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

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Big news, huge news, happy news, shocking news



There is some HUGE news to share now. I have been keeping this inside for weeks, and only a handful of friends/contacts know.

Martyn and I, and Apifera, are relocating to...Maine.

Just as I was once pulled West by internal rumblings and guides, I am being guided East. But this time, Martyn is also having the same pull. This is a soul -and financial-and life-decision as a couple and farm. It will be our grandest and most complicated collaboration to date. The Misfits will come too. There will be many decisions to make, many arrangements, many pieces of a puzzle will need to fall into place. The land here would never think of holding us back, it simply says, "Thank you, you have helped me and I have helped you, now go on your way, something out there needs you."

I do believe there is a place, with a barn, standing in central Maine somewhere, in need. I do.

To say we are excited is an understatement. I am not joyous to leave, but we both are ready and eager for the next step of our forming. When I left Minneapolis for Portland in 2002, who could have known what things I would do in my relationship to land, animal and people? But when I left, I knew it was a huge opening for me, and it was, in more ways than I could have known. This is how we both feel about this move. Martyn is ready to have seasonal work-he has been working manual labor as a landscaper since he was 15. He wants a change. He wants to fish. He wants to expand. He wants to be east. I too what a tweak in my work. As a wise healer I work with said, "You will always find Misfits wherever you go because they always will find you-that is part of your path here on earth." How my work will evolve with the animals, and my art and books, we will see. I will always share story, my work is about relationship.

We are 57 and as we started looking towards our 60's, we knew carrying this mortgage would become a drain. We've seen it happen over and over-people age and don't make plans, or wait to long to make a change that is needed. We are not broke, we are not in trouble, but we also know this is a needed and important financial decision for us. We want to live where the other person can carry the mortgage on their own should the other fall ill, or not have a mortgage. And we can have that and more in Maine.

We are graced to have a couple friends already there, and they have been so helpful guiding us. So we know the area we want, in fact there is one town that seems to be pulling us especially. I'm not sharing that right now but and we already are getting acquainted with the area. We are finding many possibilities. And yesterday, I signed the papers to put our property on the market.

So what do I want from you? I want your wings. I want Apifera to be blessed and carried by love from one coast to the other. I don't want advice, nor does Martyn. I want your encouragement and excitement to follow us on this big adventure. Earnest is going East. The White Dogs will have snow. The One Eyed Blind Pug will feel the sunset on his one eyeball, but this time it will rise from the Atlantic. The Atlantic, I have missed the Atlantic. I want to have a cyber village of fans and friends that cheer us on.

Leaving will be sad in many ways-but I have been through this before. Leaving is just what you do before you enter something. I have tried to tell a few people and associates-if I left you out, please don't feel hurt. I realized at some point, let it go, I can't control the hurt of others. There have been some cynical reactions too, from Oregon friends. But I am not living their lives, so I won't own any of that.

A year ago when I started painting for the Oct '15 show, I immediately had an internal voice tell me the show should be called, "Calling All Wings". I thought I knew why that was. I thought it was because I knew many of the elders were passing, many of the original Misfits were going to need wings. And that happened. But like always, there is always so much more deep down under the dirt.  I want the sky to fill up with wings, to carry us as gently as possible.

It's going to be one hell of a journey. And we are both up for one more grand adventure, one more house to help, one more barn to fill with life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Thanksgiving prayer



Martyn and I have been together for almost 14 years. We met in our forties which was a good thing as I still had a lot to learn before I met him, and I imagine he had his own work to do too. What I find so beautiful about our relationship is it just grows stronger every year. Like any couple, we have rough spots and warts, but we always go to bed with a kiss-at least 99% of the time.

The other night we were having our usual wine by the fire and as we were talking about a particular subject, I had this epiphany-that I loved Martyn even more than the day before and each day I kept feeling more love, and that it was a much more mature love than when we met. Our skills as a couple have grown more fine tuned and our ability to work as a team is more polished. I got up and told him this as he started to make dinner, and I cried a little because it felt so strong inside of me, this sense of strong love.

When I wrote the book, Donkey Dream, it was about how I left Minneapolis with a broken heart after The West spoke to me, called me, pulled me to her. On my first day in my new house, I met Martyn. A year later, we married and a year after that we were pulled further west, to find Apifera. Or I found Apifera. Selfishly, I always thought my finding Apifera as my cosmic plan, that Martyn was living his own path with his landscaping business.  I thought of Apifera as a gift to me for my heart, art, and work with animals. It was my call to service, the perfect meshing of my soul to land and animal. And all of that is true.

