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

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wait for the inner animal to come to you

I've learned to never judge the rascals, the trouble makers, the quiet ones, the scared ones-for they all show up with their true inner selves if given a consistent environment-over months and sometimes years-to feel safe.

One of the perks of living with a bunch of elders is this-that face. And with each minute movement of his head while I sat in front of him with a camera, another pose to warm the heart and aching bones.

This is Victor, I've spoken of him before of course. he arrived with his best mate, Sophie, and the old sheep who really is a big old dog, Floyd.

While I doted a lot on Floyd that first month of his stay-there was no way to avoid this as Floyd became my shadow, my giant shadow with his back coming up to my waist. He just needed me so much. That is what i felt like and he has calmed a lot.

But Victor and Sophie were more in the background, making sure they could find places to rest without being knocked around by the younger bunch they live with–Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat, Goose, Moose, The Head Troll-and a bunch of ducks, old goose and two bulldozer pigs–they were wise to figure things out before relaxing with this new place they now call home. While I immediately saw the love in Victor's eyes on arrival, and he was very personable, it is only now I have felt a bond forming with him, and Sophie into me and my care. Sophie arrived and hung back, watching Victor and making sure all was well before she ventured around much, but she is much more self assured now. Her personality is blossoming more. She was more shy about back scratches and hugs, but now she loves to lean into the stall wall at night while I rub her cheeks. Victor was easy to love from day one, Sophie is one of those animals that as you get to know her you truly fall for her inner being, once you get to see it a few times. I've learned to never judge the rascals, the trouble makers, the quiet ones, the scared ones-for they all show up with their true inner selves if given a consistent environment-over months and sometimes years-to feel safe.

They are still very thin. You can't see it here, but they are racks, their hip areas are sunken if you felt through their soft wool. But they are gaining, slowly, and eating well and are very happy. They sleep in a large area with Floyd at night to assure they don't get played with by Marcella [although she is really growing out of this baby behavior] and to assure proper feeding morning and night. But they love their barnyard and have special spots they hang out, like down by the lower Misfit area where the shade of Stevie's hut can't be resisted on a hot day.

I am so glad I got to take these two on, and that New Moon Goat Farm and Sanctuary helped them from their neglect and matted condition. That smile, that gentle nudge from Sophie to Victor that I caught on camera, that is one of the many rewards of helping old, wounded creatures-to see them come back to life, to give them even a year or two of safety so they can just grow old and continue to be themselves as best they can, until they die.

If you like what I do here at Apifera for old creatures, consider a monthly subscription to help the Misfits, or donate at various gift levels. Details here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marcella saves the night!

Cue the spooky music.... last night about 11 PM, Marcella showed us she knows her job.

Now this particular Marema does not bark, unless she needs to send a clear message. She once barked once, then twice, slowly and I knew to check it out-and a piglet was caught in a fence. I have heard others say their Maremas bark a lot, and others who say their dogs are like Marcella-that when they bark more than a few times, you better go take a look.

I had gone to bed at 10:30 and was contently dozing off, and I had the fan on. I heard a dog but thought it was the one across the river who tends to bark a lot. Martyn came in about 11 and he said it was Marcella. He was nonchalant about it. The barking continues and I got my old self out of bed and we took flashlights out into the dark barnyard.

Now night time belongs to the creatures, I've always felt more like a guest of the barnyard than the shepherdess at night. We entered through the orchard where Aldo the llama, and his goats reside–Stevie, Scooby Keith, Raggedy man, Rudy and Professor Otis Littleberry. Adjoining paddocks there have the older ponies and Doris and June and all the piglets.

To flash your light into the dark and come upon different sets of golden eyes, all shining calmly at you at various heights is both unsettling and amusing, especially when your guard dog is sitting upright, at attention, looking straight into the pony paddock, barking.

I must say, to come upon Marcella, so white, sitting so still and strongly, attentive, was a beautiful moment. It made getting up out of a slumber in pajamas and sandals worth it. I looked into the dark pony paddock and could see in time that the two elders were near the gate, and all was well. But Marcela continued to bark.

And then I saw it. A brown mass, short and squat. Motionless, standing closer to Doris's stall.

"What is that?" I asked Martyn. "Is that a wild pig?"

Now this is a ridiculous question- if it had been a wild pig, all hell would have broken out and it would have been horrible. Wild pigs are...wild. And very fierce and destructive-but there are getting to be a lot of them for a lot of different reasons.

"It's Earnest," Martyn said calmly.

"No, it's not...is it?" I said. He looked brown, and he seemed so out of place, which he was. I called for him, and once I got my bearings I understood that yes, in fact, it was dear Earnest-and he was making love calls and actions to the ponies–one of them must have been in heat.

