This is one of a sequence of short pieces about life on the small-holding. The copy I have is in a notebook, with the nearest dated work being 1985. I suspect that these were writing exercises rather than final pieces.
“Geese are what you need.”
Usually, advice is easily given and not so easily taken. However, we were told that in the days of cottaging when everyone had a cow, a pig and some hens, geese were used to keep the grass down in the orchard, and profived meat and eggs.
It all seemed too good to be true. If, we were told, you kill at Michaelmas (you’ve heard of a Michaelmas goose haven’t you?) the grass would be beginning to fade and no supplementary feeding would be needed. With the aid of a freezer, cheap Christmas dinner. Who could resist that double offer? Cheap meat and effortless grass control.
Now we have two acres of grass. It has taken two years to turn the wilderness into meadow. So tell me why our geese prefer to walk a hundred yards up the lane and eat our neighbour’s newly laid lawn? Imagine my amazement to see them file to the end of the lane and nibble daintily at the grass of the lay-by. Do they like to watch the cars go by? My husband says encouragingly that the exercise of retrieving them is good for me.
You understand, after a while, how the nickname “squirtabottomous” came about. They leave their messy droppings everywhere, but as they are affectionate creatures and like to congregate around the back door for a gossip, stepping out in slippers can be hazardous.
One rare sunny day, my young daughter was reclining nude in her paddling pool while I tried to do some work. When I looked out of the window she had been joined by three companionable geese and four more were bustling forward. It says a lot for Joey’s composure that she scream, after all geese must look immense to a toddler, but she did ask me to kep them away. More easily said than done! And even now, they only need to see the blue and white striped plastic pool being taken out of the shed to appear instantly – all swimming again.
If they restricted themselves to grass they would be very useful but ours have more exotic tastes: strawberry plants, brussel sprouts, chinese cabbage to name a few. But as we rush out to rescue the vegetables we yell viciously – “apple sauce”, “sage and onion”, “chesnut stuffing” or “onion sauce” – and they waddle away indignantly.
Revenge will be sweet on 25th December.