But I now realize that Apifera became an ongoing grad school for us to learn and evolve as a couple. The farm created opportunities to partner in ways we might not have been able to in town. When my father died in 2008, it opened another space for our marriage. And when my mother died, then Martyn's father, more spaces were open to us as a team. Our dynamics shifted somehow because of those openings. It is not that our parents were bad for our marriage, but there were things I shared intimately with my mother I didn't with Martyn. I realized our relationship has grown so much on many levels, due to these new spaces. Intimacy, true intimacy, involves trust in the partner. After 12 years of marriage I recently shared some dark secrets of my past, that almost came to me out of the blue, incidences I didn't want to revisit. Martyn was moved, and sad to hear of these things, but it was a beautiful moment too, that after all that time, he was the one I told, and nobody else knows, or will know.

Apifera is very much about my relationships with the animals and land. My art and writing work will always be about relationship. But I have been reawakened of late that Apifera is also about my loving and evolving relationship with my best friend and husband, my Dirt Farmer, my ever most gentle hearted, Martyn.

My Thanksgiving prayer is one for me and Martyn, that we be able to stay with each other until the end in sickness and in health. A more realistic prayer might be that we stay together until the end, and if we can't, that we grow wings and harvest strength to endure what life gives us.



In which I show selfies with a pig are difficult

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sale item a day is happening!



I will be having one sale item a day for the next few weeks. As already posted, there will be no other art or book sales this year.

Here's how it works. I post an item on my Facebook Fan Page, you view it at the shop, buy it [first come-first served], and then I Paypal back the discount offered. If that doesn't sit well with you, I can simply invoice the sale amount electronically, you pay, I ship.

Today's sale item is a pastel sketch of our lovely Lucia, Pino's baby sister who seems to always be tiny. We have a nick name for her- Tea Cup– because her feet are so teeny and her body just always stayed like a little wee one. This drawing is framed and is originally $175 but today only is $125 plus $12.00 shipping.

Sale price only lasts the day it is posted. So watch for the daily items on the Facebook page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The cat who thinks it is a lion at your service



In the vitriol spewing forth from the internet all this week-something I have consciously stayed out of- I give you a portrait of a lion, er, cat. This is Mack who is a Main Coon but truly believes he is a lion. I actually believe him. He lives in a NYC garden apartment and roars every morning to make sure the neighbors remember his strength. They do.

He seems to be popular, so I made his image available on the store, along with his roommate's, Lucy who believes the entire world exists within her city garden, which it does.

There are many other prints to choose from. My goal in the coming months is to focus on growing the animal portraits available for prints.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another one of Apifera's first cats...is gone



Little Orange in the background,  naps with his companion, Plum.

I have to accept it, and probably did even four days ago when I noticed he was not at breakfast. Little Orange has returned to Nature. He was going on eleven.

I am sad about it-but also, I acknowledge the gift of having him for so long, and the gift I gave him, and his mates, and mother, of having such a long life as a semi feral. He was going on eleven, as is Plum, his constant companion of the last few years.

Little Orange was most likely the cutest kitten we had, well, there was Itty Bitty of course. But Orange captured every one's hearts with his teeniness. He was the final kitten to be trapped and neutered, and he wore his big boy pants proudly. Many of you know the story of the Apifera cats. When we moved here in 2004, almost on day one, a little orange fluff ball poked his head out of a hay bale. It was an orange tabby and he was part of a litter of five from the elusive Mama Kitty. I set out to trap the litter, and did, spayed and neutered them and as of this date, two are still with us, Hazel, who lives in the hay barn, and Mr. Plum, who now resides on the deck after he left the barn years ago with Mama Kitty and Orange. They lived and ate on the porch, and Mama Kitty actually died in one of the baskets not long ago-she never tendered up, but Plum and Orange did over time, at least for me. When guests came, they would disappear into their forests of Quince bushes and lilacs, perhaps showing their faces, but never tendering to strangers.

Little Orange was from the second litter that Mama had immediately after we first found that orange fluff ball [that fluff ball went on to be known as Gus and he lived a long life but disappeared a year ago, he was ten years old]. It took me two years to trap Mama and spay her, but I did, and she too lived to be over twelve.

