Feeding Emmett

A few weeks ago, Emmett, the donkey foal, took one bite of sweet potato out of my hand. The next day, he took two pieces from Bob’s hand. It must have smelled good and his mother has refused to share anything that she is chewing. (Since he has quit nursing, her motherly bond seems to have dried up alongside her milk.)

Fast forward to today, and he has his nose sticking out between the fence rails as often as the two Jennies. Being smaller, he is also more agile at slipping in between the two adults. He has also become a favorite with the children that come to feed the donkeys.

His formerly fond mother pushes his nose out of her way as often as she nudges Nelly out of the way. Although she has been known to chomp the back of any goat that gets between her and food, neither she nor Nelly seem to try to kick or bite, Emmett as he dodges all of the other animals to get more than his share of whatever we are feeding them.

When we show up, it is a race to the fence between the Bullies and the Donkeys to see who gets there first. If the bullies get there first, they either stand on the lower fence railing to get their heads over the top railing or stick their heads through the railings. If Nelly gets there first, they chase her away. If Holly gets there first or with Nelly, they immediately withdraw to form a second line safely behind the donkey kick range.

Since Nelly is the largest animal in the front pasture, it is sadly amusing to see her intimidated by the smaller Holly and both Bullies. When she tries to bray, she sounds like Andy Devine (Andrew Vabre Devine (October 7, 1905 – February 18, 1977)[ was an American character actor known for his distinctive raspy, crackly voice and roles in Western films, including his role as Cookie, the sidekick of Roy Rogers in 10 feature films. He also appeared alongside John Wayne in films such as Stagecoach (1939), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and How the West Was Won (both 1962). He is also remembered as Jingles on the TV series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok from 1951 to 1958,) Bob thinks she must have smoked when she was in her teens since she sounds like she has asthma and requires several attempts to finally get a hee-haw rasped out of her throat.

Yesterday, we threw out raw pieces of butternut squash, the spoiled donkey spit them out as soon as they tasted them. The goats enjoyed them at first until they noticed that the donkeys were not eating them, then the goats got particular also. Today, there were still several medallions of butternut squash lying around in the pasture mud.

March Full Moon

Wild geese that fly with the moon are their wings, these are a few of my favorite things.

Full moon on Friday night
Shining down so very bright
Lighting my way with silvery light
Your Geese did not take off in flight
The Worm remained hidden out of sight
No Storm blew through in howling might
No taste of Sugar for my delight
The Sap in the trunk was trapped in tight
But Lenten is season is doing all right.

Spring-Time Soft

Sunshine spills gently across my neck and shoulders;
the wind caresses the skin on my just exposed ankles and
expels pink and white blossoms from their brief attachment 
to whip thin branches.

The fuzz on Emmett's donkey head
tickles my hand as he tries to snatch food
from his mother's mouth.
He does not like to eat hand-held food yet.

There is nothing soft about the crisp crunch
of goats and donkeys chowing down on 
the red round balls, 99 cents for a baggie full.

Even the bullying has mellowed
as the kaleidoscope of donkeys and goats
forms and reforms when they 
jockey for postiton
to get the next treat offered.

But Spring time can not soften
the stiffness in Nanny's knees as she kneels
down in the damp pasture waiting
for another tidbit
to be tossed her way

Evolving Bully Hierarchy

Nelly, the hairy donkey, is the largest animal in the front pasture since Buddy has been banished to the back pasture. As soon as we showed up, she trotted quickly to the fence. The Bullies were right behind her. As Bob was fetching the food from the trunk, the two Bullies lowered their heads and forced her away from the fence. She meekly gave ground as the two Bullies positioned themselves to be the first two in the chow line.

I was trying to take a picture of this evolving bully culture and was delayed in running interference for Nelly who kept looking at me, “Why aren’t you helping me?” In her mind, I am a food vending machine.

When I got to the fence, Bob handed me two discs of sweet potato. The goats have become wise to the food handoff and shifted from standing in front of Bob to standing in front of me, ready to pivot for any food thrown in Nelly’s direction. They gobbled the food faster than I could grab more from the dish.

Poor Nelly was finally able to nibble a few sweet potato medallions when Holly, the mother donkey showed up with Emmett in tow. While Emmett had been eating grass on our last few visits, he wanted Mama’s milk today. She seemed much less interested in having him nurse than she was in pushing the goats out of the way by lowering her head and showing her huge donkey teeth.

