Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Visits My Favorite Horse

Natural shares a special moment with Santa

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Woes

Last evening as I struggled to push the manure-laden wheelbarrow down the unplowed, snowy driveway, thinking I'd not worked so hard in a long time, I stopped to catch my breath and took a second look at the front wheel.  Ha! Completely flat!  Well, I couldn't very well leave the manure in the middle of the driveway, so onward I pushed, dumped the load, and then pulled it backwards down the rest of the 500 feet or so.

This morning I bundled up with layer upon layer to meet the 0 degree day, only to find the wheels on the cart I use to tote water won't spin.  That meant pulling, pulling, pulling up the slight hill to get to the donks.  Since I won't have my wheelbarrow back until later today, the mess from last night got tossed to a pile on the side of the shed.  It will have to wait for another day...  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Signs of the Season

Luigi and Francesa

Yes, indeedy, those little faces are getting fuzzy all over again. Seems like they just shed out!

Before daylight savings changed,  the advent of fall was apparent as morning chores were being done in the pitch black with the help of a lantern. Now I have daylight to perform those duties.  But, of course, the evening hours of daylight are dwindling.  I scurry home from work to be able to take advantage of pre-dusk time.

Have I told you about our new bedding arrangement in the shed?  No, I think not.  Rick proposed we place small gravel-like stones as a base over about three-quarters of the floor and lay leftover stall mats on top.  He  drilled holes in the mats to allow drainage.  Seems to be working pretty well.  The new arrangement means  I don't have to lay an extra thick straw bedding to act as insulation; the stone/mat combo offers a nice cushiony rise from the cold ground.  I do put a smattering of straw down just to make things comfy, but the three donks end up eating most of it.

And, the colder weather does mean longer breakfast chores to get the shed cleaned out from the night and fresh straw laid for the day (they're again hunkering down in the shed at night instead of enjoying the stars)

No more wandering out in my p.j.'s in the morning for five minutes to throw hay.  Heavy sigh...

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Evil Purple Beast

Yesterday I had the clever idea of snapping a picture of Fran wearing my witch hat and posting it as such a cute Halloween image.  Right!

Dragged Rick out with me to act as photographer. It happened that I wore the hat out to the yard.  Such a  reaction I certainly did not expect.
This darn hat was 
so so scary.  
Three donkeys ran around the yard like banshees.  I immediately took it off and clucked and cooed to get them to come up to me, holding the dreaded purple beast behind my back.  One of them would take a few tentative steps toward me, but then catch a peek of the evil  thing and high-tail it out of there.  Luigi was kicking out with his back legs to keep the monster away.
So much for clever ideas...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Inappropriate vs Just Plain Funny

I was recently doing a little horse tack-shop shopping, except not for Natural but for the three hyenas in the field.  Going to try some fly boots (made for ponies) and see if we can stop the hordes of flying pests landing by the thousands on those little legs.  As I was noodling around the website, I came upon this t-shirt.

Now how many times do you see a miniature donkey on a t-shirt.  Of course I had to get it!
And, I wore it to our annual weekend at Camp Michigania by Petoskey.  Rick's comment -- "how inappropriate".  However, none of the other 100 or so campers seemed offended.  In fact, friend Barbara broke into a big grin when she first spotted it.
So I ask you, inappropriate, or just plain funny??

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another visit from Koren, donk farrier, and now two of the three donkeys are in love with her!  Up to now, Luigi had been her amorous buddy, pressing up to her side (unfortunately, also showing off his manly backside), attempting to steal her tools, pulling on her farrier apron...  But on this visit, little Gabriella vied with Luigi for #1 assistant position.  Just like little kids at school, outdoing each other's antics to get the teacher's attention.  Gabs was literally wrapping herself around Koren while work was being done on Fran.  Fran was the only aloof customer.

Koren slowly disappears from view as Luigi cuddles up, backside first.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Fabulous Guy

Today I'm going to digress from the three lovelies (hmmm, perhaps Luigi would not enjoy that title) and turn to Natural, the other equine in my life.  He's a 26 year old Standardbred, who's been with me for 20 years. Next to Rick (husband) and Dudley (black lab featured in previous posts), he's my main squeeze.

