No sooner did the barn get completed and the fencing all stretched and wired shut than two new members of the JAZ Farm appeared. Meet Julio and Donavan (Donny)!
These guys are two gelding (castrated) male miniature donkeys. Julio is the old man (around 20) and Donny is around 13. There is a donkey rescue shelter about 20 minutes from us. We did some research and discovered that donkeys are great for small farms. They are intruder alerts, great companions, and do very well with other animals (except canines). While they don’t serve a food purpose like everything else here does, they are great protectors. We have all manner of predator out here and they will sound the alarm if they ever show up. Its not perfect, but when I was down and hurt, we got badly raided by a fox and he/she took out 22 of our 40 laying hens. They will be a first line of defense and alert should it show up again. The new barn is going to be housing these two guys along with half a dozen goats, 15 Turkeys and chickens that get housed over there when being brooded out.
The learning curve was actually quite shallow. They are very sturdy animals and can withstand a lot. The two things that need to be monitored is how much they eat (over-weight donkeys can get very sick) and ensuring that they have a non-stop supply of water. The rest is kind of academic . They deal with the heat with little issue and we only have to blanket them when the temps are in the low teens (like today).
As usual, we went to see the place this past Saturday. We knew they had the boys, but Zina wanted to see some girls too…. until she actually saw them in person. They were trailered out to us that afternoon! They are the sweetest buggers. Julio will just stand next to you waiting for butt scratching and Donny will follow him around like a shadow. He is still a little skittish and won’t really let us pet him yet, but he let me clean his hoofs, trailer and lead him around, and pet him while he was still at the shelter. He is younger and on higher alert than his partner.
Donkeys need to be adopted or purchased in pairs. They bond with other donkeys and if the partner is taken away or passes away they actually will grieve for days just like a person. So if Julio were to go, we would take Donny back to the shelter and see who he might bond to next and then bring them home as a pair. We hope that is long into the future as donkeys can live 30 – 50 years! They might even outlast us!
Here are the first pictures of the first couple of days:
And of course when we brought them home it was 67 degrees. Here is what we woke up to this morning.
As long as they have hay and you have some treats in your pockets, they will pretty much stay by your side and follow you around. They are WAY less work than horses and much much less high strung. They are going to be great fun.
So this year is going to see the livestock ramped back up. These two arrived Saturday afternoon, we have the dogs, of course (who are losing their minds over this – they will not be allowed in with them as the donkeys could hurt them and could frighten them pretty badly). In April, the goats will arrive and 35 new laying hens. The first week of May the broiler chicks arrive. The end of May the Turkeys arrive. If we decide we like the goats, then sometime toward fall we will be getting a buck for breeding and a little wether (castrated male) as his companion. Anytime during that time frame two little pigs will be added who will be destined for freezer camp. We are also looking for a gilt (baby girl pig) that we can raise to be bred for an ongoing source of bacon seeds.
This week I will start to fill cubes with potting soil, fire up the lights and the timers downstairs in the seedling room, and planting season will begin again. While I’m not 100 percent and I fatigue pretty quickly, I had a great check up about my back and it is just time and strengthening to keep me moving in the right direction. Considering the hell I was enduring a year ago and how 2016 and 2017 transpired, I couldn’t be happier with the progress. The animals are really not a lot of work and once the gardens are in, they need weeding and fertilizing.
I was told that in order to recover from both my old career and the trauma from my injury that I needed to live life in “The Center”. Not getting to rev-d up and anxious and not dropping into the lap of my old friend depression. Find a center. I likened that to the PH scale where 1 was most acidic and 14 most alkaline. Right in the middle is 7, neutral. Thats where I am planting my flag. Neutral. It is a lot like finding the Zen middle path, which is where I’ve always wanted to be. I’m finding that being out here on the farm full time is affording me that mindset. The animals aren’t demanding, spoiled, or, for that matter, psychotic like the world seems to have become. I simply could not have endured my career through this administration. With animals, you know where you stand (usually involving manure!). They need water, food, shelter and companionship. They accept you for who you are and don’t make you feel like crap if you do something wrong.
We have found our niche. I have no plans to leave here for any extended period of time. We believed that we should build a life we don’t need a vacation from….. JAZ Farm is that place.