Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

Earlier this summer, when I mowed most of the pastures, I left a wide swath of my main pasture unmowed in an effort to help out the ground nesting birds.  I am not sure it really helped any, I didn't see many birds out there, but, I tried.  Regardless, after the first week of July, the birds are finished nesting and I wanted to get the field mowed so that Ramsey and Emma could go out there without getting lost in the weeds.

This field is about 8 acres and when I let them out there earlier this week, I was expecting that Ramsey would take full advantage of the wide open spaces.  Foolish me, you'd think by now that I would stop expecting donkeys to do anything that I expect.  Fearless Ramsey proved to be a  bit intimidated by all the open, unfamiliar space and instead of galloping all over, he has been sticking close to mom.

After three or four days, he did start venturing out, but he still saves most of his gallops for my lawn.  It seems cramped and cluttered to my mind, but to a baby donkey, it is apparently the perfect playpen.  Who am I to argue?  I have no doubt that given a bit more time, Ramsey will have the bigger fields conquered as well. 

Emma at least, has been greatly enjoying being out and about again.

The only trouble is that she is now one of the few "obstacles" that Ramsey can find to run circles around.  Poor Emma.....

Monday, July 30, 2012

Slow Feeders Perfected

I have been meaning to post an update about my slow feeders for a while, but with one thing and another (Ramsey!!), I hadn't gotten to it.  With drought and horrifically high temperatures affecting much of the country (including here), hay is going to be in short supply this year.  I know we are all getting worried about this and our drought conditions, while bad, are not as severe as many other areas.   I thought it would be a good time to offer this for anyone thinking about how to get the most out of every bale of hay.  Click on the link above to check out my original post about slow feeders then come back here for the perfected and horse tested version....

The biggest trouble I had with this project was finding the right grate material.  I finally settled on the heavy steel "hog panel" with 4x4 inch squares available at Tractor Supply (I borrowed a couple of these grates from my feeders to cover my window opening when Ramsey was born)....
This has proven to be the perfect feeder material, the only trouble with it, is that the panels are only sold in large sheets that have to be cut down to size.  Since I wanted to make several feeders, it wasn't really a problem, but it could be if you only want one or two feeders.  I did find a place that would sell just the feeder grate, but the cost for one feeder was more than the entire hog panel.  If anybody knows of another source for this type of grate, I'd be glad to hear about it. 

Once I found the grate I wanted, I discovered that the grate dimensions were a bit different from my box dimensions.  I found a way to make them work with my original feeders, but I changed the dimensions and design of the boxes that I have built since then so that the grates fit perfectly.... 

One hog panel can be cut down to make eight 2x4' grates.  Larger or smaller feeders could be made depending on your needs.  Just cut the grate to whatever size you want and build the box around it.  I made the ends of the boxes solid so the grate can't slither out of the box and added a hinged lid so that the horses can't pull the grate out....

To fill the box, just open the lid, lift out the grate, fill the box with hay, put the grate on top of the hay and close the lid.

The boxes are made to hold an average sized square bale and works well for 1-2 animals depending on whether or not the horses will share.  I made several of these for my riding buddy and her 4 horses (along with Gabe, who stayed with her for a while).  They all tested them out thoroughly and the boxes worked beautifully.  They dramatically slowed down the rate of consumption which meant that the horses never had to go for long hours with nothing to eat.  There was absolutely no hay wasted and after a short introduction period, the horses actually seemed to prefer the boxes over eating loose hay off the ground.  I have spent quite a bit of time watching the horses eating out of these and it seems to mimic real grazing, which they like.  

If anybody would like to try building one of these and you need better pictures or exact dimensions, let me know.  I'll try to help.  I am also thinking about offering some of these for sale locally.  I don't think I can ship them so you would have to come here to get them.  Picking them up comes with the added bonus of getting to meet Ramsey and Emma.  I am asking $175 each.  If anyone is interested, let me know. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Still - Fade to Black

The folks who have been running the Sunday Stills challenge are stepping aside.  Fortunately, it looks like someone else is going to take up the torch and continue on.  I am glad.  I appreciate the Sunday Stills challenges because it gives me something to work toward in improving my very minimal photography skills.

I miss many of the challenges and I am often late with others, but that is part of why it works for me.  It provides some much needed guidance and a deadline, but the world isn't going to stop running if I miss some of them.  I have more than enough critical responsibilities in my life, if taking pictures became one of them, all of the joy would get sucked out of it.  I don't know, but maybe that is why Ed and Linda are stepping aside.   Regardless, thank you for starting Sunday Stills and thank you for passing it on and allowing it to continue.

This last challenge was fade to black, include the color black into either the subject or the background.  Here are my fade to black contributions, some are new some are older, but all were taken with Sunday Stills in mind.   

Thank you Ed and Linda

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Emma!

It is Emma's birthday today, she is two years old.  Its been quite an amazing journey since I brought this little, yearling donkey home last September...

Hard to believe where we have ended up...

I've got a couple of carrots and an hour for scratching and currying set aside for my favorite donkey girl so I am headed for the barn.
Happy Birthday Emma!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ambassador Ramsey

We've been getting a lot of company lately, or at least a certain small donkey has.  I think there have been more visitors to my little farm in the last couple of weeks then I have had in the last ten years.  Ramsey charms them all.  This young lady was quite thrilled with him and wanted to take him home. 
The combination of a squealy, giggly, fast-moving, five year old girl and a two week old donkey baby proved to be too much for my nerves so after she had hugged Ramsey, pulled his ears, patted his nose and was looking like she wanted to start a game of tag, I wimped out and put the donkeys in the barn. 

