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

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Soaking up every shepherdly moment

One of the most heart wrenching facts about the eventual relocation to Maine, for me, is to leave my flock. It is unlikely they will come with us and it has been the hardest realization I have had to grapple with. It is not only letting go of my relationship and stewardship to them, it is knowing they will find places that are suited to their remaining health and life.

Sheep are sensitive creatures to stress and I think it is best they aren't hauled around for five-6 days. I think they are also plenty happy when they have grass, hay and a water, and their flock, even if that flock changes. A wise horseman once told me,

"Don't ever think you are the only person in the world that can care for your animals-that's how you can get into trouble down the road,"

Even if we find the perfect place for sheep, I think it would be hard on them to relocate. Not to mention it would be another separate hauler to fire.

My goals are to sell the best breeding ewes, and rams, and hen rehome my retirees in pairs, hopefully to friends or followers who know how many animals I've cared for and helped over the years. There are a few, like Daisy, that will die here, it is the way it needs to e for her, and me. She is in her last year and I can tell her arthritis is worsening, it will be a hard goodbye, but she will be of the land she so helped graze so we could share her bounty.

Even though there are pending details floating about, I am soaking on every moment with as much love and admiration for all we have done here together, my flock and I. The first lambing-oh, I am sure Daisy will always roll her eyes if she thinks of it-I checked her udder so many times I'm sure she just was so relieved to finally lamb, which she did on her own as they often do. All the learning curves we had, the biggest of course the Spring of Death. I wouldn't change one day.

I'm not a perfect shepherd, nobody is. But my flock comes to me from the upper hills when I call, and I have never lost sight of my responsibility to them. perhaps along the way my biggest mistakes have been not shepherding myself enough, not culling the flock as well as I could have to reduce the number of non working ewes. I thought we'd live here for ever and figured at a certain point, I could let them all die naturally, one by one, on the land they lived on. That was always my covenant to them.

But plans change. Our move to Maine is the right thing for us, as people, as a couple, as a team, and as an evolving farm. Part of me is terrified, literally, not to have sheep anymore. I identify with being a shepherd. But then I realized there are many ways to shepherd, of course we all know this. I am researching raising bees. A friend sent me a copy of the Bee Bible and I'm excited about shepherding bees! It seems so funny, that we named the farm "Apifera" which means "bee bearing" and now, finally, I will have them, only in Maine. And they have wings, let's not forget the Calling All Wings symbolism this year and last.

But, as we worked today on what I assume will be our last fencing project, the flock gathered. Those are the moments, these are the moments, that sting the heart but also just make me swell with joy and pride-and gratitude of all I have done here, and all they have done. I guess that is what these days are for me-all that we have done is flashing in front of me in a constant film reel, like a clip montage of a movie of my life. All the fencing, the changes, the lesson, the deaths, births, sunburns, sprained backs, smashed thumbs...holding a lamb for the first time, or burying one next to her mother....it's here in every second as I walk around doing my work and chores.

The pregnant ewes, only four, are preparing their bodies to shift and push those lambs out. Their hips are starting sink a but, vulva's are getting puffy and they flag their tails a lot. All are the signs they have taught me that motherhood is about to begin in a couple weeks. It will be my final and most important lambing season.

We have had some very good showings of late on the property. My inner queen is telling me...it is coming, perhaps quite soon-so enjoy I will revel every second here, even when there are goodbyes-becasue there will be many hellos too.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Raggedy Man's birthday hat

The cookie party for Raggedy Man's 7th birthday today was moved inside due to soggy weather conditions. These parties never last long, once the cookies are gone the guest pretty much dissipate and get one with usual routines-chewing cud, napping, head butting, crochet and book club.

I made a hat for Raggedy a few years ago and put this picture up on his wall tonight, to remind him that he is a birthday boy all day-that is the rule, no ifs and or buts, he gets to be king for a day.

To the raggiest little man ever, Muppet feet and all, he is such an endearing fellow. He arrived stinky and...raggedy. And thin and ill kept. But, with time, and consistent feedings, he blossomed, ballooned actually. It's okay Rag, I've ballooned too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Noses and mugs, but why?

I was thinking today about the ever present camera culture we have become-via cell phones-although I still rely on my Nikon for much of my work. Why am I compelled to take what might be the same photo over and over again? These two mugs are usually at the gate each night, yet each time, it is fresh and new and if I have my phone I take a quick shot. Then I share it with my followers and friends.

In the end, I thought, it's just a bookmark of today. I enjoy the moment, captured it, moved on, but I think the photo is a homage to the splendor I feel in that moment.

And I'm glad we have all these photos to live with. I'm a visual person, a photo is just one part of any story, even if the story is very short, like this one:

Earnest the pig came to the gate, so did White Dog. They smiled in unison, at me.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Horse and Pig speak

"I admire you," the pig said.

He was looking up, toward the blue sky, into the muzzle of a red horse.

"I know," said the horse. "But I am nothing special."

Of course he was special, even though in terms of grand looks or flashy movement, he had neither.

"You undersell yourself," said the pig. "I am small compared to many of my kind, but I have spots that many don't."

"Yes, the spots are catchy. I don't have spots either. Or a long top knot," said the horse.

"But you smell of horse, this is an exquisite attribute to have," said the pig.

"Perhaps," said the horse, "to another horse."

The White Dogs arrived. They leapt up to greet the horse as usual.

"The pig is right, your smell is fabulous," White Dog said.

