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

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Huck's final nap- we let go

Moon River, wider than a mile
I'm crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you're going, I'm going your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see
We're after the same rainbow's end, waiting, round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me

Yesterday morning, when he came to me and pressed up to my leg as I sat reading the paper, an unusual tactic for him, and he looked at me with these chocolate brown soul eyes, I knew he was asking for help. The past three days have seen him go from hardly be able to eat, to choking and not being able to swallow. A hard mass that formed in his throat had arrived quickly, and by Saturday morning he could not eat, or drink.

I had just started an ongoing photo essay of him last week in which I was going to photograph him all year, knowing it might be his last. He had lost so much weight and seemed to have more pain in walking. I had a vet called, but they were unable to come, and after a morning of taking some pictures of him, I knew we had to take him in, we should not wait until Monday. We opted to go to a nearby clinic that is open 24 hours a day on the weekend and were treated really nicely. I really liked the vet and plan to go back for other needs.

It is always surreal driving an animal you love to a destiny that is so final. There was a tiny part of me that thought,

Maybe it's an abscess [I knew it wasn't] and we can fix this for him.

At the vet, we learned that the type of cancer it most likely was, due to many of the signs present, was an aggressive type that ate away muscle, hence his dramatic weight loss from 85# to 68#. His tongue had become ulcerated, the mass was blocking his airway causing the coughing and inability to eat. In time, we knew he would suffocate, and in reality, he was starving to death. Even if it had been a blocked saliva gland the vet concluded, the weight loss and other symptoms indicated he had cancer. If he had been young, or not so thin, a test might have been warranted.

When I look back at the photos I took yesterday morning, I was looking at a creature I loved who was in pain. But when I look at the photo at the vet clinic I took, after his sleeping meds were given, I see my friend in peace.

There were many beautiful things that happened in the past few days. In Oregon, the labs slept in the living room. Once in Maine, Huck took to sleeping by my side next to the bed. Muddy still slept in the living room. But three days ago, I'd find Muddy sleeping side by side with Huck by our bed. It was so telling, and tender. He was extra diligent to Huck, cleaning up the constant drooling that also started about three days ago-a symptom of the condition. On the morning I took the photos, Muddy waited for me to finish the photos of Huck before barging in on us, his usual norm. He licked Huck's paws for him.

At the vet, we knew what the probable outcome was, but we patiently waited for the vet. I needed to hear her opinions, just so I knew I wasn't over exaggerating what I saw and felt. After all, we have had so many changes, and just lost Raggedy. I also like facts and she was able to explain things about the symptoms that made me know without a doubt what we had to do. We were ready to let go, for him.

He was given a sleeping aid mixture and we were left alone with him to say our final goodbyes. I am usually very stoic with vets, but I have to say, I bawled like a baby on this one. I lay down on the floor with him and told him what a great friend he was, and how we'd miss him so very much-but we were right here and he was going to never feel pain again, or the panic he must have felt not being able to swallow. Martyn is a stoic guy, albeit with a kind heart. He rarely cries. And he does not give kisses to animals. But when he got down on the floor and kissed Huck's forehead and said softly,

"Goodbye Huck,"

I thought I was going to implode with love and sadness.

Back home, we dug a grave near Raggedy. I brought Muddy out to see Huck. In the barnyard, it's important that the animals see their dead mates, even though they never overreact. Of course, I know that Muddy knew Huck was evolving in the last three days. He knew he was wasn't feeling right and was vulnerable. But I wanted to let him see Huck one more time. I put a picture of a young Muddy in Huck's grave.

"It's the end of an era", Martyn said later that night as we unwound on the porch. Just as Raggedy's death snipped more strings from our old farm and life, Huck's death was almost the Gods shaking the house and saying,

You are here now, it is time to reinvent yourselves as you intended when you left. It is time to clear out the past and rejuvenate your new life on your new farm. All is well.

But perhaps one of the sweetest moments of love came later in the evening. I found Martyn at the laptop, and when he saw me, he got a bit shy and stood up suddenly.

"I was looking for a song," he said.

He wanted to hear "Moon River". I had forgotten the connection, but he hadn't. You see, when we got Huck as a pup, we had picked the name Buck. But he just wasn't fitting that name, and finally it was Martyn that picked the name Huckleberry. He was our Huckleberry Friend. Last night, we sat in bed and listened to all the versions we could find of Moon River, and each time our old friend's name was sung, we cried.

He is so missed, and a huge presence is gone, but I felt him all around me. I thought we had longer with him, but the look he gave me, the look he had in these last photos of his final hours-he was ready. It was a gift to be able to do it for him, send him on his way. I believe we will see him again, on a Moon River, I do.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Oh, Raggedy Man, I did not want to say goodbye yet

When I walked out to do barn feedings this morning, I knew he might be gone. When I didn't see him, I knew. Raggedy Man had lost weight some weeks ago and all my usual concoctions didn't seem to help much. He had other physical symptoms appear about three days ago and I knew in my heart he was fading.

