Donkey Business

I’m talking to one of my friends on the phone last night, and she ends the call by saying, “Hope everything works out okay with your donkey business… [pause]…Oh god. I totally just said that out loud in the grocery store.”

So, yeah. Let me tell you how things are going with the donkey business. Actually, let’s just kick this off with 72 hour before-and-after, the likes of which has never been seen on this website before:

Friday Morning:


Friday Afternoon:


Sunday Afternoon:



I never say that shit, but it just feels appropriate. Like I waved a magic cannon in the air and, Boom! Finished donkey barn. Except instead of a magic cannon, I just spent three days working my ass off. (Just go ahead and assume from here on out that any “ass” references are pun intended.) By working my ass off, I mean hauling, shoveling, raking, sawing, hammering, swearing (oh, the swearing), and getting all sorts of unsavory barn debris in my effing mouth. Have you ever had a 20 year old cobweb in your mouth before? No? I’m pretty sure there’s a special ring of Hell dedicated to that particular type of torture.

So, in lieu of magic, here’s how the actual work went down. I’ve literally been thinking about building this stall and putting in the electric fence non-stop for a week, so when it came time to actually physically build it, things went pretty quick.

Since I won’t be able to trench for electric until spring, I stretched 150 feet of extension cord out to the barn to power the electric fence. And also to power my temporary workspace in the barn.


Yes, I do own two miter saws. Don’t judge.

So, as far as constructing the stall, I wanted to use the existing 12×12 beams (for real, people, twelve-by-twelve… they did not mess around with piddly supports 150 years ago), but I decided I wanted to do this right and include a gate to the stall from inside the barn which meant adding my own piddly 4×4 supports where appropriate.


One of my favorite tools for actually DIYing it (as in, doing it without another person around to hold the other end of the board) is my cordless finish nailer. I used it to tack the fencing in place and then went back and fastened everything with deck screws.

The big challenge of the weekend, however, was building the gate…


Seems like it wouldn’t be that difficult, but, of course, I built the thing without really factoring in how the hinges worked, and then had to take it all apart and cut it down by an inch to get it opening and closing properly.

Action shot:


Let me just tell you… installing a gate with spring-loaded hinges by yourself is something that only happens to people who are clearly paying the karmic price for having installed a toilet on carpeting in a past life. Not fun.

This many extra screw holes is a sign that the person on the other end of the drill does not know what in the shit they are doing.



I’ll own it only because I got it to work in the long run.


The rest of the barn isn’t looking too bad either…


That area will be hay/straw storage for this winter. Over the summer I’d like to replace the loft that used to be above the stall area and store the hay up there next year.

I do still have a few pallets of miscellanous crap to move, but right now it’s not in the way, so I may do it when it’s not 17 degrees out.


Or I may do it tomorrow. You just never know with me.


Either way, I am just a few bales of straw (for bedding) and one electric fence away from being ready for my little boys to come home.

I temporarily staked out the winter pasture, but I’m not really setting the posts and stringing the wire until I know exactly when I can bring them home.


It’s been an amazing couple of days, and  can I tell you something? This has literally, hands down, been my favorite 72 hours at the Liberty House so far. And I thought I was going to hate it, mostly because I don’t like working outside in the cold. (Go ahead and say it: wuss.) But if I could paint a picture of my perfect day, it would be getting up early (after an actual good nights sleep), planning out my day over a cup of tea, making a quick run to the hardware store before the masses are out and about, spending the whole morning outside making sawdust, building stuff, being just a little amazed at what I can accomplish when I’m not being interrupted by emails every 30 seconds, coming in for a hot lunch, spending some time writing, and then heading back out to work until dusk.

This has been the best vacation I’ve had in a long time, and just affirms what this house has been telling me for the last year… that deep down I have the heart of a farmer.

I was a little nervous going into this adventure that I wouldn’t be able to handle the addition of “farm chores” to my already full schedule, but every farmer I’ve ever known managed to take care of the farm and still work a job, and so will I.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to go meet my little guys today, but I’ll definitely update this post with pictures once I do!

WARNING: If you look at this picture you’re going to want to come live with me out in the middle of nowhere, just so you can hug these little fluffy donkey faces every single day. And I do not have enough bedrooms for all of you.


They are just the sweetest, most loving little guys ever. You can tell because this is what happens when you try to take a picture of a donkey, and he’s all, “Stop with that camera business and give me a hug.”


Heart. Melt.

Actually, if we’re going to be completely honest, it was a little more like meltdown. Not when I was at the farm, mind you, but about 20 minutes later when I’m in the store looking at electric fence insulators, and all of the sudden I’m like, “What is wrong with my eyes that I can’t read these packages? Oh, wait, I’m standing in the middle of Tractor Supply with tears streaming down my face. That’s awesome.”

Hey, listen, sometimes you just have to have a good little cry over fencing supplies, and then everything is right in the world and you can get back to building shit.

Now I’m going to buck up and go spend the last few hours of my vacation putting in a fence.

32 Responses

  1. The last shot of the “farm” is amazing, but there is one thing out of place…the yellow Xterra, time to get a truck and not just any truck. I’m talking old school, 50’s-early 60’s with a hint of rust, maybe a few different colors showing through as well. Keep the Xterra in the barn for your “day” job and the truck as your workhorse (sorry workass).

    1. I do need a truck, but until I’m capable of actually repairing it, it will probably need to be something newer than 50’s (love the aesthetic, of course, but a girl has to be practical.)