I found Little Orange and his litter in the trash heap the former owners had left out behind the old barn. We were cleaning it up and out popped some kittens. One was Little Orange. All the others- Blackberry, Pumpkin Head, Teasel, and Fig are gone.

I am sad. He was a favorite. And it is hard to not put my human emotions onto Plum, who was with Orange most days, and they slept on the porch all wrapped up together. Plum is fine, he is big and healthy and has ample baskets to sleep in. Peaches now sleeps on the porch, but she just isn't into buddying up with anyone. I'm hoping she might. She has become less hissy around other cats, and I have been noticing she watches Plum while he eats, and doesn't run off. So maybe, in time, they will bond. Plum sits on the porch at night and we communicate through the window. We have all windows there, and it is almost like he is n the room with us.

I looked for his body, thinking he might have died in the bramble. But cats are independent that way. The coons often come to the porch to look for left over feed in the dish, but they respect the cats, and vice versa. I think he just died, and took himself to a place that was dry and out of trouble.

Good bye, Little Orange. I know you are okay wherever you are. I'm so glad I could help you live a long life. And to all those who helped with donations for all those cat spays/neuters in the early years, you helped too.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Marcella continues her nightly duties



Last night, Marcella took up her spot with Old Victor, testing his hay, laying with him, and just making sure she was protecting him from wandering bears, coyotes, dinosaurs and out of line Misfits.



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Let's sing The Chicken Underpants Song!



{To be sung to the tune of "I've a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts"}


I have a lovely pair of underpants

A lovely pair of underpants have I

They blow in the breeze

They come to my knees

I have a lovely pair of underpants

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Marcella the caretaker



So many times I've seen her do this-stay watchful over the needy ones. This time it is Old Victor, as I wrote about in yesterday's post. Last night Victor ate well, but I watched him try to get up and he couldn't make it. I helped him stand and he could walk, but was weak. I feel his expression after one of these episodes is changing, to more of,

I am getting tired.

But this morning I was surprised to see him up, and after hay he decided he wanted to walk–or hop on three legs-around a bit. Marcella immediately came to be near him. Then she would come to me, expressing her thought of

I think he is okay, but you need to know he is needy.

Animals sense so much in other creatures, and humans. I've seen over and over-the time Marcella leaned into me while I stood talking to a very sad but angry woman who was crying-she just wanted to make sure I was safe; or when Pino the donkey positioned himself near a mute woman who had come for a healing visit, but he picked her out of a group of five; the many times my horse has stood still, while I commune in sadness near him; the vigel Marcella kept over her buddy Earnest when he fell sick.

Marcella is not afraid of Victor dying. That is not in her code. She is wary of anything she senses that seems off, or unsafe for her charges, including me.

She is a remarkable creature.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In which I talk like Pooh Bear



Old Victor and Marcella have their routine. In morning and at night feedings, Marcella enters the stall and lays with Victor-I like to think it is to make sure he is okay, or that he is still with us, but I also think she has an innate passion to test the hay for quality! She loves to get right in the hay and eat it.When I put hay out for the group, Marcella always puts herself in the middle, and they eat all around her. This is a very common trait of Maremmas-and I suppose other guard breeds.

The light is so beautiful at these moments in the barn–makes my photography not that good, but sometimes I catch a second that is astounding when I am in it-like the way the honey colored light lays on Victor's white coat, as if Goegres de la Tour had painted it himself.

I am unsure if Victor will make it through the winter. I am watching. I don't want him to suffer and he is getting up less and less. But what I am doing-I am enjoying his company. I always do, but often it is a rushed time if I have to get back to the studio or have an errand. After so many losses this summer of elders that were glue in my heart-Aldo, Stevie, Priscilla, Rudy-and so many others-I am aware of our tenuous lives here. Who knows who will go tomorrow-it might be me. I must drink it up, be fully present, as much is as possible.

I was trying to reach a one word synopsis of what it is like to sit with Victor, while he munches hay, the light on his head, Marcella near by me, and  the other animals in the near distance all grinding and swallowing Earth's feathered grasses, the smells of mud, rams, breath and rain all around.

One word, what would it be?

I decided it had to be...here.

We are nowhere else but here, we are not in yesterday, or next week and we aren't thinking about Sunday because it is Tuesday and Tuesday is just fine, until tomorrow when it will be Wednesday.

