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

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Earnest knows Japanese?

Today we celebrate the life and birth of one of the adopted elder cats, Yume, who came to us last year after our arrival in Maine. We adopted her and two other elder cats from the animal shelter. And I must say, this is the first cat of Apifera that was born in Japan.  Yum was a stray street cat there, and a family took her in. You an tell she has had a litter or two. Her owners then came back tot he states years later, and unfortunately due to a job change had to move again overseas, but this time cats were not allowed. But we are happy to have her. When we brought Yume to Apifera, she his under rugs and blankets. Over three days, she allowed more petting. And now, months later, she rubs noses with Anna and Tig, and is even up and about. She still is shy to strangers or even Martyn, but she is content, as are we.

I heard little voices as I walked  to the front barn this morning. Now that The Head Troll is gone, I am always a bit nervous as to what is going on inside the barn without her management. I waited at the barn doors, ear pinned to the crack letting me in on the conversation. They often skedaddle when they know I'm coming. It's a dance we play together: they know I know they all talk when I'm not around, I know they know that I know, but we never really discuss it.


It was Earnest talking.

"Tanjoubi omedetou, Yume" he was saying through the door.

My God, I thought, he knows Japanese?

And then he asked, "Toshi wa ikutsu ka?"

I heard a very faint, soft voice come from the cat room,

"Juu san sai."

I opened the barn door and everyone calmly returned to their stall, the cat room was quiet.

"Earnest, how did you learn to speak Japanese?" I asked.

He did not answer.

He is a pig of many mysteries.


{If you like the stories of Apifera, and also want to honor Yume, consider a donation to the fund drive for Misfit care and new buildings so Apifera can take on more animals in need. Read all about it here.}


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Opie goes a travelin'

Opie's first day out as an ambassador of love
Opie went on to tell everyone in the barn about his first visit out as an ambassador of love and healing. We had ventured over to our friends at Inn Along the Way-an elder community that is in the early development stages where small residences for elders, gardens, an inn and caretaker retreats will be built on an old farm to encourage healthy community living amongst people and nature. We plan to partake in some events there this summer and fall to not only support their efforts but to explain what Apifera's care farming work and share my books and art. {Do you like Apifera's work with animals? We have big plans here in Maine-please visit the funding page to hear about it!}

"There weren't any pigs there," little Opie told Earnest.

"Perhaps I too should call on them then, to share myself," Earnest the pig said.

"They were all nice. They held me and squeezed me all nice too, and they smelled pretty," said Opie.

"What does pretty smell like?" asked Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat.

"Like your mama used to smell," said Earnest matter-of-factly. And they all sighed.

"When I ran on the floor, my toes got all slippery but it was fun," Opie went on. "And there was a barn that was as big as this entire farm!"

"Not!" said Moose.

"Highly unlikely," said Earnest.

"How do you know how big it is?" said Opie.

"How many of you could fit int he barn?" asked Earnest.

Opie pondered.

"I think more than five hundred," he said.

"That's a lot of yous," said Earnest.

Opie smiled.

"I felt big there," Opie said. And he wandered off to lay down near old Rosie and Sir tripod Goat.

"I'm full of something good," he said as he shut his eyes for a good nap.

Opie meeting Sam

Sherri Flint, director of Inn Along the Way falling in love

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Send Anna the elder a birthday wish

In honor of Anna's birthday, consider a pledge to the Misfit fund
I have a list of Misfit birthdays on my desk. Some of the animals come with a clear history of birth, others don't. But Anna lived in a loving home, by all appearances and medical records, but had to be sent to the animal shelter here in Maine due to an illness. I know she was cared for. So I was upset with myself when I saw I had missed her April 20th birthday in which she turned ten. She still is a young elder and I hope we have her with us for many years to come.

Anna and the other two adopted cats-Yume and Tigger- are all doing well out in the barn room they currently occupy. Actually, they have it great-heat in the winter [it has a heater in it from the former owner], art on the wall, window seats to look out at forest and birds, cat perches and me coming and going. And let's not forget they got to cohabitant with a baby pig this winter-how many cats can say that.

Anna is the greeter of the group, the leg encircler, the high priestess who made Yume understand the hierarchy. She and Yume now sniff noses, no hissing and Anna is tolerant of me spending time with the others now. Anna likes the chairs and is helping me make the Raggedy Cat Chair-which I failed to photograph with her on it-next time. In time, once we get the upper loft properly windowed, the cats can roam up there too. Although I think they are pretty content in the cat room. I had plans for the cat room that are now evolving-due to the reality of farm life and space. Since it is a heated room, I am going to treat it like a stall/sick room/emergency room for the animals. Since we went ahead and are making the upper loft accessible to people, I will use that area for showing my art and workshops, and healing cat visits.

