Saturday, March 18, 2017

Missing Francesca

Over the past week while under the weather, I was mentally planning the new installment for the blog.  I was either going to regale you with a video of Luigi playing with the newest donkey toy, or tell you about the subtle changes in the herd since Alice died.

Part of the second topic involved Franny's enjoyment of her re-found title of "She Who Get's Mom's Immediate Attention" when entering the donkey yard.  If I was able to read the nuances of donkey body language, I'd say she was rightfully back as mom's favorite and loving it.

And now Francesca is gone.  I am heartbroken and the tears come as I write this.

Three days ago, because I was not feeling well, Rick took breakfast feed while I stayed in bed.  Fran was down.  When the vet arrived her body temp had plummeted and heart rate was high.  The vet said she was in shock.  Most probably colic.  And there wasn't much to be done.

Please, not Fran.

Not Fran who'd come to me for hugs before eating.  I'd stand right in front of her head and rub the sides and her neck until she decided that was enough lovin'.  And then she'd get a kiss on the nose.

Please, not Fran.

My little intact family, who'd been together with me for seven years and three years prior to that, is no longer intact.  My three amigos who wooed me across the fence before becoming part of our family are three no longer.

Seeing just two donkeys in the yard feels like something is broken.

Please, not Fran.

There is a huge hole where Fran's presence should be.   Francesca, Franny, Fran Banan.  You were my special girl with whom I shared a bond, deeper than with any other donkey.  Luigi and Gabariella (her daughter) feel your absence too.

You were  only 14, far too young.

As the Buddhist Metta prayer says:
May you be happy, May you be well, May you be peaceful, May you be free.
Goodbye Fran.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Two New Girls Join Our Little Farm

A week ago Monday two new girls joined the little farm flock.  And what beauties they are.

We used the same method as when Buffy joined the hens; putting the newbies in the dog kennel inside the coop allowed everyone to look and smell and talk without any altercations.
Ruby Dee politely inquires, "What the heck?"

Introducing the new girls -- Jo on the left (a Jersey Giant) and Dottie on the right (a Wyandotte), both a year old.  A family not too far from us were rehoming nine hens because of a move.  A perfect situation.  My former egg lady took seven and two came to live with us.

Sweet Pea takes a good long look at the interlopers.

It only took a day and a half before the two new girls had tipped over the water in their enclosure about every 10 minutes and the kennel turned into a lake, so out they came.

Yes, there was a bit of posturing (there still is), but the transition was reasonably smooth.

Dottie discovers there are treats in the doorway 

and Jo tries to figure out how those chickens got on top of the straw and hay.

Aha! Jo clambered up onto the mountain.
What an accomplishment.

Dottie explores a nesting box

And during all this drama, the donkeys are oblivious to anything but their vittles. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Donkeys Relish February Thaw

This week's temperatures are a complete aberration for southeastern Michigan weather.  And we are luxuriating in it!
(we'll be in the 50's and 60's for the next few days as opposed to the normal snowy 20's and 30's)

Yesterday there was no need to double layer clothes (over p.j.'s) in the morning to feed.

Those sweats and heavy socks stayed hanging up in the bathroom.
It's been about three months since I got away with that.  Ohh-la-la.

And the donkawonks and clucks are enjoying the sunny days while they can.  Unfortunately the donkey yard is a mud fest and it's way way too early to let the beasts out on the pasture.  So it's a catch-22 for them -- lovely weather but terrifically sloppy.

The clucks are in heaven as well.  Those prissy little girls WILL NOT travel more than a handful of steps on the snow.  With all the snow melted, it's a heavenly delight for four hens.  (Although mealworms is still my very effective weapon for corralling them from their walkabout back into their run.)

Have you ever seen a happier face?  No, I thought not.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Inside Critters

You've met two of the inside critters from time to time and they begged me to let them hog -- oops, share the limelight again.  I graciously agreed.

So here you have it.  Those three hooligans who share our home and our hearts.  And our pocketbook. And our patience.

Dusty, aka, Moose 

...has been with us since 2004 and will be 18 this year.  

Yes, clearly he's slowing down but still gets around well.  Biggest fault -- is a voracious 
cuddle bunny.

Dudley, aka Dudes
Dudes has been with us since 2006 and will be 11 this year.

He is too good looking and smart for his own good.  Or at least I tell him that all the time.
Biggest fault -- being part lab and a total chow hound.  Capital letters.  And exclamation points.  Underlined.

