It has been almost one year since our little farm’s personality took on four—now five—new members.
Well over a year ago, my wife, Dawn, talked for several months about wanting some geese. Geese! In my head, I questioned everything that she said: I will have to build more coops, chase more animals, run from more animals, and cleanup more poop. (I heard that goose poop a lot; they have not let me down). With my gray-haired wisdoms, I just listened quietly and mumbled, “Hmmm.” Her persuasion efforts continued despite my inability to use words. Dawn talked about how beautiful they were and how their feathers just cascade about their bodies. “Hmmm.”
Then, one weekend, Dawn and our daughter, Caitlynn, drove to Colville to spend some time with her parents. Upon her return, she messaged me about a gift that she had for me. I didn’t go with them as I was just finally finishing the new coop and gigantic chicken run to offer luxury for our 25 hens.
When the ladies walked through the door with their smiles leading the way, they offered me a box of little noises. Yep, four baby Sebastopol goslings. Yep, they were very cute. Yep, they were filled with entertainment for hours, days, weeks, and now months.
The little yellow goslings are almost 1-year-old now and are covered with those white, cascading feathers. As they grew, the kids and I would rush home to take them out in the yard to cuddle them as they mowed the grass while racing each other to newly opened dandelions in the yard—weed control.
The four quickly made themselves at home around the property. In time, the chicken run became their home, and two baby pools became their playground. Our small, spring-fed pond in the back corner of the property became their place to pretend they were part of an episode of The Wild Kingdom.
Dawn wanted a deeper, larger swimming hole for her exotic feathered friends, so one day, I fired up the 1950s Ford 800 and dug out a space for the new swimming pond amidst the cover of five maple trees. A year earlier, Dawn had me drive out to farm-country and buy a used, circular water trough for planting beans stocks. That dream evolved into a goose swimming hole. Yep, it offered more entertainment.
By winter, we moved the geese into the old 9’ X 10’ chicken run and coop, which needs a facelift this Spring. With heat lamps and strawbales for wind breaks, three geese quickly found themselves at home.
You may have noticed that I said three geese and not four. Farm life offers many joys, but it can also bring days of sadness.
One October afternoon, I noticed that Little Pepper had what seemed to be a limp and wanted to sit on her butt, which geese don't do. It started that morning when I let the geese out; they all took off running, squawking with their wings set to sail like normal—but not Little Pepper. She slowly wobbled up the hill. Our hearts sank with concern.
Dawn and I cornered her to bring her inside. As she was standing there, she leaned back again, but this time, she fell all the way to her back. We could tell that this scared her.
With a sad heart, I grabbed some old towels and held her in my arms for about an hour—I play a tough guy in my day job, but inside I cry when one of our animals gets hurt or worse. I gave Pepper a body massage releasing a cloud of down feathers. She got to the point where she could finally relax enough to fall asleep in my arms.
For the past four months, Little Pepper has been living in our house. She has been to several doctors, tried a variety of vitamins, had X-rays, traveled to different states, universities, and had full evaluations. All are stumped! What we do know for sure is that she cannot walk.
One doctor felt that Pepper was unable to feel her feet, but there was no sign of trauma. We think that she might have run off one of our 4-foot-high stone walls that make some of our flowerbeds. Sebastopol Geese don’t fly.
From appointment to appointment, one thing is for sure, every place Little Pepper goes everyone falls in love. She is a beautiful bird with such a delicate personality. They also see how attached Pepper is to my wife. Yep, Dawn has made her bed in our living room on foam pads to sleep next to Little Pepper as Pepper needs 24/7 attention. She must be close to her people. She even lays her head and long, soft neck across Dawn's body during the night.
During the day, the kids and I take turns laying and massaging Pepper. Maybe . . . she is faking it, I often think. I have made three separate devices—goose caboose, goose hammock, and goose swing—for all Little Pepper’s comfort.
We never planned for this part of our goose story. Though many have asked or even said that we should put her down, On the Kiki & Co. Family Farm, all life is equal to the next life. I will share in future blogs all that has taken place with Pepper over four-plus-months.
New Life on the Farm
Early in January, while grading students’ work for hours at the table, being an English teacher, I had a frequent visitor: Prim. Prim is our other female goose—Pepper’s sister. I had put her in the garage the day before because living with two boys is too much for her. Heck, they’re too much for me. Without Pepper in the mix outside, the boys, Ollie and Webster, are more aggressive. Both boys were rough with Prim, leaving obvious signs of missing feathers and a sagging wing.
Feeling bad for Prim alone in the garage, we bring her in the house to walk around the kitchen with us. As I graded papers, Prim wanted to sit in my lap, which I obliged. She was so loving.
After she took a good nap, I went to check her back into her hotel in the garage.
Entering her makeshift, cardboard hotel covered with straw, I noticed that she made a cozy little nest. As I neared the nest, I saw something in the straw. Her first egg! I felt like a proud papa! One egg quickly became two eggs. Then, before we knew it, we had seven eggs.
For the next 34 days, we forced Prim to get off her next to use the bathroom and walk. She was 100% focused on her eggs. She ate little, losing weight bit by bit with each passing day. Every few days, like any proud papa, I would flashlight the eggs in the dark to see which had life. Of the seven, only two offered dark shadows that soon stopped all light from passing through.
Day 34, I received a phone call while selecting produce in the grocery store: “You are a proud papa!” Dawn called to tell me that when she went out to see Prim, she heard little chirping noises. Looking closer, she noticed a little pin hole in one of the eggs. I rushed home called my buddies and handed out cigars. I am a papa. Okay, maybe I didn’t do the latter.
Within a couple days, we had two of the cutest little goslings. The first born was strong and eager to explore. The second born seemed a bit unsure and wobbly. We were concerned about the second born; however, over the next week, they both became full explorers of the world. On the first sunny day, we took them out for a quick walk with mom.
Then, it happened again. . . . The farm was hit by sadness.
As I lay in bed a couple Saturdays back, I heard my daughter cry out in a way you never want to hear a child cry out: “Dad! Hurry! Come quick! Dad! Hurry!” I can barely write these words without my eyes filling with emotion two weeks later. The first born somehow got up into the 10” high pot of water that I had for Prim to drink from and drowned. I could see visual marks where Prim tried to save her baby. It broke me! I felt so much ownership in this loss of our first born. I could not look at Prim for hours in guilt.
Finally, hours later, I went out into the straw hotel and laid with her and the other baby and cuddled them as I asked for forgiveness. Did I mention that all on our farm all are treated equal? ❤️
Spring is Near
With Spring not far off, we look forward to the new adventures with our five geese and looming clutches of eggs that Prim will offer. Little Pepper is still in the house enjoying the attention of all and the boys await the return of Prim and the new little one outside.
I will be remodeling the old chicken/goose run and fortifying the grounds to protect our Wild Kingdom. With grass being 90% of their normal diet of geese, the five are equally awaiting the snow to go away and the grass to green up.
Yes, Dawn was right: these geese are beautiful. What we have learned, however, is that they are beautiful inside and out. As the babies arrive, we will be selling them to locals so that their little or big farms can experience the sentient personality and loyal love brought by these rare, exotic, feathered friends.
Your life will never be the same.