I was appalled to find one of Anna's toenails had grown into her pad. I must have missed this. I was able to snip it while she was standing on the window perch, perfect sight level for me, and light too-I snipped quickly and then had to pull it out. I was able to treat it and all seems well. I clipped her other toes too. I've never in my life had to trim cat toenails, but these cats were all house bound, life was easy, and even though they have a scratching beam, I rarely see them use it. I can understand why Anna didn't, that toenail in her pad must of really hurt. I am now on the lookout and was able to trim Yume, with patience over a few days, too. Tigger-he will be impossible without some kind of equipment to keep him from clawing me. I have a good catalog with items like this and will get something.

One of the reasons I take my relationships seriously and to heart with these adoptees, is because I know what it feels like to have had an animal I cared for and loved, not be able to be with me anymore for whatever reasons. If I became ill or unable to care for my animals, knowing there might be someone that truly gave companionship and consistent communion with my animals would help me.I don't know the people that gave these animals up, but I know they were all cared for, and that circumstances just got in the way, and they had to make hard decisions, and do what they thought was right for the animal.

I've learned in the past 14 years helping animals-it is not always a case of some 'horrible person' at the other end of an animal in a shelter or rescue situation. Too often on social media I see people bashing human beings in animal cases when they don't even have the facts. I don't tolerate it. We are all creatures that sometimes end up in difficult situations, or make poor decisions that cause a spiraling downward.

If you'd like to honor Anna with a small donation to the 2017 Misfit Fundraiser, we send Meows. The fund is helping offset the basic feed cost of the Misfits, as well as help pay for a small quarantine stall so I  can help more animals in need. Read all about it at the funding page.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth prayer

Earth findings.

Ground friends.

One is just born the other is in her swan song.

I celebrate Mother Earth each day in different ways but on this Earth Day I just pray for her and we will work on our garden plan and just be with her.

Hang in there, Mother Ship, there are many who are trying to care for you properly, without greed.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Earnest's mystery

There must be a reason, Earnest the pig thought.

"It must be the sea," he said to The Wood. "Is that why they brought me here?"

{To be continued]

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mother Matilda: a conversation

"Animal Conversations" are a gift of my life and I want to share a conversation I had many years ago, when Mother Matilda arrived–some of you might recognize this from one of my books, "Misfits of Love" {Healing Conversations in the Barnyard}. It is Matilda's 24th birthday so if you have time to read this, it will celebrate her spirit. If you are able, consider also honoring her and our work here at the 2017 Fund Drive.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Her job was to be a brood jenny even as she entered into her senior years. Living in neglect, she subsisted only on straw in a cold climate. Her fortunes changed after a donkey rescue found Matilda and eight other neglected herd mates. Eventually they connected with Apifera and she arrived after a day-long journey. She had the same name as my elderly mother—surely this detail was not lost on the universal forces in charge that brought her to me.


“I remember her ear tips as they drove away,” the old donkey said.

She was speaking about one of her many children.


“No matter where they took them, they came to the earth through me,” the donkey continued.

They can’t take that from her, I thought.

I put my arms around her neck and lay my head on her withers, looking back over her sagging spine. She didn’t move, except for ear motions to redirect a fly or acknowledge a fluttering hay stem.

“I never watched them get in the trailer,” she went on.

She reached over with her nose, touching an area of her back where scratching would be appreciated. I obliged.

“I could see their ear tips coming out of the trailer window as they drove off. They were pointed toward me,” Matilda said.

She scratched her knee by nibbling on it with her wiggling, giraffe-like lips.

To say the soul is not a physical entity could be disproven by looking into Matilda’s eyes. For there was a river of sentiment flowing from her glance into any viewer. I have seen it silence the outspoken, calm the over- energized, and touch the brokenhearted. Journeyers onto Apifera often write and share the more profound moments from their visits, which always include the simple phrasing,

“Matilda’s eyes.”

Arriving at Apifera, Matilda was placed in with the three resident mini donkeys. Her larger, white and brown spotted body must have seemed mythological to the gray minis who had never seen such a creature.
“She seems to have acquired spots somehow,” said Pino, the first donkey of Apifera, when he initially saw her.

“She’s very theatrical appearing,” said Paco, quite a serious thinker.

On the day of her arrival to Apifera, the always observant minis cautiously gathered around Matilda. I took note that the spacing between each mini appeared to be equidistant. I sensed this might be some kind of donkey ritual, of which I know they have many. I did not ask and they did not explain, nor did they share what was said in the huddle. It lasted a minute, if that, and then the little ones ran up and away to their favorite spot on Donkey Hill. Now their mini bodies were little gray spots with tails
prancing about, heads down in donkey play, but all the while they were looking back toward where Matilda stood, her sway back casting a shadow like that of a fertile mountain valley.

