Tag Archives: geese

Year In Review

A year has passed since we got the farm. One whole year. We celebrated by hosting the chef’s parents for Thanksgiving, and eating off some 1930’s English china* we found at our local antique store, while watching the Texans almost lose to the Detroit Lions.

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(*Total freaking score, btw. Alfred Meakin service for six, with six serving pieces for $60.)

One year. I’ve dealt with deaths, large and small. I’ve made some important friendships, and lost a few relationships I thought were important. I’ve learned that I’m tougher than I thought, and to take better care of myself by standing up for myself. I’ve realized that it’s a lot better for me to drop poisonous people than to put up with their bullshit and let it leak onto me.

I’ve learned a LOT about organic gardening and sustainability this year, just by doing. I’ve learned that books are only a pathway to the reality out here, and I’m thankful for our inventiveness and outside-the-box thinking. I’ve learned to can, and how to do household, yard, and pool maintenance. I’ve gotten to be a much better shot.

I’ve learned to not dream so big and to manage my expectations, for myself, my husband, this farm, my friends, my family. For every minus here, there seem to be pluses.

My plans for the big, bad-ass garden were too ambitious, and I could not keep up. My dreams of a huge flock of chickens didn’t work400197_10151483437318368_1546550247_n out, because they just kept dying this summer. One of my geese literally flew away and never came back. But two have stayed, a mated pair that will give us eggs and babies  this spring. We got four more pullets, and we’ll have six layers by spring.

Despite all the set-backs our first spring and summer, we managed to produce so much veg that we have an over-filled freezer and about 40 jars of product.  The greenhouse didn’t happen because the winds blew the covering off and mangled the frame, but we’ll try it again in the spring. We’re doing two beefsteak tomato plants in our indoor greenhouse, so winter tomatoes!!

The pool never seemed to get quite right until the very end of the season, when we finally figured out the necessary chemical brew. We still haven’t had the money to buy a lawn mower, but it’s kind of okay, because we learned that our neighbor is a super-nice guy and brings his tractor over to drag the grass and keep it looking tight. We had two trees felled that didn’t make it through last year’s drought. Pine tree for the burn pile, and pecan tree for the smoker. (Oh yeah, we got a smoker!) I’ve learned to deal with scorpions and coyotes, and last evening while putting up the chickens for the night, a rattlesnake struck my boot. I’ve learned that I can run pretty fucking fast.

We’re installing raised beds in 2013, and that will help with the manageability for me. The beds will be closer to the house, closer to a water source, and we’ll be installing irrigation. I won’t have to deal with constant weeding, and the Bermuda grass can have its way with the big garden area, where we’re getting many ducks and geese to eat it.

IMG_1915We adopted a puppy (Mongo) and found a Siamese kitten (Mr. Peabody). I went through my first-ever dog-in-heat experience (she’s since been fixed). Doggy diapers = nobody wins. Total count: five male cats, two dogs. We’re stopping there.

This is my birthday week, and we’ll be going next weekend to cut down our Christmas tree and put it up in the great room. It looks magical when it’s all lit up, set against the backdrop of this 1930 Texas farmhouse. We’ve fixed up the house so it’s comfortable and nice for us and anyone who visits, and 2013 will see some painting and power-washing, to get it even nicer.

We got married here, and it was a magical day. I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else in the world. We’ve been able to share this place with friends and family, and that’s pretty freaking sweet. A few parties, a pig buried and eaten, our first deep-fried turkey (kick-ass, btw), music, dancing, laughter, tears.

Can’t wait to see what the next year here brings.

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Transitioning

After my last post about the horrifying rate of chicken attrition (Note to self, new band name: Chicken Attrition), we lost two more, bringing our total number of hens down to two. (One had her neck broken by the geese; one died of general failure to thrive…Chickens now have their own separate sleeping area, because geese are assholes and their time is limited*.) We’re getting more hens in a couple of days. Makes me happy!!! My little Rhodie and her buddy CM are doing their job, but two eggs a day just ain’t cuttin’ it.

Up yours, Bitch Grass.

Future home of raised beds

Garden transition from summer to fall has been slightly painful. See all that grass? That’s my garden, overtaken by Bermuda grass, or as we call it, Bitch grass. It started to seriously make a move about two months ago, I didn’t get on it fast enough and now I have watermelons, winter squash, bush beans, and carrots all competing for life. I have weeded around them, but I just don’t care anymore because they’re thriving anyway AND! Transitions. We’re moving to a raised bed system**, and giving that yard over to ducks.

