Monday, December 29, 2014

The Woodrat Menace

For as long as we have lived in our Park residence, we have shared it with a host of other critters. I'm not just talking about our selection of pets, mind you. These would be critters of the pesky kind:

  • brown recluse spiders
  • scorpions
  • Asian lady beetles
  • little brown millipedes
  • the occasional deer mouse

There is one beast, however, that is really beginning to try our patience and good will.

It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that we finally discovered its true identity:

The Eastern Woodrat.

For seven years I have listened to them scratch and gnaw and scuttle and squeak in the walls, in the attic, and even under the bathtub (which makes it hard to enjoy a relaxing soak in the tub). At times the sounds could only be described as them playing ping-pong with acorns. 

This cacophony typically takes place after my dear husband has already fallen into a deep sleep, and is perfectly oblivious to my tossing and turning as I try to block out the racket. In desperation, I finally bought a small fan to run in the bedroom, to help drown out their nightly activities.

Then things took a really frustrating turn when they began to gnaw into our new air ducts and start to nest in them. The air blowing through the vents brings up shredded ductwork and huge tufts of fur, which makes quite a mess, not to mention seriously aggravating my hubby's allergies.

We were unsure whether these rodents were flying squirrels or rats, but a few weeks ago one of them finally breached our borders, and wandered its way into the house. We knew this invasion was imminent, as we had heard the little bastard gnawing underneath the kitchen cabinets, and started to see shredded foam insulation on the floor.

One night I heard things going bump and clatter in the kitchen.

The following evening we were gathered in the living room watching a movie, when the ruckus began anew. My husband tiptoed into the kitchen, expecting to see a mouse, but then exlaimed: 

"It's a huge rat!!"

We found him hiding behind the feed bins, and decided there was one solution to this problem right outside the door, ready for action:

(Ben Renalli Studios)

Dioji isn't exactly a seasoned rodent exterminator like my Tavi was (sniff), but I figured he could get the job done.

Which he did...

... but not without getting a a good nip on the nose - that is HIS blood, not the rat's.

So we finally had a picture of our perpetrator. I have to say, I find them quite cute. But then, I am partial to rats, since I've had them as pets.

However, they have caused us enough trouble at this point, that we have to take action against them.

Mark filled the hole with more foam insulation, to help keep them at bay a little longer, but they were soon gnawing away at it again.

Last night I, once again, heard clattering coming from the kitchen, and knew another one had made its way in the house. I was busy nursing a baby, so I didn't bother trying to get up and address it.

This morning, sure enough, there was a big pile of shredded insulation on the floor, and a few "deposits" left on the kitchen counter. But that wasn't all.

Later on, I was getting some food together to take down to mama rabbit and her babies, and went to scoop out some black oil sunflower seeds from the bag. I was puzzled when something prevented me from digging the scoop into the seed. What IS that? I thought.

I opened up the bag and was surprised to see an odd collection of objects that had been purposefully stuffed in there.

There were two glue traps (ironic, yes?), several packets of vegetable and herb seeds, and a tablespoon.

You see, woodrats are also known as "pack rats", since they have the same habit of collecting objects as their Western counterparts.

I was actually pretty amused by it.

I began thinking about all of the things that have gone missing over the years...

... socks, jewelry, flashlights, hair bands and a slew of other random objects.

We always attributed these inexplicable vanishings to "little gnomes," (or really, just our pathetic organization skills).

Maybe these "little gnomes" really exist! They just have whiskers and long furry tails. Ha!

Perhaps, many years down the road, if this house is demolished, they will find all of our missing stuff crammed into the walls and attic.

Now, I really don't think they have gotten into our house before now, but it's still an amusing thought.

There are two species of woodrat in Tennessee: The Eastern and the Allegheny. Only an expert could tell the difference, as they are identical in appearance. Although I think the Allegheny is found further east and at higher elevations.

Both species are pretty uncommon, and listed as "in need of management" by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (which happens to be the hubs' official employer). On the one hand, it's kind of cool to live in close proximity with a disappearing creature.

