we’ve decided to take the whole weekend off. (minus milking Ursula Franklin the dairy cow twice a day, corralling the cows back in their pastures, moving them every day, moving the chicken tractor and filling feed and water containers for all, retrieving eggs and processing milk into yoghourt and butter).
it’s been a good but a long week. we re-planted the garden rows that saw no germination (i suspect there are some ants eating the bean seeds), we discovered that potato beetles have discovered our potato patch and i’ve been angrily squiching said beetles and their eggs every day since (all six rows of them.. so very time consuming), p. and co. managed to corral the herds into a single file labyrinth in the barn to get their tag numbers (to send them to Agri-Traçabilité Québec, to get our ATQ registration, to finish our farm registration with the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries, et de l’Alimentation du Québec, to get our MAPAQ farm number, to be eligible for the agricultural rates for vet fees, water usage, etc.), and we’ve been settling back into being a four person (three adults) farm team.
the cat situation is still undealt with. my initial hope to trap them in the old chicken coop in the barn (by getting them used to being fed there and then, one day, just closing the coop door on them and getting the vet to anesthetize the sick ones, and spay or neuter three healthy ones that we’ll keep), is proving to be pointless. they are feral cats, are extremely skittish, and even if we did manage to trap them, someone would then have to go into a cage with all of these sick, angry cats. i have called the SPCA to ask for advice but they’ve yet to return my call. all the information we can find seems to point to three options : poisoning, drowning, and shooting. poisoning would mean hours of excrutiating pain for them, so is totally out. and really, the two other options don’t sound very cheery either, so i’m unsure how to proceed. in talking to a previous owner, i learned that they sometimes had up to 20 cats in the summer, that the population would plummet to 7 or 8 during the winter, that given the inbreeding, only about 2 or 3 kittens per litter survive, and doing nothing but feeding them has been a good strategy to keep the farm mouse-free (minus all the mouse poop we found in the cupboards when we moved in). while i’m having a really hard time wrapping my head around hiring someone to shoot these cats, i think doing nothing is basically breeding cat misery, which i think is unethical. we’ve already found a dead cat in the barn, two more are looking really worse for wear, and i want to believe that it’s possible to have a farm with only healthy and cared for animals (and people). plus while f. knows not to approach these cats, i can forsee a situation where a young city friend would come to visit and want to pet the cats here, thinking they’re just like the cat he or she has at home and getting, at best, clawed, at worse, rabies. we’ve been feeding them well, both Ursula’s milk and store-bought cat food, but we’re going to be processing more of the milk into cheese and anyways, we’d much rather the surplus go to a pig. the challenge, of course, is that i feel both the ‘doing something’ and ‘doing nothing’ are unethical. (any chance you want to adopt one or a dozen barn cats?)
on the bright side our four laying hens seem to be adjusting just fine to their new home.
they quite like all the pasture pecking and scratching they get to do, and the calf that’s in that same pasture seems entertained by their presence.
in the garden, i’ve been finding it pretty fascinating how much you have to kill in order to grow food. all the squiching of bugs, the trapping and drowning of insects, the agressive turning-on-of-sprinklers as animals enter the patch, etc. and of course, the sheer amount of work involved in vegetable growing is flabberghasting. on that note, i remember working a farmer’s market for friends who had just welcomed their babe into the world and having to justify the prices of their beautiful, fresh grown greens. i’m not sure how market gardeners do it without losing all faith in humanity, in the good of people. to work tirelessly, to grow organically, and to be met with « i could grow that myself for a quarter of the price! » also, i’m not sure folks of the veg persuasion appreciate all the work and killing that goes into growing their food.
it takes some effort, on these days off, to look around and see the beauty of these surroundings without just seeing all the work that needs doing. we usually end up leaving the farm to make sure we don’t end up fixing, painting, or building something. and i quite miss the city. it was good to go running down our old city blocks with kiddo yesterday. to visit 3 parks, see some friends, order espresso, and find all the forgotten trucks our old stomping ground can hide.