I pulled on my pink-and-purple wellies, found an old pair of jeans and shirt, and piled the antique pitchfork and leaf rake onto the wheelbarrow.

It was time to clean out the goose and duck coops and line them with fresh hay to insulate for the winter.

Meanwhile, the geese presented their quizzical expressions and headed toward the open gate to the garden to graze on whatever they could find.

As I clean the goose coop each fall, I think of what had happened or not happened in it during the mating season from March through June.

This year’s crop of goslings was the largest my girls ever presented. However, not one survived until fall. So now my fingers and toes are crossed that the 2015 season will see not only a bunch of hatched goslings, but several that survive.

As I rake out the old hay and embedded goose poop, I remember how dedicated Dufey was to her clutch in April. She diligently sat every day on the eggs, occasionally plucking feathers from her breast to add more warmth to the nest. I brought her food and water so she didn’t have to go outside and risk losing her nest.

Despite her efforts, none of the eggs hatched this year.

My sweet Plum Blossom, who was only a year old, decided to start her nest outside the pen. She built a lovely nest of feathers, dried leaves, tiny twigs and whatever other suitable material she could find. But unfortunately, none of her eggs hatched.

I believe she will succeed next spring.

Susie-Q presented the flock with one gosling this year, which I think is her first time. She always helped her sister, Sal-Gal, by sitting on the eggs then caring for the goslings that hatched, but I don’t believe she ever laid her own. Maybe next year, she’ll do it again.

Just when I had given up all hope of having any goslings this spring, Sammie, who is 3 years old and in the prime of laying, hatched five. What a goose!

As I raked, I remembered the worst experience I have ever had doing such a thing.

A few years ago, one of my girls abandoned her egg-filled nest. I waited a very long time before I finally cleared the eggs out. I forgot, however, that dead eggs rot, and a goose egg is huge. As I began raking the eggs off the old nest, one burst! The smell was not only the worst odor anyone could ever sniff, but some of the rotten insides sprayed onto my hair and up my nose. For days, even after cleaning myself up, I could smell rotten goose egg.

I’ve learned since then that the best way to clean out dead goose eggs is to cover them with several layers of hay, then mash them with a rake.

It was a lesson well learned.

Because all the goslings died in one way or another this year, I have none to watch grow up. However, that doesn’t mean my lovely geese are no longer entertaining. Finny continues to lead the flock, with his brother Shamus at his side. Poor Seb is still learning to live on his own since his brother, Sam, was killed by a raccoon. The girls, along with Plum Blossom’s brother, Blackberry, continually do things that catch my eye and make me laugh.

Finny still wants to play with my hair, Blackberry wants to become king of the flock and Plum Blossom would really like to replace Finny as my favorite goose. Such fun.

Soon, getting into the pen to feed and water them will be a real challenge as snow piles up and I must carry water out to them everyday because the hose freezes. But despite the hard work of shoveling myself to the pen, then shoveling myself inside, it’s all worth it. They bring such smiles.

Eileen Adams has been raising geese, and thoroughly enjoying their antics, for about 10 years. She may be reached at [email protected]


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