RD Put Luck July-August 2018

Chick talk

    Having dropped my subscription to the daily newspaper, for reasons having nothing to do with favouring digital over hard copy, I recently found myself desperate for paper to put under the new chicks. In the metropolis of Bridgewater, neither the Sooper Store nor Sobbys, both of which carry the daily, had a single unsold day-old paper they might give me. Clerks at the service desk looked blank when I asked. “Chicks?” No, they didn’t know from chicks. Whatever, yesterday’s papers get pitched immediately.
    Outside town, I stopped at the Ultramar for gas. They also sell the daily. Had they an unsold paper or two? Not only was the young woman behind the counter able to hand me a bag of papers, we had a nice moment comparing notes about my chicks and hers. Mine are all meat types. She is raising both meat and egg birds. She fears a raccoon that appears to be digging under her henhouse. I lost three senior birds to a raccoon a couple of weeks ago – only the third encounter with the bandits in more than 50 years. They’re like Norway rats the way they follow people, and I’ve always believed the fact our nearest year-round neighbours are a mile away helped insulate us from that particular scourge.
    Yesterday the chicks were transferred from the kitchen to the henhouse, where a large live trap has been set just inside the hen door. The hope is that I’ll be able to snag the intruder and haul him far, far away. I suspect this raccoon was trapped elsewhere and released here in Sandy Bay. I’d take him home, were I able to prove where he belongs.
    Townies think nothing of dropping raccoons or cats off in the country. A forward-thinking countryman from up-country on Shelburne County’s Ohio Road had the idea he’d drop his spent hens in downtown Shelburne one dark night. Not a bad idea, unless you’re into stewing old birds.
    My chicks are of the Meat King type, which is not a breed but a lay term for any number of commercial crosses. They can differ in a variety of ways, depending on what genes have ended up in the mix. I want a bird that will forage for itself once it is a month or so old, and there have been years when that is exactly the kind of bird we ended up with. They’d range far down in the pasture picking up grubs and seeds – and ticks, like as not. 
    Not all perform that way. In fact, more often we end up with a Meat King that knows and cares nothing for foraging. Upon being released from the henhouse each morning, they waddle to the feed trough, squat, and eat. Period. That’s it – until these unfortunate freaks outgrow the ability of their legs to carry them, which takes not very long. They’re bred to reach the size of roasters back there at Sobbys or the Sooper Store in eight weeks, arriving at their destination tender and tasteless. No wonder dipping sauces are popular.

Saying goodbye
    Having reached an age when too many friends and acquaintances are checking out, I fear taking note of each departure could take over this column. I tell myself, “That’s it. No more public goodbyes.” No sooner thought than bang, there goes another who should not and cannot be quietly dismissed. This time around it is Erna Stuart, close neighbour and early contributor to Rural Delivery, participating in so many ways – including looking after youngsters, my own and Elizabeth’s. Erna knew more than a thing or two about looking after a child, having raised eight of her own. There was a large, overflow gathering at a service following Erna’s death. “What a wonderful smile,” people were recalling, and the fact Erna seldom if ever had a bad word to say about anyone. Rural Delivery would not have got off the ground had it not been for the generosity of people like Erna Elfreda Stuart.

On ethics
    What is ethical behaviour? I like the definition that goes something like ethical being what you can do but refrain from doing because it is not nice. The world seems to be running short on this commodity, with the “leader of the free world” leading the charge. As a result, unfortunately, every U.S. citizen will be tarnished by the Washington brush as every German for many years bore the burden of being generally considered if not a Nazi then likely a sympathizer. 
    A casualty of the looming trade war with the States may well be supply management of dairy and poultry. Washington is bent on quashing it. That may not be nice, but it looks possible due to a radical imbalance of power. I’d as soon see the programs scrapped, although not because they force consumers to pay a reasonable price for milk and eggs. I’d see them scrapped, or radically altered, to check unbridled amalgamation.
    My understanding has been that a purpose of supply management is to assure farmers get a fair return. That should be defined, so that when a farm reaches an agreed-upon level of income, it may not acquire yet more quota (but could look to other enterprises if there’s felt a need for more money). That way, we would come closer to guaranteeing room for more new and young entrants. As it stands, we are not far ahead of the U.S. or other “free market” dairy economies when it comes to big dairies (or poultry farmers) becoming humungous dairies (or poultry farms) – and devil take the neighbour, who might as well head downtown.
    Was over in Prince Edward Island the other week, there to empty my wallet at the Atlantic Veterinary College for Tank’s sake. It was my first visit to Charlottetown in years. What radical growth on the outskirts of that capital town. It is unsettling. There is much angst on the Garden of the Gulf over ownership of farm land. My own first thought was not who owns that land but what’s done with it. I’d rather see it farmed than paved over. 
    Happy summer, maybe even frost-free!  DvL