I don't ride anymore after a pretty bad fall six years ago, but do work him in the outside arena, about 80x120 Today he was a marvelous gem.

I took my lunge line and whip with me out to the arena and coaxed him in with some carrots.  But once in, he was not in the mood to be haltered.  Finally I quit chasing him and told him, "Fine, then you're going to run" and cracked the whip.  Lo and behold the boy started lungeing around this large area, just as if he was attached to a line.  I'll admit I had a much harder workout trying to keep up with him, but he went through all of his paces through voice commands - walk, trot, canter, ho.  My equine friends will know this is not out of the ordinary in a round pen, but not in a space this large.

I was beaming!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Training Begins!

Labor Day not only marked the one-year anniversary of entering life with the donkeys, but also marked the First Day of Training to Drive.  Dum da dum [drum roll in background]  We clipped on two leather dog leashes, one on each side of the halter.  I was in back as the "driver" and Rick was in front with a lead line offering a little direction when my voice commands fell on deaf ears.

We started with Luigi and things went rather swimmingly.  I was able to get him back on track, turned, and went down the driveway like pros.  Then it was Fran's turn.  Not so swimmingly.  Two steps, then stop and think.  I'd nudge her, we'd go another two steps, stop and think.  Didn't try Gabriella, the little teenage hellion.

I've been looking for books and articles to help me figure out what I'm doing and the pickin's are sparse. But one I found yesterday did say geldings seem to perform better.  So I guess our experience also points in that direction.

Now to start looking for some decently priced gear!

I do have to put a plug in for friend Jill who offered words of encouragement this past weekend.  She taught her pony to drive without too much effort -- only thing was it was about 40 years ago.  Hmmm....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Red Flags

OK, I couldn't resist.  On my way home from a small local art fair, I saw a handwritten sign advertising a miniature donkey and pony for sale.  Had to stop.  The owner took me out to a back pasture and there was the boy (names omitted to protect the innocent, namely me).  He was a cute little guy, a dark brown that doesn't resemble any of my three.  I asked his age and was told four.  Next I asked if he was gelded and the owner paused and then admitted, "he didn't know".  Red flag #1.  How could you not know!  I'm not bringing a little guy who can shoot bullets into my herd. Then I asked... what are you asking?  $400 was the reply.  I responded by saying I purchased all three of mine for $600 and the owner was astounded, naturally.  "I couldn't let him go for less than $400, he's too nice an animal."  Red flag #2.  Just standing there with a cursory glance, I could see his hooves needed trimming and he had something crusty at one nostril.  Red flag #3  Of course, now that he knows I'm not going to whip out my checkbook on the spot, he tells me he's got someone else coming to look at him.  Right.  Final red flag

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All right, I admit it.  I have a favorite donkey.  Francesca is my girl.  She's just plain sweet.  Luigi is a social guy, particularly if donkey cookies are in the mix, and Gabriella is the adolescent rebel.  But Fran is the one who greets me in the morning and says its OK to put my face to hers and rub her head.  Gabby only has breakfast on her mind.  I'm not sure what Luigi's agenda is in the a.m.  So, yea, it's lovely Fran who gets most of the kisses.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's Love

Koren, the farrier, arrived on Friday morning to get donkeys hooves back into shape.  Faithful readers will remember I turned to Koren in March/April as I didn't like the way the first farrier was treating the donks (also didn't care for his attitude, but I could have lived with that).  The donkeys now LOVE Koren.  However, this has been a gradual love affair.  The first few visits  Luigi would whirl in a circle while Koren was trying to trim those toes, and it was a battle to keep Gabriella in one place.  But now... what a difference.

This past Friday Luigi was cheek-to-cheek with Koren making sure she was using the right procedure on Gabby.  Other times he was trying to borrow her tools until she reminded him they weren't his to take.  At one point, Koren was bending forward working on Fran and Gabby tucked her head between Koren's legs, almost like she was playing leap frog (only Koren was the frog).

Koren is firm but gentle and now the donks welcome her with open arms when she arrives.

