Do you have a secret fear? Does it have to do with animals? Are you afraid if you tell anyone they'll think your silly? Then perhaps this post is for you.
Here's my secret. I’m terrified of geese. No, I don't dislike them. I'm just plain terrified of them. Show me a goose and I'll start heading in the other direction as quickly as possible. How did this fear start? Want to learn how I conquered it? Then grab a cup of coffee, and I'll tell you how I got over my fear.
As a 4 year old, I used to love going to the park to feed the geese and the ducks with my Dad. I was animal crazy even back then, and in my 4 year old world, all animals loved me as much as I loved them. I was fearless of running up to geese who were almost my size. Until one day.
As I approached the water, I was excited to see some adorable baby goslings. Oh, I wanted to pet them, hug them, show them how much I loved them.
But as I approached the fluff balls, a big old Canadian goose came running at me. I wasn't scared. No, not then. I thought she wanted bread. I stood there saying "Here goosie, goosie" and she came flying and took a huge chunk right out of my leg. Owww, it hurt. I ran screaming to safety and have never wanted anything to do with geese since then. No, nothing. Keep those mean old geese away from me.
Until I fell in love with a picture. A picture of absolutely gorgeous geese; Sebastopols I learned were the breed.
They had me at first sight.
Have you ever seen a Sebastopol? I can only describe them as beautiful animals dressed in frilly wedding dresses. Elegant, feminine. Wedding dresses and frills. I adore wedding dresses and my farm life is sorely lacking in frills. And while I'm sharing secrets here's another one. Long ago, in another lifetime, I used to be a bridal consultant spending my days among gorgeous gowns.
But the question for me was which was stronger; my love of wedding dresses or my fear of geese. It was a toss up. It didn't really matter though because as hard as I tried to find them there were no Sebastopol geese available anywhere.
Until I got an email from a breeder who had 4 remaining goslings unclaimed. Did I want them? A split second decision before she moved on to the next person on her list. "Yes, I want them." I said, immediately caught up in the moment.
Then the realization hit me. What had I done? How could I handle geese?
I turned to books to learn all I could. Oh, no, first thing I read about Sebastopols are that they are descended from Roman Fighting Geese and can be quite feisty. Reason enough to change my mind? No, I found a different book. This one said Sebastopols can be wonderful geese if you purchase them as goslings. They tame them quite easily, and if you can’t tame them, well, they are dual purpose geese meaning you can go ahead and eat them. (Not an option on this farm that has morphed into a zoo.)
Now that I'm older I also understand why that goose bit me so long ago. It was that primal mothering instinct we females have. I came between her and her babies. It’s not just human mothers who protect our young. Even my tame turkey hen growled at me while she was hatching her eggs. Just her warning me to keep away, and she meant it. Now that her babies are up and running, she is begging me with soulful glances to watch them for a few minutes so she can have a break from mothering duties. Sound familiar?
Back to my goose dilema. How to raise goslings who will not want to bite me?
I discovered there are rules to raising geese. Guidelines just like with our human babies.
Number one rule around geese is to move quietly. No fast movements, no sudden actions. Geese prefer everything in their world to move slowly. Not a problem here. I can’t remember the last time my aching joints allowed me to move quickly.
Next, I learned that goslings imprint strongly on the person who cares for them and will actually come to think of that person as “mom.”
No, not a problem either. I’m up to that challenge now that I've been Mother to many species.
Oh, no. The book says that goslings can become totally dependent on their mom, and I must always aim to strike a balance to not make them too dependent on me. Don’t be an overprotective, smothering mom. I reflect and decide I'm up to that challenge. After all, they aren't going to be house pets. They'll be away from me for hours at a time. Building their independence.
Final rule, I have to spend time with them daily, quality time, beyond their basic care and feeding. I check the book binding. What am I reading? Dr. Spock or a book about geese? Maybe there are universal concepts to mothering?
So the goslings arrive, and shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m scared of them. I put their crate on the ground and hope they'll get out on their own. But they don't. "Please litte goslings, get out of your crate." No, they stay huddled in a corner as far away from me as possible. What's this? They are scared of me? They are in a tiny gosling pile shaking with fear. My maternal instincts start to surge.
I sit down quietly and whisper to them, sing them a lullaby or two and they start to relax. Enough for the day. We'll take it one day at a time. Learn to trust each other.
Every day, I feed them oh, so slowly and spend more time singing to them and soon they start to approach me. Now every time I sit with them, they come over and flop down around me, stretching their adorable big old webbed feet behind them. Making swimming motions I think. I’m enchanted.
I also read geese are naturally noisy. Hmm, maybe I'll teach them to sing. If you can teach turkeys to dance and toboggan, surely you can teach geese to sing. And if they are busy singing with mouths, there’s no way they’ll have time to bite me. Worth a try. I turn on Blondie’s “Call Me” and pump up the volume and wouldn't you know it those baby goslings start honking away at the top of their tiny lungs. They are naturals. A great addition to the Red Pine Mountain zoo.
Every evening at dinner, I say to Mountain Man, “I love those crazy birds,” and he just shakes his head and says, “I know you do.”
Perhaps it’s not the birds who are crazy, but I can honestly tell you I’m no longer afraid of geese.
Thanks one and all for visiting us. Mountain Man and I enjoy your comments and we appreciate the time you spend with us on Red Pine Mountain. May your day be filled with blessings and be free of biting geese.
Mountain Woman, Mountain Man and their brood can always be found at http://redpinemountain.com.