Back in the house, a woman worked on a painting. She was trying to capture the smell of her horse. She heard a whinny, and left her indoors to be outdoors, and headed towards the world's most exquisite smell.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Don't let the future dictate the weather

We are experiencing gorgeous weather and it is forecast to be sunny and in the 60 degree range all week. The first warm and sunny day always brings out the sun nappers, of all ages, to lie on the concrete to warm their bones. Roosters deliriously hook up with lazy acrobatic goats, and little odd fellows pick bookend spots to nap. Even the ever vigilant Marcella takes snooze, but her ear is tuned to the vibrations of any activity. I found the image of her almost surreal. Some might say she looks dead-but I see the photo as more of a dream, a floating White Dog, dreaming, moving forward.

This weekend was and is busy. We got the lambing pens ready, in the new barn. I decided to lamb there this season so we made temporary stalls for the four mothers to be. Then the old matriarch Daisy, shown here, can be present with her kin of multiple generations, it will most likely be her last season I think. Cornelia, Wild Otis, Lilly and Opal are also in with the mothers to be.

All the ewes will be first time moms. This is always a bit of nail biter, but I've only had a couple ewes be a bit daft at first lambings. Most are programmed much better than a human to carry it all out-Nature's the teacher and instincts are well ingrained.

I had hemmed and hawed about if we should breed last fall, and wasn't sure what my hesitancy was all about, but right after breeding we decided to move to Maine. At first I was kicking myself for not listening to the hemming and hawing better-for the record, it was Martyn who finally made the final call to breed. The lambing would mean more lives to rehome, depending on the move date. But now, I'm really glad we will have one final lambing here. In fact, I think it is an important process for me and the universe knew that. It will be a very important lambing season, more so than the first.

When you put your property on the market, it is easy to get sucked up into limbo. There are many what ifs and now what and why are we doing this. One has toes in two sides of the stream. It can -and pretty much has-turned into a daily good bye of sorts. But in the past weeks, I have been really focused on something-I'm here, now. The lambing will make me very present, with my beloved flock, a flock I will most likely have to part with. Over time, I am becoming more comfortable with that-for lack of a better word. Moving a flock might be too stressful on them, for that long trip. I do believe there are many good shepherds out there that I will somehow be connect with. It will not happen all at once. But the first step is accepting and believing it is all okay.

So, as we sit around at night and often dream and plan our new life-what kinds of things we want to grow and what kind of house we want-what we want to differently perhaps-we are also spending lots of time here-now. We have been working in our garden a lot this weekend. The first thing that came to me when I was weeding was, I have to make the garden presentable for house lookers. But then I realized as I worked, I am doing this for the garden, a thank you, a tidying up to make sure we leave her in the best condition we can before we leave her to evolve into what she will become. Just as I left our last beautiful garden, the next one became the living being of the moment, and that will happen again. The garden here, the land, they do not hold me down, they don't have a motive of any kind, they just are.

The weather is simply...perfect. I will soak it up. Many remind me -why they do this I don't know, as if cold weather will kill me, I'm a Minnesotan for God's sake, I lived on the East coast for many years- but some just can't keep their lips quipping you're going to miss these early springs. I have felt so graced to have lived in this climate, and to have been able to grow so many plants I couldn't in Minnesota.

The future holds many living things for Apifera. Next February 7, I might be in a snow storm. But today, right now, I am not.

White Dog floats forward

Little Moose and Goose are bookends in life

Beautiful Daisy, the elder retired matriarch will be with the new mothers

Otis was brought down from upper flock to be at lambing

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Art for a four year old friend...and Misfits

Goodness! Where did the week go? I've been busy and also Martyn has been sick all week so I was a bit distracted. But I'm back.

I wanted to share a few things art related. I have set up a section on the shop called Henry's Fundraiser. Henry is my four year old friend who I have loved since I met him when he was 'little'. His school is having a fundraiser to help with scholarships and educational field trips. Henry loves his school, and now his baby brother will attend the same school someday too. So I thought I'd try to help him out, and 50% of my sales will go to Henry's school fund, and 50% will be added to the Misfits to Maine fund in Henry's name. There are lots of inexpensive things too, something for all budgets.

I'm also really excited that Sundance is showcasing an exclusive print of my art, and they are now available. it also was in the catalogue this week so I'm hoping for lots of good things to come from it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Chicken Named Dog on the loose

There was a small break out from the chicken coop this week. I have been keeping my hens, along with Franklin the lead rooster and Uno the subsidiary rooster locked in their chicken run. This is because of the sneaky Banties that lay their eggs in highly sophisticated secret areas, setting on them just long enough to bring us surprise chicks.We have already had two surprise clutches this past spring and are overrun with hens. Along comes three more roosters that I agreed to take on for the neighbor's daughter after her father died as she is cleaning out the place, and I have chick making testosterone raptors all over the place. The three rogue roosters live in the barns and have been, so far, agreeable. Bu they want one thing.

But somebody, "Not I, said the Pig", left the roost door open, and some of the hens escaped, seeking the company of one of the rogue roosters-he is quite handsome, I can't blame them.

One of those was Chicken Named Dog, who is pretty old now, but she still has wanderlust in her feet. I must say she looked lovely with the backdrop here in this photo op that day.

"Get back to your hut, or I will leave you to Nature," I told her.

With that, she flew, squawked, and ran back to her flock. It took a bit of sneaky chicken grabbing to catch the other two hens-young ones, not real bright yet, and I waited until rogue rooster was, well, having sex with them and took advantage of their locked down position and was able to grab them easily.

Never dull with chickens.