Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Weekly Belly 3/31/12

The baby has been awfully quiet for the last few weeks.  I haven't seen any movement at all for a while and I was starting to get a little worried about this.  Well this afternoon, Baby decided to provide a bit of reassurance that he or she is definitely still alive and KICKING.  Looked like the little devil was practicing for the Kentucky Derby.  Poor Emma, she was not amused.  Of course, by the time I managed to get my camera out, fired up and set to video, it was nap time again.  That is the one thing the digital camera is not good at, it is so slow that action shots are a matter of pure accident.  

Emma's udder continues to change every day.  It is gradually getting more full, but it is slow progress.  Yesterday it seemed to shrink back down only to be larger than ever this afternoon.    No one can ever say that Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor.


Of Bee Trees and Leeks

I had to stop over at the farm where Gabe is at yesterday and afterward, Tanner and I went out for a hike and got a better look at the bee tree.  Mother Nature finally remembered that it is still March and so the weather was lousy, cold with intermittent sleet and snow.  Because of all the grey, the pictures didn't come out very well, but I got what I could.  I wish I had had something to show the scale of this old Hemlock, but take it from me it is a big tree. 

The bees live in this dead offshoot of the main trunk...

The entrance to the hive is at the center of the conjoined trunks towards the bottom of the photo.  Unfortunately, there were no bees flying because of the cold.  I knocked at the front door, but no one came out to scold me or invite me in. 

If you look close, you can see the bottom of a piece of honeycomb just inside the entrance of the hive.  

It is likely that the honeycombs stretch 10-15 feet up the length of the hollow trunk.  The bees store honey and raise brood in the combs.  A healthy hive generally needs 70-80 pounds of honey to get through a winter.  Bees do not hibernate, rather they form a tight cluster over the combs and vibrate their wings to generate heat.  The bees in the cluster are always moving from the outer, colder layers to the inner warmer regions with the queen always at the center.  When they begin raising new bees in February or March, they keep the center of the cluster at 90 degrees.  It's hard work being a bee.

After visiting with the bees Tanner and I continued on and found another of my favorite signs of Spring, wild leeks (also known as ramps).  These grow in great numbers in wet, rocky areas througout the woods.  I always go out this time of year and collect some of these as they are very delicious, but mostly, I just love how vibrant and green they are.  They make the woods feel so alive and awake.  It's my favorite time of year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'll make it up to you

I knew I'd get a little grief for not having pictures of Gabe and the bee tree:)  I wanted to focus on Gabe yesterday so I didn't take the camera with me.  I am going back Thurs. afternoon and maybe Tanner and I will go out and get a closer look at the bees, then I'll have some pictures to post.  I'd like to get a good look at the hive, it's so difficult keeping bees alive now that I would like to see what is working for them.  I suspect the biggest advantage they have is isolation.  They are in a pretty remote spot, far away from any  houses or farms.  The worst killer of honey bees is the pesticide that is used to coat corn seeds.  The chemical is drawn up into the plants "bloodstream" and concentrated in the pollen.  The bees collect the pollen and bring it back to the hive and they all die.  I have not been able to keep a single hive alive for more then a season since the farmer down the road started growing corn several years ago. 

In the meantime, let me introduce you to my friend's farm, Natural Borders Farm, where we raise grassfed beef and lamb.  The first calf of the season was born a few days ago...

Back in the saddle

I had a great ride with Gabe this afternoon.  We went out on the trails for about two hours and Gabe did fantastic.  He's even starting to pick up a nice neck rein.  We rode through an area with a couple of really spectacular old hemlocks.  One of the trees had a hollow trunk and had an active honeybee hive in it.  The trainer knew I would be interested in seeing it since I keep bees.  He said that there have been bees in that tree for the last twenty years.  Honeybees are in such terrible trouble, it was an unexpected gift to find an active bee tree. We marveled that those couple of trees had never been logged and neither of us could figure out why they had been left.  It's a miracle that they are still standing.  Maybe those bees have managed to protect their home all these years, it's a very old hive.

The weather has suddenly remembered that it is March and it was horribly cold yesterday and last night. Today though, was in the 30's and sunny and ended up being a great day for riding in the woods. The trainer told me that if I ever want to part with Gabe, I should call him first. It's a good sign when the horse trainer wants to keep your horse:)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I'm headed over to the trainers to ride Gabe this afternoon.  It will be interesting to see how he feels after a few weeks of steady riding.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A bit of useless trivia for you...

