I can hardly believe that more than twenty years
have passed since Corky was pulled from his mud and manure mire. ‘Poor little guy was only about a year old, more
or less and cute as a bug, but neglected and desperately in need of rescue. He was instantly the star of the neighborhood.
Of course, he needed a friend, so a few months later, Andy moved in and the two were instantly BFF-and partners in crime.
Andy's back-story is a total mystery. He could have been ten or he could have been twenty years old when I got him from
some woman who had no idea of his past. She had bought him at a sale. Regardless, I was enchanted and rather clueless
if the truth be told, but I adored them.
Over the years I've learned a great deal about Equus africanus asinus, AKA
bad asses. For instance, donkeys score at the very top of equine IQ tests, logically followed by mules. Their
intelligence is both a blessing and a curse for donkeys that are intended for various disciplines (they are extremely versatile...)
are easily trained, but those (like mine...) whose only real ‘job' is being loveable means that they become bored and
boredom leads to trouble. Despite plenty of attention, visits from neighborhood kids, assorted donkey toys and a pasture
big enough for a small herd of horses, the boys are always looking for adventure. If none is forthcoming, they make
their own and so it was on Sunday.
The wooden gate leading to the barnyard was old and while it was well-constructed
the lumber had become dry and brittle, something that did not go unnoticed by said asses. Over the past week they had
been seriously ‘working' to break the gate by pushing on it or at least chew it to bits. The writing was on the
wall. It was time for a replacement.
Sunday they were confined to the lower pasture with a temporary hog panel ‘gate'
which I thought was adequately secured by triple ‘baling twine hinges' on one side and a metal snap closure
on the opposite side. They seemed content so I was able to dig the new fence post hole without interference. Yes,
it was bad planning to pile the soil from the post hole in front of the old gate because it couldn't be closed, but oh well,
they were in the lower pasture.... T. would install the new gate later. My job was done.
I was tired
and hungry and decided to have some lunch on the porch. It was a beautiful day; serenading birds, glorious wildflowers
everywhere and that gratifying feeling of having completed the task at hand. Basking on the sunny porch, surrounded
by snoring dogs and lazy cats, my blissful reverie ended abruptly when two silver bullets, AKA the bad asses shot past the
porch bucking and farting. Corky took a brief moment to look over his shoulder with a "'See ya later!" before
speeding down the nature trail heading for neighbor Bill's. Bill is a grass fanatic. Every blade is precisely
trimmed to the same height and he does not share my appreciation of wildflowers which he considers weeds. His acreage
looks like a golf course.
Had the liberated pair merely passed through Bill's yard en route to someplace less groomed (like the corn
stubble field to the north) less damage would have been incurred, but ripping up turf was just too much fun. Tess did
her best to encourage them to turn around, but finally reminded me that she is not a herding dog and abandoned the mission.
Bill's lawn the pair vanished only to reappear in the middle of the busy intersecting county road. Strangers intervened,
blocking traffic with their cars and chasing the renegades up the oil road. Here I should note that trying to outrun
halterless donkeys is quite impossible and pointless. It would have been futile when I was twenty and now that I am
way, way, way past that age I didn't even try. And forget trickery like rattling a bucket of grain. They fell
for that once and are too smart to fall for it again. This was not their first escape, for over the years they have
managed some impressive break-outs, like shimmying under a fence wire or figuring out how to open latches. I knew they would
come home when they felt like it and not before. All we could do was to keep them out of traffic. Fortunately,
after the road incident their escapade was confined to fields, woods, oil roads and visits to neighbors less concerned about
Following what seemed an eternity the boys ambled down the rocky lane across from my barn with me behind
them in the truck. They then politely entered their own barnyard through the big gate by the road which was open anticipating
their return. They retreated to their stall hardly taking notice of the new pipe gate T. had installed during their
absence. As you can see, Andy is not happy about it and neither is his BFF. They are currently planning their
I think a lot about things that matter most to me and it's pretty depressing
because in a society dominated and motivated by money and power my values are not those of the masses. But, I am in
many ways a pragmatist and know that I won't be here forever and when I'm gone what's precious to me may not matter much to
others. Hence, I've gone to great pains to legally insure that what I am committed to protecting now will remain protected
when I am dead. I have a wonderful attorney who understands
and shares my concerns and while it was somewhat costly, in my opinion it was money very well spent. Peace of mind is priceless.
The current fate of Kenny's farm is a perfect example of what can happen when left to chance.
During his farming years Kenny was 100% committed to organic production and to natural healing. For
a long time most of his farm was left fallow under a government conservation program, but when he received notification that
crops must be planted or he would lose benefits Kenny leased the rich loamy land to a local farmer whom I only half-jokingly
call Mr. Monsanto for as this fellow assured me, "Karen, you just can't grow crops without chemicals!"
I assured Mr.
M that money can indeed be made without chemicals because I meet and write about small farmers who are doing just that; people
who are motivated by ethics more than excessive amounts of money made at the cost of the environment. I like these diehard
people, but they are the minority.
And so in a single season, herbicides, pesticides, GMO corn and soybeans altered
land that had been certifiably organic. Kenny wasn't happy, but in his typical undemonstrative manner he allowed
it to happen.
I've gleaned those fields for corn Mr. M's picker missed, but my chickens won't touch it. When I mentioned
this at the local feed mill one of the guys agreed and said he hears from a lot of people that animals won't eat it unless
there is nothing else. Sadly, that's all the farmers around here plant year after year.
So, where does that corn go? It
goes into pet foods and livestock feed and into much of your food too. In my opinion the connection between these crops
and serious health issues is not coincidental. Now that Kenny is gone it is most unlikely that land will ever be returned
to organic production.
It saddens me greatly because this didn't have to happen to those beautiful 100 acres. If he had been pro-active
and thoughtful in an intellectual sense his farm might have been set aside as an experimental organic operation on the order
of Rodale's. Instead a century of sustainable production (minus the few Mr. M. years...) is now set to be auctioned
off in parcels. The future is cloudy. The farm could sprout ostentatious houses and people who race down the road,
complain about country smells and crowing roosters, or with a bit of luck (?), it may remain agricultural.
Maybe the industrial
dairy farmer on the next road will buy it intact. I hope so despite his conventional chemical-based approach to crops.
He'll also spread tons of liquid manure on the fields as he does on other fields, but cow crap is better than the alternative
I guess the point of this rambling is that when something is precious in one's life, legal measures should
be taken now to insure those things are protected when we are gone.