A Gaggle of Geese and One Lonely Rooster

I’m starting to think that I might have a problem with hoarding.  Not your typical too many shoes, clothes, toys for the kids type stuff (although I suspect I may have tendencies toward this too) but animal hoarding.  Yikes!!  Okay.  It’s really not that bad.  I also have a tendency to be dramatic.  The drama queen in high school?  Yep.  That was me.  Is me…. whatever!  We went on a wee bit of a spree and added 10 (TEN!) new geese to our gaggle of six.  It started out all innocent and actually for a good cause.  But I start to wonder if I can justify everything with my reasoning.  We don’t really need ten more geese.

I’m leaning toward blaming my daughter for this one.  Ever since the county fair and birth of our Toulouse goslings, she has been on this “Saving the Heritage Geese” kick.  I support her all the way.  This girl has set up a website/blog (www.weheartpoultry.wordpress.com) dedicated to saving the geese, passed out flyers, given speeches, made presentations, done an interview with a big magazine (Ducks by Hobby Farms coming out in February), and sent her work in to the local newspaper.  She is passionate about it.  All she wants for her birthday is a Buff Pomeranian Saddleback gosling female that she can name Pumpkin.  Anyway, Todd spotted an ad on Craigslist for heritage geese for sale.  Two days later we were taking a two hour drive to go get them.  Lexie came along, but we didn’t tell her what we were up to.  She thought we were going to pick up duck and chicken feed so she grabbed some of her flyers and joined us for the ride.  She spotted the goose farm right away and off she went!

American Buff, Embden, and Sebastopol geese

New geese on ride home

We put 10 geese in the back of our Ford Expedition.  Todd hung bird netting across the back in case any of the geese had any ideas about trying to escape.  That was a lovely ride home!  Okay, it wasn’t that bad.  A tad smelly but the geese were quiet. They weren’t quite sure what to think.  At all times there was one goose standing watch.           Just in case.

Embden Goose

Embden goose on ride home

  We had to go over a lot of hills and winding roads.  It was cute to hear the pitter patter of goose feet trying to keep their balance in the back!  Occasionally you’d get a single Honk! just to let us know they were still there.

Toulouse, Embden, Sebastopol, African, and American Buff Geese

Toulouse, Embden, Sebastopol, African, and American Buff geese

We released the geese into the pasture and introduced them to the group.  The first thing they did was jump into the baby pool and clean themselves up.  We had one goose that was so excited to have a pool that he didn’t even wait for the water – he saw the other geese splashing around and he copied them – in the dirt!  It was one of those moments when you wish you had a video camera because it was just that funny.  I’m getting the giggles just remembering it!!!  Hhmmm… guess you had to have been there.

Anyway… we now have two Sebastopol geese. A male and female pair that we named Ivan and Olga.  They originate from Russia and are considered rare, which means there are less than 1,000 breeding pairs surviving.  They are still fairly young (born this past summer) and are suffering from angel wing.  Angel wing is pretty common in Sebastopol geese from what I have read.  It can result from a diet that is too high in protein when the feathers are developing and coming in.  It will pull or twist the wings out from their natural placement under the weight of the new feathers.  I’m sure it’s more involved than how I stated it, but you get the gist of the problem.  It looks gnarly.  Hopefully we can correct it so that it doesn’t cause any lasting problems.

Todd and Olga the Sebastopol goose

Todd and Olga the Sebastopol goose

We tried to wrap the wings in the correct position.  We watched videos and read articles to figure out the best way to wrap them.  This is Todd with Olga.  Her wings are worse than Ivan’s.  She wasn’t too happy with the tape on her wings and it wasn’t long before they were out of place again.  So, back to the drawing board (or internet).  We also changed their diet to a lower protein diet with pastures for foraging.

Amy and Ivan the Sebastopol gander

Amy and Ivan the Sebastopol gander

Hopefully they will grow up to be the beautiful birds that they should be.  Adults look like they are wearing feather skirts or suits.  Long twisty feathers that flutter in the breeze.  Like they belong in a Russian ballet doing a swan dance.  I’m holding Ivan – he is actually the smaller of the two.  We vent-sexed them to be sure.  Not quite as gross as it sounds, but unpleasant none the less.  See, the vent is used for multiple purposes – including where they dispose of the unused food products.  Yep.  It’s also the poop hole.  (shudder)

We have 3 American Buff geese (one male and two females).  American Buffs are on the critically endangered list with less than 500 breeding pairs.

Lexie and the American Buff goose

Lexie and the American Buff goose

And a Buff/Sebastopol mix.  Lexie is excited because she wanted a Buff Sebastopol.  Not sure how that works, but I’ll leave the breeding up to her.  She knows her goose business.

