Thursday, September 22, 2016

Back From Italia

Ciao!  My news:  I returned a few days ago from a two-week trip to Italy, 
I was greeted with affection and exuberance by certain members of the critter crew.  (The names of those guilty of non-exuberance will be omitted.)

My favorite puppy in the world leaped up in the air over and over (all 80 pounds) when I walked in the house.  Here he is in a more conservative pose.

Sweet Dudley

Out in the donkey yard, of course, it was my Fran who greeted with me with extra affection.

The other donks were pretty much business as usual -- where is a treat -- but Fran just wanted some hugs.

And surprisingly, out of the four clucks, Ruby Dee was most attentive.  I would have placed money on Sweet Pea.

As for the trip, it had been a dream for a few years.  No tour, I did the planning myself (whew!) with the help of a friend who has family in Italy and knows the ropes.  Almost six days in Florence, then to the countryside of Tuscany for another six.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cleaning for Clucks

There are people, people who love to clean their homes.  Putting elbow grease into that dirty floor, dusty shelves or grimy walls.

Well, I'm not one of them.

But... I enjoy cleaning the donkey barn and chicken coop.  Any day, give me the chicken coop over dusting the house.  Go figure.

It was time for a coop clean last week.  And I recorded the process.  Just for you.

Step 1.
Remove the 2-footed and 4-legged beasts from the vicinity.  Sometimes helpers can be a little too helpful.
Scoot, scoot, scoot, everyone out!

Step 2.
Empty the wheelbarrow of extraneous matter, ahem, you know, donkey nuggets.

Step 3.
Remove feeder, waterer, grit pan, and wood blocks from the coop floor.

Step 4.
Get to work removing the used shavings.  Some folks use straw, but shavings seem more labor friendly to me.  And easier for the clucks to scratch around in.  Besides, I always have them on hand for the donks, so at this abode, it just makes sense.

Step 5.
A little diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the perimeter helps fend off fleas and lice.
I always wear a mask during this step and no, you don't get a photo of that particular glamour shot.

Step 6.
My favorite step -- spreading out the new, fresh smelling shavings.  Usually the clucks assist in this step, but they deserted me on this occasion.

And there you have it.  Perhaps a 45-minute process.  Not hard.

Now I need to get the shop vac out there and remove cobwebs from coop and barn.
Ahhh, I love it!

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Regular readers know I have a passion for animals.  But at this moment in time, another passion raises its head to engage me and pull me into a different world.

The Olympics.

I'm fascinated by (almost) all and urge the athletes on in their events.  And yes, moan in despair when they fall short.

My friends and family know I'm partial to one competitor.  And have been since 2012.  If you have not seen the Under Armour ad featuring Michael Phelps, it's simply amazing.  Amazing.

In my former working life, I ran the cable TV channel for a local municipality so I know the mechanics of video. This 1:30 ad was edited by someone(s) who are masters at their craft.  Those seconds-long snippets were finely chosen to meld a story.  And the music.  My gosh, how could it be any more perfect to blend with the video.

The physical, mental, emotional challenge to training is oh so clearly defined.  Just wow.

The Games  will close tonight.  And I will have to wait another four years.  But we won't have Michael or Usain to cheer on.  And I'm sighing.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Carrot Ice Cubes, A Delicious Treat

Four donkeys have taste-tested the new treat around these parts and have written favorable reviews. And so, these DIY gems will continue to be served.

Donkey farrier, Koren, was over last week to trim some little hooves and happened to tell me about another of her clients making carrot ice cube discs for her equines.  In the blasted heat.  Shazaam! An outstanding idea.

My first attempt used a bowl that took up too much room in the freezer, but was chosen for its large bottom surface.  And it was plastic making for easier removal (disclaimer:  I've been slowly eliminating plastic storage from the kitchen but this big bowl remains).

I popped it out into a donkey bowl and at first no one took much interest.  Until I sprinkled a little grain on top. (you can see it's still whole at this point)

The clever one in the group, surprisingly it was Luigi, took his paw and poked at the disc, conveniently breaking it into more manageable pieces, and exposing a little more of the carrots.  By the way, I intentionally made it rather thin so the donks could see/taste/smell the carrots more easily.

And now the interest builds.  More heads came into the bowl.  Oh, yes, rest assures, four heads can fit around one bowl if the treat is captivating enough.

At one point in the festivities, Gabby asked me if there was another one just for her.  She'd prefer not to share, please.

So now there are two setting up in the freezer -- smaller bowls but still lots of carrots.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

SASHA In the Heat

Yesterday was a tough day volunteering at SASHA Farm Sanctuary.  It was a balmy 90 degrees and the heat took its toll on the humans and the animals.  I did note, however, that the other volunteers who were working, and all about 40 years younger, did not seem to suffer and take as many breaks as I.  Hmmm...  Took about 40 oz. of cold water and guzzled it all over the course of our four-hour shift.