Unfortunately, though, this invasion really cannot be allowed to go on. While they don't pose the same dangers as the introduced brown rat (also known as the sewer rat), they are still causing major problems for us.

So it looks like we'll be baiting underneath the house, unless we can find a better alternative.

In other news, we will be turning the power on at our new place, this week. Fingers crossed nothing bursts into flames (although I think Mark is holding out hope that the house WILL burn down so we can collect insurance money and buy a house that doesn't need so much work).

Be well, readers!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Breeding Success!

My broken chestnut doe is finally back on my good side.

I re-bred both does today. Acer was just as willing as last time, and I bred her to my broken red New Zealand buck Ichigo, who may or may not be her sibling. It was his first breeding, and he was pretty dramatic about it. It was amusing to watch. We'll see how their babies turn out.

Then I held my breath and put Cardamom in Turn's cage, expecting her to grumble and run around, like she usually does. She actually plopped right down and lifted for the breeding. I was amazed. Either I got the timing right, or the Raspberry Zinger tea really works!

I didn't bother checking either doe for color, beforehand. In hindsight it might have been a good idea, just for future reference. But they both got bred, with three good fall-offs, so that's all that really matters.

In 31 days, it will be popple time, once again!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weighing Babies

Wow, has it really been a whole week since I posted? I guess it's obvious we've been busy.

I've had to leave the house with Ian just about every day, since maintenance has been laying brick and removing the gas fireplace insert. Then there were all the shopping trips and the Christmas Bird Count, and the family get-togethers....

So today I decided to weigh the four week old babies, to get an idea of what they're made of.

They averaged 1 pound, with the the lightest at 0.95 and the heaviest at 1.15.

We bought this scale on Amazon. I really like it, so far.
Now, I've never raised meat rabbits before, but I would venture a guess that my results are average to good.

I attempted to sex some of them. From the best I can tell, we have mostly bucks.

Tomorrow I will be breeding back my does, and giving the clueless Cardamom a second chance. I even made her a batch of Raspberry Zinger tea, which she seemed to really like. We'll see how things go tomorrow evening.

And then, it's back to the daily grind, and time to really start gearing up for the Holidays. I STILL have some last minute Christmas gifts to make. At least I will finally be home to work on them.

We are still adjusting to Mark's new work schedule, as Acting Park Manager. As a ranger, his schedule was constantly rotating. So from week to week we would have a good alternating mix of night shift, day shift and split shift, with two days off thrown in. It's funny how different it is for him to have a NORMAL work schedule, now - working from 7:00 - 3:30 every day, with weekends off. I kind of miss those lazy mornings when he worked the night shift, especially since they were my only time to catch up on some sleep. The last two weekends Mark has been leaving out early to hunt. Which reminds me...

He finally got one!!

We are so happy to be filling our freezer with venison again, after having run out many months ago.

So maybe next weekend we can have a couple of lazy mornings together, after the bustle of the Holidays...... oh, wait..... we have a house to work on.

I don't guess "lazy" will be in our vocabulary for a long time...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Breaking Ground

It feels great to finally get started with our home renovations! Yesterday we spent an hour or so, ripping up the old laminate flooring, which in many places has been soaked with pet urine for a couple of years. Believe me when I say, there was a powerful smell in that place. Not a good smell, either.

But we threw open the windows to let in that brisk December air, and whenever we stopped working we could hear the bubbling of the creek out front.

We managed to rip up all the floor everywhere but the bedrooms. The master bath already has a white tile floor, which we will leave. The guest bath has linoleum that we will be replacing (probably with vinyl tile). We will be putting down mock wood vinyl plank throughout the rest of the house.

I'm pretty sure this is the one we picked out from Lowes

It even has the texture of wood, and it is really difficult to tell up close that it isn't wood. The durability of vinyl really appeals to us, and it's nice that you can swill it with a wet mop, without worrying about damaging it (unlike laminate). 

