News


In new effort, donkeys earn their own keep

Barron Park Donkey Project selling equine fertilizer to raise funds

Jenny and Perry, the Barron Park donkeys of Bol Park, stand in their pasture on June 27, 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Palo Alto's Barron Park donkeys are proving they're worth their weight in gold -- or in manure, at least.

Barron Park Donkey Project Coordinator Jenny Kiratli is selling composted donkey manure to fund the care and handling of Barron Park's two donkeys, Perry and Jenny. The manure, which comes in large feed bags, is a suitable natural fertilizer for any type of plant or soil, Kiratli said.

"It's a fun way to spread the donkeys around and also get rid of the constantly rising piles of manure," she said.

One handler had the idea several years ago to compost the manure, Kiratli said. She and her husband, Mike Holland, adopted the idea, adding leafy material, wood chips and water to the mix. As a result, the Barron Park donkey pasture has achieved net-zero waste, Kiratli said.

The composted manure is sold in feed bags for a suggested $20 each. The product, dubbed "Jen & Perry's Equine Compost Amendment," has already generated between $500 and $600 in revenue, she said.

All proceeds from compost sales go toward funding the donkeys' care, which can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 annually, according to Kiratli. Included in this yearly figure are expenses ranging from food to veterinarian visits, as well as the monthly lease for the pasture, which is privately owned.

Every Saturday morning, Kiratli and Holland walk from their home in Barron Park to the 1-acre donkey pasture owned by neighbor James Witt on the western edge of the neighborhood to shovel donkey manure and facilitate the compost process.

Kiratli and Holland scoop fresh manure onto one of four piles in the corner of the pasture, leaving it to dry for about a week. After moving composted manure from pile to pile, Kiratli hoses down the three dry piles to aid decomposition. The three dry piles represent different stages of the natural decomposition process, which eliminates nitrogen that is found in high levels within fresh manure, she said. Once manure reaches the fourth pile, it is ready for packaging. Kiratli then sifts the composted material through a plastic grid and shovels it into a feed bag, after which it is ready for purchase and pickup.

"It's a great cycle. The feed comes in, the donkeys eat the feed, then it (the composted donkey waste) ends back up in the feed bags," she said.

The Barron Park Donkey Project has been part of the environmental-action nonprofit Acterra since 2001. Acterra assists the project with fundraising through sourcing donations. The project currently has 18 active volunteers and is seeking more, Kiratli said.

"Everybody can be a part of the Donkey Project," she said.

Kiratli and the other volunteers have several daily and weekly duties as handlers. They feed the donkeys breakfast and dinner and take them out on walks in nearby Bol Park every Sunday morning for a meet-and-greet with local residents. And of course, they shovel manure.

"Two donkeys eat 24 cups of grass feed and output seven to eight gallons of wet manure per day," Kiratli said. "I am hoping to calculate the dry input-to-output ratio sometime soon."

Though the donkey-compost project is relatively new, the animals have resided in the area since before it was called Barron Park.

The first donkeys of the pasture date back to 1934, when Cornelis Bol, a Dutch physicist living in the area, bought one for his sons from a county fair. As the Barron Park area grew in the following years, residents collaborated with the Bol family to maintain the presence of the donkeys in the neighborhood, according to the Barron Park Donkeys' website.

Mickey, the last donkey of the Bol family herd, died in 1998. Three new donkeys have since arrived: Perry in 1997; Miner 49-er in 1998; and Jenny, who arrived after Miner's death in November 2016.

Preserving the unique history of the Bol family pasture and Barron Park's beloved donkeys is paramount, Kiratli said. She hopes the sales of the composted fertilizer will not only fund the animals' care but will also raise awareness of the special place they hold in Palo Alto's history.

"Kids in Palo Alto grow up thinking it's normal to have donkeys in their backyard -- you don't really get that anywhere else around here," Kiratli said.

Interested compost buyers can contact BarronParkDonkeys@gmail.com. The compost product is available for pickup at the pasture, 3590 Laguna Ave., or for delivery within Palo Alto city limits.

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Editor's note: This story initially stated the incorrect year for when Mickey, a donkey at Bol Park, died. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

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Comments

3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2018 at 11:02 am

Great idea. Can we get an idea what a large feed bag of composted donkey manure looks like? How about a photo, with the donkey(s) too? ;-)


3 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2018 at 11:35 am

Oh dear, that kind of request could go wrong in a hurry.

