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Posts Tagged ‘working together’

My gander, protective of his pretty goose:

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Ever since I was a child, I have wanted geese. We never had any growing up, and some acquaintances who did keep a flock assured us they were nasty, biting beasts.

Well, I wasn’t deterred.

So when some friends announced that they wished to thin their gaggle, Will and I jumped at the chance. We drove 45 minutes to our friends’ house to pick up the birds, intending to get some ducks, as well.

These friends own a greenhouse business, and the husband has 10 green thumbs and loves landscaping…so their yard is spectacular.  A haven in this windswept, drought-thirsty land. So, wandering amongst the trees, well-groomed grass, fish ponds, and brick walks were several varieties of poultry. Guineas clucked and hunted – a different variety from our one poor lonely hen, but grayish and mostly similar to ours. Then, I spied an angelic white guinea, seeming so sweet in the middle of the flock. Most of the geese were in their pen, as were most of the chickens. The ducks, on the other hand, scampered, waddling, throughout the stand of wild plum bushes just south of the yard.

The kids marveled at the fish ponds while I talked to our friends about which birds to catch and about how we should do it.

After some comical pursuit, we (the six of us) caught four Chinese geese…and no ducks. We gave up on the ducks. There were a handful of white ones, and one that looked a bit like a mallard drake. I never spent time around domestic ducks, and these were far more agile than I supposed they would be.

We made the geese, gentle and wondering, sit down in cardboard boxes and tucked the flaps together, setting them in the shade as we finished catching the last ones. That made a trunkful.

Our friends offered to try to catch the ducks at night, while they were sleepy, and also proposed trying to get a guinea out of a tree at night, where they roost. We told them we only need one male, but if they wanted to get rid of more, we like guineas.

The geese were mostly cooperative, and none of them tried to seriously nip. At any rate, I’d had far worse bites from my favorite tom turkey of two years ago. One was determined, however, not to sit in his box, but made five efforts to escape. He pushed apart the flaps of the box, kicked open the bottom (it wasn’t a very sturdy box), and required the attention of one of the children to guard him. But at last we were on our way.

We were concerned about the trunk being hot, but couldn’t think of a better way to transport the birds, without borrowing a truck and a cage.

When we got home, I proposed that I would open one box at a time, pick the goose up until it was calm and had got its bearings, then set it down to begin exploring the yard. None of us wanted to shut the geese up in the chicken house, as they had already been shut up and had a frightful journey…but we weren’t sure they would stick around. We decided to risk it, supposing we could catch them toward sundown, if necessary.

Three disoriented, sleepy-looking geese came out of their boxes, and began looking for their former friends. The fourth was dead in the box, its neck cocked at an interesting angle, bill jammed in a corner. It had not been dead above five minutes, I judged, and had probably experienced heart-failure, as its eyes were wide open, suggesting a very sudden death – not heat stroke or despair or a variety of other things.

With a heavy heart, I decided to do an “autopsy”, just to be sure there were no organ abnormalities, broken bones, or anything suspicious. Everything checked out fine. On the “up” side, we did get to experience what domestic goose meat tastes like. It is much better than wild goose flesh. I found this a relief, after hearing all my life of Victorian families devouring goose meat at Christmas. (Really? Ugh! I had decided, and hadn’t really cared that Will no longer hunts much. Beyond sandwiches with nothing but mayonnaise, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do with wild goose meat. And I’ve been through a stack of suggestions.)

The three remaining geese wandered widely throughout the afternoon, and toward dark, we herded them a half-mile back to the house. But we could not catch them. At last, they dashed through a break in the tree row and headed out into the pasture. I gave up, tired, sore, and feeling they would probably make it alright until daylight if they’d just have the sense to bed down and stay put. But we decided to take one more peek at them before leaving them alone. Lo and behold, only one goose had materialized on the other side of the trees. The poor gander marched and honked and peered about for his gaggle-mates until we went to the house, praying for their survival.

