Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Pets and Farm Animals (page 1 of 2)

I’m not using the term “livestock” even though, yes, on farms, live animals are profitable inventory. Livestock usually implies that they’re going to go to market to be slaughtered and turned into food themselves. While small farms can be wonderful places even when that is their objective, and I support that, it’s not my objective. I like animals alive and appreciate them that way.

Hervé the white rabbit.

I promised pics of the new rabbit that entered my life. It was a few weeks after I lost Ringo, and someone found a white rabbit a few blocks away on St. Antoine, near Georges-Vanier metro – right in the middle of the road, early in the morning. They contacted Quebec Rabbit Rescue – Secours Lapins Quebec, who can only facilitate rabbit rehoming, as they aren’t a shelter. QRR gave them my poster to identify if it was Ringo, but it wasn’t. They asked me to take him in anyway.
He is young, friendly, full of energy and curiosity, and he’s got a big appetite. It took a few weeks, but his name arrived: Hervé. One great thing about Hervé is that he actually likes being in the front yard, and his willingness to stay and graze influences the girls in a positive way. I have a lot fewer escapes to visit the neighbour’s (or hide under the car) than before, and the rabbits then get to stay out for longer. On Hallowe’en, he wanted out in the evening – no way! – and so was hanging around the front door as kids came by to trick-or-treat. He was also trying to get into the bowl of candy. He taught Elizabeth to go explore the bedrooms upstairs, looking for treats. He has attacked a few houseplants this way.
Avoiding the computer for a few months means I’ve had little thought for taking photos or sorting them when they upload. So here he is, the day he arrived:

He loves being pet. Here he’s assuming the position.

He also humps my girls. And they take it (most of the time) in the most unperturbed manner possible. Here he is, filling in his role as one-of-three.

Instead I’ll show you squirrels quite possibly humping.

And lastly, the sweet face of my “heart” rat Archie, who in the past 10 days has wasted away from the effects of what I thought was a pituitary tumour, but it’s pneumonia. I’ve nursed more than a half dozen pituitary cases over the years, and now I’m questioning if any others were pneumonia. Archie has been my brave explorer and shoulder-rider over the past year, preferring my company at that height over the hot pursuits and other predations of Dweezil, my resident terrorist. Now, I’m feeding and medicating Archie through a syringe, while he sleeps the day and night away. He still bruxes and stretches so I know he’s not comatose. It’s heartbreaking to see him this way, but we each have to face death, and if I can’t pull him back from the brink that I stupidly brought hime to, then my job is to make it as comfortable as possible.

Archie exploring under the deck in the garden.

My rabbit Ringo is lost, Sud-Ouest borough

Monday I had a friend over and he arrived shortly after I let the rabbits out for a supervised foray at the front of the house. Even though I fenced in the yard for them, they hate it, and they insist on hanging out on the driveway and visiting the neighbour’s yard. So I let them, but I supervise. After about 20 minutes or so I shooshed them back into the house and went to work. Then when my friend arrived, he came to the front door, I brought him to the garage door, and he put in his bike and I did a few cuts on the table saw with him. I closed up all the doors, and went to the back yard to have a snack and then do a bunch of work.

I didn’t realize that Ringo had let himself out again until 10 pm, when the girls waited at the bottom of the stairs for their food. So for about six hours, Ringo was outside with no way back in. And he’s not the brightest, most adventurous rabbit. I fear him being taken by someone who has no heart for animals, thinking of rabbit as stew (by the way, if you ever make this “joke” to someone who has a pet rabbit, you’re an idiot). I hope instead he has been taken by someone, who seems to be in the majority, who felt sorry for the cute bunny rabbit, and that he’s in an apartment somewhere, confused by his change of environment and wondering “where my girls’ at?”