American Buff Sebastopol mix goose

American Buff Sebastopol mix goose

And… four Embden geese.  Two of them are younger.  We are pretty sure that we have 3 females and one male.

Embden Geese

Embden Geese

Embden geese are a large heavy breed and they lay the largest eggs of all the goose breeds.

So, now we have a gaggle of 16 heritage breed geese.  Hope you’re happy Lexie!  Such good parents, supporting their daughter’s endeavors! *cough*  Next we need to get Nik his turkeys.  He wants to raise rare breed heritage turkeys.  You should see his heirloom seed collection.  We’ve got totally awesome kids.

Gaggle of Toulouse, Embden, American Buff, Sebastopol, and African Geese

Gaggle of Geese

Just try to come into our poultry yard!  We have a gargantuan gaggle of gawking geese (check out my use of alliteration – my kids will be impressed) that will run after you in the hopes that you will feed them some scratch!!

We met a lady this weekend who came to buy our chicken plucker that informed us about Lucy.  She is our mix breed goose that we rescued and we weren’t really sure what she was a mix of.  Now we know!  She is a Touloose/African mix.  We got her at the same time that we got Desi and we thought they might be a breeding pair since they always stuck close to each other.  Hence, Lucy and Desi (we were on an I love Lucy kick).  Now we also know that Desi is a she.  Yep, checked the vent.  So maybe they are sisters.  All I know is Desi is the peacemaker of the group.  She tries to get everybody to get along.  She’ll be the first to go up and introduce herself and will stand in the middle of the group making peace.  She is really true to the breed – very talkative and calm.  Maybe we’ll have to add a few Africans to our group for her.  See – I’m telling you, I’ve got that hoarder thing going on!

Desi and Lucy the African Geese

Desi, the African goose with Lucy, the African Toulouse mix goose

In other surprising news – it turns out our sweet little Peep is a rooster!!!  Say it isn’t so!  Sigh.  Oh well.  We were going to thin down our flock for the winter and start with a fresh flock of Australorps next year.  We hand-raised Peep so he’s part of the family now.  Unless he attacks the geese again!  He doesn’t seem to like Ivan.  Not sure if it’s because Ivan is a smaller male or new to the group (that stupid pecking order business) or what.  But he put up his hackles and scared the doo-doo out of us when we were trying to wrap angel wings!  He sat right next to Todd and turned into that little dinosaur on Jurassic Park (the one that spits in your face before eating you!).  Creepy chicken!  We try to keep him on his toes and let him know that we are the bosses of the barnyard.  He is a confused chicken.  He was raised mainly by Lexie and sleeps with the ducks.  He tried mating Lexie’s hand and seems to think he’s a duck.  Last chicken in at night, first one out, playing in mud puddles and in the rain.  I might have to get him in to chicken counseling.  Hopefully sooner or later he’ll show an interest in the hens and not hands!

Barred Rock and Black Copper Maran mix rooster

Peep, our Barred Rock and Black Copper Maran mix rooster

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This Really Stinks.

Our last Momma Muscovy final hatched her eggs a couple of days ago during the storms.  She is now officially known as “Super Mom” because she hatched 23 ducklings.  I think our official count is now standing at 13 adult Pekins, 3 baby Pekins, a Khaki Campbell drake, 4 adult Toulouse geese, 2 goslings, an African goose, a Toulouse-Canadian(?) goose mix, 7 adult Muscovy ducks, 40 Muscovy ducklings, 22 laying hens, 1 rooster, and Lexie’s 8 Pekin ducklings for 4-H.  That’s around 103 feathered friends in our pasture.  Let’s not forget the 20 broiler chicks that will be arriving in 2 days.  Some of the chicks will be sold, some will be bred, and some will be dinner this winter.  This is for the birds. I won’t even talk about the zoo inside!

We spent all day Saturday weeding the garden.  I’m not even posting a picture.  I’m mortified.  We just got it all planted three weeks ago and soo many weeds.  Nik reminds me that they are edible weeds so technically we’re still growing food.  Whatever.  I want my cucumbers and lettuce and snap peas.  Needless to say, we were all sore and tired by the end of the day.  Sad thing is, we didn’t even get it finished.  OOooh, the shame!

