Nobody wants to talk about the rats.

 

 

A few years ago, when they tore down the old Tom Patterson Theatre, we began to have…visitors.

Our first reaction was to call someone to remove them, but I soon learned that this was not going to be possible. All I found were people who wanted to charge me a prince’s ransom to spread poison around my yard, and they refused to tell me what kind of poison it was, for professional reasons. Not that I would ever use poison, of course, as we all know that poison kills animals higher up on the food chain, like owls, foxes, and possibly your neigbour’s dog. Or worse.

So we decided to do it ourselves. And we found a wonderful tool to discourage impertinent freeloaders. We call it ‘The Rat Whacker.” It is certain, fast, and deadly. It has been used in New Zealand to stop invasive species dead in their tracks. In New Zealand, they don’t even have to pick up the evidence, as it apparently provides a tasty organic snack for native wildlife.

Fortunately for our family, though, the problem is now solved, because in a completely unconnected decision, we got a puppy. He turned out to be part border collie, part labrador, and part assassin. He can go from zero to 100 in six seconds, and we haven’t seen a whisker since he was a year old. (He doesn’t eat them, though, they have just found more congenial accommodations.)

But that makes me think…

Why is there no one in Stratford who makes a living with a dog and a ferret? Rat catchers are mentioned in Shakespeare; it’s perfect for us. And when you consider what it costs to discourage or remove unwelcome guests, that person would make a fine living.

Perhaps we could talk to the man who harasses the geese in the park. He only makes about $30,000 a year doing that. High time he made a change of profession; the City seriously needs to save money. And he already has a dog. He just needs a ferret. If you wanted to get touristy about it, he could even get himself a pair of baggy pants and a really cool hat.

How Stratford is that???

Sugarbush trip

There is nothing more fun than taking kids out to learn where their food comes from. Especially when you get to feed them at the same time. So when maple sugar time rolled around again this year, I grabbed a couple of short folk and made my way to St. Marys, where McCully’s Hill Farm is having their annual Maple Festival Tour. It’s really easy to find, just north of town.

Go for the breakfast tour, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of this month. For eight bucks a head, you fill your kids up with a slap-up pancake and sausage breakfast, and then, when they are weighed down and well-behaved from all the food, you all ride up to the barn, where they can visit with a variety of interesting and reasonably non-threatening animals.

The high point of the trip is the tour of the sugarbush, on a wagon pulled by honest-to-God Clydesdales, led by a driver who knows an awful lot about the history of maple sugar, and of St. Marys in general. Even the most troublesome of our crew was attentive, and surprisingly well-behaved.

On the way back we were shown how maple syrup is made in the sugar shack, with lots of really satisfying and informative fire-stoking and sap-boiling and syrup-tasting. By the time they left the sugar shack, I think they had learned a lot. At this point, though, I would recommend avoiding the topic of whether we could all go home and make maple syrup together in our own kitchen. Instead, distract them by having them run around the pasture a few times. Five times, at  least.

It was pretty successful all round, and after the ride back we had a look around the store for interesting preserves, eggs, meat (they have bison) and other farm specialties. I got a really nice orange marmalade. It’s not really like a marmalade, more like an orange jelly, but very delicate. I like it a lot.

Then you go home, where hopefully the children will collapse for at least a little while. Make yourself a coffee, put your feet up, and congratulate yourself on a successful outing. That’s the part I like best.

Maple Festival Tour & Brunch:
Saturdays & Sundays through March & Good Friday
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
http://www.mccullys.ca/view.php?public/For_the_Kids/Maple_Syrup_Festival,_2018

Hunter’s Dinner at The Local

Hunter’s Dinner at The Local

You’re always welcome at The Local. I can walk in there looking like a bag of dirt, and someone will smile at me and say hi. And they don’t know me. It’s just a friendly place.

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So I am quite keen to see what they’ll be up to for the Third Annual Hunter’s Banquet on November 24. On the menu is wild game donated by local hunters, expertly cooked by Chef Aaron Linley from Linley’s Food Shop.

