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

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Earnest knows Japanese?

Today we celebrate the life and birth of one of the adopted elder cats, Yume, who came to us last year after our arrival in Maine. We adopted her and two other elder cats from the animal shelter. And I must say, this is the first cat of Apifera that was born in Japan.  Yum was a stray street cat there, and a family took her in. You an tell she has had a litter or two. Her owners then came back tot he states years later, and unfortunately due to a job change had to move again overseas, but this time cats were not allowed. But we are happy to have her. When we brought Yume to Apifera, she his under rugs and blankets. Over three days, she allowed more petting. And now, months later, she rubs noses with Anna and Tig, and is even up and about. She still is shy to strangers or even Martyn, but she is content, as are we.

I heard little voices as I walked  to the front barn this morning. Now that The Head Troll is gone, I am always a bit nervous as to what is going on inside the barn without her management. I waited at the barn doors, ear pinned to the crack letting me in on the conversation. They often skedaddle when they know I'm coming. It's a dance we play together: they know I know they all talk when I'm not around, I know they know that I know, but we never really discuss it.

It was Earnest talking.

"Tanjoubi omedetou, Yume" he was saying through the door.

My God, I thought, he knows Japanese?

And then he asked, "Toshi wa ikutsu ka?"

I heard a very faint, soft voice come from the cat room,

"Juu san sai."

I opened the barn door and everyone calmly returned to their stall, the cat room was quiet.

"Earnest, how did you learn to speak Japanese?" I asked.

He did not answer.

He is a pig of many mysteries.

{If you like the stories of Apifera, and also want to honor Yume, consider a donation to the fund drive for Misfit care and new buildings so Apifera can take on more animals in need. Read all about it here.}

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Opie goes a travelin'

Opie's first day out as an ambassador of love
Opie went on to tell everyone in the barn about his first visit out as an ambassador of love and healing. We had ventured over to our friends at Inn Along the Way-an elder community that is in the early development stages where small residences for elders, gardens, an inn and caretaker retreats will be built on an old farm to encourage healthy community living amongst people and nature. We plan to partake in some events there this summer and fall to not only support their efforts but to explain what Apifera's care farming work and share my books and art. {Do you like Apifera's work with animals? We have big plans here in Maine-please visit the funding page to hear about it!}

"There weren't any pigs there," little Opie told Earnest.

"Perhaps I too should call on them then, to share myself," Earnest the pig said.

"They were all nice. They held me and squeezed me all nice too, and they smelled pretty," said Opie.

"What does pretty smell like?" asked Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat.

"Like your mama used to smell," said Earnest matter-of-factly. And they all sighed.

"When I ran on the floor, my toes got all slippery but it was fun," Opie went on. "And there was a barn that was as big as this entire farm!"

"Not!" said Moose.

"Highly unlikely," said Earnest.

"How do you know how big it is?" said Opie.

"How many of you could fit int he barn?" asked Earnest.

Opie pondered.

"I think more than five hundred," he said.

"That's a lot of yous," said Earnest.

Opie smiled.

"I felt big there," Opie said. And he wandered off to lay down near old Rosie and Sir tripod Goat.

"I'm full of something good," he said as he shut his eyes for a good nap.

Opie meeting Sam

Sherri Flint, director of Inn Along the Way falling in love

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Send Anna the elder a birthday wish

In honor of Anna's birthday, consider a pledge to the Misfit fund
I have a list of Misfit birthdays on my desk. Some of the animals come with a clear history of birth, others don't. But Anna lived in a loving home, by all appearances and medical records, but had to be sent to the animal shelter here in Maine due to an illness. I know she was cared for. So I was upset with myself when I saw I had missed her April 20th birthday in which she turned ten. She still is a young elder and I hope we have her with us for many years to come.

Anna and the other two adopted cats-Yume and Tigger- are all doing well out in the barn room they currently occupy. Actually, they have it great-heat in the winter [it has a heater in it from the former owner], art on the wall, window seats to look out at forest and birds, cat perches and me coming and going. And let's not forget they got to cohabitant with a baby pig this winter-how many cats can say that.