I had found him yesterday morning separated from his buddies, and also in a very unusual spot for him, way off where nobody would bother him. I brought him back to the barn to gets some meds in him. He was off feed for the entire day. But last night when he and I spoke, it was clear he didn't have the energy to fight it. And his eyes had sunken. I had never witnessed it to that degree in an animal that was still alive. I'd been making sure he had fluids but I knew that was the death stare.

Over his body this morning, I cried for a lot of things, some things were about him, some things were about disappointments of the week. I told him what a wonderful fellow he was to have around, and oh I will miss his little raggedy feet and messy hair! He had charming smile too that graces many of my photographs. His beard was picturesque, and I combed it through my hands as I sat and mourned for him.

I dragged you all the way out here and maybe it killed you, I said to myself.

I felt his intention speak, But I wanted to come. It's just, I'm old. I died here with everyone I knew.

I know what's coming. More loss. Scooby Keith is also very thin, he always has been, he's fought off sudden illnesses so many times I wonder if he will live forever. Huck is also in dire straights as of this week and we are examining and grasping the unthinkable but unavoidable. This is the first of the creatures I brought from Oregon to die here on this land. It is not only a loss of a friend and creature, it is a second loss of the old farm. I know this. I have been through this with the grieving of my mother and father. There are many strings that are attached to the living, they don't all get snipped on the first day of death.

I buried him in an area near M'Lady Apple, where there is a natural piece of flat granite. When we first arrived here, I recognized it as a beautiful healing spot to sit, and planned to develop into a special place for me and guests. It is where others will be buried in time, but M'Lady will drop little red fruits at our feet in summer and beautiful delicate pink lowers come spring.

As sad as it was to say goodbye to this chap, I have to say there was some tiny little voice inside that came after I'd had a good cry,

Have faith in these new voids, we have plans.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Let loose the monkeys!

It felt a bit like a traveling circus.

"Let loose the monkeys!" I declared, as I opened up two paddocks. The mixture of species is the norm around here and everyone from pig to camelid were thrilled to be set out in larger eating areas.

It's been a lot of work and effort to get the creatures resettled here. When we arrived there was no fencing to speak of, and one small barn with a chicken coop. I think we put up more fencing in three months than we did half our time in Oregon. My main concern is the The White Dogs understand their boundaries and not get out on the road, which to be honest, is a big fear I have here.

But finally, they have some room to roam and patrol. We still have a lot to do, but it was so fun seeing them all out the other day. It allows them to work again, even though Marcella takes guarding seriously no matter where she is or what her charges are. She still has a real fondness for pigs. She has been with Earnest and separate from Eleanor and the piglets, so her day of roaming with the pigs was good for her. And while llamas generally don't like canines, Birdie and The White Dogs are fine with one another.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Three legged boy wonder, we love you

Sir Tripod Goat is pretty much a loner. I don't know if this is because with his condition–which he was born with, making him only able to use three legs–if he was bullied as a kid and so he just wants to stay out of harm's way. When he first came to Apifera back in Oregon, I could hardly get a chin scratch in, but in time, he softened. I watched him for many weeks and at some point decided to bring him to the upper barn where where he could live in the hay area and have ample quiet. This allowed he and I to have quiet interactions many times day, without the interference of Head Trolls or wandering acrobatic goats...or pigs.

Since arriving in Maine, Tripod has lived in one area with Eleanor and her piglets as well as Birdie the llama. Scooby came and went, depending on his mood as did Raggedy Man and Sophie.

As we develop the pastures and paddock areas more, I am reshuffling animals so they can be out in larger areas, and this weekend I helped Tripod out to be in one of them. The little fellow can really zoom around on three legs, but he does tire so spends most of his time in repose, or lying down and eating grass.

I caught him with the deep Maine sky overhead, as if the Gods themselves sent out their cloud apprentices to look after him while I continued with chores.

I don't know how long I have with any of these creatures, so moments like these are soul reverberating.

Carry on Sir Tripod, three legged wonder boy of Apifera, we love you.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Building a life around a sense of place

This is one of the most comforting views of Apifera, the Maine Apifera. It is not as expansive as our old farm, it is not hilly with shades of ochre everywhere, and there is no coastal range [which I miss, I admit].

But at night when we sit on the porch I see Boone and the donkeys, and M'Lady Apple. It brings me peace and soothes any worries I have about income, purpose, and the repercussions of the move.

One has to find these pieces of scenery that they can turn to, and recognize their influence on the soul. I'm lucky to have this view. It is a 'smaller' view than our old place. The sky is smaller than out West. But this is what I am presented with now, and it has merit and is appreciated daily, and nightly.

