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

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Crunchy earth

It's that time of year when it feels like the grass will never return. But the smell of the air has changed, and the crunch of the earth will soon smoosh underfoot. I know there will be days ahead where it will be wetter than a bathtub, but I am so ready for the rains and cool air. The fields are dormant on top but I can feel the earth below craving some water.

I've been seeing the barn swallows lining up on the wires above, and have heard several groups of flocking geese. That sound of honking always brings up a swell of meloncholia but also a feeling of comfort-perhaps because flocking geese are leaving one home, but they are also on there way to another one. We're all just coming and going through life.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The challenge and healing reward of Marcella

In which The Shepherdess is reminded by a beautiful white creature that all is well and neither of the two are that bad after all.

UPDATE: A magical encounter was taking place far from Apifera while this experience happened at Apifera. Please read my comment below-after you read the post.

Of all the creatures I've ever worked with, I think Marcella has been my biggest challenge. I have worked with terriers and many other dogs in my life-in obedience training and in therapy work with some. I am certainly not an expert, but I know how to train a dog in basic obedience and boundaries, but this is my first guard dog. It is also the first dog I've ever had that lived in the barn since day one and is separate from the household.

But I want to share a really beautiful episode I had with Marcella yesterday. While you won't need a hankie, it will open your heart a notch.

The day began with beautiful weather, and Martyn was home too, it being a Saturday. We had many things to work on, and the cooler weather had me feeling energized. I had plans. But just about everything went a muck early on. None of it was end-of-the-world-stuff, there were just a whole series of occurrences that made the morning frustrating and at some points stressful for woman, man and beast.

At one point, Marcella had found her way into the lower field where I have three young ewes that I recently separated out from the flock. They are being weaned. It is a horrible time for me-and them-the day of weaning. They often cry and cry in these long horrible blah-h-h-h-s sometimes for hours. But these three settled in well, and all seemed fine. But Marcella went down there and must have startled on of them as one of the ewes ended up in an upper field, alone, and like most sheep, she could not figure out how to get back to her two friends.

Now I am pretty darn good at herding sheep. There is this bossy woman up the road a few miles who keeps trying to sell me one of her herding dogs, I always decline. I work with my flock everyday, some are leaders, some followers, some are not real sharp and can drive you mad, but they herd well, and know the routine. So anyway, I'm out there trying to herd this one lone 5 month old ewe. I'd get her close and she'd abandon ship. Then I got Martyn out there, which meant I had to herd him too. We worked 30 minutes and finally got them back in the barnyard. But I wanted them in a stall, to relax them after this stressful bout of running. Well, to make a long story short, it took another 30 minutes, and even after we did it, Marcella kept ending up in paddocks I didn't want her in, doing a bit of chasing.

I lost my temper, but more importantly, I lost my grounding. I felt that this was it, I was done with breeding sheep, I was no good at it, no good at maintaining the tolerance of separating animals out from mothers to wean them. I was tired. I was fooling myself. And, I didn't stop there, I told Marcella I was a loser guard dog worker, and we both had to accept this and make changes.

I had spent the entire morning-it seemed-trying to fix, control, and manage. And it all felt useless. And I hated for my animals to watch me go through this-I'm supposed to be the healing leader, after all. Where was my leader?

I decided to grab my camera and head up to Donkey Hill to get composed. This is an area that Marcella-normally-does not hang out in, although she knows how to go under fences and gates to get there if she really wants to. I certainly didn't want her there at this minute as I needed a break to clear my head and calm my temper. Shepherdesses can flair up you know, at least the redheads of the bunch. So I was sitting on the dusty mound, near a little Willow tree that I have recently named "The Healing Tree". I am hanging a white strip of raggedy cloth every time I hear of a friend or creature needing my prayer or healing thought. I had hung a few prayer rags for some friends, but had also hung one for me-because I felt I needed guidance.

So there I sat, in a dusty heap, legs stretched out, and I began calling the donkeys. They always come to me, but they were nowhere to be seen. I had a long, good cry. Yes, shepherdesses cry too, for many reasons. I needed to cry. It was better than anger. And in between sobs, as pathetic as it sounds, I continued to call my donkeys. But they didn't come. I hung my sad little head and sniffed away. And then I felt a presence behind me and knew it must be Pino.

I turned and there sat a beautiful white creature, without an ounce of resentment in her eyes. She sat upright, right beside me, and we sat that way for a long time together, looking at our Healing Tree. It was such a beautiful, poignant moment. Marcella is a shapeshifter, she appears without sound or fuss. Eventually, I thanked her for not giving up on me, but in reality I didn't need to say any of it to her. She is just total acceptance, without ego. She had moved on hours ago.

