It is a dark time for the
Hen & Thistle. Although the vines
have been suppressed,
nature’s troops have driven the
humans’ focus from their many
plans and pursued chicks across
I got off to a slow and lazy start Saturday morning, but once I finally began to work I pushed myself as hard as I could until I was forced to stop for a social engagement. About three or so hours of my day was spent behind the handlebars of the rototiller. What I did was to till around many of the border areas between our lawn and the untamed wilds (mostly the blackberry fields).
If you go out to the chicken coop, turn left 90 degrees, and walk almost to the edge of the domesticated lawn area, and turn left about 60 degrees, this is what you would see. You can see here the freshly tilled area between the domesticated grassy lawn and the wild berry lands. At the bottom of the shallow hill, here, you can see the grassy lawn-like area of the orchard.
Said orchard, around whose edge I also tilled.
Remember my “Beauty” post? This is the area where I took it. What a different perspective make, eh? :)
The other thing I did Saturday was to prune the Chicken Tree, which my parents believe is a crab apple tree (and which we have no reason to believe otherwise!). I also pruned a holly tree near the coop and cleaned up under our two cedars, which my dad and I pruned a few weeks ago when they came up to visit.
So here are the cedars. I haven’t completely cleaned up under them, but Dutch can drive his riding lawnmower through there and I can walk through without ducking. I have a future plan for that space, but it is merely a plan. For the future!
So a couple months ago, when Shadawyn and I went down to visit my parents, my dad gave me Pruning 101 lessons. When my parents returned the favor and came up a few weeks ago, my dad and I walked around the yard looking at our trees and how I might prune them. This is the Chicken Tree (so named because it’s the tree I found Amelia hiding under during Amelia’s Big Adventure). The plan is to shape it so it doesn’t get much taller but it bushes out a little at the bottom to provide shade and (more importantly) aerial cover for the girls.
At this point, I’m just showing more pictures of the pruned Chicken Tree so my dad can see how I’ve proceeded to prune it. :3
Yeah, check out that pruning… oh yeah…
And this is the holly behind the coop (as you can see). Since the girls sometimes go derping around down in this area, I figured I’d bring up the bottom of the holly so they would have yet another place to run and hide from aerial predators.
See, this is what I mean. The girls love it down there, although when I took this picture it was the first time they had explored out to the fence-side cedar. You can see the holly on the left-hand side of the picture.
And finally… our new fig twig had died, but suddenly there is hope again as it appears that a new fig thingy is beginning to grow!
So the title of this post comes from Sunday morning. I was mostly asleep when I heard Shadawyn cry out in alarm. I assumed she was yelling at our most-worthless cat again so I rolled back over and sorta-kinda tried to fall back asleep. That didn’t work, so about twenty minutes after I heard her yell, I finally dragged myself out of bed.
Shadawyn: “Didn’t you hear me yell?”
Me: “Yeah. Couldn’t get up. Sleepy.”
Shadawyn: “There was a raccoon at the chicken pen.”
Shadawyn: “It looked like it had an injured front paw because it was favoring it and kinda limping when I chased it.”
Me: “Well I kinda feel sorry for it, but not if it’s near my chickens.”
Shadawyn: “I felt the same way. And there it is again!!!”
Sure enough, there was a raccoon that came over from the side of the house (the side over where the blackberry bramble is) and got within a couple feet of the chicken run. I had my shoes on at that point and was opening the door. The raccoon ran for the back corner, paused when it got there, saw that I wasn’t going to stop, and scampered up and over the fence, out of the yard. We haven’t seen it since. But the very idea of that raccoon getting to our girls prompted increased security measures around them. For starters:
Here is the tractor on Sunday morning. Note the half-ass defenses around its perimeter. Also, the door is held shut with a fucking rock. A rock…
So the first thing I did was to add fencing all around the bottom. This extends about 2 feet out from the coop, preventing digging predators from getting in. Well, digging raccoons, anyway. Rats could still get in. That will be the next upgrade…
And here’s the tractor afterward, with the extra anti-digging fencing in place.
