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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Caring for the elder matriarchs begins

I knew this day was coming when we started raising sheep. While I retired both Daisy and Lilly from breeding around age seven, I kept them with the flock, to spend their days and nights with their daughters, granddaughters and herd. I am experienced caring for elder animals, and knew there might come a day when I'd have to separate them from the flock to keep them safe.

That day came and went. They are now living in the orchard of the Lower Misfit Village, with access to the new barn, the shade of Stevie's kissing hut and the company of pigs and Misfits on all sides of them. Today Marcella and Benedetto stopped in to see them, I don't know how, but they are shape shifters as I've repeated to you often.

I've given animal husbandry a lot of thought. I enjoy raising animals but I knew that there would come a time when I'd be faced with my flock aging. Many farms send elder animals off to the auction due to lack of space and money to care for the elders. I understand this and do not judge that. I am a small operation with a herd of thirty four and have the space to care for my elders. I will not send any animal to auction. They've done their job well and have given us life and food for our nourishment. They will now be cared for by me, until they are unable to have more good days than bad. Daisy is very arthritic which is why I relocated them to the elder wing. When those two stray dogs ran the flock down the hill, I saw how badly her body took it. When you stand with her, you can hear creaking and possible bone rubbing.

Both Lilly and Daisy are totally toothless. Lilly is Daisy's daughter and was from our first lambing in 2005. She has thrown some of the best ewes we have, strong, sturdy and prolific. Daisy arrived in 2004 with her mother Rosemary, who we lost in the Spring of Death in '09. So Daisy is very special to me. She and her mother built our flock, and calmly showed how lambing was done, without panic, with great grace. I'm sure she rolled her eyes a lot the first time we lambed-I must have checked her udder ten times a day even though I had no idea what subtle changes meant. She watched calmly as I gave my first shots to the flock, stabbing myself here and there. But I gained her confidence.

So, the flock is aging, but I'm not going to abandon them. It might mean that the Misfit Village will be full of aging sheep, toothless and limping, but that is okay with me. I have taken care of other animals that have been abandoned by other people or given to rescues when those animals needed them most-in their elderly years. I will not do that to my sheep.

It might mean adopting less, or even no more Misfits. But I have enough Misfits to care for.

Because I am responsible for my flock–my beautiful, aging flock. And I don't mind one bit having them here until they are ready to pass on to the next realm.