Next time, Rick has to come out and take pictures of the antics.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quick & Easy Manure Soup

1.  Take 1 wheelbarrow (size and color optional), partially filled with donkey doo-doo
2.  Wait for a hard rain
3.  Allow wheelbarrow to fill with water
4.  Let soak
5.  Come back to a rich, dark soup with dumplings
6.  Serve at room temperature

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Miscellaneous Musings

I'm finding it odd that the donkeys shed out this summer so very much later than the horses.  Very much later.
Fran just lost her winter coat last week (she had a mohawk stripe of long hair down her face) and Luigi is still pretty shaggy.  Gabs got her sleek summer coat the first of the group.   But Natural (25-year old horse buddy) lost his winter woolies in May.  Quite the difference.

Trying to determine what's needed to start the beasts on a training regime to drive.  Can I do it myself?  Farrier Koren gave me some tips for phase 1.  I had daydreamed about teaching Natural to drive many, many years ago but gave up the idea.  This may be my golden opportunity.

Gabriella gave me a little nip last week.  When I described the scene to a friend at the horse barn, she termed it "misdirected aggression".  I think she's right.  Gabby was kicking at Luigi in the back, then whirled around and nabbed me in the shin.  I responded in all the wrong ways.  Horse friend suggested using my Parelli carrot stick to gently show her I need my space.  It's worked on the rare times I remember to take the stick with me.

On my visit to Natural today, we played "catch me if you can".  After about 15 minutes of round and round, up and down the hill, I spoke ill of him and gave up.  Tomorrow is another day...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Babysitting Little Donkeys

We've been letting the donkeys out of gated areas to nibble driveway grass for about  two months now.  For the first time last night I was able to corral everyone in by myself.  Up to now it's been a two-person job.  Here's the routine:
1.  As I only have two halters, I pick the two donkeys I think will be the most adept at the getaway and halter them.  Just when I thought Luigi was the most compliant and would willingly follow with just a lead line thrown over him, he decided he'd show me his cowboy routine and bucked away.  (I was so startled I dropped the darn lead.)   OK, that theory down the drain.  Over time, we observed Gabriella generally followed her mom with just a bit of urging.  That still seems to work.
2.  Spend about 15-20 minutes cleaning up the yard and shed of unmentionables.
3.  Sit down and read for the remaining 45 minutes, OR, mow the grass along the driveway keeping between the donkeys and an escape route to the road.  (Don't worry readers -- we have a very long driveway so they'd have to paddle those little feet quite a ways to be in any danger.)
4.  Usually at this point, I would call Rick back at the house and he would come to help corner our three victims.
5.  Find where their wanderings have taken them, grab the lead line (thrown over their back) and try to cajole them back to the yard.  Cookies help.  Used to be if I walked toward them, they'd skeedaddle.  Amazingly enough, now they seem know their hour is up and are more agreeable.

Last night Fran was first back in.  Gabby said she'd follow mom in with only a little bit of pushing required, and Luigi decided the ole cookie ploy was good enough to persuade him.  When I got back to the house without needing an assist from Rick, it was a red letter day.      

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pastures R Not Us

A year ago I never would have thought that the quality of our field pasture would be a hot topic of conversation. The fact of the matter is it's looking a tad poorly.  Rick brushhogged it last weekend, but it may take another year or more of that treatment to allow the grass to overtake the weeds.  As for now, the weeds are winning.

So, the donks get turned out in the pasture to scavenge what grass they can for 4-5 hours and then, on days when I'm able, I let them out of the gated-area completely so they can get some decent grass for an hour or so.  Means babysitting them though to make sure they don't wander.

Problem is they're pistols to round back up.  Today Rick and I cajoled dear Gabby with cookies, shoves and pulls into joining up with Franny back in the donkey yard.  But those feet were planted with utter determination.  Finally she was convinced and all three devils were back inside.

