Mules Gone: Donkeys Arriving

The mules were moved to another farm the day before Thanksgiving holiday.

Mules Gone: Donkeys Arriving

 

The mules are gone. The owner moved them to a farm nearby where they have joined twelve other mules.  Though very close to us, I’ve never seen those mules, because the pasture is roughly 100 acres on the ridge above the eastside of Mule Springs.  Apparently their fence line doesn’t meet our boundary, so it is unlikely “our mules” will return.

 

Still, it has taken me weeks to believe they are off the land.  The first few days after they left every pile of manure seemed fresh, and each hoof print looked sharp.  I imagined new prints surrounding the salt lick, and it seemed the mules had just visited our tiny test pond, because I thought I saw fresh holes in the mud leading to the water.

 

A few more days passed though, and the piles of manure began to be splattered with fluffy oak leaves, and the sharpness of the hoof prints began to soften.  And now after a month and a half, I notice the mule trails are being filled in by tiny strands of cheet grass and dead oak leaves will soon blanket the once smooth worn paths.  The mules are no longer around to keep the paths clear.

 

It’s a bit disheartening, because I’ve relied on those trails to get me around the property, and now they are fading.

 

It’s also a tad sad to see the mules go.  When the old farmhouse came down, I felt a slight pull against changing the past.  But once the old house was gone, I could imagine a new house in its place.  The mules’ departure opens the way for new animals to arrive.  Miniature donkeys.

 

My trip to Schreiner Farms in July was a great success; in that, I found the animal I’d like to have living with us at Mule Springs.  Although it appeared one of John Schreiner’s donkeys had taken a shine to me when he brayed loudly as I left him, John assured me “that donkey has loved everybody.”

 

John was kind enough to suggest I check with a local breeder of miniature donkeys, so that I could get a young animal that I’d be able to train to carry a pack and pull a cart.  He played down his donkeys by calling them “old and fat.”  He would sell me one of them, but he thought I would enjoy getting a young donkey that I could “grow” with.

 

So, I searched the Internet, and found several farms in Oregon that have miniature donkeys for sale, but I settled on Crown Meadow Farms near Salem in Scio, Oregon.

Peggy Curtis and Tiana McVay with one of the donkeys at Crown Meadow

 

Peggy Curtis and Tiana McVay at Crown Meadow raise sturdy, healthy, and well-socialized donkeys.  From almost the moment these animals are born, humans interact with them. As the “mini-donks” age, they get constant attention from Peggy, Tiana, the farm manager, his family, and from farm visitors.  Crown Meadow donkeys are what l would describe as “hand fed babies.” In a general sense this means the donkeys are very tame and affectionate.  In the pet parrot world (where the term comes from), baby birds that are hand fed by humans bond with people and are much easier to have around the house.  Handfed babies are the way to go with parrots and donkeys.

 

When Crown Meadow yearlings go to their new homes, the donkeys have had their feet handled, they’ve had halters on, and they’ve been led through gates, into stalls, arenas, and along hiking trails.  In addition, my donkeys have already been trained to easily get in and out of a horse trailer, which will make transport to The Dalles much easier.

An older donkey shows Ziggy and Chippo how to get in and out of a trailer.
Ziggy and Chippo considering the trailer. You can see why a trailer might be intimidating to a donkey--it's so narrow and dark.

 

Though there’s still a lot of training for me to do once Ziggy and Chippo arrive, Peggy and Tiana have laid the groundwork.

 

When I visited their farm last summer they had eight eight-week old foals and two yearlings available.  The foals were all adorable, sweet fur-balls, so it was hard to get a sense of any distinct personality.  Also, I couldn’t imagine what they would look like when they got older.  All I saw were different colored woolly-balls sitting on sticks.  So, as the foals pressed against me in the field, I couldn’t decide which one to choose.  I felt like saying—“I’ll take them all.”

 

In the end, though, I chose a pair of yearlings in another field.

 

Did you notice I wrote – “pair of yearlings?”

 

It is not a good idea to buy only one donkey, if you don’t already have one at home.  In fact, Crown Meadow won’t sell you just one donkey, if the donkey doesn’t have a pal waiting.  Donkeys are “serious” herd animals, and they can become quite despondent, if they are left alone.