Cocktails in the Greenhouse at 6pm. Dinner at 7pm. Live auction throughout the evening.
Tickets are $125 (includes $50 Charitable Tax Receipt)

The Local is at 612 Erie Street
(519) 508-3663

image: Google Earth

 

Crows and cats

Crows and cats

In my last blog post I talked about finding employment for feral cats. I was kind of joking around, but I do think that we should be considering ALL living things when we think about how our community works.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 3.36.37 PMSo I was interested in this post, which describes a project in Amsterdam that trains crows to pick up and dispose of cigarette butts. At first reading, it sounded like a great idea — the crows learn fast, they pick up the trash, and they get paid a peanut. What’s not to like?

However, a commentator brought up a point I hadn’t thought about. John Marzluff, a professor of forest sciences at the University of Washington, argued that ” it is unethical to ask a wild animal to do our dirty work. Crows have other things to do, being highly social animals and intelligent, and it doesn’t seem right to me to enslave them to work for us. Why not just pay people a good wage to do the work?”

Now, you’re probably thinking that we are getting into Philosophy 101 territory when we start worrying about making wage slaves out of crows. But I don’t think this is a silly argument. It seems to me to be a highly moral argument that we should be applying to the wildlife that lives around us. Perhaps when we start seeing nature as valuable in itself, rather than something that has been set up for us to use, we will learn to inhabit our communities in a way that promotes a healthy environment for humans and animals.

So what’s the difference between crows and cats? Basically, cats aren’t part of the ecosystem. We domesticated them and brought them here. So I think we owe them a free lunch or two. Or maybe even a career in rodent removal.

Cranky cats find gainful employment

Cranky cats find gainful employment

I love to go into Watson’s downtown. It’s such a cool store, and there’s a cat there who is soft as dandelion fluff. Sometimes you have to wait in line to pet her. I’ll bet that cat has made a few sales in her time.

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Not all cats are as skilled in customer relations as the Watson’s cat. Some have attitude. Others are terrified, and will bite and scratch.  A select few will even pee in your shoes, just for the fun of it. It’s difficult to place cats like this in customer service positions.

The good news is that some shelters in the U.S. have come up with an ideal solution to the cat placement problem. They provide neutered, microchipped, vaccinated animals free of charge to businesses with rodent control problems. This means that no poisons or traps are needed. Sometimes just the scent of a cat sends rodents running for the hills, but if not, more drastic measures are taken by the cats.

And it’s not just warehouses that provide jobs for cats. Barns and stables are, of course, the traditional place to find a working cat, but they are also using them in condos and suburban areas. In California they’re even using them to patrol dumpsters. However, not much seems to be said about what those cats are doing to the bird population.

In any case, outside patrol isn’t really a year-round solution for unemployed cats in Ontario. I wondered if there were any programs here that provided year-round indoor work. I checked around: The Stratford Perth Humane Society has two programs for unsociable felines; one is the “Barn Buddy” programme, where you can pick up a neutered/chipped/vaccinated cat with no adoption fee (though they would like a donation). The other programme, one you’ve probably heard of, is called “Return to Field:” they clip one ear, vaccinate/neuter, and have the person who brought the cat in return it to the same place. The cat is identifiable, and because cats are territorial, it not only hunts vermin but also keeps other feral cats away. However, I don’t think they last long in an Ontario winter.

So it seems to me there’s a place in our business community for a whole army of unemployed cats, who would not only reduce the rodent population, but would also reduce the need for adding  poisons to our environment. Indoor work also avoids the bird problem. The “Barn Buddy” programme would work for this. All it needs is a little rethinking, and an advertising push to present it as a solution for businesses as well as for farms.

Wouldn’t take much. Wouldn’t cost much.

 

Source: http://www.dispatch.com/entertainmentlife/20171018/for-ornery-shelter-cats-2nd-chance-is-job-chasing-mice