Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Pets and Farm Animals

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.

Christmas decorations: a mostly homemade wreath

Here I was wondering “what the heck am I going to write about this week?” and then… the clue comes in: it’s Christmas! Time for the decorations. I’ve hung the string of lights in the window, and a wreath by my front door.

The wreath is one of my favourite things ever. I made it five years ago (which accounts for the dim quality of the photos I took from PhotoBooth on my iMac). Here is the play-by-play:

It’s made out of  Virginia creeper, which, if cut fresh, will be pliable enough to weave. Otherwise, if it’s a little aged, it can be softened up in a hot shower, and then wrapped around and twisted into a wreath.

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

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:

Mice work better. The brown mouse on the right 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 (I love it when the things I keep find a great purpose!) from which to hang the wreath outside. 

In the past year the wreath has one small addition that is 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 your own hoarded craft parts to create a work of joy and fun.

As an aside, one of my European friends  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…

Hervé the white rabbit.

On the original version of this blog, I posted about my pets from time to time. I still have Hervé, you can sometimes see him in my photos and blog posts and social media shares, and he came to me, like all my pets, through a rescue route. 

Ringo’s Lost poster

I  want to show you 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 network for 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 girl bunnies in a positive way. I’ve a lot fewer “escapes” – visiting the neighbours, or hiding under the car – than before. They then get to stay outside for longer.

He’s really fearless, actually. 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. Naturally, he attacked a few houseplants this way.

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 way possible. After all, girls can be worse for humping, as it’s a dominance activity.


 

And now, I have some very sad news (as sad as losing Ringo). In the past 10 days, my “heart” rat Archie has wasted away from the effects of what I thought was a pituitary tumour, but it was pneumonia. I’ve nursed more than a half-dozen pituitary cases over the years, and I thought I knew the signs. I was wrong.

Archie has been my brave explorer and shoulder-rider over the past year, preferring my company at that height over the ground-level 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 believe 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 him to, then my job is to make it as comfortable as possible.

Archie exploring under the deck in the garden.

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.

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.

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. https://www.rarebreedscanada.org/shepherd-wins-legal-fight The Shropshire sheep website is down, and the farmer likely does not have a new herd.