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.





Friday, December 29, 2017

When whiskers freeze, Sophie has a slumber party and Matilda gets a coat

Old Matilda with frosted whiskers
It is really cold. Not just a 'tad chilly', it is dangerously cold. But we are fine. It's one thing to have this weather for a few days, but we will have it for over a week, maybe even two weeks. As much as I love the winter, I'll be honest, it adds a lot onto the daily chores-ice buckets, and making sure everyone has extra hay so an additional trip tot h barn in mid day is necessary.

I put out a request this morning to Apifera Angels for another horse blanket for Matilda, and bam, one was purchased. Oh the power of the village of love. Thank you!!Don't worry, Matilda is not in danger, she has one winter coat but I'd like a 300 gram weight one for her to give additional warmth. Matilda went into winter with good weight and is getting 6# of senior feed daily plus hay. It's all about the hay in this arctic weather. And we are going through double the bales but I will not worry about that now. The minute they get their hay, the shaking stops even in below 10 degrees.

All the equines had frosting whiskers and clumps of ice on their nostrils this morning. Boone had frosted eyelashes. I have a 300gram blanket coming today for Boone who never wears a coat but he is going on twenty and has always had a thinner coat. Last winter did help him develop a slightly thicker coat. He is also notorious for ripping off blankets, so I hope he doesn't destroy it. I'll put it on at night in these frigid temps. A horse needs 1-2% of his body weight in hay, and he is getting that and probably double that...so all is well.

I gave Boone a rubdown while he ate hay this morning to invigorate the heat in his body. he seems to like it.

"It's better than flies, Boone," I told him.

So...it's cold. What are you going to do? It does get tiresome after a few days. After the initial onslaught of everyone sharing photos on Instagram of their temperature gauges you are faced with the reality of...

It's %4##@&%$$ cold.

I also brought old Sophie up to the front barn to be with Sir Tripod Goat and Opie. That barn is a tish warmer. She just seemed a bit...off....last night when I did feeding, went to lay down instead of walking around getting into trouble, her eyes seemed dopey. She has water, but I wondered if she had not been drinking. Animals actually tend to drink more in cold weather [in my experience] and I do take care to replenish buckets and chip ice-which is about 2" each morning. SO I took her out last night and she was not thrilled to walk on the cold path with me, but she seemed fine once we got to barn. She has a very good wool coat, and I am pleased I've put a lot of weight on her this year since she has separate quarters. I left them last night and aid,

"Think of it like a slumber party."

They chewed their cud and seemed unimpressed,

"Will their marshmallow treats later, and movies?" they asked.

The donkeys don't have a lot of room to roam in. Last year we plowed but in these temps they sort of hunker down. I was amused that they went out to the paddock, and clearly made a beeline for the barn.

Old Sophie joins Sir Tripod for the winter arctic freeze


The equines went out this morning and did an about face

Thursday, December 28, 2017

No matter what light you are in, or not, hang on.

There is something about the land, light and air here that is transforming me-in what almost seems like a rapid way-into my next level of being on this realm. Of course, leaving the West, and the old farm, and coming all the way across the country to start a new life, without knowing anyone or even knowing the house or town, catapulted us into a new phase of our life.

But it is more than that. I feel like I'm about to start my best work, my most important work. I think my painting, writing and photography have evolved so much in the past years. I am always most satisfied with the current work, but still, I think some of my best work has come out in the past two years.

I have some news to share but am waiting a few days to share it. I'm very excited about it, a new project that is juicy, emotive and just what I need to start the new year. I'm horrible at keeping in exciting news, so it will be days, maybe hours, before I say it online.

Back many years ago, when I was single, and had a broken heart, I hung to many little teachings of Nature. I looked to Nature for almost everything really, and I still find it my greatest teacher, companion and partner in the dance of the higher ground. Back then, when I was living in my homeland of Minnesota, I'd watch the winter snows get deeper and deeper, amused as the chipmunks dug and dug to find their middens or dig up nuts. I'd think of all the roots resting under those banks of snow. It was so symbolic of my yearning for new things-we can't see what is percolating under the ground, the little seeds that fell from Autumn tired flowers rest under the dirt and snow. And in Spring, they appear. You don't know exactly where they will pop up, or when, but they always do. The hope of life is we don't know what is percolating, and might present itself any moment, or any day. So hang on, no matter what light you are in, or not, hang on.

The gardens are a place of hope, and a teaching of the cycle of life. There is exuberance and renewal in the spring crocus or tulip first seen after the long winter, and summer is like the teenager who never thinks she'll grow old. Autumn brings us wisdom knowing what is ahead and some melancholy, but also great beauty in the drying leaves like the wrinkled skin of our elders. And winter...it lets us rest but also plan. For some, winter is the end of the road. The frail tree or creature might not live to see spring. But for me winter is restorative, creatively, and as a spirit.

