Look Who’s Moved into Our Valley

Donkey at a gate

One of Francisco’s donkeys…no longer in the valley

When we first moved to rural Mallorca in 2004, there were more animals than people in our valley. These were mainly sheep, or sheeps – as our German neighbour calls them in the plural form. (English must be quite a complicated language for a foreigner to learn).

For quite a few years, several farmers owned small flocks that were regularly moved from one field to another, somewhere else in the valley. The sound of an increasingly loud symphony of sheep-bells was a warning that the lane would be temporarily blocked to traffic by woolly walkers, being guided by the farmer towards another of his patchy patches of land. Sadly, we rarely awaken to the sound of dongling sheep-bells nearby these days: the field opposite our casita is no longer the part-time home of frolicking lambs or their bell-toting mums.

These beasts are no burden

We also used to hear regular distant donkey-braying – another of my favourite rural sounds. Francisco – an animal-loving Mallorcan who did gardening jobs for some of our neighbours – owned a few donkeys in a field down in the valley. If we were going for a walk in that direction, we often took a few carrots or an apple for them. When Francisco sadly died suddenly, after being ill for a while, the donkeys disappeared shortly afterwards.

It’s safe to assume, then, that I was rather excited by some new four-legged arrivals we spotted last week in the valley. Two ponies, a donkey, and a mule (or is it an ass? We really couldn’t tell) were munching their way through a different field at the bottom of the lane.  The photos were taken with my smart phone. I’ll be tottering down the hill again soon – with my smarter Nikon and its zoom lens.

Pony in a field

The new boy in town? Could be a girl – hard to see through all that fur!

Animals in a field

Settling into their new abode

Grazing pony

Pony number two enjoying the buffet

We have no idea who owns either the field or the beasts, but were delighted to see these new neighbours. Looks as though we’ll be buying extra carrots and apples again…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Dealing with Donkeys

Pedestrian Petra

First-time visitors to our finca usually gaze out over the surrounding countryside with wonder in their eyes.  And it’s not always because we live in a naturally beautiful valley. Or that, often, the only sounds piercing the silence are birdsong, buzzing cicadas and dongling sheep bells.No, it’s more a case of “I wonder what they do for excitement around here?”

Believe me, we have our moments. Life here rarely sparks an adrenalin rush, but pulse rates have been known to quicken.

New Neighbours?

Take the day when we noticed that two donkeys were grazing in the field across the lane from us.  Now I’m really fond of these gentle creatures and was stupidly thrilled to have them as neighbours. We’d often seen sheep there, but never donkeys. We hadn’t even known that the farmer – who works in the valley but lives in Manacor – owned donkeys.

“You won’t be so happy if they start braying at 3 o’clock in the morning,” warned The Boss.

Several times that afternoon, I went out to gaze at Don Camilo and Petra (yes, I’d already named them) as they stood in the shade of an almond tree, nibbling contentedly at the scrubby undergrowth.  So how, later that day, did DC and Petra come to be ambling along in the lane, like a couple of elderly women searching for snails after rain?

When The Boss and I walked down to the field entrance, it was obvious.  The typical ‘gate’ used around here – a bundle of dead branches stuffed into the opening in an old dry stone wall – had hardly been enough to contain two newborn lambs, let alone a pair of determined donkeys.

The Boss was actually a little smug about the farmer’s apparent error. Probably because this particular farmer – a charming man, by the way – had recently criticised the way our almond trees had been pruned.

Our lane doesn’t see much traffic but donkeys wandering at will are a definite hazard, so – as good country citizens – we set about rounding up the renegades and returning them to the field.

No easy feat, and one that certainly quickened all parties’ pulses.

A Job Well Done

Once they were back in, we took on the task of building an impenetrable barrier, using a larger quantity of branches and sticks. Satisfied that we’d done a decent job, we left the pair to appreciate their own side of the fence and went in search of a well-earned G&T.

The following day, we found out that the donkeys weren’t owned by the farmer whose field it was. It was only when the real owner came in search of them that we discovered they’d escaped from a field in the lower, neighbouring valley and, having walked all the way up the hill, had seized the opportunity to enter a poorly gated field for a quick snack. Where they ended up staying until the next morning . . .

Jan Edwards ©2012