Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Country Living for a City Girl

published in the South Shore Breaker - July 13, 2016
I never thought one of my life experiences would be washing a baby birds behind. But it was, and I did. 

When we moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia eight years ago, we moved to a very secluded property in the country. Our friends from back home often asked us how we were dealing with our lives in a different province, but really our adjustment was not so much living in a different part of Canada but in changing lifestyles from the suburbs to country living.

We thought we were living in the country when we lived in Ontario. We were living on the outskirts of a small town with a population of approximately 3000 people. Our home was on a one and a half acre lot in a subdivision that had paved roads and buried hydro lines. We did deal with nature, or rather our dogs did. We experienced porcupines and skunks many times. When I look back on it now, I know that wasnt real country living and I can't imagine why we ever thought it was.

our guineas went everywhere - even the roof of the house
We moved to a country property in Nova Scotia with a half mile long gravel driveway that ran from a gravel road. We lived on the top of a hill, and anyone that lives in rural Nova Scotia knows that there certainly werent any buried hydro lines. The wind on the hill mostly kept the bugs away but we did have screened in porch that came in handy now and then. We learned all about ticks before our furniture arrived, and that was a crash course we hadnt been anticipating.

We now live in town on one of the busiest streets in Bridgewater, so I guess you can figure out that we never did become truly comfortable with living in the country. 

But I would never trade or take back our seven years in the country because we learned so many things, and had so many experiences that we would have missed.

We picked apples from trees that our neighbours said must have been about 100 years old and I made home made applesauce. I held a hummingbird in my hands after I rescued it from our shed. We rescued countless birds from our wood stove after they fell down the flue. I learned to drive an ATV, and my husband became an expert with a backhoe. We created huge flower and vegetable gardens, and a koi pond that was six feet deep and fifteen feet long. Woodpeckers and grosbeaks showed us how they raise and feed their young. We watched foxes, hawks, eagles, and deer. And we raised guinea fowl.

two batches of guineas just after they were released to free range
We received advice about country living from our neighbours, and one piece of advice was that we needed guinea hens to deal with the ticks. We learned that its easier to raise day old chicks than to buy mature guineas since they tend to stick around more if you raise them from a young age. One of my first experiences was trying to capture the baby birds as they were racing around a barn trying to stay out of my way. Picture a city raised girl who is scared of dirt and spiders down on her hands and knees in a barn trying to catch keets in her hands. That provided a lot of entertainment for a few people, let me tell you. We learned the tricks of keeping the keets under a heat lamp until they got older and stronger. I kept sickly ones in a pouch by my side to keep them warm. And then following another piece of advice about sickly keets, I washed their little bottoms in case they were "stopped up". Washing bird bums made me wonder if the people giving us advice were just having fun with us city folk.

Raising guineas also gave us first hand look at the cycle of life. One day as I headed to the coop, a hawk rose from the ground just a few feet in front of me and took flight. I was overjoyed at this close up experience...until I looked down and saw a half eaten guinea at my feet. We kept the wildlife well nourished over the years. Foxes and hawks enjoyed some fine dining on our behalf.


a mature guinea perched on the railing of the coop
Our seven years in the country had trials and tribulations and enlightenment and growth. How else would I have learned to wrangle a weasel out of our living room in the middle of a cold February night? But well focus on that another day.

2 comments:

sybil said...

Wonderful post Sara. Keen to hear the Weasel story.

Flora Doehler said...

Wow Sara, I am just reading this now.
Those guinea hens look gorgeous. Were they helpful in keeping down the insect population (ticks, snails, cucumber beetles?)
Are their eggs edible? I hear they are very vocal.
Love your story!
Flora