I’d like to think that this is because Christmas is coming, but I know better. It seems like everyone has worked out their differences and are concentrating on staying warm through the cold winter months.
Sam, who was injured by a raccoon a few months ago and then banned from the pen by the other males, is back. He was pulverized by the males whenever I placed him back in the pen, so I had to rescue him and bring him into the garage. More often than not, his friend and brother, Seb, another white, long-feathered Sebastopol goose, came with him. But now the beatings have ended and both hang out together.
Finny has his mini-flock of Blackberry and Plum Blossom, who are both nearly as big as he is. Finny’s brother, Shamus, also joins with Finny, Plum Blossom and Blackberry, but he also keeps company with the other geese, who are all females. I believe he has his eye on a mate for spring.
I think Finny is getting tired of parenting the goslings. He has returned to me, at least some of the time, to play with my hair, let me pat him, and feed him from my hand. He remembers, I think, that first year when I was his flock. Finny also waddles up the back stoop steps and into the garage, looks me straight in the eye, and grapples with a memory. He realizes there is something special about me. He is just so sweet. I want to hug him, but he won’t let me do that any longer.
Blackberry, who also has some gray feathers among the white ones, has been a juvenile delinquent, chasing any goose — male or female — whenever they get too close. He moves his long, beautiful neck into the attack position and races toward his unlucky target. That, too, has changed as winter progresses. He and his all-white sister, Plum Blossom, will be a year old in May.
Meanwhile, across from the goose pen, Lulu and her daughter, Lily, white Muscovy ducks, are getting along better. When they arrived, Lulu had pecked Lily pretty badly, but she has healed and now they seem to have found common ground. And they know when to go into their house to get out of the cold. I’m not so sure about all of my fluffy, gorgeous geese.
During one exceptionally frigid and windy night, I was really concerned about my geese, particularly Finny, since this is his first winter in the pen and not in the warmer garage. I used two bales of hay to insulate their coop and to prepare a winter home for them. I give them water several times a day because it keeps freezing. They also get cracked corn and layer pellets, and occasionally, fresh lettuce, celery, cabbage or other greens. They also like stale bread.
When I went out to check on them that night, all nine were curled up into puff balls, outside the coop. The wind was gusting ferociously, and I was afraid they might freeze. They had tucked their beaks into their back feathers, and their feet were pulled into the soft, white down of their bellies. I still wondered whether I’d have a flock of goosicles in the morning, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Although I’d prepared a warmer coop, I couldn’t make them enter it.
But they were all fine when I went out to feed, water and pet them in the morning. I know goose down is among the warmest of materials, but I really didn’t think it would protect them from such cold.
They aren’t scared of the hay in the coop. Oftentimes I find some of them sitting inside on a sunny day, so, I guess they were practicing the age-old protective measures their species has developed over the eons.
During the severe white of winter, sometimes I can’t see them in the snow. Most are white, with just Finny, Susie-Q and Blackberry showing some color. Sometimes I don’t count geese, but instead look for all the bright orange beaks. They are beautiful.
In just over three months, the mating game will begin. I’m in hopes that this year, with Finny turning 2 in May, he’ll discover one of the “girls” and make little Finnys.
Since it is Christmas season, I can visualize all those goose statues with bright red bows tied around their necks. I wish my flock would let me tie red ribbons around theirs, but that’s only in a dream — they’d be far too insulted.
Merry Christmas from the flock and from me.
Eileen M. Adams may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org