I decided to mill about Donkey Hill with her, and took these photos. She is beautiful while working. And I had an epiphany. I am trying too hard to control her. She is bred to guard, not to sit in front of one gate and not enter it, or come on my command. She is doing just fine, it is me that has to let go more, and roll more with her youthful punches.

Later, over a glass of wine, Martyn told me he saw us the moment Marcella came and sat with me and it nearly broke his heart, in a good way. He said it was a Hallmark moment never to be recorded again, but he saw it, and I was part of it along with Marcella. Some things are not meant to be shared in image, but only through the heart and soul, and that is the experience I had yesterday with a very fine guard dog in training-The Head Mistress–the always forgiving, Marcella.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pigletting #2

Doris had her piglets on Tuesday, without fanfare or trouble. I came out to do feedings and she had four piglets. All was well. I got her into the regular pen and checked to make sure there weren't any piglets that had slipped under the paddock. And then I went riding.

Upon returning, I was sitting in with the piglets and kept hearing this squeaking, but nobody was really opening their mouths so I was trying to find where the noise was coming from. I finally found this poor little piglet stuck between two fences, in the heat and full sun. I can only figure out that he was there when I came out in the morning, or was somewhere that I didn't see him and then he tried to find his way back to the litter and got stuck. We tried to pig proof everything but you learn on the first experience. Anyway, poor fellow, he was much thinner than the others and very tired and dusty. But he was fine and went right on milking and is catching up.

Piglets are so different than lambs. I am not sure I am cut out for it over the long haul. We will see. I love my girls, and Earnest, and they are here to stay. But time will tell if we piglet again. It is challenging to keep the pastures viable for everyone. I am keeping my mind open. It is important for me to try new things and challenge myself-it brings in new feelings and sensations and teaches me about new animals and also can touch into things deep inside me I didn't know I needed to tune into.

Paco, oh Paco

A magical moment caught this morning on Donkey Hill. Pino may get all the fame, but Paco will steal your heart too.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

And my horse does it again

I had another verklempt experience in tandem with my noble steed, the always steady and stoic, Boone.

Or as I like to say,


One of the many things I've wanted to do with Boone is take him to the beach. For awhile it wasn't possible-my car at the time wasn't worthy of the 1.5+ hour drive, and I wasn't confidant enough to do it on my own. But after working with Boone for more than three years in lessons and lots of road riding, my confidence took huge leaps starting last year. We started check marking things off The Boone Bucket List last summer-horse shows, learning dressage, long rides alone, a parade...and now, a beach day.

It was everything I had imagined it might be. But mostly, it was just a string of moments where I was so darn happy, and proud, of my horse and our partnership. I knew Boone would be fine at the beach but I had arranged to bring a friend with me-along with her filly and her Arab- because I just felt it was a good idea. The sound of the ocean can freak some animals out, and there are many new sights-hang gliders, waves, runners, etc [although we picked a more remote beach that tends to stay clear of people and we had the place almost to ourselves-only in Oregon!]. It just felt wise to have a riding buddy. I'm so glad for that too, because there were a few things I might not have tried on my first beach ride without company-like testing the incoming waves, or going into some deeper tide pools.

I had this overwhelming feeling of pride and accomplishment, sometimes emotional, through out the day. Even the drive down there, looking in the rear view mirror to see Boone in our little trailer, knowing he too was looking out the window experiencing this all with me for the first time. How many times had I been to the beach and saw people riding, and I thought,

Maybe some day I can do that with Boone...

and here I was doing it, finally.

At one point on a trail head, we came upon a young mother and four little children, all barefoot, making their way down to the beach [slowly, I might add, she had a lot of patience]. The trails are single file, so the people move out of the way if a horse comes. I saw the eyes of those little girls light up as they saw Boone, and I stopped to see if they wanted to pet him, and they did. Long ago, I had the same lit up eyes anytime I saw a horse. Perhaps when that little girl grows up, she too will be inspired to get her own Boone.

I hadn't been to the ocean for some time. I needed to see her. For me, the ocean isn't exactly 'relaxing', in fact, the non relentless sound of the waves, the wind, the salt air– it is overwhelming, almost surreal, for me. But not in a bad way. While I am there, I can only describe it like this–I become the ocean, I enter it. The ocean is like a womb, and after a day of being there, it is like that earth mother pushes me out, nourished, ready to be myself again, on land. That is the only way I can describe it.

