Goose Gone

goose honda love story,

If you’ve been following the saga of Louise the goose in love with a Honda, you know it’s a story of the heart.

I learned recently about a sorrow in her past. Louise was dumped in a nature area by someone who didn’t want to keep her any longer. Because she’s a domestic breed she couldn’t stay there, hence her arrival here. But I hadn’t heard that she was dumped along with a mate. They were seen together constantly, until one day he was gone. Perhaps killed by an animal or vehicle. That’s when she started following park employees around and was caught. This may explain why she honks so much, calling to a lost partner, because these geese mate for life.

It also may explain why she she’s attracted to the Honda. We’re guessing she sees a faint reflection of her lovely orange beak in the car’s paint, a beak that surely reminds her of her mate.

We’ve worried about her. She spends at least 16 hours a day in the driveway with her 4,000 pound Honda partner. She’s barely interested in food or water. Because she won’t voluntarily leave the side of the car we have to herd her into an enclosure at nightfall to keep her safe (waterfowl are best protected from predators when they’re on the water).

A few more geese companions might be a remedy, but we don’t think our neighbors could tolerate an increase in the honk-related noise from our property. And we know Louise can’t spend the upcoming winter in the driveway.

So we’ve been looking for a new home for her, one that has potential goose pals. We got a call a few days ago from people who live the next township over. Their property includes five acres of fenced area for ducks and geese to wander, swim, and otherwise cavort in a fowl way. They offered Louise a home. I put off accepting that kind offer for several days, sad to think of Louise leaving us and her Honda.

Finally I reluctantly agreed. Louse spent one more night in her enclosure, complaining righteously when let out.

She rushed headlong to the front yard to reunite with her Honda for the last time.

And then she was transported to her new home. She has new relationship possibilities with creatures whose orange beaks might just remind her of her mate. Or at least remind her of a partner that honked but never waddled, flew, or flapped its wings.

I miss her already.

Posted in animal relations, geese | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Goose Advice For Honda

goose honda love story,

The biggest Honda fan ever is Louise the goose.

Her steadfast devotion to my 2004 Honda Accord is a tale so oddly endearing that Neatorama and Huff Po wrote about her too. Louise is clearly breaking new barriers in fowl vehicle relations.

But she doesn’t care about notoriety. She spends all day looking at her large silver soul mate as if expecting it to murmur Hey Boo what’s up? in her direction. Although we’ve assumed this love as unrequited, my friend Margaret has a point. She asked, “How do you know the Honda isn’t giving off a vibe that only a goose in love can pick up?” Good point.

After watching Louise with her beloved day after day, we’re picking up some suggestions for the designers at Honda via goose telepathy.

1. Make your honk more compellingly goose-like. Notice that the standard Honda honk is boring, even to a creature fluent in honk-ese.

Want to hear a real honk Honda? Here’s Louise to demonstrate.

2. Strive for goose quality security systems, with enhanced vigilance featuring interactions with the surroundings.

3. Consider designing a new model, more advanced and (I say with considerable bias) more extraordinary than any car ever. It would be a soft gray, accented by orange rims and an orange front bumper. It would be able to fly short distances when necessary.

The name? Honda Toulouse, of course.

goose honda love story, goose loves car,

Posted in animal relations, geese, humor | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Goose and Honda: A Love Story

goose honda love story, goose loves car,

One bird in love, one Honda.

I love my Honda Accord the way anyone might love a car. It’s fuel efficient and trouble-free. It was my late father’s car, which makes it particularly special to me.  Gauging by how many other silver Accords try to confuse me in parking lots, plenty of people also love these cars.

But not the way Louise loves my car. Her love is notable for its dedication. Louise won’t leave the side (or the front) of my car from sunup to sundown.

Louise, I should point out, is a goose. A Toulouse goose. This bird was left in a nature preserve where park regulations don’t permit domestic animals such as Louise. So she had to go. She was nabbed, stuffed in a bag, transferred to a cage, and brought here by our daughter (a biologist at that park) to live on our pond. A few days earlier another waterfowl had arrived here the same way, a duck we named Alice.

Louise and Alice hit it off.

They swam in peace, nibbled on grasses, snacked on the cracked corn we left out for them.

goose and car love story,

Fowl peace.

Many mornings they were joined by wild ducks.

goose and honda love story

Fowl clubbing.

Some mornings they received visits from a fawn.

goose and honda love story

Fawn on a fowl visit.

Even after Alice matured enough for us to notice that she was a male duck, now known as Al, they enjoyed what appeared to be a bliss-filled fowl existence.

Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? (Except for the honking. Louise is not a quiet creature.)

Then one day, everything changed.

