Thursday, 14 June 2007

Mother Hen or Mother Goose?

Now here's a twist.

Back in April I said I'd be putting more goose eggs in the incubator after the second batch hatched out. True to my word, I put 5 eggs (all that were available as the breeders were slowing down on their laying) in the incubator.

After a couple of weeks, I candled them ( ie I held a bright light to the egg to see what was happening inside), from which it was clear that only one was fertile.

Which presented it's own problems. When we hatched out a single duckling, we put it in with the 9 goslings that hatched out 3 days earlier, and he/she is happy as Larry.

However, this last gosling was the only hatching expected at the beginning of June. We really didn't want to leave him on his own. However, by good fortune, one of our Black Rock chickens went broody at precisely the right time.

You need to be careful getting hens to hatch goose eggs, as hatching eggs need to be turned regularly during incubation, and goose eggs are a bit large for a hen to turn.

But, in the last 4 days of incubation, turning is no longer necessary. So, we moved the broody to a house away from the other chickens, with 4 plastic eggs under her to keep her keen.

Then, after 24 days (incubation for goose eggs is 28 days), I slipped the fertile egg in under the broody.

Sure enough, 4 days later, we found a neatly broken goose egg shell thrown out of the nest, and next day, our broody was a fiercely protective mother of our 13th gosling of the Spring! After some initial confusion (goslings are not designed to scratch for their food!), the two have settled into a happy routine.

The next two weeks should be interesting, though. Goslings grow at an alarming pace, and by the time this little fella is 4 weeks old (at the beginning of July), he should be about the same size as his foster Mum!

The plan is to let him out in the paddock to mix with the other goslings then, but much will depend on the weather, as if it's wet, I'm reluctant to risk him catching a chill, given that he will still be covered 50% with down.

Complicated game this!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

The duck is growing

Look at this picture. And then look at the first picture I posted of Curly back on 6th May. That's only a little over 3 weeks ago. I'm getting used to the speed at which geese grow, but there's quite a few of them, and it gets to feel common-place (but no less miraculous for that), but Curly is a one-off.

I said a week or so ago that Curly thought he was a Goose, because he was being raised with goslings. That might have been right at first, but now Curly has no identity problems.

At this stage I should say I don't know whether Curly is male or female. For the sake of prose, I shall refer to ...him as male. The reason is that Curly is a male sounding name, and we chose the name because of the peculiar circumstances of his hatching. Because he is in all likelihood a Muscovy/Khaki Campbell cross, he is almost certainly a mule, so he/she is in any event relatively meaningless.

Anyways, as the photos show, Curly is thriving. He's even been swimming in the feed bucket I keep in the goslings' enclosure with water in so they can dip their heads. I am SO sick I missed that photo!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Different kind of Animals

Anyone who knows East Prawle will know the pub on the green, The Pig's Nose Inn, and most will be familiar with it's music nights. The landlord, Peter, has a history in the music industry, and his continued contacts enable him to bring some famous names to this tiny remote Devon village.

Past acts include Wishbone Ash, The Yardbirds (both regulars at the ' Nose), Paul Young and Dr Feelgood. Last night featured the second appearance there of The Animals (nowadays known as Animals and Friends), featuring their original drummer, John Steel, together with Peter Barton (bass & vocals), Johnny 'Guitar' Williamson (lead guitar & vocals) and Mickey Gallagher (keyboards).

I never saw the original Animals, having spent my childhood in New Zealand, but like most music lovers of my (and other) generations, their music is part of my psyche. From the opening "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", through to the encore, inevitably "House Of The Rising Sun", there was no doubt, this was the The Animals live. OK, no Eric Burdon in the lineup, but Peter Barton (Mindbenders, The Move) has all the power and raw rhythm and blues energy needed and more. Williamson belted out guitar solos, and Gallagher, who replaced Alan Price in The Animals in 1965, completed the authentic sound. But it was John Steel, who started out with Eric Burdon in 1957 with The Pagan Jazzmen who amazed me. Now 66 years old, and after 50 years in rock'n'roll, he clearly still enjoys every second on stage.

