Tag Archives: Goose

Geese I know #Countrylife

Here's looking at you kid.JPG2(‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’)

With my new photography craze, I’ve taken to stalking the barnyard geese, aka Pilgrim geese (an old breed). They’re squawky, easily spooked, and difficult to capture on film. I creep around corners, freeze when they spot me, and attempt to hang out with the gaggle to win their trust. Not gonna happen. When I toss grain their way, they fear I’m throwing stuff at them and flee. Not overly bright, but fun to watch. I’ve gotten a few good pics and many of their retreating backs.

'I think we're alone now'             (‘I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.’)

These geese have been on our farm for decades. They began as two pairs. The breed is so long-lived, I suspect we still have the originals. If they were better parents, we’d be overrun, but they’re absentminded and forget where they left the goslings. We’ve retrieved distressed peepers and restored them to the gaggle, but only a few reach adulthood out of those successfully hatched. A lot of them don’t even make it out of the egg. After four plus decades, we have about two dozen in the flock.

geese counting cows(Geese counting cows, only they don’t count very well.)

They roam all over the farm, frequent the pond, the meadow, the barnyard, shady grassy spots when the sun’s too hot, and of course, the barn itself. They keep company with the cows and dislike dogs. Cats are ignored. ***Note, these are not attack geese. They fuss and carry on, but will take off when threatened unless defending their nest. Don’t get too near nesting geese of any breed.

“Ego: The fallacy whereby a goose thinks he’s a swan.”

***Images taken by me in July.

Gardening and Country Life in the Shenandoah Valley–Beth Trissel

lilacs blooming in mid May

This has been a challenging week in the garden weather wise–a hard freeze Monday night took a punishing toll and then the temps soared Wednesday and hot winds blew. My poor plants. The past few days have been blessedly mild and I’ve done as much damage control as I can. Fortunately much of what I grow is tough, plus I’m planting out new seedlings I grew in my greenhouse. This is one weary gardener with much left to do. On a brighter note, daughter Elise got our her camera and took some lovely and endearing shots that remind me why I bother. For better or worse, this is my life and I wouldn’t trade it. There’s nothing like living in the country, especially the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. But I’m praying for rain. A light mist is falling now. More, please, but not a flood. You have to be very specific with your weather prayers. Onward ho.

(Very hardy late season lilac with the sweetest blooms)

mama goose and goslings

***Mama Goose taking our latest goslings on an amble.

Eons ago husband Dennis bought two pair of barnyard geese because I was into decoupaging eggs. That hobby has long since passed, but the geese have thrived. They eat grass, peck corn that spills from cow feed, and swim on the pond. We have a cantankerous gaggle that are part of the farm and always will be.

Below is a pic of our two bantam roosters, buddies and brothers, who have the run of the place and roost on the rafters in the barn at night, which keeps them safe. My daughter in law, who has chickens, gave us this pair. The few times she’s tried to add a hen it becomes a quick snack for some predator or other. Everything eats chickens. I’d like to have hens that can free range like these roosters but they’d have to be big and strapping, and learn to roost at night like the boys. The barn kitties get along with the roosters and the geese. An odd mix but they sort it out.

barn cat and roosters

May in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel

COVER FOR SHENANDOAH WATERCOLORS NONFICTION BOOKThis excerpt is from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 Epic eBook Finalist, available from Amazon in kindle, and now paperback with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.


“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

~William Shakespeare

the meadow and woods above our farmThe heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

Dark hollow falls on Skyline drive, Shenandoah national parkI’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

moms-kitten-gosling-pic***Goose update. We spotted four new goslings yesterday.

*Images of the meadow and wooded hills above our farm taken by daughter Elise, Dark Hollow Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a royalty free image, Kitten and baby goose taken by my mom, Pat Churchman


It Isn’t Spring Without Goslings–Beth Trissel

bluebells and jonquils2Mother Natures takes a long winter’s nap, and then Bang! Wakes up and there are a million things to do, especially if you’re a gardener. And I am. I have the aching back and carpel tunnel flare up to prove it. But my flowers, herbs, and vegetables beckon and the call of birds floats through the window like a siren song. Every living creature is busily about the business of spring. I can hardly bear to be indoors on these gorgeous days,  so keep looking out the window, promising myself I can go back outside soon if I rest my hand awhile. Or dart back out anyway. (Image of daffodils and Virginia Bluebells in my yard.)

