Wednesday 19 June 2013

Fotherington Thomas

Anyone who grew up with the 'Molesworth' series of books (Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle) will be familiar with the character, Basil Fotherington Thomas. The books are a rather anarchic look at boarding school life written as from the point of view of Nigel Molesworth whose spelling is awful and who is a typical ruffty-tuffty school boy always misbehaving in class, doodling on his exercise books and getting into 'whizz' adventures and scrapes. He is also a keen observer of other boys and teachers ('beaks') and one he comments frequently on is a weedy, curly blonde haired cherub called Fotherington Thomas who is keen on music and nature walks and is famously always head-in-the-clouds, dreaming and saying "Hello trees, hello sky".

We have a gosling just like that. Small compared to the 4 remaining big bruisers he seems to be always in a world of his own, dawdling, lagging behind, unaware that the rest of the gang have moved on, then running to catch up. At the moment I shepherd them from goose house to orchard each morning and home again at night. I do this by walking slowly behind them and steering them by moving at a tangent or by spreading a hand sideways. The adults and the 4 bruisers are a bit nervous of this and stay about 4-5 feet in front of me looking over their shoulders and hurrying on their way so that I don't catch them up.

Not Fotherington Thomas. He will be dawdling along behind the group pecking at the occasional particularly attractive grass stem or looking around him till I am so close I have to nudge him with my foot to get him going again or, on one occasion, I bent over at the waist, loomed above him from 2 feet away and said, theatrically loudly, "Um... Hello-oh! Fotherington! Shouldn't you be over there?" At that he suddenly seemed to notice me and the family had moved on a few feet, raised his wings and hurried off to catch them up. We are all amazed that it wasn't him who got caught by Deefer.

You will know that the geese are now confined to the orchard ("for their comfort and safety" as the saying goes!) so we have taken advantage of the natural dents in that field and a spare bit of butyl liner, and created for them another pond, now that they do not have access to the big pond. They may be still looking longingly through the fence at the top of the orchard, at the big pond, but they seem to be very happy in these new quarters and Mentor Anne has 'inspected' us and proclaimed the orchard a very good environment for geese.

Meanwhile, our red algal bloom in the big pond is taking on a personality, story and plot-line all of its own. We had hoped that it would fade as quickly as it arrived but this does not seem to be the case. 2 days ago, in the afternoon it suddenly seemed to be worse, more opaque and 'soupy' than it had been but we were amazed to discover that this was actually because the alga was, for some reason, suddenly concentrated in the top inch or two. See the 2 jars in my picture? The orange soup was surface water. The clear sample was from not far below this, maybe a foot down. When you waved a hand through the top layers, the red water parted like clearing the froth on a clear consommé soup. Bizarre. It has now gone back to how it was before that, with the algae seemingly deeper by way less dense.

Finally, just a quick shot to show you what those shed doors look like on the inside with their horizontal and diagonal 4 x 2 bracing. This particular building is going to be changed around next - we need more space for the growing chicken family and we have been advised that the high perches and vertical morning descents are not ideal and can result in leg injuries. Chickens do not do soft landings. So the open door here will soon be a wider, lower, chicken-space with ladder type perches (a 'ladder' placed at 45 degrees so that chooks can climb up to their perch in small hops and down again). The geese will be swapped with them and take over the current chicken house - they do not perch to sleep - they sleep on the ground. Fun and games to come then with my makeshift carpentry, chicken wire and so on.

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