Winter has hit us earlier than usual in France (the winter solstice only arrives on Tuesday), and we've had exceptionally big snowfalls. At Gamone, I'm reassured to have a good supply of hay for the two donkeys. They only need this fodder, of course, when the snow prevents them from getting at the grass.
I've adopted the convenient solution of storing the hay in dry conditions at a spot (50 meters up beyond the house) that's out-of-bounds for the donkeys. Twice a day, I put a small heap of hay onto a tarpaulin and drag this light load down the road to the donkeys' paddock.
In that way, we waste as little as possible of the precious fodder. Whenever I smell the wonderful aroma of this top-quality hay (which was mowed last spring up on the Vercors plateau near Vassieux), I'm reminded of my childhood days on the farm of my Walker uncles on the outskirts of South Grafton. They used to do their mowing using a pair of draft horses, and the hay was piled up in a single giant heap inside a wooden barn. For hens, the hay stack was a favorite spot for laying eggs. I don't think my uncles were in dire need of winter fodder for their herd of dairy cows, who could generally find enough grass to eat all year round. Maybe it was useful to have this stock of hay in the case of an exceptionally dry spell.
In France, we've inherited a marvelous old recipe from the ancient Gauls: filet mignon of pork roasted slowly on a bed of hay, which adds flavor to the meat. The pork is served up on its steamy wad of hay, accompanied by wild mushrooms, but the hay is not to be eaten.
Moshé and Fanette are now covered in thick fur, like a pair of baby mammoths. They stay out in the open, no matter what the weather's like. There's a shed in which they could be protected from falling snow, rain and sleet, but they never use it.
I intend to construct a small system for holding the hay up off the ground, with a roof. I ordered the four posts of Douglas pine a week or so ago, and they're waiting to be picked up at the sawmill (as soon as the snow disappears, and I can drive into town).
Talking about feeding the animals, I've run into an unexpected hitch. To feed the wild birds, I put sunflower seeds inside the bird house for the tits [mésanges], and I throw other assorted seeds on the ground for the finches [pinsons].
I've been amazed to discover that my dog Fitzroy, who consumes huge quantities of the finest dog foods (pasta and croquettes for pups), likes to round off his meals with bird seeds. He doesn't digest them, since the seeds reappear all over the surface of Fitzroy's turds, which look a little like Oriental pastries covered in sesame seeds.