Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making Progress

I am finally making progress on the Donkey Nursery.  I am not sure why this project has taken me so long, but it is starting to come together.  It has probably been a combination of having changed my mind about a 150 times as to how I wanted to do this and lousy weather.  I know we have been having a mild winter, but that is a very relative term.  Doing carpentry in 20 degree weather is a true misery and power tools do not mix well with snow, rain and ice.

I want this area to be weather proof enough to be cozy for Emma and her baby, but open enough at the same time so that the windows in the main barn are not blocked.  This is what I finally came up with. These windows are on hinges so they will fold upward against the shed roof in the summer, allowing for maximum airflow and still close everything off in the winter.  I still have to add some exterior trim pieces that will hold everything in place and make it all weather tight.  And of course, the plexiglass.
I debated for a long time whether to use plexiglass or heavy-duty plastic.  I am a little worried that the plexiglass could get broken and be a hazard, but I think it will be OK.  I experimented with a small piece that I had and even when it breaks, it does not shatter like glass does and does not become too sharp.  I just don't think the plastic sheeting can stand up to the wind I get here, so plexiglass is what I am going to use.  If I have to, I can add some wire mesh to the inside of the windows to reinforce the plexiglass. 

I am feeling that I really need to get this done and move Emma into it.  While she gets along well with both of the horses and is especially attached to Tessa, Gabe does push her around some. He is never mean to her, but he does like to play and he thinks it is fun to chase her on occasion.  He had several other young, rowdy geldings to play with at his former home and he tries to play with Emma and Tessa that way.  It is often too much for them.  He is starting to get the idea that no one wants to play that hard and he is being better about it.  However, as Emma's belly gets ever larger, she gets ever slower.  I don't want her to feel that she has to run away from him.  I also don't want Gabe anywhere near her when she does have the baby.  He is very protective of his territory and does not allow strange animals into his field.  While this is a good thing where strange dogs and coyotes are concerned, I am worried about how he will treat a newborn donkey.  All in all, I am hoping to have the nursery finished within the next two weeks.  Hopefully, Emma will like it and not feel too isolated. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GabeThrows Himself a Party

"Happy Birthday to me...
"Happy Birthday to me...

 "Happy Birthday to.....WHEEEEEEEE...

By the way, if you are wondering where Emma is during all this fun; she is standing next to me on the driveway, safely out of harm's way.

Gabe Wants In On the Action

"Hey girls, can I please join your club....

Pleeeese, it's my BIRTHDAY today....

"Well, seeing as it's your birthday and all, we suppose you could join a few of our meetings.  On a probationary status for now...

"But don't expect to get in without a bit of hazing at least..."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Stills - Trees

This weeks Sunday Stills challenge was trees, a subject near and dear to me.  I have always loved trees, probably no real surprise since I was born in a tiny logging town in Washington state.  Those old-growth forests had a big impact on my young mind and I miss them a great deal.  One of the things that I find very difficult about living in NY is that the woods around here are horribly poor.  They have suffered the effects of irresponsible logging practices for so long that there are very few healthy woodlots left anywhere in the area.  The mature beech have all died; something is killing off the maple trees and large swaths of them are dieing off; the ash are being cut down as fast as they can grow in order to harvest them before the Emerald Ash Borer gets here; the massive deer population kills off the oak and cherry saplings before they get knee high.

Just about the only relatively healthy woodlots left are those on state land.  Whatever anyone thinks of the state government, and Lord knows it has its problems, at least they haven't messed this up yet.  Timber is harvested off all of the state land, but it is done well, with strict management rules.  The results of good management are painfully obvious, I can tell whether I am on private or public land just by the way the woods look.  Often the boundaries between are as blatant as pavement versus lawn.  The private land is covered by spindly, weedy saplings growing so close that ultimately, none of them do well.  There are no young, healthy trees coming up because all of the good mature seed stock has been removed leaving only the poor, unfit and worthless behind to reproduce.  The state land still has mature, healthy trees and nice young tress coming up from below, there is diversity, both in age and species.

