Geese: my ‘epic fail’ and a happy ending!

I am a neophyte when it comes to chickens and geese.  I have only been at raising poultry for three years, and while I can feel pretty successful at raising chickens (just keep those dogs at bay thank you!) well, I’ve got to admit I certainly stink at goose husbandry.  What is more regrettable is the fact that I love the geese so much more than I do the chickens…

Shhhh!   Now don’t you dare breathe a word of this to them, because it would certainly hurt their feelings!

Without going into heartbreaking detail I have lost, one way and another, all of Polly’s baby goslings.  Yup, I lost the last one.  I had just come to naming little Helena and POOF!  She was out of the picture.  However as heartbreaking it was for me you have to know that it was a crushing blow to Polly!  She spent her whole day calling and looking for that little gosling girl to no avail and that was killing me…

I have learned that geese need companionship.  They will die without it.  I had to act fast for both our sakes!  I quickly contacted my favorite goose lady Connie of Sassafras Valley Farm, and asked if she had a spare goose/gosling I could buy.  She wrote back saying that she did!  Awesome!  Then I found that she lived all the way up in Missouri.  That surely was not going to work (You may recall the distress that driving that far caused me when I went up to visit Jayme.).  This meant I had to look local and what a surprise!  Seems raising geese is on the rise here in Alabama!

And so it is I found Kim in Moulton  via Craig’s List, and she had three Embden goslings for sale!  Moulton was only an hour away.  Hmm… Moulton vs. Missouri?  No contest there!  😉  Though I am certain I would have very much enjoyed visiting with Connie on her goose farm, and who knows?  I may have the opportunity someday.

And so it is that I drove to Moulton and OH-MY-GOODNESS!  These goslings are positively of Baby Huey fame and proportions, and although I was told they were just over a month old, they are already half the size of Polly!

We caught the triplets, I put them into the dog crate, Kim field dressed the scratches on my arm, I paid her, and I was off.  Unfortunately for me I had the dog crate in the back of the cab and not in the truck’s bed.    With the temperatures in the mid to high nineties the truck bed was simply not an option, so crate and all, into the cab they went.   Hopping into the cab I suddenly realized, that by the time I got home, I would certainly be suffering from the deleterious effects of the off gassing from that much goose poop!  I rolled down the windows and turned the air conditioner down to arctic blast!

Do I spoil my critters?

Now I wondered what would happen when I got home… Would Polly reject the three Hueys?  Would there be honking and pinching all around?  I, being a world class worry wart, began to worry in earnest.

Turns out I needn’t have.  Bob helped me to set the crate down and Polly came running over to see what was going on.  Right away she was interested in the goslings, and they, though hot and frightened from the ride home, were definitely interested in her too.  I opened the crate door.  No one came out.  Then Polly stuck her head inside and started a low soothing honking, almost like a whisper, and slowly the Hueys came out of the crate.

Polly was amazing!  She began honking loudly and walked over to get a drink.  They followed!  Later at dusk I heard her honking in earnest and, worried (did I mention I am a worrier?)  I ran to the window to see what was happening…

Surprisingly, she was honking ‘command’ and the three Hueys were walking in file right behind her into the barn and to bed!

Crisis averted!

And to think I was worried.

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OK, this one begs for a caption!  Feeling witty?  Post one in the comments section and then we’ll take a vote.  Now don’t be shy!

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Photo Friday: garden spider surprise

This week in the garden I found a Wolf Spider with her egg sack in tow…

The white round thing is the egg sack, but even so, she herself (legs included) was the size of a silver dollar.  The bright silver bits in the lower right are the tines on my pitchfork.  I left them in for size comparison.

Can’t see her?  Oh, OK!

For a really close up view you can click the image and get as close as you like…

How’s that?

Personally, with the exception of Brown Recluse, I don’t mind spiders in my garden.  They perform a beneficial service for me by ridding my plants of bad insects.  She is obviously well fed living here in the compost pile.  From the looks of her egg case, her babies will be hatching soon!  Which means more hungry spiders to eat all those nasty flying Palmetto bugs hiding in there!