The Bullies are not stupid and they immediately became goat flankers while Holly, Emmett, and Nelly established a presence at the fence line. Holly occasionally nudged Nelly’s head aside but Nelly seemed to take that in stride.

Why Nelly doesn’t donkey kick some sense into the Bullies is beyond me. Judging from the way the Bullies gave the backend of Buddy a wide berth, I think they have been kicked or at least threatened before.

As soon as they finished the sweet potatoes and the ginger snaps, Bob went back into the store for crunchy red Donkey/Goat treats and some store-made cookies. The treats are David’s idea for people to purchase if they come in looking for something to feed the animals. The first time we threw them to the goats, they seemed uncertain about them, but the donkeys loved crunching them immediately. Now the goats crunch them as loudly and with as much relish as the donkeys do.

While Bob was in the store, both donkeys looked at me with “Feed me” in their eyes. I began our usual one-sided conversation. “As long as I stand here, Bob will be back soon with the food. You’ll see him as soon as he comes out of the store. Keep your fur on. He’ll be back shortly. ”

In a second line further back from the fence, the Bullies were equally intent to make sure I did not slip some food from my pocket to the donkeys. Maybe someday they will learn that I do not have food in my pockets, at least while I am feeding them.

Finally, Bob came around the corner. He opened the bag of red crunchies and soon you could hear the sound of animal teeth crunching. Emmett was the only one who showed no interest in the proffered treats.

As soon as the treats were gone, he handed me a two-pack of cookies. I opened it and tested to make sure the peanut butter cookies were fit for the animals–they were. I broke off bites of cookies for Holly, Nelly, and the Bullies. Unlike Buddy who was as likely to snatch a finger as he was the cookie, the two Jennies used their lips to remove the cookies rather than their teeth. They were so close we could see the runny nostrils at the end of their large noses.

Meanwhile, Bob was feeding the donkeys and goats from his stash of cookies. Every time he would look at Bully Junior, Junior would nod his brown head as if to say, “Yes, please. I am ready for more.” How Junior learned to nod his head to indicate that he is (always) willing to have more dessert, I do not know, but he has been doing this for several weeks. He does not do it until the cookie course.

Meet the Donkeys

Thanks to our chance meeting with David Wyatt recently, we learned more about the Donkeys.

Hairy Donkey is really Nelly.

Pleased to meet you, I’m Nelly.

Mother Donkey is really Holly. She was one of two donkeys purchased about Christmastime several years ago. She has had four foals in four years, which is the major reason that stud father, Buddy, is now in the back pasture. David wanted to give Holly a break from foal bearing.

I’m not as tall as Nelly so you won’t see my head appearing over the fence. Hi, I’m Holly.

Nelly’s foal, who they recently discovered is not a Jenny but a baby Jack. The foal’s name was changed from Emma to Emmett.

Hi, I’m Emmett and I am almost one year old. My mother is Holly and her friend is Nelly. Some people think that I look more like Nelly than Holly. Buddy is my father. Since I do not look like either of them, I don’t know what donkey bloodlines I carry.

Goats-0; Donkeys-0

It was a bright, sunny day with the temperatures in the mid-40s but a stiff northern breeze that definitely had a bitter windchill. For the first time since the day after a snowstorm, there were neither donkeys nor goats to be seen. Bob bleated and brayed for all he was worth, but no head appeared from the shed or around the back of the barn. It was our first complete bust on a day that was sunny and dry.

We ended up throwing the potatoes over the fence into the pasture in hopes that something domesticated or wild would enjoy them.

Since we have no story to report, here are some candids:

I’d climb the fence for potatoes Arthritis can bring a girl to her knees Feed me first

Ain’t I cute? Did this come from Ma? Grazing in the Grass

Goats-3; Donkeys-0

On a bright chilly day, we went back out to White Hall to feed the animals. We saw the three goats in the pasture, but nary a Donkey insight. It stayed that way the entire time we were there.

As soon as the goats saw us, they trotted out of the shed and made a goat-line for the fence. The goats spread out and each one got a spot on the fence, even Nanny.

They were offered medallions of sweet potato and medallions of white potato. The goats were not picky, just greedy. Bully Senior even tried to lick the plastic dish that the potatoes were in, but he could not get his head and tongue positioned correctly to do it easily. Goats probably do not eat out of a food dish as often as dogs or cats do.

After the potatoes vanished, they stood around expectantly–they knew the drill. Bob would disappear into the store and come out with dessert. All three goats kept eying the pockets of my jacket–you have got to have some type of food in their eyes accused me.

