We have got goslings. Or they got us?!?
We are of course still observing and finding our way, but we also got to walk at the same time. So we found some geese and, therefore, might as well write up a little permaculture goslings intro. They were seven days old when we picked them up from a bird-egg-brooding-whisperer-type-person. Ideally we would have found eggs straight from a super-goose-friendly farmer somewhere, but you got to start somehow.
Found the guy on a free ad website. Turns out to be quite the character – birds everywhere in all stages of life in the garden sheds around his house in suburbia – and he is regularly consulted by various breeders and keepers of traditional, landrace friends with feathers. Some sort of special touch — including daily trips outside the brooder, into the cold, naked environment, mimicking the moment when mother would be foraging — resulting in a very high success rate.
So it came to pass that he had eggs from geese from a man in his 80s, who allegedly used to be one of the top lay/practical experts in the country on Danish Landrace Geese. Used to have five lines of ancient goose, now just two, and does sadly, but good for him, not want to be visited. How I wish..!
These birds of a feather are domesticated, presumably, from the wild greylag goose (Latin: Anser anser) that is relatively common and breeds across the parallels encompassing the British Isles, Scandinavia, parts of eastern Europe and Siberia. They have been companions in Danish gardens for at least a thousand years, probably much longer. Eminently good at munching grass and clean-up missions in grain fields after harvest, the housebound goose reminds us of dedication’s utility: there is much to be aid for keeping at it, working hard, collectively, being on guard as a hive mind and getting the job done.
There is in fact as much to be said about that as there is to be said about lounging it large and lying about. Anyway. Goslings.
Why do we want to live with geese? A friend had said when we began moving on to the land and making plans that “…Whatever you do, just don’t get geese…”, recalling childhood traumas of stern, protective birds. Well, they are good for kitchen gardens, many people say and tradition establishes, because they are ferocious grazers that do not kill your other plants. We shall see about all that, but it is worth a go. And geese are cool, aren’t they?
This is our first gosling mission, so we are flying over unknown territory, living and learning by doing. First step was to create housing.
“…2×2 metres for these five, when they get bigger…”, the whisperer said on the phone. Another fact learned in advance:
“…They make a lot of mess, they sit in, walk in their food, and their water, they shit everywhere…”, matter-of-factly and with the calm of a goose lover, told me the previous guardian of the little corner of the planet we call our own.
Reflecting on that, looking at our options and resources at hand we discarded the idea of putting the five new co-housing members in what we call the “chicken barn”. It really needs a thorough cleaning. Real thorough, after some degree of neglect in the time before we moved in. It will also be restructured and rebuild for our purposes. More on that later. We needed a clean, clear, open and big-ish space for our first flight.
There is an old winter garden, home to a vine, that has been used for food, wine, beer-tasting evenings, talks, workshops and so on. We removed a huge ivy that had overgrown the north-end of the wooden/glass structure, rendering the south side of the house – they are approx. 2 metres apart those buildings – rather shaded and damp. It had crept beneath the roof tiles and damaged the gutter/drain pipe system. (It had to go, more on that later.)
We decided moving the goslings into the winter garden in a dedicated build, since it was a clean slate and stored a lot of heat, reducing the cost of having heating lamps going. Goslings need a bit of warmth in the absence of their mother. Around 28-32 degrees Celsius for the first week, depending on who you ask, and slowly decreasing until they are able to keep themselves warm.
Terence McKenna speaking about psychedelic and shamans said something that apply to many farmers, too, which is why there are as many systems of bringing up goslings as there are experimentalists bringing up goslings. Living knowledge systems that are embedded in particular landscapes and performed by particular people will exhibit their own contours in the repetition and adaptation of all patterns that came before. When engaging in this manner, you effectively stepp into the long lineages of learning through living with and around animals, plants, lakes, shores, hills, rocks, rovers and the rest of the complex web of life that sustains us all:
“…This is why they are so politically subversive. A psychedelic person is not willing to be a good citizen or a good anything that is defined by somebody else. I mean, a shaman is a true anarchist, a truly free soul—a real shaman. I mean, there are many… there’s always the ideal, and like every other profession, accommodations are made. But that’s the ideal: to be truly in the moment, truly connected to the felt presence of experience…”.
We used a pallet concept, where four “full size” pallets constitute the flooring, flanked by three others as walls (we had just seven at our disposal, so be it) and a half – this held together by ratchet straps that have accumulated over the years, when living in vans, moving about and what not. The open sides are closed with two different pieces and kinds of chicken wire/fencing material that had been removed from elsewhere (more on fence removing and reclaiming of land later).
In the end we made the initial space rather small, so there is less to clean and so that the goslings get into the opening of spaces and horizons as time goes by. Geese like open lands and good views of predators, so let’s aid their neurological development and imagination in that direction, goose step by goose step,:
Here they are. Cute little beings, but terrified without their mother or the first person that they were with for seven days.
Now they have to be fed. More on that later, though here’s a collection their food experiment, which so far includes traces of Himalayan salt for minerals and cleanliness; turmeric to keep water and bodies happy, boosting the system; panela (rapadura; dehydrated sugar cane juice from artisanal producers in Colombia, but that’s another story, it’s just that we have a sack of it used for water kefir and kombucha) — the panela also for minerals and quick, easy energy (as alternative to the industrial super food they lived on for seven days before we got them). Much to try and learn, much to find out about.
Time to finish this off now, then I will go into details about their food in another post.