I'm thinking someone is going to post of photo of two of our esteemed council members.


3 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Good story by Josh Code.
But the initiative described therein seems to feature a product Jen & Perry’s Compost that infringes on the trademark of a popular food item. Similarly, as precedent.Steve Jenkins my Gunn schoolmate before founding Third Eye Blind had a duo with Herman Anthony “Zen” Chunn called Puck & Natty until getting desist from Tuck & Patty.
I actually think “Three Day Blinds” on El Camino near Page Mill infringes on Stephen’s band name.
And, if you are still reading this, I once asked the late great jazz and rock instrumentalist Ralph Carney (B-52s, Black Keys, Oranj Mancinis, Tom Waits, Ralphs Partial Parrot) to serenade Perry and Miner, as part of the Love Palo Alto Workshop that yielded the ersatz equine stuffed plush totem fetish dingus.


7 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2018 at 3:58 pm

> a product Jen & Perry’s Compost that infringes on the trademark of a popular food item.

This is the insanity of legal terrorism. The American patent system is out of control and brings us more legal terrorism and higher prices, and more monopolies, inequalities and less progress to keep the same people in power. Who could possibly mistake Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream for Jen & Perry’s Compost?

Curiously ... what is the legal argument here for infringement? Subconscious bias?


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 30, 2018 at 4:08 am

^ Maybe only psychological, but somehow after reading this, I'll avoid Ben & Jerry's.
The imagery of donkey #%@& is just too vivid. Though it could popularize a new flavor.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2018 at 5:58 pm

I'm more likely to buy the compost because I like the ice ceam.
I'm less likely to buy the ice cream because I smell donkey crap.

Or maybe some legal eagle in Barron Park who is actually a lawyer (and not some guy who took one class on Constitutional law 30 years ago in college) has already researched this and we are in safe harbor.

In my own blog's coverage of this I suggest that smart lawyer guy Greg Scharff could represent the donkey pro bono and work that shit out.


3 people like this
Posted by Ivan Hom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Great article Josh, thanks for sharing!


2 people like this
Posted by W Meadow resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 5, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Thank you, Jenny and Mike!


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2018 at 6:42 pm

> Can we get an idea what a large feed bag of composted donkey manure looks like?

Feed bag size is an ambiguous term, WHAT is "feed bag" size? ... weight or volume ?

1. The same as a bag of feed ... like 30-50 pound bag of compost you might buy at Home Depot.

-OR-

2. Is a feed bag the size of a bag that is strapped onto the snout end of of the donkey so he can feed from it's contents ... considerably smaller than #1.

Inquiring minds want to know, or see a picture! ;-)


Like this comment
Posted by Jenny Kiratli
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2018 at 3:59 pm

The bags are approx 30 lbs.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm

>> Jenny Kiratli > The bags are approx 30 lbs.

Thank you


Like this comment
Posted by Donkey Poop Mafia
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 18, 2018 at 1:09 pm

I love seeing these critters on my walks along the trail :)


Like this comment
Posted by Riding a Swing at Peers Park
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 18, 2018 at 5:40 pm

How about replacing the automotive gridlock in PA with donkeys as the primary mode of transportation?

Last time I checked, no one's ever gotten run-over or hit by a donkey.

It would also slow down the pace of everyday Palo Alto life...kind of like going back to the old Spanish mission days.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 14, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2018 at 8:04 am

Paly grad Josh Code did a great job on this story.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2018 at 8:06 am

I know that its not about me but during the time that I was running for City Council i was endorsed by Manilla Bol a relative of the people Bol Park was named for. She is living down near Santa Cruz and running an alternative school.

But I think the donkey bag thing would work just as well without trading on Ben and Jerry’s good will.

But if a lawyer type already worked thru this then I’ll shut my pie hole.

(My context is the numerous times I’ve found rock groups using names that were not researched properly. I recall also fighting with a party about each of our use of Sound Check. Also, my company here is Earthwise and there is another Earthwise in Atlanta. There is nothing new under the sun).

But I support the donkeys, in spirit. I like them better than the stuffed donkey fetish we were trotting around for a while. Gnome saying. )

Good story, Josh. Good luck in school!


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