I have been partial to Wolf spiders since I was seven.  Back then I was brave enough to touch that gigantic fluffy looking spider in the barn…  Whereupon all her ‘fuzzy’ sprouted legs and went scurrying off her back!  Lady Wolfspider will carry all her babies on her back for a while after hatching thus making herself look even more enormous as well as affording her progeny a bit of extra protection!

Look! It’s a scam.

My husband was on a Sun Chip jag last fall.  He was also irritated at how noisy the new “Compostable” bag was.

He didn’t believe it would work and said:  “Just throw it away, it’s a scam,”

Well, I am big on composting and I’ll do anything I can to keep as much as possible of the landfill.  I currently put all kitchen waste, smallish cotton scraps and thread from my sewing projects, any paper that comes into the house or via the mail so long as it is not shiny and/or brightly colored.  So when I saw the bag I thought OK I will try it!

Imagine my surprise today when digging out well-rotted compost for my new garden patch to discover this at the bottom of the heap!

The brag on the bag?  “Louder because it’s compostable.”

The bag also points out that it should be fully composted by week 13…

However …

My lovely assistant Polly would like to point out…

That the date on the bag is October 19 of 2010!  That’s 8 months, or roughly 32 weeks – give or take.

I think that makes it official.

As a biodegradable product it is  a “FAIL”

Erratic Bee Keeping: what not to do

I have a little Top Bar bee hive (TBH) out back.  It has been there for just over a year now.  I have not been into it since mid summer for two reasons.   Partly because it has a window on the side for viewing and, this is the important part, I only had a hood to wear and not a full bee suit.  Too many bee stings made me gun-shy.

That has all changed.  If you own bees you have to get into the hive and check them out during the warmer weather.   So, I spent the money and got the bee suit.

Amazing!  It gave me the confidence to do what was needed.

Happy beekeeper wearing the season’s latest fashion in Beekeeping attire!

I learned how to get my smoker to smoke too!

I’m not certain, but I almost thought I could hear them coughing… or maybe what I was hearing was the sound of thousands of angry screams?  (I hate using the smoker.)

Once inside however, I found that although my bees were very healthy they were over crowded with honey.  Further, the little bur comb that I had found earlier last summer and removed… well, they had built it back.  But worse than that, they had replicated it onto about 8 bars.  This essentially attached and locked them into place!!!

ECH!

Notice the cut at the top?  This is where the comb was built with a spur connector over to the next bar.  This was replicated for eight bars through the center of the hive.  It was a mess to say the least.

Not happy.

Trying to loosen the bars worked, but I had to cut into the comb to separate it.  This weakened its structure at the top of the mass and the weight caused a couple of them to break off and fall into the hive.  One of the broken combs was a perfect pattern brood comb and I could not locate the queen.  (Can you feel me panicking?)

After I cleaned out the carnage and finished separating the rest of the connected bars, and I inserted some new bars into the Top Bar Hive placing them in between the remaining brood comb.  It is my hope that the bees will appreciate the new real estate and begin building new comb that the queen will find lovely for egg laying… This assumes of course that she is still there after all the bungling on my part.

What I did with the broken brood comb

Trying to salvage the mess I had made, I then took the broken comb and tied it into a foundationless Langstroth frame with cotton kitchen twine.  Next, I took two of the removed bars of honey, taken from the TBH, and inserted them into the Lang hive with the brood comb.  The Lang hive now has brood and honey with room to grow…

IF the bees will make a queen in time!  But here is the problem.  I was never able to locate the queen!  So, I have either one or none of my hives with a queen inside.  If they are quick, and make some queen cells they may be OK.  Or not.  Only time will tell.

Amazingly, the very next day the bees I moved to the Lang hive were defending the entrance fiercely from the bees from the TBH!  This I did not expect!  Seeing that, I turned the reducer to allow the smallest entrance in hopes that in their weakened state, it would help them to more easily defend their new home.  I have observed no further fighting over the past two days.

So now I wait.  It seems a bit of all or nothing at this point.

Observation:

I noticed as I worked, that even with the problems I’d had, I was much calmer.  Towards the end I observed that this seemed to keep the bees happier than using the smoke… The slower and calmer I became the slower and calmer the bees became.  Next time I try the new approach, working without the smoker, and it goes without saying I will be wearing my suit.

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If you keep bees then please feel free to comment on what I did, or give your opinions about what went wrong.   I could use some good coaching for the future.  Thanks!