I kept my remaining flock of seven geese in electric fencing for two weeks. I pastured them near the sheep, as at the time I had only one working battery fence charger. I’d walk the geese up the hill field every morning and every evening I’d walk them down to the barn, where I locked them in the sheep stall. My rooster, Monty, had been so traumatized by his narrow escape that in an astonishing display of good sense, he kept his four hens strictly in the barn. There were no more coyote encounters.
When I repaired the second battery charger, however, I moved the geese back down near the barn. This made it much easier for me to dump and refill their swimming troughs every day with fresh water, using a hose. The very first morning the geese were outside the barn, the coyote showed up at 11 AM.
I was lucky. Crows flying over the house spotted the coyote on the lawn and began to scream. My dogs snoozing in the living room heard the shouting from the crows and leapt up, barking. I ran to the sliding glass door, saw the coyote standing boldly on the grass, and threw open the door to yell. Meanwhile the geese had been so terrified by the sight of the killer on the ridge above them that they had stampeded through the electric netting and were loose in the pasture.
I ran off the coyote, waving my arms, and then shooed the geese into the safety of the barn, where they remained for several days while I debated what to do. I tried setting up a giant Havahart trap, hidden in the tall goldenrod of the driftway and baited with raw lamb, but it was ignored.
I don’t believe in killing predators, but this coyote feels too tame. A few days later she or he was at a neighbor’s house, also in daylight, stalking her cats. Finally I called another neighbor, a hunter. (Though I don’t like death, I can’t abide suffering — a skilled hunter would have the best chance at a merciful, clean shot.) The neighbor got a permit and has tried to call the coyote in twice. So far no luck. He calls during the day, trying to select for the problem coyote alone. We know there is a large pack in the forest behind us and we have no desire to accidentally shoot the wrong animal.
In the meantime I put old sheep panels together to make a hard wire fence. The resulting enclosure is small, and requires an hour to take down, move, and set back up on fresh grass. However, neither a goose nor a coyote can get through it.
In the midst of all this, I received an email from a Pilgrim goose fancier on the far side of Syracuse in western New York. He wondered if I’d be willing to trade two of my ganders for two of his, so we’d each have a crack at fresh bloodlines in our flocks.
I had been worried about this issue in the back of my mind. Though Andy’s sons were snow white and very handsome, I knew that I was going to keep his daughter. Andy and Kay themselves had been siblings. If I bred their children in turn to each other, the inbreeding coefficient would be off the charts. It would be wonderful to have new genetics — and with no effort on my part. This gentleman was prepared to drive twelve hours round-trip to effect the exchange. I immediately agreed.
He was due to arrive last Saturday at 2 PM. Unfortunately the poor man became lost somewhere in the woods around the lakes in the lower Adirondacks. I received regular texts. I am at Old Forge… I am at a town called Inlet… I made a wrong turn and have to backtrack… He finally rolled in at 7:30 PM, having driven nine hours one way.
It was dusk but the man was excited to see my geese. He took leather gauntlets, like fireplace gloves, out of his car. It took me a moment to realize that he was afraid of being bitten. I waved the gloves away and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll pick them all up.” I took his two ganders out of the crate in his car, and replaced them with two of mine. None of them thought of biting me.
Before he drove away, the man became fascinated by my sheep in the pasture and immediately wanted to add two lambs to his hatchback. I assumed he must be kidding, but no. “How much?” he kept asking. I said firmly, “They’re not for sale” — adding in my head, “to nutty impulse buyers.” He drove out. I imagine he got home around 3 or 4 AM.
The new ganders were not as pretty to me as Andy’s sons. Their flight feathers were heavily tipped with grey, giving them racing stripes.
I was sad but Lucy reminded me, “Fresh genetics!” The new boys were picked on and ostracized by the gang but gradually…
… became part of the flock dynamic, drinking, swimming, and grazing.
Yesterday the woman who bought my Pilgrim females last year came and bought four Pilgrim males, three of mine and one from Syracuse. I’m happy to have them all living in a fenced field with a spring-fed pond.
I kept one of the Syracuse boys. Sticking with the E.B. White theme, I named the new young gander Stuart, for Stuart Little. The young goose is Serena (the name the real Whites had chosen for the daughter they never had).
Kay and Serena seem rather contemptuous of meek Stuart, but I imagine he will soon grow in stature and arrogance.
I hope so. I still miss Andy, that dear, courageous old fool.