Wednesday, April 20, 2016

November Hill cat haven - part 2

We've been happy with the back yard project and how much it positively impacted the cats to be able to go in and out into a safe place that also has interesting things to do. In the first few weeks we had the back yard open to them again they managed to catch a snake, a bird, and a squirrel. Now what they catch are mostly insects. 

They have trees to climb and dirt to dig in. They enjoy the deck and the umbrella that shades it during the summer heat.

The overseeding I did has paid off and the grass is growing fast back there. We've let the grass get really tall and they're hunting through it like lions on a savannah. Our vegetable garden is in our back yard so they enjoy spending time gardening with us too. It's a nice space for cats and Corgis and their people.

I knew we would eventually want to do something with the front porch so we could use it with the cats without worrying about them escaping into the larger farm again.

The porch has been a favorite space for them for years:

I spent several weeks poring through photos on Pinterest and elsewhere online trying to find ideas to enclose the front porch in an effective, yet aesthetically pleasing, way.

It didn't take me long to formulate a plan. I knew what I wanted to do, but I felt sure we weren't capable of doing this ourselves so I contacted a local carpenter, Kendrick Harvey, and he came by to look at the porch and help me think through the options.

I had three criteria: 

aesthetically pleasing and fitting with the existing ambiance of the house
able to be dismantled easily if we ever wanted to open the porch up again

Kendrick took my ideas, looked at the photos I showed him, and made it happen in an even more beautiful way than I expected.

Three weeks later he and his crew arrived and started work. This is what it looked like when they finished:

The bottom part of the porch railing is secured by plain chicken wire. You can't really even see it in this photo - it makes it absolutely secure for our adult cats and would also be safe for kittens. 

The upper areas are now fitted with portable, removable screens. They are stable and secure but very easy to remove if we want to open up the porch again, or for cleaning.

The beam that now goes from house to porch in the above photo is permanent. The triangular screen above that beam comes out like the others do. The other end looks the same way.

As you can see, we opted to do the painting ourselves. Once we get the wood painted to match the existing white of the front porch I think the final effect will be even better.

We have a wide front entrance which was somewhat tricky to figure out. Obviously we wanted something that could be used as the entrance to the front door - but it had to be cat-safe and it needed to integrate with the look of our house.

I found photos of a screen porch that had sliding "barn doors" - and that gave me the idea for what Kendrick did so perfectly:

He got a barn door track from the local feed store and made the sliding chicken wire screen doors to fit. They slide open so that the entrance is fully usable but when closed secure the entry way so that cats and Corgis are safe inside. 

I absolutely love it. Once painted I will install some artsy barn door style handles, a latch, and even a little hand pulled bell on the outside so visitors can ring upon arrival. 

It's been a pleasure to have the front door open again this spring. The cats have loved being able to lounge in the front porch chairs and watch the birds in the dogwood tree feeders. And we enjoy sitting close to the horses and donkeys as they graze right outside. 

The sunsets on November Hill are often spectacular - and now we can watch them again with the entire family around us!

Stay tuned for the part 3 - the cat tunnel - on Friday. 


Matthew said...

Awesome idea conceived, visualized and then executed perfectly!

billie said...

I think so too! It has been such a joy to have the front porch back.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I love it! Looks great and serves the purposes that you wanted it for. Great ideas that look wonderful.its nice when everything comes together.

billie said...

Thanks, Arlene. We're really enjoying it!

WendyFromNY said...

Very lucky cats! A couple questions, if you don't mind? How are the "screen windows" held in place? How is the chicken wire attached to the railing? Okay, ONE more? Can the cats get between the railing and the chicken wire? Thanks for showing this, I have an upstairs porch I would LOVE to do this to for my cats. :=)

billie said...

Wendy, the portable screens have two "tracks" they fit into at the bottom - made of wood, screwed into the rail - and they are on hooks up top. So to get them out you lift them up and off the hooks. The tracks at the bottom keep them very stable.

The chicken wire at the bottom half is attached to the outside edge of the deck with small staples. It is totally secure and no, they can't get between the railing and the wire.

We are more than happy with how it all turned out. :)

WendyFromNY said...

Oh, thanks for answering! Sounds pretty secure, both the screens and the staples. Thank you very much for the great ideas! Moving forward, I LOVE the kitty tunnels around the house, what great life enhancement ideas!

billie said...

Wendy, let me know if it would be helpful if I do a post with photos of the structural elements - I could focus in on the actual hooks and the bases, etc.

The cats are very happy right now. It's fun how something new is as exciting for them as for us. Last night we dumped 3 bales of straw in the garden area so I can mulch some things with it today and they had a party out there on, around, between those bales most of the night! :)