A Rocky Beginning to 2023

Crisis management seems to be the watchword so far for 2023. We kind of got ripped off with respect to our holiday vacation time. Aaron and I spent about a month prior to Christmas with an absolutely awful case of the flu. According to his test it wasn’t the bat bug, but Influenza A. I don’t really care what you call it, but it came pretty close to landing us up in the hospital. I would have self-diagnosed with a bad case of Bronchitis or even Pneumonia. Zina had time off so she took on the chore tasks and we boys laid around looking and feeling miserable. Before you get all insulting about “Man Flu,” keep in mind that I haven’t been down with any real sickness for 20 years that I can remember. This was pretty awful.

December 31st, 2022 marked the one year anniversary of our puppy, Pepper. I have never been around a dog with more insane energy than she has. She has become quite the sweetie, but OMG is she nuts! She has calmed down somewhat, which is probably that dad’s ferocity is overwhelming her hyper-activity (I’m glad we live out in the country – sailors would be embarrassed). Suffice it to say that she is now a part of the family and has successfully survived her first year here. She absolutely loves to play and gets so excited when we are out feeding that we have to put her in her pen in order to get anything done. However, when one of the boy goats got out of his pasture, Pepper was on the spot and had him back into his proper place in short order.

Leading up to the new year, we had a big ol’ propane delivery truck get stuck in our driveway. We had a big snow and it began to ice up. Of course, they sent him out to us and we got the rookie. 3 hours later, a tow truck capable of pulling a semi, came and got him out. About 5 days later he got in and did his job. Just another of a long list of comedic errors. We even had a visit from the local Sheriff because, well, lets just say, “People. Not a big fan.”

But then it really hit the fan. New Year’s day 2023. Regardless of the season, animals must be fed and cared for. This has been a rough winter weather wise as a result of these “Pineapple Express” snows that have been coming through pretty regularly. It hasn’t gotten very warm so it hasn’t melted away. We have experienced -18 degrees with wind chills of 45 below. The good news is that with the way we have things set up we know that the animals can withstand that cold. All of them, even the pigs, can get out of the elements and hunker down. Many of them naturally huddle together or burrow under straw together so their body heat keeps everyone warm. Farm animals are remarkable critters.

Unfortunately, after all the severe cold was said and done, Zina and Aaron went out to feed on New Year’s day. While I was getting breakfast going, Aaron came in and said that mom said to tell me that Donovan, one of our donkeys, was down in the wet muck in the barn, was shivering and wouldn’t get up. Anyone familiar with equines knows that when an animal is down like that and won’t get up, it isn’t going to be your best day. We initially thought that maybe his feet were frozen, but he had access to clean straw, so why would he lay down in the grunge? We managed to get him up and dried off. He had lost a lot of body heat so everything was kind of a matter of urgency. Zina put a big pile of straw on the floor for him to lay on and down he went again. So that prompted an emergency call to the vet. I could not believe that we got a hold of someone. I guess working with her for 11 years had some pull. Also, she is the lead vet for the donkey shelter we got the boys from 5 years ago. Doctor G got a hold of the shelter and then they all showed up out here! We will forever be grateful that they were around.

The vet and I wrestled Donovan into a stall and proceeded to treat him for what was presenting as Colic….. but, of course, donkeys don’t get colic. The vet went in both ends and then noticed that when he tried to pee, nothing was producing. Which, of course, means a blockage of some kind. She took blood and as the shelter folks had arrived, we took him and his partner Julio, got them on the trailer and evacuated them to the hospital barn at the shelter. The reason Julio went along is because donkeys pair up. If they are separated they can really have adverse reactions. Julio is 25 years old, Donovan was 18. They had been together a long time.

Donovan was under observation over night and in the morning was much, much worse. They had initially gotten him up and eating but that was probably only due to the fact that we had done so much at our place to get him hydrated and a bit more stable. We got the call from the vet that morning. Kathy, the shelter operator, Zina and I were all on the same page, surgery was really not an option. Donovan had to be put down. Of course, because of how sudden this all was, it was quite a shock. Zina and I second guessed ourselves pretty severely struggling to figure out if something we did caused all of this. The kick of it was that not a day before he was up and eating. Until New Year’s day, he looked healthy. Then we got the reprieve. The vet called with the results of the blood work and the numbers indicated severe internal muscle damage and when they put him down he passed a part of a bladder stone (The bladder is a muscle). He must have had many of them. It was something that even if we had known it, there was very little that could be done. Donkeys don’t do well under anesthesia.

This was quite an ordeal and it has left quite a hole here. Donovan’s passing was sad, but I was most worried about how Julio would do after losing his buddy. I guess he kind of knew there was a problem. They said it was almost as if he said his goodbyes, sniffed at him and then wandered out to be with the other senior donkeys in the donkey nursing home. We had to then monitor him because when they get older and lose a partner, they can give up and stop eating and drinking. Not Julio. Buck Owens was a brown mini that had lost his life long partner awhile back (She was another brown mini named Annie Oakley – not kidding). As serendipitous as this was, Julio and Buck took to each other right away. It didn’t take 3 days and they were palling around to the point of being inseparable.


Both Boys – Donovan in the front, Julio, the Guru, behind.

Julio and his new found friend – Buck Owens. Julio is the one mooning you!

The decision, however, had to be made by us as to whether or not to bring them back to the farm. These are old boys and old souls. Given that we are needing to streamline the farm to accommodate us also becoming old farmers and old souls we had to decide if we wanted to continue on knowing that they would require more and more from us as they age. We went out to the shelter and spoke with the owner. She listened to us and let us cry on her shoulder. We decided that this was a chapter that had to close. I never thought it would be this hard. We considered them the Guru’s of the farm. They were such gentle beasts. I like to think that maybe someday we will have donkeys again, but given the way life goes, I doubt that that will be the case. I miss Julio to the moon.

It did us a world of good to see Julio with his new companion. The information we got from the shelter was that donkeys aren’t dogs. Dogs really bond with their masters, donkeys bond with each other. He knew us, came up to us for butt rubs, but he seemed far more interested in hanging with Buck. That created some closure. Over the years of this farm project we had to continually decide what we wanted to bring ON to the place. This is the first time we had to decide what needed to go. It was the right choice. Right choices are always the hardest. They are in impeccably good care. Now we move on.

So 2023 is off to a questionable start. I am going ghost for awhile. Not in the modern sense of suddenly not texting someone, but in becoming more of a recluse in order to focus on the farm’s human livestock. If we don’t take care of ourselves and each other, this place does not function. This is going to be a bit of a different year I fear. I have the huge job of fixing the roof on the greenhouse so it won’t really get planted. It is pretty likely we have 4 pregnant does, so come April will have some little bouncers, and the milking will resume. All in all, we are striving for a more peaceful and calm existence compared to years past. I hope all of this finds you well. If you haven’t taken care of yourself, I hope you do. Things are getting a little weird; which is the reason we built the farm in the first place. Happy New Year. Peace.