The goslings and a shepherd's hut... : Latest blogs from @SoilAssociation

The goslings and a shepherd's hut...

Emma Heseltine - 09 May 2012

GoslingThis week we get the goslings. They come up as day old chicks and we raise them for the Christmas market. I had one last year and it was a rare treat indeed. There is another farm locally who is getting some too so they go meet our man in Newcastle and then we pop over to get them from the farm. We have ordered 40, that’s the limit we can sensibly house. They are very free range and have the run of the farm on a day time, but like the chickens they need to be locked up on a night to stop our four legged friends running off with a goose-shaped snack or two.

We have a nice big hut for them in the hen-house field with a micro pen for them to forage about in when they are still little before they are allowed out onto the farm. That’s still a month off yet as they are tiny at the moment and so yellow and fluffy I can’t help but love them. Once they get a bit bigger and start to get proper feathers they can start strutting about the farm and menacing things. It’s been quiet on the farm since Christmas. When these little guys get out and about it’ll get plenty noisy again.

We have them in the stable in an old ring feeder adapted to the purpose. It has to be round otherwise they pile into a corner and suffocate each other. We have wrapped it in an old tent to keep out drafts and there are two heat lamps hanging over it. With a generous helping of sawdust, two feeders and drinkers a nice cosy home is made. Geese need a lot of water so we check the water at least three times a day, they can certainly drink! They are mainly running around and squeaking at the moment, they are directly below my bedroom but the insulation is good so I cant hear them, although I don’t think I’d mind much!

We are making a shepherd's hut at Willowford. Its for the wall walkers in the summer It will be an all singing, all dancing food vending extravaganza for all the hungry people passing by. But first the roof needs painting. I’m not as useful as I usually am due to pinkie problems (thanks again Chester). I can wield a paint brush however so I am set to painting the tongue and groove that will make up the curved roof of the hut. Undercoat and two coats later it’s looking nice, now it just needs to go up. Look out in the next few weeks for a new addition to Hadrian’s Wall, delicious hot organic food from one of my fabulous farms! We have to keep those wall walkers from getting hungry.

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.


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23 May 2012 17:33

Hi Lucy, They are such great creatures aren't they! People do love them too, we could have sold ours at least twice over. The short answer is my boss knows lots of useful people. We have a guy who comes and dispatches them and an ex-butcher who comes and dresses them for the price of a bird for his own table. We do the plucking with the help of a dry plucking machine (very useful investment if you intend to do a few) and a few local helpers, it's a long and busy few days but the people that come to help often come back each year. Sorry I can't help more!

22 May 2012 23:13

Hi EmmaHow do you prepare the geese at Christmas time - do you dispatch and dress them yourself or do you know of a poultry abbatoir that would do small quantities? I'm a smallholder based in West Yorkshire, I produced 8 geese for sale last year - I'd like to do more as people love them but I do them all myself and am not sure I'd be able to pluck them in time. Have you got any ideas/suggestions? thanks

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