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

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The donkey has a book mobile!

I've been wanting to do this for a long time, and am finally going to take the leap! Pino and I will be hauling our...er, hauling ourselves into Portland in May to have our first Pino Bookmobile of Love event!

Thanks to a friend of Apifera [and lifetime admirer and girlfriend of Stevie the goat], Pino and I have a place to do a pop-up book event. I mean why shouldn't there be pop-up donkey events. We will be selling our books and Misfit Mail of Love postcards too. I'll probably bring some lavender as well.

But most importantly, Pino will be there doing what he does best-standing politely and oozing patience and donkeyness. Since it is his first event away from the farm, we will be bringing his little sister, Lucia, also who usually gets a lot of attention in her own right.

This event is in the heart of NE Portland. Pino and I worried we weren't hip enough. We rarely get off the farm and when we do, we find we are falling behind in hipster trends. Pino is excited though, he's never met a real live hipster and is hoping some come to his Bookmobile.

I hope this will be the first of many Pino Bookmobiles, and I hope to see some of you there!

Pino's Bookmobile of Love
Saturday, May 9th, 12-3
2008-2112 SE Taggert St
Portland, OR
Rain or shine!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Non manic Monday

I was sitting–sitting– with the barnyard gang this morning after chores. I was thinking about the early days, how sometimes I had so much on my plate pre-occupying me that the chores in the barnyard became just that-chores. It has taken me awhile to reshuffle the priorities of my life and this morning as I was putting my Muck boots on to go to the barnyard, I remember thinking,

"Oh good, I get to go to the barnyard,"
like I would have thought if I was here on vacation.

When I first moved here in 2004, I hardly sat down. While each day was filled with 'pinch me' moments, I can honestly say we both worked in a non-stop mode-we had too. The farm needed everything, it had been neglected for decades–the house was outdated in every manner and there was no proper fencing. The barns were a blessing even though both were neglected and we are still working on Old Barn. They are in constant need of maintenance-as is any barn or house anywhere. We were in our early forties and both worked on the farm full time and our freelance jobs full time. If you think that is impossible, that one can only work 50% on a farm and 50% as a freelancer, you are wrong. It simply means you work 16 hour days and weekends.

I think that aging also helps bring about this return to child like wonder of living. The initial middle age shifts in body, hormones, looks, and loss of family are daunting and uncomfortable. I feel at almost 57, this discomfort is settling into more of a beautiful, fluffy cloud. I suppose this is why high tech companies want youth-they are manic in energy. And of course, after eleven years of fixing and renovating, we are starting to see light in the tunnel. It will never end, the jobs here, but we are in the really fun part now-developing fields, enjoying the bounties more, understanding our flock better to make better choices, having cross fenced pastures to help me cross pasture more efficiently.

At middle age there is a shift in perspective and energy levels. I can't do everything any more- or wait, I could, but I don't want to. I don't need too. I probably didn't need to back then, but I'm glad we worked so hard for this first eleven years, because the fruits of that work are beginning to show. It all adds up to new wrinkles and scars from sharp fencing cuts–but also a lot of inner peace and joy of accomplishments.

While sitting with the morning breakfast club, Iris, one of the Boar goats, choked on hay and began coughing a lot-a normal occurrence, not an emergency. But Marcella jumped up from her place and positioned herself near Iris, then looked at me. I praised her, as she notified me that something might be amiss. She is one year old now and I am seeing many more moments of mature guarding. I appreciated that as a wonderful teaching moment for me and Marcella.

Everything could be gone tomorrow. I could, Martyn could. I must live with that knowledge and do good with it, for me, the barnyard, The Misfits and my creative spirit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Birthday of a Dirt Farmer, and one little goose, er, goat

Let us all stand now and shriek to the sky! Happy Birthday, Dirt Farmer! Happy Birthday, Little Goose!

You might not know the story of Little Goose's arrival here. Back in 2013, my mother died. It was sudden, even though she was 87. It was a huge loss leaving gaping holes in my daily life. At the same time, we had the usual losses on the farm that come with having elders. I also had to say good-bye to my old One Eyed Pug two weeks after my mom died.

