by Henry Lane Hull
With the arrival of spring, the annual transformation of the barnyard has begun. The simple, cold-weather atmosphere that has existed since early autumn now has been galvanized into a series of new relationships, albeit some of them internecine, but of fascinating interest to those who choose to observe.
The lynchpin in all of this activity centers on Gladys, the gray goose and her beloved spouse, Lou. Two weeks ago today, Gladys laid her first egg of the season. I could tell something was happening, as Lou had moved into his more protective mood, still being friendly, but politely letting me know that I should not approach Gladys while this effort was in process.
Basically, personality-wise Gladys is a cross between Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) and Mrs. Farmer Hoggett in the movie, “Babe.” She has all of Hyacinth’s pretentions and her ability to nag her spouse incessantly along with Mrs. Hoggett’s oblivion to everything around her. Lou in his role is more like the old horse in “Babe,” alert to his surroundings, but normally taking the approach as annunciated to Babe by the old horse, “That’s the way things are.”
This year is different in that Gladys appears to have awakened to a maternal instinct that has eluded her for the past five seasons. She actually is laying the eggs in the same location, putting in place the beginnings of a nest, although she is not setting on them as yet. They are beautiful productions, which cause me to question why the term “goose eggs” when applied to finance is considered derogatory.
She does not remain with the eggs, but continues to wander around the pen, annoying every fowl present. The chickens substantially ignore her, to her great consternation. Consequently, she never misses an opportunity to push them aside when mealtime arrives, or when the water is being replenished.
For her part, my Good Wife has made clear that she will not be making her superb Goose Egg Frittata, one of the springtime delicacies that our family traditionally has awaited all winter, as she wants to see little goslings running around the pen. Clearly one cannot have both the splendid frittata, and the goslings, although I shall be disappointed if we have no hatchings and no frittata, but the situation is a gamble we are taking.
Last year my beloved Silky bantam hen went to the great fowl pen in the sky, and I miss her each day, particularly as she always was willing to set on others’ eggs. She was a model of foster care, happy to have anybody’s egg under her. Her spouse, a fellow Silky, does not seem to miss her and has no difficulty in sharing his life with the full-size chickens.
He is an exquisite animal, perhaps lacking the brainpower of the average Harvard freshman, but by no means aggressive. When I am serving them their breakfast, he tends to stand idly by while the hens compete to get the last grain of corn. If I throw a few kernels over to him, he may pick one up, but as a rule he lets the hens have them as well. He and Lou get along very well inasmuch as he has no interest in Gladys, and Lou pays no attention to the chickens.
The animal for whom I have the most empathy is the dear old nanny goat. She will be nine this month and is happier than ever, increasingly affectionate and blissfully unaware that a nice suitor could be there with her. She never has left our property and does not know of the world at large. She thinks that all vegetative matter should come to her and not be shared with those fowl creatures. Indeed, she probably would prefer that I spell that word as “foul.”
Our family eagerly awaits the onslaught of the goslings, which has the potential of being the signature event on the farm this year. I hope Gladys will not disappoint, and if she does, I shall miss the frittata even more.