Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images are ©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Busy as bees

Harry and The Haircut
My blog is where I now choose to write more lengthy ponderings. I seem to be much more prone to being a photographer right now, but I still have many thoughts. I find that I have less inclination to share them all to the public or followers. Maybe I've been doing this long enough that it seems I say,

Who wants to hear all this anyway?

I am definitely in some kind of grand shifting. I suppose being 62 does that.

So I tend to come here on the blog with things of more depth or pondering, and Instagram is everyday, and that is then shared on FB.

I'm just popping in to say I do have some things to write about, but May is a very busy month on the farm-getting the vegetable garden up and going which means getting the watering system working well, llama haircuts, sheep haircuts, spring shots, the perennial beds and we also have the new Healing Hut or whatever it is I will officially call it-photos soon as it develops more, it just arrived and I love it.

Arlo's poof needs some layering

Friday, May 22, 2020

Listen in on another animal discussion...I always learn something

Harry looks across the bay to Damariscotta that he was about to visit
{I write a monthly article "Tails & Tales for the Lincoln County News, this is the latest....enjoy}

“What did you see this time, Harry?!” asked little Opie, very excited, as Harry the llama and I returned form our outing.

“Many things of interest,” Harry said. “Many things. Some beautiful, some strange.”

Harry and I had just returned from one of our Window Walks to a nearby retirement home where we go regularly. Because of the The Covid virus, we can’t go inside, or be near the elders or staff, so I came up with the idea to do Window Walks. It gives everyone a smile even though we wish we could all be outside together.

But on our way home, I stopped in our little village of Damariscotta with Harry. I wanted him to hear and see new things, it would be good for his therapy training. The minute we stepped out of the parking lot, people of all ages were flocking to Harry. Shop keepers were coming out of stores to take his picture, cars were pulling over and windows were being rolled down so children could pet Harry. Even our gas station guys had to meet Harry.

“Did you get take out at Eider’s?” asked Earnest the pig.

“No, Earnest, I’m afraid not, maybe next time,” I said.

Earnest walked slowly back to his hut, head down like Eeyore, muttering, “I really would have enjoyed a grilled cheese and cucumber sandwich again.”

I let Harry into the paddock, and the donkeys and horses all gathered around him in a circle. I proceeded to do night time cleanup, but kept my ears wide open to the ongoing conversation.

“Tell us everything, Harry,” said Captain Sparkle.

And they all closed their eyes tightly, and listened to Harry as he described in detail all that he witnessed.

“There was an ice cream shop. They put ice cream in mobile little things and people walk about and lick them as they walk. Very odd, to see creatures eating and walking. There were signs everywhere! And lights that blinked. It’s not like here, the roads are black with yellow drawings on them, and the cars go both ways. All the windows have pretty things in them. I saw lots of beautiful children and they all touched me and looked at me like I was a God of some sort. And did you know that people buy little statues of lobsters and put them in their garden?  Very perplexing.”

Paco the poet donkey opened his eyes and asked, “When you were amongst the buildings, could you still see the sky?”

“Oh yes, but it felt lower, and more cramped,” Harry said.

“I would like to talk more about the walking ice cream,” said the Teapot, the resident creature with a bit of a weight problem.

I was done with my chores and started to close up the barn. As I left, I heard Harry say,

“I have no idea what makes me so attractive to the humans. I’m just a llama,” he said.

“I bet it’s your haircut,” said The Teapot.

Monday, May 18, 2020

It's Harry again, I can't help myself

We started our outing at Lincoln Home to see our elder friends
I can't get enough of Harry. We went to Lincoln Home elder residence which sits right across the bay from the village of Damariscotta, our go-to town. I had been wanting to do an impromptu walk with Harry through the village, for training but also for fun. And oh it was fun! Every shop or business owner came running out to take photos, cars pulled over, it was so fun, and so joyful for all of us. It was sort of like our own private parade. I think I will do it again.

I am trying to work in studio, and I am, sort of, in mini spurts, but am finding the warm weather, garden, Harry and all of the glories of spring are keeping me out of focus with art. i always have to stop and remember how creative my life with the animals is, as I'm always thinking and recreating things, and the garden too is like a giant painting to birth. I'm actually doing soem needle work. I just sort of feel a shift coming one, it is both unsettling and a glorious mystery...or maybe just a phase.

