I grew up with my dad raising bees for honey. My brother and I got stung a lot as children. Now, my brother has severe allergic reactions when he gets stung. I just have a slight fear of handling bees. I must have been in kindergarten or first grade when I remember my dad running circles around the house hollering while we tracked him from inside the house, running from window to window to peer out at him. I remember him stopping to pound on the door demanding entry and mom telling him to keep running. As far as the benefits go, I grew up on honey, honey and PB sandwiches, honey and PB on ricecakes, honey and homemade yogurt. I did not realize how much I appreciate good honey until I no longer had any. Now, we eat honey on hot cereal and honey on pancakes. I use honey in our weekly bread and on sandwiches. I have a strong appreciation and desire for local honey which is outrageously expensive here. I've been mentally working myself up to raising bees for a few years now. Last year D got me a beekeeping book for Christmas, which I read. Last spring I signed up for a beekeeping class, but later decided I already had too much on my plate.
This is going to be the year. I'm starting off by taking a beginning bee keeping class which covers all the basics. It is a couple hour class, once a week over five or so weeks. I'm gearing up to order a suit - or maybe just the jacket and head covering. As much as I'd like to imagine myself with barefeet and bare hands among the bees- well I think I'll be a lot less intimidated if I'm suited up and protected from stings. I'm starting off with one hive on the hill above the garden. I'm hoping to meet our honey and beeswax needs, with some leftover for gifts.
I don't have many experiences with geese. Actually I've only met one flock of geese, and we did not get along. There was a flock of large white geese at a farm where I boarded my horse for a couple years. This farm had attack geese and an attack rooster (which finally left me alone after it flew at me while I was holding a shovel, which was the bat. He was the ball). The geese would corner me in the barn, chase me, chase my car, pluck the rubber trim out from my bumper while I was off riding.
I've been doing a lot of geese research. I've learned that my shying away from the geese initially may have instigated our poor relations. I've been deliberating between Pilgrim and African geese, two of the more gentle breeds. I decided on the Pilgrim too late, multiple suppliers are already sold out for the season. I really liked the idea of the Pilgrims as they are the only breed of geese that are sexed. The males are white and the females are blue and gray. I ended up ordering a pair of French Toulouse geese, and an extra un-sexed goose - possibly for Christmas dinner. Looks counted for a lot in deciding which breed to get. The Toulouse are gray and blue, they look like the French aristocrat version of geese. They are stately, blue and gray and handsome.They are also one of the more gentle breeds, good layers, setters, parents, and they make a nice roast goose, good fat, feathers... I would have like to get the ones with the dewlaps, but those are way pricey.
I am getting geese mostly because I like the idea of having a couple pet geese. I also like the idea of large hardy birds wandering around the homestead. We have a lot of birds of prey issues, mostly Ravens attacking young chickens and ducks. As a result the ducks are hesitant to free range. I think they've been traumatized. So I'm hoping to raise the geese with some same age layers and ducks, and maybe the geese will look out for the smaller birds. The ducks are very skittish, not inquisitive or friendly. I'm hoping the geese will fill my desire to have some pet birds.
Now, if you have traumatic geese memories you may be thinking I'm crazy. Well, if they end up attacking my children, they will be dinner. We are just getting a few to try them out. We are going to handle them a lot. I'm going to work with the kids on not running from the geese or establishing any bad behavioral issues - no running, no intimidating etc. We will work on carrying treats daily as we do chores. So hopefully we will have friendly geese. Geese don't lay a lot of eggs. We're talking twenty to fifty/sixty a year depending on the breed. The French Toulouse lay towards the higher end. I like the idea of bonding with the original pair, letting them hatch and rear their young, and then eating the wild things. Obviously I have some details to work out, like they are going to be vicious when setting on their eggs and caring for their goslings. And then, wild goslings may be too wild... It is an experiment.
Other poultry notes: I'm still trying to decide whether to get regular Cornish Cross this summer or a slower growing meat bird. I think we are going to do four Broad Breasted Whites again as opposed to heritage breeds. I'm collecting duck eggs to start incubating in the next few days. I'm collecting Peking eggs and Peking crossed with Saxony eggs. We will keep the females for layers and eat the males. We just need a handful of layers. I'm going to set a few Ameraucana eggs and probably buy a few Ameraucanas and Sexlinks at the feed store. Each summer I end up with five groups of birds to feed and water. I'm trying to think of how to simplify the chores. There are the established layers, established ducks, then the turkeys, the cornish and then the new layers, ducks and geese. I may combine the established birds, and then all the new birds except the turkeys. Does anyone have experience raising turkeys with other poultry? Everything I read says that is a big no no, but then I've heard of folks doing it without problems. Also, if you have experience with raising geese and have any advice I would love to hear it. Thanks again for your words of encouragement and kindness regarding this years kidding losses. Take care.
Oh yeah, and here is to facing our fears, bees, geese or whatever they may be. Cheers!