Have you ever wondered how to make a horse turn green with envy while simultaneously driving a Border Collie crazy AND confusing them both at the same time?  Well, just in case you ever need to know the answer to this odd bit of trivia, I'll share it with you.  It is super easy.  All you have to do is open a gate for a second while the chubby horse's back is turned and let the pregnant donkey out onto the lawn to nibble new grass.  Horse is immediately consumed with frustrated jealousy.  Border Collie is immediately aghast at this blatant breakage of the Number One Rule that says unsupervised equines are NOT allowed out of the fence.   Both are totally confounded that the human has done such a thing.  Donkey is blissfully unconcerned.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Weekly Belly 3/24/12

The belly continues to expand, but it is also shifting.  Moving lower and getting wider.  While the belly is still growing, the baby seems quieter, not kicking or moving as much.  Foals tend to get quieter as they move into position for birth.  Emma's udder is beginning to fill.  The ligaments around her tail are getting a little looser.  I think it is going to be a matter of weeks rather than months before this baby shows up.

I know this picture is indelicate, but this is the beginning if Emma's udder.  I took this 2 days ago, it is larger today. 
All of these things typically start happening 4-6 weeks prior to birth.  Sometimes they happen within days or hours of birth.  Sometimes, I wish I bit my nails.  It would give me something to do.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Emma gives grooming lessons

Emma has asked me to pass on some Spring-time grooming tips for her fellow equines.  She hasn't quite gotten the hang of the computer keyboard so I have offered to do the typing for her (I am sure it is only a matter of time). 

There are several  ways to for an equine to deal with this itchy, scratchy time of year...

First, make sure your human has one of these things and knows how to use it properly.  It may take a while to teach your human where all the worst itchy spots are, but the time and effort you put into training them will be worth it.  I know it is slow going, training humans, but if you stay consistent and keep at it, you will find it can be rewarding....

Thankfully, there is always the  Do-it-Yourself method as backup.  I've been giving Tessa some coaching, but she has a way to go yet.  We are just beginning Spring Training though, so I am sure she will progress..."C'mon Tess, get those legs up or you won't make it all the way over"...

It is important to use a little care with this method.  Look what can happen if you aren't paying attention.  Such things can be quite embarrassing.... 

Finally, if your weather becomes unseasonably warm, you may want to experiment with this new grooming method I just discovered.  A nice cool bath is just the thing when it is 80 degrees in March....

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Heat Wave

It got so warm here this afternoon that poor Emma was sweating and breathing hard just standing in the barn.  I decided it was time to introduce her to the hose.  Emma has never seen a hose before but in typical donkey fashion, she was unfazed.  I showed it to her before turning it on, gave her a treat and she was instantly fine with it.  Donkeys are soo smart and easy to work with (so unlike evil farm machinery).  Once I turned it on, she really liked it.  She just stood there while I hosed her neck and chest, I didn't even have to hold on to her.  Her breathing slowed right down and she just relaxed and enjoyed her nice cool shower.
Afterwards, she moved into shade of the solarium to drip dry and have a nap.

Emma: "This spa treatment is a pretty good deal, but you can take that camera off somewhere else.  I need my beauty sleep you know."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sunny Days

I'm still working on the maternity ward.  I got everything moved out and the girls gave it a very thorough investigation.  I need to get a few more rubber mats to cover the evil stones, but they seem to approve.  It has been so warm that they have actually been hanging out in here now that I have it opened up.  I still don't have the windows put in because I am having trouble finding Plexiglas, turns out that no one wants to sell the stuff around here.  I think I may need to rethink my plan....again.  At the moment, it is OK because it is so unseasonably warm.  The barn is kind of hot because I haven't opened any of the windows yet. I can't quite make myself believe that the bad weather really is over so I have been putting that off, especially now that they can hang out in here where it is shady and breezy. 

Me: "What do you girls think of the new digs?"

Emma: "It's interesting, but you've got a long ways to go before you'll find me living in there.  We're headed out for a nap, you'd better get back to work." 

I've also been working on my garden area.  When I built these beds, I put down weed control fabric with stone on top to make, what I thought would be, maintenance free walkways.  I should have used black plastic because the weeds just took root on top of the fabric and the stone kept me from pulling them up.  I've been taking advantage of the weather to pull the fabric and stone out of there.  I am putting the stone in the muddy areas in front of the barn where it may do some good and I am going to put down black plastic with mulch on top around the garden beds.  It is a real back-buster pulling this stuff up and hauling the stone out on my little sled, but it is getting done.  Wouldn't it be nice if I could use the #@&*! tractor for this job?

They don't really look like instruments of the devil do they, sitting there all polite and seemingly ready to work?....
Don't let those bright, cheery colors fool you though.  They are pure, rotten trouble!  Bad to the bone, or frame or chassis or whatever the bleep it's called!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Spring Rush

Spring has come on like a freight train this year.  We've never had so much warm weather so early before.  The maple syrup season is already over with, almost before it began.  I am already trying to get the garden ready.  I moved the girls onto the back pasture (where almost nothing useful ever grows) in order to give the main pasture a chance to come in.  I rely on the two front pastures to feed everybody throughout the summer, so they need a good start in the spring.  The mosquitoes and deer ticks are everywhere. 

