Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Two Good to be True

Qilin is two months old today and at least twice the size he was at birth.
(His Trojan-horse-mane cracks me up:)

He has definitely decided that Ben is his best buddy.

Although, there is more interest from other points on the donkey compass.

I've been introducing Qilin to all the things.  Halter training has been slow because it took me ages to find a halter that would fit him.  Foal halters were too small, weanling was too big...I finally found one on clearance at TSC because it didn't fit any of the horse babies:)  I had to tie a knot in the crown piece to make it work, but that is OK, he has room to grow (which is a very good thing because does know how to grow!)

Qilin is already fine with ATV's, tractors, plastic bags, pool noodles, ropes, feed bags and whatever other random stuff I can find to casually drop into his environment for inspection.  This is how I like to train babies.  I don't make a big deal out of it, I just drop a monster in the middle of his space and go about my business.  I am not trying to desensitize him to all the world, rather, I am letting him learn how to learn and desensitize himself.  Right now, everything is new, whether it is a dandelion or a chainsaw and he is developing the patterns that will establish how he reacts to new stimuli.  The patterns set now will be with him for his whole life.  If they consist of curiosity, inquisitive inspection followed by calm acceptance, he will be set for life.

Doing things this way puts the learning process in his hooves instead of my hands.  In this way, he figures out how to deal with any new situation because new stuff is just a part his everyday life.  Babies raised this way grow up to be the kind of easy-going good citizens that everyone wants.

I am also a firm believer in using whatever training "tools" come my way.  Flies, for instance, can be a handy training aid.  A fly bites his leg, I reach down and scratch the itch for him and just like that, he loves having his legs and feet handled.  Same goes for the rest of him.  I handle every part of Qilin every day.  Again, in a matter of fact way that scratches an itch or gives a massage.  In a few years, when I have to clean Qilin's sheath, it will be no big thing.  This is how I raised Ramsey and it helped save his life when he needed surgery and months of intensive after care. 

I find that Qilin definitely thinks more like a donkey than a horse, but he has the energy and athleticism of a horse.  Mules = best of both.  He is very wary at first, but give him a bit of time to think about things, see and feel that he is safe and the lesson is learned.  Repeating the same thing over and over once he has it, just annoys him.  Try to rush him and he will err on the side of caution every time.  Better to just stand back, let him figure it out and then move on.  Actually, he is just like Connor in how he responds to potentially scary stuff.  The more I try to convince Connor that something is safe, the more wary and suspicious he gets.  The fastest way to lose Connor's trust is to try to get him "over" a fear.  Qilin is just like that - maybe he is part Border Collie?

Training Qilin is simultaneously slower and faster than training a horse foal.  I have to go much slower with making requests of him, but once he decides to go along, the lesson is learned.  It also does have to be a decision on his part.  He is very much like a donkey in that.  Ask nicely until he decides to play along and he'll do whatever you want, try to push him into it and you have already lost.

Like most babies, EVERYTHING goes in the mouth.  Some of this is exploring and some is because his teeth itch.  The life of a mule baby...play hard, think hard, sleep hard.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Most of the News...

I see it's been a while since I wrote a blog post.....not real sure how/why that happened other than too much happening too fast.  By the time I find time to write a post, it seems irrelevant.  I'm not sure how that happened either....

I do hope all of you are checking out the Instagram or Facebook feed as I have been posting lots of baby pictures there.  You don't need an account, just click on the little Instagram button on the side of the screen and you will get there.  I never understood the appeal of Instagram until I got my "not-phone", it takes seconds to do what takes hours (sometimes days) to do with the blog. 

Anyway....let's see if I can wrap up the past few whirlwind weeks.

First off, there is my baby unicorn/dragon, Qilin, who is growing like a weed. 

He is into everything and I am endlessly fascinated by watching his brain develop.  Babies are always fun and each one is different, but this is my first mule and he is very different.

Qilin has moments of pure donkey, moments of pure horse and others that are uniquely mule.  If you are only used to either horses or donkeys, I can see where people might get in trouble with mules.  If you are going to work with them, I think you might be better off having experience with both species or none with either. 

There is a bit of a special relationship building between these two....

Albert and Ramsey are still unsure whether or not they want a crazy redhead baby joining their cool-kids club and Emma treats Qilin like the baby he is, but the Mighty Benjamin is looking like excellent BFF/uncle/babysitter/playmate material.  I couldn't ask for a better mentor so I am all for it.

Here is a question for all of you....if I post pictures on Instagram, do you want me to post them here too?  There will be a bit of lag time and I may not write much, but do you want baby spam on the blog?

