Thursday, December 29, 2016

Glitches On a Teeny Donkey Farm

Where to start.

How about the hay aisle door.

The structure has done a seasonal shift and the door cannot be latched.  Hmmm...what to do.  Exactly a job for the hay twine that isn't tossed.  Tying the door closed tight enough that inquisitive (and strong) noses do not pry it open.

And then we have holes -- in the walls -- again.

Last summer, if you remember, dear little Alice starting eating her way through the barn.  Rick covered the lower exterior with fencing.  Well what do you know, "someone" is now eating away from the inside.  We know at least one hole was Alice's doing because of the height.  The others, well who knows.

Yup, right about Alice height.

May I now call them devil donkeys?

And then there's the natural forces at work.

We had a snow dump, then we had a big thaw and then we had a cool down.  Voila -- ice.

Doesn't look too treacherous, but it's scary to me.  Solid as cement and very slippery.  Out came the cleats.

Thank goodness the driveway from the house to the horse trailer (probably over half the distance to the donkey gate) is ice-free.

Remember at the end of the last post I asked you to cross your toes and fingers for Alice?  Well someone forgot.  The vet was out today and it's not an insurmountable problem -- hopefully.  
But that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Donkey Snow Trails

Usually when I approach the computer to submit a blog post for your approval, I have a plan in mind.  The story is outlined in my head and the photos have been taken.

However, the overriding thought swirling in my head this evening is not the planned outline, but donkey health.  Every day for the past three days, someone has appeared under the weather.  And each time, I tell Rick to help me keep an eye on the bugger and each time the ailment seems to pass.  And now, it's sweet Alice.  Just a bit ago I fed for the evening and her limp was pronounced.  No discernible problems.  So we wait and check in the morning.

But the story I had intended to tell was that of the annual routine of snow trails.  
Usually the donkeys ask me to blaze the trails, but this year they forged perhaps half of them in the yard.

After the first big snowfall, I shoveled out three eating areas.  Clearly you can see one of them above and there's another northwest of the tree.

From this angle you can see another just above Luigi's back.  And I hear you asking about that milk carton hanging from the tree.  Just an attempt to provide a  little something to amuse them.  Although I believe the attempt was probably an abject failure.  But, still it hangs.

And then, there's Alice.  Actually she's been a big pain in the proverbial ass recently.  The trails are only about the width of my shovel, meaning they're only wide enough for one person or one donkey.  And lately Alice has been a master at blocking the paths.  By just standing.  Still.  As donkeys tend to do.

In the picture to the right, she thumbed her nose at the hay in the feeding area and said she was going straight to the source.  Alice is a pistol to remove from the hay aisle.

Cross your toes and fingers that Alice is back to normal tomorrow.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Peaceful Evenings

If you happened to wander by our place tonight and had a chat with the donkeys, I'm tempted to say they would not say it was a peaceful evening feed.

Factors to consider:
*trying to make my way to the donkeys,  I was continually slipping on the packed driveway snow,
*it started snowing again -- we got dumped with at least 10" on Sunday
*four donkeys were crowding in the barn (because it was snowing again) making it impossible to clean up manure for the 500th time today and
*did I mention it was snowing again?
*oh yes, and standing on my head trying to get Alice's blanket on -- in addition to more snow it's going to get mighty chilly tonight.

No one would accuse me of being miss congeniality tonight.  I'll admit it.  I had to apologize to the donks for yelling.  They seemed to take it in stride.

Anyway, I finally got hay thrown, more shavings piled up, and yes, Alice's blanket on. Chickens locked up safe for the night, more chicken treats distributed, heat lamp plugged in.

And as I started back toward the house, I looked up.  Into the snowfall and the sky.  And soaked up the quiet.  It was only 5:30 but felt much later.  And peace and calm appeared.

At that moment, regretfully, I did not have a camera, but grabbed my phone at the house, backtracking just a bit to try to capture the mood.

    If you look closely you'll see one of the cows next door making his way out to the round bale

Did you feel it?   Aahhh...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Chicken's Toy... or not

Some things just don't work out the way you planned.  As it was in this case.

My chicken girls aren't allowed out free-range for more than 2-3 hours per day.  For two reasons. The dogs might be able to work their way through the gate blockade Rick devised, and, we believe we have a fox in the area.  Yes, that fox could attack at any time, but I feel better when their free time is not too extensive.

That means girls are bored, confined to the coop and their outside run.

Which leads me to their new toy.

Yes, a xylophone.

I had seen a video of chickens having a grand time pecking out tunes.

I thought it could be a rather inexpensive means to relieve the boredom.

Yea right.  Don't believe everything you see.

Rick said, you've got to train them to go to it.  So everyday I've been placing treats on the darn thing so they'll catch on to the great fun they could be having.  Yes, they play a cute little ditty while the treats are there,

and then it sits.  

Unless they're having fabulous xylophone parties at night after curfew.  And whale away on it while the donkeys listen in next door.

One just never knows.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Donkey Quiz

Many, many, many years ago I was a Teaching Assistant for a basic level video production class at the University of Michigan.  I felt quite inept at concocting quizzes and tests for the students and remember distinctly putting together a multiple choice test and thinking "no one in their right mind would pick this option".  And yet, someone did.

In that vein, dear readers, I am posing a quiz about the donkadonks.   I think it's painfully easy so, yes I'll be grading it quite severely. Answer carefully.

Let us begin.