After we distributed bites of cookies amount the three goats, they remained hopeful until we left to get into the car. Before we were out of the parking lot, the goats are wandered back towards the shed.

Full Moon of February, 16 Feb

Do you Hunger for this next full moon?
Are you a Wolf who howls for this Candle light?
Will you even be able to see it 
throught the Snow or Storm?
Will you celebrate during the Chinese Lantern Festival?
or perhaps during Little Purim?
Maybe you celebrate Buddhist All-Saints Day?

Whatever you call or 
however you celebrate it.
hope it provides enough 
light to help you 
find your way home
and leaves you moonstruck.

Peace of the Still Gray Sky

Sometimes a softer glow reveals new insights

The peace of the still gray sky
flows subtlely into the space
softening the features of those awaiting
a signal of God's grace

We are creatures of the light
it affects our mood but dark and bright

But underneath the silver skies
that is where the magic lies
to witness things in a softer glow
it changes perceptions of
what we think we know.

There is a New Bully in Town

When we returned to White Hall the next day, the sun was shining, the temperature was barely above freezing, and three goats and three donkeys trotted up to the fence as soon as we got out of the car.

I got here first!

The two grown donkeys jostled for position along the fence. As we walked along the fence line past the mud and dwindling piles of dirty snow, the donkeys kept one eye on us and the other on her fellow donkey. As soon as we approached the gate, the two adults and the colt set up station at the fence.

The goats tried a variety of strategies, wandering back and forth between flanking the donkeys on both sides and forming a second line well behind the back hooves of the donkeys.

I was trying to take pictures of the moving animals so was initially unavailable to throw bits of soft potatoes to the many mouths waiting to be fed.

The fingers should be eaten separately

Bob tossed one potato slice to Nanny in the second row. Bully Senior tried to butt her out of the way as she stepped on the potato. MD (Mother Donkey) chased them both away and gobbled the potato herself.

When I tucked my camera into my pocket and became a second food server, MD got stressed because she didn’t know where the next potato slice was going to come from. Instead of just stretching her neck in front of HD (Hairy Donkey), she tried to bite HD on the shoulders. HD hee-hawed and tried to bite her back.

Meanwhile, the goats spread out a bit further. They did not want to get in the middle of two large, angry Jennies. That did not stop them from snatching any potato slice tossed past the two feuding donkeys. However, it did provide Nanny with an opportunity to get more potato slices since the Bullies had to watch out for the donkeys as well as the food.

While all of this turmoil was going on, the colt proceeded to calmly nibble on one of the lower fence rails and masticate the wooden shards. I wondered if this was part of his natural weaning process. Occasionally he would slip behind his mother for a quick sip of milk. The goats behind him seemed to realize that he was too small to be factor in the food free for all.

Colt nibbling on the fence, with goat flankers

After the potatoes and fig newtons were consumed, Bob went into the store for dessert. The six animals looked at me expectantly. “More please,” their eyes begged while MD continued staring at my pockets in disbelief that they did not contain more food.

“As long as I am standing here, there will be food. He’ll be right back.” I tried to assure them.

“Talk is cheap, show me the food,” their big eyes seemed to say.

As soon as Bob returned, the brief donkey-goat detent was finished. Donkeys lined up front and center with goat flankers on both sides. We split up the cookies and tossed bits to all concerned. Everybody but the colt who continued chewing on fence splinters got at least one taste of cookie.

This time when the food was finished, the goats knew the chow call had ended. Nanny wandered over to the salt lick. The two Bullies kept an eye on us and the donkeys.

Eventually they all went back to grazing peacefully.

Back to eating what comes natually

Donkeys-3; Goats-0

Over the past several months, we have observed that the three goats do not like to come out in the rain. Do they not like the sensation on their coats or do they not care for the smell of wet goats? We have observed them sunbathing in the field, even if the ground is frozen and they are surrounded by large clumps for dirty, frozen snow. They must like the feel of the sun on their backs–since two of them have arthritis, that also may help the pain.

Yesterday, we had an enticingly Spring type day of mild temperatures and an all-day-long drizzle of varying intensity. When we arrived, the field was totally empty. (The day before nobody had shown up at all.) Bob gave his best bleats and brays. The hairy donkey (HD) without the foal came around the corner, staring at us as if to ensure we had something to make her journey to the fence line worthwhile.

HD waiting for her next bite of potato

She trotted up and was really enjoying the warm cooked potatoes. With no competition from goat or donkey, HD sucked down potatoes as fast as Bob could pop them into her mouth. By the time the plastic dish was half empty, the mother donkey (MD) with her foal following her like a caboose on a train, also trotted up to the fence.

