Showing posts with label donkeys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label donkeys. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Donkey expedition day

In my article of 2 August 2010 entitled Moshé's future companion [display], I spoke of my intention to acquire a young donkey named Fanette, as soon as she was old enough to be weaned from her mother.

Last Monday was donkey expedition day. Sylvie in Presles (the girl who was responsible for finding me my dog Fitzroy) had agreed by telephone, a fortnight ago, to drive down to Gamone to pick me up at 9.30 so that I could accompany her in the operation of bringing the donkey Fanette down here, along with Fanette's mother Nina and another adult female donkey named Margot. (Sylvie's irregular working hours at the hospital in St Marcellin mean that she has to plan ahead precisely for "leisure-time" activities such as this.)

When I crawled out of bed in the semidarkness, I sensed that this was the first really wintry day of the cold season. I could see snow on the slopes at the end of the valley (my regular "barometer" for approaching winter conditions at Gamone), and a mild blizzard was blowing gusts of freezing rain through the air at Gamone. My first reaction was that this was not a day for creatures such as me to be wandering around out in the open on the mountain slopes. I wondered whether Sylvie might phone to suggest that we should postpone our expedition for a nicer day. But I nevertheless went ahead dressing in warm clothes, because I realized that a young rural woman who has grown up on a farm in the mountains is unlikely to be impressed by a bit of sleet and wind. When Sylvie arrived at exactly 9.30, the first thing I noticed was that her small Renault car carried traces of a layer of snow. And the first thing that she noticed here was the fine kennel I had built for Fitzroy. She was also struck by the fact that Fitzroy's snout had grown amazingly in a Pinocchio fashion since the last time she had seen him (at the start of September). I left Sophia in the kitchen, while Fitzroy remained outside, as usual.

The road up to Presles was bathed in fog. The snow started as soon as we reached the plateau. Sylvie had been sufficiently forward-thinking to install snow tires on her car a few days ago, so she had no trouble in driving to the place where her three donkeys were located. She left the vehicle by the roadside and we trudged through a wind-swept field to the donkeys' paddock. There, I waited in the blizzard while Sylvie disappeared into the mist with a bag of apples and stale bread, calling out to her animals: "Margot, Nina, Fanette…" Fortunately, I was decked out in my long R M Williams oilskin coat (seen here drying).

I was also wearing a woollen bonnet with waterproof lining, rubber boots and leather gloves. It took Sylvie some twenty minutes to locate the three donkeys and lead them back to the wire gate of the enclosure. Then we set out walking in the direction of Choranche. We were particularly worried that the donkeys might refuse to enter the short tunnel on the cliff face, just a hundred meters down the road from the plateau of Presles. In fact, there was so much fog that the donkeys didn't even realize that they were entering a tunnel. So, an hour later, we were down at Gamone.

The three female donkeys moved calmly into Moshé's paddock. Since then, their coexistence with Moshé has been perfectly peaceful.

One of these days (there's no hurry), Sylvie will take her two adult females back to Presles. Between now and then, if all goes well, Moshé and Fanette will have become accustomed to one another.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moshé's future companion

My donkey Moshé has been upset (disoriented ) by the recent disappearance of his old companion Mandrin.

It's a well-known fact that donkeys don't like to lead a solitary existence, so I immediately started looking around for an animal to keep him company. As of today, I'm happy to have found an ideal solution: a baby female donkey named Fanette who'll be available (that is, weaned) by the middle of October. This afternoon, Fanette's breeder, a young woman from Presles named Sylvie Rozand, introduced me to the beautiful little donkey.

In October, to get Fanette down to Gamone, Sylvie and I plan to walk down the slopes from Presles to Choranche. The road starts with a short but difficult section comprising a tunnel. Normally, donkeys refuse to enter tunnels, just as they refuse to cross streams. Sylvie has done this journey already. She tells me that Margot can be coaxed into entering this tunnel, while Nina and her daughter can be roped up behind and led along by Margot.

Fanette's father is a Provençal donkey owned by my Châtelus neighbor Jean-Marie Huillier (in fact, Sylvie's cousin), whose farm is located just across the Bourne from Gamone. By chance, I've been saying hello to this male donkey for ages, every time I drive across to Châtelus.

After leaving the donkeys, Sylvie invited me for a drink with her parents, in front of their old farmhouse in the village of Presles. My daughter Manya and I have known this couple for ages.

They're natives of Presles and traditional farmers, members of a race that has almost disappeared. Sylvie's companion happens to be a Welshman named William, whom I've not yet met. He's a professional shepherd, stationed for the moment in an Alpine context with a huge flock of sheep. In French, the operation that consists of a shepherd and his dogs leading their flock up to high-altitude pastures for the summer months is referred to as alpage. Then they all come down again to the valley as soon as the first snow appears.

This afternoon, I received an open invitation from William and Sylvie to drive up to spend a couple of days in their Alpine cabin, some three hours away from here by car. I hope I'll be able to accept this invitation, along with my dog Sophia. If so, a surprise awaits us. We'll be returning to Gamone with another companion, for Sophia: a pure-bred Border Collie pup.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nice key ring, noble NGO

I've always liked this key ring, which was given to me by my daughter Emmanuelle soon after I moved into Gamone and invited the young donkey Moshé (born in a neighboring valley) to join me.

At that time, this key ring was associated with a French-based NGO [nongovernmental organization]: Veterinaries without borders.

Recently, a reference to agronomists has been inserted into the NGO's title. [Click the banner to visit their French-language website.] Their noble goal consists of using agronomic and veterinary know-how in the planetary combat against hunger.

The donkey is an excellent symbol for the quest for durable solutions… if only because the beast itself might be thought of as a kind of living "durable solution" that has come down to us intact from African prehistory. Admittedly, here at Gamone, my two donkeys happen to be living in an exceptional environment, where there's always something to eat… even in winter, when there's half a meter of snow on the slopes. For their ancestors in parched lands, life was surely much harsher.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Donkey dinner

When I found a few apples lying in the grass, preserved by the snow, I cut them up and put them on top of the donkeys' daily dose of oats.

I was a little surprised to find that the animals promptly pushed aside the apple fragments so that they could get stuck into the oats.

I had always imagined that the donkeys are immensely fond of apples. Well, they are, I'm sure... but it seems that they're fonder still of oats.

Five minutes later, when I returned to pick up the dishes, both the oats and the apples had disappeared. Maybe it's like children having a meal in such-and-such a celebrated junk-food restaurant. I would imagine that, spontaneously, a normal kid would tackle the hamburger and French fries first, and then move on to the sundae.

The donkeys were standing still at the same spot, above the empty dishes, digesting their dinner.

Judging from the respective positions of their ears, old gray-faced Mandrin is waiting for me to say something (or maybe he's intrigued by the buzz of my Nikon adjusting its focus), whereas young beige-faced Moshé is more interested in keeping an auditive "outlook" on what might be happening behind him: in particular, the presence of Sophia... who learned long ago that it's not wise for a dog to spend too much time behind the powerful rear legs of a donkey.