Monday, August 21, 2017

The Great Eclipse Party

"Hey guys, wanna come stare at the sun with me?"

"Kind of busy here Ma, you were terribly late with lunch today."

"Oh c'mon, this is your once(or twice)-in-a-lifetime chance to partially watch a total solar eclipse. There are millions of people who have traveled thousands of miles for this opportunity. There are massive hordes crowding themselves onto the hot, arid plains of Oregon, camped out for days just to watch this."

"Better them than us."

"Well, OK, I happen to agree with you on that one, but are you sure you don't wanna check this out?"

munch, munch, chew, chomp, munch..."Did you say something back there?"

"So much for eclipse enthusiasm from that side of the fence.  How about you Connor?"

"I think this could be very, very dire.  It could even mean the end of the world!"

"Wow.  I didn't know you felt so strongly.  What do think is going to happen when the sun goes dark?"

"Of course I feel strongly, this could be bad!  It could distract people from the truly important things in life.  Like throwing the frisbee."

"OK then.  Thank you for your input."

"What about you Stepchild?  Birds are supposed to get all weird and confused, how are you handling this epic event?"

"Who cares.  You took my favorite roosting bale away, the one I've been sleeping on and craping on for months.  All in the name of barn cleaning.  You are a terrible, horrible creature, far below my notice."

"Right, nothing new to report there.  Let's just go check out how the eclipse is progressing..."

"Hmmm, guess we should'a worn shades.  Not a whole lot to see there either unless you want to go blind."

"Kipper, we haven't heard from you yet.  Cats are supposed to be mystic astrologers, what words of wisdom do you have to share for us during this incredible time?"

"Sleep, eat, and pet the cat."

"This party doesn't seem to be living up to all the hype....

Oh wait!"

 Here's some astronomical action going on!"

"I guess the dire predictions of the doomsayers have passed us by once again.  Whew."

"Heck, I even got the hay barn all cleaned out while the sun was bit less intense (much to the dismay of certain chickens).  Truly an incredible experience on this historic day."

"Well folks, there you have it: live, after the fact, in-depth coverage of the Great Eclipse of 2017.  Brought to you by the crew of The Dancing Donkey, reporting this very late-breaking news to you directly from the top of HellWind Hill."

"Hey, did anyone bring beer??"


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Add a Little Zest

My friend Dave is trying to reduce his herd.  His wife has been quite ill and needs a great deal of care.  He has gotten down to the two horses who drive, two older, retired donkeys and Pepper....

Dave is keeping the other 4, but Pepper would really prefer a younger crowd to hang out with.  The other young donkeys have all gone off to new adventures in wonderful homes.  The remainder of the herd are all in their 20's and have little appreciation for a young guy just looking for a bit of fun.  

We are hoping to find just the right home for this wonderful young donkey.  Pepper is a 7 year old gelding.  He stands about 38-40 inches tall, he is current on all vaccines and worming.  He is 100% sound and healthy.

Pepper is small of stature, but huge in personality, charm and heart.  He is both a playful devil and a cuddly, huggable friend.  Pepper would do best in a home with another young gelding who can share in his appreciation of a rousing wrestling match or a swift game of tag followed by some friendly mutual grooming and a good nap.

Pepper is very easy to work with, leads well and is good with the farrier (I should know since I trim his feet, he is a gentleman).  He is fine around traffic, tractors, golf carts, big donkeys, horses and other equipment.

Pepper is a very clever, attentive and engaged fellow with an adventurous spirit.  He loves attention and would always be up for trying something new.  He would love to accompany you on long walks, learn to do agility or pull a cart.

Have you ever wanted to give pack-burro racing a try?  Pepper might be small, but he is mighty and he would lead the pack across the finish.

If anyone is interested in adding a new friend, please get in touch.  You can reach me at aerissana@gmail.com

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

If you stand under the apple tree long enough....

Your patience will eventually be rewarded.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Doing the Job

The "new and improved" hay shed has been put to work.  My hay grower was very impressed with the carpentry and that he was able to drive right up to the shed for easy loading.

Both sheds are now filled to the brim with the best "bad" hay I could find  (ie. low sugar, late cut, over-mature, stemmy donkey hay).

It is always such a great feeling knowing the barns are filled for the year and the food supply is, once again, guaranteed.

Thank you all for your kind remarks about my latest building project and for your concern for our welfare here.  I know some of you were worried that we would get squished (rightfully so) by the monster door and I thank you for worrying about us.  It is good to know that someone would notice if I were to disappear.

