Monday, June 19, 2017

Sweet Summer Dreams

Ahhhh, I can just imagine racing across the snow covered plains, the wind in my hair, the ground thudding beneath my pounding hooves, my friends beside me and the wild, woolly bison scattering before us on the vast, endless, open prairie....

....or maybe soaring around the racecourse, the steeple jumps rising and falling below me, nothing but air passing beneath my hooves and flowing through my mane, keenly flying toward the next and the next, faster than the wind...

...or maybe out grazing on a cool, crisp, Fall morning; the sun so bright, the air so fresh and a little breeze playing with my hair...

...a deer pops into the field and it is a good excuse to leap and buck and run off into the wind, flying, always flying into the wind....

Then again.....maybe I'll just stay here in front of the fan and call it a day.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Boy

I know after I posted pictures of the two grays hanging out together that some were concerned that maybe poor, little Ramsey had gotten left out.  Rest assured, cause it ain't so.  In fact this is still the most common configuration of the herd...

Ben and Emma get along well and both enjoy occasionally slipping off for a quiet conversation.  However, Emma and Ramsey remain inseparable.

Ramsey and Ben have a bit of sibling rivalry going on.  Or maybe it's more that seeing his mom hanging out with a handsome older fellow tends to put a kink in Ramsey's ears.  That's always the way it is when a young, single mom starts thinking about dating again right?

Ramsey likes to think he is the big man on the hill and occasionally tries to push Ben around.  Ben generally ignores this unless there is food involved.  If it comes down to a matter of inference with dinner, Ben becomes a tiger.  He gives Ramsey the evil eye and Ramsey suddenly remembers that he is the poor, poor, pitiful, put-upon baby donkey and comes looking for me to provide back-up.  He comes up next to me and leans into my hip and gets a sudden infusion of bravery.

Which is why there are always two nets filled with hay, guaranteed escape routes for big and small, and assigned seats at the dinner table.

And, lest you think it is all squabbles and fights, every morning after breakfast, is scratching time.  If I can get everybody to line up just right I can manage with only two hands.  If I scratch Tessa, she will start to groom Emma or Ramsey.  If I scratch Ben, he will do the same and suddenly, all the little quarrels disappear and it is one big happy family - our daily love fest.

All-in-all, the poor, poor, pitiful, put-upon baby donkey is still fairly sure that he is the center of the universe.

It's a Hard Life

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Meanderings of an Overheated Brain

It was a blistering hot day filled with barn cleaning, hoof trimming and lamb wrestling.  Once a year Farm Buddy and I have to get together to manhandle the lambs and castrate all the males.  We opted to skip this procedure once and we both swore never, ever again.  Having 12-15 rowdy ram lambs running loose around the farm, wreaking havoc, fighting and trying to hump anything and everything, whether it moves or not, is an experience we do not wish to repeat.

So, once a year, we herd all the sheep into a pen and set about capturing the lambs.  Catching lambs is a bit like catching fish by wading out into a pool full of fish and grabbing them with your bare hands.  The lambs swirl around, leaping and flashing in a confusing woolly whirlpool. Unlike the fish, there is also a great deal of dust and sweat.  I find that the best way to catch them is to slowly wade into the fray and then grab one as it whizzes by.

It's too bad no one was around with a camera because it was probably quite a sight.

Katarina was kicked out for this job and she was some mad at us for abusing her sheeps.

She paced around outside the windows humming her protest and watching us like a hawk

She would have dearly liked to spit at us.

"Free my sheeps!"

We like to do this job when the lambs are still quite small because....well, not to be indelicate, but - sheep have the most absurdly large testicles of any animal on the farm.  A four month old lamb could make a 2000 lb bull blush with shame if they actually cared about that sort of thing.

The problem is, this is a job that is very easy to procrastinate about and lambs grow really fast.  I mean really, who wouldn't want to spend a hot, dusty, chaotic hour chasing and castrating lambs???

Us, apparently.

This is not a job that gets easier with time tough.  Let's just say that: the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  Today was the day.