What had happened to the other two geese? We’re not sure. Perhaps they bedded down in the trees and called it quits for the night, when the third one wasn’t looking. At any rate, the next morning, there were no honks resounding throughout the yard. Will went for a drive, to see if he could locate the gaggle…if there was one. He found two geese, over a mile away, in a field. He came back for the kids and I, and, together, we set out to catch them. Billy had rigged a leg-catcher out of stiff wire, and I felt this was our best chance…though I used it cautiously, you can be sure, realizing that these geese had nothing like the strength and resilience of Canada geese. Well, we had a stroke of luck. One of the pair jumped right in the open car door, as we chased her up the ditch.  Will dove in and grabbed her. We boxed her and put her in the trunk. Between the four of us, we corralled the gander, and boxed him, too.

They are currently lodging in the lamb’s kennel, where they can see out, but not wander, and where we can make friends before they get set free again.

We still have not heard from the third goose. But we still are hoping. Will alerted all the road-grader drivers to please keep on the lookout for our roaming pet goose. 🙂

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Billy went out to do chores on a bitter cold morning, and found an unkown bird lying in the emtpy granary, aka, empty chicken house. He said it looked like a falcon. I assumed he was mistaken, until I looked at it myself. It turned out to be a female kestrel – a kind of small falcon.

She had apparently been knocked silly in the windstorm, and just managed to get under shelter. She seemed to have a concussion, but no outward injuries, except a scratch on one leg.

The first thing I discovered is that she had a wonderfully strong reflex, gripping my finger and piercing my glove with her talons. Once she got a hold, it was difficult to get her to let go.

The next thing I discovered is that it is hard to find a good photo background for a bird of her colors. Finally settled on the rocking chair, which forced her to stand out some:

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We put her in a cage for recovery, and fed her bits of meat, with free-choice water:

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By the next morning, she was not only up and about, but feisty and alert. She seemed fully recovered. We were afraid she would injure herself against the bars of the cage, as she was clawing, climbing, and threat-posing too busily to want to visit or even eat. So as soon as the weather warmed up a bit, mid-morning, we released her.

Saying goodbyes…

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(Tyger is a bead-crowned princess in camouflage coveralls.)

The kestrel flew too quickly to get a parting photo. But Will said he has seen a few of these kestrels around, so perhaps she will nest nearby this year.

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Down in the bleak December bay

The ghostly vessel stands away;

Her spars and halyards white with ice,

Under the dark December skies.

A hundred souls, in company,

Have left the vessel pensively, –

Have reached the frosty desert there,

And touched it with the knees of prayer.

And now the day begins to dip,

The night begins to lower

Over the bay, and over the ship

Mayflower.

Neither the desert nor the sea

Imposes rites: their prayers are free;

Danger and toil the wild imposes,

And thorns must grow before the roses.

And who are these? – and what distress

The savage-acred wilderness

On mother, maid, and child may bring,

Beseems them for a fearful thing;

For nw the day begins to dip,

The night begins to lower

Over the bay, and over the ship

Mayflower.

But Carver leads (in heart and health

A hero of the commonwealth)

The axes that the camp requires,

To build and lodge, and heap the fires.

And Standish from his warlike store

Arrays his men along the shore,

Distributes weapons resonant,

And dons his harness militant;

For now the day begins to dip,

The night begins to lower

Over the bay, and over the ship

Mayflower;

And Rose, his wife, unlocks a chest –

She sees a Book, in vellum dressed,

She drops a tear, and kisses the tome,

Thinking of England and of home:

Might they – the Pilgrims, there and then

Ordained to do the work of men –

Have seen, in visions of the air,

While pillowed on the breast of prayer

(When now the day began to dip,

The night began to lower

Over the bay, and over the ship

Mayflower),

The Canaan of their wilderness

A boundless empire of sucess;

And seen the years of future nights

Jewelled with myriad household lights;

And seen the noney fill the hive;

And seen a thousand ships arrive;

And heard the wheels of travel go;

It would have cheered a thought of woe,

When now the day began to dip,

The night began to lower

Over the bay, and over the ship

Mayflower.