I was preoccupied with getting chores done without succumbing so have no photos from the day, but perhaps a couple of anecdotes will amuse you.

Friend Bev and I are a team at the farm.  I think I've explained our primary duties are watering the crew, but frequently feed the pigs and clean up equine manure.  Bev is partial to the pot bellies, while over the five months we've gotten to know the animals, I am now partial to the big pigs.  I always choose to clean out their trough.  And it never fails, one of the pigs always wants to play with the hose.

And then there was June.
The newest piggy addition to the farm.
(photo from John Rogers, volunteer at SASHA)

She's segregated due to her small size (still a hefty sized girl).  She was all fun and games when I attempted to clean and re-fill her water container.  Asking for rubs, practically pushing me over into the mud, things started to get out of hand.  She is a cutie and is now Bev's favorite.

While filling one of the goat troughs, I had time to sit in the cool of the barn and give Bhima some lovin'.

This is an photo taken a few months ago of the boy.  He loved having his head and ears rubbed yesterday and I had to slip away quickly.


Rosie, the emu, has gone through a dramatic transformation.  While residing with the chickens she was getting a bit aggressive.  Recently she was relocated into the pot belly area and is a new girl.  It's a delight to be around her now.  Who woulda thought!
Rosie with the clucks

We shall return in two weeks to the critter escapades -- let's hope in a cooler environment!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chicken Personalities

I'm probably repeating myself (I'm certain you're used to that by now) but my little chicken clucks have an abundance of personality.  I wish you could have seen Emmy Lou the other morning.  Even if I had had a camera handy, it wouldn't have captured the moment.  Or, maybe I'm just enamored with the girls and find their behavior charming.

On a recent morning the girls were helping with manure clean-up, as usual, when Emmy Lou hopped onto the wheelbarrow handle and took in a view of the world from a new vantage point.  Didn't quite suit her so she hopped into the wheelbarrow proper, pretty full with donkey nuggets.  I asked her if she realized what she was standing in.  Nary a word did she reply, but seemed pretty content to survey the donkey yard from there.  Finally it was time to move the wheelbarrow and I asked if she'd like a ride. At that point she ended the conversation and hopped down.  Yes, I found this highly amusing.  I guess it's me.

Then there's Ruby Dee (with Sweet Pea and Emmy Lou in the background).

The little devil likes to take pot shots at my feet in the mornings.  In the summer I always wear my barn sandals unless it's wet out.  Barns sandals are footwear past their prime.  But still perfectly wearable.  And comfy.

Sandals equal exposed feet.  You see where this is heading, right.
The little girl will come running over and give me a nice little peck on the foot.  Nothing too damaging but it's not pleasant.  Again, I ask, how does one chastise a chicken!  I've tried verbal lecturing, pushing her gently but firmly to the ground (which I've been told is a submissive posture) and a couple of times I've given her a little smack.  She's cagey about it too.  I'll think she's about to pounce, give her fair warning not to, then she'll wait a couple of minutes and get the last laugh.

Most mornings Buffy prefers the exotic water of the donkey trough.  It's so much more refreshing than lousy chicken water.

 And I have finally found my way into Buffy's heart -- with blueberries and grapes.  Instead of the "stinking banana" (her words, not mine) that I've been providing each morning, and the other girls adore.

In the world of chickens, there is always something interesting to investigate.
Perhaps we should adopt their philosophy.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Alice, Donkey Power

It's been a heck of a week.
One of my whacked out knees got even more whacked out and I've been babying it with ice, rest, a knee brace, more ice, anti-inflamatories, more rest.
Finally I see some progress.

Rick has been mostly tending to the donks and clucks, except in the mornings.  I refused to relinquish that lovely time of day; it's my favorite time to commune with the bunch.  Feeding, spraying fly repellent, even cleaning up manure with more than enough help from the chickens.  Its all good.

As a result of all this inaction I must rely on a small story I've wanted to relay for a couple of weeks now.
Dear Alice.

I've mentioned before that she gets soaked beet pulp in the  mornings.  When we first started this routine, and for a few weeks, I had to trek over, interrupt her breakfast of hay,  throw a lead line over her neck and coerce her to come to the shed for her "treat".  Then, it got so I could just call her and after five or six repeats of "Alice, Alice-badallas", she'd saunter over to the shed.

Now, dear Alice, tells me when its time for beet pulp and oh yes, let's me know she's ready.  Sometimes its understated and she'll just hang out in the shed staring at the bowl and sometimes it's a little more vocal reminder.  "Where is it!"  And when she sounds the call, I'm well trained, stop what I'm doing and get her beet pulp.

  Dear little Alice