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

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Trauma for Floyd...and me

It has been a very traumatic and exhausting twenty or so hours. It started yesterday at dinner feedings. I was going about my business when I noticed my shadow, Floyd, was not there as usual. This is unheard of.

We have had lots of rain-down pours for a good part of each day–for about four days. The ground is slick. I saw his large cast body by one of the gates that leads to the other Misfit paddocks. His usually off white body was pretty much mud colored. He was not moving even after I called as I ran to him. But he was alive.

He was shaking. And he couldn't get up. I got his rear up, but his front would collapse. I got his front up, and he couldn't lift his rear. You could tell by the ground he had thrashed and tried to get up. So I ran to the barn to get a packing blanket-to hopefully roll him onto to it somehow and thinking it would give him traction.

Floyd is a big, big guy, much bigger than my sheep. I guess he weighs about 250-300#. I tried for about 20 minutes and could not get him up. Man, I tried! My back was already strained and I knew I had to stop. I was completely soaked. I was able to get him on the blanket, and I ran and got one of the new pony coats someone just donated, and blankets. I have no idea how long he was down. It had poured from about 2 pm on, and I had last been in the barnyard at noonish. I had to get him to the barn, so I tried first roping his body and pulling, but I just didn't have the strength-and I'm no wimp. I knew we needed to strap him to the tractor somehow to get him up the small hill to the barn and I needed more man power.

To be honest, I was starting to get frantic. Martyn usually comes home around seven and it would be dark by about six thirty. It was near six. I ran to call Martyn and fortunately he was 25 minutes from home due to the rains. I then got some electrolytes and sheep drench in Floyd hoping to get him warmer.  I fed him grain-which he devoured–a good sign. Feeding a downed sheep has its risks, but I opted to do it because he was shaking. I stayed with him and lay on him to help with some warmth. I sang him "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", an odd song choice but its all I could think of do do at that point, waiting for Martyn.

Martyn arrived and I was sure we'd have him in the barn soon. But no such luck. First we tried together to get him standing. He just couldn't stand. Then we got the tractor and rigged up some roping. I held his head in a towel to protect it, and we started dragging. It was horrible to watch. We kept having to stop to adjust the packing blanket underneath him. And when we got to a certain point on the hill, he was precariously positioned, and slid back.  I knew we just had to somehow drag him together into the barn once we reached level ground, and we did. The mud helped the blanket slide, but it was still back breaking, even for Martyn.

I got more electrolytes and anything I could think of into him. He wouldn't drink warm water so I gave him propyl glycol. We positioned him so he'd be sitting upright. He did give me a few burps so that was good. His eye was swollen from his attempts to get up. Fortunately he is a wool sheep so though he was wet, his wool helped, and it was about 55 out so not too cold. But he was still shaking. I stayed with him for more than hour, watching, hoping he'd stand for me once calm. I'm sure it was a horrific ordeal for him.

But he never got up, and a couple times just wanted to lie on his side. Not good. I propped him up, stuffed hay all round him to try to keep him up, and then just let him be. I had done all I could and I talked to him for awhile before going inside about eight. I was soaking wet from head to toe and was shivering myself.

I went to check on him at 10 and he was upright, and his eyes looked good. He was breathing calmly. He had good color in his lips and eyes. But, I sensed a closing down. I stayed with him and he seemed to like having his face gently stroked, and then I went inside for the night.

I found him on his side this morning, but got him upright -he still could not stand. He ate well again and I dosed him with more electrolytes. His body functions are normal. I decided to put Victor and Sophie in with him in a private suite-it is Old Man Guinnias' old stall, and it is the stall where the sick and hospice patients go. It is where the lambs are held before harvest. It is a very special place, the light is beautiful there and I propped him up so he can see outside.

I have a vet on call, but right now we are waiting. Each time I have gone out, he has moved his position slightly, but still can't rise. I'm afraid feeding him while he is lying down [not cast, just lying down] will eventually catch up to him. But, it's all I can do. He doesn't seem to be in pain-no teeth grinding or neck stretching. And today I felt like he really wanted to get up. I am hoping that he will gain strength.

I don't know why this happened. He could have had a mini seizure and gone down. I don't know. None of the other animals had gone to him either, which I thought telling. But, I'm often wrong.