I announced to Martyn that I wanted to get a little goat that was young and vibrant, for my own selfish needs, a goat that wouldn't die right way, what a concept. I felt I needed it and deserved it. He agreed. Without knowing it, sometime soon after that, Martyn found out one of his clients had a little wether goat that she was happy to send to Apifera. And it just so happened, said goat and Martyn shared a birthday. Behind his back, I had found a little pygmy too, the adorable, tiny and still tiny, Little Moose-and he was born on on my birthday which is March 10. Martyn and I always have had this ongoing 2 week celebration between 2/26 and 3/10, for it is the only two weeks of the year that we are the same age, then I get older than him.

I can't keep secrets from Martyn, just can't. I was dying to tell him, and spilled the beans one night that I had found this goat and the woman and I had already made plans for delivery. He thought that was fine, except he too had found a little goat and we just thought,

The universe just showed us two goats, with our same birthdays, there is no use asking any questions, it is a gift and it is meant to be.

And so Moose and Goose came to live with us and brought great delight to me and the barnyard that year of such great loss.

The Dirt Farmer is aging like George Clooney. I am the lucky one. I find his face stubble and raggedy locks like looking at a swan or any other creature of beauty. I can be out in a field and see him at a distance with a hammer in his hand and I see the same man I met years ago-hard working with absolutely no ego. I am so grateful for his birth, as it allowed him to grow up into the person he is and somehow we were able to be brought together in our mid years. I know I often say I am the lucky one, but I know Martyn is blessed to have...well, moi! We are a good match. We are best friends.

I will do the birthday boy cooking. Since Martyn is the true chef in the house, I will bake one of my standard chicken breast recipes my mother taught me years ago that I always manage to do perfectly. I bought a special bottle of wine, some asparagus and mushrooms. I might make a lemon pie. We will celebrate with friends and family Saturday and he will cook some Apifera lamb. Our two week celebration of birth and life has begun!!

As for Goose? I held him tightly this morning, which he still tolerates, and told him why it was such a special day. He listened, then grabbed some of my braid and took a chomp, as he is prone to do. I took it as a compliment and he scurried off to the barn.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One year ago she entered the barnyard

I am once again amazed that...it has been a year. A year since Marcella landed in the barnyard. No other animal I've ever lived with has been so challenging to understand-only because these dogs are not bred with a pet mentality. I have learned, and relearned things about Maremmas as I work with Marcella. I won't say she is smarter than me, but she definitely is clear on where she lives and her instincts are keen.

When she arrived, it was the first time in my life I ever left a dog outside to live. All my dogs, even our labs, are house bound. The labs do not mingle in the barnyard, by our choice. So I have a very different relationship with Marcella than Huck or Mud. That first night was chilly and I put her in pen, within a closed stall. Some goats were with her, but she had a contained area to herself. The breeder told me that when one of these dogs wants to get out, they'll figure out a way. By the second night, she had dug under the fence and was happily sleeping with the goats. It was me that tried to 'keep her safer' in an area, but she didn't need saving.

Marcella the pup who of all the animals in the barnyard to buddy up with, from day one, was a pig named Earnest. To this day, I don't think I've more tender photos of two creatures. They still are buddies, but it is more like two 13 year olds, one can over doe it or vice versa, and words are exchanged. Earnest is still very tolerant of Marcella who occasionally lets her pup spirit out, by grabbing his tail, or pulling his leg. Earnest could put a tooth in her if he needed to, and it has happened on occasion, but they have learned their boundaries. Sometimes at feedings, she and Earnest will both find a fleck of grain and a mini squabble starts. You just do your best to separate all the creatures well at feeding. These dogs are very protective of their food, or anything they deem as their food. I learned it the hard way with a bad bite, and the breeder had warned me and helped me through some incidences and how to show my alphaness.

I continue to learn. Perhaps the biggest lesson is letting go of some control with these dogs. I have not been able to fully do that, especially with Benedetto. I think if it were just Marcella, it might be different, as she does not stay from her barnyard long if she does get out-but when Benedetto is along, she runs a bit farther, but always comes back. We haven't had any escapes of late, but as warm weather approaches, and Marcella turns a year now, she will need to begin more in flock training. Sometimes I feel I've botched it, but I see her instincts and I think its just a matter of separating her some from Benne and making her be with the working flock 24/7 for awhile. If not, she will be a guard of the barnyard, the latter result is not the end of the world. We have not had a raccoon or hawk since.

Thank you, Marcella, you are a wonder. I will continue to work with you and do my best-I know you are doing yours, even if it is not with the flock-yet.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The semi private suite of The World's Grumpiest Pig

It is time that I bring you up to speed on The World's Grumpiest Pig.