Gunnar, aka Buns

I am not recalling the year Gunnar came to us.  He's probably 9 or 10 years old.  
All of our inside critters are rescues but Gunnar had the hardest backstory. 
Biggest fault -- needs lovin' and lovin' and lovin'.  Oh, and add lovin' to that list.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Chicken Treat List

A quick note of thanks to all kind readers for your words of support about Alice.  I still expect to hear that unique voice and see her head peeking out from the barn.  But, it is not to be...

So, let us turn to those crazy clucks to get our minds on another subject.

Let's talk about chicken treats.  Yummm.

I know it's typical for hens to like all manner of vegetable leftovers.  Not my girls.  I've tried greens. No.  I've tried various fruits.  Except for blueberries and bananas - no.  So I've honed it down to five treat groups for my four picky eaters.

From least to most desirable:
1.  Smashed eggshells.  You might consider it cheating to include shells in with "treats", but they do eat them.  It's a beneficial way to put more calcium in those hard working bodies.

I used to put the dried shells from the eggs we use into my coffee grinder and then found a simple potato masher worked just as well.  It's faster and doesn't gum up my grinder.

The shells go into a glass jar that stays in the coop.
2.  Bird seed.  We feed the birds during the winter months so it's handy and the chickens find it tasty.

 I do add rolled oats to the mix.  Originally I purchased a big bag of oats for Alice, as a means to put weight on the girl.  I later read that the clucks can use extra protein during the winter and oats was a option listed, so voila..

3.  Harvest Delight  A pre-fab blend of dried fruits and veggies and the girls really dig it!
Here Buffy leaves the nesting box for a quick treat of Harvest Delight.

Manna Pro makes another chicken treat that the girls are not as fond of.

Yes, that's a pie plate resting on top of the chicken feeder.  This keeps out dust, shavings,  poop and offers a perfect place to put the treats.  I also scatter them on the small coop door when there's snow on the ground and the girls don't want to venture outside.

4.  We're nearing the top of the list with Happy Hen Treats.  Yup, dried mealworms.  The girls will grab the bag out of my hand to get them.  Or at least try.  I save these morsels as the end of the day treat or simply rattle the bag to get the girls to return to the coop.  They love them that much.

 5.  BUT, the best treat of all, yes, the very best is... a banana.  They have gotten a sliced banana every morning for the past year and a half.  And look askance at me when I try to substitute another morning taste-treat.  Blueberries will suffice, but they clamor for banana.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Losing Sweet Alice

I don't feel very articulate right now.  Sweet Alice died yesterday morning unexpectedly.

I don't use the word "sweet" lightly.  She was a most sweet, gentle donkey.

What am I missing about the girl?
That plaintive foghorn bray telling me it was time to eat.
Her soft-as-a-feather way of taking a treat. Such a light touch.
Her gentle manner in most  ways.  Very rarely was she pushy with the other donkeys and never ever with me or Rick or the farrier or vet. Never.

She had had a hard life before Crossroads Donkey Rescue was able to take her into their care.  The rescue group suggests she might have been a breeding machine for an Amish farmer.  When she was no longer useful, he approached Crossroads to buy her.  (it's a good thing I will never meet that man)

 They scooped her up

 and she  lived on one of the rescue farms before arriving at our place in the fall of 2015.

The most recent vet guess at her age was 25 years.  Not extremely elderly for a donkey but the girl had not had TLC until late in her life.  That took it's toll.

The girl was not a total donkey angel, however,
What will I not miss about sweet Alice?
Getting goosed every morning as I latched the gate.
Trying all the tricks in the book to get Alice out of the hay aisle.
Eating her way through more than one hole in the barn.

But I'd take the girl back in a moment, in spite of her eccentricities.

  You'll be missed Sweet Alice, 
More than you know.
Take care on your new journey.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

No Ice in our Donkey World

This is the sight I've been waiting for...anxiously.

No ice!

I can't tell you what a relief it is to not be tackling the treachery of that frozen stuff.

However, now we have mud.  Just as my blog friend Louise from the UK was describing.
But, I'm not complaining.  Even though it's oozy, boot sticking, and slimy.  I'll take it in place of the i.c.e.

The oozy, slimy donkey yard  

 It's tricky finding a high area that is relatively dry to throw hay and straw.  Today, for the first time in quite a while the donks were allowed in the "compound" -- the fenced area surrounding the house.  Maybe about an acre.  Finally I felt it was safe for 16 little hooves to meander in the vicinity without fear of slipping accidents.

 This is a failed panorama photo of the donkey yard, but its so goofy it makes me smile.

And we cannot forget our friends the cows, whom you met recently.

These are the outraged stares I get when I leave the area without throwing yet more carrots.

To tell the truth, just between you and me, I think they get affronted rather easily.  But mums the word.