Friday, August 30, 2013


My son is off school today and the apples set really hard this year—to the point where enormous branches are breaking off because they can’t hold up all the fruit—so we went out and picked five gallons of apples, mostly windfalls, to make cider. His processing job was to hack the apples to pieces, which he enjoyed very much. My job was to run the pieces through the food processor to turn them into tiny bits. Then we fed them into my grandmother’s old juice press, taking turns twisting the augur and holding the press on the countertop (it’s inclined to torque around and fly off). And shazam: in ninety minutes we had turned five gallons of fruit into exactly one gallon of cider. And this cider is delicious. The flavor is not over-sweet—it is tart and sweet both, and just right.

The Administration advises you to leave your geese alone. You can spend as much time as you want, devising ways to improve their lot, and five minutes later they will discover that badly patched place where you overlapped the ends of two short pieces of fence, and they will all start coming and going that way in perfect happiness.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Brain Trust

Here are some of the new fowl from this spring, cleaning their feathers. As it turned out, we did not have trios (one male, two female) of Pomeranian geese and Toulouses, plus five Blue Swedish ducks. We had one Pomeranian (female), three Toulouses (all female) and seven ducks (not all female), two of whom could be charitably construed as having once had Swedish relatives. Being unable to sex a goose—I can forgive this. Having white fence-climbing ducks running loose in your blue breeding flock, and packers who are not perfectly clear on the whole species difference between ducks and geese? No wonder the feed store changes the subject every time I go in and try to pay for the order.

And as it turns out, “silly” is a charitable epithet for a goose. We have had some enjoyable times lately watching the ducks and geese turn their baby pool into a mud bog is under five minutes using only their personal filth. It is mightily entertaining. But I would not ask them in for chess. I would not even ask them in for tic tac toe. The turkey has turned out to be not only more courageous than the rest, but an intellectual powerhouse by comparison. The other day I found her up in the Hen Room, quietly cleaning out the hanging feeder while her friends on the ground slugged it out with the sheep for the last three layer pellets.

Now I am pitting my wits against the Brain Trust’s lack of them to devise a way to get the birds through the summer pasture fence, somewhat torn up and no longer electrified, without getting the biggest Toulouse fouled helplessly and hopelessly in the wires. I do not especially want them outside the fence, but the apples are falling and no one can really expect them to keep away from that fabulous bounty, even if it is right at the edge of the fox-filled woods. So instead of keeping them in, I want to devise a way for them to pass in and out easily without letting the sheep go free. That way if the flock is pursued by predators, they can flee to the barnyard, where the sheep will rise in curiosity, thereby frightening off the goose-eating varmint by dint of the sheer size and hellishness of a Jacob. My first Goose Gate design involves a broken chair under the fenceline to create a little fence-tent passageway. I’ll let you know how it works.