Octavia was pretty excited, she forgot to put her mask on, but that is ok

Harry made it on Eider's page. He's a star now.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Me and Harry...a surprise relationship...and we want the elders to have emotional healing too

A year ago, we lost our beloved Birdie, a natural healer who had just begun her therapy work with me. I knew I'd never replace her, but set out to bring more llamas to Apifera. First came Arlo the youth and old Luna. Then I was to get a baby girl with her very old mother [I agreed to take on the elder] but the baby died before getting here.

And then, I remembered a beautiful white llama named Harry who I had found in my early searches, but decided to keep looking.

I'm so glad I returned to him and brought him to Apifera. I kind of had a hunch about him and possible therapy work. But I was really focusing on training Arlo. So, it was one of those universal surprises...the universe stepped in and helped me out with my hunch while I was running around finding llamas, Harry was waiting for me.

As Harry got used to Apifera, and me, I took a leap and tried him on a window walk. The first thing I had to do was let go of the idea that he was going to be like Birdie. he is not, and it took him a couple months or more to accept my neck rubs. On his first therapy visit, it was clear from the get go he was pleased, and he listened to my commands, and was calm. He seems to really understand he is there for a reason, something all good therapy animals get. He is on the job but not being forced to do anything he doesn't want to. Opie is the same way, he knows when his halter goes on it's show time. Not every animal, or person, will be like that so when I find one, it's a blessing.

SO Harry and I are bonding. This photo was taken by one of the staff yesterday, she told Harry to smile and he literally leaned into me! So sweet, I like to think it was on purpose.

Yesterday we visited Cove's Edge again. I'm getting more and more impatient with things. So are they. Cooped up, no family visits. I just feel we have got to get testing to a point so these people can have emotional well being as well as safety from the virus. I understand the concern, I really do, and am not criticizing the current lockdown, but what quality of life is it if they can't touch, feel, and sit by loved ones.I don't think I'll be able to resume normal therapy work inside or even in the garden in the coming months, maybe mid summer, but so far it is not going to happen except for window walks, at least at this facility.

We are not allowed in of course, we walk by the windows. Sometimes they have their windows open, it is so hot in there. Yesterday my contact was scolded for allowing the windows to be open with Harry outside, and me in a mask. I thought that was a bit much, but I will do what I'm told.

With the windows shut, I can't hear the residents, and they can't hear me. I can't really see in either, but they can see out which is the most important thing. But I feel our conversations are as important as the seeing Harry. Some of the residents are sharper than others and they want to talk. It makes me very sad I won't be able to have long talks if the windows are shut...but Harry and I will do what we need to do and what is required by the current rules.

So my wonderful contact there suggested we try Facetime with Harry for some of the residents. We tried it and it is not the same, but, it works and we will continue to use Facetime in some situations. We also are going to try Facetime with the other animals here at the farm. I am not that familiar with it but this way Bear, and Opie and the others can beam in to the Cove. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

One doesn't fear the seasons, don't fear death

Luna one of the elder llamas
I think a lot about death, not in a morbid way, but in a curious way. I have said it many times, I am not afraid of death. In fact the last thing I want is to live too long. I always felt like 78 to 82 is a good time. I know, it's not my place to pick the number, but if you gave me the choice of living until 85, in assisted living or unable to be with the animals or Martyn, or dying at 78 on the farm, I'd take the latter.

I think because I have been so entwined with Nature much of my life I have looked at death like you might look at a season. Most people don't dread seasons, but many dread death.

I have a friend who is in her early seventies and was diagnosed with ALS last year. It stinks. To see her lose her ability to use her arms, drive, have strength to do simple things like pick up a book on the floor-it is hard to know she is going through it. But she is stoic and practical and a hero in my eyes the way she is dealing with it. I think when one is confronted with something like that-a disease or illness that is going to pretty much be the way you will die-it is different. In some ways, knowing how you are going to die could be a liberating thing. Dying when you are not ready, to me, is like being at a great family party, and you're just not ready to go and you are enjoying the company and you want to see how the party plays out, you don't want to miss one song or toast.