My mother and father loved to garden, and they loved tulips. I planted a round mass of red tulips in the front yard last fall. I thought of them. I can see the mound from my office window-if you look closely to the right of the tree where the light is shining, you can see it too. I look out at it almost every day, not because I'm tired of winter, but just as a nod to Nature, to the higher power in me, to say,

"I know you are in there, and in spring you will be beautiful."

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sophie's warm...year end love

Old Sophie has plenty of wool, but a little help in this cold, why not?
We are having extreme cold after all the snow but it is crisp and beautiful. Crisp is a bit of an optimistic word to use. The cold does not bother me this time of year [it does make me cranky if it is April] but it does have its challenges with the animal care. I probably spend an extra hour at chores twice a day dealing with frozen water buckets. I have to chip out all the many buckets, and carry water, but not too far, only about 20 feet. We have water in both barns, frost free, but despite the many ways I've tried, there is no other way except hauling water in buckets. Hoses freeze even if you drain them, the plastic or metal splitters freeze up too even if you have a cleaned out hose; I've tried bringing in the splitters but, it only takes minutes in this kind of cold. We have electrified water heaters the worked well in Oregon when I simply had to keep one huge bucket in the hay barn for water...but there is too much danger to have one around pigs, equines, and Marcella. She ate through an electrical cord once.

The equines are rascals in the cold. If the water bucket freezes in the night, which it does, they start playing with it. I'm sure they first test it and realize it is frozen, and sometimes if it is a light freeze they break through and are content, or they dump the water and it all freezes to the ground making it an ice rink. The pigs can easily break through water but I change it twice a day for them. It is not good to have an animal without water, and they tend to drink more in the cold.

My abs and arms get a good workout.

I heard a broadcast this morning on NPR that gave me pause. I fretted a bit, but then decided to 'let it go'. I will take the Earnest approach, "what ever happens happens". The report was on the fact that many non profits are fretting about the new tax code, fearing that many people that donate in the $1000 and under, or make small donations throughout the year when they can, will no longer be doing this since they might not be filing Schedule A now that the exception is increasing. Wealthy people and those making many deductions will still be filing an A, but it made me feel angry...another way the needy people will not benefit and will most likely suffer. It took me until now to take the challenge of starting a non profit, and what dos the future hold?

But as I mulled it in my brain...I realized what is really important-to just keep up the work I've chosen, with a smile and occasional sore back, just keep looking at these faces, knowing how they rely on me for care, and appreciate it [usually]...and knowing by caring for them, eventually they will wind there into the eyesight of an elder person who will get a sense of peace, calm and enjoyment out of meeting that animal.

A perfect lead-in to a request for you to give a year end donation to Apifera - we have big plans for growing and spreading more love next year to the elders, and of course we have another barn we need to build. You can learn about ways to donate to us at this page. And thank you to all who have, are thinking of it, and also to those of you who can't but follow along in spirit.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas faces-our feelings get worn on our sleeves

It's really like any other day here, the routine is the same no matter the occasion. It's the routine the animals come to expect, the routine that keeps them feeling secure in knowing food is on the table morning and night and water buckets that iced over are replenished.

We are in the middle of another big storm. I'm grateful we aren't traveling or even driving a short distance. Just getting to the barn in the winds and hard pellet snow was a nippy endeavor, and there are slick spots [but thanks to some loyal Apiferians I have really good boot cleats that work wonderfully].

As I came back from the barn this morning, I took time to just stand in the field, the wind howling, the tree limbs bending with a light layer of ice from yesterday's morning rain. I breathed in deep, I felt it all, I left myself in it all. It was seconds, but is part of the wonderful time between Christmas and New Year's, like I said in my post yesterday-it is full of hope, and plans. I have a personal challenge I am determined to face, and I told the sky realm keepers I was going to do it. I felt strong.

I took extra time in the cat room too, grooming Maxine, sitting with the new arrivals, talking to them all, or not, just sitting. When I came in it was already lunchtime and I had a cup of Martyn's homemade soup he left for me.

I am loved.

The dogs were watching me. Time for some more Christmas Garland festivity and I wrapped The Old Blind One Eyed Pug in it. The way Mud looked at me, the way the pug looked at him...it's Christmas, every feel gets worn on our sleeves.



Sunday, December 24, 2017

For all of you

We all want to wish you a peaceful season, where birds sing and little donkeys carry little goats about, and pigs gaze in wonder. There are lurking elder cats too.

So much to be grateful for, so much to be excited about from our end of things-and thank you to so many who come here to read about our days and nights. We are entering my favorite week of the year-the one that comes between Christmas and New Year's- a time when I like to revisit my accomplishes, or failures, and dream big for the coming year. It's a resting spot on the road looking back at a mountain range already crossed, and looking forward to the beautiful valleys, oceans and rivers ahead.