Old red barn April 2011 243Yesterday, I saw three goslings with their mama, papa, aunties, and uncles waddling past the white flowering pear trees up by the old red barn. But they escaped before anyone got a picture. Later in the afternoon, daughter Elise, my three year old grandbaby Owen, and I walked all over the farm beneath a sparkling blue sky seeking the goslings. We never did find them. Then today, I spotted the trio and their family foraging in the flower bed along the road. Not a safe place to be, so I raced out to shoo them away. A friend tried to take pics, but they fled in a frenzy of honks. Geese are fussy at best and especially protective of babies. Dennis caught up with them in the meadow. He also got some pics of a pair of gray geese nesting in the barn. They were not happy. The zoom feature on his camera is handy to have as geese will pinch you hard if provoked. Getting anywhere near their nest is against the rules.

Geese and goslingsAn Excerpt from my nonfiction book about Gardening and Country Life, Shenandoah Watercolors:

“Our meadow is as lush as I’ve ever seen it. Thick grass, reaching past my knees, spreads in a green swathe from fence row to fence row and sparkles with bright gold dandelions and buttercups. The elusive meadowlark, my favorite songbird, trills sweetly from some secret place hidden in the green. Rarely, I catch a magical flash of yellow as it flies, just before it tucks down again. Sandy brown killdeer dart around the edges of the pond on their long legs, sounding that wild funny cry peculiar to them.

???????????????????????????????The green-blue water that fills the banks of the pond now had dried to a painful parched puddle last summer. Migrating mallards and ruddy ducks ripple over the surface, bobbing bottoms up, and fill the air with busy gossipy quacks, content and happy creatures. Not so the plump gray and white barnyard geese. Their honking clash and chatter punctuates life on the farm, more or less, depending on their current level of hysteria.

Gray Geese sitting on eggsSome of the geese have been here for ages, waddling about with their broken useless wings, reminding me of nervous old ladies who can’t find their glasses and are forever misplacing their grandchildren. Even well-intentioned geese are extremely absentminded. More than once we’ve had to rescue a frantic gosling inadvertently left behind by its addled elders in a hole wallowed by the cows. Silly, silly geese. I scold the dogs when they’re tempted to chase and annoy them. Too easy, and it doesn’t seem fair.”

Images of our geese and the babies. Old red barn above.