I am beginning to talk like Pooh Bear.

"Here, Girls! Come over!"

A video posted by Katherine Dunn / Apifera Farm (@katherinedunnapiferafarm) on


Many a time someone has said to me,

You need a herding dog.

Nope.

I am not against herding dogs. Although I do get cranky when I see people with a few sheep who have herders, and simply use their sheep as props for the dog. I know of one person who kept her sheep in deplorable shape but had a business training sheep dogs so the sheep were just that-training targets.

If I had a larger flock, with more land, I can certainly see a need for a good herder. But for my needs, my voice has always done the trick. Occasionally, and The Dirt Farmer will shake his head in agreement, my flock does not listen. This usually occurs on a Sunday, most often in the summer when I want to get my barn chores done earlier than normal so I can rest and sip wine by six. Upon arriving here, we rarely sat down before eight pm. Now, we have learned it is best, and appropriate, to sit our bones down earlier. So on some summer days, nearby farms and properties might hear me losing my patience, to put it mildly, as I am calling,

"Here, Girls, here, Girls!"

The sheep have their own clock and dusk is usually when they return to the barn.

I spend a lot of time with my flock. They trust me and I can call them down from any hill on any part of the property. This morning I got up and wanted to catch a photo or two in the fog. Wild Otis is so striking against the white and faded Payne's Gray.

Seeing them run across the field when I call them over fills my well for the day. I really love working with sheep, and seeing them in the field. This morning when I got up from bed, I looked out the window and saw Otis looking down into the lavender field where the sheep should have been. He had a confused look on his face, ears erect and forward-I looked down into the filed to make sure there was no strange presence there. But I saw no sheep-it was that foggy. I had to really look to make sure they were all there. I think Otis was having the same problem,

Where have the sheep gone?!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Early days of Apifera and Nature as friend



I took this photo last night of Wild Otis, at dusk. The clouds were so powerful. The morning fogs have returned and I was contemplating this last week at some point-that fog was my blanket when I first moved here. I had moved to Portland from Minneapolis in 2002, single, and two years later, I was married and moving to a rural area where we knew nobody. I only knew one person, my brother, in Portland before I met Martyn.

Arriving here was not only culture shock, it was a physical and emotional uprooting. While I was beginning the dream of owning a farm, I was a fish out of water. Martyn and I had a joke back then, when he'd drive off to his project sites back in Portland each morning, I'd stand at the door and say in my best Mayberry RFD twang,

"Don't leave me here without a gun."

Those were days of hard work and unrest, but each day there was the old barn, the land, the big top sky and the stars at night were our theater. I do remember driving around to try to get to the store thirty minutes away, thinking,

What have I done.


Change is unsettling. Change is powerful. Change brings so many new things into a life that one looks back and thinks,

If I hadn't had the courage to leave Minneapolis, I would not have met Martyn, and Apifera would still be floating, waiting for me somewhere.

So I was thinking about the fog, and how in our early days here, it was my blanket, and it still is. Unlike snow, it has less of a sound. Snow is a wonderful blanket too, but fog engulfed me, wrapping her arms around me on my farm with the raggedy fence protecting me from perceived wolves of my new environment. I have always gone to Nature when I felt the label of Misfit or weirdo being applied to me-either by another person, or by inner chatter. When I was six, we lived in what to me was the perfect place, a 5 acre plot with a carriage house that the main landowner sold us-so we were surrounded by his land, and there were horses all around and trees and forests. I had a grove of sumac and I'd disappear for hours, into my sumac forts-small rooms cleared out by deer-and I'd strip naked and lie under the sumac leaves, with the blue sky above streaming in when leaves blew in the wind. No matter where I am thrust or have to go to in my coming years, I know there will always be some kind of sumac fort for me-if I seek it out. Nature gives us friends all over the world!

Fog is as much a part of Apifera as the dirt or animals. But Apifera first and foremost was birthed from my heart. It can not be contained by land. It goes where I go.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Apifera's most optimistic member turns six: Muddy!





Today and all day we celebrate the birth of Apifera's most optimistic resident, Muddy. Of course, every day is a celebration to this guy. Each morning just before he senses the sun will break, we hear him yawn. Then footsteps tipped with toenail clipping sounds into our bedroom. His tail will hit every obstacle in its way-out of jubilation. he pokes his nose into my sleeping head,

"Hey! It's Monday!!!!!! It's such a great day!"