We’ve got a couple of houseguests this week.  Jaxson and Jaylee, my parent’s slightly spoiled dogs (with slightly being used very loosely).  dogs Poor little puppies won’t eat unless you hand feed them.  And they totally hog the bed.   Poor Todd is moving to the guest room to try and get some sleep tonight!  Only 6 more days.  Love you dearly guys but these pups are a handful!!!    And do you want to know how to get your parents to call and chat with you on a daily basis – take their dogs!!! *wink*  We’re dog watching while they’re on a family vacation with my aunt at a beach house in Florida.  Wait a minute.  Family vacation.  Aren’t we family??!  Well.  I see where I rank.  It’s totally beside the point that I would have had to graciously decline the invitation due to all the commotion around here.  Never even crossed their minds to ask us.  This really stinks.  Just kidding guys!  Take it all lightly, we love both you and your dogs!  I’m feeling all that love from the deep south!  But really, does Jaylee have to sleep on my desk while I do my work?  Tsk, tsk.

puppy

Father’s Day here was rainy, cloudy, and cool.  Not at all like that sunshine and 90 degree temps in Florida.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself!  We had a “lazy day” and I roasted a chicken with rice stuffing for dinner.  I tried out a new recipe from Simply Living Healthy for some carrot cake bars.  I loved this recipe because it’s one of the few baked goods I can actually enjoy these days.  No corn, soy, canola, eggs, white flour, gluten, sugar… yep, I know, sad, isn’t it?  We all thought it tasted good and I’ll definitely be making it again.

Carrot Cake Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 eggs (I used flax meal)
  • 2 Tbsp butter (I used coconut oil), melted
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cups chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and 8×8 baking pan for bars or a 9×13 pan for cake and line with parchment paper.

In large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, and maple syrup.

carrot cake bars batter

Stir wet ingredients into the dry.

carrot cake bars batter

Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  You can top with frosting and sprinkle on more nuts, but they were yummy as is.  I forgot to take a picture of the end result.  In too much of a hurry to eat a slice!  One of these days I’ll figure out how to make these recipes printable for you.  That would be nice, huh?!

Oh, to  put the cherry on top of our stinky weekend, I’d like for you to meet Daisy.  Our little stinker!  She just finished eating some yogurt so she has a little white nose.

baby skunk

At least Todd got to kick back and catch a little nap on Father’s Day.

napping  baby skunk

Awww.  So cute!  I think I’m liking these stinky days!

A Baby Boom in the Laundry Room

Whew!!  The baby boom seems to be over… for now.  Our first Muscovy hatched 4 babies (all were Muscovy, one will be white), Jade (another Muscovy) hatched 13 little ones.  Muscovy duck and ducklings The same day, Jill hatched her eggs.  We saw 2 goslings.  Jill left the nest with only one of them.  The remaining little baby couldn’t use its legs.  We brought it into the house with a heat lamp and Lexie spent the evening trying to get the baby stronger and eating.  Around midnight Lexie woke me up and told me the gosling wasn’t raising its head anymore.  We had to make the decision to let it die.  It was a hard night for Lexie, she had grown attached to that little baby.  But she pulled up her “big girl britches” and did what had to be done.   

Two days later, another Muscovy mom hatched a Pekin baby on her own and then Nik and I helped hatch another 2 Pekin babies for her.  She had the Pekin eggs (which hatch in 28 days) and Muscovy eggs (which hatch in 35 days) in her nest in the Pekin duck box.  We didn’t see a problem with the set-up until the eggs started hatching.  We have 14 ducks that spend their nights in the Pekin box.  Momma started hatching her eggs in there and we started to get worried that the babies would get trampled.  Not to mention that Momma wouldn’t let any of the Pekins in to lay eggs so getting them all in there at night would be a problem.  So early in the evening we moved Momma and her 3 babies into a stall in the barn.  We took as much of her original nest as we could along with her remaining eggs.  No such luck.  She refused to sit on her nest.  At that point we were just relieved that she looked after her new babies.  We lost quite a few babies, but definitely learned from our mistake.  This same day we finally cleaned out Jill’s nest.  We found another egg that hadn’t hatched yet.  We hatched that baby and put it in with Momma Muscovy’s newly hatched little ones.  So now we have 2 goslings!  It’s just that one thinks it’s a duck.  Should be interesting to see how that works out!

Other than that, Lexie got her 8 Pekin ducklings for 4-H, we have yet another Muscovy that will be hatching soon, Nik gets his 20 broiler chicks next week, the garden needs some serious weeding, but on a good note we finally got all the mulching of the flower beds done!

