On Easter morning as I survey winter damage to my rose bushes, I spot the large yellow blossom on the south side of the house. I kneel close to it, and then I lean closer to gather the many large leaves in my hand. A slow, steady pull brings Mr. Dandelion up by the root, but as I hold the plant, the pungent odor of earth and plant make me pause.
All winter I eagerly watch as Mom assembles goose eggs into neat rows in assorted containers of oats. She places them point down in the oats to keep them still and cool. Under a table in a cool corner of the "other room," shoeboxes, old dishpans, and assorted sizes of cardboard boxes, all without tops, store the eggs until spring.
In spring Mom picks out some hens that aren't laying, we call them clucks, to sit on the eggs in nests made of orange crates tipped on their sides. Each crate has ample straw and is on one end of a small pen in the hay barn, which by this time is empty of hay.
Then the magic begins. We feed and water the cluck as she sits on the eggs, keeping them warm and guarding them as if they contain her own offspring.
The eggs hatch and as the goslings grow, mother cluck is a fierce protector and provider too, but the hay barn floor yields nothing as mother cluck scratches to uncover morsels for them as if she were scratching the dirt.
As as they grow beyond her care, I feel a tinge of sadness for the mother cluck.
But the goslings need fresh greens with lots of protein.
"Fill the pail with dandelion leaves," Mom says as she hands me a small pail and knife. "Cut them close to the ground and be careful with the knife."
I don't have to go far. The backyard is full of yellow blossoms all the way to the road bank. When I return with a full pail, my overalls have green knees, but I am eager for mom to cut the leaves so I can feed them to the goslings.
Mom reaches into the pail to draw out a handful of leaves, holds them firmly on a wooden plank by the milk house, and with a long knife she quickly slices the leaves into small pieces. When finished, I follow her to the hay barn where the goslings are waiting.
"Pa pa pah, goosey!" She greets them cheerfully, saying the phrase rapidly and repeating it several times. The goslings respond with chatter that lets us know they are hungry.
We talk to them as they eat their greens. "Pa pa pah. Pa pa pah." Everyone is happy.
But since I have no goslings to which I can feed my freshly picked dandelion, I toss it on the garden to be plowed under later in the day.