We're still discussing what we are going to do about the walls. I keep going back and forth whether it will be worth it to remove all the strips and mud them. I might can live with them for now. I'm just ready to cover up that god-awful paint job. 

We would really like to complete painting before we lay down the new floor. And, the sooner we can move in and stop paying rent at the park, the better.  I guess we can always do something about the wall strips later down the road.

Then there are the cabinets...

The cabinets themselves are pretty solid, so I think we can work with them. I do want to re-paint them, however. I really like the color of this island:

Kitchen Island Duck Egg Blue Chalk Paint with Washed Effect

It is "duck egg blue" chalk paint. They primed it first with black, then distressed it. I like the rustic distressed look, but the hubby not so much. 

A new coat of paint and updated hardware will make a world of difference.

We may do a white beadboard backsplash as well, The countertops are getting replaced. I'm liking this one:

BELANGER Fine Laminate Countertops 6-ft Ouro Romano with Etchings Straight Laminate Kitchen Countertop
Then we have this awkward layout:

The breakfast bar feels really dated, and the sharp angle makes the kitchen feel boxed in. So we're thinking we may remove it completely and replace it with an island. My sister-in-law has a leftover 47-inch butcher block countertop that we could use for an island topper. Then we'd like to place a pantry in the remaining space against the wall.

As for the hideous bathroom vanities...

We may see about replacing them all together. 

A Lowes trip is hopefully in order, this evening.

Then we have the fireplace...

We know we want a wood stove, we just have to decide what kind we want to go with. We may take the entire insert out and extend the hearth.

Which is funny, because that's exactly what's happening at our ranger residence right now...

They are extending the hearth to set our new wood stove on. Well, not OURS, it will belong to the house, and whoever lives here after us. It is coming to us through a grant. We do get to pick it out, however, and can decide if we like it well enough to get one for our new house.

We have SO MUCH to look at, and plan for!

I'm so excited to get started! 

It's time to make this place OUR OWN!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

First litter at 3 weeks

Boy, do these guys grow fast!

I mean, I knew rabbits were fast growers, but WOW!

I'm happy to report that the one kit with the infected eye has recovered.

I gave it a couple of good doses of antibiotic ointment. One or two of the kits still gets a slightly crusty eye from time to time, but I think it's because they love to snuggle in the box so much. I hate to take it out, with temperatures dipping below freezing at night.

They are starting to eat and drink on their own, and seem healthy and active. Haven't seen any evidence of diarrhea. I'm hoping that constant access to hay will prevent any digestive problems, as they transition to solid food.

We hiked our new property yesterday, and are going to start ripping up the old floor in the house. It will feel good to finally begin "breaking ground."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sprouted Wheat Fodder: Working Out the Bugs

After a couple of experimental rounds of wheat fodder, I am back at square one.

My first trays turned out awesome! But then I started having issues with mold.

I think my biggest problem is a lack of air circulation. My seed quality is good, and the sprouting rate has been fantastic.

I wasn't really getting mold until the grass mat was well formed, around day 5 or 6, which leads me to believe it is an airflow problem. I also noticed that the grass crown remained wet constantly between my twice-day waterings.

The biggest factor contributing to my circulation problem, I think, is the height of my grow trays.

The dish pans are nice and sturdy, and I like the handles on them, but the sides are really too high to allow for good airflow. They really weren't what I was looking for, originally. I may keep the dish pans strictly for sprouting, and see if I can hunt up shallower trays for growing the fodder. I think those black nursery flats would work well.

I could also try putting less seed in the pans, and getting a small fan to blow on the area.

So those are some possible solutions for solving the mold problem, but there is another big issue preventing success too, right now.

That would be, ahem - this, right here.

Just about every picture I take of him comes out blurry because he is CONSTANTLY in motion.

I really don't have a good place to set up my grow rack that is out of his reach.

I was hoping to have my fodder system up and running by the time my first litters arrived, so we could start reaping the cost savings. But I guess it's just going to have to wait.