So I am looking for my rabbit, with the exact opposite of help from my city borough of the Sud Ouest, who think posters of lost pets is a “nuisance” and “not clean” so they take them down because “it’s against the law.” Meanwhile, the contract they give out for animal control – because the Ville de Montreal doesn’t think it is actually their in-house responsibility to provide this service properly to the residents – goes to a for-profit pound (with a bad reputation) at the very eastern tip of the island, 25+ km away and virtually inaccessible by public transit for the residents of our borough, many of whom are under the poverty line and unable to deal with major complications such as losing their pet.

I have written a lengthy letter to my borough to tell them how they are serving themselves more than serving the people who live here, but I would like to ask readers to call 311 if they live in the Sud Ouest or in any borough of Montreal and complain about the removal of lost pet posters. It is only by this kind of publicity that people notice that a lost, found, or errant animal actually is being looked for and by whom, it is only this publicity that calls out skilled volunteers who know the area and can help one look for a lost pet. And many people, in my postering foray yesterday, expressed hostility  towards the Sud Ouest administration and the offhand way they go about frustrating their residents.

Right-clicking the image should download a copy of the poster to your computer.

In addition, I would welcome e-mail from any Montrealers with business skills and savvy who would like to set up a small “business” (as it needs to be) to obtain the contracts that serve different boroughs of Montreal in order to provide a modern and on-the-ground alternative to shipping pets off to what amounts to an inaccessible factory – because the distant pound is certainly not a farm.

Pictures from Brome Fair, Labour Day 2013

I went away for Labour Day weekend to get a good hike in at Mont Mégantic (I also visited Lac Mégantic for one of their evening benefit shows at Musi-Café, the bar that was obliterated during the August train derailment). This was the view, in the distance, of the nearby village Nôtre-Dame-des-Bois from a lookout point on the way up Mont St.-Joseph. The road seen is the access road to the park.

In La Patrie, where I was staying, the bunnies decided the most familiar and comfortable place to hang out was under my car.

Look at that relaxed rabbit. Just look at her. Punk.

In a Sherbrooke parking lot, this lovely plant was blooming and a bumble bee fertilizing all of its flowers. I would love to know what the name of it is, and I’d like to get some seeds. 
Back in Stanstead,  cows doing what hippos do, in an overfertilized pond. Don’t drink that water, girls. 

 After taking the Vermont route through Derby Line and Newport up to the Quebec border at Mansonville, I finally got to the big Brome Fair at Knowlton.

I took many pictures of the home canning, gardens, baking and crafts section, but here is one category I would like to enter in next year: the mixed garden basket.

I would also like to enter the category for best Jamiroquai chicken, but chickens are not allowed in Montreal (except Rosemont) and I’ve already got my hands full with the aforementioned punks. 

Some more birds I’d like to be in possession of, especially with my miniscule woods-and-pond :

In the general category I’d like to enter the punks in next year (rabbits and guinea pigs) just because I can, I found a very very large and sleepy Holland Lop. Now I know what breed Elizabeth is at least half of.

 When I was a girl on the farm, we once got some fertilized eggs for our pet goose. She hatched three white geese and three African geese, like these:

The sheep section was interesting to see – some full wool, some recently shorn. Some so recently shorn, they had to wear little suits to be comfortable and protected.  Here’s a sheep with a very relaxed demeanor:

And two more, a different breed, who look quite curious (or hungry and waiting. Please keep your hands out of their pen. Management not responsible for injuries.)

A cow and calf from a Charolais beef farm:

An Ayrshire from a dairy farm. I find it interesting that the cartography of her spots seem to depict the limits of the sovereign seas!

And the big draw on a Saturday night: the midway. 

Christmas decorations: a mostly homemade wreath

So here I was thinking “what the heck am I going to write about this week?” (you can tell if I’m writing about cell phones, I’m really hard up for ideas) and then…the clue comes in…it’s Christmas! And I’ve put up my lights in the window, and hung the wreath by my front door.
The wreath is one of my favourite things ever. I made it two years ago. Here is the play-by-play:

These are sticks cut from my box hedge in the fall, softened up in a hot shower, and then wrapped around and woven into a wreath.  [I suspect there’s some Virginia creeper in there, too.]

