“How many cardboard boxes will you need?” The auctioning of small animals.

When Jenn first heard that the Muskoka/Parry Sound Poultry and Pigeon Association was having a ‘small animal’ auction in Powassan, the first thought that entered her head was that it would be a perfect place to take four kids for the day, each with twenty dollars to spend so they could bid on an animal. The second thought in Jenn’s head was that the first one made perfect sense; that it was rational on all accounts and was made with well thought out judgment and clarity of mind. The fact that three of the four kids lived in the City of Oshawa didn’t matter to Jenn; and when asked where these kids were going to keep any animals should they be successful in bidding the reply was quick and simple: “at our house.” Now I’m involved, too. The possibility that the kids could buy more than one animal was there, also, for they had twenty dollars and a bid might be accepted at ten. Or eight. Or lower. The auction was on Saturday so Friday night saw us loading every spare crate we had into the back of what was going to be an already packed mini-van; a mini-van that we had borrowed for the weekend so we could cart around four kids.

Saturday came and we made the trip to Powassan. We parked our vehicle in a mowed field amid people unloading chickens, phesants, goats, pigs and anything else that might have fallen under the ‘amall animal’ label. It was not quite 09h30 and it was already hot. Inside the sale barn – which doubled for the Powassan Fair’s party-central if the painting on the side was anything to go by – were crates of all shapes and sizes full of animals. Somewhere in the regulations of the auction was stipulated that sellers had to supply buyers with transportation crates so almost every animal was housed in a cardboard box vented with a hole cut in the side and covered with chicken wire or plastic snowfence that had been Tuck-taped on. Peacocks seemed to have been put into the boxes and then had the last side added on so their tails could stick out. It seemed as though table space was at a premium because boxes were not only piled in front of one another, but stacked, in some case five high. It also seemed as though it was first-come, first served for table space. There seemed to be no logical lay-out of animals. Everybody just shoved their boxes where they thought they’d fit and to Hell with organization. Or at least that is how it appeared. But it didn’t matter because although the two aisles were packed with people looking at the animals, they couldn’t see them anyway with the cardboard box crates and the randomization in general.  I don’t want to pretend to be naive about this, or suggest that spending part of a day in a crate is somehow harmful to the animals.  That isn’t my intent at all.  In fact, it is lucky the animals had crates that they could be taken home in because some people don’t think to bring a crate to these things and then the drive home becomes a little driving and a lot of animal wrangling.  However, we were sort of hoping for tailgate sales before the auction; seeing the animals a bit better and not having to wait until the animal of your choice came up to the auction block.  Unfortunately, this was not the way things were done.

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One of the tables of animals to be auctioned off.

A peacock, awaiting the bidding process.

We lined up to get our bidder number. We were sixty one and although I don’t know how many people were there, I did see bidder number 91 at one point. There was a slow gravitation to the front of the barn, where the auction was to take place, as people started to take their seats. By the time we took ours, it was a long plank of wood behind the more comfortable stacking chairs with backs. The murmuring of the audience grew silent as the auctioneer took the microphone and began to speak.

“Okay. Can everybody hear me in the back? Okay. We’re going to start the auction and we’re going to move through things quickly, okay? So, with any luck, we’ll be out of here at around five or so. Okay?”

Seriously? I thought. Five? Oh, man.

But then, this: “Okay. We have runners here who will bring you your animal. Please have cash ready. We only accept cash, okay?” At least we wouldn’t have to wait ’til the auction was over to get any animals that we might buy.

There is some action on the stage as the first of the animals to be auctioned off – a pair of chickens – flap as they are put in the display crates and the auction starts for real.

“Okay. We’ll start the bidding for these chickens at a dollar. Who’ll give me a dollar? Okay, thank you. Do I hear two? [big breath] twoandadollartwoandadollardollardollardollar, who’ll bid twotwotwoIgottwonowthreenowthreeandtwoandathree, twoandathreewho’llgivemethreethreethreeno? Two! Sold for two dollars to buyer number 10!” And on he went to item number two.