Speaking of disappearing, I know I have been a total blog slacker lately and I have been struggling with that.  Writing used to come very easily and, in a way, it still does.  Most of the "writing" takes place while I am out walking in the woods or working in the barn.  I come in later and just let the words flow into the keyboard, transcribing the thoughts that had come before.  Lately, there is a disconnect though, and, when I sit down to write, all the words overfilling my mind just seem to fly away.  Please just know that your comments and encouragement are greatly appreciated and hopefully, I will eventually figure out how to reconnect the broken circuit.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Few Good Men

When last you saw the monster door, I had managed to wrestle it into this rather precarious position.

This afternoon, Farm Buddy came over to help with further wrestling.  We estimate that this door weighs approximately 4 billion pounds, but the two of us managed to get it into an upright position.

From here, the plan was to slide the door over into place.  However, no amount of grunting, heaving or swearing proved up to the job and the door, which had somehow gained several million more pounds, was not going to budge.  

Farm Buddy started making noises about needing more help, LOTS more help, and I could tell she was dubious.  Mind you, this is the woman who has gotten me into more crazy schemes over the past 20+ years than you can possibly imagine.  I can't tell you how many times I have accused her of having a severely deficient sense of self preservation and an over abundance of chipper optimism.  For once, I was the one thinking we'd gotten the hardest part over with and she was the one giving me the hairy eyeball.

But, I agreed that we did need more help so I turned to the Little Green Man for some assistance...

I used the LGM to shove the door closer to its goal.  For me, the worst moment of this crazy endeavor was when FB decided that we needed to get the ropes out of the way and she climbed up on the hood of the ATV to reach them.  Just below her at that moment, the entire weight of the door was resting very precariously on thin wedge of lumber, which she tried to use as a stepping stone to climb on.  That sure brought on visions of squished doom dancing in my head.

See what I mean about a self preservation deficiency?

Anyway, with the help of the Little Green Man, we got the door almost lined up with the track, but it was still too low.  Enter the help of the Handy Man.

The Handy Man Jack that is, which is that blurry red thing at the bottom of the door...

We jacked up the bottom corner of the door, got the first roller lined up, the LGM gave it another small shove and the first set of roller wheels slid into the track.  From there, it was all smooth, easy sailing and the monster door is finally in place.

The very first thing I did was bolt a solid block at either end of the track so that the door can never be pushed off its track by accident.  Of course, I remembered about 2 seconds after the last screw was in that the end of the door had to go past this point and I had to take the block back off and turn it sideways.  Thank God for cordless drills and star-drive screws.

That block was a priority though, because I never want to have to wrestle this beast again.  I estimate that the real weight of this thing is around 400 pounds.  It will get a bit lighter as the lumber dries out, but it is an 8x12 foot door/sliding wall and it will always be a monster.

But that's one more monster Farm Buddy and I have successfully slayed.  All we needed was a little help from a few good men:)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Half Way

The big door finally moved from its spot on the lawn today.  I used some old posts I had from my big deck fiasco to make rails for the door to slide on.

With a lot of grunting, heaving and judicious swearing, I managed to get it off its blocks and onto the rails.

From there, I was able to enlist the help of my faithful Little Green Man to move it up the rest of the way....


This is where things get a bit more tricky.

I need to stand the door up and then slide it over to the left and get the rollers aligned with the door track.  I braced the bottom of the door and I had hoped that I would be able to use the ATV to pull the door into a standing position.  However, it needs a lot more bracing because the door just slid back down the hill.

So...I went back to my original method of doing it by hand.  I used a lever to to raise it up a few inches and then, quick, shove something under it to hold it up.

I got about half way to that tipping point where one more shove will get it standing and then my lever, my strength and the daylight all got too short and I gave up.

I think that, from this point, I could pound a couple of steel posts into the ground at the base of the door and then use the ATV to pull it the rest of the way up (the posts would also keep it from tipping all the way over).  From there, I could slide it over, but I would have to get the height just perfect to get it all lined up and the rollers in the track.  That part might take about eight hands.

Thankfully, Farm Buddy is going to come over tomorrow to help me and I think we will be able to wrestle it into place without all that scheming.  If that fails, I have another friend who has volunteered to help as well.  One way or another, I'll get the door up.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Projects - part 2

I finally got the rest of the materials to finish my hay-shed project and it is nearly complete.

The next step will be hanging the door, which, contrary to Connor's opinion, is what this monstrosity is....

There are a lot of times when an extra set of hands would be a help around here, but that doesn't happen often and I need to save the big jobs for those occasions.  The rest of the jobs usually require a bit of ingenuity to manage on my own.

Jobs like hanging a 20 foot door track 9 feet off the ground...