So when I say I'm not afraid of death, I am aware there are many things that are worse than death, like suffering, like pain, like abandonment at an old age, like losing total independence, like losing your mind...like falling on a hike and being lost for weeks and not being found-what are those last days like?

I think of death as an experience. And a surprise really. I imagine, or I often ponder this, that if you are aware you are in your last moments, it must be really a surreal experience. I wish we could know what people are thinking at that moment. When you are born, someone is there to catch you, hold you-you are not alone. You are not alone in the womb either. But when you die, chances are you can't communicate what is happening, you are alone with your thoughts.

The latter is interesting. As someone who writes and shares story and feelings, knowing I won't be able to share the last moments in a story seems challenging and isolating. On the other hand, I was thinking that because you are alone in your thoughts when you die, it must also be a beautiful gift to the self.

People talk of a good death. A good death is important to me as I care take my animals. I always strive for it, or yearn for it, and I'm always questioning if an animal needs to be helped on, or not. A good death is not always a perfect death. We are presented with things in life that might effect our death. But a good death I think must include awareness that is an experience of the self and soul.

It is something nobody can take from you-your own individual death.

When I watch Luna get older and older, she arrive here old and is now 22 or so, I want her to have a good death. I think Aldo had a good death, up on his hill. I hope for this for Luna. I don't tell her this, but I look in her eyes more of late and tell her that way, that I'm here and I will properly care for her body. To die under the old apple tree, that would be a good death for her. And it will be her experience.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The old llama...is it her final spring?

Old Luna sits under M'Lady Apple this morning
In the past weeks I've felt a shift in Luna. She is not holding her weight well despite eating supplement to her hay. I've fed her more than any elder llama I've had and I think when she is sheered in coming weeks she will be pretty thin. I check her ribs and such, but when winter coats are taken off it shows reality.

More than that, she has been up and down more which can be a sign of fading. She has fallen pasterns so it probably could be part of it. But she is also separating herself a bit more than normal from her current herd. Usually she kind of sticks close to Luci when they graze-and let's face it, Luci isn't exactly Miss Congeniality.

I like Luna. She is not an overly friendly llama, but she is not unfriendly, she is not as feral as Luci. Luci is just sort of a pill. She just doesn't seem to warm up despite my intentions. And she is very bossy with Luna. Luci is the old llama that was bred, and I was to take her and the baby. But the baby died at about 2 months old, it was very sad. But I agreed to take on old Luci so Luna would have a herd mate since Arlo had to be separated.

So I know how this can go with llamas...we went through it with Aldo, our first elder llama out west who came to us very thin, and he was already 20. The vet said not to expect him to live that long. I think he lived another year and half. But one day, he died, far up on his favorite lookout. He was legs up when Martyn drove off to work that morning, and the yellow jackets had already devoured his entire head. I'm sorry, but that is the reality of having animals. It's not all pretty Instagram photos. In some ways, in most ways, the fact he died up on his lookout, his head close to the sky, was beautiful for him...it was beautiful for him. But I had to get help to drag the body down about 3,000 feet. It was about hundred degrees that day, the yellow jackets were everywhere...I was trying to save his skull as we dragged the body.

I'm telling you all this because when you do this sanctuary gig, you have to be part of all aspects, not just the fun part of bringing home an animal. You have to think all the time about demise and burial or what paddock is best for an elder. Sometimes you guess wrong.

I was thinking of letting the sheep and Luna and Luci go into the far field. But then I already was thinking if she went down in that field, it would be hard to get her body up. It's still very wet there anyway. And to be honest, Luna does a lot of laying about as in this photo so i think shade and warmth and water are her choices she wants right now.

Luna has really beautiful eyes, and when I came out to the barn late morning to work on some fencing, she was alone in the shade of the barn. She didn't get up. I talked to her.

I always look for her now when I'm out and about in the field or gardens. I know what it looks like when a llama is down, and gone.

I may be wrong. But whenever she goes, I hope it is peaceful and maybe under the old apple.