Tag Archives: Donkeys

Our Family Hobby

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes.

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A family hobby? Us? We are so busy in our day to day lives that we don’t often have time for leisure activities like travel or bungee jumping or arts and crafts. But we spend time together as a family and we enjoy the time we spend together as a family. So what do we do together as a family? Our daily discussions, activities, and lives are centered around our animals. Animal husbandry is our hobby.

We play around with animal husbandry, not in the Wikipedia definition of Animal husbandry as “the management and care of farm animals by humans for profit,” since we certainly do not realize a profit, but more as the now obsolete meaning of the word husbandry as a “steward” of a household. We are definitely stewards.

Since moving to Mexico, we have been involved in purchasing, raising, caring, breeding, healing, feeding, selling, butchering and sometimes burying all sorts of animals.

Afternoons will often find us settled on the back steps watching some aviary antics.

Mrs. Macho setting on the eggs.

Mrs. Macho setting on the eggs.

We have been host to domesticated pigeons escaped from the tiro de pichon (shooting range) and watched them raise generations of babies in the eves of our animal area. Eventually, Mrs. Macho moved on when we had to change the roof slant, but it was fascinating to watch the love and care both Mr. and Mrs. Macho took by sitting on the eggs and feeding the ugliest little broods. We enjoyed watching the babies growth and their first practice flaps and then rejoiced as they left the nest one by one.

quails

Codornices are small, native quail.

We have also had codornicess, which are a small native quail. We noticed most how the little guys would come to greet us at feeding time, even pecking at our shoelaces when we were slow to acknowledge them, hopping up and hooting just like in the cartoons.

chickens

Chicken hierarchy

Of course, our mini-homestead has chickens and chicken culture is amazing. Their socialization and hierarchy are as intense as any telenovela (soap opera). We have watched young roosters make their first macho challenges to the current head mucky-muck. We watched as Henny Penny gave up the will to live when the love of her life was no longer there. We chuckled at Jovencita’s attempts to adopt every single chick hatched and shook our heads at the poor mothering done by Hilda. We were horrified in the pecking death of Gringa, for the crime of being different from the others. And we are on hand to cluck over the newest batch of hatchlings. (See Why did the chicken cross the road?)

bump head goats

These goats are less than a week old and already playing bump heads!

One of our daily activities is taking the goats out to forage. Some days this is a run for your money if Duchess or Twiddledee get it into their heads to head for the hills. Most days, it’s a relaxing afternoon under the mesquite watching the antics of the goat kinder (kindergarten) as they play king of the rock or a rousing game of bump heads. We have even had kids that wanted nothing more than to sit in your lap, although this tends to be a bit cumbersome as they grow. (See Separating the sheep and the goats)

beauty

Beauty getting saddled up.

Sunday afternoons will often find us spending time with our hoofed animals, which currently includes Fiona, the donkey, Beauty, the yegua (mare) and Shadow her colt. It is not unheard of for us to take a family ride up and past La Yacata and back, sometimes further. We have even been known to have donkey races just for fun. (See Donkey Races, A horse is a horse or not, Beauty’s Babies)

gato

Smile for the camera now kitty!

I must not forget to include our long list of puppies and kitties that have come into our lives, sometimes for an extended period, sometimes for just a few days. Their personalities, travasuras (naughtiness) or amiableness, have made them such a pleasure to come home to. Currently, we are hosting 2 dogs, Hershey and Chokis and one cat, Little Miss Licorice Stick, otherwise known as Licky. (See 101 perritos)