Seriously. *Ducks in the big garden area, geese in the back two acres, because DUNH DUNH DUNNNNH…We’re starting an ethical foie gras business. I’m not jinxing it by giving it a name yet (I have several AWESOME candidates in a spreadsheet, awaiting availability checks and a Facebook popularity poll) or describing all of our proposed production methods. But I will say that we’d be the only ones doing it in this country (based on a model by this badass, Eduardo Sousa of La Pateria de Sousa), we’ll have around 100 birds, and the Texas A&M Poultry Sciences Department has expressed an interest in helping us develop the concept. So booyah! Come on, grant money!! (Maybe. Hopefully.) No gavage, no cruelty. Just a bunch of chattering, happy buttheads eating whatever they want for 18 weeks, then eating as much corn and yellow lupine that their little faces can gorge on for four weeks in the fall. Then, a truck ride to their final reward and the Brazos Valley and Houston suddenly become a lot more delicious!

Come spring, this is going to be one noisy joint. This winter: planning, cross fencing, building of shelters, repair of existing outbuildings, installation of Nite Guards, and dreaming of creamy foie gras on toast and duck confit next fall.

Diaper of Shame

In other news, Ursa the puppy has attained her majority. So to speak. Two weeks shy of her big operation, she jumped the shark. Again, so to speak. Anyway, lots of cleaning, lots of Doggy Depends, lots of worrying about coyotes trying to break through our windows to get at the lovely Miss Ursa. (Not really, but that’s where my brain goes when I hear them in the surrounding fields.) We have three weeks to wait until she gets to see the vet again. Yay. *sigh*

Scorpions are back with a vengeance. We’re hitting the perimeter with spray and a borax/DE mixture because it’s gotten so bad that the husband literally hallucinated one in our bed last night. He screamed, “Holy shit! Look at that!” and I was looking and looking and said, “I don’t see anything!” and he started flipping the blanket around and there was nothing there. Well played, scorpions.

**Raised beds, YES PLEASE! I just can’t keep on top of the weeding and mulching required to beat back Texas Bermuda grass. We had originally chosen that

Mulberry thinks it’s spring. What up, nature?

yard because it has 7′ deer fencing and we wanted the protection. Lessons learned? NO DEER IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD. The farmers shoot them, they got the memo…Whatever. They’re not here. I’ve seen two in a year. Also, Bitch grass will always win. Always.

So, eight 4×8′ cedar raised bed boxes will be built this winter, lasagna layering installed in each, and come spring? Let’s just say I’m really excited about not weeding, having the gardens closer to the house and the water supply, and the boom that is going to be our production. We’ll also have a large in-ground bed for the spreaders (melons, winter squash, etc.), but I at least can handle weeding one 4×12′ bed.

Jesus Christ, I just realized: That’s a busy fucking winter. What have I done?

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Summer Shenanigans

I don’t know what happened to my writing muse but she needs a spanking, and not the fun kind. I think part of it is that I’ve been tits-deep in writing TWO business plans for some projects we’re hoping to get off the ground, and that kind of work is a muse-killer. She started crying about two days into it and just sort of limped off into a closet in my brain that has snacks (fudge Pop-Tarts), and Xanax. I’ll admit it here, too: I got sucked into DVR’d Olympic games for about two weeks (p.s.: Best way EVER to watch the games. Screw you volleyball, marathons, and speed walking. SPEED WALKING??).

Das Ladies.

Farm news: The chickens started laying!! I’ve waited for what seems like forever to have more than my faithful little Golden-laced Wyandotte put out her one egg a day, and BLAMMO. Went out there a few days ago to find four new eggs in one of the boxes. Sad news, however, as we lost one of the sex-links…I’d been coaxing her along to help heal an injured leg by isolating her to the smaller “chick” area of the coop, then came in to find she’d injured a wing overnight. That night, I put her in a huge cat carrier with food and water, and when I came in in the morning, I found she’d either broken her own neck or suffocated somehow. Anyway, I’ve got one lady with a cut on her leg that’s healing up nicely, and a goose that scared the crap out of me by pretending to have a broken leg for a day. Thank you, Trase of Serenity Acres Now for talking me off the ledge on that one!!