I think one clear realization for me is that I can't take on any more large animals. I have to be able to care for them on my own if Martyn isn't here or it is night time. We should probably invest in a fork lift for the back of the tractor, I could put a pallet on it and might have been able to get him on it. I wouldn't trade one second with Floyd. But when I couldn't lift him, I can't tell you how scary and frustrating it was, thinking he might be out there so long that he'd die because of it. Many animals on farms or the wild do die that way, at no fault of anyone. It is nature. But I told him as I held him in the mud patch, both of us shaking, "You are not going to die in this way."

So I will stay calm for Floyd, and he is safe now, and in a dry place. He knows I come out and check on him and he knows the sound of the gate opening. He does not seemed panicked. He might just be tired, and he is very old for a big sheep. This just might be his time. This is a very reverential time. I only hope to do the best for him, and what is right at the moment. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Henrietta, attention please!"

I train all my hens to stand at attention. I use this command strictly for photo opportunities, no other enslavement is involved. Of course, they don't all listen to me and the ones that do fall in line such as Henrietta here, only do it when they want to. But when they do stand at attention, especially against the background of a red barn, it is always pleasing, even if it lasts only a second or two.

At ease, Henrietta.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn Fashion Show of Misfits

The Autumn Fashion Show of Misfits was a success, although quite exhausting for attendees and models not to mention the photographer who rallied against slippery mud and slippery goats to dress each one quickly to make it on the runway in time. The Misfits now have a great selection for the colder, rainy weather that might require outfits and we are all thankful for the generosity of our followers who sent us dog coats, pony jackets and old sweatshirts [which are remarkably useful on a farm].

If you don't see your coat in the fashion show, it is only because the models ran out of steam. And the upper barnyard of Misfits already had a little fashion extravaganza. I also have two now that will work for Victor and Sophie should they need them on top of all their curly wool some extra cold winter night. There are some very small ones that would work on Moose, or sick lambs if needed. Thank you, everyone!

So sit back, and enjoy the show!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coats for goats, donkeys gone wild and other stuff

The rains and fog have been so comforting. Like old blankets out of a cedar chest, brought out each cool season with smells conjuring up old friends and a mother's scent from long ago. I needed that. The donkeys have been allowed out into the side sheep fields, which has never happened before. They have gone mad with joy, more hills, fallen leaves and other stuff that donkeys find irresistible. It was sort of an accident. I had rearranged some fence so I could have the sheep on Donkey Hill for the night, near Old Barn, and then in the morning could lead them more easily to their fields without running them down the upper drives where they always get sidetracked into gardens. I wasn't sure about this change-I like looking out the front of the house and seeing donkeys on Donkey Hill, a couple old goats aka Stella and Iris. But to see my flock up there under the old oaks, I really loved it. It is also good education for Marcella, as she knows how to get through Old barn to them and is learning to not chase running sheep.

Yesterday I got a box of caring. A woman sent me some old sweatshirts for the goats. She too has sheep and understands the need for a warm, functional cover up for old or young animals from time to time. I too have used sweatshirts and sweaters, and I think one of these will be perfect for Scooby, and Rudy, who seem to be having trouble finding the right fit in dog coats. Also in the box were some wool pieces-beautiful ones-from the sender and they are lovely ad I will use them somehow in my dolls, which in the end always help me, and the farm-and therefore The Misfits. I hope she is reading this, as I lost her email, and will get a proper note to her today in the post. Thank you, Mother Katherine in New York, and just so you know, Victor is doing very well again.

It's been a wild couple days. The article was well received and I continue to get really thoughtful emails from total strangers, from all over the globe, sharing their thoughts. I knew there would also be a cyber troll group that would trash my thoughts and parade their agenda in the comment section, and that's just the way of the cyber world.

And I awoke again to fogs, and my view of my working flock on Donkey Hill.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"This is where you define yourself," said the trees

It's a beautiful autumn day. You cherish them even more this time of year. I was restless inside and took my camera up to Muddy Hill where the sheep were grazing. There is this part of the woods up there that as you climb up the hill, you reach the sky and the ground merges into it. It is a place that I've always loved climbing to, with the dogs, or on my own. And the sheep were milling around, some eating fallen oak leaves, others napping, like the elderly Daisy who is going on eleven. She is showing her age, with no teeth, laying down more, a bit arthritic, but her life is good. She was retired at age eight and now lives amongst her daughters and grand daughters. I take each month with her as a blessing, as she was one of my first two sheep and helped build our flock; she taught me so much with patience and gave back even more through her offspring.

One of my favorite parts of this hilly wood area is a clump of Savannah Oaks that grew in a formation so that there is a little magical space inside it. Daisy was napping in front of it. It is big enough for me to stand in and I've always felt it has some kind of magical qualities, like if I stand there long enough maybe I'll be transported far away, or maybe I can talk to whoever I want to even if they are gone.

