The foxes have been SO much fun to watch the last few days! Mama made a den in the culvert under out laneway and had EIGHT babies. They come out several times a day now to play. Cute overload!
Here is one entrance to the den, where until this year a groundhog lived. Am wondering if groundhog became fox supper!
And the other entrance coming out of the culvert under our laneway. Our laneway is about 250 metres or 820 feet long! The foxes are about halfway down and I am really hoping the kits stay away from the road. Our laneway is quite safe for them because no one but me ever speeds down it! :)
Two kits rolling around on the laneway, on poking up out of the den on the right!
Mama saw me...
...then took off right across the field, leaving the babies to die at my hands!! Nice mothering skills!
But all I was shooting was photos.
See those things on the right of the kit? They're wild turkey feathers! I found more around the den entrance. Apparently the foxes bagged a wild turkey, which is pretty impressive!! Wild turkeys are really hard to catch.
Here's another view of our laneway looking towards the road, with foxes on either side. That field on the left has been planted in hay this year.
And now, assorted cuteness...
I have been using my 200mm lens and trying not to get too close to them, so these pics are a little fuzzy. I can get within a certain distance, then they all disappear down the hole!
We also watch them from the house with binoculars. They are just too adorable when they're all out there playing and jumping about.
So right now we have Mama raccoon and her babies in the granary (relax, I have raccoon babies here every year and it has never been a problem!), Mama fox and her babies by the laneway, and an Eastern Phoebe nesting in our barn about three feet away from Mama Muff hen, who has once again built herself a nest up on the stone foundation that we are too soft in the head to dismantle. We'll see if she hatches out babies again.
The duck/chicken run is getting a wire roof very soon so that the birds can no longer go over the wall. In the meantime, I'm trying to be vigilant about putting back the duck girls who like to get out and wander around. They don't need to meet the foxes!! Knock wood, we never have problems with predators when the ducks and chickens are in their coops or run. This new roofing thing should keep them completely safe.
In the meantime, we are REALLY enjoying the daily fox follies!
Alex did a runner out the door last evening, so I let him hang with me while I did some gardening (he doesn't wander.) Five of the girl-ducks were out, and they soon made his acquaintance. He was completely unfazed. Then the ducks started following him everywhere...
He had his own pack of groupies!
I wonder if they got his pawtograph?
Meanwhile, at 6:30 this morning, Emily didn't show up for breakfast. I started to panic; did she get outside without me noticing and disappear? Was she locked in a closet? After I'd spend five minutes running around outside calling her name, she sauntered into the kitchen and ate her food. I wondered where she'd been, until ten minutes later, I came across this scene...
Oh please don't tell me that's a tail. Oh yes, yes it is a tail. A chipmunk tail! :(((( I love chipmunks. So does Emily, apparently, since she's the one who brought it up from the basement.
When Alex made a move for it, Emily grabbed it...
...and ran back down to the basement to gnaw on it.
I am still trying to figure this out. We are currently dealing with a red squirrel that has gotten into the house via a gap in the foundation under out deck. Mostly it sit on top of the rock foundation in the basement, taunting the cat. We are working on this but need to make sure there isn't a nest of squirrel babies in the wall or attic that will die if we put in a one-way exit. We've had issues with squirrels getting in before. They are incredibly persistent.
But THIS is a chipmunk tail. Either chippy got in the same way the squirrel did, then made the mistake of not noticing Emily, or maybe she nailed it in her outdoor cage, then brought it in last night when we closed the cat door, without us noticing. Poor little thing! And really, could she not have killed the damn squirrel invader instead?!
The tail made a reappearance a few minutes ago, in the jaws of Naomi. Gordon has now retrieved it and disposed of it, although perhaps I should have made Emily a chipmunk-tail cap, à la Daniel Boone!
Look what was playing on our laneway at 6:30 this morning!
Mama fox and her FIVE kits! (You can't see all five at once in any of these photos, I don't think.)
CHeck out her beautiful foxy tail! She looks very healthy.
Now before I get my 20th "Holy predators, girl, your ducks and chickens will all be dead!" warning of the day, let me just say that we've had foxes on the farm since we moved in. We've never had a problem with ducks and chickens being eaten by anything when they stay in their fenced run (and secure coops at night.) When they go over the wall, it's another story but we are about to have the whole outdoor run roofed with corn crib wiring, which will mean the end of birds escaping into the jaws of death!
So relax and enjoy the foxy cuteness. I'm not having them shot, as was suggested to me by more than one of my male friends. YEESH. What is it with men wanting to kill things?!?
Mama has apparently made a den in what was formerly a groundhog hole. Every year we've had a groundhog living in there, but this year it looks like Ms. Groundhog was evicted (or eaten) and Mama has enlarged the quarters to make herself and her babies a very nice den!
The pictures aren't the sharpest, because even with my long lens they were very far off from the house.
But I think you can see how super cute they are. They were unspeakably adorable frolicking all over the laneway this morning, while Mama kept an eye out.
That's one of the babies sticking up out of where the den is.
I think I'll get up early tomorrow and see if I can sneak a little closer for some better photos!
Have a great weekend. The Victoria Day weekend here, so Monday is a holiday. Enjoy!
I do love our CX-5. Oh so useful! Looks quite normal from the front. Innocuous, even.
But in the back this morning?
Several thousand cranky honeybees! Jane made the valid point yesterday that this car could be considered a weapon of mass destruction.
Hmmm, we apparently need another trip to the car wash.
I got out early today and put the bees in their little nuc boxes. They weren't thrilled, but no one tried to sting me.
My drive up to my friend Pierre's place was uneventful. No one rear-ended me or even tailgated me. In fact, the rural roads were almost empty! Two bees did escape but the followed the nuc boxes out when I unloaded the car at Pierre's.
