|I could blame the kids for this, but really it was my own fault I got into this mess. Raising animals for meat means you have to bear in mind the ultimate fate of the livestock you care for, and this might make you hardened to the deaths involved. But it doesn’t make it easier to accept that animals die without you choosing for it to happen. Even the biggest commercial farmer will have their soft spot. In my case, it lead to me sitting with my family one evening, with a goose egg tucked into my bra.
The goose had been happily sitting on her clutch for the usual time, and we had watched with keen interest as one after another little gosling heads appeared amongst her feathers. Finally she walked out of the barn, with a half dozen yellow fluff balls following her. I went to fix tea, while the children stayed outside. They rushed in to say that the nest was not empty, one egg remained. I told them that sadly not all eggs made it into the world, but they insisted I looked at it. The goose and family were a long way off by now, with the mother stretching like a ballet dancer after her long confinement. We picked up the egg and looked at it. From a hole at one end, a pair of eyes looked back at us, and blinked.
Well I tried to be sensible, I tried to explain, I expounded the difficulties of trying to rescue an underdeveloped chick, and the realities of the situation. My son, daughter and the egg looked at me. They all had brown eyes I noticed. I went and heated up a hot water bottle. We wrapped the egg in a towel but the hot water bottle would overheat one side, while the other side cooled noticeably. At which point I remembered reading of farmers’ wives, who incubated hens eggs in their ample bosoms. I popped the egg in under my jumper and declined any further responsibility for making tea. For some odd reason, we had some members of a German youth orchestra staying with us at the time, delightful teenagers who were fearfully polite to us. They returned from a performance later that evening, to find my children staring fixedly at my chest as I slumped on the sofa. They asked how my day had been. I felt compelled to try and explain matters, which put a strain on our joint language skills. Finally to illustrate the situation, I pulled the egg from its 36d cup support. As I did so, there was an audible crack, and an ugly wet object fell into my lap, all legs, feet and head. It looked at me, and said ‘Peep’. The Germans remained very polite, and I tried to act normal. I feel I did however, go downhill in their estimation. Good German mothers rarely behaved in this manner, and they had already suffered in silence my concepts of housekeeping and food.
Half an hour later, and the chick was a sunshine yellow goose, covered in the softest down, and gazing at me with apparent adoration. It cried piteously if anyone else tried to hold it, fighting it’s way back under my jumper. My heart sank. Even so, I had no idea of quite what I had let myself in for. It was the start of a six-week pantomime, with me playing, of course, the role of ‘Mother Goose’.
The first battle was for sleep. The gosling wanted to stay in contact, cuddled up against me. Knowing the rear output of our farm geese, a stinking green soup produced almost continually, this had to be discouraged. I found a basket deep enough that the gosling couldn’t climb out, and lined it with a towel. The gosling cried, peeeter, peeeter, peeetttter! Only by dangling one hand in the basket so it rested on the distraught animal, could we both get some rest. Try sleeping, with one cold arm, without moving or the aural torture would start again. If I manage to sleep through the noise, someone else would wake me up, as the noise filled the house. It proved impossible to get a baby sitter, even for an hour, baby just wouldn’t have it.