We are going to be especially busy in the coming months, now that we have to start going through all of our stuff, fixing up our new place and eventually begin packing and moving.

The convenience of bagged pellets may just have to win out again, for awhile.

Today the kits are 19 days old, which means it's time to remove the nesting box (I meant to do it yesterday, but I had to keep the boy at the grandparents' most of the day, since maintenance was building a hearth in the house). They haven't been venturing out much (at least not during the 10 minutes or so I am out there every day). It's pretty chilly today, so I went ahead and gave them a cardboard box with some hay, to snuggle in.

Speaking of constantly in motion...
They were really attached to their nest box, so they ran over and snuggled with mama when I took it out. Their daddy, Colbert is checking them out next door.

Somebody finally decided to check out their new box

I had to treat one of the babies again today for nest box eye, unfortunately. I wish I had been able to keep a closer eye on them, this past week. That will be a cull, for sure. I've read from some breeders that nest box eye problems are possibly genetic.

The majority of the litter is doing great, however.

I will be re-breeding the does the week after next. This will be Cardamom's chance to redeem herself. If she doesn't get with the program, it's off to the crock pot.

The roofers will be out at our new place in three weeks! In the meantime we are going to be planning out the other big renovations needed on the house. I'm so ready to get this rolling!

Until next time ...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A New Beginning

It is now official: we are the proud owners of a homestead to call our own!

It's going to take a lot of work before we can move in, but we'll get there! We are hoping that will be sometime this coming spring or summer.

The list of "to-do's" is a little overwhelming:

  • New roof
  • Fix the water line
  • New septic tank & field lines (?)
  • New decking
  • New floors
  • Replace drywall in places
  • New paint
  • New cabinets
  • New counter tops
  • Fix the bridge
  • Fix up the barn
  • Fence the property
....... etc, etc, etc.

Then of course there are all the little cosmetic touches. And anything unexpected we encounter along the way.

I thought I would share some snapshots of the inside of the house, as "before" pictures, since I've already shared a post with views of the outside.

It's interesting how everything looks so much better in pictures. Believe me, it's much worse than it appears! (And it doesn't smell so great, either.)

 The kitchen has some good space to work with. We plan to give it a complete overhaul.

We have no idea whether the stove and dishwasher work. Or even the general state of the plumbing.

 The other side of the kitchen. I really don't mind the appearance of the cabinets, but a lot of them are falling apart.

 I really like the open floor plan. The paint scheme is a little bizarre. I think white paint will really brighten it up. The fireplace is a big plus! We have plans to put in a wood stove.

 The living area. You can kind of tell in this picture how rough the floor is. The laminate flooring has been ruined from years of pet urine. Ick.

 The master bedroom. I must say, I've always disliked the stripping on the walls of manufactured homes. I've been looking into ways to remove it, but that's pretty low on the list of priorities.

Master bath.

 View of the creek from the living area. We're looking forward to opening those windows in warmer weather, and listening to the water bubbling.

Another bedroom. I'm thinking we may use this as a guest room. I'm so excited to finally have a guest room!

Guest bathroom. You can see the water damage around the light. This is the worst spot in the house.

Another bedroom.

The 4th bedroom. Maybe Ian's? Haven't decided yet. By the way, everything you see in these pictures was left by the previous renter. Some of it we may keep, but a lot of it we will be hauling off.

The laundry area/mud room. We have yet to see whether our washer and dryer will fit in this space.

The sliding glass doors (which no longer slide) we will replace with French doors.

It's hard to know how to feel at this point. We need to do something to make it feel like it's really ours. Like, rip off a cabinet door or punch a hole in a wall - maybe even take a sledgehammer to the floor, lol. SOMETHING!

We will be making dozens of phone calls this week to get the contractors out there to start on all the jobs we won't be doing ourselves. Roof, first and foremost!

Wow. Just, wow. 

I am amazed how smoothly things have come together, and am SO, so thankful. 

