A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Friday, March 03, 2006

E is for Equine

I have to admit that I had quite a bit of trouble with the letter E. I made wordlists of "e words" and none of them fired me up. Sure I like eggplant and eggs well enough, and I exercise regularly and pay attention to my ergonomics. I believe in an egalitarian world view. I even have moments of elation and ecstasy, love to eat, use envelopes, my eyes and my ears daily, and have one or two elegant moments a year, but none of these "E's" were exciting enough to come up with a post worthy of your reading time.

However, I suddenly realized that "equine" was a word that carried a unique importance in my life. My donkeys (also called burros) are very important equines in many parts of the world. When watching news stories and documents about the middle and far East, you will often see a donkey cart amble through the background. That is because they still play an important role in transporting goods and people in parts of the world where cheap gas never reached... and they have come to play a significant role in Cuba since the period in the early 1990s, known as the Special Period, when the Soviet Union collapsed and stopped exporting oil to Cuba. Cuba lost over 50% of its oil supplies, and began to face the "peak oil" problems sneaking up on the rest of us. You can learn more about their solutions here. One was the return of donkey carts to the streets of Havana, including licensed taxis!

I have a donkey cart of my own, and even have one donkey that was trained to drive back many years ago, my Rita. She used to take her previous owner camping, hauling him and his gold mining gear! I took a donkey driving class last spring and got to drive around my friends, Dave and Ginny's, place with the help of their wonderful donkey, Ashley.

Don't we look slick!

One of my fondest dreams is of the day when I can be driving one of my donkeys to the local farmer's market to trade the apples and other fruit we grow, as well as socks made on my circular sock knitting machine from wool raised right here on our place and spun for me at one of the regional mills. My first step will be training Rose to drive this spring, and getting the art of making the socks down with commercial yarn. I am also trying to decide if we are ready for sheep and it helped my cause to read last night in Donkey Driving, that cattle and sheep are great pasture companions for donkeys because of their different grazing habits.... how conveniently enabling :)

Owning and caring for donkeys has been very grounding for me, especially now that I don't have children living at home. The regular feeding schedule helps me maintain a focus, and drags me outside into nature in every kind of weather, where there are miracles happening regularly. I have also mastered the basics of their vet care, and met some wonderful people in the equine-owner world, especially fellow donkey owners, who have also had to put up with certain kinds of snobby horse owners who can't see why a person would bother with donkeys.

Here, April and Assteroid both show their affection for Glenn.

There are many reasons: they are affectionate, they are calm and don't spook very easily. They think and consider before taking an action, something more of us could do with better results. While some people term this behaviour "stubborn", I consider it "cautious" and appreciate thinking before you leap, now that I am old enough to be willing to reflect upon some of the mistakes I have made over the years by not doing just that! Donkeys are also social animals, and I love to watch how they interact with and look out for each other. My life is much richer for their presence in it.


Blogger margene said...

You and Anne share so much. She feels the same about her horses as I saw the night Happy wasn't up to par. Animals do keep us grounded and teach us to be unselfish with our love like they are. You listed many good E's but E seems to have more meaning for you and I than our previous letters.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Lynette said...

Don't forget "equus"!

Reading your blog is always such a treat, I learn so much. How else could I have known about importance of donkey carts in Cuban history? Plus you have some of the coolest life photos around.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I really enjoyed your field trip and i got carried away down and down the page...and then i saw your beautiful donkeys! I've always loved donkeys they always look such soulful creatures ,you are truely blessed to live in such wonderful surroundings with them :)

12:04 PM  

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