Dealing with an injured goose bill

We like to let the geese free range around the fruit trees because they eat bugs and graze on weeds, but our gander, Uncle Waldo, just loves to eat the bark off our orchard saplings.   Since this kills the trees, we put some chicken wire around the saplings. This turned out to be a mistake which we have since rectified; however, we didn’t fix it before Uncle Waldo stuffed his big bill through the chickenwire in an attempt to get at that tempting bark, freaked out when he got stuck, and yanked his head up and back:


Geese’s bills are actually rather soft and the chickenwire sliced right to the bone:


Off to Dexter Animal Clinic we went, with Uncle Waldo in a dog crate honking dejectedly for his mate, Abigail, who was running about the yard in a tizzy, calling for Waldo, while the quacking ducks ran along behind her.

Protip: a wire dog crate is NOT the ideal way to transport a goose, as they spray poo out of their vent like a fire hose when they are scared.  Luckily we had put a plastic tarp around him.


We weren’t sure if the vets would be familiar with treating geese, but Dr. Anna, a charming young British veterinarian, put us at ease right away with the knowledgeable way she handled Uncle Waldo.  This clearly wasn’t her first goose rodeo.


She had Phil hold him in a towel to prevent poo spraying:


And then proceeded to clean his bill thoroughly with a cotton ball and iodine, soothing our worried nerves by distracting us with commentary about the kind of “gayce” they have in England:


She used a cotton swab to clean inside the sliced portion of his beak while chatting with him softly in her charming English accent, “Alright then, old man, here we go…”


She showed us that the slice had gone down to the bone but wasn’t as bad as other damaged bills she’s seen.  She trimmed away the dead tissue with a little scalpel and then used surgical glue to fix him up:


Uncle Waldo is about nine weeks old and weights 9.1 pounds:image

An injection of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain reliever was next; good old Uncle Waldo was such a trooper!


Dr. Anna said the bill will not regrow but that granulation tissue will form and fill in pretty well around the injury.  Until then, Uncle Waldo must remain quarantined in the duck yard, which means the whole flock must remain there as they won’t willingly leave Uncle Waldo.

We had hoped to enter Uncle Waldo and Abigail in the Chelsea Community Fair; we thought they were a shoo-in for a ribbon given how rare Pilgrim geese are (the Livestock Conservancy lists them as critically endangered).  Alas, his days as a show goose are over before they began:


However, he’ll still make excellent breeding stock.  We plan to breed and sell Pilgrim geese so as to do our part in saving the breed from extinction.

Uncle Waldo has a ten-day course of oral antibiotics now.  Dr. Anna explained to us how to crush the pill, dissolve it in warm water, and inject the antibiotic solution down his throat with a syringe; a goose’s windpipe is right at the back of their tongue in the center, so to give an oral medication, you must open their bill and insert the syringe down the side of their mouth a few inches into the esophagus.  I haven’t been able to get any pictures of us doing this yet, but I will try to and will add them when I can.

After we got home and Uncle Waldo had reunited with the frantic Abigail and resumed his place as Head of the Flock, I treated everyone to a big bowl of blueberries and cantaloupe, which I dumped into their little swimming pool for them to enjoy rooting out:


It was a harrowing day but all in all Uncle Waldo is one lucky gander!

Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs.

We’ve had some strange weather here the last few days – it warmed up from below-zero temperatures midweek to the 50s on Friday and Saturday, resulting in a fierce wind that sent dried leaves swirling and dancing through the forest, driving our Shiba Inu Ruby mad with delight as she chased them hither and yon.  Earlier in the week it had snowed and even the snowflakes were worth chasing and snapping out of midair:


Spring is coming, and we’ll make a second attempt at raising poultry; we shall not be deterred by last year’s failure!   Continue reading

Dealing with a steep, slippery, gravel driveway in winter (update)

The weather has turned mild here in Michigan, but winter is far from over.  On that note – probably the single most viewed post I’ve written on this quiet little blog of mine is last year’s How to fix a slippery driveway hill without damaging the environment.  Multiple people per day ask Google how to deal with a steep, slippery driveway and end up on my humble outpost of a blog. Since I feel their pain, having had to get my minivan winched out of the drop-off beside our driveway not once but TWICE (with the second time involving some rather unkind verbal exchanges between myself and my incredulous husband while standing on the edge of the embankment up to our knees is snow, but let’s not talk about that now), I am reposting the link above to the original post along with a few added notes below.