[Please consider a year end tax deductible donation.]

Saturday, December 23, 2017

We are blanketed in beauty

Such beauty, the snow changes character with each storm. Yesterday's fluff has crystalized making our footsteps a little earthly symphony of crunches.


Friday, December 22, 2017

You need a donkey at the breakfast table

I forgot to send this off to Sundance so I listed it at the shop. Who would not delight in having a donkey outside the window to share some tea and breakfast?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dusk...I have a lot to learn

The dusk here, as well as dawn, has captured me. I guess this is a normal phenomena with artists in mid coast Maine. But dusk especially is a mystical time here. As my friend who moved back to Maine from Oregon said to me,

"I traded the big, open sky for a deeper sky."

This was profound, and true.

While the western sky is beautiful, it went on and on and symbolized expanse to me, the same things the early settlers must have felt as they first arrived. It did not feel like a blanket, or a window to me, it felt more like a sea.

Here in mid coast, being on the ocean, the sky puts on a show of acts all day long. The clouds are volatile, the light is being orchestrated by wind and air temperatures merging into the sea. I felt this photo was so beautiful even in it's technical imperfections. I didn't doctor it up at all even though I wished White Dog had been lighter, and that the sliver of the moon showed like it did that night.

But I have a lot to learn. It's still a beautiful photograph, and reminded me somewhat of the same feeling of being a little girl and watching "Wizard of Oz"-those beginning scenes of the sky slowly changing into the big storm, it riveted me every year even though I'd seen that movie so many times. The sky here is also riveting, daily, nightly.

It's a blessing to be so moved by sky.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I am a body of breath [and I have a tire around my middle]

The cat is a wonderful creature. I have always admired them for their combination of survival skills: the ability to appreciate zen over stress, finding food and shelter when needed, and taking full advantage of their body's grace to keep themselves limber, even as they age.

A reminder for us all, including myself-keep stretching, use it or lose-or don't use it and feel your muscles tense up.

I still do yoga each morning, although it's dwindled down to about 10 minutes. But when I don't for even a couple days, I can feel it in my lower back.

I'm noticing my age more and more as I near sixty. I don't want to turn this blog into a space of ailments, but I'm somewhat frustrated by certain things that have been happening in my body since about 56. When I find myself getting depressed about it, I push it away, because there are are so many other things that could be wrong, and aren't. I've lost two people to cancer, my age, this past month. I see friends fighting all sorts of debilitating diseases-having a fatter middle is nothing compared to that.

I watch the elder cats stretch and jump, sit and sleep, focused on a light beam, a window of snow flakes...or a dish of food being consumed by a fellow cat-they do it all with a balance of intrigue and calm. I doubt they are noticing the fact their tummies have dropped-or that mine is a certain size. I found this an annoying thing to go through-the frustration of putting on post menopause weight after working hard to maintain a good weight through my adult years. I've never been one to diet, I love food-good food fortunately. So when I put on some weight in my early thirties, I went to Weight Watchers. They weren't going to let me in because I was one pound under the limit. But they did. I'm sure when I walked in the group that was there-mainly people older than 55, and mainly people with a lot more weight to lose than my wimpy 12 pounds-but I went every week and listened. I've thought of this one man a lot as I struggle with weight in the last few years. He was a sweet, quiet man, probably about 65. Every week, the leader would end the session with asking people if they had 'special challenges' that week that might trigger over eating. This fellow would always quietly say, just two words,

"Portion control."

Every week, he looked the same to me. And there I was whipping off my weight 1-2 pounds a week. Oh to have hormones and be young again.

I never gained it back...until one day, I hit my fifties. I was active, I ate well, I knew how to take it off. But this time it didn't come off. It brought on angst because when I was little, someone I loved very much patted me on the belly and told me I was "too young to be fat." Of course, I was not fat, I was just a little 8 year old that had a slight paunch. But it crushed me. And I know my angst about not being able to lose the tire around my middle is tied up into that, or partially is.

I don't like having this tire to carry around. But...I walk with Muddy, eat right and my attitude is that what is most important is strength, breath, and life. I don't want to die wishing I'd eaten more olives. And if you think about it, we would never look back at being ten and think, "I wish I had that waist again," why do some of us think we should aspire to the waist and neckline of our early forties. I just never thought my middle would get to this. It's just sort of a little cloud that is behind my head all the time. I can look the other way and the beautiful blue sky, or acknowledge it from time to time, quickly, and focus on my breath and life.

