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Pets and Farm Animals Archives - Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is great – you can do it, too.

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.

Milkweed seed offer, to plant before the ground’s too frozen

Oh, hai, my patient or happenstantial reader!

While I may have disappeared, I haven’t gotten sick and/or completely wasted away. I simply took a solid year off, using COVID as a flimsy excuse while the rest of the world rediscovered the joys of gardening and baking bread. These were things that I was already doing, sometimes well, sometimes badly. Unfortunately for me this year, I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to blog about them. I was enthusiastically doing other very quiet things this year.

Two weeks ago, I had the city come and prune the locust tree, which was casting too much shade to produce the bumper crop of tomatoes I’d hoped for. The tree will grow taller, and its twinned apple tree may also fill out and add shade in future years, but the opening up will hopefully let more sunlight hit the ground.

I also thinned more than half the violets from my prolific patch in the front yard and weeded out all but one or two clumps of the equally-prolific feverfew. Along the fence where the vegetables go, I added more mini-bulbs from the previous year’s tulip harvesting; these will not produce flowers for a few years, but each year that produces a leaf will strengthen the bulb for eventual flowering. Unless the squirrels get to them first.

A very satisfied squirrel, who wasn’t fazed one bit by my chasing him/her up the tree, tulip bulb in mouth.

Next year I may prune back the box hedge even further, but this year it was a source of great pleasure (and some nutrition) for my rabbits, who hid between the fence and the bushes and pruned them from the base to as high as Parker could reach, standing on his hind legs (he’s my main garden assistant). New bunny Willa, found in the park across the street on August 23rd, also taught the boys to resume their lawn-mowing duties.

New founding rabbit Willa
New rabbit Willa, the week after I found her, getting her used to the idea of outside-at-home. Soon after this, I let her out with my boys and she reinterested them in grazing.
Inspiring cooperation at the one job I give them

After having moved around a few more plants that I hope took root this autumn, I’m thinking of transplanting the milkweed to the back yard – rather: seeding it, and once it’s taken, remove all except the best-placed two to three from my front yard.

Which brings me to today’s offer

…which I posted on Facebook and Instagram and didn’t think to mention here until after Indian Summer was over:

As the caption says, there’s still some time to plant milkweed, because the seeds need to freeze to germinate. So long as you can scratch it into the soil and then add some compost, you can plant it.

I bought a lot of these milkweed packets as a gift for people subscribing to my mailing list. I still have about sixty packs to sell and donate. You can buy-1-donate-1 where I will donate a pack to an organization or establishment for every one sold, or buy-1-gift-1 to give to someone you know who will plant them. 1 pack for $2 or 3 packs for $5, postage included. Click the link to PayPal me, and include your address and which option you choose: Donate or Gift.

If you receive the seeds too late this autumn, you can keep them in the fridge (which is where I’ve been storing them) and plant them early next spring.

There. Blogging drought ended. I have a few more projects to tell you about soon. And if you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you as well!

How cracks in my asphalt driveway revolutionized my life

If you’ve been to this blog or my Facebook page at least once before, you’ve probably seen photos of my green driveway. They’re all over the place, like in the video here. And yet every year, just like several years before I put it in, some contractor dude who’s thinking “that ain’t right!” drops by with a card to “fix” it. (I can’t blame him for pounding the pavement looking for clients, but still…).

Sometimes he even jots a quote on the back as to how much it would cost me to rip out my green driveway and put down some blacktop asphalt driveway. You know, my green driveway cost a little more than what he’s quoting, because it was kinda fancy underneath, but I won’t have to “repair” the crack every five years like he wants me to. No, thank you.

I used to have an asphalt driveway. About the only thing you can do on an asphalt or concrete driveway that you can’t do on mine is play basketball. And maybe make chalk drawings, but you know, the city sidewalk’s right there, so that’s no biggie.

See, for a long time I had cracks in the driveway where plants would grow. That’s why they’d wanna “repair” it. But why would I let that bother me? Water percolating into the soil and being taken up by plants actually cools the air through transpiration.

“But frost heaves!” – it’s a driveway, not a highway; a little bump from a crack is not a problem.

“But bigger cracks!” More plants!

Why would I want black top + hot sun make my driveway and home hotter, rather than something cooling it down? Besides, when the plants were growing in the cracks in my driveway, guess what the bunnies’ favourite outdoor snacks were?

That’s right – CRACK SALAD!

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

So I decided that it’s time for an event: a fall-oriented gardening session (click to read the outcome) to prepare a garden for next year and plant native species.

This hands-on event for the avid or casual gardener was a collaborative learning opportunity about native and cultivated plants for biodiverse wildlife gardens. We shared knowledge on gardening and native species for both shade and sun. Attendees were also welcome to bring plants from your garden and for swapping with other gardeners.

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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.