"Go flat..." I say softly, his command to go to his couch and lay down until we are up.

Minutes later, he returns, this time to poke Martyn.

"Hey, it's Tuesday!!!!! It's going to be such a great day!!!!!!"

And so it goes day in and day out, no matter the weather, Muddy is just happy to be here.

Muddy came to us six years ago, form the same parents as Huck. But the two could not be more different. Where Huck will ask politely, and with little confidence,

Is it okay if I pass the chair you are sitting in so I can get to my cushion?

Muddy will leap over anything to get where he needs to go.

I would also like to officially apologize on this public platform to Muddy-for if anything goes wrong, usually he is blamed. This is due to the fact that as a pup and well into his second year, he ate just about everything-living, dead, or man made. Even my terriers were not as destructive. We have a household joke that Muddy walks away from us when he is scolded, singing the old song about Charlie Brown-

Why's everybody always picking on me?

He's a goofball. He talks a lot. He has a separate entity attached to his rump called a tail. He obeys. He adores his Frisbee and must be chaperoned with it or he will die of exhaustion. He is happy. He is loved.







Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A patriarch is gone-we lose Papa Roo to nature



Papa Roo was our very first rooster. In fact, he was the very first rooster I had ever known. He came to Apifera from a local farm, along with our first hens, including some of the sneaky Banties that are such expert nest hiders producing many surprise clutches over the years which brought delight, more hens...and more roosters.

But Papa was always the number one man and I did my best to protect that.

But a couple years ago, he had taken to roosting up high in Old Barn, rather than returning to the hen house at night. This came after a series of encounters with one of the roosters, Chicken Jack, born out of a surprise clutch. I had made a deal with Chicken Jack due to the magical timing of his birth–you might remember the situation–the old donkey, Giacomo had to be put down, a very sad occasion as he had only arrived 19 days earlier. He was a very special donkey, my first elder equine, but it was obvious he was not well, and blood work proved how bad his condition was, and he was suffering. The day after he died, we heard chirping in the hay loft, and there was a brood of chicks. One of them turned out to be a rooster, a lovely fellow and I named him Chicken Jack, in honor of Giacomo.

I made a deal with Chicken Jack,

"Treat our Papa Roo with respect and you stay, otherwise, you leave one way or another."

He abided by that request for about 6 months, but as is often the case with 6 month old roosters, he started feeling too big for his underpants, and I began to find Papa in corners, wounded. Papa was a Bantie rooster, much smaller and less agile than Chicken Jack, an Aracuana mix.


But Papa always pulled through. And he eventually took some hens, and relocated to Old Barn. He spent days and nights there, and if he did venture out, he stayed out of the barnyard where Chicken Jack was.

Well one day, there was another fight, Chicken Jack wanted some of Papa's hens, and those hens had no interest in Chicken Jack. Papa got the worst of it, but he pulled through again. And Chicken Jack got a new home, a nice place with his own little flock. I see him all the time because I ride up there. I call out to him and I swear he runs for cover, thinking I might rehome him again.

After Chicken Jack left, I tried to entice Papa back to the hen house for night time safety. But it was futile. He and some of his girls had high roosts in the barn, and I let go of controlling it. If they made it, they made it. I can't control every incident of nature, nor can you. One morning I found Papa's feathers everywhere, clearly there had been a fight with a raccoon, and I followed the path of destruction to the back woods. I was sure he was dead. But I found him in the barn, a little worse for wear, but he was okay. He had managed to fight off death one more time, defending his girls.

Over time, Papa's hens began to wander back to the coop, because another rooster had come along, in yet another surprise clutch by one of the those rascal Banties! Papa was probably 12 years old at this point, and the hens, although loyal to him, understood who now had the strength. It was sort of sad to watch, but it is survival of the fittest. It took a lot of under cover work on my part but I managed to get all the hens back in the coop, and they were all put in lock down because I couldn't handle one more surprise clutch.

