ARTISTS AND BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis
Domestic breeds of Geese were once known as the farmer’s weed-eating machine and were utilized to rid crop land of unwanted grasses. Farming any crop before the 1900's, meant that everyone in the family had to spend a major portion of each day in the fields hoeing grass. If crop land was left unweeded, the fields would soon be overrun with grasses, robbing the crops of nutrients. Domesticated Geese was the perfect answer for the farmer’s dilemma. The fresh young green shoots of grass were a favorite Goose food. Farms had large flocks of Geese, and as they ate the grass, they fertilized the fields. There was a problem with the Goose solution. Hungry Geese, not watched closely, would snack on the broadleaf food crops as well once the grass was eaten. Farmers also found that unwatched flocks of Geese made tempting targets for predators, and less Goose dinners for the family.
The farmers found a solution. Young girls, too small to do heavy farm work, made perfect ‘Goose Girls’. These girls could manage the flocks of Geese. Geese are easily imprinted when they are young and would soon learn to follow along behind people. The young girls would lead out a farm’s flock of Geese each day, moving them about the fields to feed on the young shoots of grass growing in between the rows of crops or throughout the fruit and nut tree orchards. With this arrangement the farmer prospered.
With the invention of chemical herbicides, the numbers of domesticated Geese dropped dramatically. Goose Girls were no longer needed. Farmers also found that numbers of turkeys and chickens raised in confined spaces were easier than the free-roaming Geese. Many of the domestic Geese that were common throughout the world are in danger of becoming extinct. Some breeds of geese now number less than a thousand birds, for there is no commercial market for them.
Keith and Marilyn Davis were the artists this week. For questions about birds, or the upcoming Christmas Bird Counts in Cedar, Zion, St. George, or Silver Reef, call 435 673-0996, or go online to redcliffsaudubon.org .
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