I took about 20 minutes and squeezed in some time to make a batch of laundry detergent.  I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for about a year now. LOVE it.  No more stinky armpit smelling shirts.  I hated it when you put on a shirt and it smelled like flowers, then when you started working and heating up, it ranked like last nights garlic dinner.  It was a smell that went away temporarily but always came back with lousy timing.  No more yellow stains under the pits either.  Our clothes are clean.  Not just perfumed and enhanced with optical brighteners.  Really clean.  I started with a very basic simple recipe that I found online and enhanced it after doing some research.  I read a great article from one of my favorite blogs, Little House in the Suburbs that goes into the science behind the makings of laundry detergent.  And tadaa!  Cheap, very effective laundry detergent!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 cups Arm & Hammer washing soda
  • 2 bars finely grated bar soap
  • 1/4 cup Rid-X Septic System treatment
  • 1/2 cup OxyClean
  • 1 1/2 tsp tea tree essential oil

Homemade laundry detergent supplies

 

I know, who puts septic system treatment into their laundry?  Well, I do.  It’s made with 100% B.Subtilis protein enzyme cleaner that removes protein stains from your laundry.  Safe for your water systems and safe on your clothes.  What’s really cool is that while you are washing your laundry, you’re also treating your septic system!  Bonus use!  Like I said, I’ve been using this over a year with no problems. 

I use a little bit of salt since we have hard (very hard) water.  The salt helps to set and revive colors that the hard water leaves dingy.  It also helps to stop the “bleeding” of colors. 

grated bar soap for homemade laundry detergent

I used a 3-pack of Jergens Pure & Natural soap from the dollar store.  I try to look for the soap with the least harmful ingredients.  One of these days I’ll make my own to use!  Let the bars sit and “dry out” for a day or two.  It makes it much easier to grate.

The tea tree oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antiseptic, and antimicrobial.  And it has a clean fresh scent.

Powdered homemade laundry detergent

Mix all the ingredients up and whirl it for a minute in a food processor until you get a fine powdery concoction.

I like to make a triple batch at a time.  That way I have enough to last me at least 6 months.  And that’s doing 6 or 7 loads of laundry a week!

I broke down the cost of making my own compared to a cheap store bought box.  Homemade detergent costs about 10 cents per ounce and the store bought costs 11 cents per ounce.  I only use 1 1/2 Tbsp per load.  So I can get much more out of my box than a store bought box.  Not to mention that I know exactly what chemicals and ingredients are in my detergent.  I’m bombarded with enough chemicals in my food, I don’t want to wear them too.

No fabric softener.  I fill my fabric softener compartment with white vinegar.  The real stuff, not the petroleum-based vinegar.  As long as your vinegar states that it is made from grain, you’re okay.  I used to buy the cheap stuff until I found out that it was made from petroleum.  I’ve got enough gas, thank you very much, don’t fill my food up with it too.  The vinegar rinses any residue off of your clothes and leaves them naturally soft with no static cling.  You won’t have that flowery smell though.  But you could add lavender essential oil to the vinegar.  Don’t worry about smelling like vinegar either.  The vinegar odor dissipates as it dries.  No smelling like vinegar-dipped garlic and onions here!!!

Sorry Nik!  Not trying to discriminate against garlic and onions!  Personally I love them both.  I just don’t want to smell like them!

Let me know if you’ve tried your own homemade laundry detergent or if you have any suggestions for improving mine.

It’s a good thing ducks don’t wear diapers.

Yippee!!!  The babies started hatching this morning!  Yesterday we were discussing whether we needed to scoot Momma off her nest to check on the eggs and wahlah! the babies were peaking out of the nest this morning!  I was getting worried that Momma was sitting on a nest of duds and would starve herself to death waiting for them to hatch.  Such a dedicated duck.  Not sure if I would starve myself for my kids, luckily I haven’t had that challenge presented to me.  “Oh yeah, that Mom ate the last chocolate bar while her kids starved to death.” Okay, okay… I’m just kidding!  I would break that chocolate bar into 3 pieces and share!  Of course I would have the biggest piece. 

I have learned to ALWAYS mark the calendar when a duck (or goose for that matter) starts incubating her eggs.  You think that you’ll remember (how could you forget your first nesting duck?) but trust me, you won’t.  So, I wrote down the babies birth date first thing. I won’t make that mistake again!Muscovy ducklings We have three babies that we know of.  We’re waiting to see if more happen to hatch.  Momma has 2 Muscovy babies and a Pekin baby.  When she started getting all broody we decided to put a couple of Pekin eggs in with her to try and hatch some of our other ducks.  At that time we didn’t have any broody Pekins.  Now we have a couple of broody hens and another Muscovy that has planted herself in the Pekin box with a big clutch of eggs.  I’ll try not to worry about having too many babies.  Out of a clutch of 18, only 3 have hatched so far.  Remind me that I said that after the next 4 nests start hatching.  Oh, and let’s not forget the goose nest.  She started incubating her eggs shortly after Momma Muscovy did.  Any day now on her babies!