One of my jobs as steward of these animals is to accept that on any given day, things can change, without my advice or control. I have seen this happen many times in my eleven years here-one day an animal that liked sleeping in one spot for 5 years just decides to move.

I've changed bedrooms many times in my life, why wouldn't they?

So it happened with Rosie, our resident curmudgeon.

One late afternoon on a cold rainy day, I went to do barn chores and there was Rosie in the rain, alone, shivering. This of course was Atypical with a capital "A". She was up by Old Barn too which was not the norm. All the other animals were in the goat barn dry and warm. In order to get her inside ASAP I opted to lead her into the old barn as there was an area full of warm straw where lambs once lived. Getting her to move in my direction was not easy. Rosie does not do anything easily. She has been a grumpy challenge from day one, and I have to admit to you now-she's getting grumpier.

So I got her into the barn, carried more straw in and once I saw her bedding down, I covered her with straw. She continued to tremble on and off, and I feared poison, although, there is nothing that I could imagine anywhere in the barnyard. Her one eye was not well-she has a chronic eye issue, as many pigs can, so I felt she had discomfort leading to trembling. By morning she was better.

Now, the other part of this story of bedroom shakeup is that the working flock broke into three groups over the past year. This happened sometime when Benedetto arrived. There was a bit of chasing going on and Old Papa Roo-who is ancient by now–took some hens and started sleeping near the donkeys which is by Rosie's new chosen suite. I have since reunited two of the hen groups back in the coop, but Papa and his 4 hens remain in Old Barn. I do fear an owl will get them one night, so I plan to capture them and relocate them back to the hen house. But this Great Chicken Relocation Scheme deserves an entire post sometime soon. Stay tuned.

So, back to the World's Grumpiest Pig–I think that deserves capital letters too. After about a week, her eye seemed better. During that entire week, she was so very grumpy. Grumpier than even her grumpiest days, which I assumed was because she was uncomfortable. Rosie is practically impossible to treat-my vets do their best when they come here, but it is a real challenge even to get wormer in her or do her toes and shots. She is one lucky pig to have landed here, because I don't think a lot of people could handle living with the World's Grumpiest Pig. I take it in stride.

"My, we are very grumpy today,aren't we!" I say to her in these extra grumpy spurts.

So after about a week, her worst grumpiness had subsided, and I was able to clean her eye better. She was eating better and returned to her normal grumpy level. What a relief to have a break in the extra grumpy behavior! So, at some point, I encouraged her to come back out to the barnyard and enjoy her spot by the cement wall for sun.

"Hrumpfh. Nope, not interested, please leave me now," she said.


I continued to leave some food out for her to entice her to the gate in the days ahead. Rosie's eyesight is obviously not very good, and I wonder about her hearing too. But she just isn't interested in leaving her suite. She is not bothered by Eleanor or Earnest, or the White Dogs, or flying monkeys,um, Moose and Goose. She has a clutch of hens that dine with her, and the donkeys eat breakfast and dinner with her, in their own dining room of course. She has sunshine that comes in and she doesn't even have to leave her grumpy little suite to nap in it.

So do not fear for Rosie or feel badly for her. When she arrived at Sanctuary One, as some of you might remember, she slept with Stevie the crippled goat, because all the other animals avoided her grumpiness. When Stevie and Rosie came to live at Apifera, that sleeping arrangement continued for a couple of years. But in time, Rosie began sleeping in different places, sometimes away from Stevie. I like to think that Stevie gave her the confidence to know that she was safe now, and even though she didn't have a real human bed of blankets and pillows like her home with the elderly woman, she had warmth and dryness and fresh air. In time, Stevie moved down to the lower Misfit Village, as he was having a hard time with the new pup back then, and was tripping a lot. He loves it down there and whenever a new goat arrives that is a bit depressed, weak or fragile, I have noticed they always go to Stevie for safety. In time, they get their confidence up. That is Stevie's gift here, one of many.

So, The World's Grumpiest Pig now has her own suite. She will be turning seven this spring. That's seven years of fine tuning her grumpy state. I love every grumpy inch of her.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Victor resting

Victor has not been putting any weight on his front foot. His foot is not warm but his knee to upper leg is. I am thinking he strained it somehow. Poor fellow. When you are already pretty crippled having one less leg is problematic. He still gets around but I'm trying to arrange things so he is staying at rest.

But he still loves breakfast!