Then, wrapped around again with be-buttoned burlap ribbon bought at the dollar store many years ago, and then tied with a complicated bow. Off now to find out what else is suitable for decorating it. I know I have cranberries…

so now you have an idea what I look like on any given morning.
Using the plastic mistletoe and a foil ball spray with a ribbon – from the trove of Christmas decorations:

How about with a rat? Too cute, especially with his cheek spots. (My dearly departed Benjamin, AKA Beelzebubbles.)

Well, I can’t hang it outside with Benjamin, but I can use IKEA rats or mice:
The mice work better. The brown mouse on the right (real left; this photo is inverse) has a ribbon around its neck. The white mouse swinging on the mistletoe keeps the mistletoe in place. Because of the lopsidedness of the wreath, I re-centred it to the left – as you will see in the next pic. 
I even had a red-anodized-coated copper wire in my tool box (now, how can I be the Queen of Discardia, when the things I keep suddenly find a great purpose?) from which to hang the wreath outside. 

In the past year the wreath has one small addition that is just perfect: the trapeze mouse has a little bell on a red cord around its neck. 

I hope this post inspires you to make use of nature’s materials and foundling elements to create a work of awesome joy and fun. 

As an aside, one of my friends across the pond who saw my wreath pics wrote to me: Our neighbours didn’t take their wreath down after Christmas one year because they liked it so much. When they finally wanted to put it away in spring, they found that a robin had built a nest in it. They had to use the back door for months, until all the nestlings had left…

Heritage breed of sheep threatened with eradication

Near a little Ontario town, east of Peterborough and north of Cobourg, there is a farm that specializes in a rare heritage breed of sheep called Shropshire. It is being threatened with eradication for prophylactic reasons. The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has targeted the farm and its sheep for having a genotype that makes them susceptible – which means easy to infect – to a prion disease called “scrapie.” It doesn’t infect humans (like bovine spongiform encephalitis morphs into Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), and it doesn’t morph into other forms of prion disease, but if a flock has it, it can persist. The known primary vector for transmission is through birth and contact with placental tissues.

One sheep from this flock succumbed to scrapie in Alberta, which is how this farm ended up in the cross hairs of the CFIA. The rest of this flock tested negative for the disease, and every effort was made to prevent this disease and to comply with the CFIA, short of killing them.

The death date is this week. Today there was a rally at the farm to save the Shrops. Awareness and popularity of this issue are the only things that may help at this point. Governments have a history of putting animals to death, beyond any argument.

Visit the Shrops site. Sign the petition. Send a letter to your Member of Parliament, even if it’s a short one.

Breaking news – Several sheep went missing overnight. Stolen? Likely. The farm’s owner refused to allow the CFIA to send the bodies of the sheep the CFIA wants to kill to a rendering plant. It’s illogical: it’s fine to kill healthy animals on suspicion of harboring scrapie, but if they actually harbored scrapie (which they don’t, this was overruled by tests), they’d still be made into pet food?

Update on further research:This appears to be an exercise of the Government of Canada saying “We’re #1!” They’ve allocated a few million dollars to eradicate scrapie by eradicating the sheep, so that they can then say “Canada is scrapie-free!” Which also implies that once the CFIA has succeeded with the eradication program, people won’t be able to import sheep into Canada, .

Update again: And the human spirit rises in response! A group calling itself the “Farmers Peace Corp” has acted, at great risk of criminal liability, to do the right thing. Read the article in the Globe and Mail here.

Here they are on Facebook: Shared post

2016 update: the sheep were sadly located and slaughtered. None tested positive for scrapie. But the Crown dropped the charges against the shepherd and people involved in the sheep-napping. The Shropshire sheep website is down, and the farmer likely does not have a new herd.

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