Anna is the greeter of the group, the leg encircler, the high priestess who made Yume understand the hierarchy. She and Yume now sniff noses, no hissing and Anna is tolerant of me spending time with the others now. Anna likes the chairs and is helping me make the Raggedy Cat Chair-which I failed to photograph with her on it-next time. In time, once we get the upper loft properly windowed, the cats can roam up there too. Although I think they are pretty content in the cat room. I had plans for the cat room that are now evolving-due to the reality of farm life and space. Since it is a heated room, I am going to treat it like a stall/sick room/emergency room for the animals. Since we went ahead and are making the upper loft accessible to people, I will use that area for showing my art and workshops, and healing cat visits.

I was appalled to find one of Anna's toenails had grown into her pad. I must have missed this. I was able to snip it while she was standing on the window perch, perfect sight level for me, and light too-I snipped quickly and then had to pull it out. I was able to treat it and all seems well. I clipped her other toes too. I've never in my life had to trim cat toenails, but these cats were all house bound, life was easy, and even though they have a scratching beam, I rarely see them use it. I can understand why Anna didn't, that toenail in her pad must of really hurt. I am now on the lookout and was able to trim Yume, with patience over a few days, too. Tigger-he will be impossible without some kind of equipment to keep him from clawing me. I have a good catalog with items like this and will get something.

One of the reasons I take my relationships seriously and to heart with these adoptees, is because I know what it feels like to have had an animal I cared for and loved, not be able to be with me anymore for whatever reasons. If I became ill or unable to care for my animals, knowing there might be someone that truly gave companionship and consistent communion with my animals would help me.I don't know the people that gave these animals up, but I know they were all cared for, and that circumstances just got in the way, and they had to make hard decisions, and do what they thought was right for the animal.

I've learned in the past 14 years helping animals-it is not always a case of some 'horrible person' at the other end of an animal in a shelter or rescue situation. Too often on social media I see people bashing human beings in animal cases when they don't even have the facts. I don't tolerate it. We are all creatures that sometimes end up in difficult situations, or make poor decisions that cause a spiraling downward.

If you'd like to honor Anna with a small donation to the 2017 Misfit Fundraiser, we send Meows. The fund is helping offset the basic feed cost of the Misfits, as well as help pay for a small quarantine stall so I  can help more animals in need. Read all about it at the funding page.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth prayer

Earth findings.

Ground friends.

One is just born the other is in her swan song.

I celebrate Mother Earth each day in different ways but on this Earth Day I just pray for her and we will work on our garden plan and just be with her.

Hang in there, Mother Ship, there are many who are trying to care for you properly, without greed.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Earnest's mystery

There must be a reason, Earnest the pig thought.

"It must be the sea," he said to The Wood. "Is that why they brought me here?"

{To be continued]

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mother Matilda: a conversation

"Animal Conversations" are a gift of my life and I want to share a conversation I had many years ago, when Mother Matilda arrived–some of you might recognize this from one of my books, "Misfits of Love" {Healing Conversations in the Barnyard}. It is Matilda's 24th birthday so if you have time to read this, it will celebrate her spirit. If you are able, consider also honoring her and our work here at the 2017 Fund Drive.
Her job was to be a brood jenny even as she entered into her senior years. Living in neglect, she subsisted only on straw in a cold climate. Her fortunes changed after a donkey rescue found Matilda and eight other neglected herd mates. Eventually they connected with Apifera and she arrived after a day-long journey. She had the same name as my elderly mother—surely this detail was not lost on the universal forces in charge that brought her to me.

“I remember her ear tips as they drove away,” the old donkey said.

She was speaking about one of her many children.

“No matter where they took them, they came to the earth through me,” the donkey continued.

They can’t take that from her, I thought.

I put my arms around her neck and lay my head on her withers, looking back over her sagging spine. She didn’t move, except for ear motions to redirect a fly or acknowledge a fluttering hay stem.

“I never watched them get in the trailer,” she went on.

She reached over with her nose, touching an area of her back where scratching would be appreciated. I obliged.

“I could see their ear tips coming out of the trailer window as they drove off. They were pointed toward me,” Matilda said.

She scratched her knee by nibbling on it with her wiggling, giraffe-like lips.