– Erastus Wolcott Ellsworth, from The Family Book of Best Loved Poems, ed. by David L. George

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“Here it is beautiful in autumn!” said the little girl, and the atmosphere seemed twice as high and blue, while the wood shone with crimson, green, and gold. The hounds were running off, flocks of wild fowl flew screaming over the barrows, while the bramble bushes twined round the old stones. The dark-blue sea was covered with white-sailed ships, and in the barns sat old women, girls, and children picking hops into a large tub; the young ones sang songs, and the old people told fairy tales about goblins and sorcerers. It could not be more pleasant anywhere.

-from “The Elder-Tree Mother,” by Hans Christian Anderson

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My mother raised 100 Cornish Rock chickens for meat this summer. They took 9 weeks to mature, and roughly an hour per bird to care for, total.

Those of us who had any hand in their care – or demise [wink] – were all extremely glad when they were in the freezers.

We also were alive with the comeraderie that comes each year with this task. Not all the chickens are for my family, of course, and so the friends who ordered them come help butcher. This makes for an extremely busy, but fun time.

The children were excellent help. They scrubbed the butcher room down beforehand…

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They kept our friend Ray busy, and gave him one of the best days he’s had in years (he’s quite ill, most of the time).

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They also learned a great deal about anatomy. Can you pick out the chicken’s gizzard, gall bladder, heart, kidneys, and liver?

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And of course, the craw, aka crop…

Billy even helped catch the chickens for killing, and then took them in his little wheel barrow down to the Butcher Room.

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I’m not anxious for next year…butchering is lots of work…but I am thankful for the opportunity to have done it this year.

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Recently my sister and I had an opportunity to work again on the picture wall.

We didn’t make much progress, as we only had a few hours, but we are happy with what we did.

We found no great, earth-shaking stories hidden in the wall this time…but who knows about next?

Anyway, the wall kept us busy telling us how it wanted painted, and, I swear, I learned more technique from that wall in an hour than I have from all my previous experience combined.

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My sister and I looked at the wall, where the paint went on like blood, and knew it represented Roland’s spilt blood.

We stared at the place where his body lay in the sand beneath the house. “Skunk bones,” I said. “Remember? That’s what Dad told us.”

“Yes, but we knew they were bigger than that,” confirmed Christa. “Remember ‘George’?”

It was true.  Had we not seen “George”, Dad’s “pet” skunk skull, many times? He lived in the cavity beside the furnace, behind a large bulletin board, and proved an easy comparison.

So all those times we speculated about what lived in that crawlspace access, and wondered about the bones, had we seen what was left of Roland, instead?

We didn’t know for sure, but we washed up our brushes, laid aside our paints, and made ready to do battle with the spirits, who were having their way.

We spoke to those in the wall: “I know who you are. You, Anger, Bitterness, Envy, Rage, come out of the wall, leave this house, leave this property, and go where Christ commands you to go. Do not return to this place again.”

Christa’s voice, especially, was full of authority, and Marla, still standing beside us, stilled when she heard it. She spoke to the spirits as no one else had dared to, and they listened! Some cowering, some shrieking their disappointment and rage, they left. What Holy Jesus did with them, we did not inquire.

Still, we were far from finished. We felt the marks of another spirit still within the wall. We saw it crouched, guarding its right to be there, at the feet of Roland.

We went after it, to the library, where the entrance to the closet was. There it greeted us. No longer crouching, it rose to its full seven-foot height, and glared with red eyes.

Marla moved in close to Roland, behind the spirit, curious and terrified to see what we would do.

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As the demon and I stared at one another, I wondered – Was this the type of spirit that regularly frightened small children, hiding out in closets, glaring?

He was Orc-like, and hideous. I could picture him running through the passages in the mountains of Middle Earth, cracking a whip and singing.

To be continued…

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