June 2014- the geese

a nice surprise

I am such a grouch in the mornings. I feel badly for my husband, so I’m going to try just keeping my mouth shut as much as possible until late morning from now on!

Mondays are particularly crazy, as we have to get our CSA produce picked and prepped before the heat of the morning sets in. There is little quantity of produce yet at this point in the season, mostly greens who are very sensitive to heat. On top of that hurrying pressure- it’s starting to get really hot at 8am- we have many more animals to tend, hundreds of eggs to gather and clean, and so many plants to water in the hoophouse so they are fully hydrated before the hotness comes. Egg orders have to be organized. One of us has to take the lead on getting together an email for our members listing what’s coming and reminding them of tomorrow’s delivery as well.

This morning, after we bottled the calves, let the ducks out, I milked May, collected eggs and then washed my hands thoroughly, I started to cut baby lettuce heads and salad mix to hydrocool in a giant basin of frigid water at our CSA prep station now located in the shady side of the hoophouse. I’m so glad we have this set up in there now so all the “greywater” from cleaning the veg can just be used right there to water the plants growing inside the hoophouse. Andrew went to get Belle off the tie out by the field garden and then was going to focus on collecting nettle tops. My arms were deep in the basin of water, swirling the greens around to get all the dirt off, when Andrew rushed in, all in a tizzy. His arms were in the air, and as he said Oh my god, oh my god, his face held a look of wonder and excitement. It wasn’t a scared sounding communication, not the usual one of horror and urgency. Curious, I said what? He said there were goslings, he saw 3 babies!

We have had a flock of around 25 adult breeding geese for 2 seasons now. Last year was quite a failure. We were not set up properly and didn’t know what we were doing with geese yet (we got them right before breeding season began), so we artificially incubated hundreds of eggs. From those hundreds of eggs, we got 20 goslings.That was a miserable hatch rate, and since we have to feed the adults year round, we have to have a better return than that to keep them. This season, we were determined to try to let the mothers try to sit and incubate naturally. We knew there were just as many risks involved, failure wise, but we hoped they would have at least as good of results as the artificial incubation. All the eggs up until Easter time were collected and sold for eating, which helped pay for some of our breeding flocks’ feed expenses, while we waited for the weather to warm for the good broody-weather season.

A month ago, three of the goose moms set up nests and I put covered nest huts over them. The problems with having a large group of breeding adults together soon became apparent as they fought over the nests, the locations, who looked at whom wrong. The broodies would be repeatedly harassed off their nests, it was really frustrating. Every little thing seemed to be a problem within the goose flock. I made the decision to block off the majority of the paddock off from the flock, except the broody, nest-sitting moms. They seemed to enjoy the tranquility and stolidly sat on their nests, while that main pasture had a chance to grow more too. In the upper area, blocked off the pasture, more goose moms started making nests in what used to be the goat shed, but much noisy, violent squabbling ensued over nest locations in the shed as well. So after they began sitting, I blocked off the goat shed as well. We had (eventually) 10 total moms sitting on nests – not too shabby!

This morning, as Andrew walked past the big pasture, he saw one of the 3 first broodies with three goose babies trailing behind her! We hadn’t talked about what we’d do if there were babies, because we’d be already kind of resigned to accept yet another failure, but suddenly we had a decision to make- leave the babies with her, or collect them and raise them up ourselves. She made it an easy decision as she walked them around in the chilly shaded area- these tender little fluff ball babies are soooooo precious we cannot risk them getting killed by predators or by neglect. We don’t farm totally on hope and optimism, we farm with learned smart choices to increase the odds of success. We need these babies to successfully raise up for our Pastured Goose Shares which are already reserved! As a selfish aside, I know goslings raised by their mom will never be as tame and interactive as babies I get to raise by hand. Goslings were my newest love discovery last year and I am so excited to raised them again this year, they are simply the most adorable bird babies ever.

We grabbed a net, and sadly for the momma, collected the 3 youngsters from her. She had an egg still in her nest, which she returned to. If we were just running a nature park, we could leave the babies with her and just let nature take it’s course and hope for the best. But we aren’t, this is a working farm. The 3 goslings were confused at first, but now are happily peeping in the brooder in our kitchen. They are doing the irresistibly adorable “talking” to the sound of our voice and sight of our hands, eating and drinking. I sure hope the rest of the broodies produce babies, any breeding project is an odd mix of naturalism, optimisim and reality. We shall see.

Gosling #11 just hatched!

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4 thoughts on “June 2014- the geese

  1. the babies don’t get too loud really, maybe a little more as they mature in fall right before harvest time, but not obnoxiously so (we have pigrim and toulouse.) It is the adults in the spring breeding season who are really the loud mouths. You’ve gotta try it, the goslings are adorable and so personable!! (and delicious)

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