But Papa remained in Old Barn. I felt badly about it, and had planned to put him in a stall with one hen, so I could watch the eggs so as not to have more chicks. But in a few weeks, he had adopted himself to our front porch, where he would show up every morning and crow and crow, and then eat cat food with Little Orange and Plum. He spent time in the front garden dusting and he had an entire little area he roamed, free from the hassle of White Dogs or other roosters. While he had no hens, he seemed happy, and he always returned to Old Barn to sleep. He had the company, if you can call it that, of the World's Grumpiest Pig, Rosie, and the donkeys, and sheep. Sometimes I'd go to feed Rosie and there would be Papa, waiting by her side for some grain to fall.

So when I fed the cats this morning, and he wasn't there, I sensed it. Sometimes he wouldn't show up at the porch in the morning, but this day it just felt wrong. When I entered Old Barn to feed Rosie, I could see his perch area, feathers strewn all over.

"Papa?" I said quietly. But I knew.

I followed the trail of feathers about 300 feet to the edge of the fence line and could see where they entered the woods with him. I tried to see if his body was still around, or his wings, but couldn't see through the bramble. I managed to pick up some of the remaining feathers, but non of his beautiful cackles were there. He was well over twelve years old and had had a good run as a rooster. He went out feeding nature and no doubt was killed fast, at least I hope for that-he is gone now.

I returned to Old Barn and leaned into her side and cried. He was one of the original Apiferians. I was crying for a lot more than Papa though. I will share that in weeks to come.









Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Old Victor cohabitating with Only Duck



I thought how the light hit Victor's head in this photo last night made him seem so other worldly. Perhaps he's already been knighted by goat spirits and his body just needs to catch up. This morning I watched him munch hay, and all the other animals were out and about in other parts of the barn, chomping too. An eating animal is a content animal. I thought of all the animals I had sat with in that same stall–young lambs, dying ewes, broken hearted goats, lonely ducks, hurt roosters and still borns.
So the light on his head...I like to think of it has combined spirit dust saying,

It's okay, when the time comes, it will be okay, for him and you.


I made the decision to move Old Victor from the Lower Misfit Village to the upper barn. While there is dry shelter down there, there is just more opportunity to slip in mud spots. If you don't know Victor he was born with a defect that makes him crippled in the hind end, and now after years of compensating for that, his front end is weakening. He has been losing balance much more now, and landing in cold mud on occasion. I also noticed he is not able to move around as much in general, and getting to the hay breakfast is harder.

He and I had a heck of a time getting him up the barn, as we had to travel though Boone's paddock which in some areas is pretty mucky after the torrential weekend rains. He kept falling. It was sad, he is such a good spirited fellow. It took about 30 minutes to walk 300 feet, as we had to rest a lot because he just doesn't have the strength.

He is now cohabitating with Only Duck in a comfy, warm stall, and I carry his water to him to lesson his chance of tripping. I will be watching him closely in the coming days and weeks.

I sit with him at feedings, usually in silence. He is a personable creature and does enjoy company. His companion, Sophie, has tendered up a lot, and she has the same deformity but is not as crippled and is actually quite the little sassy thing, so she stayed down below. She kind of separated from him after months here–I see this over and over again, a pair comes in dependent on each other for safety and one is often more of a caretaker to the other, but in time the caretaker will often venture out as the surroundings become safe to them.

Monday, November 02, 2015

World's homeliest chicken becomes a pirate



A couple weeks ago, I agreed to help someone out by taking some chickens from her father's property-her father was a nice man and he had died recently. The last thing I needed was more chickens, but as all chicken lovers know, can you really have too many chickens? {The answer is yes, by the way}.

So Martyn and I went over there one day and wrangled up three of the seven chickens, returning later to catch three very rogue roosters and another hen.

When I got a good look at this tiny little thing, I asked her,

"Are you sure you're a chicken?"

"I think I am, yes, as a matter fo fact, I am!" she said.

But as I got to know her this past week, her size does not represent the determination of this fine waif. She may be small and raggedy, but she is the first one in the feed line for breakfast and does not let anyone, even the big girls, scare her off.

I was waiting to find a perfect name for her. I don't name all my chickens anymore, only the ones that really speak to me. Someone suggested Grace O'Malley who was a pirate in the 16th century. I began calling her that, and it fits her like a glove. Not "Grace", but "Grace O'Malley".

"Good morning, Grace O'Malley!" I say each morning.

I think this name of a strong woman role model, who died a noblewoman by the way, will balance out her rather homely appearance. But we all know looks aren't what we leave behind in this life. Such will be the case for Grace O'Malley the chicken.