Yesterday was a busy day as I had two sets of buyers at the farm, one for geese and one for lambs.
I had discovered over the winter that four geese is too many for my farm. To review: I had Kay, my bereaved seven-year-old goose who had lost her mate, dear Andy, to a coyote last July. I had Stuart and Serena, my new young gander and goose who I had thought would be “lifers,” on the farm forever. (Serena was a daughter of Kay and Andy, and Stuart was from a farm in Syracuse.) And I had Persephone, an older daughter of Kay and Andy, who, with her mate, I’d donated to a nearby farm and then retrieved after she lost her mate and her eight babies, one by one, to the same coyote.
I’d thought, “Three extra geese? No big deal.” Unfortunately I soon realized the truth of the old saying, “Children learn what they live.” Both Serena and Persephone had grown up schooled by their father, Andy — in his crazy phase. Normally Andy was a very mild-mannered goose. He ignored the chickens and played with Flossie, my barn cat.
When he had babies, however, Andy was a maniacal soldier on constant duty, and chickens, cat, and I were all enemies to guard his family from. He rushed at us, hissing and biting. I am sure Andy died bravely rushing to attack the coyote who killed him.
In a normal year, Andy’s easygoing temperament would instantly resume the moment the goslings were sold. But now he was gone and his babies had learned from him that chickens, cats, and I, the farmer, were all the enemy. Persephone and Serena taught Stuart, the new young gander.
They became the Gang of Three, racing after chickens, chasing the barn cat, and hissing at me. (They weren’t very nice to their mother, either. At one point poor Kay looked like a battered old lady, missing most of the feathers on her head.) Between the geese and my bad-tempered rooster, Ambrose, the barn was ugly with strife and I mourned the loss of my peaceable kingdom.
This past early spring, both Serena and Persephone sat on eggs. Sadly it was so cold that most of the eggs became fatally chilled in the brief moments when they stood up to eat. Only three goslings survived to hatch, two males and a female. One of the male hatchlings wandered under the feet of Moxie the cow, so I was left with a pair.
Almost immediately I decided that I would sell the Gang and keep Kay and the goslings. Kay would teach the babies mild manners. It seemed like a great plan, although I knew it wasn’t perfect. Stuart and the girls were not related to each other, much better for breeding. However my yearning for a happy barn outweighed all other considerations. I listed the Gang.
But they did not sell. The six geese marched all over the farm — no sign of the coyote yet this summer — particularly enjoying the shade of the porches. (In the photo above, they are resting in my tenant’s doorway.) In the meantime, of course, the goslings were growing up with a maniacally protective father and mother and learning to chase chickens and the barn cat, disrespect their grandmother, et al. I knew it was probably too late now for my plan. Still I kept renewing the Craigslist ad. And yesterday a young man from the New Hampshire border drove three hours to pick up the Gang.
As I was also selling four lambs, and the cattle expected to come in the barn to escape the flies, some do-si-do was required to get everyone sorted into stalls before buyers arrived.
First I brought the flock in from the pasture to the sheep stall and pulled out four lambs. It took a bit of time to select three ewe lambs and a nice ram lamb who was not a twin to any of them, but armed with my records and peering at eartags, that was eventually accomplished. Shutting the lambs to be sold into Moxie’s stall, I ran the rest of the flock back out to pasture.
Next I hauled in a gate and divided the sheep stall in half, placing hay bales along the bottom so geese and lambs wouldn’t mingle. Then I enticed the lambs into one half, and opened the other half to the geese.
The geese were interested and stood along the hay bales, talking it over.
The lambs were a bit alarmed.
Then I let the six cattle into the barn, and went out to move the sheep to fresh grass. Moments later the first buyer arrived.
The sales were easy. I was happy to know all my babies were going to good homes. The geese will have a fenced area with a pond. The lambs will have several acres of pasture.
Meanwhile, DH finished his Switzerland work trip yesterday by running a half-marathon in Zermatt. More than thirteen miles, almost all uphill. Pretty nice for a guy who turns 66 in three days!
He’s on a plane now and will be back late tonight. Lucy and I will be very glad to have him home.