Then he went out the next day, like John Henry, and zipped the rest of those suckers right up. They didn’t have a chance.

Eye Test #2: Can you see the zip ties?

We put the supports back up, and Bob’s your uncle! Everything’s back to normal, and Norman can take a break. Sure, there’s still six inches of dirty ice encrusted compact snow on the ground, but I’m fairly certain it will go away. Someday.

Then I walked out to look at the still pretty clean snow in the front yard, and discovered that the core of my multi-trunked Flame Amur Maple had shattered. All of the branches have splayed out and collapsed to the ground as if a malevolent giant stomped on it. Oy vey, how is The Bartender going to fix that?

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Daily Drama 19 (Tree Time)

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Daily Drama 19 (Tree Time)

The trees at The Funny Farm have been misbehaving. Actually, they have a disease that is causing the upper branches to die and break off. You can see what this does to my aviary top netting in Daily Drama 13.

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There shouldn’t be big bare twigs at the top of those trees.

There are some band-tailed pigeons that like to perch up there, though.

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I can’t get them to come to my bird feeders, though.

Dobby wants to tell part of the story.

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It’s not me. The crows chase away the pigeons.

A LOT of branches have been falling, though they don’t all make holes when they fall.

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We’re not talking about little twigs, here.

The other problem is that raccoons like to enter the aviary through holes that open at the net where the birch tree trunks go through. I have patched holes, and then patched the patches for a dozen years. Now there are so many layers of chicken wire that the leaves and small twigs pile up and hold water. The wire rusts through, and it is no longer possible to determine whether the aviary is secure at the tree trunk area.

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The patched area shows as a dark zig-zag that looks like a swarm of bees in this photo.

Because repairing the net means exposing a large area to predators, the work must be completed in one day, secured before dusk. We recruited our neighbor, Connor, to help tackle the chore. His experience with tree trimming prompted him to immediately recommend taking out the smaller of the three birch trees. It was actually a very low, large branch. That would never have occurred to us. He cut the tree branch and pulled it into the aviary through the hole opened up for the repair. Now we only had to patch around the two larger trees.

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Get in our way and we will cut you down!

By the time the tree was pulled into the aviary, most of the spiders were out of the way.

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The spiders are huge this year.

Dobby wanted to rub his morrillo on the branches, but I sent the flock out to play in the yard with him instead.

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Jello the daredevil chicken stayed in for a while. All the bugs coming down were too tempting.

Here are the two trees that grow through the aviary netting. It isn’t easy to secure the “roof” around them. You can see the chickenwire cylinders we attached. We’ll connect the roof to the chickenwire. You can also see Connor’s rope . . . and just make out Connor way up there.

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Raccoon highways into the aviary, unless the net is secure.

Connor’s second brilliant suggestion was to remove as many dead branches as possible. BEFORE they crash through the net. WHILE the access hole is still open. That’s why he climbed up into the tree.

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Dobby wants to remind everyone that Connor has been up in our trees before. He did some major trimming in spring, and now the rotten maple doesn’t hang OVER THE HOUSE any more.

Everybody moved out from under Connor’s work area, even though he was actually working with a net. Spiders.

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Cutting and yanking branches, tossing them over his shoulder into the open hole in the net below.

Don’t forget about Dobby’s corn time! He likes to take his corn off this table. If we put it on the ground, he walks away until we put it on the table for him.

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“Corn on the table, Dobby!”

More cut, yank, and toss.

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That’s a LOT of dead wood. The trees will probably die, eventually. I won’t spray them over a wetland.

Almost done. Each falling branch would have required a prompt removal and net repair, some random, inconvenient time this winter.

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Preventative maintenance

Grover hid in the aviary, but Kitty Hawk came out and Dobby hung out with him on the deck.

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Dobby doesn’t always chase him. It’s more fun to be spontaneous.

If you look at the earlier photos, you will see how much dead wood Connor managed to remove. There’s still more, but he got the big stuff.

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Not enough time before dark to get all of the dead wood.

Dobby and Kitty Hawk were underfoot. This is why none of us were IN the aviary during the tree work.

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Butt. Other end is probably chewing the top off my boots.

Compared to the tree trimming, the actual net repair went quickly with three people. This time we used 2″x 2″ wire mesh. It is big enough to let small leaves and snow fall through, but too small and too stout for raccoons to get through. It’s also flexible enough to give a little when the trees blow around in strong wind. I love cable ties, but we used a lot of wire, too.

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Raccoon-resistant, because I am not foolish enough to believe that ANYTHING is raccoon-proof.

Dobby is ready to go to the front yard, now. In this photo, and in real time, too. I need to finish my story and go outside with him.

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Waiting patiently

The trees are a beautiful sight, now, knowing that dead wood is down.

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Winky says hello, and why haven’t I mentioned her, not even once? Okay, look for Winky. She’s BROWN.

The old netting we took out? The garbage crew didn’t take it. Wonder why . . .

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Really ugly stuff. We went over the ground with a magnet to pick up bits of wire, too.

Okay, Dobby, I’m coming. But first, look at the leftover wire. We call that “cutting it close.”

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That’s not much spare wire, but we’ll never need to patch it again, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Drama 13

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At some point, I’ll write up my turtle story. For today, I’ll just tell you about my trip to the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS). For reasons I won’t go into right now, I knew my little turtle was lonely. I looked at the SAS website, and they had a turtle available for adoption!

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Lonely Quasimodo

Here is Pepper the Red-Eared Slider on the way home from the shelter.

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Pepper checks out the sun

He was pretty excited about the sun, fresh air, and jostling.

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If you’re going to transport turtles, best to have a convertible!

Pepper is very lively! Time to come out of the carrier. That’s Dobby’s old carrier, by the way. Hard to believe isn’t it?

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Clear eyes, nostrils open and dry

He looks pretty healthy to me, but he comes with a certificate for a free veterinary exam. That’s too good to pass up!

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Approved by Dobby

Prince Dobalob had to check him out, of course.

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Quasimodo will enjoy having a friend to sun with.

Quasimodo wasn’t sunning, so I set Pepper on his regular haul out spot.

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DUCKS KEEP OUT!

The aviary is totally fenced, with a chickenwire “roof” to keep out raccoons and herons. This grid just keeps the ducks out. NO SWIMMING!

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That diagonal branch should still be on a tree about 40′ up. The chickenwire roof should be about level with the top fence stringer.

On my way out of the aviary, I turn back and I notice an odd branch that wasn’t there in the morning. That’s right where I walk in and I would have had to duck under it to get in. Even before my coffee I would have notice this big lulu.

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Lulu the Tree Branch

Here’s what it looked like from inside. Probably at least a 6′ diameter. Came down from about 40′ up, fast. It pierced the 2″ chickenwire and ripped a gash in it. Big enough for a flock of herons, a family of raccoons and maybe a bald eagle to saunter through at the same time.

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The Intrepid Bartender

My Bartender, Dick, to the rescue! Here he is standing in the gash. That wire should be a couple feet above his head! It was an easy fix. One straight gash, during the day, it wasn’t raining, and we noticed it before a massacre happened. Yay!