Louise spotted a distant glimmer.  It was so alluring her wide orange feet quickly pitter pattered up to the front yard. There she saw Honda for the first time, his shiny surface and tempting shape alluring in ways only a goose of her caliber might recognize. She hurried up to this vision, this Honda of her dreams, and there she stayed. All day she strolled around the car, sometimes making quiet murmuring tones, sometimes tapping gently at it with her beak.

At night, humans herded her out to the pond to keep her safe from predators, but they didn’t wait until it was dark enough. She rushed back to her sweet Honda minutes later. The humans had to wait until the sunset faded to black, but not until Louise tried to convince the car to follow her to the pond. Car remained the strong silent unmoving type. After some despair-laden honking Louise allowed herself to be herded back to the pond, wings flapping in protest and feet slapping the ground like annoyed flip flops.

honda goose love story,

Now every day Louise stands next to her true love, Honda. She perseveres despite mail carriers and rain and annoying small dogs.

goose honda love story,

Adoration, rain or shine.

She’s only mildly curious about a Civic that’s sometimes parked next to her beloved Accord, mostly ignoring it.

A lesser goose might choose an easier life. One with a pond, food, and fowl companions. But not Louise. She remains steadfast. As my daughter, the goose rescuer, says,

But, soft! what light from yonder driveway breaks?
It is the headlight, and Honda is the sun!

Louise and Honda, scene ii

Oh we’ve tried to break them up. She’s not interested in shiny objects placed nearby to distract her. She won’t look at a mirror we’d hoped to move incrementally closer to the water. She’s committed to living in the driveway with her Honda.

It seemed we had no other option but to find Louise a new home where her affections might turn to a fellow goose. We called the local extension office, sure they’d know of a nearby farm or 4-H kid raising Toulouse geese. No luck. The woman who answered the phone had herself once owned a Toulouse goose. It fell deeply in love with a discarded Christmas tree wrapped in a plastic garbage bag. Perhaps there’s something to the phrase “silly goose.”

Louise’s love has inspired us to sing songs like “When a Goose Loves a Honda” and “Here’s My Beak, Call Me Maybe.” But it’s not silly. It’s abiding and faithful, although unrequited.

I just wonder if I’ll ever be able to drive my car again…   

Posted in animal relations, geese, humor | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Fresh Produce Auction

produce auction, food auction, local organic raspberries,

Pint baskets with handwritten tags–raspberry, organic scrawled in blue ink–are enticing. So is everything else at our nearby produce auction. Small lot tables are crowded with local bounty set out for purchase by the hands that raised or made these foods. Apple pies, pickling cucumbers, brown eggs, new potatoes, beets, honey, fresh bread, and much more awaits buyers.

Just beyond, the huge open barn is packed with bigger lots for sale. County Line Produce Auction is open three evenings a week from spring to autumn. This enables farmers to find buyers while avoiding burdensome storage and transportation costs. And the resulting profits stay in the local community. (There are only about 45 wholesale produce auctions in the U.S.)

produce auction, Amish auction,

County Line Produce Auction

An auctioneer walks along rows of pumpkins, green beans, apples, tomatoes, gourds, chrysanthemums, and potatoes.  He makes eye contact with each bidder as his quick cadence rolls through prices. The bidding warms up over peck baskets of honeycrisp apples in a language of nods and raised fingers. Three pecks of apples go for four dollar apiece, far more than a bushel of Cortland apples bought moments ago. Then he moves on to a ten pound box of jalapeño peppers.

The wholesale auction barn was built along a picturesque country road. For years farmers have been struggling with decreasing prices and increasing costs. Those who sell their goods here are smallholders, most located within five miles. Many are Amish, who have fewer options for getting their crops to buyers. Nearly 50 horse-drawn buggies are parked on the side and out back. Amish produce auction,

County Line Produce Auction opened for business just this year. A sign with photos of the building under construction says,

We want to thank you all for helping, supporting, and working together as one community build this building and make this produce auction a success.

Another sign hangs at the entrance.

wholesale food auction

People gather near the items they hope to purchase, surrounded by the season’s bounty. Sweet corn is stacked in bags that hold 144 ears each. Brightly colored peppers contrast with broccoli, kohlrabi, beets and carrots in a tantalizing array.  The tag reader announces, “Now we have two half bushels small yellow squash.” He taps it with a wooden stick. The auctioneer’s chant begins, “Ah dida dadada two, two and a half, three dollars, three and a half, four, four and half, five, five and a half. Ana dada ana, five and half, six dollars, six and half, ana ana dada six and half.” The buyer’s number is recited from memory after the winning bid.