 

My yearling geldings, Ziggy and Chippo are already bonded and enjoy being together.  When they mature, they may reach 36” in height and weigh up to 450 pounds each.  They can live 30 years, so owning one is a noteworthy commitment, though perhaps not so long a promise as having a parrot– such as the macaw– that can live 50 years or more.

 

Ziggy’s color is traditional donkey gray, and he has a black cross draping his withers.  Barbara Nefer explains one version of the meaning behind the donkey’s cross:

 

According to a poem [Mary Singer] wrote . . .  the cross is actually a tribute to the love and loyalty of a humble creature.

The Bible says that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a small donkey. The little animal loved him so much that when he was sentenced to be crucified, it wanted to help him bear the burden of the cross.

The donkey was driven away but returned to pay its respects when everyone else had gone. As it turned away sadly, the shadow of the cross fell over its shoulders. The mark has remained there ever since as a permanent tribute to the donkey’s love and loyalty.

 

Chippo’s color, Peggy tells me, is an uncommon shade of brown-red.  Currently Chippo’s red color is hidden under a thick nondescript winter coat, but next summer when I clip him, it’ll be exciting to see what lies beneath.

 

I have visited Ziggy and Chippo a few times at Crown Meadow and learned the basics: grooming, haltering, leading, and picking up and cleaning feet.  I’ve even taken the donkeys on trail walks around the farm.

Donkeys pulling carts at Crown Meadow in Scio, Oregon.
Dicey, a miniature donkey at Crown Meadow being prepared for a show in California.
Tiana gives Dicey a little massage before he's harnessed to the cart.
Richote, one of my favorite donkeys at Crown Meadow Farms.

 

Once “the boys” reach three or four, they can be trained to carry mail packs and walk with me one mile to the box to pick up our mail.  We’ll be able to trek to the top of Razorback Ridge and camp out amongst the lupine and balsamroot flowers, and they can learn to pull me in a cart around Mule Springs. Okay, I might be painting a rosy picture.

 

Of course I must learn to teach them these skills, and that will certainly take time (lots of books, discussion groups, and mistakes), so I am in no hurry to have them grow up and start advanced training.

 

Weather dependent, the mini-donkeys should be arriving at Mule Springs the first week in February.

Author with Ziggy and Chippo at Crown Meadow in Scio, Oregon on a very hot day.

 

Click here to explore the world of miniature donkeys at Crown Meadow.

 

Author’s Question:

Do you have any questions about the donkeys?  Please let me know.  Thank you!

26 thoughts on “Mules Gone: Donkeys Arriving

  1. What a lovely, lovely, heartwarming story, Sher! I didn’t know there is such a thing as a miniature donkey – Ziggy and Chippo look ADORABLE. I look forward to more pics of them once they arrive in February – oooh! this is soooo exciting!!! 🙂

    1. PS Reggie– Minis are popular in the US, and I am surprised they haven’t caught on in South Africa. And surprised you did not see any at your donkey sanctuary, because whether standard, mammoth, or mini size–they are all donkeys. Perhaps you could ask about the minis the next time you visit the sanctuary? Sher

  2. OH SHER YAY!!!!
    They are beautiful and sweet! what a joy, hardwork I am sure, but pure joy to have these lil guys with you on the farm!! I am glad you get to start out fresh with young ones! At first I was a bit saddned when you werent getting braying Blackey! But then I read on and of course this is perfect!! Too bad about the mules as I could see you had become attached to them as well. what a delight all this is!! You look so happy! I love these stories that you are sharing! Thank you so much!! 🙂
    Mary

    1. Hi Mary
      I thought you’d be okay with me not getting “Blackey” once you heard the whole story. I can’t wait to see what these little fellows bring. Stay tuned, and thanks for continuing to read. 🙂

  3. hi sher
    im addicted keep your tales coming ,i have these profound images in my head , please open a campsite so we can all come and see the end result it sounds so idyllic .im so jealous !!!! thanks for the updates im becoming addicted lol best wishes for 2012

    1. Hi Maxime: I am so happy you are still with us. Thanks for following the story! I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog. And a Happy new Year to you and your family. Good to hear from you anytime. Best Wishes, Sher

  4. Looks like you are living the dream Sher! Thanks for the pictures and the story, I always enjoy hearing from you!

    “Semper Fi!”
    SD

  5. Sher,
    It looks like you will have your work cut out for you — writing and raising donkeys!
    I know you were considering lots of different animals, including camels, to add to the farm. What made you settle on the donkeys? Do you intend to get more donkeys or other animals in the future?

