JustaBrat for an interview. We hope you enjoy her story just as much as we did!
Q - How many years have you been living on a farm and how many animals do you currently have?
I grew up on a small farm in Southern Ontario, Canada, about 10 miles from the world-famous Niagara Falls. We moved from the city to the farm when I was 5 and I lived there until I left home at the age of 15. Then, simply for the sake of convenience and employment, I spent the next many years living in the city again. In August of 2009, I could no longer tolerate all the noise and congestion of city-living, so we purchased a small farm in a rural area, where my closest neighbour that can see us is a mile away. When we purchased this home, there had been no upgrades done to it since it was built in the 1970s, so I retired to do the necessary renovations, while my husband still lives in our old house in the city. Our new house is 4,000 square feet, and I have completed over 3,000 square feet of the renovations so far, plus the siding and roof have been replaced. My hubby will soon be moving in with the rest of our things.
Q - Being close to so many various animals, in what way did it affect you?
I can't remember any time in my life that I didn't have at least one pet in my home. As a kid on the farm, I used to raise rodents for local pet shops. I had cages and cages full of mice, hamsters, rats, gerbils and guinea pigs in the basement. Outside we had a pony, a horse, cows, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens, dogs, cats, a fox, a wolf, and an owl. Inside we had more dogs, cats, fish and even my pet pig, Arnold (named after the pig on the old TV sitcom, Green Acres).
It's difficult to describe how having animals has affected me because I've never been without a pet. I know that being on the farm, I would have to get up by around 4AM so that I could go outside and feed all the critters, and then come back in the house and get ready for school. Completing those chores every morning turned me into a "morning person." Now, if I happen to sleep in until 7AM, I feel like the entire day has been wasted. I think that having pets all my life has also made me become a more loving and nurturing person. I'm almost always the first one to offer assistance to any who need it.
Q - What was the most memorable story involving your animals?
My most memorable pet story is an easy one. That would be the pet goose I had when I was 5 years old. (Below is a short excerpt from the book I am currently writing.)
Sam was a female goose who seemed to think that she was half human. She would follow me all around the yard while I completed my chores, and her favourite thing to do was to chase cars out of our driveway when company was leaving. Visitors also had to be sure to pet Sam, or she would let them know, in no uncertain terms, that she was there and she wanted her head scratched.
One day our farmhand, Ralph, stopped by to feed the cows. On the way to the barn, he stopped to talk to my dad, and I was with them. Sam came waddling along and started honking at Ralph, who paid her no attention. Being ignored really put her beak out of joint, so she pecked gently at Ralph's leg. When he continued to ignore her, she got more persistent, grabbed hold of his pant leg and tossed her head back and forth to get him to pet her. Now, Ralph had very hairy legs, so along with the fabric of his pants, Sam also got a beak full of Ralph's hair. Poor Ralph let out a scream and almost ended up on top of Dad's truck.
That summer Mother purchased a hair-dye that had passed its expiration date. After applying it to her head her hair began to fall out and she went completely bald. We went shopping for wigs for her to wear so that she wouldn't be embarrassed when seen in public. Being that it was summer and very hot, Mother hated to wear her wig unless she absolutely had to, so it was usually left hanging on the corner of her dresser mirror. If a visitor came knocking, she would run and pull her wig on before opening the door.
Sam, being the silly goose that she was, would knock at the kitchen door when she was hungry. Her beak striking the wood sounded just like someone's knuckles. It would send Mother running every time. She would dash up the stairs, pull her wig over her bald scalp, and then open the door just to see Sam standing there. It was quite funny!
My sister, Ann, was mean to Sam. She thought the goose was stupid, so she would torment her. Sam soon got fed up and tore after Ann, chasing her all the way down the driveway. When Ann tripped over her own feet, landing face-first in the gravel, Sam was right there. She jumped up on Ann's bum, pinning her to the ground, and began biting and pecking at her. By the time Sam thought she had exacted enough revenge, Ann was covered in bruises from head to foot. She never teased Sam again, or any other animal, for that matter.
As summer became autumn, Dad wondered what to do with Sam because we didn't have a shed to keep her in. He placed an advertisement, looking for a good home where she could live out her life. A very nice man responded to the ad and said that he could take her, so we let her go. I cried for days at the loss of my companion. The following summer the same man came by and thanked us for the goose. He said she was the best-tasting goose he had ever eaten! Poor, poor Sam.
Q - What pets are the most difficult to keep / take care of?
The most difficult pets to care for were the rodents. There were just so many cages to clean that it seemed to take forever to get the job done. The hardest part of raising rodents was watching the bad mothers kill and eat their own babies. There was no real reason or explanation for why they did it, it was just a natural occurrence that I could not control or stop. It was also very difficult to let the babies go to pet shops when the time came. It would break my heart every time.
Q - Do you think it's valuable for children to be raised side by side with animals?
It's definitely beneficial to have pets while you are having and raising children. Kids learn many things through interaction with animals such as: love, caring, nurturing, restraint, behavoiur and control.
Q - Do you have a favourite animal and what is it?
On the other hand, my favourite pet is a cat. I love them for their independence, their curiosity, their playfulness, their cuddliness and their affection. Having cats around really helps to relieve some of the loneliness that I feel while waiting for my hubby to get the rest of our things packed so he can finally move out to the farm with me.
Q - Have you had animals that didn't get on well with each other and how did you handle this problem?
Whenever you have more than one pet, you run the risk of having fights occur, so yes, this has happened, although rarely. When introducing new pets to the established pets it's always best to take things slowly. Keep them separated by putting the new pet into a crate or carrier, and allow them all to sniff and investigate each other through the bars. Slowly allow them more and more physical contact with each other as the growling and aggression begins to reside. Most fights will occur over territories, and it takes a lot of patience to teach the existing pets to permit new pets entry into their territory.
Q - In your opinion, what advantages and disadvantages does living on a farm have?
The ONLY disadvantage to living in a rural area is that everything is so far away. It takes me about half an hour to get to the nearest grocery store, so that's a bit inconvenient.
Q - You are currently writing a book, what is it about?
Yes, I'm currently writing a book about my life growing up in a very dysfunctional and extremely abusive home. Pasted below is the forward from my book to explain why I have decided to share that story with others.
I have written these memoirs not to garner your sympathy, but to warn others on the dangers their words can have on the human psyche of an impressionable child. The events outlined within, and the hurtful words screamed at me will live forever, indelibly etched in my mind.
While the scars and welts inflicted upon my body have healed and the physical pain has faded away over the years, the scars on my psyche and in my mind will remain until my dying day. I will carry those demons with me always.
The year is 2011 and I am currently fifty-two years old, yet I still cannot get over my fear of doctors, needles and elevators, instilled in me at the age of three. I have a difficult time baring my body, even for medical procedures. I cannot get past the feeling of being "stupid" even though I proven to myself that the exact opposite is true.
I cannot trust others to be kind or to have my best interests at heart. To ensure that I am never abused again I have put on a very rough and tough exterior that keeps many people at bay. Those who take the time to get to know the real me soon discover that inside I'm extremely sensitive and easily hurt.
Through my abuses I have become a champion of the people. I will be the first one to intervene when I see another being abused. I will always fight for the underdog.
I have also tried to include some of the humourous things that happened, as not all of my life was bad. We did have some good times, and shared a lot of laughs together.
Please enjoy my story and remember to love each other unconditionally.
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