A Gaggle of Geese

In the fall, wild geese migrate south. But domestic geese are bred for meat, so they are almost too heavy to lift off the ground and therefore can’t migrate. They do, however, still have similar instincts as wild geese, as far as gorging themselves before winter.

This year we had eight geese on the farm and, once they were big enough, we allowed them to roam free around the farm. At first they stayed close to the barn.

But as summer progressed, they gradually closed the gap between their living quarters and ours. By the time the last market came along, they had found the lettuce in one of our gardens.

During the last few markets, they were in the background watching and waiting. They seemed quite interested in what I was doing … always seeming to follow me around the garden, but never bothering me.

This last week, I harvested carrots and rutabagas from our large garden and put them into a wheelbarrow. Then I went to harvest lettuce (romaine that the geese hadn’t damaged) in the small garden, leaving the wheelbarrow close by so I could put more into it.

The next thing I know, the geese were surrounding the wheelbarrow and pulling at something inside. After chasing them away two or three times, I finally covered everything with my coat. They moved on to some grass nearby, but didn’t leave.

While washing the vegetables I noticed that it was only the leaves from the rutabagas that were damaged by the geese. So I decided to cut these off. The discarded leaves went into a bucket that would later go to the pigs.

In the process of doing this, a goose came as close as it dared, grabbed a leaf and then ran off to eat it. This was followed by more geese edging up and “stealing” a leaf each.

The way they acted was definitely silly. But boy did they like the rutabaga leaves. When I got home from the market that day, the bucket of leaves was empty. The geese had feasted on them.

Normally geese are grazers, just like sheep and cattle. But as the fall comes on, they start to eat grains as well as plants they otherwise hadn’t touched.

My lettuce was like that. They had been wandering in and around it for weeks before actually tasting it. But when they did, they nibbled it down almost overnight. They did prefer butterhead lettuce over the romaine (any lettuce that had bolted was avoided).

In their search for grains, the geese were especially partial to the grain in the pigs’ trough. They would completely ignore grain spilled on the ground, outside the pig pen, and would stick their long necks through the fence to help themselves to what the pigs had.

Al thought they were taking a chance, as pigs are omnivores and will eat meat given the chance. The pigs never did, though, so I guess their gamble paid off.

We will keep four of the geese over the winter, hoping both genders present (we did check, but aren’t completely sure we guessed right). Goose eggs are supposed to be quite tasty. And it would be nice, come spring, to have some goslings hatched on the farm.

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