Saturday 29 December 2012

(Wild) Goose Chase

Talk about innocents abroad. There we were Christmas Eve chatting to the Vendor, Anna L, about this and that when she said "What you should do... what we used to do when I was so high (she indicated a 5-year-old's height with her hand) was to keep a few geese, one for Christmas Day, one for New Years and the rest for selling or giving away. As is our way we fell to discussing this after Anna had gone and agreed that it might be a fun idea and (as is also our way) dived into the books, especially our 'bible', the Haynes Smallholding Manual by Liz Shankland. Her chapter on geese starts off by describing geese in general and indicates that Chinese (variety) geese can be aggressive and 'boisterous' but then, in the section on Choosing Breeds, starts with the variety 'Pilgrim'. Geese come in 3 groups - the 'light', the 'medium' and the big heavyweights like saggy-bellied Toulouse and Embden. Pilgrim are in the light category, which suits us and, according to Liz S, "if Chinese geese are the rogues of the species, Pilgrims are the angels, much prized for their gentle temperament etc". At no point does Liz S say that they are rare, almost unheard of in Ireland, Show pure-breds and that they cost an arm and a leg. 

Our next move, then, was to start searching the internet for local suppliers and breeders. Maybe warning bells should have started to ring when there were none. My poultry-forum website started to suggest breeders and suppliers in the UK (East Anglia, Frome in Somerset etc) and bird couriers - guys who make a living ferrying poultry and waterfowl between the two countries. I ended up on emails and the phone to a few of these people and it started to look like we'd chosen a particularly expensive hobby here and an especially expensive variety of goose. These birds, it was being suggested, might be up to £100 a pop and we wanted a gander and maybe three geese. Further, the couriering from the east of England to the West of Ireland might be €60 per "crate" of 2 birds, so we were suddenly looking at £500+ just to get the birds here. There were, we were told, other varieties of light geese which might be cheaper, such as Pomeranian, Roman and Steinbacher, but none of these sounded like they'd be "cheap" as such.

It won't surprise you to know we have now retreated from this position and put Pilgrim geese back into 'if we win the Lottery' status (gonna be tricky as we don't actually do the Lottery) and we will be proceeding, more than likely, with some common or garden white domestic farm geese which we will buy young in the Late Spring when goslings start to be available. We Hope.

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