A Mule and a Harness

I can’t tell you how excited I am that I finally got a harness on Ruth!

When we received her as a free gift over a year ago and she was w-i-l-d… but she has also amazed us constantly!

I have been working with her every morning for a few months; brushing her and talking to her.

After a few weeks I started to hold the harness in my hand while I brushed her.

At first I held it just in my hand…, then on her back…, then near her face.

One day she was curious about it and smelled it.

So the next day I put it on her. She was a little annoyed.

I quickly took it off of her…, which was much more difficult than getting it on…

because she was annoyed ;p

Today I put it on her again and she handled it very well.

She even let me lead her a bit with it!

I am sooo excited!

Today I left it on her….so I could get pictures;P

I figure I can take it off of her later, when she goes in the barn for the night.

Next I will get her feet trimmed!

And then I will be working to get her to let me ride her 🙂

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Donkey Tales – The Rain Monitor

Yes, I’m quite a bit behind in my posting as of late. Partly due to the fact that I planned my next post to be about the “ram shack” we are building in order to give the “boys” a place of their own. Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been cooperating very well and the short winter days contribute to a loss of productivity on the farm. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a neat story about how our donkey, Ruth, continues to amaze us with her character and abilities.

We typically close the gate that leads to the barn, but on rainy days we leave it open so our animals can make it to shelter. Of course the goats rarely need any prodding to get out of the rain. They’ll usually head for the barn at the mere hint of wetter weather. The sheep though seem to prefer standing out in the rain. I really don’t mind when the days are warmer, but when it is cold and raining I get a little concerned for their health.

It was on just such a day when we were all huddled nice and warm in the house while it was cold. I noticed it had begun to rain and thought maybe I should go out and get everyone in the barn. I stepped into the garage and as I slipped on my boots I looked out on the field to see where the animals were.

No surprise, the goats were already in the barn, but I saw the sheep huddled together under the trees. But then I noticed Ruth. She was walking towards the sheep, but when she reached the sheep, she stopped and turned around. She began to nudge one of the sheep forward. They all began to walk, but turned towards the trees. Ruth headed them off and turned them towards the barn and didn’t let them stop. As soon as the sheep were in the barn, Ruth stood in the doorway to make sure they didn’t come back out. She seems to like the rain too and only popped into the barn a couple of times, but while the rain came down she didn’t wander very far from the door.

My work was over before it started all thanks to our smarter than expected donkey!

Ruth, the rain monitor

Ruth, the rain monitor

Highs and Lows of the 2016 Summer on the Farm

Keeping this blog up to date has been a real challenge with the combination of busy days and having no internet access on the farm as of yet. I’d love to report that we’ve accomplished a ton of monumental successes on the farm this summer, but all I can really say is that we’ve been (almost) keeping up with things.

Since our “petting zoo” has increased and our need to keep back the fast-growing grass we tried to let the animals out of their fenced pastures and graze our backyard. We met with a mixed result in that they did help keep the grass down, but their curious nature caused some damage to some of our household things on the front and back porch. We’ve decided that until we can fence off “our” space, the animals will just have to stay in their pastures.

What this means is a little more work on our part to keep the grass around the house mowed. This wouldn’t be so much of a stretch, but unfortunately within the past month both our riding lawn mower and our tractor have decided it is time for them to take a break. I’m pretty sure we can get the lawn mower back in commission soon, but the tractor is another issue entirely.

I haven’t had time to tear down the engine, but I’m pretty sure it is a substantial failure. As I was cutting grass the other day, the tractor just shut off with no indication of trouble. When I tried to restart it a steady stream of black, oily water poured out from the drain hole at the base of the exhaust pipe. I replaced the head gasket back a few months ago to fix water entering the engine, but I think from the volume of water now that there’s a far worse failure internally. Time will tell. If you’re good at working on tractors and want to give me a hand, I’d certainly welcome the help as the old diesel in our Massey isn’t familiar to me at all. There isn’t much to the simple 20HP engine, but I’m simply learning on-the-go. Of course donations for a new tractor would be even better hahahaha!

Aside from the hardships, some things have been going well. Our 4 chickens now seem to be in full gear providing us with 4 fresh, tasty eggs each and every day with few exceptions. We also had a great visit from an experienced shepherd who showed us how to catch, halter and take care of our sheep. Before I saw her grab and subdue one of our ewes I wasn’t sure it was possible because they are so strong and wild. Now that I have seen what to do I have so far been able to catch and halter one of the ewes as well as our ram. That is really going to help us take even better care of our little flock.

The goats are much friendlier and are relatively easy to manage and, according to our experienced shepherd, one of the does appears to be pregnant. Sooo…it is time to add a few more small pens to the barn in order to have space to start welcoming our zoo babies!

Here are a few pictures of our summer adventures (which can also be seen on our FaceBook page at: https://www.facebook.com/whirldworksfarm/.

They (don’t) call me the donkey whisperer

They (don’t) call me the donkey whisperer

Shortly after we moved onto our farm a new farmer friend donated a donkey to us. This was a “surplus” donkey they had no use for and had in all sense been running wild on his property for about two years. We really didn’t know what to expect from the donkey we named Ruth when she first arrived.

Over the past couple of months she has proven herself to be a valuable member of our farm family. She has bonded extremely well with the goats and is already showing sign of doing the same thing with the sheep. If a large donkey hanging around our other animals would help keep them safe that would be enough for the free gift. Thankfully though she has gone above and beyond mere livestock protection.

Ruth does a great job of keeping the animals together and has even served to herd them towards the barn in the evening. It is an amazing thing to watch her plod along behind the others encouraging them forward.

The one thing we had not been able to accomplish with Ruth was a level of trust between herself and humans. She has been in need of a good brushing and there are a few areas that we would like to get close to and see better in order to make sure she is healthy. Unfortunately she is so wild that she won’t allow people to get closer than about 5 feet. That was until last night and it all happened by accident.

She is so closely bonded with one of our goats that in the evening they can be difficult to separate. Two nights ago was just such a night. It was getting late and all the animals were in the barn, but I could not get little Amelia (the goat) into her pen and she kept hiding under Ruth as been her practice if she doesn’t want to do something. I had to get them apart and the only thing within my reach was a small toy rake. I picked it up and gently touched Ruth’s back to let her know I was there and wanted her to stay there. At first she didn’t seem to happy about it, but she let me keep the rake on her.

Once I got Amelia into the pen I decided to try the rake again. I put it gently on her back and began to scratch her back. She remained nervous, but obviously enjoyed the sensation. We did this for about ten minutes and I let her be. The next night I tried it again and she was much more relaxed and really enjoyed it. I decided to be a little braver and got within a foot of her side and reached out my hand. Her muscles twitched the second I touched her, but she didn’t move. I put the rake away and approached her again and she let me put my hand on her again. It felt great to be able to finally make that connection with her!

This morning, just to see if it had been a fluke, I tried it again and she let me rub her back. I’m not sure if she will let me do so outside the confines of the barn, but it is a huge step forward for her and for us.