When a city girl moves to a small rural town, there are lots of new things to get used to. Three years ago, we moved to a little town in an agricultural valley that’s situated in the Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia. My husband and I had both spent most of our lives on the Montreal Island, which has a population of about 3 million people. So moving to a town with a population of about 5,000 was a huge change of pace!
Before we left Quebec for the British Columbia Interior, we had spent about 18 months in a small rural town in Quebec’s Montérégie. But the experience there is very different because all that farmland is really close to the big city. You’re never more than 60-90 minutes from a major metropolitan area, with all its traffic, pollution and of course, the conveniences of pretty much hot and cold running everything!
Here in the “Koots,” our closest city is still about 90 minutes away by car. But the difference is that it’s a small city – only about 20,000 people. So while there are a lot of services there that we don’t have in our little town, we’d still have to drive something like 5-7 hours to get to a children’s hospital, a decent-sized craft supply shop like Michael’s, or a Costco store. That last one, especially, makes a big difference for our food bill. The local prices are really inflated, and even the better prices in our city grocery stores are several times what we were paying at our preferred grocery warehouse, back in Montreal.
Can You Spare a Ride for a Goose?
But the higher cost of living and the lack of services weren’t really a surprise to us. We knew we were going to have to be ready for that. But what we didn’t expect was the strange quirks the local folks have. For example, people here will often post on a town Facebook group to ask if anyone is going into the city or crossing over to the other side of the lake. But they aren’t looking for a ride for themselves or a friend. No, most times they are looking for someone who can either drop off or pick up a package. And not infrequently, they are looking to transport small livestock like ducks or geese. Sometimes they just need someone to bring them a few bails of hay or some feed that they can’t get locally for a good price.
Another thing we had to get used to was all the bear alerts. Again, the local conversations group on Facebook is usually the medium for these messages. In spring and in fall, there are a great number of such alerts. Most come from individuals posting to say they saw a brown bear or black bear hanging around in one of the parks or at the edge of somebody’s property. Occasionally the alert will come from the area wildlife conservation officer, who also teaches people about the precautions to be taken in order to avoid enticing bears into areas that are inhabited by humans.
The Importance of Gleaning the Crops
Speaking of luring the bears, the biggest concern for most homeowners in Quebec had been attracting bees and wasps if fruit trees weren’t harvested promptly. But here in the Koots, the bears are a huge problem. So it’s actually dangerous if you leave any fruit on a tree or allow fruit to drop onto the ground after it ripens. Homeowners, farmers, and orchardists make a point of gathering in the harvest as quickly as possible. And those who end up with more than they can use will often use one of the local Facebook groups to ask for people who want free food to come and glean their crops.
This is a good thing for anyone who wants to save money on fruits and vegetables. And it helps to ensure that nobody is overwhelmed with too many cherries, tomatoes, or zucchini come harvest time. The town has a community group that works to support food security for our elderly, school children, disabled and low-income citizens. And there is a special project of this group that specifically addresses the gleaning of crops that a landowner can’t harvest. This group will also go in when the landowner is no longer able to harvest what he grows due to illness or disability. Usually, the group will split the harvest three ways: one-third to the landowner, one-third to the volunteers who came to pick the food, and one-third to the area food banks, seniors center and schools.
Whose Cows are in My Yard?
If you’ve ever lived in a rural setting, I’m sure you’re used to spotting the occasional horse going down the street. You’ve probably also had an unexpected visit from a neighbour’s chickens or a turkey that managed to wander away from home. So it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that our local Facebook group also gets used to report a lost kitten or stray dog that’s come by uninvited, or even a goose on the loose.
It may surprise you to know that, while the occasional dog getting at someone’s chickens is reported, it doesn’t seem to happen very often. Most of the runaway dogs seem to be closer into town, where backyard chickens are less common. But we do get an awful lot of complaints from the more rural areas about the noise some dogs make, if you can believe that! A lot of folks keep dogs to help deter predators and keep their fowl safe. But even in the country, it seems there are people who can’t get along with their neighbours and who are quite rude in how they express their frustration when a dog’s barking interferes with their enjoyment of nature’s quiet.
Another thing that kind of surprised me is the wandering cow reports, which are rare but tend to be quite amusing. Today when I checked the Facebook group, a gentleman had posted a photo of several cows in his garden. The caption was, “Whose cows are in my yard?” and he went on to say that the girls were gobbling up his cabbages and strawberries. As I said, this tends to be a rare occasion here. Most folks who have cows also have pretty good fences. And the cows don’t generally go on a walkabout. But I guess it is a common enough thing, because nobody who responded seemed at all surprised that several bovine had found their way into the poor man’s garden.
It wasn’t quite the scene from Anne of Green Gables where Anne discovers her jersey cow has been trampling Rachel Lynde’s cabbages and petunias. But I did get a chuckle out of looking at the photo! Having spent so many years in the city, I don’t think I ever expected to encounter such a thing – even through a neighbour’s posting on Facebook!
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Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne
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