By the way, Dudley is useless as a donkey herder.  Just stands there and let's us do all the work!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Visit From Bobby

When four-year old Bobby came to visit the donks recently, the high points included:

  • watching donkeys poop
  • taking a picture of a donkey butt
  • feeling soft lips eat out of his hand and giving treats  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

These Donks Are So Funny

After bringing a lawn chair into the donkey yard and plopping down, the donkeys gathered round.  We got some real good scratching time in and then Luigi started his famous ever-so-slow-backing-up-so-I'm-invisible move.  That large behind came closer and closer until he was snuggled up to the side of the chair.  Gabby, who is the least affectionate of the three, practically crawled into my lap.  I thought she was going to take both of us down, so sadly I had to shoo her away (as cute as they are, you still have to remember they're 300 lbs).  At one point I was laughing out loud at their ridiculously goofy behavior. 

And then there's Franny.  The perfect little donkeys who loves all kinds of pats, rubs, scratches, hugs, and kisses.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cookies and a bell

Knowing we'd be wanting to let the donkeys out in the pasture for only short periods of time early in the season, Rick and I had put our minds at work to figure out an easy way to herd them back in.  He suggested training them to come to us at the ringing of a bell.  So, every night at dinner time I've taken my little bell out with a few donkey cookies. While they're eating hay, I ring the bell and call them by name.  If they venture over to me (standing  few yards away), they're rewarded .  I didn't put much faith in our Pavlovian method, cuz ringing the bell this week while letting them browse grass along the driveway didn't seem to have much effect.

Well, we let them out in the pasture for the first time today for an hour.  I brought my bell and cookies out and gave it a shot.  Would you believe - it worked!  Gabriella (who I've mentioned before is our rebellious girl) came trotting over to me.  Not a casual amble -- a trot.  Got her whisked out, then it was Luigi's turn.  He came right over, eager for his treat.

Who woulda thunk...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Shots -- A First

The vet came out on Friday to surprise the donks with spring shots.  Although everyone was fairly well behaved, it did take some brute strength to stop the twirling with a needle sticking out of a (back) cheek.  Of course the best-behaved was favorite Francesca.  She is my sweetheart (trying hard not to be too mushy).

Dr. Gertsen also checked their teeth -- an interesting maneuver on donkeys who are already a little ticked off.  And he confirmed what we already knew - Fran is a little portly.  We think she's lost some weight since last September when they came to our home, but the girl needs some exercise.  Lungeing a donkey?... hmmmm....

A side note:
While we let the pasture grass get well established, we've let the beasts out on driveway grass the last couple of days.  Ooooh, do they love it.  If Dudley did his job right, he'd help herd them back into the fence, but he falls short every time!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Routine Hay Run -- Think Again

Whew!  What started out as an ordinary hay run this morning, turned into something a little more complicated.

First we drive over and load the bales into the truck.  We have that routine down pat.

Back home, I suggested to Rick that before we haul the hay into the shed, we remove the remaining bales of straw so I could retrieve a pair of clippers that had been misplaced.  So, out came the straw.  Rick pulled up the pallets to look for the clippers and we found bazoodles of hay buried under there.  Now off to get another wheelbarrow to load the loose hay. Since we had all the straw out, it was a good time for Rick to put a platform of plywood atop the pallets so I would no longer get a foot stuck in the gap between the slats.  I did some other clean-up duties while he went down to the house to get a saw.

Now, from the time we got home with the hay the donkeys were put out in the pasture -- the first time for the season.  They're just too nosey to keep them in the yard with us.

Platform down (it'll be a lifesaver -- literally).  Straw loaded back in.  Hay now pulled off the truck and dragged into the shed.

Now, off to coerce three reluctant donkeys out of  the pasture.  It's still too early to let them stay out or we'll end up with a bedraggled pasture early in the season.

Finally, are we done?
Never did find the clippers!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Morning Rhythms

There's a certain rhythm to mornings with the donkeys.  It's a seasonal rhythm.  Winter mornings require  cleaning out the shed where they spend much of their day.  Spring brought a quicker, less thorough morning clean-up.  No straw bedding meant most of the "piles" could be relegated to evening duties.  I was just getting used to the new rhythm when Mother Nature pulled a fast one.  This morning, the winter coat went back on and the morning involved cleaning out the shed and laying straw.  I'll take spring back please.  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Sentinel

Even though both of the girls can, and do, push Luigi around at times (particularly at mealtime, of course), he is vigilant in checking out strange noises, critters, or other activities in their vicinity. Here you'll see all three paying close attention while Rick was making some adjustments to a trailer hitched to his truck.
After a couple of minutes, the girls lost interest and walked over to see what I was doing a few feet away.  But Luigi stayed vigilant, continuing to check things out.
I'm glad to see he takes his job as protector of the herd seriously.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Donkey Doo-Doo

OK, let's talk poop.