To say the soul is not a physical entity could be disproven by looking into Matilda’s eyes. For there was a river of sentiment flowing from her glance into any viewer. I have seen it silence the outspoken, calm the over- energized, and touch the brokenhearted. Journeyers onto Apifera often write and share the more profound moments from their visits, which always include the simple phrasing,

“Matilda’s eyes.”

Arriving at Apifera, Matilda was placed in with the three resident mini donkeys. Her larger, white and brown spotted body must have seemed mythological to the gray minis who had never seen such a creature.
“She seems to have acquired spots somehow,” said Pino, the first donkey of Apifera, when he initially saw her.

“She’s very theatrical appearing,” said Paco, quite a serious thinker.

On the day of her arrival to Apifera, the always observant minis cautiously gathered around Matilda. I took note that the spacing between each mini appeared to be equidistant. I sensed this might be some kind of donkey ritual, of which I know they have many. I did not ask and they did not explain, nor did they share what was said in the huddle. It lasted a minute, if that, and then the little ones ran up and away to their favorite spot on Donkey Hill. Now their mini bodies were little gray spots with tails
prancing about, heads down in donkey play, but all the while they were looking back toward where Matilda stood, her sway back casting a shadow like that of a fertile mountain valley.

In the days to come, the minis treated her much like the Mother that she was. She groomed her little herd mates and they reciprocated, a charming equine behavior of acceptance. Matilda’s first weeks at Apifera were spent in carefree fashion, sunning and adjusting to her new heavenly diet of hay, grass, apples, and animal crackers. Old growth savannah oak gave her shade and at night she was free to dream deep in a century-old barn that had proven to be full of much motherly love itself.

“My purpose was to be a mother. I am old now. My children are scattered,” she said to me one day as I brought her berry branch clippings for a treat.
The conversation did not go past that, but as she chewed, I felt her searching for and then spotting the little clump of minis down near the stream.

Days turned into weeks, summer air became cool, with morning fog blanketing Old Barn. And one morning, the normal routine of the donkeys was diverted. I had gathered all the donkeys in a paddock and shut the gate behind me.

“What’s this?” the minis queried, speaking in ear twitches. “Is it shot day? Farrier day? So soon?”

Matilda’s soul streamed into me, questioning me with concerned eyes and active ear movements. The last time she was herded up like this, she was put in a trailer and after hours and hours, landed at Apifera.

I reassured her without words, gliding my hands up and down her back and neck, but I was soon interrupted by the cars coming up the drive. Matilda stood close to the minis and observed the strangers walking toward them.

They were all very polite and quiet, and carried nothing that raised suspicion—no vials of medicine, no syringes in chest pockets, no halters with long ropes.

Once in the donkey paddock, the people walked all around, slowly, watching, listening, and drawing things on paper tablets. Many seemed to gravitate to Matilda, who stood motionless.
“I am here, come closer,” the old donkey said with her eyes. “I will mother you.”

They began resting their hands on her in silence, gently rubbing her shoulders or her mane and temples. Matilda acknowledged each person’s space and then looked into their eyes, deeper and deeply. Some put their ears next to hers, others leaned on her body, running their hands on her
curved spine of age and neglect, recognizing it as a sculptural sensation.

“I felt compelled to get close to them,” Matilda told me later when everyone had left.

“They gazed on me like a Rubens painting of clouds,” she went on to tell me. “They shared the symphonies that play in my ears,” and she paused to eat some grass.

Her new purpose at Apifera was now sealed and she clearly understood her present and future task.

“I shall stand and be me, and love.”

She slightly bowed her head before me so I could use it like a head pillow. We spoke not a word while clouds blew over Donkey Hill.

{Excerpt from "Misfits of Love" {Healing Conversations in the Barnyard} by Katherine Dunn}

Monday, April 17, 2017

Soap opera flip flop moving day

Overheard in the barnyard:

"We are moving next door", said Earnest.

"Why?" asked little Opie.

"I hear it has a view of the ocean over there," said Moose.

"Doubtful", said Wilbur.

"I'm going to go the ocean some day," said Earnest. "I have a plan."

{now back to business}

This weekend, we were busy with all the things that must get done before summer hits.