The floor is in, the track is up.  Now all I have to do is hang up that door, which is definitely going to take more than a bit of ingenuity.  Anyone want to come over and wrestle a 300-400 pound door?  I have a plan.

We all know how those work out.




Monday, July 31, 2017

Projects - part 1

This weekend was the first reprieve we've had all summer from endless rain and stifling humidity.  With almost 70 inches of rain this year, we are well on track to break all the records.  Record drought last year, record rain this year.  What fun.

I took advantage of the decent weather to work on a project I've been arguing with myself about for months now.  This half of my shed holds about a third of my hay supply, but I've had a lot of problems with it....

Every year, the bottom row of hay gets very musty despite the fact that I put down a layer of plastic, then pallets, followed by another layer of plastic.  It also gets completely overrun with mice who burrow into the bales, leaving basket-ball-sized holes in the bales, chewing through all the twine and contaminating the hay with their droppings.  Given that mice are also the primary carriers of ticks, they are also infesting my good hay with horrid, plague ridden ticks.  It makes me CRAZY.

If you look close, you can see all the tunnels and holes in this bale, half of which was eaten by mice and all of it was riddled with their filth.
And yes, I do have a cat who hangs out in the shed all the time.  She likes to watch the mice play.

I've agonized and debated with myself about what to do with this space.  I talked myself out of burning it to the ground and starting over or burning it all down and moving.  I thought about gravel and rubber mats, but that does not address the moisture or the mouse problems.

The obvious solution is to build a floor, but that posed a lot of technical difficulties, which I won't bore you with.  Finally, I couldn't stand thinking about it anymore and I came up with a plan that I thought might work and ordered lumber.

The plan, like most plans, did not survive long.  There was this whole issue with load bearing and door width and tree roots (because I do NOT want to kill my tree) and I was standing there revisiting the torch idea when I remembered this huge steel pipe that someone gave me years ago.  The chickens were, once again, purely gratuitous.  They were sooo not helpful.

This 5" heavy steel pipe has been lying on the ground, behind the building, slowly sinking into oblivion and after staring at it for a ridiculous amount of time, I finally saw it and decided to see if I could make it work.  It is just barley the right length, but it does fit and an elephant could do a high wire act on this thing.  Load bearing over a 12' span should not be an issue anymore.

It took another ridiculous amount of time to figure out how to make this work without being able to attach anything to it and without having problems with frost heaving, but I think I've got now.  Everything is tied in together so the weight is distributed throughout the whole floor.

Of course, it's not actually done yet because I didn't have enough of the right lumber and it was Sunday and I have to wait to order more and blah, blah, blah, but I have finally made some real progress and I know where to go from here so the hardest part is over.

And...I finally found a use for that ginormous steel pipe that was slowly wasting away.

Next up....


Friday, July 28, 2017

Ambassadors at Work

The donkeys had some ambassadorial work this weekend.  These lovely young women are here from San Diego visiting family in the area. Ben did his part....

But not until Ambassador Ramsey had worked his magic...

He went to work immediately and had them wrapped around his little hooves in no time.

Emma did her part as well and there are now a few more donkey enthusiasts in the world.

So, California friends, are there any donkey sanctuarys near San Diego who could use a couple of new volunteers?  Emma and Ramsey give these two their seal of approval and would be happy to share.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Million Dollar Donkey

Ben and I went out for a little drive this weekend.  It was later in the evening than it should have been because I was fussing around with a new harness for him.  It's actually his old harness and it fits him very well, however, it is designed to be used in a team rather than with a single donkey.  It needs some configuring to make it work single.

I futzed around with it for a good 40 min. while Ben stood patiently, stoically resigned to putting up with my fumbling, even when I accidentally whacked him in the nose with a cart shaft.  I finally decided that I need a few more pieces to make it work and it was getting late, so I gave up and put the other harness on so we could go for a drive.

Down the road and around the corner from me is a seasonal road that leads down a steep hill to some state land.  Just as we were approaching this little road, I began to hear the rumble of many loud ATV's coming up the hill.  They aren't supposed to be on the roads, but that never stops them and there a several big groups of these things that go flying past my house all too frequently.  They're sort of like this thing only with wire cages, no mufflers, beer coolers strapped to the back and a lot of crazy people with no helmets.


The road is narrow and there was no place for Ben and I to go so we just had to stop and wait for the hoard to descend upon us.  I was a bit concerned, but I told Ben that it was all harmless and not to worry.  Sweet soul that he is, he believed me and stood quiet and unconcerned.

On Sunday, Ben took some visitors for a little drive as well, doing his part to create more donkey enthusiasts.  The smiles say it all...

The big guy earned his Million Dollar Donkey status this weekend.