Regardless, I love being in the woods and I spend a considerable amount of time there, walking with Tanner.  I do miss those old forests though I wonder if any are left now.  Would walking the woods of my old hometown be the same now as they are here?  The woods here often sadden me, not just for their own lose, but because the damage done to them is so self-defeating.  The money earned from poor logging practices is so much lower than what can be gained form proper timber management, the senselessness of it is somewhat overwhelming at times.

Still, even poor trees have much to offer.  I took entirely too many photos of them, trying to capture some of what they are.  Most of those photos, I deleted because they just didn't get the job done.  I find it difficult to get good pictures of trees.  Up close, you can't see all that they are.  Get some distance and they blend into the background.  These are the few that I liked well enough to post.  I think the first is my favorite.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Overheard Conversation

"So Emma, do you think we should include the new guy in our plots?"

"I don't know Tess, I'm not sure we'd gain anything by it."

"Well, we haven't managed to get into the feed room or out the gate on our own."

"True, but what we need are some opposable thumbs not a big, pink snout like he has.  Just look at that thing will you...
It's about as prehensile as a stump.  He's also got those silly, mismatched ears.  You poor horses have such pathetic, little ears to start with and his don't even match.  Makes me wonder if his brain is entirely right, being out of balance and all.  The boy probably needs an alignment or something."

"Well, it doesn't seem to bother him any and he does have a lot of energy and brute strength." 

"Yeah, tell me about it.  He keeps trying to play 'Chase-the-Donkey'.  I mean really, do I LOOK like a Jolly-Ball?"

"Well, you have gotten kind of round lately and your ears do....well, sorry never-mind, of course you don't look like a Jolly-Ball." 

"Hmmph.  Besides Tess, if he broke out he'd get so excited we'd all probably end up in the next county.  That seems like WAAAY too much work.  What that boy needs is a job."

"You know, I heard a rumor that he's getting shipped off to boot camp sometime."

"Oh yeah? That seems like a good idea.  Maybe they'll teach him some commando tricks or something and when he gets back he'll be able to help out.  In the meantime, I'll think about it and keep an eye on him, you have to be careful of someone with so many spots you know."

"Hey, I have just as many spots."

"Yeah, but yours are red, it makes all the difference.  Those black and white ones, especially ones with mismatched have to keep a close eye on them..."

Just a Dash

Got another update about Dash and about his and Emma's parents, Poncho and Petunia.  Dash is doing well and is doing a good job of getting his humans trained properly:) 

Poncho and Petunia are also doing well and are wanting for nothing.  Petunia is, of course, expecting another baby in July or August since, like Emma, she was never separated form the jack.  Now though, they have a wonderful home and excellent care.  I am hoping to have some pictures to share soon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Slow Feeders & Messy Gabe

A couple of days ago Rebecca2 asked me....

"Have you solved messy Gabe's problem? I just read a blog where they had put a "hay net" over a big bale of hay and the horses had to eat through the holes. The lady made the comment that they had to eat slower, more like grazing, and they didn't leave hay strewn all around."

The bars I put across the top of the manger were meant to do just these things.  While certainly not as effective as nets, the bars have made it much more difficult for Gabe to pull large amounts of hay out of the manger where he can trample it.  I also stripped everything down to the rubber mats and the combination has helped a great deal.  The new feeding arrangement has not slowed down their consumption, but it has eliminated the waste factor.  Doing away with the bedding has helped as well.  Gabe doesn't like going to  the bathroom on the bare mats and is now choosing to go outside much more often.  I went from no barn cleaning with Emma and Tessa to 4 huge muck buckets a day when Gabe showed up and now, I'm down to one bucket a day.  Much more manageable and healthier as well, since the barn is less dusty and stays cleaner. 

