Before jumping right in today I have to confess to being a new comer in the world of blogging. As such, I was not aware that the first blog to appear is the latest. In my narrative I tend to continue a thought the following day so please read my first posts before my latest.

I have just returned from my neighbour’s home and I left him a huge settlement. Twenty dollars. You see, this huge tree on the county property flanking my 50 acres had fallen down in a wind storm and my direct next door neighbour asked that it be removed. We both understood you can rarely get the local government to do much of anything, except of course gathering  land taxes. The tree needed to be dismantled into carrying size logs and I was not versed in using a chain saw. My local neighbour across the street on the other hand could do this easily. So I paid him for the hours work. I mention this seemingly unimportant matter because it is part of the larger picture of someone even contemplating switching from an urban to a rural address. There is an endless learning curve of vital skills you will need to survive the change. To be candid, I can think of hundreds of skills I still do not have,abilities that are everyday necessary and vital in beautiful rural Ontario. Finding and preparing firewood and understanding how to burn wood and clean a wood burning stove, paving a merciless landslide of snow in thirty below zero, garbage disposal above and beyond the allowance of two bags per week the township allows you with pre paid expensive tags, house repairs, fence repairs, framing skills, sheering skills for the sheep, innovative barn repairs, the need for a tractor and the ability to fix this important piece of equipment and literally an endless list of other skills. If you can’t do things yourself, guess what? You have to hire out. And in these neck of the woods this is a hit and miss affair. If some self professed tradesman takes you for a ride, you’re onto the next one. Some workers call this “BOATS” meaning, “break out another thousand.”

This is the main reason why rural residents learn to do things themselves. As I am not what one would refer to as a fluid person financially, nor am I skilled at country living, my stress and anxiety levels are constantly going up. I come up with innovative ideas now, but I do not have the practical vision to see what awaits me if I go in a certain direction.

An example: I learned of this bird sale at a nearby small town of McDonalds Corners a few years back. Just for fun, me being the animal lover and all, went without any  intention of purchasing more of anything.  It was an incredible event where local hobby farmers sell  their excess birds. While at the show however, I soon learned that some buyers bought these creatures for a song and intended to eat them. To a vegan orientated mind this was not exactly a pleasant thing to learn. In my walk around I noticed a spectacular pair of ducks which reminded me of my late sister whose job it was to live in a secret location every winter with the Royal Swans Queen Elizabeth had donated to Ottawa some decades ago. I thought of my sister’s love of those Swans and got this sudden brain fart and wanted to add a mere two ducks to my operation in memory of my sister . Seemed easy and innocent  enough.

Boy was I wrong, big time. Those two ducks did not require a lot of real estate in my barn. At first. Then an odd thing happened.  Fifteen babies were born. As things progressed I realized I needed almost an entire barn to house them, and decided to have one of my barns cleaned out and made suitable for these friends of Aflec. The barn that I chose was full of the previous owners wood pile and as I began the cleanup I soon realized what a mess it was. A week later I was finding glass under the wood, and other debris. I needed a helping hand, or for that matter, an entire crew to assist me in getting the job done. I thought incorrectly that I could do any physical task, but again, boy was I wrong. As is the case for anyone who has been involved in a house renovation, as soon as you do one thing you realize another unforeseeable  challenge pops up. With the ducks it meant dividing the barn into a boys room and a separate section for the ladies. No more babies here. Enough was enough.

What I had not counted on was the experience of the male  ducks turning on each other to the death  to gain the attention of the female duck of choice. Boy can those ducks fight, enough so I had to find other areas on my farm for the aggressive ones. I more or less had the situation under control until another mini crisis hit. A family of minks decided to crash the party. Boy can they party and they love duck. It was an emergency for me. With my resolve not to kill anything what could I do? I mention this episode because it is one of endless joyful situations you might find yourself in. I had almost no other barn space and would require more costly framing. With little funds and little space I panicked and quickly took the ducks into my house.

Not a recommended solution. Not at all. Trust me.  But do or die I felt obliged. Try falling asleep with a dozen and a half Aflecs screaming at you to wake up and feed them. Now.  Mind you, this can grow on you and I became rather fond of their voices. But not their smell. And not the workload that created by having to empty their cages regularly, enough so I nearly collapsed.