We use industrial absorbent diatomaceous earth to keep our driveway passable in winter. Diatomaceous earth is made entirely of fossilized algae, so it is not harmful to the environment or your landscaping.


Our steep, curving gravel driveway, sprinkled with industrial absorbent diatomaceous earth and pictured here with a ferocious Shiba Inu.

Almost every major auto parts store carries diatomaceous earth as an oil absorbent.  Note that this is NOT food-grade diatomaceous earth powder that is sometimes added to grains to keep pests from destroying them while stored, like this stuff:

This will NOT work on your driveway

Rather, it has a course texture, almost like cat litter, but it is NOT clay-like when it gets wet:

It does not become slippery or caked-up.  It stays granular so that your tires can grip it.  Here is some on my driveway a couple of weeks ago:


At $5-10 per bag, it’s a very cheap way of dealing with a steep, icy, gravel driveway.  It sticks around pretty well, so if you spread some on your driveway, you shouldn’t need to add more unless you get a bunch of additional snow that covers it up.

I hope this advice is helpful to someone out there and saves you both the tow-truck fee for a winching-out and the marital strife that may occur when your husband makes a flippant remark about your driving skills while your minivan dangles over the edge of a drop off. 🙂


Environmentally-friendly pond maintenance.

(Note to any regular readers: This post may not be of much interest to you unless you have a pond.  I’m posting it as a personal journal for keeping track of what I’m learning about pond care, and I’m making it public for the benefit of those folks who type things like “algae in my pond” into Google and end up here looking for information.  

In this post I will mention specific companies and products by name; I received no compensation either in the form of money or free products from anyone.  I have no affiliation with any company and only mention these products because they are the ones I am using; all product reviews expressed are my own, true opinions.)

We have a large earthen pond on the property that we bought last year.  The pond is figure-eight shaped, about a third of an acre and six feet deep, and has diffusers in both “eights”:


It is stocked with  Hybrid Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Black Crappie, and Yellow Perch.  It is also home to a large number of crayfish and frogs, plus a couple of turtles.

When we moved here in September of 2014, we had literally zero experience with or knowledge about caring for a stocked earthen pond.  One of the best sources of information we’ve found is Stoney Creek Fisheries in Grant, Michigan, which is also a major pond equipment supplier.  Grant is easily a three hour drive from where we live, so we don’t go there often, but they are very nice about taking phone calls and providing information.

When spring came, three things happened with our pond that concerned us: a lot of emergent weeds came up, the water turned cloudy with noticeable green algae build-up around the edges and mats of floating algae in the middle, and a strange smell almost like ammonia began to emanate from the pond on warm days.  The water got so cloudy that we could hardly see the fish when they rose to the surface to be fed, as in this video:

The first thing we did is dye the pond with one gallon of Aquashade by dumping a half-gallon over each diffuser (pro tip: um, wear gloves if you don’t want your hands stained blue for the rest of the week – ask me how I learned this one 🙂 ).  Pond dye is not a dangerous chemical; it is on the order of food coloring, and you can still eat the fish that come from a dyed pond.  The purpose of dying the pond is to control algae and plant growth; the dyes are made up of blue and yellow colorants that absorb specific wavelengths of sunlight and prevent algae and plants from being able to engage in photosynthesis.  Next time we dye the pond, in about a month, we will use only 1/2 a gallon.

The second thing we did was investigate what to do about the weeds.  Manual removal with a rake is the best way if you don’t want to use chemicals, but this pond had been let go somewhat by the previous owner and manual removal was proving impossible (trust me, I spent many hours in the sun with a pond rake, pulling out weeds and muck until my shoulders ached).  We realized that, despite our strong preference for organic maintenance, we were going to have to use a fish-safe herbicide to get some of the emergent plants under control.