#1.  This donkey is the fairest of the bunch, quite lovely.  But does not have a personality to match. Certainly not mean, but not nearly as sociable as the rest.  And, please oh please, do not touch his/her head!

Who is this donkey?

The answer:  Gabariella, of course.

#2.  This donkey is most happy getting head rubs, hugs, and kisses and greets me at the gate expectantly waiting for that physical contact (as opposed to treats) He/she is this writer's favorite (a dead give-away).  The mother to another donkey, she and her offspring frequently hang out together.

Who is this donkey?


Answer:  Francesca, of course.

#3.  This donkey provides me with a morning wake-up each and every morning by goosing me as I turn around to latch the gate.  E-v-e-r-y morning.  His/her bray has a foghorn quality to it and he/she is the most passive of the group.

Who is this donkey?


The answer:  Alice, of course.

#4.  This donkey has a knack for attacking the grain can as soon as (and I do mean as soon as) I walk two steps away from the hay aisle.  This afternoon, in the time it took for me to get a flake of straw, walk 30 feet to throw it, and return to the hay aisle, he/she had knocked over the can and was working on the bungee cord keeping the lid on.  This also happens to be the donkey most visitors fall in love with first.  God knows why!

Who is this whippersnapper?

The answer:  Luigi, of course.

OK, how did you score?  It's the honor system now, so fess up.
I'm certain friend "JC #2" who follows this blog religiously got an A.  If you received less than a 100% score, I expect you to do a little more studying.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sparrows In The Chicken Coop

As I was thinking about how to begin this little saga, the phrase "bats in the belfry" popped into my thoughts.  Well, that's not exactly the situation we're experiencing but it's similar.

For some time sparrows have been flying into the little coop door and helping themselves to chicken feed.
 If only Sweet Pea would stand guard like this all the time.

There's no real way to keep them out and we feed the birds anyway, so resigning ourselves to the situation seemed the right course of action.  
However, their destructive behavior escalated.  

Now when opening one of the main coop doors, it is necessary to stand aside and wait for the sparrows to fly out, or you'll have birds flying erratically above your head (hence the similarity to bats in the belfry -- you see there is a method to my madness.)  

And then... we ended up with a mess like this.

They started destroying the insulation Rick so carefully included in the coop structure, we're assuming to make nests.
Today he put cardboard over all insulation areas to fend off the little winged buggers.  Enough is enough.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Miniature Donkeys Vote Yes, Thumbs Down From Chickens

At this house, four clucks get a banana a day.  Probably 90% of the time.

A couple of days ago I had the unmitigated gall to offer apples instead.

The backstory:  Once a year we go to Camp Michigania about a four-hour drive toward the NW part of the state (remember, we're in the SE).  It's for University of Michigan alumni and we've been going for many many many years.  While there in October, we picked some wild apples to bring home to the donks. It's our own little tradition.

This year's bounty.
As I was saying, a couple of days ago I cut up some to treat the donkeys, cows next door and chickens.

Everyone was esctatic.  The donkeys couldn't get enough.  The cows were practically jumping up and down.

When I ran out of my bagful for the cows and walked away, mama cow yelled and yelled at me.  "Come back here this minute; we need more!"

Everyone was happy, except four hens.

Ruby Dee took one small peck, stopped and clearly said, for all the world to hear, "What the heck is this?  This is NOT banana!"

Usually I learn my lessons very well after erring, but this time... hmmm... I may try making the same mistake again and see what happens.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Donkeys, You May Not Eat My Flowers!

A lovely fall day in Michigan.  The temperature in the low 60's.  Some sun.  Ahh.  The perfect day to let four miniature donkeys out to wander in the "compound" (the fenced in area surrounding the house).  An idyllic scene, you might say.

And yet... there you would be wrong.  So wrong.

The four buzzards are very adept at destroying anything those adorable little lips can suck into those cavernous mouths.

And so you see how I have to protect my garden.

Surrounding it by any means possible.  Wheelbarrow, planters, bicycle, sawhorses.  Anything that's in the vicinity.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  They don't hesitate at stepping right in and nibbling the delectables.

And so, you say, why are you allowing the destructive beasts out of their area to roam?  Good question.

It's Michigan.  In late October.  The pasture has pretty much had it.  They might think they're grazing, but they're really just walking around pretending, because all the good stuff is gone.  And yes, that means I've upped the ante of hay and straw at mealtimes.  Remember... cavernous mouths with matching appetites.

And yet, those beasts are pretty darn cute.  And so worth it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Bevy of Bovines

I know next to nothing about cows.  But the ones next door are worming their way into my heart.  Oh yea.

I have now made my reputation clear as the carrot lady and ofttimes when I call and shake my carrot bag, these cuties come on the fly.  Cows and steer running full blast, screeching to a stop at the fence, and standing with expectant faces.

This is mama cow.  Her baby was born at the local county fair in July and, as much as I enjoy treating mama cow, I have cocked an eyebrow at her mothering skills.  They seem a little remiss to me.  But baby appears to be thriving, so, what do I know...

Big boy Blaze I particularly like treating.  I'm sure he's meant for the freezer, which breaks my heart, The point is he's getting pretty large.  I want to indulge him as much as I can while there's time.

This cutie knows he has horns and can bully his way to the carrots.  And yet, he's on the carrot team.

Yes, the donkeys do object to "their" carrots being doled out to the interlopers.  I try to even things out, but I'm not sure they'd agree. 

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!