I'm always amazed at the volume of manure awaiting me, both in the morning and again in the evening. How can three little donkeys manufacture so much?

I'd like to introduce you to what I used to call the Manure Mountain. Nowadays I think it more resembles a berm, so will need to rethink it's title. Rick and I will be spending a recreational weekend in the near future by spreading it over the vacant acre. Good times... (although friend Dorothy received some over the winter to spread in her garden, testing the fertilizer factor -- better check with her before we head for the shovels)

A friend-of-a-friend says her donks conducted their own version of The Great Escape by pooping in the same place day after day, fashioning a manure mountain and scampering over the fence to freedom. Luigi, Francesca and Gabriella prefer to spread their's out, apparently believing I like to play a game of hide and seek when cleaning up.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Shed That Rick Built

Just a little boasting on Rick's behalf. Built from the bottom up in only a weekend last September. Just days ago he reinforced the corners as the little buggers were chewing the wood.

And, please note the touch of environmental green -the solar panel boosts the boat battery powering the lights. Clever touch, eh.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Give Me That Foot, Luigi

Had a visit from new donkey farrier, Koren, yesterday. Francesca volunteered to go first and was a sweetheart. Hey, this is going to be a piece of cake. Gabby was next and, acted out as the beligerent youngster, testing the rules. Koren was firm but patient and, without too much resistance, all four hooves were done. Then it was sweet Luigi's turn. This is the Luigi who was by Koren's side watching to make sure she took care of Fran and Gabs correctly. At one point during Gabby's turn he was slowly, ever so slowly backing up into Koren's side (apparently if he goes slowly he's invisible). Well, sweet social Luigi was the biggest pill. Koren held firm and said, yes I AM trimming this hoof and held on tight while I manned the halter. Round we went, with the two girls peeking at us from a few yards away.

FINALLY, all 12 hooves were trimmed and smoothed and to sooth any frayed nerves, hay was served to all. Dudley, the vigilant moocher, snacked on hoof pieces.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

3 Devil Donkeys

Here is the result of yet another wild party thrown by the donks last night. Shame on us as it's the third time they've managed to open the hay area door. You'd never know you're looking at, what used to be, tied hay bales in the foreground. Each time we find the remains of a hay orgy we check the door latch and are sure it can't happen again. And yet the 3 devils find a way.

Hope the neighbors didn't hear me yelling at them this morning. I was not pleased, no not pleased at all!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Meet Ulysses

Good friend, Diana, recently sent me the book Joanna and Ulysses by May Sarton. A young Greek woman rescues little Ulysses and comes to fall for him, hook, line and sinker. A gentle, sweet tale and one for all of those donkey-lovers out there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I like Flat Creek Farm's term, "The Big Muddy". You betcha. For the past week, here in southeastern Michigan, the days have been warm, but the nights have frozen up the thawing snow. Not this morning, with warmer temps. So now, there'll mud in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I keep throwing straw in the shed to try to provide some dry haven for the donks. Let's hope they appreciate the effort!

Adding to the mess, I just said to Rick this morning that we'll need to close the gate to the pasture soon. Since we've not even hit the year mark with the donks, we're following the advice of our fencer who said in order to save the pasture, close 'em in the yard and let that area turn into the sacrificial mud pen. Good times...

Sunday, February 28, 2010


We've had Dudley, the dog, for three years. We've had three donkeys for almost seven months. That means, donks have lived in close proximity with big black dog for almost seven months. But this morning... Well this morning Luigi just didn't like the looks of that big black dog. Not even a little. Face-to-face (well almost) across the gate. Luigi not moving. I throw hay for the girls and call Luigi. Not moving. Just staring at that big black dog. Finally, though who knows what prompted the cave-in, he scampered over to make sure he got his share of breakfast.