After doing a lot of research, the product we chose was called Shore-Klear, which as far as I can understand is just a formulation of Round Up (glyphosate).  According to the State, water in ponds treated with Shore-Klear is safe for swimming, safe for animals to drink, and does not harm the fish.  To be extra cautious, my husband only treated half the pond, waited 48 hours, and then treated the other half of the pond so that wildlife and fish could move away from the treated areas. About a week later, some of the weeds are turning brown and dying and some are not.  Possible reasons the product isn’t working great are user error (did we apply enough and in the right way) and a heavy weed infestation requiring multiple treatments to eliminate.  We will spray again in another week and see how it does.

The next issue was the algae.  The pond dye will help prevent algae growth but is not sufficient to eradicate a full algal bloom such as we had.  The product we were sold by a local pond supplies business was Hydrothol 191.  After researching this product carefully, we returned it to the store.  We felt that this product, though not as dangerous to the environment as copper-based algaecides, still had too much risk for harming the fish, frogs, and other wildlife in our pond.  Our bedroom window overlooks the pond and the frogs sing us to sleep every night; harming them would be unacceptable.

I spent hours online researching other products and finally selected GreenClean Pro (sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate). The USDA’s National Organic Standards Board lists this chemical as acceptable for use in the farming of organically-produced food crops.  It does not harm fish, amphibians, or plants (unless you spill the undiluted dry product on the plants, in which case it can cause burns on them).  If you look at the chemical name, you will realize that this is simply dried, undiluted hydrogen peroxide, the same as what you buy in the brown bottle at the store (only that is much-diluted).

My husband wore protective gear while applying it in order to avoid burns, but the minute it hits the water, it dilutes and thus does not harm wildlife.  In order to not inadvertently burn frogs or turtles with undiluted product, my husband treated the pond in thirds and started out by running a rake around the area he was going to treat to encourage wildlife and fish to disperse.

Here is some algae prior to application:


Here is that same algae shortly (like an hour) after application:image

The product foams just like hydrogen peroxide does when you use it at home.  We used a skimmer net to remove large dead clumps of algae.  What we couldn’t get will settle to the bottom.  Notice the difference in water clarity two days after using GreenClean Pro – you can see lots of adorable catfish clear as can be:

We are very satisfied with this product; if environmentally-friendly pond maintenance is important to you, we highly recommend GreenClean Pro algaecide based on the results we’ve seen so far.

The next step will be dealing with the muck on the bottom of the pond, which is composed of organic material such as leaves, dead plants, dead algae, fish poo, and so on.  The muck can build up very thick and smells yucky.  A beneficial bacteria solution is used to digest the muck and improve water clarity; this gets rid of the ammonia smell we were noticing, which is generated by decaying material in the pond.  We are using Pond Vive and Sludge Remover Pellets for this purpose, which we will apply later today.  We decided to wait several days after applying the algaecide just in case it could possibly harm the beneficial bacteria.  The gentleman from Stoney Creek told me that the bacteria in Pond Vive can digest 5-10 inches of muck per season!  But we’ll see if the product actually lives up to that claim or not; I’ll report back in September on the state of our muck. 🙂

So, if you’ve clicked on any of the links above, you may have glanced at the price for these products.  Horrifying, no?  Would you like to know the grand total for what we spent on pond chemicals and solutions for this season?

$ 1,100.

Like I said, horrifying.  The pond came with the property, and it is a really neat feature.  We love the frogs, we love feeding the fish and will probably eventually even eat some of the fish.  The kids kayak on the pond nearly every day, and it supports a lot of biodiversity on our property.  And the price to put in a pond like this runs easily $10,000, so we wouldn’t consider filling it in. But I’m not sure we would have chosen to put one in ourselves, given the cost of maintaining them.  Of course, if your pond isn’t near your house, you might not have to maintain it quite as much, since any pond odors won’t bother you, but ours is maybe 50 yards from our house.

If you have any experience with ponds or any questions for me about ours, let me know in the comments.  I hope this informational is helpful!

Country mouse is not a city mouse.

For the past two days I’ve had to attend a professional conference in our capital city, Lansing.

Now, Lansing is hardly a booming metropolis, but it’s a lot bigger than the little town where I live and the little town where I work, both of which are rather rural.