I always thought I had it under control. But I don't, my body is just doing what it is programmed to do via my particular DNA and no matter how many calories I count out the tire will be there. Can it get smaller? Yea, but the last time I tried that I was eating 1000 calories a day. What a drag. The same calories that maintain weight for me at 40-50, well, now it means eating so little to lose 1/4 pound. I want to eat...I don't know, God forbid, 1500 calories a day at least.

Eye floaters, the loss of my perfect blood pressure from my entire adult life until menopause...carpel tunnel, the known fact that when I trip in the barn it might take months to heal instead of weeks...it's all part of the package of getting older. But the package is also about breath, and life, and the fact some of us still get to be here in relatively good health. I like what I heard an elder woman say about her body, she had been a modern dancer her entire life, but at 90 still loved to dance, and did. Her arms were sagging and her muscles had deteriorated, but she still moved gracefully about the floor, and she said she thinks of her body now as a 'body of breath." I liked that, I am going to focus on acknowledging I am a body of breath.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Marcella, we could not do it without you

She is one of the most challenging creatures I've worked in partnership with. We had some rough spots in her first year. Maremmas are not like a pet dog, and if you try to treat them like one...well, good luck, and it would also be a disservice to them. They were bred to be livestock companions and guards and while they certainly have many loyal dog like behaviors, they set their own boundaries when on their turf. While Benedetto is much more of a field periphery walker, Marcella sticks with her charges. I have found in Maine that Benne is much better with the sheep, and Marcella's job is with the front barn of small goats.

Marcella came to us as a pup. We got her from a sheep farm that had been raising them as working dogs for years. He knew his stuff and I learned a lot before I purchased her. I will tell you that we looked at getting one when we first arrived at the old farm in Oregon and had our first sheep. But I wasn't ready. I had come from having dogs my entire life but they lived inside at night and were with me during the day. I talked to a lot of experienced Maremma people, and I just knew I wasn't ready, and I didn't want to muck up a good dog.

I'm really glad we waited. But I'm also glad we brought her home. She is a valuable part of our farm. Now in Maine, Marcella lives in the front barn near the house, with some smaller Misfits, and Earnest. She has an important job of keeping them all in check, and she also keeps the rats at bay, and the eagles that float around looking for chickens and rodents. Ever since an eagle took one of our ducks out west, both Marcella and Benedetto go crazy when hawks and eagles fly, and they watch those birds until they are gone.

Most of the challenges I had with Marcella were in her first year and a half. Some of it was my fear of letting her be her-the breeder had told me if she felt she needed to be some place and it meant going under a fence, she'd find a way. She proved that on her second night, coming out under a gate from her barn stall where I bedded her those first nights. There were also simple issues of feeding-you do not get near her food-in any way-and in her first year I had a serious wound from her, and she would not back off. I sat patiently waiting her to release her grip, knowing if I moved my hand it would rip it open. Treating a wound on a Maremma can also be difficult, or trimming nails. As she has matured certain things are easier, but she is always going to be a Maremma.

Now I understand her much better. If I'm in the stall with her and the goats, her charges, she wants attention, but I also know there are some kinds of attention she might see as a threat.

I always tell people, if you came to our farm and Benedetto was at the fence, you might get away with petting him, but that would not happen with Marcella. If someone comes into the barn with me, she is up at at them at her stall. I have to take the person in [and only do with certain people] and we act normally and let her examine the person.

She is a beautiful creature too. She consistently crosses her legs - a dog version of Grace Kelly, I always think.

Happy birthday, Marcella, you are one of a kind, and a good partner. Thank you for teaching me how to treat you.



Saturday, December 16, 2017

Introducing two more elder arrivals

Noritsu, a beautiful pure white cat who had a face that embedded in my mind, and heart, has arrived at Apifera. His background is a mystery, and having known him now for two days, I would say he himself has many mysteries deep inside of him. Perhaps in time they will be revealed.

After our birthday celebration with our elder friends, Opie and I drove to the shelter to get Noritsu. I was pretty much minding my own business, waiting for the shelter helper to get done with a phone call, and I wandered into the needy cat room. I had remembered another cat I had seen some months ago, a black and white who had a face that also struck me. And there he was.

As I listened to his story, I knew I would be taking him home. This cat had gone through a horrible ordeal. He suffered from calcium blockage/urinary issues-prevelant in many cats- and it was so bad, and so painful for him, that he chewed his penis off. The vet then did a surgery on him that basically made 'him' a 'her'. He also had a growth on his tail removed which I guess is why his tail is short.