And another view, this time sans Shadawyn. We also added three latches to the door (and a heavier rock, hehe), including a screw-in carabiner in place of a lock.
So now we have many plans and new safety protocols in place to keep our chickens safe. We haven’t seen the raccoon again since I ran it out of the yard, and I’m cautiously hopeful that I scared it enough it won’t come back. Hard to know, though. I don’t want to have to kill it, but I will to protect my girls. So I hope it stays away.
So that was like 8:30 in the morning when I saw the raccoon, and by 9:30 I was done with refitting the tractor. I then turned my attention to more pruning! This time, it was one of our hawthorn trees (the big one I can currently reach).
If you look straight up from the trunk and kind of imagine a line there, you can see just to the left of that imaginary line a big open space in the tree. That used to all be ivy. Back in December or January, I tromped out to the tree and spent a couple hours ripping all the ivy off I could reach, from the ground to about six feet up in the tree. In the months since then, all the ivy that had been choking the tree died. Good riddance. Unfortunately, it all left its unsightly corpses dangling in our otherwise pretty hawthorn. So I spent a couple hours ripping out the vines.
Now let me tell you: all those movies and shows about Tarzan, where he swings from vine to vine? I always thought (1) that was make-believe and (2) vines that strong could only exist in the tropics, if at all. Wrong on both counts, Mike! Multiple times over the course of two hours, I would grab hold of some dead (DEAD!) ivy vines, pull, and eventually pull myself off the ground. Once I even started swinging around on one like Tarzan. XD The vines never broke; the only reason I didn’t get to swing longer is because they pulled free from whatever was holding them up in the tree.
I also climbed up into the tree later to pull out a piece of the trunk I had cut the weekend before. I’ll show you that picture in a moment. But the funny irony of all that tree-climbing and vine-swinging? The only time I fell was when I was on the ground and tripped over a plant, taking a tumble onto me arse. Shadawyn was there and saw me, was more concerned than amused, and warned me to be careful about falling out of the tree if I climbed back into it. I didn’t, mainly so as to not scare her. :)
Another view of the hawthorn.
Here’s a close-up of the trunk. If you look at where the Y of the tree’s trunk splits off, you can see a cut of a several-inches-thick trunk section I cut out. Cutting that off was the easy part. It was so twisted in with other boughs and branches, to say nothing of the friggin’ dead ivy, that I had to use force and a great deal of physics to get it out of there. And also some subsidiary cutting, per Shadawyn’s suggestion. (I would have continued to just fight it with brute strength, but Shadawyn’s idea not only saved me energy but also time.)
If you look up from the thickest, main trunk (the Y fork on the right) and follow its line, you’ll see a broken branch hanging down in the tree. That was cut off from the trunk piece I removed (it has a companion, which I can’t see in the image). It’s pretty well and truly stuck at the moment. I tried to pull it down but instead it just held my weight. Were I stronger in the upper body, I might have been able to climb it. As is, it’s there until I get back up into the tree. XD
So here is an image taken from a maple tree, looking north. You can see the pruned hawthorn there at the left side of the image. The tractor is in the middle, just below center. The coop is between the cedar and the house/patio. According to google, the distance from where this picture was taken to the cedar is roughly ninety feet, or about one-third a football field. Just to try to give you some perspective. :)
So remember when I said that I tilled around the edges of the yard? That also included the edge in the back along the wooden fence on the north side of the yard. When we got back home from visiting some friends on Sunday evening, we took the girls out of their tractor and let them wander. For the first time, they went up to that northern fence and became instantly interested in the freshly tilled sod we’d been piling up there for months. Here are most of them.
Astrid (left) and Sally, our top two in the pecking order.
And here they all are, looking west. The raccoon had scampered up the chain-link fence there at the corner.
And a nice photo of the girls near sunset, taken from under the Chicken Tree.
1: I do so love the Star Wars opening crawls…