Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

A seed library at the Westmount library

Once upon a time when I was at the Westmount Public Library, I saw something to get excited about: they’re reusing their old card catalog, situated near the main circulation (borrowing) desk, as a Seed Library.

I spoke with Daniel, who is responsible for it. It started in May 2016, and last year they reopened it in April 2017, when they learned that’s way too late for most gardeners. So this year, they’re opening the seed library on Monday, February 26. The quick explanation of what it is? “Free seeds for members for more than 50 varieties of plants. ”

You need a library card to use it ($130/year for non-residents, $70/six months, or $50/year for students), but the terms of “borrowing” are generous. You can take up to three packets per day, and at the end of the season, return some of your newly cultivated seeds to the library.

Categorized by vegetable or fruit type, and then the specific breed of plant

Here is how you can contribute to the seed library:

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Meet my squirrel! Mangey, but adorable.

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This little guy or girl comes by my backyard every day and raids my two bird feeders, sometimes with the help of another squirrel.

Because it has sarcoptic mange, I’ve been concerned about its winter survival. You can treat mange with ivermectin, selamectin, or any of the class of avermectin insecticides that kill mites and other topical parasites that cause itching in pets and livestock. Left without treatment, the animal will suffer fur loss and diminished immunity, not to mention being driven mad with the itching. It will also lose out on some time better spent food gathering and stashing. Finally, there’s an increased risk of transmitting it to other animals and species. I certainly don’t want this, but I’m not sure if the mites that affect squirrels also affect birds.

It’s possibly illegal for me to have done this, but as my dog, Daisy, died and couldn’t take her HartGard pills with her on her journey, I took one of the pills, shaved off a slice, and slathered it in peanut butter. I put one out on the patio about a month ago, hoping the right squirrel would take it. Then, I started occasionally feeding it a tidbit or two to get it used to me, so I’d be able to treat it more directly. The mange cleared up, but in the past week, it has come back (probably the eggs in the nest have hatched and new juvenile and adult mites have latched on). So I followed up with a second treatment. He (or she) has stopped running away when I open the patio door, because it knows something edible is going to come flying out and land somewhere in the garden. Sure enough, it made a beeline for it today!


This was Buddy, the black girl squirrel

I had friends in the suburbs who used to feed a black squirrel. They named it Buddy, and it would come right up to them every day. Then Buddy disappeared – for a little while. It turned out Buddy was a new mom, and she brought her babies around to visit.

While the squirrels I’ve befriended (that is, provided drugs, nuts, water, and a house for) have been bold about coming around to me, usually they aren’t so bold with their babies. But over the years, sporadic friendliness (sporadic for their own good) means there’s a shared moment of mutual recognition when we meet each other in the garden, or on either side of the patio door.

When I got home from the nursery for the Rewilding garden session, I took this video of my bunnies and the butterflies in the garden, for your enjoyment. (You have to click through to the Facebook post if you want my narration.)


The results of the Rewilding garden session

Early Saturday morning, I got up early to make it up to Pepinière Jasmin– where you can always find some native/indigenous plants, even at the end of the planting season. One of the native plant suppliers was Aiglon Indigo.

I got the following plants for the garden and the walls of my house: Continue reading

Rewilding Event – upcoming this weekend

Six weeks before the frost sets in (traditionally, people consider Canadian Thanksgiving the first-frost date, but it comes later), gardeners can get an early start on the next year’s garden and crops. This time of year is perfect for doing transplants, as roots are not as subject to water and heat stress, and have a chance to establish themselves before the coming winter .

I’ve decided that it’s time for an event: a fall-oriented gardening session. We’ll prepare a garden for next year, and plant native species. This event is for the avid or casual gardener, or anyone who wants to get their hands dirty while learning about native and cultivated plants for biodiverse wildlife gardens. You are welcome to bring plants from your garden for swapping with other gardeners.

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