Hopefully the rest of the process will go smoothly, too!

I'll keep you updated on our progress.

Hmmm...... I'm picturing a sign right here that says:


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Our First Litter at Two Weeks

Just a quick video I made this morning of our two week old New Zealand Red x Creme d'Argent babies. I am surprised at how fuzzy they are. I wonder if their longer coats will carry into maturity?

In case you couldn't hear in the video, a few of them had some mildly crusty eyes I was cleaning up. They looked fine otherwise, so I don't think there is any full blown nest box eye going on.

Very pleased with them, so far. :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Letting Go

We are pretty attached to our state park home, despite all of its shortcomings.

Perched high up on our ridge, we've always felt a certain amount of safety - assurance that the land around us would never change.

Unfortunately, that's not really the case.

The park property line happens to run right behind our house. This is is where private property begins. The view we look on out back is a 168 acre tract owned by a handful of developers.

They've been trying to sell it for years, for a ridiculous amount of money. Even though there are a few distant lake views up on the ridges, it really doesn't have much going for it. At least not for the purpose of development.

One of my favorite sunrise photos taken from our back porch. 
What it does have, however, is the right components for Cerulean Warbler breeding habitat. It has been documented by biologists as a nesting hot spot, with more breeding birds in the summer than anywhere else around.

It's not just Ceruleans that love it, however. The music drifting from that valley in the spring is a rich cacophony of bird song. The steep drop behind our house means that we are practically looking straight into the tree tops, giving us a good view of migrating birds that like to stay in the canopy (like Cerulean Warblers).

With this in mind, several years ago Mark made a proposal for the Land Acquisition Fund, to see if the state would purchase the property, incorporating it into the state park. His presentation scored higher than any other before him. It was looking very good. We were elated.

The Land Acquisition department was tied up in acquiring Cummins Falls, at the time, which was certainly a worthy endeavor.

In the meantime, the election was at hand, and with a new Administration, came new guidelines for land acquisition proposals. The result was that Mark's presentation now scored much lower, making it a low priority.

It was recently re-visited, however, and the state began making steps to purchase it.

Another winter sunrise
Apparently the property is owned by three different individuals. Two out of those three were more than willing to sell it to the state. One was even ready to donate it, just to get it off his hands.

The third who - suffice it to say, is a bitter old codger - dug in his heels and refused to part with it for fair market value.

Instead, in an effort to squeeze every last dime from this piece of land, he decided to log it.

And so, for the last several months we've been listening to the whine of the chainsaw, the popping of timber, and the sickening thud of the giant trees falling to the earth.

Mark and Ian watch the loggers at work

With every crash, we feel our hearts sinking.

While I understand that logging isn't the end of the world, it is still saddening. We know that the Ceruleans will not be back next year. Do they have anywhere else to nest? We aren't sure.

In the meantime, all of the activity is really disturbing the soil. These steep valleys are highly unstable as it is, and the logging roads and machinery are doing irreparable damage, I fear.

There is still a chance that the state will get the property, after the logging is complete. So we would then have the task of restoring it.

While this whole situation is sad and frustrating, I feel that it is serving another purpose:

... helping us to let go.

We LOVE our home in the park. The house pretty much sucks, but the PLACE is amazing. We look around us and get to see sights that very few people get to enjoy on a day to day basis.

We knew that we would have to move off the park some day. We also knew that it would be difficult to leave it behind. All of the recent changes in parks: having to pay rent and utilities, for one thing, have kind of made park living lose its luster.

I always knew in my heart, that if the land behind us was ever sold and developed, I wouldn't have the heart to live here anymore.

Now that we, hopefully, have another place to move to, it's easier to let go of this one. Not to say that tears won't be shed, or that we won't sit and long for our park life again, at times. 

Mark and his dogs in 2006, the year we met

But we have so much to look forward to: a house to make our own, land to shape, and a future to build.

Letting go of things gives you the opportunity to embrace something else: