Donkey Xote


An interesting feature of our sitting room and also something of a talking point, are the 6-inch long wooden penises that protrude suggestively from the back wall. These phallic oddities may seem incongruous surrounded by the paraphernalia of Casa Nevin but they, along with the remnants of a swallow’s nest are a reminder that until recently this room was used as stabling for donkeys. For those of you with filthy minds, the wooden penises were not (as far as I’m aware) sex-aids for the farmer’s wife; they were used for tethering the donkeys in their stalls and for securing hay nets and buckets of water.

handsome-donkey

Remains of a swallow's nest
Remains of a swallow’s nest
Wooden penis in wall
Wooden penis in wall

Donkeys and mules are still very much part of Spanish life and although tractors and cars have now replaced much of the work that these noble beasts carried out in the past, they are still a common sight here in Andalucía. Last week a car drove through the village with two mules attached to the rear bumper with ropes, trotting along behind it. And the week before, I saw a man using a mule to pull a plough through his meadow. There are many hill top villages and towns where donkeys and mules are the only method of carting goods, people and furniture up and down the steep, narrow streets.

Stable/sitting room
Stable/sitting room

Whilst pondering about life in our finca, the farmer’s wife and donkeys in particular, I was reminded of the time, many moons ago when one of my children bamboozled me in to buying a donkey.

inside-looking-out

looking-inside-at-dusk

Years ago, my first husband and I drove with our four girls (Theo had not yet been born) all the way from North Yorkshire UK, down to the Algarve in Portugal. It was a long journey and there was many a time when our decrepit long-wheel base Landrover almost gave up but despite having to stop every half hour or so to open the bonnet to let out the steam and replenish the water in the radiator, it was an enjoyable and memorable trip. The highlight of the holiday for Serena, my 3rd daughter, was not the swimming pool, the fresh sardines, the constant sunshine or the piri-piri chicken; it was seeing so many donkeys. On the journey back to Yorkshire she could talk of little else and by the time we got back to our farm, the chat about donkeys had become incessant nagging to get a donkey. Serena’s argument was that if we already had 8 cows, 4 pigs, 40 sheep, 8 goats, 8 geese, 2 ducks, 1,000’s of hens, 3 dogs, 3 ponies and 3 cats, why not add a donkey or two to the mix? And who was I to argue.

lemons-in-bowl

apricots

But acquiring a donkey was not as simple task as I had imagined it to be. My first port of call was the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon. Surely they would be thrilled to bits for us to take one or two donkeys off their hands? Yes and no was the answer – there was a long waiting list, home checks, and various other boxes that would have to be ticked before we could hope to re-home a donkey from them. Weeks passed, then months. I scoured newspaper ads, I asked local farmers and friends and then, I had a brain wave. Ireland! Yes, Ireland they have lots of donkeys in Ireland. I’d seen lots of old photos of donkeys with baskets full of peat and fish and all sorts of things, I was sure that we could find a donkey in Ireland. I rang an old friend who lived on the Emerald Isle and told her that we were looking for a donkey. As luck would have it, she knew a horse dealer that she thought might have a donkey to sell.

Window sill in Granada
Window sill in Granada

Alarm bells should have started to ring the minute that she told me that the dealer’s name was Miley O’Cash. Seriously, you couldn’t make that up, but a fool and their money are soon parted and no sooner had I thanked my friend for his telephone number than I was dialing Galway 73456960 and speaking to the man himself. ‘Ah to be sure I have a donkey for you. And a very fine donkey she is too. Ta’ prettiest feet that you’ve ever seen. No, you wont’ find ta donkey elsewhere like tis, rarer than hen’s teeth she is, a beauty to behold’

Gullible as the day is long, a cheque for £300 was soon winging its way over the Irish Sea and straight in to Miley O’Cash’s bank account. The next thing that I had to arrange was transport and shipping. And by a second stroke of luck, a racehorse trainer was having some horses shipped over from Ireland to Thirsk and the transporter told me that there would be room for a little donkey. When I asked how much her passage would be, I was told it was free. ‘You see Lottie, the Irish are very superstitious about donkeys, Jeezus Christ rode on them, you know’ ‘tat’s why tey have ter cross on ther back’

A week later Serena and I headed off to Thirsk. She was buzzing with excitement and truth be told, so was I. We’d filled the horse trailer with clean straw, hung up a net of hay and had bought a dazzling blue head collar and lead rope for her. We arrived at the smarty-pants racehorse stud and parked the trailer. Serena gripped my hand as we walked through the large airy barn and stalls looking for our new donkey. A young stable lad showed us round the stable block where priceless equines worth thousands of dollars were whinnying over immaculate stable doors. He pointed to a loose box at the end of the yard.

There, lying on a bed of straw was without doubt the most hideous donkey we’d ever seen. She was not the fluffy grey or brown donkey of Serena’s dreams, with cute furry ears and a mealy muzzle. She was a filthy shade of white, had huge ears, and a most unattractive rim of pink round her eyes that made me want to grab my eye-liner pencil and start giving her a beauty make-over. Serena looked at me and promptly burst in to tears. The thing that made me burst in to tears was not her looks, but her feet. As the world’s plainest donkey stood up and shook herself free of straw, I looked in horror at her hooves. They were deformed beyond words. Instead of the ‘prettiest feet’ that Miley O’Cash had waxed lyrical about, this poor creature could hardly walk. Her hooves were so long, twisted and turned up that she had to walk on her heels.

We got her in to the trailer and drove the hour and half home in near silence. I was speechless with rage but I didn’t want to upset Serena any more than she already was. The safest topic of conversation was what we should call her. We decided on Mildred. The vet came out that afternoon and examined her. He cursed Miley O’Cash and he cursed the vet who had passed Mildred fit enough to travel over on the boat. Correcting her feet was going to take time, months and months, but the sad fact was that though cosmetically they might end up looking reasonably good, she would always walk on her heels as a result of the small bones inside the hoof being deformed due to her hooves never having been trimmed. This also meant that she could only carry weight for short periods of time.

But every cloud has a silver lining. As the vet withdrew his latex gloved hand out of Mildred’s bottom he announced, much to our great excitement that she was in foal and would probably give birth within 6-8 weeks. Serena’s face was a picture! And so almost 8 weeks to the day Joy was born. Joy or Joyce as I preferred to call her was the sweetest thing imaginable. A leggy, fluffy bundle of donkey deliciousness. I think her dad must have been brown or skewbald as her colouring was predominantly white but with large brown patches. Over time, thanks to the skill of our farrier, Mildred’s feet started to look much better and a couple of years later we acquired another donkey, an elderly gentleman called Cocoa who stayed with us until his demise at the age of 55. I never got back in touch with Miley O’Cash – what was the point? Mildred was a million times better off with us than with him and even though it was a shaky start, I know that Serena derived much happiness caring for her donkeys and that is all that mattered to me.

Jug of flowers on table in early morning sun.
Jug of flowers on table in early morning sun.

58 thoughts on “Donkey Xote

    1. I hoped that the penises would lure you in…..! Thank you, Martha. We are slowly getting there with the home improvements – still lots to do but it’s taking shape xxx

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  1. I’m hungry, I said to myself. What I need is another dose of Lottie’s adventures, especially as I’ve been thinking of her all week and wondering how she, Mr Lottie and Colin Snout are doing. (All true.) Hey presto! Ding and my prayers are answered. Bless Mildred and Joyce. And bless you, Puff, for giving Mildred such a good home.

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    1. Aww, fanks a bunch, Puff. We are all well, busy sorting out phase 2 of Casa Nevin. I have an oven at last so been busy making jam, compotes and all sorts of treats. It’s very scorchio here now, almost 40c so lots of puffing and panting up them there hills. Glad you enjoyed the post xxx

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    1. We sort of got them fixed, they certainly ended up looking better but they were never perfect due to the long-term negligence that she’d suffered. Poor Mildred, she was quite a character despite everything – she had a wicked temper on her! Joy was adorable!

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  2. Bless you, donkey saviour! How beautifully you wove your own history of donkey-rearing with the penis – story (which I was sure was a souvenir from your Bali days!). Love the pix of your home, no longer just a finca… you’ve come a long way baby xo

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    1. Donkey saviour! ooh I like that moniker. Wooden penises seem to follow me round the world, or, is it the other way round?! Thanks for your lovely comment, Amit. Thrilled that you like Casa Nevin xxx

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    1. Olga, I’d love to keep donkeys here but sadly we have no room. We wanted to buy the field next to us but the brothers who own it wanted an extortionate price for it. Have no fear, I shall be boring the pants off you with stories about my new oven shortly! 😀

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  3. Just finished reading and I’s so mad that I did not open my computer till a bit ago. You will not see my comment till in the morning and I’ve got more work to do. It is very hot today so I’ve done inside things till the sun is lower in the sky. I shall return for a longer comment tonight. Loved this story. Your post was in spam.

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  4. What a heartwarming story, Lottie. And the photos are gorgeous. Is that all locally grown fruit? The stable sitting room looks fantastic. I’d hate to live in an unstable sitting room. I became absolutely incandescent with rage once on holiday in Jordan. I saw someone beating a donkey and I left my birding group and ran at the bloke and shouted at him to stop. He look completely bemused. I think it may have been Miley O’Cashbah.

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    1. Our sitting room in Jakarta was an unstable sitting room. Every time there was an earthquake, it would judder and shake and make horrendous cracking sounds – I’m happier down here on terra firma in my humble stable abode. At least I’ve got the wooden penises to hang on to if the going gets rough….

      Yes, the fruit is all local – I’ve become Queen of Jam making. I’ve met a few Miley O’Cashbah’s in my time – good for you for sticking up for the donkey. They are such lovely creatures who seem to suffer more than their fair share of cruelty and neglect. I’m one of those batty women that could quite easily end up with 100’s of donkeys if given the chance.

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  5. I’m back so that I can leave a proper nonsensical comment regarding the jack asses. And by the the way not to demean the donkey but I know lots of human jacks as well.

    I absolutely loved this story and you know that anything equine, canine, or feline is up my alley. I hope that you have photos of Joyce and Mildred for posterity.

    I’ve always wanted a donkey but by the time I had the time to devote to one, well my age was in the way. Oh well. I just admire them from afar.

    The sitting room looks so inviting and totally comfortable. I noticed a beautiful small chest that is decorated with birds. I’m thinking that came from Indonesia or more precisely Bali.

    And last but not least my you are lucky to have all the wonderful fruit. I am very fond of apricots and buy them fresh each summer. They are not grown commercially here in Texas. I think most come from California.

    Marvelous story and photos, Lottie. Loved every word.

    ~yvonne xxxx

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    1. Yvonne, I have lots and lots and lots of photos of our donkeys but they are all in a box somewhere in the garage here and I haven’t a clue which one! I did think about going to find them but I knew that it would take me an age so decided not to. When we do get round to unpacking the last 20 or so boxes and I find them, I will post some on here and send some to you in an email.

      The little chest with the birds on it is from India – the big day bed to the right of the picture is from Indonesia, a wonderful gift from a friend and some of the cushions on it are ones that I had made for our house in Bali. When the house is nearer completion, I shall take some interior shots and do a before and after post so you can get a clearer of idea of what I’ve been busy doing.

      We are very lucky to have all of this fruit. I’ve been given bucket loads of it which has forced me to become inventive with jam and chutney making. I’ve lost track of how many pounds of it I’ve made now – and one stage I felt that I was drowning in the stuff! I’ve still got two buckets of plums left but no jars – in this heat nothing keeps for long so I’ll need to come up with something before they rot.

      Tickled that you enjoyed this story, I hoped you would! xxxxx

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  6. Its just as well you have a heart as big as your home for poor Mildred’s sake. I can’t imagine how or why someone would let her feet get into that condition. Such beautiful little creatures. How she must have been grateful for the many months of care you were prepared to put into her wellbeing. What a treat it must have been to be rewarded with Joy- in more ways than one.
    The finca is coming along beautifully Lottie. There’s a wonderful feeling of homeliness here in the pictures- despite your wall features.
    Sending you xxx Wonderful Weekend Hugs xxx

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  7. Those are some nice photographs, Lottie. You live in a marvelous place and are showing it the respect and admiration it is due.

    That was a lovely story…sans the Jackass wot sold you Mildred. But all that ends well is well and you gave Mildred and her foal a wonderful life. What some people do to animals that are in their trust is sometime just plain stupefying.

    Regarding those, ahem, wooden pegs….I am speechless. Which is probably for the best. :mrgreen:

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    1. Wooden pegs? you are very polite, Steve 😉 hang on, how did you make that green smiley? V.impressed….is there no end to your talents?
      Our builder thought that we should remove the ‘pegs’ – I think he thought that they were unsightly but I’m glad they’ve stayed – they are excellent for hanging things on…..

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      1. What an accolade!! Maybe you should post a photo?
        I can’t wait to check out mrgreen….thanks for the link, Steve. p.s I’m guessing you are not that in to the world cup?? we should be glued to a screen and not on WP right now!

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      2. Nope. I am impressed with the stamina of the players and their skills. But nil nil after 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes of nil and then a 1 nil outcome of the penalty kicks is a bit too much excitement for me. 🙄
        Sorry, Lottie. My appointments are private. 😳

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      3. haha!! hopefully by now you will see that I’ve mastered mr green….YAY! it’s been an interesting game, so many misses and nearly’s but I’m running out of steam with it now. did you see that an amazing shot that the camera took of the Christo Redentor statue with the sun setting in his arms? that was probably my highlight of the game! :mrgreen:

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  8. Once you get past the wooden penises, this post reads like a fairy tale 🙂 I’m so glad that Serena got the donkey that she desired! Lovely photos Lottie, your place is looking more homely than ever x

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    1. Aww, thanks George. It certainly feels much more like home now that we’ve got all our crap from London here and a bit more furniture! – still got some boring expensive stuff to do like the roof, new ceilings, lots of painting etc but we LOVE it!

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  9. Oh Lottie, what a wonderful story. Poor, poor Mildred, but I’m so glad she found her way to you and Serena and then the added bonus of Joy!

    Gorgeous photos! I’m especially drawn to the apricots (yum, my fav!), the stable/sitting room (everyone should have such multi-purpose rooms), and it goes without saying (but what the hell, I’ll say it anyway) the wooden penises sticking out from the wall are fabulous. How useful are those!

    Wonderful words and beautiful photos, laughter and tears…you are so good! xoxo

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  10. Hi Lottie 😀 A heart wrenching tale of the donkey. I do hope those penises are wood and not the result of some Indonesian ritual which you brought to Spain. Ralph xox ❤

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  11. How is when I think I cannot adore you anymore, or think you the greatest mom ever, you prove me wrong, I can adore you more! LOTTIE!!! I’m sending so much love to over the hills and moutons of Spain. XOXO Ollie needs a Donkey!

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  12. Time to catch up on your posts… lovely donkey tale, I’d forgotten all about the penis by the time I got to the end. Seem to have remembered it now though 🙂 . I met a Devon donkey, nice chap. Your sitting room looks very comfy and cosy!

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