  2. I know very little about donkeys so please excuse this question if it’s silly: Will the donkeys be OK in the barn given that there are gaps in the wall sheathing? I suspect Wisconsin (I think that’s where you are located) is much like Ontario, Canada — winter temperatures can drop to -25C (about -13F). Can two miniature donkeys generate enough heat in there to keep themselves warm? Or do you have to provide an additional source of heat for them? Just wondering… BTW, the new stall looks fantastic and I’m still in awe of the fact that you moved all that debris out of your barn all by your lonesome : -)

    1. It’s a good question. I’m not in Wisconsin, I’m in Michigan (not quite as cold, but close.) Donkeys are very hearty animals and grow a huge furry coat in winter (check it out.) Mostly they just need shelter from wind or rain, but they don’t need like an insulated 50-degree barn. It’s actually much better for there to be a lot of ventilation to prevent respiratory issues.

      That being said, I plan to cover the lower windows temporarily because snow or rain could blow into the stall (plus it’s colder for me) but the upper windows will stay open. I may screen them, however.

      1. WOW!! Look at those coats… having seen that, I realize that they are probably keeping themselves much warmer than you or I. It sounds like they will be very happy in their new digs. Cannot wait to see the arrival.

  3. Kit – Speaking as an engineer, who is a frustrated tradesman, Boom! I applaud your hard work, and effecient planning.

    I would like to add a bit of advice about keeping Horses and Donkeys indoors. This is based on my experience on having parents with a horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. If I interpret your pictures correctly, there is a concrete floor in the Barn. If this is the case you will want to install stall mats on the floor of their stall. Prolonged standing on hard surfaces can bruise the flesh under the hoof, and it can lead to to problems with the frog and hoof lamination. There are shoes with rubber padding available, but It doesn’t look like your previous donkies wore shoes. A 4’X6′ stall mat costs about $40. Use Stall-Dry over urine spots. Woodchips are easier to clean then straw, and if you feed them in the Barn you may want to get a manger, and a wall mounted bucket for feed.

    Good Luck on your new fur-children.

    1. Yep, I know about concrete floors. The good and bad news is that the concrete in the stall area has pretty much disintegrated and what is left is covered by a few inches of dirt. The bad part is there are still some concrete areas and they are very uneven (like, impossible to put a thick mat over it and have it lay flat). I feel like having an unsteady walking surface is going to be worse in the short term than the old concrete, so I plan to pack down 4-6 inches of cedar chips to even everything out and provide a cushion and then spread straw for the bedding. In summer I’ll jackhammer the rest of the concrete out of the stall and put it an actual dirt floor with a proper drain.

  4. Looks fabulous – they are such lucky donkeys!

    I worry though that the gate may eventually sag – shouldn’t the diagonal brace go the other way? I’m not an engineer nor a builder and can’t remember where I saw information about bracing a gate so I’m working on memory (not always reliable). I thought that a tension wire brace goes the direction of your brace (to pull up the outer bottom corner) and a wooden brace goes the other way (so the top outer corner is supported by the lower hinge side corner).

    1. Great point, Cheryl! I have no idea, but google does.

      Maybe I’ll get motivated and switch the brace around, maybe not. Nothing in the barn is “long-term final” right now for a lot of reasons (see my comment above about jack hammering the concrete floor out), but if I get a good three to five years out of it, that should do me.

      1. YAY – donkey pictures!!!

        They are adorable. I’m jealous. Can’t wait until we’re on property in the middle of nowhere although I’m not sure I can talk the hubby into miniature donkeys.

        Glad to hear from Chris that the gate will be good for the amount of time you expect it to last.

        1. Yeah, plus I can always build a new one in an hour or two, if needed. But it will also take exactly 15 seconds to unscrew and re-screw that brace, so I will probably fix it eventually!

    2. cheryl is correct about the gate bracing, but i think this gate will be fine for a few years. it’s not that big a gate.
      kit, you’re living the dream. glad you know it. wish we were there so we could help run the electrical with you. electrical is fun!

      1. Oh, you know the electrical work is SO not my favorite. If only you, Meryl, and the little one were closer!

  5. Kit, you totally rocked this project! Can’t wait to see photos of the new additions to your place.

  6. You are more forcefully committed to your particular brand of crazy than just about anyone I’ve encountered.

    There’s more I want to say, but the thoughts haven’t quite coalesced yet, so I’ll just give you an e-high-five for now. That’s a really remarkable output.

  7. Normally I just lurk about, but I thought I would add that many donkeys and horses learn how to open those latches pretty quick, and if you plan on storing the feed where they could get it if they got out you might want to consider a different latch – colic would be terrible . . .

    1. Meg. you are so right about Donkeys being smarter than the average gate lock (the girls at Memorial learned how to flip the latch on their gate in no time flat). That’s actually why I placed the hardware on the inside… it means the gate will only ever open in to the pen so even if they figure out the latch, they won’t be able to push the gate open!

  8. Awesome job!! Make my removing and replacing caulk around the bathtub and building a chuck box with my son pale in comparison!! Wonderful job, Kit!! I cannot wait to see the little guys when you get them home. I am such a sucker for animals!

    1. I think there will be a re-christening when they come to Liberty, but I haven’t picked out new names yet.

  9. You know what to do with those 3 extra holes in the gate (or is it 4?) Anyways, just putty them over and nobody will be the wiser… hee hee
    The barn and enclosure looking good. Lots of work of work for these guys! They are lucky to have you!

  10. Oh I so know what you mean. Getting up (rather) early and getting lots of things done is the best way to spend a weekend! Maybe I’m a farmer of the heart too then?

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now and I love it – I can’t wait to read your posts when they show up in my google reader.

    And those miniature donkeys are the cutest!

  11. Had to come back and check for pictures of the little guys, and boy are they adorable! Can’t wait to see more of them!

Comments are closed.

I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.