Well, at last, we have some exciting news regarding the geese. If you have been following my Blog, or Tracey’s social media posts, you will know about ‘ the mysterious egg thief ‘ and the complete dearth of goslings for the last five or six years. At the beginning of May, as I previously mentioned, Bianca (our White goose ) was just about sitting on five eggs, on a large nest of straw, in the relative safety of the field-shelter, at the bottom of our lane. I then added five eggs that I had hoarded in case hers disappeared again. She rapidly became very broody, hissing ferociously at anybody and everybody – including Ghengis and Ghandi – that dared go anywhere near her and her eggs. All we could now do was wait, and hope…. for the next Twenty-eight to Thirty-one days…….. weather/ mysterious egg-thief/predators and Biancas determination permitting. About five or six days later, Griselda (our grey Goose ) mysteriously vanished…..! I say ‘mysteriously’ because if a Fox or Badger or stray dog had taken her there would be a mess of feathers everywhere and probably a corpse or body parts lying around and possibly, with a Badger-strike, a trail of feathers showing she had been dragged away somewhere. As there was no sign of any altercation was it possible that a ‘mysterious Goose thief’ had stolen her…..quietly……in the dark …..without us or the dogs hearing anything. Not a chance, not really, so option three is she may have snuck off to a secret nest in a hedge somewhere to sit on her own eggs..? A very unlikely option four is that she just got fed up with Ghengis and Ghandi and eloped somewhere for some peace and quiet.
To continue with Biancas saga, we got to about day Thirty and I noticed a subtle change in general goose behaviour. The Ganders wouldn’t leave the field shelter and were even more protective than usual and Bianca was quite fretful, moving about on her nest and some of her eggs became plainly visible outside of her body. I managed to get close enough to quietly liberate one egg without any of them really noticing and guess what…. the shell was cracking apart from the inside, which meant that a gosling was on its way out ! Now, I may have ‘under-egged ‘ that last sentence slightly ……suffice to say that I managed to escape with just one large love-bite/goosebump on the outside of my left calf and left the geese grumbling, but not desperately disturbed. We decided to leave them to their own devices for Twenty-four hours and hope for the best. Next day…..day Thirty-one…..off we went down the lane with a camera and some goose breakfast and found Bianca sitting proudly beside her nest gurgling happily to herself and nine fat, fluffy, grey and yellow goslings sitting in the nest cheeping away to their hearts content. Ghengis and Ghandi were relaxing happily just beside the nest, but not close enough to upset Mum. The next day they all went outside to sunbathe in the glorious warm weather and today, day three, they were all splashing around and swimming in the stream about a hundred yards away from the field shelter. I have been giving them a few chick crumbs but they are already happily munching away on the little bit of grass that the ponies have missed, and even trying to catch unwary insects.
As for Griselda, I am optimistically hoping that she will re-surface in the next few days with a clutch of her own goslings. There is one smallish cloud on the horizon. For a couple of months now Misty, our sheep-dog/duck dog/guard-dog has been barking frantically at dawn which suggests a fox is lurking about just outside the farm buildings. That was OK to begin with because as long as the dogs bark predators will keep their distance. As she gets older she gets lazier, as do we all, and rather than run to the yard gate or down to the other end of the farmyard, she began lying in her bed, in the boot room, and barking loudly enough to fool the fox into thinking she was on full alert. Which was far from relaxing for us old folks trying to get as much beauty sleep as possible. In order to break the habit I started going down and turfing her outside and closing the dog-flap. Sometimes as early as three-thirty or four O’clock in the morning. The suggestion being either go outside and bark properly like a good guard-dog, or stay in bed and don’t bark. Misty took the easy option and we all stayed in bed, for about three mornings. Then the fox became a reality and crept up to the ‘fox-proof’ duck ponds and persuaded one of the not very intelligent ducks to poke its head out through the wire fence…..end of duck..! Hey ho….we now have a recalcitrant guard dog and nine vulnerable goslings. Let’s hope that two over protective Ganders and one very conscientious goose can stay on top of things, and worry about Griselda if she ever reappears.
The Corona Virus lockdown is beginning to ease and some businesses are coming back to life. Those of us working in the hospitality industry are going to be some of the last to get going, for obvious reasons. We are currently, optimistically, looking towards opening for business in July. That depends on infection rates as restrictions are eased and also stipulations on social distancing and disinfecting. We are continuing to maintain the infrastructure of our business and keep a foundation of animals in order to provide the standard of holiday that we have been providing for the last Twenty years. If and when we open up again. This means spending money on a weekly basis that we aren’t earning and doing jobs that might not need doing and feeding animals/birds that no one might ever see. You can see our dilemma. In theory, many people who might usually holiday abroad may now ‘stay-cation’ in England and hospitality and tourism could see a massive Renaissance. Oh for a crystal ball.
Our diversification into ‘virtual farm holidays’ and ‘sponsor our animals’ schemes has been well received. The ‘Little Farmers club’ is very popular with lots of fun activities for locked-down little-ones. The ‘Sponsor our farm animals’ scheme is really busy, with Balti the goat and Moo the miniature Shetland still at the top of the popularity league. That may well change now that the goslings have arrived with their obvious ‘WOW FACTOR’. Unfortunately, because they involve Trace’ spending even more hours hunched over the computer, she is now struggling more than ever with her ongoing back problem. About the only thing she can do with relative ease is apply masonry paint from a kneeling or standing position and ideally not in direct sunlight. So, at least the tower scaffolding is getting plenty of exercise. Due to the amazing weather we have been enjoying for the last ten weeks we are now considering going onto a Spanish agenda – working early mornings and later evenings and having a midday siesta….! How our lives have changed in only two months.
We now have six mother hens with chicks and getting them all in, to separate, safe enclosures at night, is a mammoth operation. Because they are all much the same age if I put them in together the chicks will get under the wrong hens and chaos bordering on civil war will ensue. If I put them in the hen house the rats will crawl underneath and snaffle the chicks. If I leave the door open on the yard side so the dogs can control the rats other predators could go in, especially if it rains and the dogs decide to ‘pretend’ not to hear anything ! So, separate dorms until the chicks can roost up on the perches, with separate food and water supplies.
Due to the heatwave – which, oddly enough, hardly gets mentioned on the news at the moment – Misty has had her annual African Wild Dog hair cut. Apart from the Pom-Pom on the end of her tail we look quite similar, now. Did I mention giving myself a Corona virus No.3 home hair cut back in April. Great value for money – but costing a fortune on factor 50 protection…….
Must get back to work, so Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.