Out of the blue, another acquaintance of mine in Geeveston who actually bought a block of land I had my eye on a few years ago offered me some geese. With twenty five of them, and having problems trying to stop them flying away to greener pastures, Dave and Cassandra decided they just had too many. I on the other hand have always been a firm believer that mowers that don’t use fossil fuels are the best there are, and it was always my intention to keep geese and ducks (Muscovies in particular) to keep the grass down in the apple orchard.
Not only do they eat lots of grass, they also produce enormous quantities of very wet poo, the ideal fertiliser for my apples. Permaculture 101, really, and eventually they reproduce supplying either eggs or meat when their numbers grow. In exchange for the free birds, I’ve spent all day having fun on Dave’s farm (which I can clearly see from our place) with Matt and his tractor, ploughing hundreds of metres of windrows in preparation for planting a windbreak of native trees. I also showed Dave how to clip wings to stop the birds from flying, and how to kill one the quick and humane way I’ve used for years with my ducks back in Queensland. All in all, a very productive day…….
Because these geese seem particularly flighty, I came up with the idea of making a goose tractor. Now I had never even heard of tractoring such large birds, but looking it up on the internet, I did find it had been done before, and set out to build one with three metre long sticks of pine left over from building bedrooms in the shed….
It’s the biggest and heaviest tractor I’ve ever built. It needed real wheels, and I found some at the local hardware store for the princely sum of $43. With solid rubber tyres (that can’t go flat) and proper roller bearings to take the weight, I set about making a chassis for it incorporating the wheels at one end.
I then laid out the triangular ends on the floor of the shed, mitred the tops, and using 150mm bugle head screws, fastened the lot together. This proved unbelievably strong. In fact, the integrity of the whole structure was proven when I towed the finished tractor 250m to its starting position in the orchard…. Without breaking it!
But putting the whole spindly superstructure together outside – because I doubt it would have fitted through the shed doors – proved a little more difficult, and after getting it up on the ute’s ladder rack frame, I had to relent and ask Matt next door to come and help me turn it over for a beer…
The door is part of an aviary I picked up at the tip for five bucks, and I have enough left to now make a small tractor housing for ducklings whenever we may get those……
It was then covered over with bird netting, commonly used here in Tasmania to stop birds attacking fruit trees. If this netting was strong enough to contain Dave’s geese after he caught them, it would be good enough here….
The tractor now houses the new arrivals, four girls and one boy, between rows of fast growing apples, and they are hopefully settling down fast. A month from now, I’ll start letting them out one at a time to see if they call the Fanny Farm home yet, because I’m sure looking forward to the day they can free range the whole orchard.