A few days later, an older friend brought her 94 year old aunt over for a visit and Ramsey put on quite a show.  Unfortunately, it was one of the few times I didn't have my camera in my pocket.  This older lady had grown up on a farm and worked with nearly every kind of livestock, but she had never seen a donkey.  She has been waiting anxiously for months for Ramsey to arrive so she could finally get to meet a baby donkey.

The guy who delivered my roofing couldn't pass up a chance to meet Ramsey either.  He was so smitten with the donkeys, he asked if he could bring his wife over later to see them.  As he pulled out of the driveway he told me that meeting Ramsey and Emma was the best tip he'd ever had. 

Ramsey is a consummate ambassador.

Always willing to greet friends and neighbors.

These folks came all the way from Germany.  Actually, they are here visiting family who happen to be friends of mine, but Ramsey and Emma were definitely a highlight of the trip.

After all, who could possibly resist this....

Ambassador Ramsey, hard at work on behalf of donkeys everywhere...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Always Listen to Your Mother


"HA! i GOT YOU NOW"....


(Insert missed photos of Ramsey tumbling head-over-heals down Emma's side here...)



"Why don't you just stay there for a while, then we can both have a nap." 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Looking Good Feeling Good

Much of this year has been rather rough for Emma.  She was so heavily pregnant that she often seemed to have trouble waddling around let alone playing.  Forget about dancing.  Before Ramsey's birth, Emma was spending 8-10 hours a day laying down, sleeping hard.  She was very bothered by the heat.

When Ramsey was born,  Emma did a wonderful job and she is being a fantastic mother, but the birth was hard on her and took a lot out of her.  However, it's been three weeks now since our little monster showed up and Emma is not just looking good, she is starting to feel good.  She is no longer troubled by the heat and has taken to sunbathing while the rest of us hide in the shade and whine about the incessant heat.  She is very, very happy to not be pregnant any more.

I am very happy with how Emma looks right now, I think she is in ideal condition at the moment and I am working hard to keep her that way.... 
(Feeding an underage, pregnant donkey has been an interesting challenge.  I am not sure if anybody is interested in the details, but let me know if you are.  I would be happy to share some of what I have learned.)

Most importantly, Emma feels good.  She is feeling so good that she has started to join Ramsey on some of his gallops....
These were taken on the day my pond was re-dug.  Every day since then, Emma has joined Ramsey in at least one of his many-times-a-day gallops.  This evening, I was on the tractor mowing the field (so Ramsey will have more room to play) and I had to stop and watch them for a while.  Ramsey runs, as fast as he can go, in big sweeping circles.  He weaves in and around any obstacle he can find, making patterns and loops.  Emma stays 20 feet behind him and follows his every move, occasionally adding a twisting kick or a tossed head, but faithfully following his every weave and dodge.  They reminded me of the barn swallows who were also swooping and diving around the tractor, chasing the bugs stirred up by the mower and flying for the joy of it. 

Ramsey is always great fun to watch while he plays and even more fun to play with, but it was such a joy to see Emma finally running, playing and feeling good once again.  My Dancing Donkey is getting ready to start dancing again.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sunday Stills - In the Air

Now THAT'S a Shovel

I think that before any of you got to read my last post, it was already obsolete.  The excavator showed up early yesterday morning with two very large pieces of machinery and before I had to leave for work that evening, the pond was finished.  I spent the day alternating between watching them work and working on my woodshed.  The difference between these two jobs could not have been more painfully obvious.  The speed and ferocity with which these machines can destroy and rebuild a big chunck of earth is amazing. On the other hand, I have been working on this building for almost a year now.  It's skeletal outlines show up in the background of many of my photos.

The building project has suffered greatly from lack of time, lack of money, lack of tolerable weather and lack of energy and attention on my part.  In spite of the many lacks, I have been slowly and painfully getting the roof on my building over the last week.  It is a huge step toward completion.  It's a job that would have taken a two person roofing crew about an hour.  I am thrilled though, that with my schedule and the brutal heat we have been dealing with, that I got the job done in a week.  With the kind of helpers I have to contend with, I am a bit amazed that I have gotten anything done at all...

Watching these huge machines gave me distinctly mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I had serious machine envy...what I could get done if I had one of these suckers around all the time....
On the other hand, just watching them made me feel terribly guilty about all of the little salamanders and frogs who must have perished.  Between us, we did save several turtles so it's not all bad.  The pond will be healthier and better habitat in the end, but still...

Also, I can't even begin to imagine what these monsters cost, not just to own, but to operate as well.  My little building may have taken a ridiculous amount of time to build, but it and everything else I have built, is paid for.  This pond repair is the only part of my house building project that I have borrowed money to pay for.  It took years of saving, a well timed real estate sale and more crazy financial juggling then I can describe, but the place is paid for.  I had to borrow several thousand dollars to pay for this pond, which makes my teeth hurt, but it's something I've wanted since I was a child.  I think it will be worth it. 

Once the machines got past all the muck, they hit nothing but this hard blue clay mixed with stone.  It is why the soil up here is so poor, but it is ideal for ponds...

Within just a few hours, water was accumulating in the bottom.  We found a least four separate springs feeding the site...

Once it fills back up, it will be 8-10 feet deep, tapering to a shallow end under the trees.  The trees will provide shade and cover for fish.  I may roll some big rocks in to provide more fish habitat and I'll probably build a little dock which would also please future inhabitants.  I need to do more research though, I want to get it right.

Thanks to All County Construction for helping make this dream come true.