Just goosing around……

19 02 2016

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.

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Dave’s farm, one stunning morning…..

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…….

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wheel assembly

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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….

20160218_105819It’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……

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The homecoming

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.

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6 responses

19 02 2016
MargfromTassie

Wonderful! How are you liking your first summer in Tasmania, Mike?

20 02 2016
mikestasse

Hi Marg….. apart from two or four really hot days, I’m just lovin’ it. And the people down here are just exceptional!

20 02 2016
MargfromTassie

Yes, it’s been our experience too, up here in the north, that most Tasmanians are friendly, unpretentious people.

20 02 2016
juliejordan22

Enjoying all your adventures Mike, & glad you didn’t let people talk you out of Fanny Farm 🙂

20 02 2016
Graham

I can see a TV show in the making along the lines of Gourmet Farmer -;)

21 02 2016
Diana Tod

Hi Mike,

It all sounds (and looks) very impressive, and your energy levels are an inspiration.

Re the geese – congratulations on your goose-tractor – what a great invention!

Like your friend, I’ve had 30 geese for the last couple of years, which grew from 2, and became far too many. I gave all but seven away this summer. The seven I’ve kept for nostalgic reasons. I kept mine in my netted orchard with a bath which they used for mating season – and had to collect upwards of 100 eggs each season. I do this by pulling up on my ride-on mower outside each 44 gallon drum they nest in – leaving the motor running scares the female and overseeing-protective male away for long enough for me to collect their eggs, which prevents me being attacked.

While the geese were wonderful at keeping the grass down in the 3/4 acre of netted orchard and fertilising it at the same time for spring when the grass goes ballistic, other than those few months they are breeding, (when the foxes here will just pick off the females as they nest), the geese roamed free by day and retreated to the dam at night…..the end result was a dam so nutrient-rich, it resembled a dairy-farm effluent dam….not good for irrigating fruit and nut trees, and caused endless trouble this summer.

Lucky you not having foxes – but I just thought I’d warm you of that one possible side-effect. Also, 7-10 geese seem to cohabit easily, but more than that seems to lead to a great deal of fighting among the competing males, which goes on throughout the night (!) and splitting up into rival tribes….

Cheers Mike and all the best in your amazing new venture, thanks too for posting those fascinating and brilliant, if scary, articles!

Di Tod

Sent from Windows Mail

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