It’s Mule Day – Celebrating The American Mule!

Oct 26th

Well, as much as I do love Saturdays and sleeping in a little, this morning did not find me refreshed.  No, I managed to wake up with a pretty intense headache.  I fixed my pillows more comfortably at about 5:30 when I initially woke up and dozed back off for a couple hours, but there’s still a bit of hazy pain going on, so I apologize in advance if anything I write about today doesn’t make sense.   I have 28 oz of latte sitting next to me (I LOVE my café latte machine!) so the caffeine can begin to work its headache healing magic as I sip and write.   It was nice not to have the alarm clock though!

Make A Difference Day – We all want to make a difference in the world, in some way.  I would like to think it is human nature.  Well on the 4th Saturday in October we celebrate Make A Difference Day.  Started in 1990, this day is for people who want to help others by doing volunteer work in their communities.  You can choose just about anything for your activity – you can participate in community improvement projects, doing clean-up of debris, fixing, painting and repair work for people who cannot do it for themselves, in parks or other public use places.  It isn’t as important what project you take on, or where you do it, just that you participate.  I think a personal preference of mine may be finding a soup kitchen, or church meal that is put on for the community and assisting with that.  Whatever you choose, if you participate, I am sure that it will be appreciated and definitely make a difference. 

Mule DayI never have given a great deal of thought to mules or donkeys.  I admit that I think the miniatures and the babies are absolutely precious, but other than how cute they are, I honestly haven’t given them much thought.  Today I found out some fascinating things!  Did you know that George Washington was not only the father of our country — he was also the father of the American Mule?  Yep, that’s what several sources say!  When most people think of George Washington, they think of what he accomplished as a statesman and a general.  The fact is, he was also a farmer, and a very serious farmer at that!  Even during his two terms as President of the United States, he managed to spend 434 days in residence at Mount Vernon.  The soil at Mount Vernon was known for being poor because it had been depleted by years of growing tobacco.  Washington was trying to change all of that by experimenting with different types of fertilizer, growing different types of crops, and rotating them.  He changed the very nature of his estate, turning it from a plantation that grew just one crop into a farm that produced grains and other foods.  Of course, in those days, farming depended on sturdy and reliable working animals.   Up until this time Americans had relied on horses – which were fine – but Washington thought mules would be better.  Mules tend to be stronger, live longer and have more endurance and resistance to disease.  They are also able to graze on pasture land that wouldn’t be adequate for a horse.  Their hooves are stronger and it often isn’t even necessary to have them shod.  There are even some people who think they are more intelligent than horses – I’m not sure how I feel about that though because I absolutely adore horses and honestly I think they are incredibly intelligent!  I’m sure all of my horse loving friends who actually own them will agree.  But this isn’t about debating the intellectual differences between horses and mules, so moving on. . .  For anyone who doesn’t know – and I didn’t – a mule is a cross between a male donkey (usually called a jackass or a jack) and a female horse, or a mare.  Now, the opposite, a cross between a female donkey (a jennet -pronounced jenny) and a male horse is called a hinny.  Hinnies and mules are almost always sterile, so if you want to breed the animals you have to start with a horse and a donkey.  I didn’t know that!  OK, now that we have the basics down, here’s where Washington got into the mule business!  The donkeys that were already in the Americas were brought over by Columbus, but they were smaller and served mostly as pack animals and for riding.  Washington wanted to breed bigger mules, but for that he would need better jacks.  Well, in his mind the perfect choice would be the Spanish Donkey.  They were large, powerful animals that would be perfect for breeding stock.  Unfortunately for Washington, the King of Spain prohibited the export of the Spanish Jacks, but being a smart man who recognized the chance to score points with the leader of this new country, the King sent Washington a gift of two jacks and two jennets.  They arrived on our shores on October 26, 1785.  Sadly, one of the jacks had died on the way.  The other one was named “Royal Gift” and was everything that Washington had hoped and dreamed he would be.  Unfortunately Royal Gift was completely unimpressed with the mares he was presented with and refused to mate with them.  Washington had to resort to a little trickery, so he used the jennets to get Royal Gift’s interest going, then substituted a mare at the last minute.  At this point apparently Royal Gift went ahead and did his duty and began the new line of mules that George wanted.

What I thought was interesting was the glossary of terms I found used for donkeys so I figured I’d share it with you:
 
Ass – A member of the genus Equus with larger ears and smaller build than the horse. Group includes donkeys and burros but the term usually is used only for the wild versions.
Burro – Small donkey
Dam – Mother of any of these animals
Donkey – Either a male or female domesticated ass
Foal – Baby (either sex) horse or donkey
Gelding – Castrated male horse or donkey

Hinny – Sterile offspring of a stallion and a jennet.
Horse – Means a horse, either a male or female
Jack – Uncastrated (intact) male donkey
Jennet – Female donkey (pronounced jenny)
Mammoth Jack – Exceptionally large uncastrated male donkey
Mare – Female horse
Mule – Sterile offspring of a jack and a mare
Sire – Father of any of these animals
Stallion – Uncastrated male horse

Sizes of donkeys: Different breeds of donkeys are determined by measuring them at the withers. The withers are located where the donkey’s cross and dorsal stripe meet. (or where the top side of the neck attaches to the donkey’s back) Miniature Donkey — an adult donkey 36″ tall or less when measured at the withers; Small Standard Donkey — 36.01″ up to 40″; Standard Donkey — 40.01″ up to 48″; Large Standard Donkey — Jennets: 48″ up to 54″/Jacks: 48″ up to 56″; Mammoth Donkey — Jennets: 54″ and over / Jacks: 56″ and over.
I now know more about donkeys and mules than I ever did before . . . and so do you!

This Day In History

1825 – The Erie Canal opens, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River.     
1881 – The “Gunfight at the OK Corral” occurs. Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and “Doc” Holliday, have a shootout with the Ike Clanton gang.

Food Celebration of the Day

National Mincemeat Day – It is interesting, this topic came up in conversation the other day about Thanksgiving dishes.  Someone had asked about mincemeat and if any of us had ever eaten traditional mincemeat pie with actual meat in it.  I haven’t, but I remember vividly the expression on my father’s face when someone brought him one.  It’s enough to have prevented me from trying it myself!  He wasn’t impressed, that’s for sure, and he’ll eat things that I never would.  I know that he prefers the popular NON-meat version of this pie.  I wondered though, who actually started this dish, and why?  Well, mincemeat dates back to the medieval times.  It was a way to preserve food, but it was also a treat mixed with sweet fruits.  It didn’t lose its popularity until the last half of the 1900’s.  An entire generation of people have grown up either not knowing what it is, or never having tasted it.  Over the years the amount of meat in the recipes has been reduced or completely omitted.  In the older recipes you’ll find that they had meat and/or suet in the ingredients.  So, what is mincemeat?  It’s a mixture of minced (or chopped up) meats, suet and fruits.  The meat is usually beef.  Fruits include raisins, apples, pears and others, and sometimes there is brandy or rum added too. The original mincemeat pies of the 17th century often had tongue, chicken, eggs, raisins and citrus zest.  Today though, they are usually a combination of brandied fruits and sometimes beef.  Here are a few recipes to get you started to try it out!
 

If you decide to make some, let me know how it turned out, if you used meat in the recipe and what you thought!

Well, it is time to start getting something done.  I have more pumpkins to get either into the oven or the dehydrators, a dog to bathe, a lawn to mow . . . you know . . . Saturday chores!  God Bless You and I’ll see you tomorrow!

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