The auction started at 10h00 and by 10h15 it was hot, humid and stuffy. And that was outside. Inside, incredibly, it was even more so despite the barn’s open doors and the shade the barn provided. Beads of sweat were forming on the nose of one of the kids, old farmers were taking off their dirty ball caps to wipe their brows with a flannel sleeve from their shirts and some woman bid on a fat bunny by fanning her face with a bidding card. An hour went by and still nothing came up that the kids wanted to bid on. Although they had been very well behaved, they were getting antsy and wanted to leave. I took them outside to the van where we had a snack and they played tag and a very rule-less game of What Time is it, Mr. Wolf? Sufficiently fed and exercised, the kids wanted to go back to the auction to see how things were going. In a short time, we found Jenn standing on the far side of the barn.

I’ve heard it said that pigs sweat, men perspire and women glow. Well, Jenn wasn’t glowing. She looked like she’d just stepped off the surface of the sun. Beside her was a box and in the box was a small Rex rabbit. The kids and I went and put the rabbit in one of the cat-carriers we had brought with us and then I watched while they tried to feed it grass through the small holes and wire-mesh door. Jenn spent another hour or so gesticulating and flapping her card in the hopes of getting at least one other animal for the kids. In the end, she bought another Rex rabbit which was also packed into a cat carrier. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at a beach that was on the way home and the bunnies got a turn to sit in the open air (in an enclosure) and munch on grasses while the kids took turns in covering each other with sandy mud. Or maybe it was muddy sand – it’s been a long time since my Soils class.

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These are the new bunnies.  The one in the front, if I’m not mistaken, is Jewel, and the one in the back is Pickering.

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Another photo of Jewel.  Pickering is pretty camera shy.


A sunday outing

~the thumbnail pictures should be clickable.  It will (should) give you a larger image.

As we drove to the lake I wondered if I’d have anything to post from our little paddle. It didn’t take long.

We had launched from shore and were making our way to a small bay where I wanted to try a few casts. Hunter has her own paddle and is more than happy to go against the flow and make waves with it so, when I heard the splash, I thought it was her, playing with her paddle. I didn’t bother to lift my head until I heard Jenn exclaim “Oh god! The dog!”

My head snapped up to see Ginger fifteen feet from the canoe and making a beeline for shore, some three hundred feet distant. I called to her and she turned around, paddling her way back to the canoe. Before Sunday, if anyone had asked me if I thought Ginger’s eyes could get any more bugged out, I would have said ‘no’; but, then, I would have been wrong. Despite her realization that this was probably one of her worst ideas, she swam very capably towards us until I was able to haul her up and into the canoe. She very wisely spent the rest of the outing on the floor of the canoe, walking from between Jenn’s legs to between mine.

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Ginger, fresh in the boat after her swim.

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Jenn, doing all of the work, Hunter fishing and me, taking pictures.

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Hunter having a good time.  Me trying about the fifteenth lure.

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This Painted Turtle was laying in the middle of the road, so Jenn just had to go rescue it.   It probably spent all morning making its way out to the road and in minutes, it was back in the water.

It has always been a bit of a dream of mine and Jenn’s to be on land that is secluded and to be able to run our dogs from the house; no more trucking the dogs just to run them. While we were driving back from the lake, we saw a “House For Sale” sign nailed to a tree. We followed it to see what the house might be like and the longer we drove, the better it got. We were driving on the same trails that we used all last winter to run the dogs and we were miles from anyone. We arrived at the most unbelievable scene: 80 acres of land surrounded by Crown Land in an unorganized township, right on a major trail network. It must have been a mirage. Unable to believe what we were seeing, Jenn, Hunter, Ginger and I got out to have a look around.

click on photo for larger image.