Although many bidders are from farm markets, grocery stores and restaurants, the auction is also crowded with local residents. Three generations of one family are here to buy cabbage for their annual day-long tradition of making sauerkraut. A young couple push their toddler daughter in a stroller. They brought excess tomatoes and peppers from their garden to sell at the small lots table, and plan to buy pumpkins to decorate for a party. An older gentleman is loading his van with a dozen blueberry bushes he just purchased. He grew up on a farm, but doesn’t recall any wholesale produce auctions. “This is a great way to buy and sell,” he says, “And it’s a good place to talk to people.”

What a mix of people. A burly man wearing a Beer For Breakfast shirt talks to an Amish man, teens linger at the stand selling French fries and sandwiches, and small children are everywhere.

Amish wholesale produce auction,

My husband and I are here to augment what we grow. We’ve been canning on and off for weeks but still need apples for applesauce (and pies!). We gladly bid on large amounts knowing we can split items with a group of friends who take turns attending the auction. We’re happy to buy what has been grown nearby, especially since the average produce item found in stores has been shipped more than 1,000 miles.

A pink sunset accompanies us as we move our purchases to the car. We have 35 pecks of freshness to bring home. Plus those lovely raspberries, which we’ll be taste-testing on our drive.

Posted in community, economy, frugality, local food, sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More Birds = More What?

attracting songbirds,

For years I’ve been spreading birdseed on the wide flat rail of our back porch. Often twice a day. In return I’ve been rewarded with the sight of birds landing to eat only a few feet from our windows. No matter what else is going on, there’s something captivating about watching birds. It takes you beyond ordinary fuss to a place of watchful calm. Those are vital interludes in our busy lives.

Then that porch had to be torn down (a Great Thing gone very wrong). When we finally had the new porch up, this time correctly attached to the rest of the house thank you, my beloved spouse didn’t really want bird food and the resulting bird poo all over his newly stained porch rail. We nattered about it as spouses do. I continued to spread birdseed on the rail. He grumbled.

Then my darlings Benjamin and Niki gave me the gift of three coppery bird feeders. They came with decorative brackets so they could be attached to the outside of the porch posts, putting the birds (and their poo) a good eight inches away from the porch rails. A lovely solution. Spouse man and I were both thrilled.

We filled each feeder with different food. Black oil sunflower seed, a finch mix, and a premium nut and seed mix. Then we waited. My old buddies the blue jays and cardinals and sparrows didn’t come back for a few days. And then they returned. Gradually more and more birds showed up. Every day we see birds that didn’t alight on the porch rail but now happily perch on the feeders. We get to see all sorts of species up close like the house finch, cowbird, tufted titmouse, goldfinch, flicker, chickadee, and the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeak.

It’s interesting to watch the way they wait for a turn at the feeders. We can see them on the roof of the small barn near the house, in the magnolia and sycamore and ash trees, on bean poles and rose trellises. Some are so bold as to wait on the porch, perching on the chairs or hopping along the floor picking up scattered seed. I’ve tried in vain to take pictures of them, sometimes clustered in fours and fives at a feeder. No luck. Through the window the camera mostly focuses on the screen and even when I wait silently on the porch only the blue jays are bold enough to grab seeds in my presence.

Because we’re more tuned to the birds on our porch, I think we pay closer attention to the great blue herons standing by our pond in the morning and the barn swallows swooping over it in the evening. We notice the calls of owls and hawks. We appreciate the family of buzzards that lift together over the nearby fields.

Morning is the biggest bird traffic jam on the porch but it remains a flurry of activity all day. We must have ten times the birds we had before when I only scattered seed on the rail. To keep up we’re ordering birdseed in 50 pound sacks. Our kids tease us about creating a dependency.

There’s a consequence. Now our newly built porch is festooned with bird poo. Spouse man grumbles as he does what he can to keep it clean. More birds may result in more bird poo but that’s a small inconvenience. More birds mean more beauty and wonder. More chances to still oneself and look, simply look. And then look some more.

Ohio bird watching

Posted in animal relations, awe, mindfulness | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Resilient Gardener: A Must-Have Book

One of the most joyous things we can do is to find our place, the land we fit into, the land where we belong. Having found our place, we snuggle into it, learn about it, adapt to it, and accept it fully…We cherish it. We become native to the land of our living.  Carol Deppe

If this spring is any example, I’m not a very resilient gardener. Rain washed away most of the peas I planted in March. Some creature keeps chewing my newly emerging broccoli and kale plants. A freakishly late freeze killed all 12 pepper plants and 28 tomato plants I’d started indoors. Yes, I planted them in the garden too soon. No, we haven’t had a freeze at the end of May in my memory. Every time I replant it costs time and money and frustration, exactly what a garden is supposed to save. But I’ve got stubbornness on my side. And Carol Deppe.

