The lawns of my beloved Poland have become a battleground.
It is not fallout from displays of political signs — “Mandel for Senate” and “Vote for Children” and “Vote for Oxygen.” Those have faded from our presence.
It is not squabbles over “for-sale” perks on our homes: “Look — granite countertops in the kids’ bathrooms, too.”
The battle is over geese.
Approximately 40 geese have taken over our neighborhood’s common green space. It’s been going on for about five years, or as one neighbor noted: “Since you moved in.”
And little by little, the geese have taken over our lawns, which is no small offense in Poland. You see, in my neighborhood, some lawns are tweezed like eyebrows to arrive at Rembrandt status.
The geese-feeding frenzies and feces trails have reset once lush lawns into patches of green cellulite.
My neighbors — aghast at the damage — have set down their cigars and brandy snifters and taken up arms against this invasion.
The arms are not guns, bows, Jack Russell terriers or trumpet-fueled horse brigades on foggy dawn mornings.
We’ve taken to pie tins, wind chimes, balloons and streamers.
Yes — if you can’t beat them back with gun powder, then assault them with discarded parade paraphernalia.
The “parade” got as big as five houses earlier this fall. Lawn by lawn, neighbors established a phalanx of wooden-staked sentries about 3 feet tall. Hanging by string from each sentry were either pie tins or streamers or balloons or chimes. All we needed were weaving Shriners’ cars, and we could have had a great parade.
One neighbor I talked to about the spectacle admitted:
“I know it looks a bit tacky, but ...”
Yes — the pie tins worked.
It was an odd sight to see the lead goose eye the lawns like Custer and try to decipher how much of a threat existed. It was enough, apparently.
The geese avoided the five houses.
Which is where this issue gets touchy: The geese moved to the sixth and seventh lawns, thus pitting neighbor vs. neighbor. That — or we line 100 homes with pie tins and get a permanent festive atmosphere in our ’hood.
One of the neighbors felt bad to have pushed the problem deeper into the neighborhood, but he said this is a health problem that really is a township issue.
I checked with the township, and they said it’s a state and federal issue.
(I would be sarcastic at this stage, about government and buck passing, but it is a state/fed issue.)
Eventually, I found the Indiana Jones of Northern Ohio geese — Laurie Graber, a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife in Akron.
She said the perception that people are powerless to geese is untrue. There’s a lot that people can do about geese.
In fact, shooting them is fine (with proper paperwork). For sure from October to January. But special options exist for Sept. 1-15 and also from March to August.
But she said they don’t set local gun laws. Which is where my township boss comes back into the picture.
“Can you imagine guns going off in your neighborhood?” He had a point.
Graber is not at all opposed to shooting geese. After all these years of working with geese, she’s not developed any special affinity to the creatures. And the state website is fairly clear about the many shooting options that exist.
There are a host of other options instead of shooting, but it takes some effort and smarts.
Noise, visual distractions, egg treatments, round-ups and dogs are among the many options.
But you also have to know the Goose Calendar:
They hook up in February and March; they nest from April to June; they molt from June until August, which means they cannot fly away if their life depended on it.
The egg treatment is pretty cool, and I saw it on TV once — “MacGyver,” I think.
You cannot simply destroy or remove goose eggs. Mother geese will just keep dropping more without hesitation, said Graber. (Like me with pizza, geese laying eggs is a genetically occurring phenomena.)
But the Graber types learned that you can coat the eggs with oil to stop the development of the egg, while still fooling the mother goose that she is tending to a viable egg.
But getting to the eggs is the hard part. If you think it’s rough on Youngstown’s South Side, try getting to a goose nest.
The males are aggressive, she warned, and they are equipped with sharp toenails.
But that’s not what has left her with bruises during her encounters with geese.
“They have big knobs on their wings, like elbows. They will flap their wings and hit you with those big knobs under their wings,” she said.
That sounded hauntingly familiar to a pledging act for my college fraternity. If I only knew we were doing goose attacks in that damp basement. They said we were being better men.
She said noise and visual deterrents do have an effect — which is what we’re seeing in our neighborhood.
She said to get good at it and get used to it. Geese are habit-types and return to the same place year after year.
The state website suggests mylar tape and balloons, flags and even scarecrows. Any such item should be moved every couple days to puzzle the geese.
For me, it’s a lot of work. But I’m safe for a bit as I am about Lawn No. 17 in our neighborhood — up a hill and around a corner and through the Kushner boys.
But I imagine if the geese get through all of that and to me, my tactic will be true to my reputation in the neighborhood.
While neighbors tend to tweeze their lawns and Armor All their driveways, I tend to wander around ... like Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack.”
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.