Friday, February 26, 2010

... to the Rescue

Went out for evening feed tonight and you'd never know there had been deep trails zig zagging through the snow from the gate to the shed (made by me, the wheelbarrow and three donkeys). Gone... as a result of more snow and wind today. Needless to say, there were no new tracks made by the donks, just three faces peeking out of the shed.

Luigi had icicles hanging down over his eyes and was an excellent patient while I held his head firmly and pulled them off. It's a good feeling to know they're becoming more sure of me and would allow it. Franny was minimally iced up, but she's been my snuggle bunny for awhile now so I expected her to let me get right in there. Miss Gabby didn't need any emergency de-icing which is just as well since I think she would have put up a stink.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Meet the Gang Next Door

Miss Dolly, the white Percheron, is my favorite. That big face can come stretching over the fence while I sneak her a treat. And she is stunning when hitched to their red wagon. It's what she was born to do. Denali, the big Clyde on the right, is skittish despite his size. However, he sometimes stands at the fence and ponders the donkeys. Dolly has other things to do (napping in the sun) and doesn't pay much attention to the amigos.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mr. Luigi, comedian

I finally learned after about four months of donkeydom to not leave a partially filled wheelbarrow in their yard. About 60% of the time I would find the contents on the ground beside it and have to re-scoop. Now, why it took me that long to figure out I should park it outside the gate is anyone's guess. Well, today during morning clean, I'm working in an area right outside the shed, lost in thought about the workday to come, turn around and Luigi has dumped the wheelbarrow. (he takes one of the handles in his mouth and lifts up) While I'm standing right there! I wasn't in the mood to have to redo everything, so he got clunked on his rump.

But the question remains, is he smart enough to be a practical joker? What other pleasure does a little donkey get out of pushing over a wheelbarrow?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spring Fever??

The donks were in fine form a couple of days ago during evening feed. I had to stop my clean-up duties to watch, not being sure what was going on. All three of them were running around full blast kicking out with their back feet. Round and around with no difficulty in the deep snow. At first I thought Dudley had startled them, but I've never seen them react like that. Finally all three stormed out of the yard into the pasture and that seemed to brake the whole affair. They sauntered back and there were a few more kicks at each other, but mostly that high-energy display had petered out. I made darn sure the wheelbarrow was between them and me during the escapade.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Snow and More Snow

An interesting morning indeed. Seven to eight inches of new snow, the first big snowfall since having donkeys in our life. Diligent Rick had plowed last evening about 10, but even so there was a several-inch coating on the driveway when I went out to feed this morning. First order of business - shovel a path to the shed for the wheelbarrow. Three little donkeys peering out. No footprints in the snow. So, after cleaning and feeding was done, I shoveled a circle path for them to wander in during the day. Quite the exercise. When I got home from work, good husband Rick had plowed the driveway and given me a nice area cleared of snow around the gate. I also noticed footprints beyond the path I had cleared. The monkeys had wandered. Perhaps I was a little too protective. Learn as you go...

Monday, February 8, 2010

3 Escapees

My habit, in the winter, has been to not bother closing the outside gate when I push the wheelbarrow in the yard. Summer would be a different story, but with a thick snow covering there's no food supply outside of the fenced area. Well this morning, all three decided the world looked too interesting on the other side of the gate and meandered through. Didn't lose my cool, just went to the grain immediately and rattled the can (I put the day's ration in a old nut can). Just like training a dog or cat. Sure enough, Luigi and Fran turned around and scampered (and yes I do mean scampered) back in. I gave them their grain and called for Gabs. After waiting a beat I went to look for her and the gate had closed just enough that she wasn't comfortable with the space left for her to go through. After I widened the gap she also scampered in. And the whole while, one of the horses next door is silently watching the scene unfold.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

" Stubborn as..."

