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Today I was reading updates on a friend’s facebook wall and saw that she was contemplating putting up a bat house. Oddly enough, my husband and I were talking about this same subject just yesterday. We have a swampy area in the northeast quarter of our land that will eventually be dug out for a pond, but until we dig it out will remain a mosquito-breeding haven. Our best idea to combat these buzzing bothers is to erect a bat house or two.

So after seeing my friend’s post, I decided to start looking at plans for bat houses online. They’ve got to be simple to build, right? Well, as with everything else in life, simple is in the eye of the beholder. Check out some of the bat houses I found while exploring.

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This was once a pigeon cove located on the grounds of a palace former Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein built for one of his mistresses. Today the palace is a U.S. Army post called Camp Liberty (formerly known as Camp Victory North) and the pigeon cove is now a home to a colony of bats.

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Dr. Charles A.R. Campbell built this and many more large bat houses modeled after church steeples. His houses were so successful in attracting bats that he had trapdoors installed in the bottoms to make easier the removal of guano. In 1918 the crop of guano harvested from the Mitchell’s Lake Bat Roost weighed 4,012 pounds. Wow!

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This 10’x10′ bat house sits 23′ in the air in Tallahassee, Florida and holds approximately 60,000 of the critters. 

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The biggest artificial bat house in the US, located just outside of Gainesville, Florida can house up to 200,000 bats at once. It’s estimated that the bats in this colony consume up to 20 million insects every single night. 

Our bat houses will probably be much smaller in scale, though no less effective. After doing some reading, I think we have the perfect bat habitat: plenty of insects and we’re within 1 mile of an open water source. And since we saw a bat swoop in front of our van on the way home from the land, we know they’re out there. If we build it, they should come… hopefully. 

Now I’m off to find some simple bat house plans I can construct with the boys. I would love to hear any suggestions in the comment section if you have experience building these little guano factories!

With all the beautiful weather we’ve been having, we have been spending more and more time up at the land getting things ready to go for the summer. We took out the batter boards that we had originally put up and got some more sturdy ones in their place, extending it out to fit the new footprint of 24’x32′. As soon as we get them all leveled and hung with criss-crossing strings to indicate where the piers will go, we’ll start digging some holes. We can’t start pouring the footers, however, until after our variance hearing on April 10th. The townships of Wisconsin have all started adopting specific building codes, and our home doesn’t fit the one that says all single family dwellings must be a minimum of 1000 square feet. We’re sitting on 770 and don’t want to budge, but we’re pretty confident that our reasons will sway the board and we’ll get the go ahead. Hopefully we don’t have to file for many more variances, since each one takes a $250 bite out of our budget.

We also dug 14 2-3′ holes for fruit trees due to arrive somewhere around April 5th. Here is our order:

  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, semi dwarf
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, semi dwarf
  • 1 Lodi apple, semi dwarf
  • 1 Cortland apple, semi dwarf
  • 1 Illinois Everbearing Mulberry
  • 1 Blackgold Sweet Cherry, semi dwarf
  • 1 Stella Sweet Cherry, semi dwarf
  • 1 Moonglow pear, standard
  • 1 Seckel pear, standard
  • 1 Bartlett pear, standard
  • 1 Intrepid peach, semi dwarf
  • 1 Reliance peach, semi dwarf
  • 1 Reliance seedless grape
  • 1 Neptune seedless grape

Including shipping, our tree costs came up to $380.82. That’s a little over a dollar a day for a year… for many years worth of fruit. I looked at our grocery bill for two weeks worth of fresh fruit (not including jellies, preserves, dried fruit, etc), we spent $12 for a measly amount. Bare minimum. I can’t wait to be able to walk out to our own orchard a few years from now and pick bushels upon bushels of apples!

I also got a 3’x6′ fire pit dug out, then started a pile of stones to use as a liner around it. There’s one thing we will not lack for on this land, and it’s stones. My husband says if we want to plant a rock garden, there’s lots of seeds right where we want to put the house. Haha! Guess it’s just a fact of life when you are building something and need to dig… insert obstruction. I hope to make good use out of all these little obstructions, though. They’ll work for raised bed gardens, rock walls, and perhaps even an outdoor pizza/bread oven covered in stone. Ah… the dreams!

Check out the wood piles! I’m rather shocked the Holz Hausen stood up all winter without any problems, while the standard rows ended up falling over twice due to high winds and are looking kind of shoddy in comparison. We still have a bit of tree to cut up to add to these piles. We’ve also got to do a fair bit of splitting, but the wood is still pretty wet so we’ll let it sit a bit longer to season. You can also see the brush pile in the background. We had planned on burning it over the winter, but then I started thinking of all the wood left inside there for small projects or fires and couldn’t do it. Maybe this summer/fall we’ll sort it out and cut it up more as we need wood for camp fires.

So that’s my update for now. I hope everyone else is spending lots of time outside soaking up this gorgeous weather!