I have thought about trying the slow-feeder hay nets, but I have a few reservations.  Mainly, I worry that my very young herd may decide to chew on the nets.  Tessa is going to be turning 4 next month and the rest of her adult teeth will be coming in throughout the coming year.  Every time a new tooth comes in, she gets a bit cranky and starts gnawing on anything she can reach.  Emma is so young that she still has ALL of her baby teeth.  I also worry that her tiny feet could get caught in a net.  There are other slow-feeding options but the expense and inconvenience make me hesitate.

The main reason I haven't pursued the slow feeders though, is that I don't see the need for it at this time.  I am fortunate this year to be able to feed hay grown on my friend's farm which we cut and baled ourselves.  It is good quality, native grasses that were cut in July.  This is generally considered to be late cut hay, but I think it is ideal horse feed.  Earlier cut hay is higher in nutrient and protein levels, but that is not really good for horses.  If the hay were earlier cut, I would have to severely limit the amount they are allowed to eat or they would become too fat and laminitis would be a real fear.  With later cut hay, I can feed them as much as they want to eat with no health risks and a great many benefits.  I can do this because the feed is not as rich and it is somewhat coarser, hence they eat it slower naturally.  Putting this hay in nets would be somewhat self-defeating.  The way I feed virtually eliminates the risk of ulcers, greatly reduces the chance of colic and laminitis, and helps them keep warm.  Perhaps most importantly, it ensures that they are happy, content and stay out of trouble because they always have something to nibble on.

I do think the slow feeders are an excellent idea for anybody whose animals are on limited rations, is feeding early cut hay or ANY hay that was grown from commercial seed rather than native grasses.  All of the commercial seed produced now has been selectively bred and/or genetically modified to produce higher protein and nutrient values.  It has been "optimized" to get the most out of every acre.  While this seems like a good thing, it has been terribly detrimental to horses and is the number one cause of the meteoric rise in the incidence of laminits and founder among US horses.  These grasses were developed with dairy and beef cattle in mind.  Dairy cattle now produce so much milk that they are physically incapable of eating enough to sustain themselves while lactating.   Increasing the nutrients that they get from every bite is the only way to sustain them.   The more calories a beef cow consumes per bite, the faster and bigger he grows.  This need to optimize every bite drives the seed industry which drives the hay industry and is ruining a lot of horses.

I may opt for a slow feeder system as my herd matures or if my hay changes significantly.  Tessa is turning into an especially easy keeper and I cannot exercise her as she should be.  Emma needs quite a lot of extra food right now and in the coming months, but later, I can foresee the need to limit her feed intake.  Next year, I may be puzzling out how to build a slow feeder, but for now I am just glad that I have stopped Gabe from wasting the hay and trashing the barn.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Stills - Textures

This week's Sunday Stills Challenge was textures and when I started looking around the possibilities are endless...

 Emma provides a whole spectrum of textures all by herself..

 Bringing in firewood provides opportunities as well...
Stepping into the barn, the textures change a bit all the time...

 Walking in the woods....

 And back again...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Weekly Belly 2/18/12

The baby seems to be quite active this week, I have seen and felt the little guy moving several times.  If you look close, I think you can see the outline of baby....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sound of Contentment

My favorite sound.  You may have to turn up your speakers and the video itself isn't actually worth watching.  Instead, just close your eyes and pretend you are in a barn.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Conspiracy Continues

"OK Tess, we have to figure out how to bust out of here, I'm about to die of boredom and I just KNOW she has treats in her pocket.  We just have to get past this darned gate."

"I tell you what, you distract her and I'll try to figure out this chain-latch thing.  Can you handle that?"

"Got it Em, I know just the thing...."

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Not To Greet a Dog

I saw this posted on Facebook this afternoon and I think it should be in every school room in the country.  I also think it applies to horses and donkeys, in fact every kind of animal I have ever met....
Some guy made a snarky comment that he "shouldn't have to teach his 10 year old son about dogs, the dog owner should be responsible for dealing with it".  I absolutely agree that it is the dog owners responsibility to deal with the dog, but isn't it the parents job to teach the kid?