That episode sure was fun and other issues arose. In that same barn, I had a section for my four lambs who were starting to refuse to get back into the barn at night when I would habitually lock them up. They were trying to inform me there were new tenants, the minks, in there. I tried reasoning with them informing them that the high volume of  coyotes in the nearby fields would love to visit them in the dead of night and, in terms of size they had a better fighting chance with the minks. The lambs on the other hand would hear nothing of the sort  and actually lined up, daring me to approach them and force them back into the barn. I obliged. How could a three hundred pound lamb take on a pit bull like me.  Then a  few of the larger nes actually tried ramming me. Enough is enough. This went on for an hour in the frigid black ice winter in thirty below zero weather. What to do? It took me a while but I found that just by bringing in a wheel barrel  those lambs sprinted back into the barn.

Back to the ducks. After an extended house visit I was determined. Either they went or I left. They would be returning to a different barn. But how to divide them up? I had another brain fart. I would build huge boxes, large enough for me to sleep in. Couldn’t be that hard to make. Surely it would  be an inexpensive.Wood was available locally and cheaply, right? Wrong again. This was the best temporary solution I could come up with.  What the hell, problem solved. Wrong again. But by the time I discovered how wrong I was I had gone through three different casual handymen labotrers who promised me the moon, charged me enough to cut back on my own food supply and took weeks to finish the job. But in the end,  the ducks were safe and happier to return to a barn where they didn’t have to put up with my snoring.

Then, and still to this time, the next phase of my ill thought out plan needed to be implemented.  You can appreciate in this narrative that all of this cost me a great deal of anxiety, physical energy and expense at that, taking away valuable time from tending to all the other animals, and sometimes the  not to be forgotten Stephen Overbury as well, but it is like this on this farm setting at least. Constant challenges.

I resolved to find good loving homes and took out an add on kajiji. (You might have thought by now , I had learned my lesson about an ad on kijiji  wouldn’t you? )The responses were amazing. I remember this one lady who sounded truly enthused and willing to provide a loving home. I gently inquired about her farm facilities. “Oh, no, I don’t have a farm. I live in a rented townhouse!” She had two small children and a dozen house pets from dogs to cats to rabbits but she was missing a duck. Next.

I can’t tell you how many dozens of respondents wrote me the same message. “Are the ducks still available.” When I wrote back to say they were, I never heard back. Endless hours of searching lead nowhere. It was either an impractical proposed home or a rural setting outside without any protection against predators. I would have nothing of the sort of course. Another reason to find someone with experience to run Free Farm.

That was really just a small taste of the lay of the land of course. Speaking of the land, you really need gardening skills here. Once upon a time there was a long standing family that loved to develop gardens and cultivated an incredibly beautiful array of plants and flowers around this gorgeous stone house. I on the other hand overlooked just how much time it would take to properly manage gardens this size. I learned that cutting the grass even on a riding lawn mover took over half a day but the gardening was an everyday affair. Being the way I am, I focused on gathering the berries which I found everywhere, and being a cautious person instigated a well developed quality control program where I was forced to eat as many of the berries as possible right on the spot, thus reducing my available time for gardening. It is  a hard job but someone has to do it. As such, if you tend to follow my lazy habits you will certainly not be considered a candidate!

And the land, the fifty tiled acres? What about it. I thought it would be a handy asset. First thing I did was fire the existing cash crop farmer that was paying a handsome rent. Why? He was spraying with the world’s deadliest known chemicals and this was leaching into the Rideau Canal System affecting drinking water in towns such as Smith Falls. This is fairly common in these parts but I just couldn’t stand to be a part of it. Rental income be damned.

So it was I soon learned what happens when you leave farm land unattended to. It happened this way. I was walking down the nearby lane way when my 90 year old neighbour suddenly remarked, “ Sure is a lovely property. Pity the land is now going to ruin, full of weeds, eh?” Well, how dare he say such a thing. Why, I would just go and plant an  apple orchard and show him. Sort of. Until I interviewed provincial government experts on tree planting and soon learned of the daunting challenges of growing apple trees, not to mention the expense and odds that were against any measure of success today.  As such I decided to rent the acreage to a nearby organic farmer and now my  neighbour flatters me. “Looks beautiful Stephen. Well done!”

The potential tenant can rent the land from me if they keep it organic of course.

In my first rant I spoke briefly about a cat named “Lucky Luciano.” My passion for animals began with cats. In fact, returning from a 15 year vacation to switch gears and  work hard for free on the FREE FARM, I brought back a boatload of rescued felines.  I love cats. What do they do for me or anyone for that matter?