MD has proven to be an even bigger bully than Buddy or Bully Senior. Whereas Buddy used to kick out with his hind legs when he thought a goat was getting too close, MD just bites the back of any goat getting between her and food. Even Bully Senior has joined Junior and Nanny in the second line away from the fence many days.

We were curious to see how MD and HD would interact. Other than trying to stretch her neck longer to block the other’s access to the food, the two did not come to blows or bites. For such large animals, they are surprisingly agile about negotiating their head above or between the fence slats. MD did not even slow down when the foal slipped its head between her hind legs for a quick drink of milk.

While the girls were enjoying a snack, we could hear Buddy hee-hawing loudly from the backfield, expressing his displeasure at being denied the opportunity to the come as you are party.

The two girls finished the meal with a dessert of fig newtons. They seemed astonished when the food was finished that Bob did not go into the store to bring them a finishing course. They stared at us in disbelief as we walked back to the car and drove away.

Despite the noise from MD, HD, and Buddy, nary a goat made an appearance.

Groundhog Day Fact or Fiction

  1. Before Groundhog Day, February 2 was Candlemas, Imbolc or both?
  2. Ground Hog Day was first celebrated in 1861, 1887, or 1890?
  3. Where in Punxsutawny do they speak to Phil: Gobblers Knob, Bucktooth Burrow, or Whistlepig Hollow?
  4. Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks, whistlepigs or both?
  5. How long does the typical ground hog live? 5, 10, or 15 years?
  6. Which part of squirrel family is the groundhog a member? Ground squirrels, tree squirrels, or flying squirrels?
  7. When did the movie Groundhog Day come out? 1993, 1983, 1973?
  8. Where does Phil live most of the year? Punxsutawny Library, on Gobblers Knob, in a wildlife sanctuary?
  9. Is Phil the only predicting groundhog? yes or no
  10. How are you going to celebrate Groundhod Day?

Snow: Reveal or Conceal

Depending on the depth
snow reveals or conceals

a sprinkling can limn
ridges and depressions
revealing old trails,
sunken remains of graves,
outlines of vanished foundations
the structure of leafless trees
unseen buildings hiding in plain sight

a larger amount softens the contours
like fondant frosting
waiting to be sculpted
by the wind
humans shoveling
animals scampering
birds ruffling
concealing the details
of the shape
hidden beneath

GP–Goat Patrol: The Bully Hierarchy Has Shifted

When we went to feed the goats on a lovely 50+ degree day with bright sunshine and receding icy snowbanks, we found Nanny, Bully Senior, and Bully Junior, as well as two new female donkeys and a donkey colt. (We had heard that Buddy had become a father recently and although we wondered if this was his offspring, the colt seemed to be too big for someone about a month old.

Buddy was MIA, as we pulled into the parking lot and saw the three goats and two donkeys nibbling on some tossed-out hay. The goats ambled over as soon as Bob began bleating. The donkeys were not far behind. The colt followed his mother to the fence.

New donkey colt in his winter coat

Bully Senior tried to stake out a spot on the fence, butting the hip of one of the donkeys. She did not kick her hind feet at him but gave him a “What do you want, little man” look. The other donkey nudged him out of the way. After a few more feeble attempts at head butting, he retreated to the second line with Nanny and Bully Junior.

Still sorting out the bully hierarchy: one donkey at the fence, colt and donkey, Bully Senior and Bully Junior

Because we were feeding five adult animals, rather than the usual four, the potatoes disappeared quicker than usual. We had to throw the potatoes past the donkeys to the goats in the second line. For two people who can not throw very well, we managed to hit the goats with soft slices of potato more than I would have thought possible.

Bob returned from the car with some raw carrots and Brussel sprouts. To his surprise, the hard raw vegetables disappeared as fast as the warm cooked potatoes. The female donkeys were not as aggressive at grabbing the vegetables as Buddy is. They used their lips more than their teeth to ensure that hands continued to provide more treats. In this regard, they eat like the goats.

Bully Senior felt compelled to boss around the other two goats since the donkeys were unimpressed. His horns got caught up under the collar of Bully Junior. Both goats stood quietly for a minute until Bully Senior figured out how to twist his head and free his horns.

After the vegetables were gone, Bob went into the store to get dessert. The goats knew the drill–as long as I was at the fence, more food would be forthcoming. And it was.

After dessert, we got back in the car. The goats knew that chow call was over for the day. The donkeys were still hopeful.