You find a place that feels like it can be home, and you build a life around it, one day at a time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I gave my love a ukulele

Martyn and I never, or rarely, buy gifts for each other. His first gift to me before we were married was a perfectly intact dragonfly, which I was over the moon for-a match made in heaven said his family if she likes dead insects instead of jewelry. But with our move to Maine, one thing I wanted to bring into our lives, especially as we age, our new lessons and skills. We had talked a year ago about getting ukes, but never did. So for our anniversary, I surprised him with two ukuleles-and I am so bad at keeping surprises but I managed to pull it off.  We are trying to practice an hour each night. The first song we are learning is "Always Look on the Sunny Side of Life".

Thirteen years ago I married Martyn. It is a day that was a turning point in my life, of course, my first and only marriage. You might know the story,  I was 45 and had left Minneapolis with a broken heart and wobbly but re-emerging healthy ego,  to move to Oregon without knowing anyone except my brother. I took flight after feeling called to the West, leaving my parents behind - a hard decision- and many friends I still love and care about. I found a wonderful bungalow in a village and the I planned to live there forever, it felt that right to me. The day I was moving in, there was a knock at the door. Those of you who know me well know that I am not a fan of pop-ins, at all, even Neil Young popping in might irritate me. But that day, I remember I was thinking,

Who is coming here when there is a moving van in the driveway? Don't they know I'm crazy busy and tired and look like crap {looking back, I looked pretty good, now that I'm 13 years older I can say that.}

A man put his hand out and shook mine, and said,

"Martyn Dunn. I had to come meet you, I heard you had the same last name."

Word travels fast around here, I thought.

My slight irritation from a pop-in turned to a warm feeling, a safe feeling. I remember thinking that I was really glad he was my next door neighbor. He wasn't a hipster or arty or anything, but he had this kind face and smile-I am sure if you read this blog you have seen it and would agree with that assessment. Embarrassingly [at the time] I also remember knowing I would be with him at some point. I didn't tell anyone though. not a soul.

A year later, we married, in the garden we built together at my house. There was other stuff in between there that brought us to our union [garish pitch-you can read it all in the illustrated memoir of our courtship Donkey Dream]. I have thought many times, I think if I'd met him in my twenties I might have walked on, I don't know though. I'm glad we met later in life because I was ready for kind not cool, honest not showy, authentic not excitement. But to say our life has not been exciting is the opposite of the truth. We went onto start a farm, raise 4000 lavender plants, fence an empire, raise sheep and care for old, crippled barn animals. We built a lot of stuff. We fixed a lot of fence. We cooked our own meat and vegetables and grew into our life in Oregon on the farm. The farm there and all that came with it created what we were best at-envisioning something together, expanding on it and jumping in building it. And now we are here in Maine, at 58, rebuilding another farm, another version of Apifera. I would not be doing it without him. After living as a usually content and full of life single woman, always living alone until I married, I wonder now if I would be happy again if Martyn died. A horrible thought. I don't want to think of a world without him.As one old timer said, after his wife of 60 years died, and he was still actively creating at 90, he sad, "The fun has gone out of it all, but I go on."

It's been said before by many-marry a good friend and I will second and third that. I rarely say when making introductions, "this is my husband," I tend to say, "This is Martyn," because that is who he is to me-Martyn.

He makes me laugh. Laughter is more important than anything. Commitment on top of that and an understanding that I am me and he has to be him makes a perfect pair. I never had it before, and I can't imagine ever having it with anyone else.

I don't believe in luck. I think we were brought together, after we both had other relationships to be part of and learn from. I wasn't ready for marriage even in my late thirties, I can say that clearly to you. I'm so blessed no-one married me!  I've learned so much about myself through my marriage-relationship are teachers-and I know he has learned a lot too and in many ways I've seen him blossom through our time together. I know I have added to his world, and vice versa.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The most misfitedly best book sale to date!

People, it's August, we are all hot, and dreary and drippy from humidity. So I am having my once a year Book SALE through August to cheer myself up, and cheer you up if needed. You can read about each book here.

"These will be the best prices of any book sale...ever," said the pig.

"Remarkably true," said Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat as he flew through the air to land on the apple tree.

For either "Misfits of Love" or "Donkey Dream"
The sale price is $15 per book plus $7 shipping. Two books can fit in a $7 shipping pack.

The price for one book is normally $22 plus shipping.

If you want more than two books, please let me know and I will send you an electronic email which would include the accurate shipping of more than two books [each book would still cot $15]

Donkey Wisdom Journals
Sale price is $8 per journal plus $7 shipping. Two journals can fit in a $7 mail pack.
Normal price is $15 plus $7 shipping.

There is an option in the scroll menu to buy 1 Misfit and 1 Donkey book.

Again if you want more than two of anything, let me know and i can send an electronic invoice for accurate shipping cost [the journal price remains $8 each]


Sale Prices