For me, that meant delicing and shots for all Misfits, applying the first fly/tick spray and rearranging the sleeping areas to get ready for Eleanor's pending May farrowing. I also had to get Little Lonley and Cornelia out of the cat room where they have been snug as bugs to help Little get through the chilly part of his life. But with the first warm days, ammonia wafts were setting off the fire alarms! Despite the twice a day cleaning of bedding, the warm air made the ammonia potent, since that room is insulated, and the floor is painted so runoff is problematic.

The cats were unimpressed.

While this might seem like not a big deal, it meant taking Earnest-Sir Tripod Goat-Wilbur-Moose-Goose-Opie_Rosie the goat and Marcella and putting them in the stall next to them, which meant moving the two barrows and pregnant Eleanor out to another paddock and then relocating them in the newly vacated stall. These things often go off without hitch–which it did, I was pleased.

Little is getting big, but he is still a charming little bloke. He is old enough now that his mom bashes him away if she feels he is getting too much of her breakfast-that's pig talk for,

Hey, that's mine, back off.

So, that is step one for spring management. Today I am giving sheep shots and foot trims and entertaining the tractor maintenance man while he gives our tractor it's free inspection. We are starting to plan the garden, and while plants are in full upright since as they would be in Oregon, it does me good to see things growing again...including grass, which to me always translates to 'food for the animals."

{Thank you to those who have donated to the 2017 Fund, which is also helping raise money so I can build an intake quarantine area so I can help animals in need that come the way of the state vet and animal control.]

Friday, April 14, 2017

In which I'm reborn all happy and there's news

Life is funny. One minute you are pontificating and sharing little inside feelings of the blues, a couple days go by and things seem much more buoyant-like a little puffy white cloud has lifted the body up high in the sky and said,

"Look at this bigger perspective, see how much better it is."

And as a friend just said in the last post's comment section,

Don't be saddish, have a raddish [let's all thank Carole's father for this gem, oh the wisdom of our dads.]

Anyway, it is Easter after all, a time of renewal...and lemon pies. And then there are all the Misfits wandering around in rabbit ears. I was pretty impressed they found them-after all The Head Troll was always in charge of that stuff-but I guess Paco has taken his new reign as not only the resident poet, but Easter Activity Director, to heart. Oh Paco, we love you.

I am also here to share that I spoke with the state veterinarian who I really liked a lot, and Apifera is now an option for them when they come across animals that need to be taken out of needy or neglectful situations. I really feel good about this, and it gives my animal work a focus here. So I have started a fundraising campaign so we can add an additional shelter where we can quarantine an incoming animal to make sure it is safe to let them roam with the other Misfits [or not]. I am also raising money for the feed costs for 2017 for The [current] Misfits. It is all laid out for you at the funding page-and of course there are reward levels.

I am happy to take personal checks too [and give a suitable reward if so desired].

So let's all have a raddish, and smile, despite any woes we might have.

I was just handed some bunny ears, so I must be off. Hip hop.

Visit the funding page >

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Yea, I guess you can't hide the blues but I'm shining my glasses now

The friends reconnected on a spring day
A good friend sent me a note and said she could sense in some of my posts of the past few weeks there was a tinge of the blues coming through my words. True.

I am so transparent.

It's true. I had the blues, or the blahs, or the stumbles. It sort of crept up on me and was due to a combination of events. Weather in March was a drag after a warm [we thought] late winter and I think that triggered some memories and questioning about where I was, physically. We got hit by surprise taxes-I won't go into details, but I am seeking a new accountant for next year. The latter will be rectified, in time, and it will be okay. But that was made worse because my sales were zilch for March, and Martyn was still not working. When I don't sell, for a month, it effects my confidence. I can't deny it, after 20+ years as a freelancer, no sales makes me question my self in so many ways. I don't need a life coach to tell me why, or how to get out of it, it is just part of the ebb and flow of freelancing.
We were also having some issues with a nearby property and everything just seemed doomed.

BUT! The sun came out, the sheering day lifted me up, Martyn is back to working full time until winter, and I sold some of our wool which made me happy.

I don't like to use my blog as a way to vent, I think long time readers can attest to that. But at the same time, I think it's good to come clean every now and then...we are a tribe of humans forging forth, or trying, day by day. I did a painting once of a little tree, branches limp, leaves gone, stating, "Even trees get sad."