I grew up from age 13 to 18 in Caledonia, which was farm country back then.  Moving to Ann Arbor to attend college was jarring; I felt like I was in a big, scary city for the first few months until I got used to it.

We moved out to the country in early September of this year, and I do not miss city life at ALL.  Driving around Lansing trying to find the parking structure and the conference center frazzled my nerves, and I realized it was because in just six months, I’ve gotten readjusted to country life with minimal traffic, noise, and chaos.

I can relate to Annie, the little country mouse.

When I got home this evening, my shoulders were knotted with tension from driving on I-96 at rush hour.  I walked to the back sliding glass doors and looked out toward the pond, only to see two huge birds, a male and female pair, feeding in our back yard.  Are they herons?  Cranes?  I don’t know birds, but they were probably nearly as tall as my waist.  They walked around the back yard near the woods, the female following close behind the male, while I crept out onto the balcony, enthralled and trying to get pictures of them.

DSC04407 DSC04406 DSC04404 DSC04403 DSC04400

Being a country mouse, I could never set foot in a city again and be perfectly happy with that.

It helps that we have a decent performing arts community for such a small town.  Some of the credit for that goes to the actor Jeff Daniels, who lives here and who started the Purple Rose Theater in town.  There is also our community ballet, which was performing this evening and to which my mother-in-law graciously treated my family plus my husband’s aunt, brother, and sister-in-law.  It was very well-done, and the girl who danced the lead part was lithe and lovely, as a ballerina should be, and her male dance partner was the perfect combination of strength and grace.

I did, however, realize while watching the performance that there is one athletic area where the men are dressed more immodestly than the women.  Behold the male equivalent of female volleyball shorts:

ballet tights

But I’m breathing a sigh of relief to be home in my house in the woods…


Prudently Prepared and Un-Panicked

Supposedly we’re in for a winter storm later tonight, so I’ve been thinking about the topic of preparedness again. We’ve moved since last year at this time, and we’re in a much better situation for riding out acts of God, nature, or terrorism. We have propane in a large tank for heat and cooking – currently a 500-gallon tank but we’re thinking of moving up to a 1000-gallon tank – so we aren’t reliant on gas lines. We have a well and a septic field, so no longer are we reliant on city water and sewage. And although we’re still “on the grid” in terms of electricity, we do have a whole-house generator that runs on propane, so power outages due to storms or other problems don’t trouble us much. We have a good-sized kitchen pantry that we keep stocked, plus an extra freezer and refrigerator in the basement.


We’re pretty well set to ride out short-duration catastrophes. But as the news media yammers on about tonight’s possible storm, it seems like a good time to repost something I wrote and published elsewhere last year.

From Kill Your Television, Stock Your Pantry:

A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. (Proverbs 27:12, NLT)

One of the downsides – or is it an upside?  I’m not sure. – of not having what Keoni Galt calls tell-a-vision is that you don’t find out when it is time to engage in mass hysteria until everyone else is already in full-on panic mode.

Let me give an example.  We live in Michigan and sometimes the weather here can be bad in the winter.  I grew up in the Grand Rapids area, so I’m used to dealing with heavy snowfall, unlike my compatriots here in the southern part of the state who seem to flip out over five inches.  I noticed yesterday morning when I checked a weather website that we were supposed to get heavy snow today – possibly up to a foot, but I’ve learned to take forecasts like that with a grain of salt because they are often exaggerated and will say things like 6-12 inches possible, which means we might get 4.  Anyway, a possible foot of snow is worth knowing about, but because I don’t have TV, I did not get the Everybody freak the hell out! message.

Coming out of church yesterday evening, my husband left directly to go to work in his car, and I said to our daughters, “We need to stop by the store to pick up some eggs because we’re out and I need one to make dinner.”

Eldest daughter replied, “Oh, didn’t you hear?  There’s a blizzard coming later and there are mobs at the stores and almost no food left.”  Why no, I hadn’t heard, as a matter of fact.  I felt a sense of unease.  “Come on, let’s go.  We need eggs.”  So off we went.