Sheep are not exactly renowned for their bravery, strength, intelligence or fortitude and, every year, I find myself pondering exactly why so many men seem to think there is a correlation between any of these traits and scrotal size.  We've all heard the comments of course:

....He must have a set of big ol'e brass ones...
....Wow, that guy sure has got a set....
....Grow a pair!...
....He has got the biggest....

The oddity and foreignness of the male psyche is baffling.

And...given the way this blog post has veered sooooo far afield, my brain clearly got overheated today.  Time to call it a night.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Compass Points

Several people have asked how the boys are getting along with each other these days.  The answer is...pretty well.  They all hang out together and share their space with each other.  There is no real squabbling, pushing or shoving.

With three donkeys and one horse, the differences between the way horses think and the way donkeys think is more noticeable.  Not that it is a problem, the donkeys all like and respect Tessa.  They generally let her think that she is the boss while they all go on about their own business, which Tessa is blithely oblivious to.

Ben and Ramsey have a sort of truce, but I would not call them buddies.  Maybe they are too much alike.  Ramsey still thinks of Ben as the interloper and Ben still thinks Ramsey is an annoying pipsqueak.  They are both jealous of my attention.

Ben very much likes being a part of the herd and he keeps close to everyone.  He and Emma get along quite well and he is a little enamored of Tessa.  He is a bit intimidated by her, but he also likes to stick close to her.

My four compass points in their standard configuration...

All in all, it is a nice little herd with a few personality quirks, but no drama.  The donkeys all work things out and Tessa remains blissfully content in her own little universe.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Yet Another Parking Garage

It's happening all the time all over the country - good farm land being swallowed up by urban sprawl and paved over for strip malls, parking lots and housing developments.  It's a terrible tragedy and, would you believe it?  It's actually happened right here, in my own back yard.

The chicken coop, which started out as a guinea coop until all the guineas got eaten by coyotes, which then became a greenhouse that I didn't have time to use, which then turned into a chicken now a parking garage.

There are only two chickens left now.  The Black Australorp, the one I called the Godmother, decided that she absolutely had to raise some babies and got all broody.  There were two really big problems with this plan though: first, there is no rooster here so none of the eggs are fertile.  Second, and an even larger obstacle than immaculate conception, is the fact that the hen was setting on an empty nest.  No eggs at all.  Totally, completely empty.

I tried to dissuade the Godmother from her futile endeavors, but she was having none of it.  I kept shooing her off the nest and leaving obstacles in her place, such as a five gallon bucket.  She moved the bucket and went back to incubating invisible eggs.  

And then - a miracle, the stork arrived!

Farm Buddy had ordered some baby chicks and it is always better for babies to have a mother so the Godmother went over to her farm to raise them.  This was accomplished by my hastily cramming the hen in a box and taking her over to Farm Buddy's where she was ensconced in a quiet stall.  That night, Farm Buddy sneaked in well after dark and stuffed all the babies under the Godmother's wings where they would be nice and warm.

In the morning - viola!

The Godmother wakes up to find that all of her immaculately conceived, imaginary eggs have "hatched" into a brood of fluffy chicks.  The Godmother is now a mom thanks to a delivery from the stork by way of the US postal service.

As for the other missing hen, one of the speckled wyandottes.....well, she met with a more tragic fate.  Somebody ate her.  It might have been Lucy, the stray dog, or possibly a fox.

I can't say as I begrudge a starving dog a chicken dinner and I can't blame a fox for being a fox.  While I am not happy about the loss of a hen, I confess that my sympathies often lie with the predators.  Everyone likes to eat chicken after all, right?  I certainly do.

So, that leaves just the two hens, Thug One and the Red-Headed-Step-Child (and just in case anyone thinks I am maligning red-heads, you should know that I am one and I have had to deal with a great deal of maligning throughout my life because of it).

Thug One and the RHSC have shunned the chicken coop ever since the night of the murder and have moved into the hay shed, which left the coop vacant.  Real Estate dose not stay vacant around her for long and a developer has already swooped in and converted the guinea coop/greenhouse/chicken coop into a parking garage for the sports car.  It's a perfect fit.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stubborn is Good

Back in January, when Ben was so sick with the latest tick-borne disease to plague us, there was one day in particular that I came very close to calling the vet to come out and give that most final of gifts. Ben was lying down and showing no inclination to get up.  He was in a lot of pain and severely depressed.  I went out and sat with him, rubbed his ears, scratched his neck, massaged his muscles, and I asked him,

"Are you done Ben?  Truly done?"