The girls were ITCHING to get out and very happy to have the screening off the hive entrances.
I set them up on a table and Pierre will be installing the queens this afternoon. Fingers crossed that the queens take and all goes well! In case you're wondering, there's no law saying that beehives have to bee white. In fact, if you have more than one hive, it's a good idea to paint them different colours so that the bees can differentiate between hives. Otherwise, you get more bees drifting between hives.
In a week or so, maybe more, these girls will be coming home to me, and I will install them in full-size hive boxes.
And on a non-bee note...
Last night we went for a run around the park in Alexandria. The mill pond was still as glass and very pretty!
Yesterday I was on a beekeeping mission. My beekeeping mentor and friend Pierre gave me instructions on how to make three "nucs." These are small nucleus colonies, which will (unless something goes awry) grow into large colonies that will give me a 150 - 200 lbs of honey in a season. Huzzah!
I was a little nervous, because I hadn't done this on my own before, but Pierre assured me it was a simple task and I 'd be done in half an hour. Yes, 30 minutes.
Two and a half hours later, I was all finished.
"She squashed one of my sisters with her clumsy fingers. She needed to be stung."
Oh, I got stung all right! Three times (or maybe four. I lost count!) in my left hand, at two different hives. By the time I got to the third hive, I'd broken down and put on gloves, because the girls were getting pretty cranky. I don't get stung all the often but yesterday involved a LOT of frame manipulation, shaking bees off frames and moving things around. The girls understandably got a little ticked off as I tore apart and reassembled their homes.
I hate beekeeping in gloves. I find them cumbersome and annoying and I rarely wear them. I don't get stung all that often, and while it always hurts a little bit, I'm not much bothered by the stings. I just try to scrape out the stinger as fast as possible and get on with things. The venom sac stays attached to the stinger after the bee flies away (to die, since she's just been disembowelled) and keeps pumping in venom until you remove it or it's empty. This is why you need to remove the stinger as quickly as possible if you get nailed. Hornets and wasps are another story. They have smooth stingers (unlike honey bees) that don't get stuck in mammal flesh, and they can sting repeatedly.
Yesterday I got stung while holding a frame of bees and was proud that I didn't even flinch. I'm quite used to this now, but then this is my fifth season and I finally feel like I have a clue about what the hell I'm doing! I no longer get heart palpitations when I open a hive, and I don't freak out when bees are crawling on my bare hands.
"While that lady rips apart my home, I'm just going to collect nectar and pollen from this crabapple tree!"
So what I had to do yesterday was visit each of my three strong hives and pull out four frames from each: three frames of mostly capped brood (developing bees are in the pupae stage, in cells capped with wax) and a frame of honey. These went into an empty box that went on top of the other brood boxes, with a queen excluder in between, and the honey supers on top of the whole shebang.
In case you've forgotten what a frame looks like, this is it! Capped brood in the centre, surrounded by pollen and honey.
Before removing the frames, I first had to shake off the bees. I always find this nervewracking, because bees aren't especially fond of this procedure! You hold the frame over the open hive, and give it two or three really hard, fast shakes so that most of the bees fall off into the hive. After that, you flick off the rest with a bee brush. They hate that even more than the shaking! But none of them stung me while I was doing this. I did have about 25 bees crawling all over me at one point. This was when I thought it would be really bad if I'd forgotten to zip the fly on my jeans. But all was well!
"Maybe if I sit on her smoker, she won't be able to use it!"
After the frames were pulled and place in a spare brood (deep) box, I reassambled the hive. Today at 9 am, while the bees are still in and clustered around the brood, keeping it warm, I will take out this temporary box, put the four frames into a smaller "nuc" box (the entrance of which will be sealed over with a screen, then load the three boxes of a few thousand bees into the back of my car and drive them up to Pierre's place.
That's another thing I haven't done before: driven with bees! There's a first time for everything. I feel like putting a big sign on my rear window:
Please don't hit me. This car is full of bees!
That would stop any tailgaters, don'tcha think?
Once the bees are at Pierre's, he will put a newly-hatched virgin queen in each nuc. After she has gone out on her nuptial flight and gotten laid, the nucs will come back here. They are going to Pierre's to improve the gene pool in my bees. There will be drones up around his property that aren't related to my bees, giving the queens a nice selection of menfolk to choose from. Even in bees, it's not so great if the queen mates with her brothers!
"We'd be happy to help you if you let us eat a few of those tasty bees!"
Yesterday I also finally picked up a queen (with my fingers) for the first time. I have been avoiding this ages for fear of hurting the queen, but I finally bit the bullet, put on my big-girl pants and did it. Grabbed her wings and it worked like a charm. I had to make sure I didn't put any of my current queens into the new boxes, because if I did, my current queens would be up at Pierre's, leaving the hives here queenless. We don't want queenless hives.
I also, for the first time, dropped a frame I was holding. This is always an exciting event. Fortunately I was holding the bee-laden frame over the hive, and I only dropped one side of it. The corner thwacked against the other frames and most of the bees fell off or were thrown up in the air. While this annoyed them greatly, resulting in much indignant buzzing, nobody stung me. And I had to get the bees off the frame anyway, so it worked out okay in the end. But it is quite the experience to drop a frame and have a cloud of angry bees rise up in irritation
At the end of it all, the hives looked like this The little one on the right is the one that had two queens, then killed the old queen after the new queen mated. It's doing okay but needs some time to build up.
One of the honey supers is already full and weighs about 25 lbs. This is quite remarkable for so early in the season. They are just going bananas in there, bringing back nectar and turning it into honey like little machines.
And all the trees are in bloom right now....
.... so beautiful!
I'll let you know how today's adventure goes.
Tristan was waiting for me yestrday when I was done.
And it's time to get the deck stained again, I see.