Tales of Blackmoor Gate 3.
19 May 2012
What to do About Lionel.
It is more or less the end of the breeding season. Cuddly a goose is still sitting, but she does this every year and in another couple of weeks, I will take away and bin her eggs. I must of course then nurse her through her depression, a few days. This year she has been more diligent, so I don’t really know what has gone wrong, I know only some of the eggs are hers, but some are Dolly’s who has hardly sat at all, preferring to wander around with Hissing Sid, the proud and stroppy Father not to be. Correction: after I wrote the first paragraph we checked Cuddly’s eggs, from eleven we found nine duds, two good ones, as I write Hissing Sid and Dolly are escorting the firstborn around the field showing it off to Alpaca’s, Goats, Sheep, Lambs and all other livestock very proud. Cuddly, poor underweight thing is still persevering with the last egg, which has started to hatch. News update: The second egg has now hatched and the three proud parents are parading their two tiny offspring all round the field, mindful of other jealous geese, clumsy sheep and lambs, inquisitive goats, alpacas and Maisy the Jack Russell who delights in hanging on to goose tail feathers. Hissing Sid is sending them all packing. Update to the update (mainly caused by me not getting on with this story), Dolly, seeing the success of Cuddly, has now got her act together and is diligently sitting on another four, perhaps five eggs. I hope to finish this piece before there are further developments. It is The Tyranny of The Blank Page that is the problem, that’s another way of saying I’m lazy.
Our garden over the early spring has been the ICU for all of the new arrivals and if I were a Victorian London butcher I would describe our lawn as ‘kcuffed’. I hope we can rescue this poo covered ‘mud patch’. The area that used to be the lawn will now be seeded and caged. It will take at least six weeks. Although the spring influx of new arrivals is finished there are the ‘full time’ occupants who would delight in chewing up any new grass.
One of the ‘permanent’ garden residents is Lionel (see Tales of Blackmoor Gate 1). Lionel is a gander that is becoming more male every day. Last year, about Easter time my wife filled her incubator with duck and goose eggs, it’s an obsessive need on her part. Any way most of these embryonic orphans had the sense to commit suicide whilst still in their shells, but one goose and six ducks hatched, stayed in a cage in the house whilst they were cute. They were then banished to a heated outside ark when the indoor stink got too high. After a few more weeks, when they become goose and duck shaped with feathers starting they are allowed out to roam the garden. They have to be too big for the rooks to pick up; being foster parents is full of problems.
This little tribe stayed together in the garden, the lone goose obviously thinking he was just a big duck, but there comes a time when the goose will not go through the same holes as his ‘sibling’ adolescent ducks. As a ‘tribe’ they were put into our adjacent field with all the other livestock. The ducks integrated but our lone goose, struggling to carry on playing the role of giant duck could not keep up and he was left behind to fend for himself. In the field there are two established families of geese, Hissing Sid and his two ladies and another group, without names, 7 of them who inhabit the large field ark. Try as he might our lone ex-duck garden goose could not join a group. The two field groups had entrenched alpha males both of whom sent our poor young goose packing. After a few days he was looking very forlorn, so we brought him into the garden to be company for blind Dave (Davina) who is also a goose and a permanent resident in the garden. Now our small garden is home for two geese, and a bunch of ducks, a number of chickens who cannot survive the cut and thrust of the field. On top of all this one of our pygmy goats gave birth to twins. Add a very wet few weeks and our small patch of lawn becomes a muddy patch that as the winter progresses becomes muddier and muddier. The official garden crew live in the garage part of the kids old Wendy House. There are occasional visitors, Stupid the cockerel will jump over the fence if Starlight the main garden cockerel lets one of his tasty young hens roam on her own too near the fence, but that’s another story. We did not name him Stupid and he does not deserve that name, ‘Opportunistically Cunning’ would be a more accurate name, but he answers to ‘Stupid’. We have tried to make the perimeter livestock proof but all it achieves is that field livestock break-in and either will not or cannot escape, it’s like a one way valve and gradually our field empties and out garden fill up.
Our garden animals tend to qualify for names, so as Davina’s consort we have named the new young male goose ‘Lionel’. Very soon he is in love never leaving Dave’s side. Waiting at twilight to assist me in putting his wife to bed in the old Wendy House, I guide (with a stick) and he escorts. He becomes aggressive and scolds me loudly if I am in a hurry and pick Dave up to carry her to her bedroom.
Now that I have ‘set the scene’ it is time to focus on the main reason for this little tale, Lionel is the star, and as I type, its just started raining, I can hear Lionel honking and complaining about something in the garden. He now rules the roost, he has bullied and bitten into submission my wife, my children (except Madison, she is not afraid of any animal other than Ross the testosterone saturated billy goat), and all other garden occupants. He remains fairly tolerant of me although I have felt his powerful beak squeezing the life out of my expensive French Wellingtons (can you say that, what would the Iron Duke think, and anyway on some level that must almost be an oxymoron). Anyway Lionel has begun to be a problem, my aged Cocker Spaniel ‘Chance’ now often regards the garden as a ‘no-go’ area and stays trapped behind his dog flap, no accidents so far, but! Dougal the younger spaniel still braves confrontations with Lionel, but his yelps are a mixture of pain and fear. Our secret weapon against Lionel is ‘Maisy Muffin’ our tiny Jack Russell bitch, she cannot wait to get out there, run round him and leave a mouthful of tail feathers on the lawn as flightless Lionel rushes off and attempts to impersonate a Howard Hughes prototype, unsuccessfully. So, the scene is set, with the exception of my oldest daughter and myself, all garden users watch out for Lionel. All fuelled by fear except Maisy, who is fuelled by a sense of adventure, mind you if he ever gets hold of her it might be a different story. Amidst all this Lionel gently tries to guide Dave (Davina) to the old paddling pool for reasons that we do not discuss with the children, but Geese are keen on doing it in water. Dave does not know this and tries to give herself a bath throughout Lionel’s increasingly desperate amorous foreplay.
Now Ganders are territorial and possessive. Lionel has concluded that our garden is his territory and he possesses all of the livestock in the garden that acknowledges his position. My children, my dogs and cats, my daughter’s little family of goats do not bow down to Lionel and are therefore adversaries to be actively discouraged.
In conclusion Lionel is an unavoidable built in hazard. ‘Dave’ would be lonely and lost.
It is only when you live in close proximity (note I did not say harmony) with an over sexed gander that you begin to understand how a number of every day expressions came to exist. The German armies paraded and marched ‘The Goose Step’, with a bucket of feed in each hand that style of walking/marching is the only way to stop Lionel getting in close and ‘goosing’ you, although Lionel’s ambitions are to destroy you and not get a cheap thrill.
It is time I put this missive on the Internet, its time span already bridges almost two years and to update it would take more work than to ‘publish and be damned’ and anyway I am anxious to start ‘Tales of Blackmoor Gate 4’ which I hope will illustrate how chaotic having all these ‘hobby’ animals can be. If it is disjoint I am sorry but then so is my life. Martin Shepherd (started 2012 – abandoned to its fate 25 May 2015).