Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Category: Landscapes and Road Trips

Urban soil and how we handle it, in perpetuity

This post is based on a meeting I had with Eric Duchemin, Associate Professor of Science and the Environment at UQAM, who has taught students working in urban agriculture for several years now. (I participated in the École d’été sur agriculture urbaine in 2010.) A grad student giving a talk about the urban agricultural history of Montreal, so I took the opportunity to ask Eric some questions about remediating landscapes and urban soil and returning it back to primary use – that is, forestry and agriculture.
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Labour Day weekend road trip to the Eastern Townships and Brome Fair

I went to the Eastern Townships 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 blown up during the train derailment in August). 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 (Policeman’s Bonnet, or Himilayan Balsam, an invasive species), and I’d like to get some seeds (I later was given the plant. The bees loved it, but it took over my backyard).

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.

Two harvest baskets in competition
Two harvest baskets in competition at the fair

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

A Point Pelee pictorial

I’m not that much of a birder. I recognize about 50 to maybe 80 species of bird (now, which used to be less than 20) but I do like to take on a birding challenge once in a while. Two years ago I took a trip to Point Pelee and then continued on to Detroit and all the way to Nebraska taking the Amtrak California Zephyr. This year, I visited Point Pelee and Detroit again.

Regarding this feature photo, taken before departure: there was not that much goosey terrestrial territory at Pelee. They prefer open meadows of shorn grass near water – the kind of territory we love to provide with urban parks, especially when we drain and bulldoze wetlands for our “standard” of development. However, you will still see Canada geese having proper nests in proper wetlands. They are an aquatic bird, after all.

Point Pelee is the southernmost part of Canada. It is the heart of Carolinian Canada, representative of an endangered ecotone – a region of similar ecology, with populations of hallmark species that interact in an ecological community. Much of the Carolinian and Mixed broadleaf forest in Canada has been needlessly destroyed by agriculture and urban development. The swath of land between Windsor and Toronto – and even pockets all the way to Montreal – is heavily populated and are vestiges of this ecotone.

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Last week’s roadtrip to Ontario

Last week, I went to Ontario for a little family/business/pleasure roadtrip. I went to volunteer at Gami’ing Nature Centre.

So I took a little walk around Fenelon Falls. Here’s a pic of the cabin built by a store and put in the store’s backyard. I’m fascinated with tiny houses. I simply must buy myself some land and have one where I can get away any time I want! I like this design, though I’d have side and back windows and a loft window or skylight as that would be the sleeping area. I’d want less of a porch than this, so I’d pull it out into an L shape, leaving the windows just as they are. (I sense a topic for a winter blog post in the making!)

About 3 kilometers east of Fenelon Falls, I went to a farm where they had a table selling produce. Since I’m the special kind of stupid that forgets I’m a blogger, I forgot to take pictures of the farm stand, and the turkeys making a ruckus at the farm gate. Instead, I get to show you the giant zucchini, the dozen corn, some tomatoes, and the cabbage I bought, right here on my kitchen counter.

 The people I stayed with down the road had to spend about an hour a day out in their squash patch, vacuuming the squash bugs off the leaves. They let me harvest purple beans from their box garden full of them. And even though I’d found my good camera, I forgot to take pictures of that, too.  So the basket of beans is in this picture.


But since you know I’ve got a soft spot for animals, I did take pictures of the one lonesome Muscovy duck, Mamma. Mamma used to look over the chickens – and, at 9 years old, if she survives over the winter, she’ll do so again in the spring. She apparently likes to kick the hens off the eggs (though I wonder, with broody hens, if they’ll give up easily) so she can hatch and look after the chicks.


Meanwhile, over at Gami’ing, a family of wild turkeys passes by the Discovery Shack and heads over into the farmer’s soybeans. The first pic is pretty good of the trailing adult, but you can also see the miniature young adult in the background by the fence.


This picture of the first adult with one of the youngsters gives you a better idea of their relative sizes.

On my drive back to Quebec, I passed a farmer’s field in Martintown with its straw all rolled up and ready to take back to the farm, to use for bedding. It’s wrapped in a nylon net rather than bagged in a wrapper that protects hay from the elements and converts it to haylage or silage – meaning it’s partly fermented.

That’s actually a majestic view of a well-kept field, with hedgerow fences in view and a forest to the left. Eastern Ontario has some gorgeous farm country. My only complaint is they are too permissive about deforestation. I’ve seen too many woods ripped out there. This is not the world we need.

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