The entire time, Marcella stood her ground and barked, until I went in and talked to Earnest, and managed to chase him out of the pen and back to his barnyard, with Marcella helping.

I praised that dog to high heaven. I realize it wasn't a life threatening situation, and if I hadn't gotten up, chances are Earnest would have cozied down with Marcella and the goats and she would have subsided her barking. But I was just so pleased with her, keeping her Misfits in check. And I got to hear her bark and the tone of it for a non life threatening situation-perhaps some night it will be a more aggressive bark, and I will understand her call is more serious.

I really think it was a turning point.

"Now do you know what I mean that when she barks, there is a reason?" I asked Martyn as we walked back to bed.

He did. And then my flashlight shone on two sets of beady, bright eyes, one set was about a foot off the ground, the other slightly taller. A visitor would have assumed raccoons. But I knew it was Moose and Goose observing from the backdrop.

Overhead view of the land

You begin to see the land as an aerial view when you work on it. Or maybe that is because I am an artist and have always had visual movies playing in my head. Martyn has learned that when he builds something, I really need to see it structurally up to decide where I want a door or window. While my father the architect, and Martyn, were and are able to see a building project three dimensionally, I can't. I admire that skill.

But our land, I think it is is different. I can see it as if I were flying over head, each structure or shadow from a barn or pond area that forms in winter rains can become a simple shape. My perspective might be off, but I know where things are.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's that time for pigs and pumpkins

Each fall, the delicacy fruit is shared with the beasts, and since the mama pigs need all the energy they can get until weaning time, they are first in line for this year's crop of pumpkins. But fear not, the Misfits will get their share too and I will take photos of the event. Our crop this year would have been better but a certain short, wily coyote type goat squeezed under the fence and ate a bunch of buds. Okay, it was Little Goose, followed by his always partner in crime, Little Moose.

I encourage eating with mouths closed, but as you can see from the movie, nobody ever listens to me around here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Do I have an open heart?

I recently read part of interview with Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist. He says he is always being asked what he thinks happens after death, what Heaven will be like if there is one, or what God will say to each of us when we arrive, assuming we arrive there somehow in some form.

And he feels God will ask one simple question:

"Did you love with an open heart, each day?"

And your afterlife will be determined by that answer. Not that one is punished for not having an open heart, but one might need more work on this realm or another.

No matter what your religious beliefs, I thought this a great exercise for any of us-to ask this question. So I asked myself, am I living with an open heart each and every day?

I don't think I am. I'm really wondering if I am capable of it.

I think when I am painting, or creating, or working with the land or animals, riding my horse–I think I am walking with an open heart. Especially when I am painting, for sure. I was looking at this piece of art I did, called "A Brief Visit to Heaven" and I thought what a childlike heart I had to make that painting. I think I've never lost that child part of me, and I'm glad. But children are human too, prone to mischief, desires and selfishness.

I think the reason the question he put to people struck a chord with me is I was thinking with a bit of envy about someone. Someone I don't really like, a person I've never met but is all over the media and internet. And I wondered, if one is honest and knows they feel they don't like someone, is that living with a closed heart? If I looked at that same person with an open heart, would I like them, or would I empathize with them always, never taking the road of criticizing or judging them? If we live with an open heart, we see each individual blade of grass that comes our way. Is this possible? I barely can keep track of each beautiful feather I see falling from my chickens.

I very much respect Paulo Coelho, but I'm wondering if God asks anything, let alone this. Isn't he asking us stuff all the time, each day, by putting us in Nature, in front of beauty, and sometimes non beauty?

I do think I will keep this question with me, so that when I feel anger or resentment about someone, I will ask myself,

"Am I looking at this with an open heart?"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Progress and Old Mama Sugee naps

Martyn got a lot of the shelter winterized and we will finish it this weekend. Or he will. I am not much help on some of these things. He is more of a perfectionist on building projects [thank goodness] and he always kindly suggests I do something else while he builds. I am not much for straight lines, as you know, so another job we are tackling this year is straitening anything I might have rigged up in the past 11 years-hey, sometimes I had to build quickly on the fly, it's part of a Dirt Farmer's life.

Anyway, it gave me time to spend with the piglets and Old Mama Sugee, who is still with us. As you know, I had a period this summer where she was having regular seizures. I haven't witnessed one in over a month–that doesn't meant they aren't happening, but I haven't noticed any cuts on her from falling. And she seems to be eating faster, like she has more stamina. The heat has subsided, so perhaps that has something to do with it. She is old. When you get to 40 as a pony, your days are numbered, especially since she survived such neglect in her elder years.

