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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.





Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Birdie wonders if this is what Peter Pan went through

Not to make light of the situation, but when we rigged up our new electric lift for Birdie yesterday, it was a bit like watching Mary Martin fly on Broadway for the first time [I date myself and I don't care.]

The new lift can hold up to 1500#, so I might get up there with her too.

This labor of love is a real...labor of love, hope, determination and continual effort to remain positive, and still watch the animal in my charge and read her intentions and feelings.

With the new lift, the rising of Birdie is much smoother, less jerky than when we did it by hand, and it is very quick, allowing her more motivation and help to rise quicker. It also allows us to raise and lower her in our exercise regime, making her use her hind and hips. I am doing various massage and movement techniques I learned in massage school, and through my own physical therapist back in Minneapolis [the best one in the entire world, fyi] who helped me so much then on my own needs, and now has consulted with me on the phone to give advise. A generous person who works with animals and acupressure [acupuncture without needles] has given me guidance on certain points, and is even hoping to come up from out of state to guide me.

I'm relying a lot on intuition, feel [looking for hot spots] and on Birdie herself to help me understand when her expression means, "That hurts," versus, "I'm sick of this leave me alone".

We are on day seven. We hoist her twice daily. Our sessions are about 30 minutes now I'd say. She was making steady improvements, and clearly wants to get up, she still has the will. The biggest improvement is when we get her hind end up [her front is strong] she is doing it quickly, and in the therapy we are doing shifting her weight and such she is engaging her hips more, making her feet hold weight without the sling. This does not last but it is a huge step. I also lift her legs to mimic walking, turn her body so she must shift weight and I do reps with her back legs. We also got back braces for ourselves.

Back when I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2002, the illustration market had crashed after 9/11. I was still able to hold on as a freelancer, but knew my jobs were dying too. I decided to enroll in massage school, with the hope of becoming an animal massage/healer. I took a grueling year of muscle/bone/healing study, learning the skeleton and muscles, and I did well, but it was intense. I decided to drop out after that year, I realized I had no desire to be a masseuse for humans [the school had no animal component]. No regrets. But here I am, attempting to be a physical therapist-healer-animal acupressurist. I am doing my best. Birdie knows.

I have shed tears a few times. Partly exhaustion both of my body and heart, it is fine to shed tears. They come at unplanned times. I try not to cry in front of Birdie. But this morning I admit as we were working on this beautiful creature, I just felt the tears come and later when we were done I had a good cry with her. Then I snapped out of it. Martyn is a God. The hope is the new lift will allow me to do it on my own, because this could go one for months.

It is simply part of my life now, my life with Birdie.

I am the caretaker. The one that can't rest. People will say, "You must get help!". I have help, his name is Martyn. While I appreciate the sentiment, this is my responsibility, this is the game without an end in sight and it is what it is. Any of us could be paralyzed at any moment....I know this after my riding accident and concussion. One moment, bang, your life and those around you can change. What do you do. You buck it up, and forge on. You take breaks, you take hot baths, eat good food, hug your friends and mate, lift your face to the sun, kick buckets when you are mad...and you don't stop. And if I need more help, I will ask.

This is something that is going to go on for some time. How it will resolve itself, nobody knows, no vet, no healer, no inner me knows that. I do know that my work with Birdie, while I was not expecting this, this is part of our path together. It is part of my covenant to her.

People have asked how to help. Donate. People were good to donate a week ago and that vet charge of $450 was covered. While our fund remains healthy, these are the types of situations that can drain the well. We spent about $1000 yesterday on the electric lift and a new power tool to help, and other items that went along with the hoist system for safety, so donations are appreciated. Someone donated a lift blanket with straps this week, and I bought one too, and another chipped in. Thank you. Your positive energy sent my way are really needed and appreciated not only for Birdie but for me and Martyn. I also have hung the prayer flags for her, and I intend to take out art I've made to help her-will it help? It is my intention it will. I have been opening the barn doors so she can see her sheep, and sun, and her nurse the Goose can get some sun and puddle-ice walking.

Donations >



Saturday, February 16, 2019

Valentine party, goat on the side

It was so nice to get out and see our friends on Friday for a little Valentine-goat party...you've been to one of those, right?

We also brought our first wrist warmers from The Old Kitty Knitty Club. One of my friends had double knee surgery and had lots of time to knit so I decided we would give these out now instead of waiting until fall. I made a couple too. The ladies liked them a lot. Opie gave out vintage valentines from the '40's and I read them to the residents. The care manager made some cookies.

It was a nice quiet little visit. One of the residents was not there, and I hope he is okay. He is one of our very dear friends and we missed his lively conversation. I am always cautious of asking too many questions due to the privacy laws. I kind of stumble around them hoping I'm doing everything properly.

After two years, some of the more talkative residents now tell me they love me, and Opie, when we leave...and they always wonder when we will be back. I think that is the most important thing for them really-to know they can count on us coming back. And we will.





Thursday, February 14, 2019

Birdie and I are fighting this together

I have not written about this on the blog, but if you follow on other social media you know that Birdie and I are in the fight of a lifetime. We are trying to pull her through the dreaded meningeal worm..."brain worm' is another term. Carried by White Tail deer, and then passed in feces to slugs and snails, it enters the llama [goats and sheep are also susceptible but camelids can be infected by way fewer worms] and does nerve damage if not caught immediately.

