Big City, Little Homestead

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

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Just in time for World Rewilding Day, a message for the local neighbourhood

Vous avez peut-être remarqué qu’avec les travaux aux égouts la semaine dernière, les rats ont évacué les égouts et ont trouvé refuge dans nos cours.

Veuillez retirer tout poison que vous avez utilisé pour essayer de les tuer. Il cible d’autres espèces, comme les écureuils, et je ne veux pas que nos (« mes », je les appelle, bien qu’ils soient des animaux sauvages) écureuils subissent la mort horrible que procure le poison. Il est illégal de piéger et de tuer des animaux sauvages, et j’ai eu le cœur brisé de voir quelqu’un dans ce quartier le faire en toute ignorance, car cela ne résout aucun problème qui ne pourrait être résolu autrement. (Il y a un écureuil noir avec une tache blanche sur la queue qui me manque particulièrement, et ses enfants aussi. Elle s’appelait Gladys.)

Les travaux sur les égouts sont presque terminés et les rats peuvent désormais regagner leur habitat habituel. Vous pouvez les aider à y retourner en leur rendant leurs nouveaux emplacements hostiles, en les piégeant dans des pièges vivants Hav-A-Hart et en les ramenant à l’égout. C’est ce que je vais faire.

Gladys, a very sociable but polite mamma of two, with a white tip on her tail, and a penchant for stealing plums and chocolate (OK so it’s not polite to steal, but don’t leave them out on the counter to tempt her!)
Gladys, une maman de deux enfants, très sociable mais polie, avec un bout blanc sur la queue, et un penchant pour voler des prunes et du chocolat (OK donc ce n’est pas poli de voler, mais ne les laissez pas sur le comptoir pour la tenter ! )

You may have noticed that with the work on the sewers last week, the rats have evacuated the sewers and sought refuge in our yards.

Please remove any poison that you have put out to try to kill them. It targets other species, like squirrels, and I do not want our (“my,” I call them, though they are wildlife) squirrels to suffer the horrible death that poison provides. It’s illegal to trap and kill wildlife, and I have been heartbroken by someone in this neighbourhood doing so in all ignorance that it solves no problem that couldn’t be solved another way. (There is one black squirrel with a white spot on her tail, and her progeny, that I will forever miss. Her name was Gladys.)

The work on the sewers is almost done, and the rats can now return to their usual habitat. You can help them return there by making their new locations hostile to them, and by trapping them in live Hav-A-Hart traps and returning them to the sewer. This is what I will be doing.

The Big Backyard BioBlitz is On! August 3–7, 2023

This year I decided to take the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s challenge and do a biological census of my front and back yards. It’s an event where you use the iNaturalist app to record as many species as you can find-and-identify in your own back (front) yard. The site to sign up and get your instructions on is here.

If you happen to be in my area (Little Burgundy, le Sud-Ouest, Montreal), then you are welcome to come by and discover even more, because I’m expecting to have no shortage of plants and insects to identify. Seek, an ID app by iNaturalist, will be useful for this, and I have some ID books on hand as well. Just send me a message or knock on my door, if you know where I am/can find me (I’ll be writing #NCCBioblitz on the sidewalk outside, and using the hashtag and location on my Instagram posts. I may even be outside doing it.

A fence of welded wire and cedar posts

This story was originally posted on May 9, 2013. There’s an update down below

At long last, I finally have a new front fence. I could go digging through my photographs to show you its somewhat ugly predecessor — which I built with limited resources in 2010, just to try to keep my rabbits hemmed in—but no, we don’t need ugly temporary hacks here. It never really worked to corral the rabbits anyway.

The kind of fence I wanted was page wire, a wide-grid braided (wrapped, not welded, at the cross-points) wire fence that you find in farm country, with or without barbed wire to keep people out or critters in (some cattle will knock it down if they really want to, but it isn’t a safe fence for horses). However, when I easily found welded-wire fence at the hardware store, I bought it just to commit to the project. I posted it would look something like this when done, except with nice round cedar fence posts from the country, not square city posts.

I don’t have a post-pounder, an auger, or a sharp-shooter for digging the post holes, so I rented a post-digger shovel from Home Depot for a day. I got the help of my friend, Marc. The sun was bright, and it was hot, and hair-metal music played on the boom box (called a Ghetto Blaster, back in Mr. T’s day). We joked about wearing beer t-shirts just to fit the work image. Marc had too much beer the night before, so we saved the cap-twisting for when the work was done. We dug six posts for the fence (I later dug a seventh). Each one took about 45 minutes to dig – or at least it felt that way!

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Spring 2021: a long-ish update

April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Spring,” a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sorry about my over-long absence – it’s been so long that the interface WordPress shows me is unfamiliar, and I’m distracted by its novelty and the maintenance backlog —and more ideas of things to do on this blog.

Last year and the year before, I had the intention to write much more, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I’d log in, do the routine maintenance, and then a strong bout of snooziness would overtake me. And the longer I failed to post something new and different here, the more guilty I felt. Not posting when-I-could-have is a lost opportunity to show at least several hundred people the fun/beneficial things I’d done that they could try, too.

Like what? Well, in this time – started even earlier — I set up my home with bird strike-proofing. And I continued to garden flowers and native plants, though last summer I got a grand total of 6 apple-sized tomatoes and maybe a pint basket of autumn-green, kitchen-ripened cherry tomatoes.

These activities are as quotidian to me as the motions of private daily life. So writing about them isn’t a constant source of inspiration like they were when I was first adopting new, green practices. They feel more like empty bragging: look what I have; hope you can do the same! and I’m the kind of person that would rather just do than be seen doing.

In 2020, everyone had to shut down activities in the face of uncertainty about human interaction. Now, it’s true: blogs are kinda passive; they don’t require much human interaction. But even with the niggling intention to do something for the blog, I just needed, wanted, couldn’t help but redirect my attention to things where, having put them away while pursuing other work, I was finally allowed to catch up.

And thank God we all were forced to stop busy-work, stop socializing, and stop “networking” last year. It finally enabled our latent and long-desired-but-not-permitted ability to Work From Home and travel less (and therefore reduce congestion, pollution, and unnecessary energy use). It made me realize how much our every day sociability and FOMO was literally killing time, preventing reflection, and obscuring focus. Turning my back on public and equivalent digital life did me a world of good.

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