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Stories of Rural Life! Love Thy Neighbour

Date Posted: 28/01/2015

By Madison Edgar

Orangeville, Ontario


Imagining life on a farm usually entails imagining the sorts of animals with which that life is shared. A horse, perhaps to ride or to pull a carriage. Chickens, because fresh eggs just make a more enjoyable morning omelette. Numerous cows, because farming bills add up and insist on the necessity of making a living.


Having that rural sort of dream requires planning: the number of posts shaping the paddocks, the dimensions of the chicken coop, the location of the hayloft. Evenings spent bent attentively over books result in detailed plans of animal care. Yet despite these most careful considerations, rural life is inevitably shared in such a way that is hard to plan for: with neighbours. And while fellow two-legged creatures may reside miles away, neighbours seen and unseen will always reside close by or even underfoot.


There may be no way to plan for that unlikely visitor sharing the horses' paddock. Rust-coloured and no larger than the family dog, this critter also communicates through a sort of bark. The horses' presence signals safety from predators, encouraging this visitor to share sips of water from the troughs.


It may be hard to predict that with the first dusting of snow comes a series of small and large prints documenting a mother and baby's journey to and from the pond. Even harder to predict is the sighting of that mother, with her ringed tail and masked face, perched nonchalantly on the half-door of the indoor arena. I spook- and this time, my horse wonders why.


It is definitely hard to plan for the angry appearance of a nesting mother during a carriage ride to the pond. The last thing a carriage driver may expect is the emergence of a territorial female from the inside of an old barrell. Wings flapping, she aims between the horse's blinkers. Luckily, the horse remains level-headed. The plan probably involves swimming in that pond, but also likely involves a bathing suit.


It is never in the plan to buy a Costco-sized bag of horse treats for Christmas and be left, days later, with a mere few crumbs (I thought I sealed the bag well enough!).


Sharing a life with neighbours, friend or foe, teaches about both the balance and the unpredictability of nature. With human neighbours potentially far away, these critter neighbours make interesting company in rural life. For better or for worse, I’m loving thy neighbour.


Balancing studies at the University of Toronto with living and working in a rural town, Madison Edgar is a self-proclaimed city mouse/country mouse hybrid. You can find her either cleaning stalls or sleeping on the GO train after class.


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