Dr. Deppe is the author of a brilliant book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. It’s based on five crops she deems the
easiest to grow, most productive, and most essential to feed ourselves: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs. Sounds organized. It isn’t, in many ways, yet it’s entirely useful and unexpectedly enlightening. Deppe branches off in all sorts of directions. She covers adapting to climate change, poor soil and minimal irrigation, physical limitations, and dietary restrictions. Still, some of her assertions made me laugh out loud. In one section she proclaims that anyone can grow and store sufficient squash to last a year. Simply build shelves on all inner walls of the house. Now I really want a glimpse of her house!

She goes into depth in ways no other gardening book does. For example, she doesn’t just write about planting and harvesting potatoes. She explains why this particular foodstuff yields more protein per acre, with less work, than any other crop. She covers potato nutrition, the benefits of particular breeds, and different methods of planting. Plus, how to avoid potato diseases and rogue growing plants, different methods of harvesting, how to store seed potatoes, and various potato cooking methods.

I read it when it first came out in 2010 and have tested many of her ideas, even ordering seeds she’s bred. When she says that Costata Romanesca is the best zucchini for growing, eating and drying, she’s right. I planted it last spring. The plants gradually developed powdery mildew, as is becoming increasingly common in our area, yet they didn’t perish and continued to produce.The zucchini fruits stayed tender-skinned even at 4 pounds, with small edible seeds. They were more mild and yet flavorful than any zucchini I’ve ever grown. I dried far too much of it, yet the slices aren’t at all intrusive tossed in soups and stews. You can bet I saved seeds.

Here are a few of the many fascinations I’ve gleaned from The Resilient Gardener.

  • On pages 76 through 78 Dr. Deppe speculates on eight possible evolutionary reasons for today’s obesity epidemic. They’re all reasonable. Here’s number six: “During our evolution, the fact that we had to walk…in order to forage might have mattered. This might have made getting seriously overweight difficult just on mechanical grounds. But there may be more than just mechanics involved. I speculate that exercise of the big leg muscles might be integrated into energy metabolism and weight control. That is, we may need to walk (or run) in order for energy metabolism to be optimally controlled.”
  • Manure should be covered as it composts. If it’s left out in the sun and rain, much of the soluble nitrogen can be leached out. (Our manure pile is so tall, I’m hoping that most of it is protected by the top layers.)
  • Potatoes develop high levels of poisonous glycoalkaloids when harvested too soon, stored incorrectly, or exposed to sun (even an hour’s display at a farmer’s market is too long). I knew that greenish areas under the skin were evidence of these high levels. I didn’t know that any green on a potato indicates the ENTIRE potato shouldn’t be eaten. Peeling or cutting off those areas doesn’t help, nor does cooking the potato. It shouldn’t be fed to livestock either.
  • Most of us eat winter squash that is picked too soon and uncured. Which means the squash is not very good. Some varieties aren’t fully sweet and flavorful until they’ve been stored for six months. That is, if they weren’t picked too soon. Which most squash are.
  • Dry beans bought in the store are often too old or too low quality to cook properly. They also tend to contain split beans and moldy beans. When cooking dry beans, it’s best to avoid adding salt, vinegar, tomato paste, or even additional cold water as the beans won’t cook properly and will have poor texture.
  • Corn has been bashed, but it’s hardly the same crop that we can grow in home gardens to make our own silk-fine flours, hearty polentas, and parching corn snacks—all protein rich and flavorful. I ordered a traditional Hopi variety, Parching Magenta, from Deppe last year. The kernals are gorgeous–red and white striped. They dry easily on the stalk and, once I dried them further, make amazing flour.

Actually, every page offers something fascinating. Read this book with a highlighter.

Posted in books, frugality, gardening, health, self-reliance | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Oh Honeybees, We Hardly Knew Ye

saving bees, bee losses 78%,

Over six thousand beekeepers, together managing nearly 600,000 colonies, responded to a recent survey. This represents about 23 percent of the country’s bee colonies.

Preliminary results show that 31 percent of honey bee colonies were lost in the US last winter (2012/13). This is a huge increase over the already devastating losses from the winter before, 42 percent more.

Overall, US beekeepers lost 45 percent of their colonies over the winter. That’s a 78 percent increase compared to the previous winter. Why such different numbers? Most of the survey respondents were backyard beekeepers, whose losses, while devastating, were not as bad as the losses by the six percent of respondents who are commercial beekeepers. Migratory beekeeping practices and standard agricultural practices harm honeybees.

It’s like a battle, with bees and our other earthly allies on one side. The other side? Those who wish to profit no matter the consequences. There are ways to help bees. If we don’t stand up against genetically modified crops, intensive monoculture farming, and pesticides like neonicotinoids we won’t have bees left to save us.

Monsanto’s rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
Bayer is rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They’re rolling out the guns again
But they never will take our earth again
No they’ll never take our bees again
That I’m swearing to ye.

Posted in agribusiness, beekeeping, farming | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments