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.