Since I was a baby I’ve had allergies to all sorts of animals. Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, cows… you name it and I’ve probably been allergic to it at some point in my life. Cats and dogs, however, have always been on my sneeze list. Perhaps that is why in my adulthood I can’t understand the whole institution of keeping pets. Why do people pay outrageous prices for “purebred” cats and dogs that are only going to fill their houses with fur, dander, and disease? Why would anyone want to let a cat who has just been outside catching who knows what sorts of critters and eating them… why would anyone let that same cat come inside and wipe it’s germ-ridden face all over their furniture? Why would they stand idly by while that cat jumped up on the counters and table where food is prepared and eaten – the cat that was just digging in the litter box? Why let a dog who licks his own crotch and drinks from the toilet bowl come over and lick your face or, even worse, your child’s face? It just disgusts me.

By no means am I one of those idiotic PETA people. My anti-pet attitude has nothing to do with the animals needing to be freed or given human rights. I am simply baffled that pets are treated for many intents and purposes as an extension of the family. They are allowed to sleep in the same beds, eat at the same tables, sit on the same couches, and eat from the same spoons. They are allowed to ride on motorcycles, visit hospitals, tag along in purses, and when they die they are buried in the cemetery next to their owners’ plots or cremated and kept in fancy urns over their owners’ fireplace. It’s creepy. I’ve seen tee shirts, license plates, gilded statues, professional portraits, and lockets with replicas of pets. There are even people who have their dead pets stuffed and sewed up by the same taxidermists who mount trophy deer and prop dead bears in lifelike semblance. I’ve seen people leave their estate to their pet over their own children.

I don’t know what I’m missing. Are we as humans really so lonely that we have to create false friendships with cute animals to replace healthy interactions with other human beings? Are we missing some element in our day to day relationships that can honestly be filled by a semi-intelligent beast that does tricks for beggin strips?

I understand the draw to animals. They’re cute. They’re dependent. They make you feel needed and wanted because we’ve domesticated many of them to the point where they probably couldn’t live in the wild. It’s a good feeling to be wanted, and I totally get that. But I think the negatives completely outweigh any positives.  With cats alone you expose yourself to toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis, bartonellosis (cat-scratch disease), fleas, roundworm, hookworm, ringworm, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, and rabies. Not only you are exposed to these, but every child and adult who enters your home is exposed as well. That’s not calling into account all the dander the animal is freely flinging all over every surface of your home. Did you know that dander can take several years to clear out of even the most meticulously-kept home, leaving anyone who visits or moves into that home with allergies at severe risk? It’s the same with your car or any other surface the animals touch. Your clothes that you wear to the store, to a school, to church – everyone around you is forced to put up with the dander and the smell of animals stuck in them. There have been many times where I have had an asthma attack simply by sitting down next to someone who has been around a cat or dog.

If all the dander, smell, disease, and dependency of pets isn’t a good enough deterrent for keeping pets, then the fact that they’re very expensive might be my best argument in this day and age. Dog food, cat food, shots, antibiotics, surgery, vet bills, spaying and neutering, registration fees, kennel fees, and all the associated health costs to the people involved with them. In an economic crisis such as we find ourselves in, where many people are living paycheck to paycheck or being evicted from the only home they’ve ever known, how can people still afford to keep pets whose sole purpose is to fill some sort of comfort void that they as a person are afraid of seeking from another person or activity? I won’t even go into the people who have to get allergy shots or watch their children suffer from allergy-related illness constantly in order to keep pets. I think it’s rather strange that there is a general consensus that the “crazy cat lady” with thirty cats is… well… crazy. Yet the family with one or a few cats is considered normal for keeping the same sort of useless animal in lesser quantities.

I’m not writing this in order to put anyone down who keeps pets. I’ve tried the whole pet thing with many different types of animals. I could never form an emotional attachment to any of them, no matter how much I tried. I forced tears when they died or I had to get rid of them, but I can’t remember being genuinely sad as I am when I lose a human friend or family member. I think I was more sad to have NOT formed that special bond with them that everyone else seems to be able to form. My pets have always been just… animals. Now I will no longer even make an attempt to keep pets. Maybe it’s ME who is missing some essential human quality that allows the keeping and loving of an animal for purely pet purposes. Maybe I am the one who is crazy.

We’re looking forward to having a menagerie of critters on the homestead. Chickens for eggs and meat. Ducks for eggs, meat, and down. Cows for milk. Rabbits for pelts and meat. Some of them might retire as breeders, never making it to our dinner plates, but that doesn’t mean they will be invited into our home to live out the rest of their days. Baby chicks will live in a box in the kitchen, as I’ve always raised them, until they are big enough that they can jump out and wreak havoc on my clean floors. If we get an orphaned or bummer baby animal, it will live inside until it can survive as livestock is meant to survive: out in the barn. Someday we might even have enough livestock to warrant a guard dog. It, too, will live outside and not be treated as a member of our family, but as an animal with a purpose. I really liked my little ram Caligula, who would paw at me for treats, follow me like a lost puppy, and roll over onto my lap to get a good belly scratch… but he was still just an animal. Once I was done breeding him to two generations, he would have been sold as breeding stock to some other family.

Call me a fool, but I’d rather bestow friendship and love on other people than waste such powerful emotions on an animal. Am I crazy?

March 2012
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