Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Trouble with Donkeys

Since the beginning, we've had donkeys.  In our poorly executed land-purchase stupor, we decided that donkeys were necessary to guard the three "miniature" Dexter cattle we would bring to the land.  At that time, we knew very little about most things but knew a few things for sure, namely: Dexter cows were smaller than your average Angus, and the area where they'd live was covered with coyote.  According to my academic Google research, donkeys were the most efficient pasture guardians.  They naturally despised canine and were fairly easy keepers.  It took only about an hour to locate a mama and baby pair out in Llano.  By the time I finally laid my eyes on the 2 month old version of Boo, forget about it, they were coming home with us with or without cows to guard.  Thing is, in all the years they've been here, they've never guarded a thing except whatever they happen to be eating at the moment.  A donkey will go to great and dramatic lengths to ensure that nothing ever comes between it and an easy meal.  Beyond that, however, they could absolutely care less about coyote.

So how is it, one might wonder, did our two useless donkeys multiply to six useless donkeys?  Like many before us, we fell victim to the allure of free miniature donkeys and justified them because we had plenty of space.  Chances were good that five donkeys together might combine as an unstoppable coyote combat brigade, right?  Also, we planned to someday breed the little mini donkeys and sell a few babies to help establish our ag exemption status on the property.  In reality, the three new donkeys cared even less about canine animals than the first two belligerent asses.  But they were cute, and around here, that counts for something.

After moving here, we finally decided to take the plunge and bring home a little mini stallion - or a jack donkey - as they are known.  Finally, our well-laid plans to breed the girls and sell a few mini donkeys would come to fruition.  I managed to locate an incredibly docile and particularly tiny little man, previously known as Elvis, who (around here) is called Pedro.  What ensued was - well.........nothing.

Turns out that Pedro, while the sweetest little dude we've ever had the pleasure of meeting, is 100% a-sexual.  He has no interest in anything but grass-eating and ear scratches.  Occasionally he enjoys chasing, kicking and biting Boo - which almost justifies his existence here.  Almost.

Just when I thought we had exhausted our creativity with Mission: Give Donkeys Purpose, I found a small group of them haltered and grazing near the garden where grass was growing tall and wild.  Jeremy spread bermuda seed up near the house in an effort to stop the soil erosion that occurs with each rain.  If the donkeys could be haltered and manageable around our dogs and goats, then they just might work as lawn mowers around the house.  So Jer experimentally haltered a few and brought them over with the small animals to observe how everyone acted together.

So far, the experiment's been a success.  We've now had all four mini donkeys out with the goats and dogs - off their halters without incident - and roaming freely to mow the front pasture.  The two wild cards, Chula and Boo, have yet to be turned out with our smaller animals.  In the end, we don't consider this "free" lawn care, nor would I ever recommend that one collect donkeys like hand-me-down clothing.  But it appears that, for now, they have finally found their special purpose on the farm - albeit incredibly minor and non-essential.

As a girl, I dreamed of having my own horses and a shiny little stable.  My reality is a passel of six stubby donkeys and a rusty old barn.  Close enough.


Karen Severn said...

To get donkeys to guard, there can be only one. Whyguard livestock when you can socialize with other long ears?

Love your posts

Brett said...

Are those pallets used for fencing/gates? If so, very clever!