The donks have a pretty standard routine when it comes to eating. I throw a flake of hay in the yard to get them started, then it's pooper scooper time in the yard and shed, then throw a flake in the shed, then grain in their 3 separate dishes. Luigi is always first. Gabriella takes the middle bowl and Fran is on the far left. But sometimes they get a bit greedy and try to snatch bites from other dishes. I'll push them away and steer them toward their own bowl. Those little donkey bodies can stand firm. I can push my 1,000 pound horse and get him to move, but not those little donks. Those feet stay planted, and no by golly, they are not moving!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Red Letter Day

Holy moly, two exciting events. Firstly, Gabriella allowed me to snuggle head-to-head tonight for the first time. This IS a red letter day. Fran stepped forward as if to say, "Hey, wait a minute, that's my job!" As with most animal owners, I'm trying to acclimate them to touches everywhere so they won't be skiddish if a medical emergency requires holding or touching in odd places.

Second exciting event -- a fellow miniature donkey owner from Missouri found me via the blog. Her blog is much more elaborate -- I'll get there! Her two cuties, Rubie and Gracie, look stunning in their millinery finery! What fun!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Izzy and Lenore

I felt an instant connection to the book. The opening line: "The arrival of three goats - a phrase that, for most of my life, it would have shocked me to write - has altered my morning routine". Wow, instant connection. I'm familiar with the author, Jon Katz, who writes about his dogs and life on a small farm in upstate New York. The brood includes the newly arrived goats, sheep, Elvis the steer, and his border collies. Next connection. Jon trains to become a hospice volunteer and his dog, Izzy, takes on the training too. The profound impact Izzy has on the hospice patients is amazing. Last year I was trying to figure out if our dog, Dudley, could be used to visit nursing homes. I decided he was too rambunctious and dropped the idea. Reading this book has brought the idea home with full force. It's something Duds and I have to do. What you say, does this have to do with the donks?. Absolutely nothing. However, I was thinking today what a delicious idea it would be to take the donks to a nursing home. They would have to make a hit!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Healing Properties of Animals

This afternoon, about 4:30, it was time to go out and do the evening feed. My back hurt, didn't feel like getting dressed again to go out in the cold, but, gotta go. Trekked out to the donkey yard where everyone greeted me, silently. Rick went with me to carry out a new bag of grain, so the critters were highly interested in the break in routine. And what do you know. My back stopped hurting. Wasn't cold. Got the chores done, hugs from everyone. (Well, Luigi wasn't really in the hugging mood.) Tomorrow I want to tell you about a book I'm reading. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Saving Graces of Straw

Rain, rain go away. I'm sure that's the donkeys' song this morning. They'll be hiding in the shed all day. So this morning I had to make sure it was as clean and comfy as possible. Piled on the straw a little thicker than usual and had to throw some to fill in the small pond we had going by the food bowls. Nobody should be standing in water to eat their breakfast or dinner. Problem is since they'll be bored and confined (of their own doing, mind you) they'll probably start munching on that nice layer of bedding and by the time I go out again, it'll be gone.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Donkey Mind

One can only imagine the internal dialog for those three hairy hyenas. They have an acre of land to roam on -- maybe 2/3 of it (with a separate gate) we'll call the "pasture" and the remaining third we'll call the "yard". The yard contains the shed, water, and has the gate to the outside world.

Little donkey minds must determine that it's not in good form to develop too many paths in this acre of land. No, no, not good indeed. In the yard they have formed a path from the shed to the outside gate, another path from the shed to the gate, but around the bush, a path from the outside gate to the pasture gate and lastly, a path from the shed to the pasture gate. And ONE path in the pasture. That's it. And they only walk in the paths. At this point in the winter the paths are pretty brown, so it's absolutely clear that these paths are it. Now, I'm describing the winter scene; I'm not sure what their patterns are in the summer without a snow covering to divulge their actions.

AND, apparently the rule book says you're only allowed to walk single file. Always. ALWAYS. The only exception is if the big bad black lab spooks you. Then you're allowed to scatter willy-nilly. But otherwise, s-i-n-g-l-e f-i-l-e.

I wonder sometimes...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dudley's Pleasures

Our 70 lb black Lab mix is certain we acquired the donkeys just for his entertainment and pleasure. The day starts with Dudley asking, asking, asking if he can go out with me to feed the donkeys. I almost always say no. First thing in the morning I'm not ready to deal with the black idiot running around in the dark. In the late afternoon the same question repeats itself. "Please, please can I go out with you", he implores. More than half the time I say yes.