So there I was, with a goat in the car, and two old cats. I got them to the Elder Cat Suite and they got right down to introductions which went perfectly. Of course Anna had to let them know she was ticked off, but she'll get over it. The challenge is feeding the b/w his special urinary food, which he has to be on for life. I was worried about it because he is a huge cat, as in very overweight with a belly that graces the ground almost as he walks. But he ate his food, and the others ate theirs and as long as I wait in the room to make sure the non urinary food gets eaten up, all is well. I did ponder the fact this urinary food is pricey, and the fact if he needs more medical help it will be pricey. But I felt the cat angels Apifera has found as of this date will come through-and I will continue to be open to universal magic and the power of kindness being spread by many. I just felt Noritsu needed to be here, I was pulled by him in the last months-and when I met the b/w and heard his story...I could not leave him. It's a fine balancing act of taking in the needy, and still being realistic about financial commitments to the animal...but I feel it will be okay.

I sat with them all this morning for some time. I'm very pleased the b/w chap likes my evolving hay twine chair-a project I started years ago out West and never finished. Maybe it was because it was really meant to happen here, in a room full of old cats.

The memory of The Magnificent Maurice Mittens was on my mind today. I have an innate knack for opening myself up-ofen-to the ones that are ready to find a soft spot to lay their heads, and die. In some ways, I'm proud of this history, that many of them feel or sense I am a safe entity where they can let their guard down, let it all out, and perhaps heal...or die. So I hope these guys will be around for many months or years. Noritsu is almost 15. The b/w is ten but with his health issues he might have a lot of wear and tear.

I love having a herd of cats again. We are going to be working on the upper loft this winter, where the cats will be able to free range, and I plan to have cat days, drawing days, workshops and gatherings of some kind, and let the ads mingle. I am excited for that.

And last night, Martyn heard a cat on the porch, and went to look-there was a grey cat, she ran away, but we put food out which disappeared. I guess the word is getting out.

{Please consider a year end donation or a cat food donation [right now the urinary food is most important]}.




Thursday, December 14, 2017

The elders sing to Opie



Opie had the best first birthday a goat could have-singing with his elder friends and sharing love and head scratches. His friends also made him a special plate of squash bits. It was so cute. They all had fun too and I just felt so happy. I know it made them happy.

I made photo books for each resident of all the visits Opie made with them this year. I thought it was a fun way for them to show friends and family their little goat friend. And they loved the books, I mean they really were touched.

It does not take a lot to touch people, really. And I think too what I am feeling is the settling in of what my life is meant to be here...it is still emerging but this is all what I've wanted to do with the animals for a long time. I'm so lucky to have landed in this exact spot in this exact state. The fact I found this network of private elder residences...it is so perfect for my evolution here. I will continue to strive to grow and expand Apifera from my heart-and also let the wind point me in directions I need to go.








Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Magical Garland

Many years ago, a follower of my blog and all things Apifera sent me a handmade felted Christmas garland. Shortly after, I decided that it was meant to be shared with all the animals too and that was the birth of The Garland Festival at Apifera. Back then, I would take the garland out to the barnyard and we'd have a wonderful if not sometimes chaotic festival.

That garland has been dragged through the mud by pigs, chewed on by goats and dogs, pooped on by chickens and stomped on by donkeys. Garland is like a well worn teddy bear-abused in love, and appreciated no matter what condition she ended up in after a day of heartfelt sharing.

It's been a wonderful tradition and when we moved she fell off the radar for a bit. But I came upon the garland as I unpacked some decorations for our tree. I gasped. I had certainly not forgotten her, but seeing her in the box, holding her, it brought back so many feelings of whim and joy that the season should bring, can bring if we let it. Despite missing my own elders, or slogging through the news, or down the bumpy cobblestone streets of friendship, the garland was right there in my hands, asking me,

"Do you remember that time when....the pig dragged me into a muddle and I almost drowned?"

And so our farm in Maine now begins its own version of The Garland Festival. Instead of spending one long hour or more sharing the garland with the animals, we will celebrate in smaller bursts of magic. This is much more fitting with our new Maine residence-where we do things a bit slower than out West, not because we have to but because we are more inclined to listen to our internal waves lapping on the shore we have chosen here.

I have to say on a practical note, spreading out the Garland Festival over weeks instead of an hour is helpful to the garland. Right now, she sits on my desk, waiting for me to fix her up again, sew her together after a particularly festive hour with the llama. Birdie really put on a show, which you can see in these photos.

I'll add more Garland festival photos here as the days and weeks to Christmas arrive. I hope there is a garland in your life-that item that you bring out every year and you too gasp, and hold onto all the memories it brings out of your heart.

{Thank you Christine Gross, again, for making this important piece of Apifera for us. You never would have known its destiny...then again, maybe you did, and that is why it has so much magic}

Please consider Apifera in your end giving.



Monday, December 11, 2017

The little ambassador of love turns one!