And that's the thing about gig's (or as they are called in Prawle, music nights) at the Pig's Nose. All generations are represented, both on stage (The Animals were supported last night by local teenage band, Cosmo), and in the audience. And whether they were teenagers, partying down in front of the stage, or pensioners, nodding their heads and shifting their feet to music they had partied to as teenagers, for all of them, this was live music as was supposed to be - totally real.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Continuing Adventures of Wee Curly

Wee Curly, our day old Muscovy Duck, was not happy. Having hatched a week early, due to dubious parentage, he was all alone. He protested about this long and loud, making our hearts ache for him. So with some trepidation, we introduced him to the goslings who hatched a few days earlier.

Although a little suspicious at first, the goslings soon accepted him as one of their own, and Curly now thinks he's a goose!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

New Life - again

As expected, 9 goslings hatched over the course of Wednesday and Thursday. Eight are fit and active, but one has a defective foot, and needed assistance getting out of the egg. It seems to be gaining strength, though, and the others accept it as one of the gang.

I had my mobile by the incubator whilst one of the goslings was going through the final stages of hatching (the whole process, from the first crack in the eggshell, can take up to 2 days), and took a series of videos of it actually struggling free of the shell. I've edited these into one film which can be seen to the left.

Sorry about the quality - it's a very cheap phone!

Sunday, 29 April 2007

New Life

One of the criteria when we were looking to move to Devon, was finding somewhere with enough land to "play with". Welle House has 1½ acres, and the back part had previously been separated off into a paddock. We ploughed a section of this up for vegetables, but this still left a large area
unused. We put a few
chickens on this (more on these in a later post), but these didn't keep the grass down, and cutting the lawns proper was taking enough time, without having to do the paddock as well.

After much thought and debate, we settled on geese, and last spring bought 12 goslings from a breeder near Exeter. Over the course of the year, we lost one, but this was replaced by a gander owned by a friend in the village. Come Christmas, 7 of the original 12 became Christmas dinners for ourselves and others, and we were left with 2 ganders and 3 geese.

The day after Valentines day, the geese started producing eggs, and 7 of these were placed in an incubator. 28 days later and the 3 citizens shown in the photograph duly appeared. At the time of the photo (early April) they were less than a week old. They are now on grass, still looking cute, but not nearly as cute as this

And the real thrill (or frightening part) is that, after these 3 hatched, I put another 13 eggs in the incubator, and having checked last night, on Tuesday or Wednesday, we should have another 9 goslings to join these 3. AND I'm putting more eggs aside to incubate after they hatch.

The question is, when will I find time for the Bed & Breakfast!

Monday, 23 April 2007

The beginning - second try

Ok. The first two attempts sucked. Trouble was, I hadn't really decided what I wanted to do. I now have.

This blog will be what I think a blog should be - a journal of my thoughts of the life I lead. And the first rule should be that it is for my benefit - something I can look back on in future years - and if others find it of interest, so much the better.

To start, however, I should probably put down some background.

I gave up office life in London about 3½ years ago, the plan being to sell up there, and buy a place in the South Hams of Devon - somewhere we could make a living income from, and somewhere we could enjoy a real quality of life. We found this house - 10 bedrooms, 3 (plus a bathroom) for the family, 4 (all en suite) for bed & breakfast, and 3 (plus 2 bathrooms and a 30 foot through kitchen lounge) self catering holiday accommodation. In addition, Welle House (this place) had 1½ acres of land - more than enough for ignorant city exiles to play with.

What we hadn't budgeted for was where the house was - East Prawle. East Prawle is a small village of about 200 souls (not including the holiday home owners) in the southernmost point of Devon. That's what the guide books will tell you. What you cannot appreciate until you live here is the depth of the community spirit, and how warmly we were absorbed (and that is the best word for it) into that spirit. Within 1 month of moving in, we knew we were home.

And it has only got better.

My plan is to use this to mix in our history here since we moved in with observations demonstrating why we have really found the "good life".