I rubbed his ears some more, told him I would miss him if he left and finally, he sighed and moaned a bit and then heaved himself to his very sore feet.  He pressed his head against my chest and I wrapped my arms around him and said,

"OK, you stay on your feet and I will fight this thing till we win.  Don't give up on me and I won't give up on you."

Ben did get better, but I was not sure he would ever be sound again.  He recovered slowly, in small, immeasurable increments.  I worked on the foot that had foundered a little at a time to bring it back into balance.  His joints pained him a little less every day.  The light slowly came back to his eyes.

On Monday afternoon, we had a brief respite from nearly constant rain and, on the spur of the moment, Ben and I went for a drive.

Ben hasn't been out since last fall, but I tossed the ill-fitting harness on him, hitched him to the borrowed cart and off we went.  Quiet, steady and good as gold.

Ben is a very sweet, easygoing, lovable fellow with a solid core of donkey toughness and implacability.  He can be very stubborn.

If Ben likes you and you ask nicely, he will do anything for you.  If you get into an argument with Ben, you have already lost.  If you try to push him around, he becomes as immovable as Everest.  Tell him how good and wonderful he is and show him that you mean it and he would walk into a volcano with you.

He is an excellent companion for a quiet drive in the country.  I wasn't sure we would ever be doing this again.

I am so glad the toughness and implacability won out.  Stubborn is good.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Custom Fit

The black flies are really brutal this time of year and they just love donkey ears - all that acreage with a lovely blood supply, its just what black flies loves.  Fortunately, Cashel makes a really nice fly mask with donkey sized ears.

Unless you happen to be Ben, then even Cashel falls short.

I have bought Ben several fly masks and they were all too small.  I finally bought him a warmblood sized mask with mule ears and the ear portion was STILL too small.  I had to squash his ears into them and the tips of his poor little ears folded over by about two inches.  What's a mammoth donkey owner to do?

I turned to Riding Buddy because she and her mother are excellent seamstresses.  We did a fitting and she replaced the too-small ears with longer, fuller, plus-sized, custom fitted ear protection.

It helps to have friends in the right places.  We wouldn't want those poor, dainty, little appendages getting chewed on now would we?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Knight in Slightly Shinning Armor

The other day when Lucy (the stray dog) was still here, I went out to the barn in the morning to feed and, since Lucy had been doing so well off lead, I let her off her rope as well.  She had been very respectful of the donkeys and had kept her distance, but all of a sudden she ducked under the fence and went into the back of the barn.  It was empty at that moment, but I knew it would not be for long and there is no way that dogs are allowed in the donkey barn, especially not at breakfast time. 

It was foolish on my part because I have come to take for granted that Connor knows better than to ever cross into donkey territory.  He will come in the barn when they are not around, but at the first hint of hoof beats, he hightails it back to his side of the fence.  Lucy, in her somewhat clueless fashion, simply charged right in where angels would fear to tread. 

I immediately went in after her and tried to call her to me, but she ignored me.  I raised my voice just a bit and said LUCY. COME. HERE. and I went after her to get her out of the barn before anyone with long ears noticed that there had been an invasion. 

There must have been the faintest hint of panic in my voice though.  Donkeys may not understand all of our words, but they certainly understand every tiny nuance of emotion, even when we don't hear it ourselves.  Unfortunately, they aren't always any better at interpreting those emotions than we are. 

Suddenly, Ben, who is normally a big, squishy, cuddly, gentle teddy bear, was right there with fire in his eyes and smoke pouring from his flaring nostrils saying loudly and clearly,

"Don't worry Ma, I'll protect you from that nasty dog.  I'll make sure she rues the day her father ever got a glint in his eye!!  Just let me at her!"

