Lessons from the land

The tall and the short of it: Tully the Donkey and Lucy the Goat
Six months ago, I had a dog and a handful of poultry. Today, I have the dog, a smaller handful of poultry, a rescue donkey, and two goats (one a rescue and one an orphan).

Sounds fairly ordinary, but it’s been anything but as it’s been a steep learning curve taking on a donkey and goats. (I’ve had horses, sheep, and cattle in the past, but never their more ornery cousins.)

My friends have joked there’s a book in this story, and there probably is but in the meantime, I share snippets of my animal farm antics on social media to the amusement of many and to a growing international community of donkey and goat lovers.

But what’s any of this got to do with running a marketing communications business?

Well, these odd personalities have reminded me a thing or two about life and business.

  1. Some problems take time to solve
  2. Persistence and consistency pays off
  3. Care is essential if you want good outcomes
  4. We all have bad days – it doesn’t mean it’ll be the same tomorrow
  5. We all need something to keep us grounded

Some problems take time to solve

Donkeys aren’t known for their willingness to do anything much, within a human timeframe. Our donkey motto around here is Just do it…later. It doesn’t mean Tully won’t do what you want, he’ll just do it after he’s considered all his options and given it some good, hard thought.

I’ve had to think like a donkey to get him to do what I want and even then he can be unpredictable. I’ve had to go away and think again about what I’m asking him to do before trying again. This process can occur several times before an outcome is reached.

We face these issues in business from time to time and changing our mindset or bringing in fresh eyes can make all the difference.

Persistence and consistency pays off

If I gave up the first time Tully refused to let me do something or the goat kids wouldn’t drink from a bottle, we’d all be in trouble. If something absolutely needs to happen, you need to persist…and be consistent. This has meant some early starts to bottle feed and ensuring I’m home to feed at night so the routine isn’t broken. I need to be reliable.

I now have a donkey who is happy for me to put a fly mask on him (see the photo) and take it off at night, and goats that see me as their source of food and comfort so are willing to follow me anywhere for that. But that can take days, weeks and even months of time.

If you need to embed new practices in your business or you want to change behaviours, persistence and consistency are essential.

Tully wearing his fly mask (a bit like putting shade cloth over your eyes)

Care is essential if you want good outcomes

Cleaning up donkey poo and soiled goat bedding isn’t much fun. It’s good exercise though. When Tully is locked up in his yard, I have to regularly remove the manure so that it doesn’t attract flies or foul where he eats. Same with the goats – their bedding needs to be freshened up every few days and all the animals need clean, cool, fresh water, which requires emptying water troughs, scrubbing them out and refilling on a regular basis. All these practices are essential to their health and wellbeing.

Hygiene in your business is essential too – from good administration practices, to digital security and end of year clean-ups. A little bit, done regularly, saves a lot of mess, stress and headaches down the track.

We all have bad days – it doesn’t mean it’ll be the same tomorrow

A few months ago, Tully bit my arm during a veterinary procedure. He was sedated at the time and had a bad reaction to the sedative, grabbing my forearm and giving it a good yank. I ended up with a crush injury – 7 stitches, muscle damage and a permanent donkey tooth print on my arm. Given his operation proceeded after this incident, it was a bad day for both of us. However, he recovered in about a week and I’ve almost recovered after 3.5 months of treatment. My confidence in him was shaken for a few weeks but we worked on it, day by day, and now we’re all good.

A few weeks after Lucy the Goat arrived she hurt herself and was having trouble standing and walking. The vet gave her pain relief that lasted 48 hours and we were told if she was no better after that, we’d have to put her down. She recovered and while she still has a few physical (and possibly mental) problems, she’s become the loveable Lucy we can’t imagine not having around.

The moral is that we have all have bad days, weeks or months. Sometimes there’s a quick fix, maybe even something a good night’s sleep will remedy. At other times, you just have to look for the good in your day and hope that tomorrow will be better. It usually will be if you’re thinking the right way.

Lucy and Billie the Kid (our newest addition)

We all need something to keep us grounded

As if Tully and Lucy’s presence in my life wasn’t grounding enough, just recently I became goat mama again – to Billie the Kid. She’s all attitude and energy and she flatly refuses to drink milk even though she’s only about a week old.

In between trying to finalise projects, edit a series of video promos and get a new campaign started before I finish up for the year, I’ve been attempting to milk-feed Billie up to 4 to 5 times a day for almost a week now, and she still screams at me as if I’m murdering her – cold hard goat fury. I end up with more milk on me than down her throat.

An hour out from a client meeting, and I’ve just spent 45 minutes battling Billie over her feed, covered in milk and sweating profusely in frustration. Nothing a quick change, face wash and deodorant won’t fix as I race out the door to talk communications strategy. It’s real around here, that’s for sure – no time for wardrobe dilemmas or bad hair days.

So, as my year ends in the office I get to spend time with my crazy crew of animals, who also force me to live in the now. Their needs often come before mine and they remind me every day that there’s great joy in caring for a living, breathing being other than yourself.

All the best for the festive season and I’ll catch you in the New Year – an exciting year of projects is already underway.

My office is closed from 14 December – 30 January inclusive.



4 Replies to “Lessons from the land”

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