When we arrived at an out-of-the-way grocery store that I thought might not be too crowded, we were greeted by a waiting line of cars to get into the parking lot…at 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night.  I waited patiently, got a spot, and the girls and I trudged in through the slush.

We needn’t have bothered.  There were no eggs to be had, nor bread, nor fruit, nor vegetables.  All milk other than whole milk was gone – lucky for me, people are still dumb enough to believe that low-fat milk is healthier for them, so at least I was able to get a gallon of milk.  There wasn’t even any toilet paper on the shelves, all because we might get a foot of snow today.  I saw two obese women empty an entire shelf of Little Debbie snack cakes into their shopping cart…because Little Debbie will lead you through the storm safely, ladies, right?  I asked the cashier if it had been like this all day, and the poor, exhausted woman nodded and told me it had been worse earlier, with people arguing over loaves of bread.

Why do people act this way?  There are two reasons.  First, people panic when the TV says to, which kind of makes you stop and wonder a bit about just how much influence we have allowed it to have in our lives.  How much do we unconsciously do and think because that is what the TV tells us to do and think?  Think about how the weather forecast is portrayed on television – it should be a fairly mundane part of the newscast, right?  It used to be that way; when I was a little girl, the meteorologist was always a staid, calm man in a suit explaining something that, to my five-year-old ears, sounded like windshield temperatures, making me wonder why anyone cared what the temperature of their car windshield was.

But forecasts aren’t like that anymore.  There are fast moving graphics, weird sound effects, announcers saying things like Stay with Channel 7!  Storm Team 7 is on the job, tracking the Blizzard of the Century!  and a good twenty minutes of hype, with fluff stories involving interviews with customers buying snowblowers – in fact, the very last snowblower, oh god Bob do we have a snowblower, why didn’t you get a snowblower?! Why did I marry such a terrible, no-snowblower-having man?? – at Home Depot.  What is the point of this?

Well, the more freaked out and emotional people get by the news coverage, the more they watch it; they don’t want to miss any detail.  Why?  Because their emotions are being manipulated – they are being induced into a state of panic in order to get them to continue watching because a large viewership means more advertising dollars.

The second reason people respond this way is that they have not properly prepared for a state of emergency.  Preparedness means getting your ducks in a row before, not during, a crisis.  The reason I did not have to panic and start clearing shelves into my cart at the store yesterday was because I’m already prepared for a short-term emergency.  My husband built a pantry full of shelves for me in the basement, and I keep it well-stocked with canned goods, bottled water, paper products, extra batteries, and the like.  No, we couldn’t live out of our basement for a year, but neither do I have to try to fight my way through a mob to get the last roll of toilet paper on the store shelf with a blizzard on the way.

If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend reading the article The 7 core areas of preparedness by Patrice Lewis.  Patrice runs a preparedness/homesteading blog of her own, Rural Revolution, but this article was originally published in Backwoods Home Magazine.  Here is what Patrice says are the seven core areas and what you need to consider.  She writes:


This is obvious. I don’t mean you should stuff your freezer with TV dinners, either, because if the power goes out, they’re gone. Consider purchasing staples you enjoy eating (rice, beans, oatmeal, etc.) and learn to store and prepare them. These have the added advantage of being dirt cheap. If you want to take the next step, learn to can. Properly canned food lasts years without refrigeration, and canning is a valuable skill as well. Alternately, buy lots of commercially canned food.

Along with storing food, you should have the means to prepare it. Your options will be more limited if you’re in an urban high-rise apartment (where you can’t install a wood cookstove, for example), in which case your food will have to be pre-cooked (such as MREs) or otherwise edible without cooking. Eating unheated soup or beans right out of a can might not be the most pleasant meal, but at least you won’t starve.


Without water to drink and wash, you’ll be miserable (or dead). At all times you should have a minimum of 20 gallons stored in your home. Look for options to secure larger quantities of water (roof runoff? storage tank?) as well as ways to sterilize surface water such as bleach, iodine, or filtration.

If you’re preparing for a minimum of three months, then your storage space for water will be huge and will probably take up far more space than most people have available. That’s why you need the means to purify water. A non-electric water filter (such as Berkey) might be part of your water storage efforts.