We got winter squash, cantaloupes, pumpkins, beans, corn, and carrots installed for the fall. Our peppers are still going monkey-shit from spring planting, so good news there. The tomatoes are all done, which means next year, all the heirlooms are going in the greenhouse. They just can’t take Texas.

We’ve been enjoying the pool, finally, after spending most of the spring and the early part of summer just trying to figure out how to stay on top of the algae situation. Pools are a gigantic pain in the ass, we’ve learned, but also TOTALLY WORTH IT when you’re floating around in a $2 inner-tube, listening to way loud classic rock on the shop radio, baking in the sun, and naming the clouds things like Nelson Rockefeller On a Unicycle.

Those eggs are not for you, Mr. Peabody.

Here is a gratuitous shot of our newest animal addition, Mr. Peabody. He found us outside our local grocery store, by loudly proclaiming his love from behind a row of carts. He has incredibly blue eyes, and is just now finding his Siamese voice, God help us all. The other cats are still pissed, but screw them. Mr. Peabody rules.

Thanks to everybody who emailed or commented looking to make sure I’m still alive. I’M ALIVE! And that was super sweet. I’ve been reading y’all, rest assured…SO MANY FELLOW SHENANIGANISTS!©

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Soul Asylum

Insert melon joke here.

Therapy weeding! Towards my goal of kicking depression in the nads, I’ve spent the past two and a half days out in the gardens TCB. I feel way better.

Today is a half day, because (tip: don’t get old) I’m old. I was all gung-ho the past two days, saying “Fuck you” to the heat, work periods longer than break periods, drinking lots of water, taking my supplements, working seven hour shifts. Today, I’m ass-hammered. I got out to the watermelon patch all set to finish and yeeahhhh, there’s my back, telling me I’m 46, still 30 lbs. overweight (lost some on Atkins already), take an Aleve for your back and go back inside, you dork. So I weeded some, messed with the birds, and came back inside.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my recent gardening experiences:

  • Taking non-specific depression rage out on caterpillars feels nice. Almost as nice as the *pop* they make when I punch them right in the dirt, bright green ooze squishing out of both ends. I used to be squeamish about killing them. Now, I dig it. Eat my cabbages HOW, no face?
  • I’ve developed a peripheral vision superpower because of my hyper-vigilance for spiders. After the black widow scare and given the number of wolf and brown recluse spiders I’ve seen and killed over the past few months, I’m like a side-seeing ninja. I can’t think of all the applications, but I’m sure there are a million. Call me for rates.
  • Notwithstanding the above superpower, I did have a wolf spider jump on my tits while I was weeding by the pool. It sent me into a screaming fit that could probably be heard in town. Way after the spider had been sent sailing far away by my spastic hand movements, I was still screaming.
  • My formerly sweet geese are now kind of jerks. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the big garden lately, adjacent to the poultry yard, and not only do they challenge me in the mornings when I come let them out*, but they bully the chickens a little. Not enough to separate them, but enough for me to understand that my babies have grown up into delinquent jerks, and I’m kind of rethinking my position on having them as foie gras instead of long-time pets.
  • People who read my craigslist ad (invisible subtitle: Check Out My Melons!) are probably too stupid to deserve my melons anyway. That said, what the fuck am I going to do with all these melons?

One of the sex-link chickens (not quite ready for laying pullet) has a bum leg. It’s not bumblefoot and she’s not bleeding, so I’m hoping it’s just a sprain. I’m fortunate in that this is my first animal injury, and it’s a pretty easy one. Diagnosis: bum leg. Treatment: keep away from jerks, and give extra supplements. She seems to be hopping around okay, and two of the other hens are (shockingly) keeping an eye on her and making sure she gets food and water.

*Every morning between 6:15 and 6:30 I go and let the birds out of the coop. Every morning for the past few weeks, the geese kind of hang back and talk to me. *Bapbapbapbap* So I talk back, of course. Then they started flapping their wings, a few days later. Kind of experimental, one, then the other, then the third goose, flapping then settling. Then a few days later, it progressed to big flaps, and talking REALLY LOUDLY to me.

“I will be delicious!”

Then, and this was the last straw, they started spreading their wings, yelling at me, and RUSHING me. Ohhhh, that will not stand. So the first time they did it, I raised my arms like wings and said, “Oh, FUCK no,” and advanced on them and they backed down.

