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Day of the Donkeys

We are very happy to welcome two new Project members who joined us recently. The skill set they are bringing is a profound ability to munch on just about anything, and yes that includes the ubiquitous brambles! They also assured us that they would provide copious amounts of top quality manure to help enrich the soil. On top of that, these guys are very lovely creatures who have had past experience being ridden for long distances, so when the oil wells run dry we will have the donkeys to take us into town!

So introducing Mingo and Nuno…

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Both boys, Mingo is 14 and Nuno is 7 and they have been together all of Nuno´s life. Trixie, an English woman who is a deep lover of donkeys, contacted us when the previous owners left them with her. With brambles constantly reappearing all over the quinta, and more neighbouring over grown land soon to be ours, getting donkeys seemed like a good idea as they are a bit easier to control than goats, although I would love to have a couple of goats later on for raw milk and cheese. But practical benefits aside I simply love donkeys, and I am already enjoying forging a relationship with them both.

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Getting them down to the valley floor of the quinta was quite an adventure, as they were not too keen on traversing the slate steps down the terraces. With Mingo, the elder, leading the way, we coerced them to come down the steps, and after much stubborn resistance, they final made their way down the first two terraces…

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That was until we got to the steeper steps on the third terrace to which Mingo firmly insisted no way and refused to budge. However, Yohan, Trixie´s partner called for a secret weapon and Cynthia soon brought down a large carrot which Yohan stuck in front of his nose!

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One step at a time he finally came down with Nuno behind, as he lovingly sniffed that carrot that was just beyond his grasp.

Finally we got them down to the valley floor which, surrounded as it is on 3 sides by slate walls, is a perfect area to keep them. Unfortunately Nuno the younger one was a bit stressed by the journey down and gave Ana a hard kick, when she came up behind him. Although it was quite a shock Ana soon recovered with a large deep purple bruise. Our dogs Nina & Sammy have been very curious about the new additions, and I think Sammy (who seems to be putting on a kilo every week) is astonished that there are some four legged folks around whoa re bigger than he is!

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Next as night was falling it was time to introduce them to their new stable, expertly designed and built by Danny (with myself as eco building apprentice) over the previous couple of weeks…

The donkeys need a dry space when it rains so we used some aggregate concrete blocks left over from the construction along with some wooden beams to make a hard floor. The rest was off cuts of pine from the local sawmill and corrugated iron for the roof. Nuno & Mingo were a bit reluctant to come in and check it out at first, but once I put some hay in there, they gradually ventured inside.

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Fast forward a couple of weeks and they have already munched their way through a huge amount of green and deposited a huge amount of manure, which I have been shovelling up as they go about their business, thanking them profusely to their bemusement. They are very sociable chaps and follow me around whenever I am down there, and also come and meet me at the steps as I am coming down. Usually of course they just want some grub, but sometimes they come over to say hello or thanks for the hay, and enjoy being hugged and having their noses rubbed…

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We have ordered some bridles and I am hoping to attempt to ride them soon and also I am looking around for an old plough that I could hook them up to and then I will see if they might help me get the bramble roots out and prepare some soil for green manure planting in the winter…

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Pete

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