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You Can't Teach a Donkey a New Trick... or Can You?

Donkeys are thinkers. They consider things. In their own ways. When I come out in the morning and head to the chicken coop first, they complain. Loudly. When I come to put the goats inside early on a cold or rainy day without visiting them properly, they complain.

The donkeys -- Murphy and Clover -- have two stalls and a shelter to protect them from sun or rain when they are not in the mood for it. And in the winter, their shelter grows a wall and a half to protect them from the cold, whistling winds of the Catskill valleys.

It is challenging to change a donkey's behavior. They poop in their stalls and shelter despite having ample field space. Their farrier (the guy who trims their hooves) reminds me that I have a bathroom in my house, so why shouldn't they. Good point, John. Still I scold them. I scoop up some poop in my pitchfork and place it a few paces from the barn so they might start a new bathroom nearby. Not too far, but not too close either. Sometimes they take the bait, but it never lasts. Goals.

This past summer, all giddy with a new John Deere Gator that I got for my birthday (best present ever!), I bought 500 pounds of sand and distributed it between a few different bald spots in the field where the donkeys had pawed the ground and rolled over and over. They were super curious about what I was up to. I heaved 50 bound bags, one after the other, and cut them open, talking all the while, but not sure what the donks would think. They sniffed. They pawed. And then in one swift thump, Murphy threw himself on the ground and rolled over and over, creating a giant sand cloud. Then Clover muscled him to the side and did the same.

At the end of the summer, finishing up my obsessive last minute preparations for winter, I conducted a sand encore, this time spreading the sand over the crushed gravel and dirt in the donkey's covered area (above right). Clover was intrigued, nostrils flaring. Murphy pushed his way in, clod-style and rolled over and over in the sand pile I had not yet spread, blocking in my Gator and kicking up a dust storm. Clover followed suit, but being more on the shy side, she waited until she had Gator-free space. Sheer donkey bliss.

When I came out to greet them the next morning, something was funny, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I surveyed the landscape. No poop. Huh? That's weird, I thought and then went about my morning chores with the goats and donkeys. I tidied up the tack and hay rooms. Later that afternoon, and every day since, the covered area where I spread about 100 pounds of brown sand has been poop free. Not one nugget. The donkeys love their sand too much. Who knew? The pictures don't do it justice and neither does this post, but the miracle of the sand-trumps-poop is real. I just had to share.

XOXO, Farm Girl

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