To quote from a  a web blog  from a nearby animal shelter:

“Warm our laps. Help reduce high blood pressure. Create a kindred feeling with another ‘ cat person,’ Turn common household objects like bottle caps into toys. Make a windowsill more beautiful. Inspire poets and playwrights. Teach us how to land on our feet. Show us how to lick our wounds and go on. Make us more aware of birds. Remind us that life is mysterious. Share with us the all-is-well experience of purring. Turn a house into a home!”

You get it. I love cats. So perhaps it was not such a bright idea, me having so many cats, to move here, a few hundred meters away from an elderly lady who had an involvement with hundreds of cats. Her doorway was always open. Food was always there. They could come and go as they pleased. Not a one was neutered or given vaccines. Oh my. And guess what? They would all come into my barns and have babies. This is the part where Lucky Luciano comes in. He was their romeo, fathering hundreds of kittens, killing an endless amount of cats in fights and many of his offspring to ensure he was the king of the road. He was indeed and all the farmers for miles knew it too. I tried for three years to catch this beast and neuter him. I could not stand to see dead cats on my property or the parade of cats crossing the road from my neighbour to my farm and getting run over. I wanted to neuter that happy cat.

But he was to clever to be caught, never setting foot in the live traps I set up. Then, one day, talking to a farmer, I learned that poor Lucky had been shot between the eyes by a marksman as the farmer intervened to prevent his precious cats from being killed. Lucky was on a violent streak that day, testing out his newly sharpened claws. I felt somewhat depressed because just this past summer I had taken in five of his girlfriends, , all of whom  were pregnant. This is why I have the tab on the home page advertising FREE HOMES FOR PETS!

Some of those kittens are dead ringers for their dad and full of vitality.

Guess what happened next? Talk about nine lives. Into my barn wobbled a bloodied Lucky demanding to be fed. He looked to me like John Wayne. An injured John Wayne.  I ran to get him some wet food, he ate it quickly, burped and jumped onto a bail of hay. Mind you he kept growling at me and hissing and making it very clear not to get to close. I obliged in marvel of his escape but worried about the bullet in his head.

The reason I have so many animals is that I never learned the meaning of enough is enough. I still cannot stand to see any creature in need being callously ignored.I have posted in front of my bookcase a small poster with a quote by Helen Keller and a picture of a beat up looking kitten walking behind the large feet of an indifferent man. The caption reads, “Science may have found a cure for most evils: but is had found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings”. The kitten looked like a clone of Lucky. So it was, another brain fart, I decided once and for all to capture Lucky Luciano. Couldn’t be that difficult, one rather battered up old cat with a bullet in his head.

The end went down like this. There were five of us at the time, here on the farm being interviewed as eager potential candidates when I threw in the challenge.”All of you are saying the same thing. You are animal rights kind of people. How about we see you in action and help an old fart like me catch a little kitty, eh?!” They were up to it. We ended up in the front part of the barn which was cluttered galore, shut the front  and back doors of this section, with blanket in hand, attempted to surround Lucky and catch him that way.

The first bite went down with that person bleeding profusely from a deep bite. Again and again, every time the blanket was placed over Lucky’s head, he managed to escape. Enough was enough this time. I lunged flying through the air and landed almost on top of him holding on for dear life. We had the damn cat. Now the challenge, and it was a big one, of placing him in a cage. Mission accomplished

Soon after, in my nearby favourite vet’s office, I was warning the staff to take extra precautions. “Don’’t worry Stephen. We’re professionals after all. And Lucky will be given a tranquilizer and a muzzle so we can xray him.” In spite of these careful plans, and with a head trauma and all, Lucky still managed to get in a good bite into the vet, enough to draw blood.

If the bullet entered his head it was now gone and he was given an antibiotic and boaster and sent home. Right now he is in my sunroom purring away living the life of Riley, something you won’t get to do if you take on this place, believe me.

Perhaps you might begin to understand why I am not looking for a candidate who has a lot of their own animals to bring here. There are enough already and only so much time to tend to them.

Next post is a another reality check on what it’s like to take over this funny farm. What do you do if you have a falling out with your vet and as a result get raided by the OSPCA with a driveway full of OPP police gun happy officers to back them up all over a fabricated complaint?  Talk about having a bad day.  Oh my. We’re just heating up. Stay tuned.

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