I have been battling old, decrepit farm machinery all week, trying to get things running.  My equipment is a motley assortment of hand-me-downs and cast-offs.  Everything runs, but not without a great deal of persuasion.  I used up my entire month's worth of swear words this week.  I am seriously thinking about trying to trade-in every piece of junk I have for one implement that will just start when I tell it to without reducing me to fruitless violence and frustration.  Animals make so much more sense to me than machinery.  They are logical, they have feelings, they communicate and tell me what they need and want.  The !#$% !!tractor just sits there, leaking toxic bodily fluids all over the place.      

I forgot to take pictures of anything this week.  Or maybe I just didn't want any evidence to exist of me kicking and swearing at inanimate objects. 

This morning I went out and sat with the girls in the sun for a while and listened to them munch on breakfast.  The two of them together are so peaceful and happy, it is so nice to just hang out with them.  I finally remembered to take some pictures of The Belly.  I think the baby has moved into a lower position.  Emma looks less wide suddenly, but her belly is hanging down much lower.  This usually indicates that the baby is going to show up soon, but I have known some mares to go on this way for weeks, even months.  I sure wish I had a better idea of when this baby is due.  Now would be a good time actually.  The weather is beautiful, Gabe is not around to pester her and I want a baby donkey to play with.  The way these things work however, she'll probably wait till the day Gabe comes home and Mother Nature remembers that Spring usually doesn't show up until May.  Oh well, I'll still be wanting a baby donkey to play with at least.    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Daisy's Irish Jig turns 4

Daisy's Irish Jig, otherwise know as Tessa in these parts, turned four today.  In honor of her birthday, we had another beautiful sunny day that is actually making the pasture turn the tiniest bit green already.  It isn't actually green enough for a St Pat's photo op and since everything here is still rather brown and grungy looking, I pulled up this photo from the Fall.  

Happy Birthday Tessa
Happy St. Patrick's Day

Family Update

I got another update on the rest of Emma's family and this time I have some pictures!  Dash is doing well and healing nicely.  He went back to Cornell last Friday to have the cast changed again and he is doing well enough that it should be his last trip to Cornell.  The next cast change can be done at home and after that, he may not need it anymore. 

Mom and Dad, now known as Poncho and Petunia, are enjoying their new home and are much loved.  Petunia is the lovely blond lying in the straw while Poncho stands guard. 

Petunia is expecting another baby this summer.  She has had 5 babies in the last 5 years and hopefully, this will be her last.  She is a wonderful mother and Emma and Dash prove that these two make wonderful babies, but enough is enough.  For all that she has been nursing and gestating continually for years now, she was the donkey in the best condition when I first met them.  She is made of strong stuff and is sweet and friendly as a warm Spring day.  A beautiful donkey in every way.

Poncho was in the poorest condition, he was very thin and tormented by flies, lice and mites.  He was covered in scabs and open sores on his legs.  His feet were some of the worst I have ever seen.  It is very good to see him standing here squarely on all four feet, with good food, a good barn, a good friend.  A good home.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Return of The Swamp Thing

Tanner doesn't like hot weather and he gets overheated easily.  In the summer, I always take him hiking somewhere with water so that he can swim.  Swimming holes aren't available in March though, even with the early Spring we are haveing, they are still frozen or moving too fast.  So, during this crazy, beautiful, wonderful weather we're having, he has to make-do with whatever he can find...

Tessa and Emma have not really started shedding yet and they are feeling the heat as well.  It was 70 degrees and sunny this afternoon and to them, it may as well have been 110 degrees.  They hid out in the back of the barn and I had to sponge them both off to cool them down.  I am loving this weather and I wish it were normal, but it definitely isn't and it is hard on the animals. 

Emma seems particularly bothered by the heat, she doesn't seem to handle extreme temperature changes well.  I am not sure if this is common with donkeys, a by-product of her pregnancy or if she has a unique problem handling drastic changes in temperatures since she doesn't deal well with the cold either.  If this keeps up, I may actually have to get  a set of clippers and help the shedding process along.  Either that, or put in a swimming pool big enough for all of us.  I might just be able to afford the clippers and something tells me that Tanner is going to have to keep making-do with puddles.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beware of Zombies

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work He Goes

I mentioned a while ago that I was planning on sending Gabe off for training on April 1. Well, I got a call this morning from a friend who also has a horse going to the same trainer. She wanted to know if I would trade training slots with her.  She was supposed to take her horse over today, but she had a crises to deal with.  She could still truck Gabe over for me though if I would swap with her. I didn't have to think about it too much....put Gabe to work two weeks ahead of schedule? Sounds like a good idea to me. That boy needs a job. Good thing he had a nice, long nap in the sun this morning, he is going to need it.

The girls weren't too upset to see him off, but were a little bewildered.... 

"Geeze Em, we were just finally getting him properly trained and housebroken.  Where do you think he disappeared to?"

"I don't know Tess, you did say something about bootcamp a while back.  I didn't know he'd get sucked up and disappered by a big, blue alien though.  How do these things happen?"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Stills - Near and Far

This week's challenge was to take a photo of the same thing up close and at a distance...