Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Country Lore (John Deere Bob says...)

The Whooper Swans on Lough Feigh are very noisy at the moment, especially on these cold, crisp, windless, moonlit nights. We can hear them clearly honking and chuntering to one another when we go outside in the evenings to check on things and 'patrol' the dogs (those are mainly about comfort stops for the pooches than checking the boundaries, but if it deters our bushy tailed red-furred chum then so much the better). Local Country Lore has it (this translates more accurately as "John Deere Bob tells us that...") that the geese being noisy is a bad sign, a sure indicator of cold weather and frost to come. I suspect that rather, we are hearing the geese more because the air is already cold, crisp and still, and the sound travels better.

2 plus 1 makes three?
Our goose issue continues, with George having paired off firmly with one of the females (Goocie) to the exclusion of the other (Goosey) whom he now drives away, all be it fairly gently and with no killer instinct. This is not too much of a problem during the day, while they are out in the orchard, but he was having a bit of a go too, inside the goose house at night, where she had less chance of escape. As a result she was reluctant to be shepherded 'home' and showed every sign of not wanting to go in. She slept at least one night in the 'foyer' bit just inside the door while George and his chosen one claimed the 'bedroom' part.

We decided we needed to separate them so that she would not get hurt while we sorted out what to do. This proved dead easy; I re-opened the door and she exploded out, as if she couldn't get out of George's way quickly enough, and between us, Liz and I gently shepherded her round the building to the yard-side door and back into the goose house but outside the wire mesh. She now sleeps there among the feed bins and hay bales, safe and sound. I have put a bucket of water in there for her. She trots back to the orchard each morning to rejoin her sister and His Lordship.

William the Conqueror, still our alpha male.
Meanwhile I have posed a question on my poultry discussion website to ask any goose-keepers what they advise. Is this 'One-Woman Man' thing likely to stick, or will George relent as we come into spring time and Goosey joins Goocie in the egg-laying game? Naturally, there were as many suggestions and opinions as there were replies, but they made for some interesting reading. At one end we had 'do nothing, keep them together like you have' and he will accept her as the hormones start to flow. At the other I had an interesting suggestion - to separate George from the chosen one and make him stay with the 'reject' goose till he learned to love her. In between was even a suggestion to keep the gander with each goose on alternate days. Anyway, we decided to play the waiting game, separating the lonely girl at night and reuniting everyone in the morning, hoping that as spring progresses and George comes into sexual maturity (he's only a youngster and has never actually met any other geese till he arrived here, so he'll only now be learning some inter-goose social skills) all will be well.

Our chickens, on the other hand, have all now settled down into a lovely, stable rhythm and pace of life. We have 9 hens from the various sources (the original 'Lovely Girls', the '8-Ball' and the Hubbards) and these are marshaled around , protected and 'seen to' by our two remaining roosters, William the Conqueror and 'Mr Buff', our big Buff Orpington from the 8-Ball group, hatched at Easter. These two boys get on really well with William having a slight edge on the 'alpha male' scale. They all sleep together, with the Guinea fowl on the perches in the main chicken house except that is, for the Marans Girls (Bubble and Squawk) who persist in going to bed in the smaller 'temporary' house, but that mainly because we have not pressed the point and forced them to move in with the rest. I probably should.

In other news, Liz dabbled her toes back into education and training, going on a 'Train the Trainers' course just before Christmas, mainly as a way of consolidating her existing, but UK-based, skills into a form recognised here in the Republic where they even look a bit sideways at her Open University degree. Well, this being Liz, she can do this training stuff with her eyes closed, so the certificate we received this morning carries the very satisfying grade "Distinction". Go Lizzie!

And last but not least some more of our tongue in cheek long-distance therapy by voodoo-chain-saw. One of Liz's contacts had been suffering from the unpleasant ailment, cystitis, and felt she'd quite like the word included on our 'death row' of words painted on logs so that they could be symbolically rent asunder. All done now and the pictures are posted on the image sharing website. That nice piece of (re)coppiced ash you can see me cutting through is neatly stacked in the log store. The contact is now cured but I suspect that the genuine antibiotics she was prescribed may have had more effect on that than our messing 500 miles away, but we hope we brought a smile to her face.

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