Our farm has expanded on the chicken front too.  We just added 9 hens and a rooster.  Now we have a total of 23 chickens.    They’re an eclectiRooster and Chickensc bunch – some Barred Rocks, Golden Comets, New Hampshire Reds, Easter Eggers, and Rhode Island Reds.  They are all good girls (and a boy) and produce a lot of eggs for us.  Nothing says you are living on a farm like having a rooster crow at 5:30 in the morning!  His name is Buck.  Not at all mean and nasty like I’ve heard that some roosters (boys) can be.  So far so good!  Aaawww!  Maybe we’ll have little baby chickens!  Great.  You’ll read about the crazy lady in the newspaper that has been hoarding duck, goose, and chicken babies.  That’ll be me. Hand-feeding Chickens Can’t help it – they’re too cute!  And I never knew how friendly chickens can be.   Just ask Lexie.  She goes out to the pasture and all the chickens come running like they are so happy to see her!  Of course she spends all her free time sitting out there and hand feeding them. I think that I’ll start bribing the animals too.  I’ll exert my pecking order.  Yep.  Just kidding!  Our poultry is friendly and happy to see all of us. 

                                                                                                                                                     Except for when you take eggs out of their nests.  Muscovy Duck Poor Molly about had a fit when I emptied her nest.  Sorry girl, but we already have too many Muscovy nests for now!  Maybe we’ll let her hatch a brood later this year.  See?  Here I go again with the babies!  I seem to forget that the kids both have babies coming for 4H next month!

Speaking of babies… our wild Canadian goose babies are all hatched and growing up just fine.  Like we really had anything to do with it!  There are 2 families and 6 babies.  They spend their time in the pond and sometimes wander up into the back yard.  They go right up to the pasture and you have to wonder if they are talking to our geese.Canadian Geese and Babies  

Like “Hey, come on out and play with us!”

“Sorry, I can’t today.  I’m on baby watch.”

And so am I.  Let the baby circus begin.

Geese, Gardening, & Guacamole

There is nothing like springtime on a farm.  The grass is green, birds are chirping, critters are running around, and everyone is in a pleasant mood.  Everyone but Jack.  He is downright cranky.  Jack is our male Toulouse goose.  And Jill (his partner in crime) has been busy laying eggs and now has a clutch of 12.  Jack is a very good protector of Jill.  He doesn’t let anyone or anything near her.  He seems to really butt heads with Todd and Nik.  He starts hissing, flapping, and nipping.  He gives us girls a little break.  At least he has manners.  I just wish Jill was doing her job.  She has a nice nest going but hasn’t quite gotten the idea to stay on it yet. Toulous Geese grazing in garden She goes in periodically throughout the day to check on it, but prefers to spend her time in the garden eating the grass.  I think I’m going to mark each of the eggs with a crayon so we can see if she is turning them or if they are being left to rot.  Our Canadian Mama goose in the pond is glued to her nest.  I wonder if we can sneak a few of our eggs under her?  Any ideas on making a goose tend to her eggs?

The boys have been busy getting the garden ready.  They fenced in the area where the garden will be (a 100’ by 60’ area!) Building a fence around the garden and we are letting the ducks and chicken and geese go in there to start clearing out the grass and weeds while at the same time they are fertilizing it.  My husband is a genius – it was all his idea.  This way we don’t need any chemicals to get rid of the weeds and it’s less work for us.  The animals love it too – lots of extra greens and bugs.  We dumped a large pile of compost in there and pretty soon we will till it all up.  Nik has been doing research to figure out what plants we are growing this year.  I would be out there tossing seeds here and there but he is diligent.  Only three types of beans because otherwise they will cross and we won’t be able to save the seeds for future years.  You have to watch planting different squashes together.  Whew!  Who knew gardening was so complicated?!  Needless to say, we will be able to enjoy lots of veggies this summer, preserve what we can for the winter, and save the seeds for next year.

I wish we could grow avocados around here.  We have been going crazy on avocado dip lately.  So simple to make and soooo good for you!  My favorite way to eat it is with black bean chips.  Yummy!  Avocados are fairly inexpensive and a little bit goes a long way.easy avocado dipEasy Avocado Dip

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp shredded lime peel
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In food processor, combine all ingredients and process until desired consistency.  Serve as is or chill.  Store avocado pits in the dip to help prevent browning.

The avocado dip is also good as a mini-pizza snack.  I spread the dip on a rice cake and top with sliced olives.  Tadaa!  A quick, healthy, and easy snack that even kids will eat.