The land is a mix of bush and field and set back off the trails a little bit is a grouping of buildings that look like they were originally constructed to serve some function for the railroad. The trail we had driven along is an abandoned rail bed. The buildings are hand-hewn logs, dovetailed together and chinked. Any of the important buildings have a new metal roof on them and they range from what was probably a shop of some sort to a small barn, a tack shed (we’re guessing at this point) and a two-storey house with a larger barn attached. There is already an ideal spot for the dogs, a root cellar, a garden and an old skeleton of a windmill that looks like it used to draw the water for the place. The house has been recently lived-in because we could see the new solar panels that serve to power the place. A five-minute walk down the laneway which winds in behind some bush and crosses a small creek is another house, which I assume is the main dwelling on the property.

Although we were able to drive right to the place, I think in the winter we’d have to park the truck on the road three or four miles down the rail bed and snowmachine in because I’m almost positive that the road in isn’t plowed and I don’t think I would want to spend all my time plowing a road. Oh, yeah, it’s the place for us. We are having a hard time convincing ourselves that it’s not the right time to be considering this. First of all, we’d have to come up with a business proposal to submit to someone for grant money to make a place like this do-able. It would need, based on the buildings we saw, some pretty major restorations done to convert it to the eco-tourism sort of place we’ve always talked about running. So, we’ll just file it away and hope that nobody else wants it for a few years.

Okay.  We’re horrible parents, I admit it.  But still, this is kinda funny.

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Ginger, now dry from her dip, chews on a stick while we pack up.  See?  Useless.

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Another shot of Ginger.

It will soon become obvious why I don’t have pictures for this post.

It was early in the evening one day last summer when Jenn went outside with Hunter to weed the vegetable garden. The garden was coming along nicely; the plants were growing and healthy and it wouldn’t be long before they began to produce their crops. It did need some attention, though, and since this particular night was so perfect, Jenn decided to take advantage of it. While Jenn knelt down to pull weeds, Hunter removed article after article of clothing until she was completely naked and running around the garden. Jenn took a moment to watch her and, as she watched, she began to feel a nostalgia for that innocence and lack of modesty. Perhaps it was the sight of her naked child, so happy out of her clothes; or, perhaps it was the night, so calm and so perfectly temperate; or, perhaps it was the lack of blackflies, a rarity to be sure. More than likely, though, it was the combination of all three that made Jenn take off her clothes, too. And now there they were, mother and daughter, in the garden, completely unclothed, and enjoying the evening.

Evan came out of the house a few moments later, walked down the few steps from the small deck at the front door and past the garden on his way to feed the dogs. He looked over to see how his wife and daughter were faring in the garden. When he did, he saw his naked wife crouched over a row of carrots, happily pulling weeds. He stopped short.

“Wha…?” he said.

“I saw Hunter running around naked and she looked like she was having such a fun time.” Jenn explained. “I love that we can do this.”

Jenn didn’t want to complicate things with a long explanation, but it was clear to Evan that Jenn was experiencing one of those moments of bliss where everything in one’s life just seems to fit. Apparently, some celebrate these moments with nudity. Evan smiled and shook his head, not entirely surprised to see his wife naked outside for it was this sort of carefree approach to life that had attracted him to Jenn in the first place. He continued on to the dogyard as Jenn crouched over the carrots again and resumed pulling the weeds. “She’s crazy.” he thought on his way.

The dogs barked excitedly as Evan dished out their kibble. As each dog was fed, the noise grew less and less until there were only a few dogs left to be fed. It was then, once the barking had settled somewhat, that Evan noticed a distinct change in the sound of his neighbour’s lawn tractor. No longer was it going back and forth as he mowed the lawn. No, Evan was startled to hear it getting steadily closer to his house. He called to Jenn.

“Jenn! Hey, Jenn! Bob’s on his way over!”

Jenn thought she heard Evan yelling something but she wasn’t sure she had heard him correctly. It sounded like he had said that their neighbour was coming over. Yeah, well, that would just about be Evan’s sense of humour, too, telling her that their neighbour was coming over and here she was, naked. Besides, she could hear the lawn tractor. He was mowing his lawn.