It is like one of the sumac forts I had as a child-a place to go to and be unencumbered by the outside world. As a child that outside world seemed simpler than the one I live in today. I certainly don't remember people being so angry, but back then there were no anonymous faces barking at each other without rules on a cyber road.

I went to that hill today because I was restless. I wasn't sure what I needed to do that would satisfy that restlessness. It was the pull of the hill that drew me up there, and the sheep. The flock always ground me and bring me happiness. I communed with Chessa, and old Daisy and Alma. But when I stood in that clump of trees, a huge visceral sensation poured through me-physically.
It spoke loud and clear to me-

"This is where you define yourself, and carry it back with you."

Nobody defines me, or this farm. That's my job.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When pigs marry

I am trying to stay out of the planning. Then again, perhaps I need to take a strong lead in the preparations. Planning a pig wedding can go haywire quickly-and they haven't even gotten to seating arrangements and the menu. I did overhear someone suggest that an entire buffet of mashed pumpkin should be the first course-but do they realize that will depend on the season?

Do they realize this lovely grape head piece the bride likes might not be available in January?

I am impressed with little Earnest. He is staying out of the details, but does enjoy peeking at the bride to be. By the way-no engagement has been announced as of yet, and I urged him to give Eleanor time to adjust before any of this. But The Head Troll rushed in and was so...Head Trollish.

I was pretty impressed with the gown made from bleached seed sacks. And the shoes...you might recognize them, they are Rosie's, who has lent them to Earnest in the past. They are said to have magical essences sewn into the heel, so that when clicked two and a half times, a wish will be granted.

What started as a private barnyard wedding, seems to be taking on a life of its own. I have seen this happen over and over-you have too, I'm sure. One of my best friends-a down to earth, non frills person, found herself swept away into a NYC bridal extravaganza, ending up with a Vera Wang gown. I do know, through the grapevine–alright Marcella told me-that the once private barnyard only affair now might go public. The Head Troll insisted this is one way to get more gifts...of pumpkins.

But again, does she understand that will depend on the season? I am not paying for pumpkins to be flown in during off season.

Keep me in your thoughts. A pig wedding is going to happen whether I like it or not.

Victor back to his normal self

A reader asked me for an update on old Victor-and I felt horribly, as I neglected to post here on that. I had updated on Facebook, but not here- the woes of social media overload.

And Victor, I'm relieved to say, is doing really well. After the initial couple of days of no eating and being unable to stand without falling, he came through. It took a bout a week where I felt safe to give a sigh of relief. I don't know if it was a rumen issue-which is all I could treat him for- or something else. His condition and issues will most likely be problematic as he grows older. But it sure is good to have him walking around again-or as much as Victor ever walks. He does like to get out though and has special places he usually heads towards before laying down. I did note that Sophie has really put on some descent weight [needs more, for sure] but that Victor hasn't added as much as her. We will keep working on that. I have coats ready for them this winter-thanks to some kind souls who donated old dog coats! I'm afraid winter might be hard on him.

Part of caring for the old, neglected ones is you have to learn to accept the outcome isn't always what you would plan for. Sometimes, an animal arrives like Victor who was severely neglected, starved really, and they don't pull through even after they gain a bit of weight. i always feel that some animals arrive and just feel it is safe, they sense what I do here, and they 'let go', where as others have a will to continue on.

And even though I believe that, I have grown fond of Victor and I was so relieved to see him turn around. He is so gentle and sweet and agreeable, trying to always get to his food without getting in the way too much [unlike Floyd, who I call "The Couch" because he is huge and always there no matter where I am.]

So raise a toast to Victor who doesn't let his physical limitations get in the way of being kind to the herd and shepherdess.

Monday, October 13, 2014


We have a new spotted addition, and Earnest is pretty excited. We brought home Eleanor, a KuneKune piglet who is now 10 weeks old. She had a long 6 hour drive to get here and barely spoke a peep the whole way home.

Like Earnest, she has charming red eyelashes and lovely spots. For the time being, she is living with The Rat Pack - aka the piglets- so as not spoil her purity with her soon to be husband, Earnest. Of course, Earnest is like any fiancé, ready for some pre-nuptial anything, but until the wedding he will have to just admire her from afar.

Yes, a wedding, a pig wedding. Why not? I've never planned a pig wedding and already there are people that seem to think they will get invited. I'm afraid it will be a private barnyard affair-I don't even know if I'll be invited.