Our pastures are in need of remediation. I get that. In fact, I am not sure you can even call them pastures. Luckily the donkeys need a low protein, low quality diet (so boy are they are in luck). However, this time of year there is absolutely nothing left out there and we feed them hay twice a day. You should hear the way they bray and cry and carry on. You’d think that we never feed them (at least that is what Mary Louise would say – she is a sneaky little thing – but we’ll come back to her in a minute). The one good thing about them being mad about the hay situation is that they are really social this time of year. They think and expect everyone they see to feed them. So they come up and want love and attention. Now, in the summer when there is lots to eat they may or may not acknowledge you across the field.
They have been taking every opportunity to test the limits of the gate, behind which we keep the hay, so we have had to reinforce it a bit. And of course believing that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, they LOVE to break into my garden. Mary Louise is ALWAYS the culprit. Always. Estelle is always quick to follow. Rucio may or may not accompany them and then there is Stormy. She is the sweetest little thing in the world. She actually has a conscience and knows that going into places the donkeys are not supposed to go is bad. So she will stand on the outside of the gate. Watching them break the rules. Just standing there. Man, you gotta love that donkey!
Speaking of my garden… the Acorn Garden is on its way to a complete transformation. After learning from multiple sources that our soil is completely incapable of growing anything, I have decided that this is the year to invest in raised beds. A few weeks ago Eric lovingly made me 6 beds, and I put down landscape fabric, I have cardboard for the bottoms of the beds and walkways to suppress weeds, I have ordered all of my seeds, my onion sets, garlic cloves, shallots and cover crops. However, I am missing one key ingredient. Still need to get some soil. Good soil is expensive. (And it is “soil” not “dirt”. Working with enough researchers you learn very fast not to call it dirt. End of discussion.) So will plan on getting some soil very soon so that I can get my early crops in the ground. I still have a lot of planning to go but my goal is to get at least 50% of my produce from the garden this year. A lofty goal, I know, but something to shoot for. Of course all of this is dependent on keeping Mary Louise from romping through. At least I can count on Stormy to give M.L. the evil eye when I am not there. Ha ha ha…
Wow, I cannot believe how long it has been since we have posted. With the dog-days of summer behind us, it is time to catch everyone up on farm gossip.
Well… let’s just say that the blog was not the only thing that was neglected this summer. I started out with some potatoes, onions, squash, tomatoes and peppers. The potatoes and onions rotted in our crappy, clay soils before they even really came up. We managed to get quite a few squash – some would say more than enough, but the chickens enjoyed the leftovers. The tomatoes were “meh” this year. I love a novel variety called ‘Reisetomate‘ from Baker Seeds. The description reads: “Bright red tomatoes taste–well, rather sour, strong and acid. The perfect tomato for those who love raw lemons…”. I am not sure if it was weather or the soil but even our usually candy-like sungolds were kind of bitter and just not good. I do know that I can grow peppers. With little (meaning absolutely no care) we harvested 5 different varieties. Not a ton, but with our CSA subscription, it was plenty. The plan… raised beds installed this fall.
What’s to say other than they get cuter by the minute. Each definitely has their own personality.
Rucio is the alpha male and likes his status as such. This summer we had him gelded. We watched the procedure, which was interesting. My favorite part was when they brought (get ready for the best named tool ever) the “double crush emasculator (DCE)”! And that thing meant business. Everything went as expected, but we were not prepared for the, well, ///crunching\\\ sound the DCE made as it crimped his plumbing. We thought it would calm him down and maybe it has a bit, just not as much as we thought.
Mary Louise is such a beautiful little girl and is definitely Rucio’s favorite. They are pretty much inseparable. When we rotate them to different pastures, we have to make sure to move them together or all hell breaks loose! If we decide to take one to the fair, it’s gonna be her.
Stormy has the very best qualities you could look for in a lap donkey. She is so sweet and gentle and lovey-dovey… until Rucio cops an attitude, then she will not hesitate to (repeatedly) kick the snot out of him.
And then there is Estelle. She is the baby and truly enjoys her status as such. She is very lovey (if not a little bitey) and so sweet. Her new favorite game is when someone (okay – me) is in the donkey chair, she loves to come up behind you and rest her head on your shoulder. Ahhhh… And then slowly, so slowly you don’t realize it’s happening, she ever so gently begins to back up and pull until fall ass-backwards and are on the ground with your feet straight up in the air – left with no alternative but to call to someone (Eric) that you cannot get up! But I wouldn’t change anything!
Well, that is not entirely true. All summer long they have been getting into poison ivy and in the spirit of giving have been sharing ample amounts with us.
