April 11, 2011

This week at the Asian barn, we have been doing lots of planting and gardening. Now that spring has arrived, our vegetable garden from last year needed to be prepared for planting later this week. We found the fertile soil grows weeds just as abundantly as vegetables for our Girls, so the weeds were pulled and the soil was worked to prepare it for the little starter plants to be transplanted. This year, we are going to plant some of the "old reliables" that were grown last year, like tomatoes and squash, then we will also expand to try some dark greens, cauliflower, peppers, watermelon, and strawberries. We are also planning an area for corn, too, although we may find we are feeding more deer than elephants with that!

Thanks to the generosity of Beth and David Arnold, this week we also planted 32 beautiful clusters of donated bamboo. The Arnolds not only helped us plant, but also gave us pointers on maintenance. The bamboo was planted at 20-foot intervals, allowing space for the new shoots to grow. It will take up to four years before they will be harvest-ready, and then we will be able to cut thirty percent of the crop for feeding the elephants without any damage to the growth rate.

Knowing the Girls would probably not want to wait that long, the Arnolds also brought some fresh bamboo stalks for the elephants to eat. The Girls lit up when they received their mid-day snack. The bounty was also shared with the Ladies at the African Barn.

 
Dulary with her bamboo treat.

 
Just outside the Asian Barn, there is now what looks like a nursery of about fifty apple trees—thanks to our 'Trees for Trunks' donors—a total of 200 fruit trees are coming! And with the help of our maintenance guru Wade and his long-time farming skills, about four hundred grape vine cuttings were planted. The grapes are a high-yielding, sturdy variety that is also very woody. Not only do the elephants love grapes, but they will also thoroughly enjoy eating these vines, too. Once these cuttings are established, the grapevines will be transplanted to a fence line out of elephant reach where they can climb and flourish.

Tange and Flora have been making their rounds this week; traveling from the barn through the valley and up to the plateau or the pine forest of the pipeline. They stayed on the plateau until the big storm came this week and then they made it back to the barn just as the stormy weather descended upon the Sanctuary.

After a night inside the barn they were ready to venture back out into the inviting sun and soak up some rays. Once the evening temperatures warmed up again, the Girls took off for the wide open space of the plateau. They stayed up there until the wind was too much and then they sought the shelter of the pine forest. Since then, Tange and Flora have been busy clearing out more pine trees, thus creating savannah-like clearings for new growth to appear.

With the warmer evenings, the Girls at Q-Barn are spending more time outdoors, too. When their caregivers arrive for night feeds, frequently Minnie is just outside the barn. Her caregiver will walk out the back of the barn with a flashlight to scan the darkness and call her name. We usually hear Minnie’s footsteps first, a gentle crunching on the sand and gravel or the soft swish of wet grass against her toes. Her massive form will then loom out of the night. While Minnie seems to appreciate an enthusiastic welcome from her caregiver, more often, it’s her dinner she is more interested in seeing!