In the days to come, the minis treated her much like the Mother that she was. She groomed her little herd mates and they reciprocated, a charming equine behavior of acceptance. Matilda’s first weeks at Apifera were spent in carefree fashion, sunning and adjusting to her new heavenly diet of hay, grass, apples, and animal crackers. Old growth savannah oak gave her shade and at night she was free to dream deep in a century-old barn that had proven to be full of much motherly love itself.

“My purpose was to be a mother. I am old now. My children are scattered,” she said to me one day as I brought her berry branch clippings for a treat.
The conversation did not go past that, but as she chewed, I felt her searching for and then spotting the little clump of minis down near the stream.

Days turned into weeks, summer air became cool, with morning fog blanketing Old Barn. And one morning, the normal routine of the donkeys was diverted. I had gathered all the donkeys in a paddock and shut the gate behind me.

“What’s this?” the minis queried, speaking in ear twitches. “Is it shot day? Farrier day? So soon?”

Matilda’s soul streamed into me, questioning me with concerned eyes and active ear movements. The last time she was herded up like this, she was put in a trailer and after hours and hours, landed at Apifera.

I reassured her without words, gliding my hands up and down her back and neck, but I was soon interrupted by the cars coming up the drive. Matilda stood close to the minis and observed the strangers walking toward them.

They were all very polite and quiet, and carried nothing that raised suspicion—no vials of medicine, no syringes in chest pockets, no halters with long ropes.

Once in the donkey paddock, the people walked all around, slowly, watching, listening, and drawing things on paper tablets. Many seemed to gravitate to Matilda, who stood motionless.
“I am here, come closer,” the old donkey said with her eyes. “I will mother you.”

They began resting their hands on her in silence, gently rubbing her shoulders or her mane and temples. Matilda acknowledged each person’s space and then looked into their eyes, deeper and deeply. Some put their ears next to hers, others leaned on her body, running their hands on her
curved spine of age and neglect, recognizing it as a sculptural sensation.

“I felt compelled to get close to them,” Matilda told me later when everyone had left.

“They gazed on me like a Rubens painting of clouds,” she went on to tell me. “They shared the symphonies that play in my ears,” and she paused to eat some grass.

Her new purpose at Apifera was now sealed and she clearly understood her present and future task.

“I shall stand and be me, and love.”

She slightly bowed her head before me so I could use it like a head pillow. We spoke not a word while clouds blew over Donkey Hill.

{Excerpt from "Misfits of Love" {Healing Conversations in the Barnyard} by Katherine Dunn}

Monday, April 17, 2017

Soap opera flip flop moving day

Overheard in the barnyard:

"We are moving next door", said Earnest.

"Why?" asked little Opie.

"I hear it has a view of the ocean over there," said Moose.

"Doubtful", said Wilbur.

"I'm going to go the ocean some day," said Earnest. "I have a plan."

{now back to business}

This weekend, we were busy with all the things that must get done before summer hits.

For me, that meant delicing and shots for all Misfits, applying the first fly/tick spray and rearranging the sleeping areas to get ready for Eleanor's pending May farrowing. I also had to get Little Lonley and Cornelia out of the cat room where they have been snug as bugs to help Little get through the chilly part of his life. But with the first warm days, ammonia wafts were setting off the fire alarms! Despite the twice a day cleaning of bedding, the warm air made the ammonia potent, since that room is insulated, and the floor is painted so runoff is problematic.

The cats were unimpressed.

While this might seem like not a big deal, it meant taking Earnest-Sir Tripod Goat-Wilbur-Moose-Goose-Opie_Rosie the goat and Marcella and putting them in the stall next to them, which meant moving the two barrows and pregnant Eleanor out to another paddock and then relocating them in the newly vacated stall. These things often go off without hitch–which it did, I was pleased.

Little is getting big, but he is still a charming little bloke. He is old enough now that his mom bashes him away if she feels he is getting too much of her breakfast-that's pig talk for,

Hey, that's mine, back off.

So, that is step one for spring management. Today I am giving sheep shots and foot trims and entertaining the tractor maintenance man while he gives our tractor it's free inspection. We are starting to plan the garden, and while plants are in full upright since as they would be in Oregon, it does me good to see things growing again...including grass, which to me always translates to 'food for the animals."

{Thank you to those who have donated to the 2017 Fund, which is also helping raise money so I can build an intake quarantine area so I can help animals in need that come the way of the state vet and animal control.]