Kind of the donkey version of a Lassie movie.  Ben decided that I needed protection and he would gladly have stomped poor Lucy to bits.  I was trying to wave him off, which only made him more certain I needed help and also got Ramsey and Emma's attention.  They promptly rushed over to help.  This all scared Lucy to bits so she froze in place and would not move, which was soooo not helpful.  I finally got her moving, waved off the fire breathing donkeys and got Lucy scooted back under the gate.  A minute later I had her safely back on her lead and the donkeys went back to being sweet, cuddly teddy bears. 

Donkeys are often used as guard animals and this was a perfect example of why.  It was also a perfect example of why they should NOT be used as guard animals.  One of many reasons.  Donkeys can be fierce protectors, but they are the ones who decide who, what, where and when they are going to protect and they decide what is and is not a threat.  Often as not, the "threat" turns out to be a newborn lamb or calf that suddenly appears in their pasture.  It's perfectly reasonable from the donkey's point of view, but it sure does piss off the farmer. 

Ben has become very attached to me since he came here and I probably should have anticipated this, but I have never seen him get upset about much of anything and I did not give it a thought.  I knew Ramsey would object to a strange dog in his space so he was the one I was watching.  My big grey knight was a surprise.  Ben saw the dog and didn't mind her until he heard that hint of panic in my voice.  I was worried about Lucy, but he interpreted it to mean I was afraid of Lucy and that was that.  From teddy bear to fire breathing dragon in the blink of an eye. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Happy Ending

It turns out that the stray has a name - it's Lucy.

Late last night, I got a message from a local woman who was sure this was her dog.  Since I had several people tell me that they were sure this was their dog, I asked her for some pictures and some history about her.  She was able to provide both, which the other people had not.

Turns out that Lucy is a purebred Bull Mastiff who never quite fit the breed description.  I thought she was some variety of Boxer/Mastiff/something crossbred, but I was wrong.  I told Lucy not to worry since she is not the only one around here who does not fit the mold.  Personality means much more than breed standards on this hill and Lucy certainly wins on that score.

Lucy's people live in the nearby village, next to the church.  About a month ago there was a large funeral there with a lot of cars and people.  Somewhere along the way, Lucy got let out of her fenced yard and went for a walk about.  Since she is not normally a wanderer, I suspect she met a porcupine somewhere near this time and, after an unfriendly introduction, panicked and took off.

In the short time Lucy was here I saw in her the personality type that I affectionately call the clueless coward.  She is inquisitive and curious and has no compunctions whatsoever about striding into a new situation and introducing herself.  At the same time, she is timid, easily startled and backs off at the slightest hint of rejection.  I can very easily see Lucy walking straight up to a porcupine and then taking off in terror when she hits the quills.

Lucy also has some kind of neurological issue that I noticed the first time I let her off the lead.  She was wandering around, checking things out and then started trotting in circles.  The circling was clearly a compulsive behavior.  She could be stopped or distracted out of the circling, but she didn't seem to have a lot of control over it.  Apparently, she was born with some neurological problems and has had this issue her whole life.  It is generally manageable and not a big issue in her own environment, but it is easy to see how a dog like Lucy could get lost in the woods.

She has been out on her own for about 4 weeks and I don't think she would have lasted too much longer on her own.  She was badly dehydrated, malnourished and exhausted when I found her.  After sleeping for almost two days straight, drinking copious amounts of water and getting a LOT of food in many small meals, she is well on her way to recovery.  She even felt well enough to go for a walk with Connor and I this afternoon, staying on her feet this time.

Afterwards though.....

This picture really sums up the colossal personality difference between Connor and Lucy.  They got along well enough, but are so different they may as well be from separate planets.  It is hard to believe they are actually the same species.  They got along, but did not interact much as they clearly did not speak the same language.

A few hours later, Lucy's people showed up to get her.  They had given up hope of finding her, but thanks, once again, to the blog, they have been reunited.  I am very glad to have been proven wrong and find that Lucy was not abandoned after all.  I am also glad I was here to help her when she needed it and I hope she has a long and happy life - at home in her own yard and on her own couch where she belongs.

Bye Lucy, it was nice meeting you.