Grateful it’s finally light by 6:30 AM, I sipped my hot coffee curled up on the sofa with a blanket and chatted on the phone with Toby about my cherry trees starting to blossom. She was outside fixing a fence board balancing the phone on her shoulder chattering about the warm Spring California sunshine, the possibility of buying a house and her desire to spend days on the beach in Mexico reading a book when I heard a goose honking. Strange I thought, as I hadn’t heard her in weeks. All the other geese were tucked safely in the barn. Clara’d been laying eggs left and right, but I took them all away from her. I’ve been including them in my farm variety egg pack- turkey, duck, chicken & goose I’ve been selling for only $2.00 a dozen. Lisa thinks I should raise my prices, but I'm new at this. The most consistent layers are the chickens, but the ducks lay a bigger egg and are fairly regular. Silence had been laying, but for some reason seemed to stop. We'd taken all but two of her eggs. And the geese lay an egg everyone loves, but I guess they had a limited supply. I collect the eggs every day fill the recycled egg cartons and take them to the Cat Clinic in town where I sell them to the staff, since Lisa’s been working there pretty consistently. They give me more cartons and it pays for the All Purpose Poultry feed.
Clara had moved her nest all over the yard to thwart me. She started in the woodpile, went to the back fence and finally she wedged herself so far under the porch I couldn’t get at her.
“Last night, Henry and I left her some food and water in case she came out. And the weirdest thing, another goose stayed out with her”
I wonder why she did that?” Toby mused.
“Huh, I wonder why she did that?” Toby mused.
“You’re the poultry girl, I was hoping you could tell me,” I countered. “Anyway, this is the first time I’ve heard her since she went under the porch I guess she came out for the water and food. Finally,” I said relieved. “I hate her being outside it makes me nervous, but at least she’s been close to the house where she’s safer.”
I got off the phone, it was still early and cold so I did the dishes and began to mop the floor in the dining room when I heard honking again. I hadn’t gone out to let the rest of the geese out of the barn yet, so I threw on Tom’s red terry cloth robe over my green flannels and slid into a pair of fuzzy slippers. I dialed one of my new portable phone’s Tom bought me at Cost-co. They have such incredible range I can take them all the way to the barn, which is why he got them. The phone rang until Tom's voice-mail dinged. I began talking. I’m infamous for leaving long conversational messages. Tom gets annoyed because he forgets it’s a message and tries to interrupt me or talk back. So now you know why I’m a big believer in messages.
“Hey, I heard Clara this morning. Henry and I left her some water by the porch last night and some food since she never comes out,” I rambled as I shuffled across the porch the cold morning biting my ankles. “Anyway, the strangest thing was that Mabel stayed outside with her last night. I’m looking under the porch right now and I don’t see them. And I’m relieved to see there aren’t any eggs. I figured there would be, but nope no eggs,” I said emphatically into the receiver I had clutched to my cheek.
Just then, I heard the girls honking and turned, “Oh My Lord In Heaven!” I screamed. “There aren’t any eggs because there are goslings! Two fluffy goslings are standing by the garage with Clara and Mabel. I bet you Mabel stayed out because she knew!! I can’t believe it!!” I shrieked and hung-up.
For a moment I stood there in disbelief. Where did the eggshells go? Did they eat them? I turned and ran in the house. “Henry!!! Wake-up!! C’mon you won’t believe what I found!” I said as a groggy Henry lifted his sleepy head from the pillow squinting like a mole and fumbling for his glasses.
“Is something dead?” He asked guardedly, knowing I hate dead things.
“No, c’mon!” I demanded as I scurried down the stairs Tom’s floor-length red terrycloth robe flying behind me like a cape. I grabbed my Nikon with the red duct tape and was out the door. Once outside I slowed down and watched the little ones with their mama. Henry figuring something big was a foot was right behind me.
“Babies! We have babies! Clara you have babies,” Henry cooed in the soft funny voice reserved for newborns.
“It’s a good thing we put the water and food out last night or they wouldn’t have had anything,” I reflected. “Henry, I don’t want any of the dogs outside with the babies. Remember Vivian last year,” I reminded.
“She didn’t mean to kill him,” Henry rationalized.
“Rugby! You better go and tell Joe and Katie not to let Rugby out without a leash. He chased Franklin something fierce when he first came. I thought he was going to kill Frank, but he left him alone. Babies? He wouldn’t have to do much,” I warned, but Henry was already on the move.
I went inside, but I could see Henry returning with Joe. I smiled at the sight. Joe looked less than ready to venture outside, hair tousled, wrapped in a robe, a cup of coffee in hand but he couldn’t resist the goslings. He leaned in with Henry and admired the babies and I knew this kid was one of us.
“Mom?” Henry called to me.
“Yeah? I said stepping out the front door onto the porch.
“I’m going to take Joe up to see Silence’s eggs in the barn ok?” Henry half asked and half told me.
“Sure, but be careful I don’t know how strong that structure is.” I mom-ed the both of them. I supposed I didn’t really have to warn a fireman, but what the heck.
When he got back Henry took my hand and told me to sit down. “Mama, I’ve got something to tell you,” he said seriously.
“Is something wrong with Silence?”
“Apparently not,” he continued a smile sneaking into his eyes. “You know how we took all of her eggs, but two?”
“Yes,” I answered slowly, the news beginning to dawn on me.
“Well, Joe and I climbed up there and well, she has fourteen!”
“Fourteen? Fourteen turkeys? I don’t want fourteen turkeys,” I said dazed.
Later that day, Henry and I candled Silence’s eggs to see if there were turkeys actually in them. Maybe they weren’t even fertilized I thought. However, as I held them over the light, they looked so full we both figured there were definitely babies in them. And in fact they looked so packed we were fairly sure it was because they were so big they couldn’t move around in the egg anymore.
“Henry, I think we should relocate her nest. If those babies are born and we’re not here they could fall off and I couldn’t take little turkey bodies all over.”
“Oh Mama, but what if she won’t sit on it?” Henry worried.
“Well, then they’ll die. I gotta tell you I can take that better than dead babies, you?” I asked.
“No question,” he agreed. So the relocation procedure began. Henry went up and gathered the eggs lowering them down to me with a rope.
"Is she freaking out with you up there," I asked.
"Nope. She's cooing. She isn't like the geese. She let me put my hand in and take her eggs. She looked concerned, but she seems to trust me."
Next we made a nest. We tried to make it as close a replica of hers as possible. She’d made hers underneath the wheel of an overturned wheel barrel so we took another wheel barrel in to her pen just like she had it. Finally we carefully, put the eggs in the nest and Henry brought down Silence. She walked around a little and began to eat. She didn’t sit on the eggs.
“She isn’t sitting,” Henry worried, “and I think I cracked one of the eggs,” he confessed, “when I was putting them in the container.”
“Honey, you were careful, it was an accident. Anyway, what the heck are we going to do with that many turkeys? Giver her time. Let's leave her alone.”
It was Spring. Yellow daffodils were popping out of the ground everywhere. The sun blazed and suddenly I had the urge to do yard work. The rest of the day the gosling waddled around the lawn with the gaggle munching on grass, sipping water and enjoying the sunny day. Henry, Joe, Katie and I raked the yard talking about this and that as we worked. Henry and Joe took a few breaks to throw knives at a target, taking the tractor to the pond for a little BB gun practice. After putting the Kubota away I saw Henry dart in and out of the barn. "She's sitting on them!" He cried happily.
And everything seemed possible. Again.