So is good quality of life for an elder pony just laying around in the sun? That is pretty much what Sugee does. I feed her in the morning in a contained outdoor stall so Wilma can't eat her feed. That takes her about 2-3 hours to finish 3#. Then I go out to feed the pigs at noonish and let Sugee out into the main pony paddock with Wilma. She usually does a few rolls, then naps. Sometimes she naps laying down, sometimes standing up. The panic I felt in August about putting her down as subsided. My vets agree, it doesn't have to happen today or tomorrow. And we are all prepared with the details should I have to act quickly and of how to cremate her.

I think the trick with working with elderly animals is to not be too much of a human. You have to acknowledge what animals like to do to be happy and feel safe. They want to know they have food and water on a consistent basis. They want to feel they have a place to rest, unencumbered by noise or nuisance. They want to know the herd, flock or pack is near, and that threats will be averted consistently. And they like to nap. Even the younger animals do a lot of laying around. Sometimes I take photos of Sugee and am almost hesitant to put them up-simply because she has a sort of Eeyore look, a sad look in some photos. But I have come to believe that Sugee has what she needs right now. She's not looking for much else. She got to spend this last year in a safe place, with food, and with her daughter. If she can't sustain this weight going into winter, she will need something I can't give her-youth and new blood cells and stamina. If this current elder quality of life suffers further, I will act for her.

Until then, her soft ear less head is something I love. One of her ears is totally closed shut after the ear was removed. But one is a tiny stub, and it moves just like an ear when she hears her name. She whinnies to me each morning and night when she knows food is coming, and I lead her around by her mane due to her blindness. She is one heck of a survivor.

She has put on weight since June, and I am looking at getting her a coat for fall and winter. Some of my followers are donating their old dog coats for the elder goats and if you do donate-in return I'll send you a book. I will buy a filly blanket for her, but if anyone has one-feel free to donate it if you aren't using it anymore-and I'll send a book too.  I can always use dog coat with the elder Misfits!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Win a book!

As a way to thank the many of you who subscribe to my newsletter, you now have the chance to win a free book with each issue. If you subscribe today or int he future, you can win too. Here's how: Each time you get the new issue, simply email me and say you want to have your name put in the pig bucket-then in 2-3 weeks I'll pick a name.

Every time a new issue comes out, the same thing-and each issue will have a book winner.

Hopefully the pig won't eat the names....I will take measures so that doesn't happen.

The new September issue is out today-so subscribe if you haven't, or join in the fun!

Raggedy sewing just for you

I have been spending time getting some Raggedy Sewing done. So stop on over to the shop and pick up some whim-these are all stuffed with Apifera lavender and are nice accents to the bedside or closet drawers.

What is "Raggedy Sewing"? I close my eyes and feel the wind and listen to the birds, turn and spin a few times, and then sew. There are no straight lines on these items, and they are all just a bit...raggedy-but isn't anything made with a pure heart and child like touch?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Another crippled elder wins the heart

Victor arrived this summer, with his pal Sophie. He is crippled in the spine and hips making him walk very oddly, and he never completely puts his hind feet down, so when he walks it is like he is going to tip over. Sophie has the same deformity, but is much better off and it is less noticable. When Victor lies down, it takes him about one minute of posing in the position you see in the photo below, and then he somehow gets his legs down.

But he such a sweet guy. So is Sophie, but she is more shy and less personable [now]. Victor on the other hand is not afraid to get right in there when something is going on. He realized right away that I was the one that would protect him if there was too much gang activity going on...um, that would be Marcella and Wilbur...and Earnest.

Sometimes I'll be doing something and a soft white mass shows up at my side, and I assume it is Marcella, and it usually is, but right behind there is usually a Victor.

They arrived horribly thin and they have put some weight on. They sleep in the same area as our beloved Floyd-who is also doing royally and continues to be a big old dog.

I think what is interesting to point out about Victor and Sophie is that they are starting to blossom. They have been shuffled around a bit, landing at the goat rescue up in Washington, and then down here. They most likely think this is the way it goes, we'll leave again, why bond with anyone? But animals settle in pretty well with a solid routine of eat, rest, play, eat again, rest, play, go to bed. They know they have clean water and shelter from a storm, and a herd. The herd might be made up of a grumpy pig and a bunch of short statured goats unlike any they've seen-but it is their herd now.

It's always rewarding to watch an animal regain some physical strength through nurturing, and watch their true personalities come out over time. Each day they gain confidence and get more relaxed with the new environment. I was worried about Victor when he arrived, and winter is coming so who knows, but I am relaxing my worry a bit. He and Sophie still need a lot of weight and he does have so many physical issues. But right now I'm just glad I took these soft, gentle souls on.

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