Last night I had a dream-a recurring theme-that I was floating over what was supposed to be our old farm in Oregon. I was thinking, in the dream,

Maybe we can get out of the deal, and stay, but I know this was improbable.

I had a moment like that, a year ago this week, when the first buyer's finances finally fell through, and I wondered if we should just stop, and wait for another time. It would have meant losing a lot of money, some that was paid to haul the horses and was non refundable, deposits on moving vans and the house in Maine we were trying to buy. I remember that moment–it was very physical- and it is always a time to ask,

Is this real, or is this the jitters?

Martyn had already given notice to his clients, we had bought the new trailer to haul the 32 animals...and we forged ahead.

People ask me,

"Are you happy there, in Maine?"

I am happy. We've met so many good people, and Martyn is thrilled with his new landscaping gig. The fiber people have been wonderful and if someone said we had to leave Maine, I would be upset to leave some people, that's how quickly we've attached ourselves to some people. I feel like the me in Maine is starting to form, or reform I should say because parts of me are still here, other parts are waning. A few weeks ago, in my blues, I took a step back, and I pressed the pause button on some things I had been planning to do: I cancelled the bee order, realizing I have enough on my plate and I want to focus on my flock/fiber, and the animals, and creating our gardens. I also put my workshops on hold-or at least I am only offering custom workshops for people that might contact me.

I did this because I realized it's time to "leave the flurry to the masses, and take my time and shine my glasses" [unknown author on that quote]. For once in a long time, I am really listening and waiting for the flow to come to me, instead of throwing myself into the flow and swimming fast.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sir Tripod Goat our hero

If you appreciate the work I do here and have been doing for over ten years with special needs farm animals, please consider a small donation [with reward levels if you desire]. It is much needed and appreciated.

Sir Tripod Goat was born with a crippling condition to his rear hip so has never been able to straighten his hind leg, or put it on the ground. He has horrible feet because of it, and since he doesn't walk much his toes tend to grown poorly. He has always been one to hang out away from the crowd, and even prefers his own company-but I think that is mainly due to the fact he can't easily defend himself or stay upright if someone knocks him, as goats do in play and posturing.

Tripod is never one to make a fuss, or complain. Even with what is probably sometimes painful condition depending also on the weather, he always is calm, and dignified. To forge on as he does, I can call him a little hero, knowing how hard it is to do simple things when one is not up to par that day. More and more, his knee pads are cracking, and I take great care to watch them and step in at any signs of infection. One of my old vets in Oregon said, once their pads start cracking all the time, it can become the beginning of the end. But. we are far from that, he is still relatively young, and strong in all other regards. His condition will play a role in his senior years though. Then again, look what Old Victor went though, or Stevie-nobody ever thought they'd last that long.

Over the last few years, I've tried different living arrangements for him. In Oregon, I ended up putting him in the hay barn, where he spent his days on maypoles, alone, with Scooby going him at night. It helps him sit comfortably to have a mound of something do go down on, and helps him get upright more easily. Once here in Maine, I put him with the once younger piglets who left him alone but as they grew, as pigs are known to do, the pigs push with their heads to get you out of the way of their feed, so it became more difficult for him. At that time, Scooby Keith was still with us [sigh] and the two of them became bed mates in the interior barn. When Opie and Rosie came along, they all seemed pretty well suited for each other.

I am always happy to see him get up and go outside. He doesn't last long, since he has to watch out for the youngsters pushing him from food. I put him and Opie and Rosie in a separate area at night, for his own peace of mind. I hope to build a small shed in the apple area so he and his buddies can hang there most of the summer and fall.

Tripod has opened up a lot emotionally too. Imagine, if you got sent to live at different places, and even if you were treated okay, you might think,

Why get involved, I'll only be leaving again.

I have moments with him, and even did in Oregon, where I sit with him and I can tell he recognizes me as a leader, and a consistent source of help. It gives him confidence to share affection and communion with me and even some of the other animals.