Dudley's donkey pleasures:
1. Belly-slithering under the gate to enter donkey domain.
2. Eating donkey manure. Yum, yum.
3. Waiting until I'm not looking to run into the shed to see if he can lick the
bowls clean. He now has learned if I say sharply, "OUT!" with an arm pointing
to the gate, you better get your buns out of there.
4. Walking to the manure pile with me. Just a good excuse for a little walk.
There's always something intriguing along the way.
5. Running around the donkey yard until one of the donks, usually Luigi,
has had enough and threatens him (with kicking, not biting). Rick and I think it's turned into a game since no one gets within striking distance.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Everyone Has Their Own Eating Style

One MUST remember:
- Luigi doesn't particularly like to eat his hay outside. But he's learned to wait while I clean up manure in the shed (and this morning it was, yet again, a hellacious mess) to throw hay. Meanwhile Gabs and Fran contentedly munch the hay I throw outside.
- Separate the pigs when it comes time to the grain. Fran will start at one bowl for a bite or two, then decide Luigi's bowl looks better and try to push him out of the way. Sometimes I stand there and referee.
- Put Gabby's bowl outside so no one else eats her grain. I call everyone to come for grain, and Gabby's still outside with the hay. I absolutely know one of the other two pigs (mentioned above) will eat her share if I don't take it out to the Precious Princess. This morning I again offered curb service to her and, at some point, Fran tried to move in. Oooh, Gabby was having none of that! Shoved her right out of the way. Interesting how they all will push each other forcefully out of the way but so far no one has gotten shovey with me -- thank goodness!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Question of the Day

So why don't the donks like to be touched when they're snow-covered? Tried to brush off everyone's back today, and they kind of slithered away from my hand.

It is surprising how sensitive they are to my mood. If I get impatient or irritated and raise my voice, they scatter. I have to sweet-talk them back down off the ledge. As I think back, though, I do remember the days when Natural (remember, he's the horse) would react to my angry voice. I'd be riding and he'd do something stupid, I'd raise my voice and I could feel him get a little shaky underneath me. Those days are long gone! He knows me too well now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Manure, manure, and more manure

All right, I'll admit it. I'm getting tired of cleaning up manure twice a day. Manure frozen to the ground, in feed buckets, buried under snow, tossed around the shed from one end to the other. And inevitably, Luigi or Fran will plant themselves directly in the way of my scooping endeavor. I'm telling you it is so much easier to move a 1,000 lb horse than a 350 lb donkey. Once they plant their feet... Case in point -- if I leave the hay door open for 30 seconds too long, Luigi will squeeze in to help himself to a snack. There's not room for both of us in the doorway, so I get in as close as I can and smack him on the butt with the backside of the pitchfork. *** this pitchfork is plastic and not terribly sharp *** He doesn't budge.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Too Darn Cold

Noticed yesterday (5 degrees) that NO ONE wanted to be touched. Now usually Fran and I have a little head-to-head cuddle as part of the breakfast routine, but not yesterday. Even Luigi, Mr. Social, said "don't touch me!" Because of the cold???

Today (1 degree) I made my famous hot slop, usually reserved for Natural the (best) horse. A few hay cubes, a little bran, carrots, and apple peel all mixed together with hot water. Divided it up three ways for the donks. Everyone said, "no way". What gives? Natural thinks it's heavenly and gobbles it up, licking the bowl clean.
Maybe it was too hot for the donks??

I'm still trying to figure these three amigos out! But sure having fun in the process -- yes, even in 1 degree weather.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Great Guy

I realized I had neglected to hand out kudos to those deserving in the "donkey project". Rick, aka husband and retired carpenter, built the small barn/shed for the donkeys, single-handedly in a weekend I might add. Not only does it give the donks shelter (which they use in the snow, rain and wind), but also shelters our hay, straw, and grain.
I'm hoping he'll add a window in the spring (cross-ventilation in those hot, no-wind days).

And, Paul Manning, who fenced in an acre of our front field, did an outstanding job. He offered valuable advice throughout the process and didn't mind some follow-up questions after the fencing was complete. He gets a "10" rating.