Then, they started the funniest thing ever and I hope I can catch it on video. I start to walk out of the yard, and I hear *flapflapflap* *shuffleshuffle* and turn around really quick, and they drop their wings, and resume scrounging in the grass. “What? Just eating some bugs. What up, mama lady? Doodly do.” Then I turn around to leave and it happens again. At least twice before I get out of the yard. Seriously cracks me up.

A week ago I was heaving tomatoes at their heads in consternation. Now it’s cracking me up. Baby steps.

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Chicken Lies

Assholes.

I’m blogging angry: You’ve been warned.

I’m going to share what from what I can tell no one else will: Chickens suck. I don’t mean, “Oh, they really get on my nerves and I wish they were sweeter!” No, I mean, they suck and I sometimes wish they’d spontaneously combust into a fine blood mist punctuated with feathers.

“Oh, get chickens! They’re so sweet! They bond with the first human they see! They’ll eat out of your hand and scamper about your feet and play cards with you and be your best buds and give you eggs and when it comes time to decide if you’re going to eat them, you’ll think, ‘I couldn’t POSSIBLY eat my best friend!'”

Bullshit. Vile lies and terrible deception.

Here’s a picture of them from a few months ago. They’re not even worth busting the camera out to take a more recent shot, one that would show they’re much bigger and more slathered in evil than before. They don’t have names anymore. They are Bitchface 1 and Bitchface 2; don’t care which is which.

See, a few months ago, we bought six pullets. We raised them inside for a month or so, then divided the chicken coop into two areas, one for the grown ladies, and one for the pullets (as advised by all the forums and books). We’ve had about a months’-worth of get-to-know-you time, and I’ve been letting everybody out together for supervised yard time and while there’s some pecking, mostly they just run around and ignore each other. Then we got six goslings. We raised them inside for a few weeks, and they just got so big so fast (and are SHIT MACHINES) that it was time for them to go outside into the pullet pen (like they suggest in all the lying forums and bullshit books). They got along great! The geese are actually already bigger than the pullets, run around like happy little idiots, eating bugs and grass and playing in their water pool. The pullets ignore them, and the big ladies couldn’t get to them, one way or another.

Keep in mind we spent three weekends building these birds a secure, deluxe coop with a great big yard. I feed and water them twice a day. I talk to them and try to pet them all and give them treats and scraps. They get let out of their coop first thing in the morning, checked on several times a day, then secured in their coop at night. It’s not as if I threw a bunch of day-old chicks into a thistle yard and yelled, “Good luck, bitches! I’d better find some eggs tomorrow!”

Then about a week ago, I found one of the adult ladies in with the geese; she had flown over the barrier. They all seemed to be doing fine, so I started letting the geese hang with everybody else. Two nights ago, I decided to let them all sleep in the coop as a group. BIG MISTAKE. I got up in the morning yesterday, and there were two dead goslings, their throats pecked out.  I cried and cried and put them in a garbage bag and said things like, “I’m so sorry!” and cried some more. Because I’ve really gotten attached to the geese! The chickens are kind of mechanical, dead-eyed eating and pooping machines. They’d just as soon I was a robot food and water dispenser rather than a human, for all the warmth they’ve shared since day one. The geese, however, are sweet and cuddly and inquisitive and fun-loving.

So last night, we reinforced the gosling/pullet area with chicken wire from top to bottom, and beefed up the joins. This morning, I came in to another dead gosling on the babies’ side, and a dead Cuckoo Maran pullet on the big girl side. The pullets had pecked the gosling to death. The CM had found a break in the fence and got in with the big girls, and got pecked to death.

So the plan now, until we can figure out another solution, is to put the big pecking slut-sacks outside, the murderous asshole pullets on the big girl side (inside the coop), and the geese in their regular spot in the coop. Those jerk-faced grown-up chickens can deal with raccoons or whatever until we can afford to make another run and permanently segregate everybody’s lives into Chicken vs. Goose. Because I am NOT waking up to another dead gosling.

It’s not even like those whores are giving me eggs! Six months old and no eggs. And from what I understand, with the upcoming heat of summer, I can expect few or no eggs until fall. They are looking more and more like dinner, every time I walk out to that yard.

 

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