Whether we have been strictly observers or had a hand in their daily lives, we have enjoyed our foray into animal husbandry. We have come to know that animals are sentient beings and that our actions and attitudes towards them affect their lives, sometimes drastically. Ahh, a hobby with moral value. What more could anyone ask for?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • 8 Reasons to Go Camping with Your Kids — The weather is warmer, and it is time to think about taking a break. As you plan your family vacation, Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains why you should consider hitting the trails with your kids.
  • Crafty Cohorts — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys crafting with her kids, and the skills they are learning.
  • Helping Himawari — Sophelia’s family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan share a passion for helping when a dog is abandoned at the nearby elementary school.
  • The ‘Art’ of Having FunMarija Smits shares some thoughts on family art and fun.
  • How we made our own Family Day — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how her family celebrates the best day of the week, a chance for connection and adventure and endless possibilities: Family Day!
  • Our Family Hobby — Survivor talks about how animal husbandry has become her family’s favorite hobby at Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters.
  • Sowing the Seeds of Passions — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs wonders if her interests, and her husband’s, will shape her children’s passions as they mature.
  • Harry Potter Potions Party — One of the best activities Dionna at Code Name: Mama has ever done with her family has been a Harry Potter Potions Party. She is sharing the resources she used to create their potion recipes, the ingredients and tools they experimented with, and the recipes themselves. Feel free to use and adapt for your own budding wizards and witches!
  • Pastimes Have Passed Me By — Kati at The Best Things takes a new perspective on projects that never get done.
  • Food as a cultural experience for preschoolers — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings finds that food is a good way to engage her preschoolers on a journey of cultural discovery.
  • Pastime with Family vs Family Pastime — You can share lots of pastimes with your family, but Jorje of Momma Jorje discovered a family pastime was much more pleasant for sharing.

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On being a burro

margarito

Nothing having money for a proper saddle, my father-in-law crafted one with blankets and cement bags.

To call someone a burro, is to imply they aren’t intelligent and therefore not much use besides working in the fields. It’s true, they don’t have the panache that horses do, and therefore true caballeros (gentlemen, although literally translates as one who rides a horse) are not donkey owners. But I must admit, burros have their uses.

We had our first introduction to donkeys when we bought my father-in-law a young male burro that he had his eye on for awhile. He was christened Margarito, and my father-in-law was delighted. My mother-in-law was not so delighted. Her father-in-law, the father of my father-in-law, was kicked by a burro and died of internal injuries and she was sure his son would go the same way.

Margarito was a handful to be sure. Burros aren’t like horses. They may be smaller, but they are unpredictable. With a horse, it’s possible to sense when something is up, but not so with a burro. All of sudden, just for the heck of it, it may kick out his back legs or roll on the ground, not caring that it might be still attached to a plow or someone might be on its back.

So I have what I consider a healthy fear of burros.

Margarito had wanderlust. Periodically he would pull himself loose and head out into the great beyond. Then we had to go and find him. Once he went missing for two weeks. We finally found him when a neighbor mentioned that he had seen him tied about 3 miles away. So there we tromped to get him back.

Finally, my father-in-law traded Margarito for an elderly pregnant burra he named Chona. Chona was an experienced work donkey. Even at 10 months along, she could pull the plow with the best of them. She didn’t fuss or buck.

In due time, she presented my father-in-law with Fabian, a wooly little burro. My in-laws also profited by selling cups of burra milk for 40 pesos per cup. Apparently, it has medicinal properties and people from town would drive all the way out to La Yacata in order to have freshly squeezed milk. Donkeys are not like cows. They do not give an overabundant supply, just enough to feed their offspring, so the rarity of it increases its value. This extra profit won over my mother-in-law to the benefits in keeping a donkey around.

Fabian, being young and male, was unruly. When he was big enough to be hitched to the plow, his training began. But he did not take to it at all. Berinche after berinche. (Tantrums) Once, he had managed to uproot the entire tree he had been tied to. Being loose, he started moseying about. However, the fact that the tree was following him, must have spooked him and he reared up and took off running down the road. He wasn’t hard to find, leaving a well-swept trail behind him. Eventually, Fabian was sold.

donquita and chona

The one on the left is Donquita, and Chona is on the right.

Then my husband decided he too wanted a burra to plow and we bought Donquita. She was about a year old and so skinny. She had been living in a corral with about 10 other donkeys raised specifically for their milk.

burros plowing

Donkeys, when mild tempered and trained, make excellent plow pullers.

She worked well beside Chona and between the two of them, we plowed and planted about 2 acres in total this past year.

However, Donquita was jumpy. My father-in-law (and myself) had the concern that by accident she might give a back kick and hit my son. When she did eventually kick my husband, we sent her up the lane to live at my in-laws, where now pregnant, we await the birth of her first La Yacata burrito.

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