Meet our new vineyard workers – the geese!

After we first planted the vineyard last year it became quickly apparent that in the absence of a tractor we were going to ahve a right royal battle with local weed population. No sooner than they were cut down did they grow back, thicker, stronger and healthier.

As well as experimenting with 15 different types of hoe, we also started taking on “wwoofers” = Working Weekends on Organic Farms – basically we give board and lodging in a beautiful part of France in exchange for about 25 hours of help in the vineyard each week. ( – if it appeals, sign up! Its very inexpensive and seems great to us). Since we started last October we have had more than 10 different wwoofers from all over the world – China, Hong Kong (thankfully not at the same time!), USA, Germany, Austria, Australia etc. This has been very interesting from a cultural point of view both for us and for our kids, and has also been a great help in keeping the dreaded weeds somewhat at bay. Regard the following work of sheer beauty in Trish’s row from a few weeks ago:

Trish’s row following a day of hoeing by myself and a wwoofer. Not bad eh? 

This is all well and good, but it takes 5 hours with 2 people to hoe one row, and a further 2 hours to clear it and sow grass seed on it. In spite of seemingly doing it full time and with calluses the size of marbles (and a rather surprising change in muscle tone and weight loss), we have only managed to do 23 rows, and now its too hot and dry to germinate the grass seed.What to do?

Buy some geese. Get them to eat the weeds. Sorted.

So,  a month ago we took delivery of 6 baby geese, just 2 weeks old:

Look at the little cuties!

We have 2 Toulouse geese and 4 Chinese geese. In a move that sets back racial stereotyping a century or more, the french Toulouse geese are fat and lazy and eat loads, whilst the chinese are noisy, energetic and skinny. I would also say that I can’t tell the chinese ones apart from each other, but maybe we should stop there.

The big discussion chez nous was of course “what to call them”. I was more interested in “when to eat them” but was outvoted. In the end, we decided to name them after of some of the Wwoofers we have had over the last few months, so please meet Piet, Hattie, Lachlan, Alexis, Yuhui, and Lily.

If you have never met geese before, they have 3 notable characteristics: they honk endlessly,  eat endlessly, and therefore they poo endlessly. Nice combo. 4 weeks of eating, honking and pooing, and look what they have become:

When they get big enough to ward off the eagles, vultures and foxes (probably next Wednesday at the rate they are growing), they will live between October and July in the vineyard, only coming back down to stop them eating the grapes after veraison. As a first step to getting them comfy with the idea, we brought them up to the vineyard last week:

How cool is that?We are hoping that they will have babies together and we will end up with a hillside full of weeding machines. There is definitely enough food for them, so lets see!

In other news, we have also managed to renovate one of the cellars under our house in preparation for making our first red wine next year:

The room on the left is where we put the wwoofers that overstay their welcome. Spooky eh?!
Well, I can’t leave you with a photo of a dingy empty cellar can I? Nope, here’s Piet and Hatty, chilling out together:

Aww. On that note I’m off to persuade my wife that I need to be allowed to go and buy some more machinery for the vineyard. I’m bringing a goose with me in case I need some defence.

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