Monday 28 January 2013

Persil Whiteness

Another Atlantic storm blasts through lashing the rain against the front of our house and trying to shred the poly-tunnel cloche. I may need to try a Mark II with proper poly-tunnel plastic sheet. There seem to be two options on weather in County Roscommon in January, if it's cold then it's dry, but if it's warm then it is wet. Ne'er the twain, as they say. The 08:00 first dog walk, just round the 'estate' is accomplished in my big Hi-Viz coat and Barbour hat over the dressing gown and everybody is very pleased to be led back indoors for breakfast. I was going to be building rabbit runs today and hoping to work outside but today I envy my former work colleagues going to work in warm dry offices in their warm dry cars. Yes. EVEN though they have to travel on the M25.

Our three geese, when we brought them home from just south of Roscommon town a week ago were in a bit of a sorry, muddy state. Geese are naturally fairly clean animals who, if given access to plenty of clean water, spend a lot of time cleaning, splashing and preening, attending to the condition of their feathers like any other bird. Ours were muddy because, as far as we could tell, they had had no access to water which is wrong and a very bad welfare practice.

It looked to us as if the previous owner was a busy sheep farmer and the geese were just a hobby his son was allowed to play with leading up to Christmas. His farmyard was crammed full of lambing pens and the geese seemed to be allowed one small wedge-shaped pen in the corner of a big barn at night, and a dirty strip of muddy grass between buildings, if they were lucky, during the day. We could see no pond or water of any kind so we were not surprised that they were muddy.

We were determined to correct this as soon as we could so had built a ramp up to the enamel bath in the orchard, but they did not seem to be able to work this out or climb the ramp. I knocked them up very quickly this 'bund' made with chunks of underfloor thermal panels and a sheet of plastic. They had been trying to wash in the shallow puddles and the tree-planting holes in the orchard. They adopted my bund immediately and have great fun each morning splashing about in it. Unfortunately they also enjoyed pecking at the foam and have made a bit of a mess. I hope they haven't swallowed much!

Then it rained and rained and quickly filled up all our puddles and filled the diggings of the part-complete pond, so we were able to shepherd the geese out onto the grass there for even more water and splashing. You can see from these pictures that they have now cleaned themselves up, necks, backs, bellies and bums. Persil white, they are now and both of us agree that they also look 'bigger' so probably we are seeing 'fluffier' with the feathers laying more naturally and light against one another where they are no longer smeared down with mud.

Obviously that 'bund' is a pure quick-fix temporary solution which will be replaced with a better one, maybe made out of the roof beams from our old collapsed hay-barn (the gift that keeps on giving!). Some people use the children's old paddling pools. What ever you use, the geese will get themselves clean but at the expense of your water, which they will quickly try to turn into a stagnant, muddy, poo-y wallow and each week (at least) you must bale or tip it all out and refill with clean water. We are hoping to supplement this with our goodly supply of puddles which the geese can use when they are new and clean but will them helpfully drain themselves away and not need baling. The big pond, when it's dug, we are hoping will be big enough that they will not be able to yuck it ALL up. The thought of trying to bale and re-fill a 30 foot by 20 foot pond is a bit more than we'd be able to handle.

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