The first thing I tell anybody who comes here is to leave my dog alone, and when he is ready he'll say hello.  It always amazes how many people ignore this and try to get in his face anyway.  The people with children are, invariably, the worst and I don't even try with them anymore.  I simply put Tanner in my car or house where he will be safe from the children. 

Maybe I am getting to be too old fashioned, but it does bug me that people are so ignorant about animals and are unwilling to learn.  Oh well, enough griping.  Although, I did just celebrate my 40th birthday last week, doesn't that mean I get to gripe about how folks nowadays don't know anything about anything and aren't raising their kids right?  It's a prerogative isn't it? 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dashing About

I got an update about Emma's brother, Dash, this afternoon (he broke his leg a few weeks ago). He went back to Cornell for a checkup and a new, lighter cast.  He is doing quite well and now has an entire horde of admirers amongst the students and staff at Cornell.   He has also learned that braying brings immediate attention from his worshiping fans.  I wonder how that will go over back at home?:)

Apparently, he gets around very well on his cast.  In fact, he is a little too ambitious and he got sent home with some "mellowing agents" to slow him down just a bit.  I can just imagine what it is like trying to keep a 6 month old donkey quiet so he can heal.  Reminds me a lot of when Tanner was just about that same age and developed a problem with the cartilage in his shoulder.  He had to have surgery and the vet sent him home with me and told me told keep him quiet for 8 weeks.  Keep an 8 month old Border Collie quiet for 8 weeks, yeah, sure, OK, nooooo problem.  Good thing I wasn't blogging back then, anything I might have written at the time would probably have earned me a nice, quiet stay in a softly padded, white room.  Hopefully, the "mellowing agents" will make things a little easier for Dash so he can heal up fast.  

Friday, February 10, 2012


The farrier was out this morning to trim everybody's feet.  I have been doing it myself for the last year or so.  However, a few times a year, I have an expert come out and make sure I am not botching everything up.  I especially wanted Emma's feet checked out as I have found that donkey feet grow very differently from the horses.  Emma's soles grow faster than the walls of her hoof which makes trimming them a little tricky.

A lot can be learned from an equine's foot.  They tell stories.  The distinct horizontal line about a third of the way down her foot...that is the day Emma came here.  The immediate change in her welfare and nutrition is clearly evident.  The line just above that, about a 1/4 inch down from the top, that was probably the fever she had a while ago...  
When she came here, her feet had already started curving upward at the toe and were rather contracted on the bottom with the beginnings of becoming "windswept" (the foot starts to fold over sideways).  The new growth, from the top down, shows that her feet are widening and growing in at the proper angle, which is more upright then a horse's.  It will take another 6-8 months for the new foot to completely grow in and the curved portion to disappear.  Equine feet grow all the time, it generally takes about a year for the new growth at the top to reach the ground.
Her hind feet are the same, new growth coming in well to take the place of the older, poor foot.

Tessa was looking forward to her turn, she saw Emma holding her foot up so she had to copy her.  She is such a goof...
Tessa has nice, hard feet.  They tend to grow at a slightly lower angle then some horses, which is entirely normal for TWH's.  They match her pastern angle, as they should.
The less dramatic but more frequent and still evident growth rings in her feet also show feeding and lifestyle changes.  She lives on pasture all summer and last year we had a lush Spring followed by heat and drought followed by massive rain and flooding.  She also went away to a different farm for training in early Spring and had her rations cut drastically after she was injured.  It was a very eventful year for Tessa, it all shows up in the foot if you know what to look for.

Gabe's feet are looking good as well.  They were quite long when he first got here, but they are coming around nicely.  His diet and environment didn't have many changes last year so there aren't many stories to read here...
I was initially concerned about having a horse with four white feet (white feet are often very soft), but his are very hard and tough.  They sure don't slow him down any when he starts galloping around the pasture like a demented loon.  The girls end up hiding in a corner out of his way and just stare at him like his brain suddenly fell out.  It sure seems like it when he gets wound up.

 Now, if I could just get my feet fixed up, we'd all be in pretty good shape.