    1. Hi Deb- Thanks for the questions. I will write about what made me select the donkeys. I am downsizing since I did grow up around horses, but there is more to it…

      Right now I don’t plan to have any other animals than the pigeons, chickens, and donkeys.. but a huge part of what we are working on out there is native plant restoration and wildlife management. So, you could say we may be adding a lot of plants, bugs, wild birds…

      It is an evolving process regarding the animals. Who knows for sure. Plus we may need to bring in some grazers for short periods of time. Cows… or sheep…or….?

  6. I am a friend of Joan Nugent and heard your family play music in Ketchikan a couple of years ago. Joan forwarded your delightful blog to me and I’m so excited for you to get your new buddies! When my now-grown daughters were 6 and 3 they begged for a horse…I bought a donkey who had been rescued from the Grand Canyon…she was not much bigger than your minis, and was bred at the time. My philosophy was that when the girls could handle this donkey, we’d consider a horse. The darling baby Audrey was born to mom Hoochie Koochie and brought us endless delight; they were the best pets (of many that we’ve had) we’ve every known! As the girls progressed through pre-school and elementary, our donks pulled carts, were popular fund-raisers as “pony-ride” auction items, rode in parades and were REALLY handy when we hiked. We had a child saddle and saddle bags; Hooch and Audrey would carry the rain coats and lunch and when a child tired of walking, on the back she’d go. Such fond memories! And they were every bit as devoted as the zillion dogs we’ve loved. AND they could ride in the back of our old pick-up, no trailer needed. Even in this writing you’ve re-inspired me to find a donkey buddy. Good luck to you with your so-gorgeous project, hopefully Joan and I will come for a visit…definitely after your “boys” are delivered!

    1. Hello Cindy — Thank you for stopping in. It sounds like you had wonderful times with your donkeys. I have thought of taking them into senior centers and I’ve imagined walking with them in the parade.

      I would love to see a photo of the mini-donks riding in the back of an old-pick up truck. That’s a great image.

      And both you and Joan are welcome to come visit– let’s stay in touch. Sher

  7. I had no idea that miniature donkeys even existed. Have certainly never seen/heard of them in Southern Africa. They look lovely! I have vivid memories of very unco-operative donkeys on my friend’s farm. When we went to the farm for half-term, the farm workers would round up a couple of donks for us to ride, and very little riding happened – the donks just wouldn’t go! I remember falling off just in the act of trying to scramble on, never mind ride the darn things.

    1. Hi Alison–willful and stubborn is part of their reputation. Those who love the animals have a theory about why they can be stubborn. I will write more about this later and see if I can convince you. LOL Reggie said she had never heard of mini donkeys in SE either, so I guess you may not have them or they are very, very rare. Mini donks don’t make good workers; they are too small, so this may be why. The standard size donkeys like you remember could be ridden and they could do some work oaround the farm.

  8. Superb and evocative post, Sher! I felt the tingle and excitement of new animals as well as the sadness of the mules leaving, their signs of being there slowly fading from view, being eclipsed by a new and unfolding direction. You have a wonderfully engaging style of writing, Sher, so that I felt that I was in the midst of choosing the animals myself. Looking forward to following the adventure!

    1. Hello Julian — Thank you! I am glad you felt like you were part of the experience. Thanks so much for taking the time…. I’m on my way to Washington state this morning to pick up four more oriental roller pigeons. Then I will have a foundation loft to begin with. More stories with pigeons in them coming soon. 🙂

  9. Hi Sher,
    A beautiful poem – my first read of it. And much enjoyed your thoughts at the old year ending – new year beginning time.

    Looking forward to future writings and sets of photos.
    Bruce (one of the other Bruce’s)

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