It's a big week for Opie, he turns one today and all week he has celebrations planned, two at elder facilities to share his love. Opie and I also have a goal to raise another $1000 to add to the slowly increasing barn fund [which is being matched for every dollar up to $10,000, the barn will cost $20-25,000 and help us take on more Misfits]. You can add your donation here and I will add it to the GoFund Me barn page. The money all goes into our Apifera account no matter where you donate, FYI. All donations are tax deductible.

Thank you to everyone who has sent wishes to Opie. I can not imagine life without him!



Sunday, December 10, 2017

First snow, big week

We had our first snow, a beautiful six inches or so and it is so welcome. I love winter here [I do get a bit cranky come early April if things aren't going as I'd like]. White Dog is just thrilled, he sleeps in it, eats it, rolls in it...it is his element. In winter, the sound is different, a quiet blanket covers everything and you can hear the snow when it falls. The front road slows way down even though it already has by this time of year. And let's not forget, there are no flies.

It is going to be a busy week! We have Opie's first birthday and he has two therapy visits scheduled, along with a birthday party with his elder friends in Wiscasset. I'm not sure his ego will recover.

All this week, I am attempting to fund raise another $1000 to add to the barn fund. I have a fundraiser on Facebook, but you can also just donate here and I will add it to the pot-it all ends up in the same place. All donations go into the Apifera account and are tax deductible. Opie is pretty happy just as he is, but if he could talk, I think he'd ask for a dollar or two for the barn-he knows the new barn will bring more animals, and also he is hoping maybe he can venture out there and nap with the donkeys. He says he doesn't get to be with the donkeys enough.

It is also the season of the Garland Festival. I will share all that as the week progresses.




Saturday, December 09, 2017

Misfit chaos

I was almost to the upper barn when I heard a fair amount of arguing.

"Not there, bring that strand over here!"

"I'm trying but my feet are all wrapped up," I heard Opie say.

There were some soft meows but no screeches and then a voice of reason said,

"I think we should just wait until she comes out to help."

Almost every year they get so excited to light up the tree that I forget I must secure the fixings so they don't get into this situation. It's hard not to smile though at the scene.

{If this scene and others on this blog bring you a smile, consider a small year end tax deductible donation to our non profit-which helps animals but also shares them with elders.}

Friday, December 08, 2017

The softest Apiferian

I adopted the bunny out of the shelter when we brought home the first elder cats to Apifera here in Maine. She was sitting in a cage in the front room of the shelter. Upon first seeing her, I said,

"Bunny."

What is it about bunnies?

Someone had found her in a yard and brought her to the shelter. She had very long toes but had clearly been a pet. It made me sad. Who knows what happened-so many possibilities but I am glad to have her. She lives in my studio and recently I made her a special bedroom so she doesn't have to live in a rabbit cage. The "bedroom" is actually a large closet that sits between my studio and office and has a door into each of the rooms, so she can be with me no matter what room I am in. When I work in the studio, I let her out so she can hop around and do bunny things.

Her name is Isabelle Noir, but it is impossible not to just call her, simply...

Bunny.

{Please consider a year end tax deductible donation to Apifera. We appreciate your support!}


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The little ambassador of love is turning ONE!

The charming little bucket of love, Opie the goat, is turning one on December 11. He is very excited and said,

"I've never been one before."

We will be celebrating all week in many ways. For one we are having a birthday party at one of the elder facilities we visit regularly, which was requested by the residents. Opie is thrilled, but since he has never been to a party before he has no idea what it will be like. There will be singing and I will bake some cookies. We can't have candles but that doesn't matter, we will wish on something else for him.

I want to try to raise another $1,000 in honor of Opie's first birthday. The money will be added to the barn fund. We are up to $4000 which is on target for our goal. The barn will cost $20,000-25,000 and every dollar up to $10,000 is being matched by The J&J Stanley Foundation. I need to put a down payment on the barn in March which is slated to be built in June.

I want to thank so many who are helping us in this formative year for our non profit here in Maine. I will be very relieved when this capital funding is over, but ike any non profit, it really never ends. I try to balance asking for money with great art and photos, and stories of all your Misfit friends, and of course to show you our work with elders of all kinds.

Donations can be made here, or you can go directly to the barn fund [it all goes into our 501c account]. All donations are tax deductible.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Conversation with Pino and the perfect tree

In honor of the Christmas season, I have a story to share with you, a conversation of sorts, between me, Pino, and a little tree.

"It's a perfect day for tree searching, Pino," I said as I grabbed his halter.

"Yes, I agree," his ears said. Although I don't rank days by perfection, they are all worthy of something, the little donkey thought to himself.

We set off to the side Wood, not far from his barn. December had been quite warm, but crisp, leaving the ground firm to walk on without mush, and no ice to slip on or snow to stomp through.

I found a perfect tree, tall, full at the base and formed well, with no real gaping holes at its side.

