The Sky Is Falling / Un Primer Cuento de la Granja

[ENGLISH BELOW] Me agrada anunciar que Senda Silvestre finalmente es una granja: cuenta con 5 ocas, a pesar de un trauma muy triste por la entrada de un zorro y la perdida de 2 de los 4 pioneros (una de ellos dejada allí muerta con el oviducto completamente lleno). Después de llorar unos días su muerte y pasar un buen período de autocastigo por mi propia negligencia, pues, me compré 3 oquitas que me llegaron con apenas 7 o 10 días y ya llevo 5 semanas criándolos. La hembra adulta (Goosey Loosey) que se emparejó con el macho (los 2 sobrevivientes), aunque no ha incubado bien sus huevos, pasadas un par de semanas, parece que ahora se cree la madre de los 3 chiquitos y ¡regularmente tengo que extender mis brazos/alas y graznarle aún más fuertemente que me hace a mí para recordarle que son míos!! Mientras tanto el macho, Banda Blanca, de mi amigo J.L., los maltrata sin piedad cada vez que se acercan a ‘su’ agua o a ‘su’ comida. O sea, lo normal de establecer la jerarquía. He aprendido como manejar todas las personalidades y parece que va bien. Disfruto del desarrollo de las chiquitas (mirad las fotos abajo), que ahora me dejan cogerlas y acariciarlas. Como el relato de hoy se basa en un cuento de niños que relaciono con una vivencia de mi infancia, está escrito principalmente en inglés.

I grew up on a 100-acre (40-hectare) farm, in a back-to-the-country sort of way; my parents were city folks who bought a former dairy farm and spent a year or more fixing it up. We moved in when I was eight. There was a full barn with stalls for several dozen cows (though the animals had been sold off), an enormous grain silo that must have been a hundred feet tall, two enormous hay lofts, ample room for tractors and assorted farm implements, and even a root cellar where apples kept for most of the winter. Despite this and despite me being absolutely crazy for horses, the only animals we ever had were an ever-rotating population of farm cats and two lambs, one of which died within two weeks and the other at three years (probably of sheer loneliness). Though the sheep was meant for eating, my mother in a moment of uncharacteristic leniency which to this day I cannot explain, in the end did not send it to slaughter. Of course I had fallen in love with it as an adorable baby (it was an orphan that I fed with a bottle for several weeks). I plotted how I would run away from home the minute the slaughterhouse entered the picture; perhaps my soft-hearted though typically unassertive father intervened. It was my job to feed that sheep every day and change its bedding every week. I was heart-broken when it died and dug its grave myself, in the middle of the apple orchard. I must have been 12 or 13.

My mother, granddaughter of German immigrants, was a hard woman. She never allowed me any other animals, although a parent could have hardly asked for a most responsible child. In the end, I did extra farm chores, for and with my father, to earn a bit of pocket change to pay for riding lessons, biking miles away to a horse stable. We lived quite high on a hill and I remember clearly the long schlepp pushing the bike uphill back home. The few years, years back, that I lived in Germany, were in part to puzzle out my mother’s approach to life: a sort of joyless soul-crushing fulfillment of one’s duty. From what I saw, she may have out-German’ed the Germans. I remember her mother as being the same, immigrants to the New World being a special breed…

But I digress from the current story, which is about my determination, after five years, to finally make Senda Silvestre a farm, which to me means animals. I did my homework and settled on geese as the perfect mixture of tough, lawn-mowing, fertilizing machines (the fact that I’m sick to death of weed-wacking surely influenced my decision). I got two mature females first, who rewarded me with an egg each, laid during the trip to the farm and another on the first day there. I got them installed in a loosely-fenced inner pen and named the more vocal one Henny Penny. The quieter, submissive one of course, was Goosey Loosey. All went well and three days later, J.L. brought me two excess males from his gaggle of 13 that was suffering a masculinity overload. One of the males had a white stripe across his breast and became Banda Blanca. The other, probably the runt of the litter, had a white spot on his breast, Cor Blanc (Corazón Blanco).

Well Banda Blanca spent the entire afternoon calling out to his missing compañeros and repeatedly escaping from the pen. Eventually I gave up and went home, as I had sadly not thought to bring my camping gear. The next day, all that remained of Cor Blanc were a few tell-tale feathers at a weak spot where the fence joins the neighbor’s, and Henny Penny lay dead in the pen. The two-meter fence that represented the better part of three years on the chain gang was, in my mind, fox-proof. It certainly is wild boar- and dog-proof. But the fox had found a way in through a spot in the fence that said neighbor had compromised, without my knowledge.

My friend M. came out before sunset and helped me get the survivors to safe temporary quarters and also engaged in an unexpected dissection – it turns out she had never before seen a poultry oviduct full of eggs (of course not, no one slaughters a goose who is laying). We skinned Henny Penny together and she enjoyed the biology lesson and I took poor Henny home to freeze for another day. In the meantime, I felt like an assassin, of course, for my negligence, and, despite having seen my share of death in the countryside, spent most of the next couple of days in tears.

In April, I bought 3 new goslings (about 2 weeks old i nthe photo above) to replace the two adults lost. They are unsexed (it’s very difficult to sex poultry, particularly when they’re young) so only time will tell. In the meantime, Goosey Loosey and Banda Blanca formed a tight pair (it must have been the trauma that brought them together) and are slowly accepting the goslings into a gaggle. Here’s Goosey Loosey, who apparently believes she’s become a mother, guarding the babies at about 3 to 4 weeks old.There are goose droppings building up fast and the many small plants we’ve introduced this year to flesh out a number of permaculture guilds are looking extremely happy. It’s also been quite a rainy year and relatively cool, not as extreme as last year, so really perfect planting conditions.

S. has built a palatial pen to protect the animals overnight or on the off day someone can’t make it out to the farm to let them out to graze. Banda Blanca has discovered a weed that is one of my least favorites (Avena fatua, aka wild oats, if I’m not mistaken) and is teaching the rest of the gaggle to strip it of its nasty long, pointed stickers that lodge into socks, boots and laces and are terrible to remove. And we have eaten goose eggs (double the size of chicken eggs) and goose meat (incredibly rich, practically like red meat), in my case for the first time in my life. Cuca the neighbor’s dog is fascinated by the goslings and whines every time she isn’t allowed to play with them. Goosey Loosey has pecked her very hard at least three times that I’ve seen, so Cuca is learning to keep her distance, with certain lapses where she works herself into a bit of a frenzy and has to be put outside the fence. She seems to have an irrestible urge to lick them, which they (and I) don’t understand at all… Despite this, I think the goslings will grow up accepting her. Let’s see if the future doesn’t bring super-cute photos of adolescent goslings and a mangy yellow lab zonked out side-by-side in the summer heat.