We live in rural north Idaho not far from the Canadian border. Heat is a major concern for us. How can you heat your house if the power goes out? Everyone’s circumstances are different – you probably can’t install a woodstove in a Manhattan apartment – so think through the alternatives that will work for you.

Be careful about ventilation when considering your heat sources. Endless people have been asphyxiated due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they chose the wrong option to heat their living space. Some buildings have windows which will not open, and this must be considered when thinking through your heat sources.


You don’t want to be in the dark, do you? Everyone can afford an oil lamp or two. Don’t bother with those pricey containers of scented lamp oil, either. A gallon of kerosene is less than $10 and works just fine.

While flashlights and batteries are nice (and necessary), you’ll go through your battery supplies very quickly if you depend on them exclusively for lighting. Remember your Rule of Three: plan to have backups to your backups. You should have candles, oil lamps, perhaps battery-powered LED lamps, or other light sources.

If you’re “bugging in,” consider blackout curtains for your windows that will block light. Alternately, a roll of black plastic and duct tape will work (as well as being useful for other purposes). No sense advertising how prepared you are (OpSec!). But remember, sheeting your windows in plastic will trap carbon monoxide, so be careful.


What happens if you can’t flush your toilets? If you run out of diapers or feminine hygiene products? If you don’t have toilet paper? Think about what kind of reusable alternatives you can substitute for pricey disposable items.

Find reusable versions of disposable sanitary items. Cheap washcloths from the dollar store can act as reusable toilet paper. Use cloth instead of disposable diapers. Try washable feminine napkins instead of disposable. Of course, these reusable versions require a means to wash them, so think through your options. For short-term preparedness, it might be better to stock up on disposables.

If you cannot flush your toilets and an outhouse isn’t possible, a five-gallon bucket lined with heavy-duty trash bags and a toilet seat may be your next best option. Wood shavings, sawdust, or ash can be sprinkled in the bucket after each use to help control odors.


Can you doctor yourself for minor injuries? Do you have a good stock of your prescription medicines? It doesn’t cost much to pull together a comprehensive first-aid kit. It might be harder to stockpile prescription medications, so this is something worth discussing with your doctor.

Now may be the time to take a refresher course for basic first aid. You might also stock up on medical items you may not otherwise consider — burn dressings, tape closures, compression bandages, and lots of over-the-counter pain killers.


What happens when too many people suddenly want to be your best friend post-bleep? What should you do if you live in an urban area subject to rioting and unrest? Some people interpret “safety” to mean they should have an arsenal of guns. Others think they need a secret rural bug-out location. However you interpret it, identify prospective dangers for your circumstances and think of how to mitigate them.

Personally, I believe every family member old enough to handle a firearm should be taught safety factors and target practice. Adult members should also have holsters (either concealed or otherwise) for ease of carry during “bleep” situations. I recently purchased a bra holster which will make concealed carry very simple and comfortable (and invisible).

Safety should be more than just firearms. It also includes such things as situational and strategic awareness, home and property security, communications, and local relations (friends, neighbors, community).

Just like nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, so too no one expects a sudden state of emergency; nevertheless, unexpected events do happen, and when they do, people panic because they are being manipulated by mass hysteria cues being screamed at them by their TVs and because they have not prepared.  But if you are prepared, and if you turn off your yammering tell-a-vision, you will not need to panic.

Oh, and how did my trip to the grocery store end?  Well, feminists are certain that careers rather than babies are our salvation, ladies, but in this instance our littlest daughter saved the day.  As I stood fretting at the empty dairy case about not being able to make the dish I had wanted to make for dinner due to the missing eggs, she cried, “Mommy, I see eggs! I see them!”  Sure enough, there they were; she was just the right height to peer into the bottom dairy case shelf and notice a little half-dozen carton of eggs pushed to the very back and unnoticed.  I grabbed them, we checked out, and dinner was just as I had planned it.


And so here I sit, cozy and calm, watching the snow fall.  Won’t you now join me in a little sing-a-long, dear readers?

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I’m the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I’m the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I’m the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t go for help . . . no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That’s right, folks . . .
Don’t touch that dial