"It's too tall," I heard Martyn say from behind. He had come to follow us, with the saw.

We forged on a bit further, keeping close to the paddock and away from the thickest part of the marsh. It was the first time I had rigged up a makeshift hay twine harness on Pino, nothing fancy, so I didn't want to go very far this first time out.

Suddenly, Pino stopped. I waited. When Pino stops it can be for many reasons, but I could tell by his ears pricking forward, his stopping had meaning to our mission at hand.

"Do you see one?" I asked hm. His ears pricked backwards to me, then front and back to alert me to his sighting.

"That one, Pino?" I said, and I walked to a little misshapen, crooked tree. It was not full of bows but sparse. It was a tree that in time, like many in The Wood, would be smothered out by the larger Oak and Maple canopy above it, if its roots didn't rot before that from the years of marsh living.

"It's the right height," Martyn said. It's not very full, should we look a bit longer?"

"We started walking again, but only a few steps, and Pino stopped again. I turned again to look at the little tree, and with my new perspective could see that the other side had a big empty area where no branches were, and the crooked trunk was even more noticeable from that side. From a Christmas tree standard, she really had no good side.

Pino took a few steps to line himself up with me by my side, something he knows to do when he has a halter on. He was quiet, and we both stood looking at the little tree.

"We want this one," I told Martyn.

"Okay," he said, and as he knelt down to saw its base he said, "Positive?"

"Yes," I said.

We tied the makeshift hay twine get up to the tree and to Pino and we started back to the house. It took a bit of time. Donkey hauling Christmas trees in not something one does in a rush. I thanked Pino for his work and leaned the tree up against the porch, while I tied him some feet away so I could run into the house for something. I returned to find Pino staring into the little Misfit tree, his ears pricked towards it, he was clearly deep in conversation with her.

"You are a beautiful little tree," he said.

"I'm surprised you picked me. I'm crooked and ill kept," the tree said.

"You are as a perfect as an old Redwood," Pino said. "You had a purpose to hold the birds, and now you will hold the Christmas lights. We will see them from the barn on clear nights. Thank you."

I led Pino back to his mates, returned to find Martyn had the tree up in the dining room, and I began to hang the first lights. I placed white doves at her top and hung glistening fruit all around them. She is the most Charlie Brown tree I've ever had, but she is perhaps the favorite too. With each year that passes, I recognize the Misfitedness within me, and somehow this sweet little crooked tree symbolized for me that I am just fine, I'm doing okay. I'm worthy of being noticed for the purpose that I am meant to live out, in my own misfit way.

It was dark. I plugged in the lights.

I heard the donkeys bray.


Monday, December 04, 2017

The man who keeps the place standing...and a good chicken love story

As I age and especially as I work with more elders, I think of what will come of me, of us, and our animals when I get really old. I will be sixty in spring...this is not old-old, but I am entering my final quarter. After the riding accident, after any bad fall, it does change your perspective on falling. I always assumed I'd carry on as usual into my final years, always walking, always working outside, always with animals in my life.

I liked what a woman in her eighties once said to me, that she did not like, nor did she deserve, to be 'detracted' from. At the time she wanted another dog, she missed her dog terribly but due to her age some family members felt it was not a good idea-so many things could go wrong-she could trip on the dog [she could trip on the carpet], the dog might out live her and be homeless [the dog might die before her, and if she did die the dog might end up in a wonderful new home, just like my pug Hughie ended up with me]; walking the dog might cause her to slip on ice [there are solutions to these things, perhaps a small outdoor pen on the deck or outside the door for winter months, something my parents did for a short time].

One has to be practical, but too many times I think we treat our elders like they don't have experience and inner knowledge of their own. They have lived 80+ years, they must have some clue of what works for them. I saw an article this week about a farm setting elder home in the UK where they are incorporating chickens into the daily lives of the residents. One of the residents had had to leave his home, and he was somewhat depressed. The manager spent time talking to him and found out one of the things the man missed was his chickens. So she decided to see if they could help him with that. And soon, the home had a chicken coop and the man had some chickens which he cared for, and other residents helped too. The man's depression went away and he talked more, smiled more, felt more like himself.

As someone who has moved, a lot, and also had to leave my beloved farm in Oregon, I know how unsettling it is to leave animals and a place that once gave me a purpose. I loved the article about the chickens, and realized I want to make something like that happen here too. I have so much work to do, so much. If I was rich I'd buy the property next to us and turn t into a farm-eldercare place, so there could be a few animals, and I could help. I've even thought of trying to raise funds for it, but I need to focus on getting our barn built, and continuing our elder work. We had our first annal meeting with our board and many good things were discussed and one was to recognize the 501[c][3] is evolving in its own time frame, in its natural way. I sometimes get ahead of myself.