Evan called out again: “Jenn! I’m serious! He’s coming down the driveway!” She’s so going to get caught, Evan thought. I’d better go over.

Jenn saw Evan coming from the dogyard just as she saw Bob round the corner on his lawn tractor in full view of the garden. She did the first thing that came to mind. She took cover behind a broccoli plant. “Hunter!” she called out. “Get down! Bob’s here.” Hunter turned to wave at Bob but was yanked to Jenn’s side before he could see. They lay in the dirt of the garden, behind a broccoli plant, as the first of the blackflies started to emerge.

Fortunately, Bob had spied Evan first and so had stopped his tractor tens of feet from the edge of the garden. Arriving at the garden moments after Jenn and Hunter dove for cover, Evan tried to position himself in such a way as to not only protect the honour of his wife, but to also head off what was sure to be an awkward situation for his neighbour. He tried to do so nonchalantly but he wasn’t sure if he had pulled it off or not. In an attempt to keep the focus on him, he opens with “H-Hey, Bob.” Classic.

“I just finished cutting my lawn.” says Bob.

Jenn can hear all of the conversation. The blackflies are now fully out and biting. “Seriously?” she thinks to herself. “You drove over here to tell us you’re done cutting the lawn?”

“Mom. It’s Bob. I want to say ‘hi’.” says Hunter. “Hi Bo-” she’s cut short by Jenn’s hand covering her mouth.

Evan looks to see if Bob heard that. He didn’t. Evan knows that if he keeps Bob talking on the lawn tractor there is a slim chance that he won’t want to go and see the garden. However, Evan doesn’t want to keep Bob talking any longer than is necessary because his wife and kid are somewhere in the garden minus their clothes and he can’t help but notice the blackflies. As luck would have it, Bob is dressed head-to-toe in a bug suit and is ready for just about any amount of flies.

Jenn has now been listening to the most banal conversation ever for the past ten minutes. She is getting eaten alive by blackflies which don’t seem to be bothering Hunter at all. Hunter keeps making noise and trying to wave to her neighbour because she doesn’t know yet that people look at you funny when you’re an adult and you’re outside and naked. As the conversation-about-nothing continues, Jenn seriously considers calling out “Bob, it’s Jenn. I’m in the garden and I don’t have any clothes on. Could you just close your eyes while Hunter and I go inside, please.” but she doesn’t. Instead, she continues to hide as best as she can behind the broccoli.

Meantime, Evan is only half-heartedly participating in the conversation. Between “Oh, yeah?s” and “Uh-huhs” that he hopes he’s adding at the appropriate spots, he’s wondering how rude he is seeming because he is not offering anything to the conversation at all. He would love to find an excuse to get Bob to move away from the garden, to turn his back so that Jenn and Hunter can escape into the house, but he’s afraid to get Bob to move because, so far, he hasn’t seen Jenn.

“Well…” says Bob, trailing off.

“Yep. Well…” Evan says. He’s aware that Bob wants him to continue the conversation, but he can’t. He won’t. As rude and awkward as it may seem.

“I guess I should be getting home.” says Bob.

“Yeah. I guess.” Evan returns, and to himself he says Please.

“Boy, these blackflies are horrendous.” Bob says, trying to open a new topic.

“Yeah.” Evan agrees. Laying in the dirt, Jenn thinks to herself you have no idea how bad they are for some of us.

“Okay, then. I’m going to get going.” sighs Bob, clearly disappointed. Mercifully, he starts the lawn tractor and heads down the driveway. As the sound of it fades around the corner, Jenn loudly whispers to Evan “Is he gone?”

“Yes.” is the reply.

That was the answer Jenn had been waiting for. She scooped up Hunter and her clothes and dashed to the house, scarcely touching the stairs on her way inside.

Evan went back to finish feeding the dogs.