It started back on October 6, at our farm event, where Birdie sat holding court with her guests. When she went to get up that day, she struggled. I knew it wasn't right, and thought she had just been laying down a long time. Fortunately when it happened, I was standing with a well versed llama person who suggested it might be M worm, and I immediately called my vet, and began the 5 day intensive regime. We caught it at a very early stage-often if a llama is already down and unable to get up, those cases do not have the best chance for recovery. Within days of the first treatment, she was able to rise on her own. A few weeks later, she went down again, and we feared we had not gotten the worm, so we treated for another five days, and she rebounded, again...there was always some staggering, but that is normal due to some nerve damage from the worm. When the worm is killed, it stays in the spinal column, and the hope is the body absorbs it, but sometimes the deworming doesn't get them all, or, the worm is killed but not 'arrested' in other words it moves around.

I had never heard of this dreaded worm, we did not have white tail deer out west, and when we arrived in Maine, without a vet, we treated Birdie with a dewormer we had always used. I had some initial vets out here that first year but they were all equine vets, and I had no warning from any of them about M. Worm [and I am not saying it is their fault]. I wished somebody had mentioned it to me in the that first year and a half, but why would they? But now I know. Instead of giving one ivermectin shot each fall as we had done out west, we should have been giving Birdie that shot monthly. That shot kills the worm right as it enters the body. By the time symptoms appear, ivermectin is useless to the worms once they are in the spine, and another regime is needed.

So, after her two treatments, and two recoveries, she was doing great. She was up every morning, and even though she could not go out in muddy areas since she could slip, or ice either, she was good.

And out of the blue, overnight, about three weeks ago, she went down again and could not get her hind up on her own. Within days, she was worse in the hind end and even I could not get her up. The vet came again. We are treating her another time. Somehow, the first vet that prescribed the meds, did not give the right dosage, so all those treatments should have been double. It was an honest error, and a communication error between all of us [I believe in my current vet whole heartedly], and it is water under the bridge. Our blood work this week showed that the amount of a certain enzyme in her blood showed 'some' nerve damage, but not huge amounts of nerve damage. This is a positive. There is nothing in the blood work indicating other things going on [of course lots of things could be going on and blood would not show it], and her mineral and other levels were normal.

So, we devised-thanks to Martyn- a sling system, where we hoist her up twice daily, and I give her therapy by moving her hips, and massage her. I have talked to a very dear friend, a physical therapist who is also trained in massage and other healing arts, and he said I'm on the right track. He gave me some suggestions for our therapy sessions. I felt lifted in spirit after talking to him. We have been doing the sling/therapy since Tuesday night, and we do see improvement.

Most of all, her attitude is still good, she is still smiling. I do believe she understands I am helping her. She and I are very close, and now we are even closer. Through it all, her Goose remains vigilant, watches carefully as we load her into the sling, checking out to make sure Birdie is being treated right when I give shots and such. Birdie is probably in the top five healing animals I've ever worked with. She is so loved by so many, and such a component to our work here. I can not tell you how crushed I am that this happened, and I am very much to blame since I did not know the deworming regime for this dreaded worm.

But we continue to pray and work together to help her. I have hung prayer flags for her, and me. Thankfully Martyn is home working in winter, so I have him to help. I can not pull the pully and work on her at he same time. He is continuing to try to improve the pulley so he can leave it secure and leave me to work on her. I'm grateful I took that year of massage too, and have had physical therapy myself, so will be working on her lumbar region. We are seeing small improvements.

As long as she improves, as long as she shows me she wants to try, and does not get bed sores that are impossible to keep clean-we will continue to work. I am not giving up. I don't care if I have to do this for a year. I have read of a couple cases where a llama was down like this for a year, and one day, they arrived at the barn and she was standing.

I've shed a lot of tears over this, especially when I found out we were doing the wrong dosage. But that is then, this is now, I tell her everyday we will get through this. Until she tells me otherwise, we are going on hope, love and determination.



Monday, February 11, 2019

Pig line up

Officer: Do you two realize it is illegal to break into a grocery store and take food?

Grandmother Pig: Why, no, we did not.


This is Eleanor and her grandson, Little Lonely, aka Freddy the Dreamer. I was leaving the barn when I looked over and saw them like this. It cracked me up. I guess we know what a pig line up at the police station would look like.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The queen of the manure heap

You can usually find old Sophie sitting on the manure heap, soaking up it's heat. She is as regal as ever. And look at her beard-it was accidentally sheared off in last spring's sheep sheering. I forget to tell our shearer to leave it...I am surprised at how fast it grew back.

Hail to the Queen of the Manure Pile!


Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Opie tries to read...Othello


Poor little Opie. I found him in the barn today, all alone tucked into a quiet corner with a book.

"Opie, what are you doing?" I asked.

"I have to learn to read. I don't know how."

"Well, I think "Othello" might be a hard one to learn on. What brought this on?"

"I'm the Goat on the Side at your book reading this week," he said.

"Oh, Opie, you don't need to read , you just will be there giving Opie love," I told him.

"Oh! Why doesn't anybody explain these things to me."

"I'm sorry, no need for stress.," I said.

"I think I will learn Italian first," he said.

{Book Reading/Goat on the Side is Thursday, February 7, 1pm at Inn Along the Way in Damariscotta. I will be reading from my books, and they will be available for sale. Opie will be there too, giving love. Hours 1pm - 3pm, Inn Along the Way, 741 Main St, Damariscotta, ME 04543}