I wonder if I could stay here without Martyn. I am a very handy woman, I have lived alone most of my adult life until I met Martyn in my forties so am very self sufficient in most ways-but there are many things here that I rely on him for. I am grateful for each thing he does. He keeps the place standing, fixes the things that need work-important things like electrical and plumbing. He can build things-crucial to any small farm.

We talk about what we would do if one of us died. It gives me comfort to hear him say he wouldn't leave if I died. He loves Maine and he loves our house. I think one of the crucial reason we landed here, in this state, in this region an din this house is it was right for both of us at this time, but it was crucial to Martyn's well being. His life here is better with less commuting and less stress. I know I would stay too if he died, but, it seems the reality of what is coming in the final decade or two is present everywhere in my work with elders. I don't dwell on it, but I don't think a day goes by where I don't thank the skies for what we have together.

And he's stinking' handsome in my eyes.

{If you like the work we are doing with our non profit, helping animals and elder people, please consider a donation which are tax deductible.}

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Opie hits the town in his flying sock monkey pants

Opie shows Sylvia his new outfit
One of the biggest challenges I've faced in my life is...sewing functional goat clothes. Not cute little romper's for kids to keep them warm-but real goat outfits I can put on our little bucket of love so he can't drop pellets or piddle. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Nope.

Opie's waist is 33 inches. That's an inch bigger than Martyn's. His visit today had him adorned in his newly improved traveling clothes-a dog diaper, along with a belly band I made of flying sock monkey fabric which seemed appropriate. My new outfit was a big improvement from just having the dog diaper-the latter would slip off when he stood up to greet an elder on the chair, causing pellets to fly out of the tail hole [fortunately, everyone is understanding of this and ok with it since I quickly sweep them up and they aren't messy]. So I adjusted the tail hole, and improved the velcro waist. The belly band has a diaper material in it, washable, and that worked really well except I need to add a thicker diaper material.

Opie took it in stride. I'm sure he wondered what more he had to put on just to visit friends.

Our visit was nice. The residents got to go home for Thanksgiving, and some went to a family members house. I was glad to hear that. This week, Mary, in the pink sweater, opened up a bit more. She went home to the island she lived on for years, and told me she saw her old home which is now a B&B-but it didn't make her sad because it looked so different to her since they had remodeled and added rooms. The sweater she had on was hand made by her sister who died at 97. Mary knitted a lot but never made herself a sweater, since she was usually knitting things for others or children. I wondered about getting yarn there to them and we could knit mittens and donate them. I'll look into the reality of that.

Each visit, we learn a bit more about each other, and build a trust that we are here to stay, and that we are committed to our visits, and to sharing not only our animals, but genuine caring and friendship.

Each time I leave, they always thank me so earnestly for coming, and as I walked out the door, I could still hear Jean saying, "We'll miss you, Opie, see you soon, Opie." I felt Jean seemed tired today. She has beautiful hands and I realized there will be a lot of loss ahead in this work-and even though I have had a lot of loss in the animal work over the past 15 years...it did hit me in my heart today,

I don't want to lose, Jean.


{If you like the work we are doing here, please consider a year end tax deductible donation.}


Jean and her beautiful hands

Opie falling asleep in Mary's hands

Mary's beautiful sweater knitted by her sister

Sylvia and Opie

Richard always talks to Opie and chuckles

Joe is very funny and inquisitive. I love the quiet look in his face here.




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Why?

I was thinking today about why I photograph things.

As I took these photos on my early morning walk with Muddy, as we walked down to the ocean, I realized photos for me are my way of understanding where I am, and who I am in this place. It is also an acknowledgment to the subject, a way for me to quietly express gratitude for it being there, be it a field or animal. That moment I thought,

I need to photograph this

Begins the relationship with me and the subject.

Once I share that photo, it is the viewer who has their own experience with the subject at hand. It is not about how I felt when I took it, it is about the subject in the viewer's lens. And the viewer will have their own relationship with that subject. I obviously am the one who art directs the shot, and has my own intuitive way, as any artist does, of seeing that moment that is the right moment to take a picture [and one takes hundreds of photos that don't capture that instant].

I feel the same way about painting, or writing. I have the initial spark, then a relationship with the subject matter, but once in the world, it is not my place to suggest, interfere or even try to understand another person's relationship with my work. They get to do that on their own. I think this is why I never like talking about a specific piece with someone–for starters, I'm not really interested in what they think about that specific piece. I suppose of Chagall or Joseph Campbell came to me and wanted to discuss based on their experiences, I would find that interesting. It's nice to be acknowledged with "I love your art" or 'That piece just speaks to me, I don't know why," but more than that is not necessary. I find gallery openings uninspiring for this reason-I've done the work, I had my relationship with the process and subject, I'm ready to move on.