Goslings and three geese

A Spring Walk in the Country

Earlier this week, on a spectacular blue sky day, my daughter Elise and I went for a walk on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley.  We passed beneath the flowering cherry,  crab apples and the edible apples all in full bloom, then continued on down to the meadow where we circled the pond, followed by curious cows and one of our farm dogs, Lance.
Our other farm dog, Luca, (both lab mixes) won’t go into the meadow after she accidentally touched the electric fence that keeps the cows out of the water (an EPA requirement).
So, sadly, Luca can’t go for a swim without the risk of being zapped by the fence and stays clear of the field now. Lance sticks to the wide swath of grass and the small stream that meanders through the meadow further below the pond.
While near the water, Elise and I looked to see if the trees planted along its banks last year all survived, they did, and we looked for nests in the larger trees that have been there for years  We also spotted a goose on her nest.  A protective gander kept watch nearby and we gave them a wide berth. Geese get very fussy about anyone trespassing too near their nests. Especially Canadians, which this pair are.  We also have domestic barnyard geese nesting in various hotly contested sites on our farm. (Nesting goose by the pond and Lance getting really muddy.)
“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”  ~Proverb
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.” ~Nadine Stair
***Only not near any thistles, I hasten to add, having stepped on plenty in my day.
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.”
~Robert Frost
After crossing the grassy field, we navigated the barbed wire fence and walked on up the hill to the woods beyond it.  Elise took her camera and recorded our outing. She got some wonderful shots with her new lens.
On our way, we passed an ancient barn, rather derelict now, and the overgrown spot where the farmhouse once stood.  It burned down decades ago.  The old man didn’t die in the fire, but later.
A quaint outbuilding remains, but the scent of skunks kept us at bay. I assume they’ve taken up residence there. That site is always a little creepy, and I wonder what paranormal investigators might find with their high-tech gadgets, but not on such a glorious afternoon.
“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”
It’s quite a hike getting up the hill and then following the line of trees across it. Along the way we paused by a stand of oaks I call my ‘sacred place’ and said a prayer for loved ones and in memory of those who have gone before us.
After a pensive pause, we explored further among the copse of trees and found a burrow that may belong to a fox. The farmers who live on one side of that hill have spotted a number of them.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Startled deer sprang past us, white tails up, and bounded away while birds sang from high overhead.  We continually craned our necks to try and catch a glimpse of the songsters but most were out of sight.  A tantalizing glimpse, now and then and I recognized several calls. Others I wasn’t certain of.
Meadowlarks trilled in the distance, my favorite spring bird, and extremely elusive. I rarely ever catch sight of a meadowlark and am thrilled when I do.
Coyotes also live somewhere in those woods, but don’t generally come out until after dark.  Not where I’d want to be then.  Our dog Lance had given up the walk and turned back so if we were attacked I’d have to rely on my trusty walking stick. Coyotes have come to our farm and far too near the house for comfort, at times, but the dogs keep them at bay.  Go out of their mind barking.  Not a hint of anything sinister on this fine day, though, just beauty. Then we did the entire walk  in reverse and returned by a different route. Elise took pics all along the way.  I was whacked by the time we got home.  It was definitely tea time.
*All images are by Elise except for the meadowlark.  We have yet to capture one of those birds on camera, but it isn’t from lack of trying to track them down.
Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, is available at Amazon in kindle and now print with photographs by my talented family.
“For those who love the country and even those who don’t.” A 2012 EPIC eBook Finalist
“The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.”

Spring Is When the Meadowlark Sings~

Flashes of lightning and the rumble of an approaching thunderstorm woke me early this morning.  Typical crazy March weather here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Yesterday a cold snap followed on the heels of several wonderfully balmy days.  The weatherman predicts more storms this afternoon, but we’re glad for the rain after last summer’s drought and a fairly dry winter.  Cold, but dry.  Now we’re catching up on some much-needed moisture.

Ducks and geese love all the puddles that come with the rain, and our pond is finally full again after dwindling to a sad state last summer. Happy quacks resound against the lovely trill of the meadowlark, my favorite songbird.  Also, one of the first signs of spring.  My goal is to ever actually see one of these elusive birds again.  Supposedly, this shouldn’t such a challenge.  Once or twice, I’ve glimpsed a yellow flash  and spotted the bird perched on a fence post before it flew.  Mostly, though, they hide in the grass and skim away to another spot before I get a good look, calling all the while from various positions in the meadow.

Last spring daughter Elise and I were determined to track down the evasive songster and tenaciously followed its calls, even climbed over the fence into the neighbor’s pasture and picked our way along the little creek, but never caught up with that bird, or birds.  There may have been more than one.  So unless I catch another rare glimpse, I must content myself with their beautiful trills.  Birds like this need tall grasses and untidy hedge rows for nesting.  Bear that in mind in your own yard and garden.  Keeping everything trim and cultivated robs our feathered friends of habitat.  It’s also a good excuse for a less than perfectly kept landscape.     A little wilderness here and there is a good thing.

We have the Eastern Meadowlark.  For more on that variety click here.

For more on the Western Meadowlark~

*Images of our farm taken by daughter Elise. Royalty free Image of meadowlark–until we can finally photograph one.

My Cottage Industry(s)

In today’s economic downturn or whatever the experts call this abysmal state our country finds itself in, likely the idea of a small home based business holds wonderful possibilities for many.  Having a successful enterprise of my making is an ideal I’ve pursued with various degrees of disaster for several decades.  Now, I mostly just write about them.