Looking down at Boone's mane, watching him see everything with fresh eyes, was wonderful. He did everything I asked of him-including walking in deeper water and squishy wet sand. Long before he came to me, Boone had a bad experience in quicksand like mud, and for the first couple years, he would squeal in squishy mud, once even rearing on me. If he heard a 'squish' he went right back to that scary moment where he went up to his saddle bags in mud. We worked through that over the last couple years, and I haven't heard him squeal about anything for a long time. So when we went through that tide pool, I was beyond proud-I knew he trusted me enough to go in that pool, he knew I wouldn't lead him into danger. It took some time, but we have reached a great place together.

And last night, I had an epiphany about the whole day. I had been thinking, glowing really, about how well Boone had done, how proud I was. But then I realized, none of us ever doubted Boone would do well. Boone did well because he's Boone, but also because he knew I was going to do well with him. We are 'Boone and Me' now when we ride, a pair.

We cantered on the beach–I can't think of a more freeing feeling from the pressure's of daily life. I had many moments where I talked to the sky as if my parents were watching me, smiling,

"Oh good, she got to the beach with her horse..."

I also had moments of thinking how humans had done a lot of destruction to Earth, but at that moment, as we rode along the shore I thought,

But we haven't messed this up yet.

Martyn came along and we parked the trailer and then he went off and fished nearby. I was so happy for him. We deserved this little get away so much. You have no idea the details of just getting away form this place for one full day! And with the new piglets, and another 99 degree day, I had to worry about water and all that to keep everyone safe. Martyn was excited about going fishing as I was about riding. And we hope to do it more often–we have to. I told Martyn last night that is my new goal-that he and I and Boone start adventuring out every month. He can fish and I can ride. For Martyn, his fly fishing pole is his horse. If you ever saw this man fish, it would bring a tear to your eye, and a smile. He is 'in his ocean' when he is casting, and its a beautiful thing to get to experience your mate so content, free and in his zone. I told him I get to ride a lot, he needs to be able to fish more and I have to help that happen. We are such worker bees and we love it, but I have to make more get aways for the three of us. We will all win.

So, the days of summer are waning. And next week, I will be back in the studio percolating, creating and dreaming. I love the first weeks of September for so many reasons. It is a deeply charged time for me, it always has been. It can bring melancholia together with creativity which can bring about very emotive work and thoughts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

There is no app for living

I am having a real adventure with Boone. But for now I am in the thick of living it, in the real. I will share it with you when I am rested. This is, as I said below, my New Year's week- the week of great expectations and gratitude. That is why I am only talking in short paragraphs, or in horse, or piglet. More soon.

I hope you are also outside, taking in Nature and Earth and relishing it. There is no app for it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The pig bathes as I ponder

I am laying low this week. It is still hot, but the nights are cool by sundown and I am soaking in the breezes and warm air-for fall is coming. I will revel in fall, but these perfect warm nights are delicious.

This week is my week, I don't intend to do much work, just thinking about the farm and all I want to accomplish. It is almost like the week before September is my New Year's–time for dreaming, planning, thinking, percolating...and enjoying the last pig mud baths of summer.

I sense many are doing the same thing. Enjoy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

An old friend that never really left

When we arrived at the farm, Louie Louie was over 14, blind, deaf and entering what would be his final year. Before Pino, The Misfits or the Old One Eyed Pug, there was Louie, my companion in singledom, road trip warrior and daily muse. He faithfully went anywhere with me, and loved the car. He got me through a of of lonely days and as I write about in Donkey Dream, I really think Louie got me to Portland, saw me settle down with Martyn, and the farm, and like a doting parent, he could let go a little bit. Perhaps I have meloncholiad the truth {Note, there appears to be no known word "meloncholiad", but I think it fits and who says one can't create new words?}

When I put Louie down it was just the worst. He had a bad heart, had been having seizures and other issues, and I finally decided it was the best decision. But on the way to the vet, he sat in my lap and looked so happy, he loved the car. I still can be driving and look over at the passenger seat and see that happy expression he always had in the car. He was truly one of a kind. Wire Hairs are very strong personalities. You never leave them, nor them you. I think he would have loved the life on the farm. He might have been working side by side with The Head Troll for all I know, or keeping The Head Mistress in line, hunting vermin and lining them up for the cats.

So today, even though I have photos of him all over, Louie came to me for some reason, in a very strong sensation. This is an older piece, but I felt the need to just sit and look into those eyes.