Katherine Pioli fights fires in the summer, and travels the world and writes for CATALYST the rest of the year.
Don't hold your breath, but we might have some goslings soon. No. Really. Please don’t let us get you excited. We have no idea what we are doing here. There might not be goslings, but we are pretty sure that there are. Two.
Spread out on my kitchen counter, a bowl, bag of bread flour, salt, glass of tepid water, and jar of pasta madre (sourdough starter), vie for space among cocktail glasses and half-empty food plates. I shout over the noise of conversation: "Pour in your madre, weigh out 400 grams of flour and 300 grams of water." Only a handful of people in the room gather close to watch my demonstration. It is an informal classroom.
I came home from work yesterday to find our goose and gander* wandering around the yard as if they didn’t have any obligations in the world except to eat fresh green spring grass. Except they do have obligations: five big, beautiful eggs tucked into the goose’s straw nest under our bedroom window. Oh, but she wants to be a free woman. Well, missy, not today!
Last week our littlest goose started hanging out in a corner of the yard – literally a corner between a fence, a shed, two cinderblock bricks and a weed tree. There was hardly enough space for her to rest peacefully. We watched her turn in different directions and settle only to rise and turn again. But she seemed determined. The other two geese stood like sentries on either side of her as she grasped at grass and straw and vines to tuck around her. She made a new noise, sort of a whining, crying sound.
What is Ben talking about? Aggressive peepers!? This very morning I crouched down to talk with my birds and the Protester came right up, peeping. He stood close enough and still enough to let me ruffle his breast feathers with my fingers. I stroked his wings, too. He likes the attention. The ladies are much more aloof. They don’t let me touch them.
I thought you peeper fans out there might want an update on Cricket/Bumblefoot’s condition. A quick recap: Ben and I came back from a week-long vacation to find our male duck limping badly. We found a swollen bubble on a finger of his webbed foot. Some interweb research told us it was bumblefoot, a potentially fatal infection. After attempting at-home surgery, we sought professional assistance.
There is a duck in our tub in our bathroom. He, maybe she, is soaking its feet in a dog bowl full of warm Epsom salt water. Like many moments with our bird friends this one is extremely entertaining and photo-worthy. But, newly named Bumblefoot is there for a very serious reason.
Downtown, 10:30pm, a Thursday night. I steer my bike into the parking lot of a popular small Salt Lake business and lean my ride up against a concrete wall. My posse of two pulls up behind me and does the same. Next to us is a blue dumpster. City lamplight pours down on the bin. A family glides past on bikes glancing our way with a mixture of curiosity and concern. Cars drive by. I'm nervous at being so visible. But, there's nothing illegal about what we are about to do, unless you consider going through someone's trash trespassing.
With winter closing in on us, snow falling and ice forming in the animals’ water bowl, I am gripped with a bird-owner’s seasonal anxiety: will they be okay out there in the cold? I worry about drafts in the coop, frozen feet and waddles, dampness and chilling temperatures. And with the new ducks and geese, I worry that they have the sense to make a warm bed and stay out of the rain.
Today, I waited until noon before finally braving some steps out into our backyard. From inside, looking out through windows into the heavy sleet, the yard seemed less than inviting. But the ducks, geese and chickens didn’t seem to notice. They were going about their day as normal. Some stood eating from the food dispenser now sheltered under the covered chicken run. Some looked out on the world of the yard from behind the chicken fence.