Waiting on a Baby Donkeyby Cedar & Sage Farm | Sep 03, 2017 | The Farm
Waiting for a miniature donkey to foal is like waiting for Christmas when you’re a kid in the throes of questioning if Santa is real, and you rocked your letter to Santa, and you’ve only picked half as many fights with your sibling as you wanted, and you cleaned your room at least once without your mom telling you to and the number one item on your list is epic! Yeah, it’s kind of like that, but with lots of vulva checking and bag feeling and sleepless nights and waiting and then some more waiting, followed by even more waiting. Ok, so maybe it’s nothing like that- but it’s really exciting and nerve racking and as you can tell I was pretty jammed to meet this new baby.
This being our first equine birth, we didn’t know a lot about what to expect other than what we had researched and learned from friends. When we exposed our jennet Penny to Moose, we had no idea what to expect. They had lived over a fence from one another for over a year and seemed to tolerate each other well. But when we put them together, I thought poor Moose was going to need to have some TLC facial makeover surgeon over to restore his handsome face from the major ‘ass’ kicking he took. Penny kicked the living snot literally out of the poor guy, and here I was worried about what my stud would do to her…. For those of you that know equines well, you can tell I was very green at this point. This rough-housing, in the land of donkey, is foreplay and boy did they take their time rounding the bases.
Moose is young, and this was his first real date, and he wasn’t super sure what to do so there were a lot of ‘almost went all the way’ make-out sessions. So I was pretty sure that Penny didn’t catch the first heat cycle. Although I watched her dates for when this would be a possible foaling time, I was really banking on her second heat.
So, here’s the deal: gestation is anywhere between 11.5 and 13 months long!!! Can you imagine having that last trimester linger for that long?! It’s hard enough as humans to know that that baby is technically cooked anywhere from 37-40 weeks. That’s only 3 weeks of tolerating the uncertainty of ‘when is this baby going to get off my bladder!’
So we waited, and I checked her bag and her backend and watched her for all the various other signs of foaling for weeks!! This poor girl had a bag so full of milk; it was hard and dripping for so long, it seemed cruel. As the temperatures reached into the 30’s each day, she just looked miserable.
And then the day finally came. Just when I thought she couldn’t look any lower or wider and her bag couldn’t wax anymore, her physique took a dramatic shift. Andrew went to bed at 9:00 and I made preparations for the long haul. I made tea, grabbed a new book and committed to doing hourly checks on Penny throughout the night. Each time I took the long dark trek out to the barn, I opened the door with anticipation of catching the birth. Each time I made the long trek back to the house, I became more defeated. I did my last late night check at 4:45 am, and because there was no change, I set my alarm for 6:30.
At 6:10 my phone rang. It was Andrew; he had gone out to the barn to get some tools for work and low and behold, he found a brand new baby in the box stall next to Penny (how was this fair?!)! I jumped out of bed, threw on my pajama pants and sprinted for the barn. And there in the wee, dark hours, I saw my very first baby donkey. I spent the next couple of hours watching them bond, as Penny methodically cleaned her newborn, and was amazed to witness this little foal unfold herself from her cramped position into a wobbly erect statue of ears and legs.
Now that she was born I was elated, but also scared and nervous because I wanted to make sure that everything was OK. So, my first call was to my little old farmer friend. He’s up at the crack of dawn and has told me that he’s probably had 30 donkeys born on his property and countless horses and cattle. He’s also said to me that he’s never seen a horse or donkey be born and that I wouldn’t either. I was hell bent on proving him wrong. But, his wisdom won out over my stubborn attempt.
The advice he gave through a chuckle was, “She’ll be just fine. Mom will know just what to do. Just enjoy her”. He then walked me through how the next couple of days would go and that it was “just fine” to return baby and mom to their outdoor paddock.
So, I spent the first day and night watching them bond and getting some cuddles in, with the hope to imprint ourselves onto this wee one. Then, with great trepidation, I opened the doors for them to go outside.
The old farmer was right. Mama knew just what to do. She watched on as this teeny yet feisty bundle of ears and legs took off running to explore her new surroundings. When she strays too far, she brings her back in. So, now I plan to take the well-heeded advice I was given. I am going to relax and trust that mother nature knows better than me and I am just going to enjoy her.
I guess in the end Christmas came a little bit early this year. Although I didn’t get to witness the unwrapping, our little farm has been blessed with a pretty magical gift.
I have somehow been blessed beyond measure; I am married to a wonderful guy who shares in the great joy of raising our three amazing children. We recently picked up and left the city to follow our hearts, with the intention for a more simple and natural lifestyle. Both my husband and I are native Calgarians who have always been awed with the wonder of looking out at the Rocky Mountains. For us, transplanting into the foothills just made sense and we couldn’t wait to get here. It wasn’t until I was removed from the hurry of the city; that I was able to settle into my purpose and accept and celebrate the things that make me happy. Combining my love for bringing life into a neglected space, and filling it with a marriage of old and new, has enabled me to take on the challenge of rebirthing this 1980’s farmhouse. Being able to do this from home, while tackling the daily chores of caring for our farm animals is pure bliss and sits comfortably in my heart. I am chomping at the bit (along with our horses…) to continue to watch the evolution of our space take shape… And I can’t wait to fill this home with love, memories and the smell of Sunday dinners for years to come. I believe that the greatest gift in life is family, and I have been placed amongst a beautiful tribe (my late grandfather’s endearing term for our extended family). I yearn to give my children and their friends a place to melt away from the hustle; in a comfortable and pretty space, which I hope can be a refuge from a complicated and sometimes messy world. Although this move and new direction was not written down in my master plan (and I am a list and plan girl through and through), I am thrilled that the happenings which brought us here have unraveled just the way they did. I have dedicated this year to being grateful for our many gifts while also accepting my limitations with grace and courage. In addition to my home and family, I love camping, iced tea, Volkswagens and a good book… in no particular order. I hope you can find inspiration, relatability or even just a good laugh by following my blog posts as I figure out just what will unfold next.