Saturday, November 28, 2009

That'll do, donkey

It's been a while since we've blogged. New job, winter preparations and lots of school functions - you know the drill. But, we have many stories to tell you, so we'll just jump back in the game.

In mid-July, Maddy saved her pennies and bought herself a donkey. For a whopping 40 bucks and some hard labor loading him into the trailer, she brought home a scruffy little guy that we named Don Quixote. We call him Don Qui for short. He spent a couple of weeks at Mom and Dad's in the round pen being castrated, wormed and semi-tamed.

After he healed from his operation, we brought him out to the farm and put him in the maximum security isolation chamber (ok, an old stock trailer frame with a tarp on the top) so that he and the other critters could get used to each other without being able to tap into the fight side of "fight or flight". He didn't spend long in there before Maddy coaxed him out with a few oats.

A hug for reassurance and he's golden.

The Boers came to investigate and were initially interested in donkey, but being goats they are easily distracted by food.

The cow girls gave a disdainful glance his way and resumed chomping. This aloofness was all for show, as they did spend the rest of the day following Donqui around while ignoring him at the same time. It's a skill only a cow can perfect.

The Nubians were petrified and spent most of the time hiding behind us and screaming. Which isn't really out of the ordinary for the Nubes.

The expected major drama of integrating him into the motley herd never really played out, and Donqui settled in to grazing with the rest.

There was one incident later that day that almost caused me to lose my cool. (Yeah, I'm so known for my "cool"). I had gone out to the back of the big pasture to find Donqui for a little bit of brushing, bonding and lead training. I didn't realize it at the time, but Jake (Lab/Great Dane mix) had managed to squeeze through gate after I had already traipsed across the field and was making a bee line to me. Abby (Great Pyrenees) doesn't really like it when Jake is in her field, so she was loping after him. Jack (Great Pyrenees/Corgi mix (don't ask)) saw two other dogs running and figured there must be some great adventure happening so he was chasing after both of them. Donkeys in general despise dogs and much prefer fight to flight. This is something I wish I had known before I left the gate unlatched at the bottom.

Donkey saw what he interpreted as a pack of wild dogs heading straight for him at top speed and assumed a fighting stance. He let out a series of ear-splitting hee-haws, which are much more formidable sounding in person than cartoon donkey hee haws. This brought all the goats and all the cows running over to see what the heck was going on. So now I'm waaaaaay in the back of the pasture, alone, with 40 or so critters with a combined weight of around two and a half tons running straight at me, three freaked out giant dogs and one very angry donkey. And me without a stick, whip or self-defense weapon of any kind. Kinda scary. Donqui ran off all the dogs, who were absolutely gob-smacked by an animal that didn't run from them but ran AT them. Donqui's pretty impressive when he goes into fighting mode. Head down, ears back, teeth bared and hooves ready to kick at any moment. After my heart rate slowed, I managed to drag Jake out of the field and made a mental note to remember to latch the gate at the top and bottom in the future.

It seems to be taking Donqui quite a bit longer than a horse to pick up his training cues. He will certainly follow Maddy anywhere, though. Must be all the hugs.

He has adjusted a bit to the lead rope, as long as there are oats involved.

And he's leading much better.

I hate having that old nylon halter on him all the time because I'm worried about him getting tangled up in something and getting hurt. So I thought I'd introduce a rope halter that I could use for training time.

Yeah.. no. For a little guy he's pretty strong.

After some Clinton Anderson-style approach and release, he'll tolerate me holding the halter by his head. I still can't get it on him, but we'll keep trying.

I think he likes us, and we certainly love him. But all in all, he'd rather just be hanging out with the cows.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bovine Mobile Home

We didn't think far enough ahead when we built the cow shed, and the site we chose ended up being a giant mud hole after each and every rain. In addition to being nearly impassible with boot-sucking mud during feeding time, all the muck isn't very healthy for the cows.

So - we had to move the barn. To accomplish this, we decided to make some skids out of cedar logs, attach them under the posts of the barn and pull the whole kit and caboodle to high ground with the tractor. Although plenty of people scoffed, the plan worked perfectly.

We selected fairly straight logs and got them ready to cut:

Then we cut an angle on each end to make sled runners, basically:

It didn't take much of an angle to keep the log from just digging into the ground:

We trimmed off any knots or high spots. We only needed three skids to go under the six posts on the shed:

Once we had the posts out to the field, we measured then shaved off flat spots where the posts from the shed would sit. We had cut the posts off at ground level.

Safety second:

We also cut a notch in the end of the log so that we could attach the chain:

With the help of the tractor, we lifted the shed up and slid the skid underneath:

Some assistance from the jack was also required:

It took some finagling, but we finally got the skids into place:

Oops, now we're coming apart at the seams:

The Nubians were always ready to give us advice:

Applying service patch 1:

Some time (and cussing) later, all the skids were in place.

Then we attached chains to each of the skids and then back to the tractor:

Except for one mudhole that had to be navigated, the actual pull was very uneventful. Randy even had time for some pasture texting:

The tractor worked wonderfully:

Finally the shed is on its new, and hopefully less muddy, site:

We anchored the shed by driving T-posts into the ground by each post and tying the T-posts to the wood posts. Otherwise the shed would have become a giant parasail during any high winds. I don't think the cows would be very fond of parasailing. They're definitely "feet on the ground" kinds of critters.