Much news with the chickens. Currently we have:
(L) Lord Harold PRE-attack and (R) Lord Harold POST-attack
Lord Harold Liam Chaucer of Richmond and Derbyand Lady Beatrice (our Olde English Game birds). We lost Lady Millicent (RIP) a few months ago to what we think was a raccoon and Lord Harold got his ass handed to him the next night. Well, the learned not to sleep outside after that. But our hopes and dreams of taking Harold back to the fair for another blue ribbon showing were dashed. He got the snot beaten out of him, all his tail feathers and sickle pulled out, hunks of hackles and primaries lost. He used to be such a pretty boy… Beatrice actually hatched a clutch of 3 eggs – but more about that later.
The Peeps: Let’s see…
Our mystery chick turned out to be a Dominique hen (aptly named Ms. Dominique). She is one of our favorites. She issort of like a lap hen – she loves to be picked up, held, stroked and scratched. Next we have our two Araucanas – Coco Chanel and Sweet Cheeks. They are totally cool and lay blue/green eggs – which are awesome. Then there are our Barred Rocks, which conveniently both turned out to be roosters. Colonel Woodford and (Rosy or Petey or Bruce, what ever we feel like calling him at the time) are big beautiful roosters, but useless non the less.
The Rest of the Gang:
We adopted a rooster from a friend that cannot have roosters in her town – a Golden-Crested Polish – Fabricio. Now, the Polish are named for their big fluffy hairdos and as humans tend to do, we breed animals purely for show and which cannot actually function in nature. That pretty much sums up Fabricio. He is very skittish and dumb as a bag of hammers, which to his credit is probably because he has no vision because his feathers completely cover his eyes. (I would never order or take one again). And as I mentioned earlier, Beatrice hatched a clutch of three. We raised them inside the house and moved them outside in the spring. Based on very early estimations on feather length and other factors, they we deemed to all be hens. We thought – WHAT ARE THE ODDS??? Apparently, too good to be true. In fact two of the three are roosters. The original names we chose (as the offspring of Lord Harold and Lady Beatrice) were Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Well… Mary stuck and having sort of run out of names and not really being pleased with 6 roosters (yes SIX) I have just been calling them Supper and Dinner.
And while we are on the subject of SIX roosters, a few weeks ago I decided it was time to ‘dispatch’ and ‘process’ oh, say 5 roosters. I did my research, watched videos, read article after article and had my system down. And then the Thursday before the planned weekend, Eric got wise to my little plan. With great horror, he proclaimed, “NOOOO!!! We are taking them to the fair”. So we continue to feed, care for them and get nothing in return. By the time the fair rolls around, and to be honest, I am not too optimistic about them selling, they will barely be good for pastry or coq au van. I’ll keep you posted.
We are down to three ducks: Laura, Ryan and Stephen. Through this experience we have learned we are not big fans of ducks. I am sure it is animal cruelty, but every time I see them I think of Fat Bastard in Austin Powers and yell, “GET IN MY BELLY” at them. We should have harvested them a long time ago, but dang, they are hard to catch. And I’ve really tried.
With such a miserably hot summer, even the fish were bent out of shape. They pretty much got stuck up by early May and today was my first day back on the water. Don’t mind telling y’all, I KILLED IT! Fishing is back on! Woo hoo!
Well that is about everything I have to report for now. I promise it will not be so long before posts. The fair is right around the corner and who knows what we might end up with!
Oh… that’s just me on “Operation Opossum Relocation (OOR)”.
Well the Olde English hens are at it again. They’ve both gone all broody on us. No more eggs, just bitchy chickens who think they have eggs under them. We chase them out of the nesting boxes and the hen house but they run in and hunker down again. If anyone has any suggestions on how to quite this we’re all ears.
The donkeys have been moved to the West pasture and appear to be finding enough to eat and no longer associating that field with hay time. We hope they keep that up. We’re trying to keep the flies away which is requiring some work. So far just an annoyance and no real trouble. They are shedding like crazy, but I guess I would be too if I had all that hair in this weather.
In an effort to distribute the donkey grazing to all parts of the farm we spent this weekend building a new shelter for them in the South pasture. Its a pretty simple design, just a 8’x12′, roofed, shelter to let them get out of our regular afternoon Summer thunderstorms and a place to keep water and mineral licks under cover. It will hopefully keep a patch of dirt dry for dust baths too.
We will eventually put 3-sides on it for Winter shelter, but don’t know whether to do it for the hot, NC Summer yet. Would be nice to make the sides somehow easily removable.