Groundhogs in the Garden

Every garden has its pest and ours at this moment is groundhogs. If you don’t know what a groundhog is, think beaver with a short stubby furry tail. Groundhogs are a member of the rodent family. 

They get the hog part of their name honestly. They are hogs when it comes to munching on tender garden plants. Imagine how disheartening it is to go to the garden early in the morning and find the sweet potato leaves gnawed to the stem. Or bean plants nibbled down to the ground. 

We put up a very temporary and lightweight fencing to slow down entrance to the garden. That got us through about a month. Now the varmints are plowing right through that fence and it is time to get serious.

Many recommend shooting or trapping and relocating, but we are choosing other methods.


Our first line of attack is a healthy dose of cayenne pepper around their favorite munchies. 


Next we have installed whirly gigs and scarecrows to scare them away.


But the big guns is a wire mesh fence with solid wood frames all the way around the garden. Of course they may tunnel under, but they will find their holes full of cayenne. 

Fence under construction

2019 Battle of the Groundhogs is on!

2015 in Review

Greetings from Five Feline Farm. 

Most people take a moment to reflect on the past year when the calendar passes from one year to the next. We evaluate our history and plan for our future. Often this takes the form of New Year’s Resolutions. Instead we are focusing on goals. 

But, first the year in review.

Five Feline Farm moved from a hobby farm to a registered small business in 2015. April found us setting up the legal paperwork, opening a checking account, obtaining a tax id number, and registering with the county clerk. 

Huge steps.

Our first major business venture was the 18th Street Farmer’s Market. 

Almost every Saturday morning from May through October found us in a parking lot, gathering with others to sell our wares. Out of twenty-one weeks, we missed four. Not bad for first timers. You might say we don’t give up easily.

We learned so much at the Farmer’s Market. What would sell, how to price, how to package, what the competition would be like. We started out knowing almost nothing. But we learned fast. There were surprises at the market. Who knew simple catnip toys would sell so well? Each vendor brought a unique presence to the market in their products and their personalities. Too many lessons to count from them.

Goosenest Prairie Gift Shop at Lincoln Log Cabin Historical Site is carrying our BEEk balm now and is interested in some of our other products. BEEk balm and other products are also available at our online store

Additional garden space was established this year. Our production for 2016 should be at least double what we saw last year. 

Two groups from Eastern Illinois University toured the Farm and we hosted a private tour. It is so much fun to share the things we’ve learned wth others.

One of the highlights for the year was attending the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka. This event packs enough knowledge into two days of workshops that by the end we are simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted. A bonus was the blogger lunch with some of the editorial staff at Mother Earth News and Grit.

We lost another of our beloved charter felines, Phantom Joseph. It was hard to say goodbye.

Another highlight was participating in the Honeybee Festival in Paris, IL, an opportunity to branch out into another community. We even got to meet Gene Killion, a huge name in the beekeeping world.

There was a lot of laughter, a few tears, much hard work and occasionally some rest in 2015.

It was a good year. 

2016 will be even better. 

How Do You Do All That?

One of the most frequently asked questions about the Farm is “how do you have the time to do all this?” It’s a question we even ask ourselves sometimes. There are only two of us working this hobby farm. No employees, no volunteers, no interns. There are some things that we do contract, but those are the big things like installing a generator or building a garage. The day-to-day is all us. 

There is always something to be done. Build garden beds. Plant those gardens. Inspect the beehives. Prepare for the 18th Street Farmer’s Market. Document what we do on the blog and Facebook. Not to mention the regular everyday chores that keep a household running. 

And of course cater to the every whim of the felines. 

We tend to be self-reliant and try to figure out a way to do for ourselves whenever possible. That includes lots of hard physical labor, repurposing, creating and constant improvements to the Farm. 

Back to the question at hand. How do we have time to do all this? 

Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. It is all in how you choose to spend your 24 hours. It is important to us to build this hobby farm into a viable business, so we make decisions about our time accordingly. 

Sometimes it comes down to planning. What thing can be accomplished in the 15 minutes before signing on to the computer for work?  It only takes a minute to pour leftover apple cider into a jar and cover it with cheesecloth to make vinegar. Maybe 30 seconds more to add a bit of mother from a previous batch.

We try to break down projects into manageable tasks. Preparing for new package bees requires location preparation, hive box building, setting up the new hive and preparing a starter batch of two gallons of syrup per hive. All of that happens before the bees actually arrive. These steps have been in progress for over two months with each step wedged in whenever time allows.

Lists are key. When life gets busy there is typically a to-do list on the kitchen counter. Either of us who has a spare moment will check the list and take care of a task that will fit into that moment. This keeps us focused and gives a sense of achievement when we can scratch through the final task on a list.

So it really is a matter of choices, planning and hard work. We look for efficiencies to maximize our time and effort, but there is no shortcut to doing a job well.  

Thank you for following our blog and your interest in Five Feline Farm. We’re always up to something, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for up to the minute action. 

Hobby Farm Transformation

It’s been just over eight years now living on this slice of the country we call Five Feline Farm. At first it was just the “farm”, a tongue-in-cheek expression of this postage stamp sized property in the midst of large acre farms. Now it is becoming much more than that. Slowly, with the requisite blood, sweat and not a few tears, it is transforming into a hobby farm. A place to host the next phase of life. 

But the transformation goes beyond the land. In this process of making something new, we are being transformed. 

Beekeeping has changed our perspective on many things. We are trying to be better consumers and more aware of good practice in land management. Our focus is more basic than sustainability, settling into the more practical mantra: “if it’s good for the bees, it’s good for us”. 

Then there are things that we have learned intuitively or by observation. Yes, these are things that can be read in books and maybe everybody knows it. There is something about the experience that anchors the lesson. 

Things like the moon rising an hour later each night, until finally it rises unseen in the daylight.  Birds begin their nesting just as the fur bearing animals, like our cats, start shedding their winter coat. Cat fur surely makes a comfortable place to lay an egg. Noticing that the Juncos leave just before the hummingbirds return for the summer. 

Through these experiences comes a deep soul satisfaction. A oneness with the land and nature that just feels right. 

It is right to take care of the land that will provide food for us and wildlife. Right to reduce or eliminate chemicals used on property we control. Smart to reduce the need for artificial amendments by moving to a no till garden with careful crop rotation and green manure.

It is a lot of work to reconstruct this once forgotten land. Our passion for what it can become makes it less work-like. 

Five Feline Farm is already growing beyond our wildest dreams. Follow us on Facebook. Signup to get blog posts delivered to your email inbox. 

You never know what may happen next.