I do have LOTS of baby spam:)

Lots and lots of baby spam:)

Aside from baby news, this happened last weekend, just after I stacked two tons of coal....
I've been meaning to put a real floor in my hay shed for ages now, but the timing has to be right.  I have to feed out the old hay, build the floor and then fill it up with new hay.  I thought a lot about how to do this job and finally decided to make each sheet of plywood a seperate, free-floating "pallet" that I can lift up one at a time and lean against the wall if I ever want to put round bales in here.  I can't drive the tractor on the floor so it has to be movable, but I wanted it solid so I don't keep twisting my ankles in crappy pallets.

I had the lumber scheduled for delivery last saturday (just after the coal) and my hay guy called me about an hour before it got here and said he had hay for me and could he "come right over?".  I begged him to wait a few hours I got just enough of the floor done so we could cover it with hay. You know when you have unexpected company coming and you run around like crazy trying to clean the house before they get there (if you don't know what I mean, you can't be my friend:)?  It was kind of like that only I had to strip the shed down to the ground and then build as fast as i could without dying of heatstroke.  That kind of day.

Super glad to have some hay in the barn though. 

Over on the other side of the hill at Farm Buddy's place, Natural Borders Farm, there are more babies growing like crazy.

Crackhead Jane finally had her calf a couple of weeks ago and promptly disowned it, as she always does.  FB wouldn't put up with such a bad mom if Jane wasn't such a good milk cow.  Albeit a neurotic, oxytocin-addicted nutjob.  I believe those are the politically correct terms for a cow who freaks out at the sight of her own babies and instead fixates on FB as her "calf".

Her calf, June, is doing very well and is happy to slurp down gallons of mom's milk via a proxy.

This year, the farm is covered with purebred Belted Galloway cattle.  From a distance, they look like an explosion of Oreos. 

Between them and the balage, it looks like we are raising Oreos and Marshmallows.  And, we have a few cows who look like they live on Oreos and Marshmallows...

"You're not talking about me are you?"

We have lost a couple of beef customers this year because they have been convinced that buying Bison is healthier. 

Warning: rant ahead!

The only thing that seperates Bison from beef cows is that Bison are generally raised in pastures, on GRASS, while commercial cattle operations finish the cows in feedlots on GRAIN.  Because Bison are raised on GRASS, their meat is healthier and the grassland is better for the environment.  Grasslands sequester as much carbon as trees and grazing animals raised on GRASS produce less methane, which totally negates the whole "beef is bad for the planet" nonsense (beef raised in feedlots is bad for everything.  I'm not letting the vegetarians/vegans off the hook either, because if you think a 10,000 acre field of soybeans, corn, spinach or kale is healthy, better for the environment or more humane, you are misinformed).

Cattle raised on GRASS, using intensive rotational grazing like we do, have the same benefits as Bison raised on open prairie.  Since we have destroyed nearly all of our open prairie in order to grow corn and soy, most Bison are just in big fenced pastures without the benefit of rotational grazing that they would do naturally if they could. Since they can't, these heritage Belted Galloways (or any cow raised this way) are going to be a lot healthier than the Bison some slick salesman has conned you into overpaying for.

If you really want to have healthy beef, that is good for you, good for the land and good for the planet you should buy it from a farm like this one. 

These farms don't get gov't subsidies, don't worry about idiotic tariffs because they only sell locally.  They are what our farm culture is based on and they are barely hanging onto existence because they can't compete with corporate agriculture and they don't get handouts.

We will have beef available this Fall if anyone is interested.  Send an email to Elva at gracyfarm@hotmail.com

By the way, there are no purebred Bison left, they all carry cattle genetics now because they have intermingled with beef cows that are overpopulating the last of our country's rangeland.  Yet another reason to stay away from corporate agriculture.  Go for the Oreos instead!

I thought I was done ranting, but not quite....these Three Little Piggies are refugees from a factory farm.

The guy we used to buy piglets from is out of business (not enough people supporting small farms) so we bought these guys from a guy who works for one of the huge pig factories.  If you look close at the photo you will see that their tails were cut off, their teeth were clipped and they were weaned at three weeks old.  Factory farms do that because the pigs are raised in such crowded, stressful conditions that they will mutilate themselves and each other.

These three factory rejects are the lucky ones.  They now have a 50 foot barn to play in plus pasture outside, deep bedding, toys, milk from Crackhead Jane and four meals a day. 

OK, rant over. 

Maybe that is why I am finding it hard to blog lately....I try to keep this a positive place, but I have a number of rants brewing and they are crowding out the rest of the words. 

I think I only got through half of the "news", I will try to write more tomorrow.  Try to be nice to each other, it is all too rare out there in the "real world".