Initially, after marrying my husband and moving to the farm, I wanted to be part of the country life here.  Especially as I was a ‘townie.’ But milking cows that might kick, particularly when one is nervous and jumpy in the not unrealistic expectation that they will, and feeding turkeys in the hot, dusty house, or calves that kept dying from some unknown cause, held scant appeal.  So I left most of the traditional farm stuff to the guys and made efforts to start my cottage industry(s).

The very name conjured up an inviting image…tapping into my creative talents in the coziness of my home.  It was simply a matter of casting about for a marketable enterprise.  Marketability, I was told by sage heads, is vital to success.  But this had no bearing on the choices I made, nor does it now, come to think of it.

In the beginning,  my eye fell onto the world of arts and crafts, and for some inexplicable reason, settled on découpage.  Not just any découpage though, I fancied eggs, big ones.  Ostriches being rather pricey, my hubby located two pairs of gray and white barnyard geese.  Unlike my cottage industries, they have prospered; their offspring are myriad and the geese I often refer to.  Actually, some of the originals may still be roaming the farm.  They live forever.

I remembered childhood encounters with nasty, honky-nosed Chinese geese that will chase you and pinch your skin between their bills hard.  Our new acquisitions were much milder in temperament but took offense at having their nests invaded, so it fell to my worthy spouse to steal the eggs.  I also felt he was better suited to empty the shells of their contents, a particularly undesirable task if left for any time.  After that I came into my own, transforming the muddy spheres into intricate works of art, as precious as rubies if time were a consideration.  It wasn’t.

Once created, these treasures were ready for marketing, the aforementioned skill in which I am woefully deficient.  However, a zealous grandmother is an oft-overlooked boon to business.  My late, much loved, grandmother drove me round to all her friends and refused to leave until a purchase was happily concluded.  This can only be done once, maybe twice a year though.  More might appear pushy.

Eggs aplenty in my trusty shoe box, I turned to the elegant gift shops.  Granted, my presentation might have benefited from more attention.  When the disdainful merchants declined to examine my wares, I whipped out a gleaming egg from under the cloth diaper used as a cover. “Look!  It’s really pretty, see?”

With the delicate Fabergé held before them, several store managers actually agreed to display my wares, but my head did not swim with visions of wealth.  They insisted on a hefty portion of the profit for this service.

The time had come, I decided, for the direct approach.  I huddled in the wind-driven rain at craft shows, my life’s work balanced precariously on a card table.  Enthusiastic passersby frequently stopped to exclaim over my eggs, but little money exchanged hands.  Then I landed on an inspiration, the egg show in Washington, DC. Well worth the admission price and hotel expenses, I assured my skeptical husband.  This was the big time, the utopia of eggdom.  And it was.  Only one element was missing––buyers.  Upon making inquiries, I learned that such mercenary consideration was beneath those of us assembled there to admire the craft of fellow eggers.

I was soon cured of such pettiness.  Greed for worldly gain fled along with us, after the hotel caught fire and a heavy storm flooded the exhibition area.  We traveled home in near hurricane conditions, me ill all night with food poisoning, counting ourselves fortunate to escape with our lives.

The remaining eggs made cherished Christmas gifts, as did the herbal wreaths and potpourri that followed in their wake.  And there were other less than successful enterprises.  Leftover seedlings from my plant sales have landscaped the yards of friends and families for years, not to mention the Yorkshire terriers I raised with profits eaten up by whopping vet bills.  Or the Siamese kitten venture.  Have you ever lived with a Siamese cat in heat, heard those hair-raising, guttural howls week after week?  I don’t recommend it.

One thing to be said for having your own cottage industry, it may not pay well, but its steady work.  AND there are still a lot of geese in my life.

*One of the eggs pictured above is real Fabergé.  Guess which one, and none of them are mine, most of which found homes long ago.   But I did découpage very like the one displayed.  I’d carefully wrap the image around the egg.