It's the best I can do for him-shelter, safety, food and water, and a consistent presence so he knows,

It will be okay, she will always come out and help me.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thank you sheep: Fiber added to the shop

I've added our raw wool to the shop. I have been working with it all weekend and the variations in the CVM breed is amazing. It is such a surprise to see what is under that top layer of dirty wool coat! Lillian has the most gorgeous silver crimped fibers, Assumpta's of course is to swoon over, but all the hogget fleeces have beautiful intricacies. Even Little Sylvia Pettini's fleeces, I think, will belike her mom's, Calla, someday. The hogget fleeces are so soft-I am not sure what people like to do with hogget fires since they are less durable, but man are they like butter.

The weather is finally warming up to normal and man does it feel nice. I didn't think we'd never get here. Things are slowly starting to pop out of the ground and it is a delight. I am trying not to compare everything to Oregon-which is already in full bloom-but instead just relish each and every thing I notice, like a tiny bud, or the tips of the chives coming up, a bee passing by, the smell of the salt sea has returned, and for the first time since last autumn the donkeys and sheep were all out lying in the sun.

I think we've turned a corner. Hallelujah. It truly is a feeling of rebirth. No wonder you see creatures romping and running in spring. It is a time of twitterpation!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Little Sylvia Pettini's first sheering

Litle Sylvia Pettini's first sheering day

I am so excited to get back to my fleeces and work with them! We sheered the six sheep, and Sophia, and did a quick skirting [that is where you pull off debris, poo, and as much matter as you can] and then we roll the fleece in sheets until we are ready to work with them again. My fleeces were a tish damp even though I had the girls in for 1.5 days, but my barn floor is bedded with damp matter....but all is well. I have the fleeces laying out in the upper loft to get some drying time.

My biggest delight and relief is they really weren't that full of chafe as I feared they would be since I didn't have coats on. After partaking in another sheering where the shepherd had coats on her sheep, I was concerned, but it was fine.

I was also pleased the girls weren't overly thin, since this was my first shepherd experience in a cold climate. With hair sheep like my flock in Oregon, I could always see their bodies, but the woolies can be hard to tell even with rib checks. I have one ewe lamb I am not happy with weight wise, but that will change and be fine.

Right now, they are as soft as bunnies! I kept them into today since it is a heavy rain tonight. I coated the elder Sophia, and this weekend everyone gets their spring check-up, worming, and toe trims and deicing if needed.

It lifted my spirits today to have some other shepherds come and help with he harvest-and then we came in the warm house and had a potluck with Martyn's chili, a friend's home made chèvre, and another's pudding.

I feel good.

I am so proud of my little flock.

{I will be selling our fiber on Etsy...hope to get on this very soon}

I left Assumpta's ringlets for now, will clip and sell

Assumpta's beautiful fleece

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The-World's-Grumpiest-But-I-Am-Fine-As-I-Am-Pig about to turn another year grumpier

Tomorrow is Rosie's ninth birthday. If you had told me way back when I first brought Rosie home that a] she'd live this long, and b] I was going to drive her across the country from Oregon to Maine at some point, well, I might have pig snorted.

As one of my former vets said,

"She is lucky she came to you, I'm not sure anyone else would have handled her all these years."

It is true, she is grumpy. She is not like my other pigs who enjoy belly rubs, sun naps on my lap, or a certain amount of polite conversation after breakfast. When Rosie first arrived, she walked the barnyard more, but always with a grumpy cloud above her. It was never a problem, because she stayed out of the way, and preferred to be with Stevie the Kissing Goat, or by herself in a hay bed of her liking. Her care became more of a challenge when her first foot trim was due. I tried everything to get that pig to cooperate. I even gave her beer, an old farm trick-she refused it. I took a day to get one toe done, but it was better than nothing. The next time, I had my vet come out and it took three of us, with a pig snare, to the tune of $175. For the record, I am not one to pay $175 to have a pig's toes done, and I was slightly taken aback by the cost, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Each summer, I lathered her in sunscreen and oils to protect her skin from burning and to help her chronic skin condition. As she aged, and spent more time inside, it became less necessary, but she still needs her ears treated.

In time, Rosie became more of a recluse, and seemed to prefer that. One day I found her in the rain, shivering, far from her normal stall. I somehow got her into Old Barn, and she never left. I tried every spring to push her out into sun, but she liked her private area, away from Eleanor and Marcella and Earnest. I'm sure the other pigs shoved her around and she just isn't a fighter of other animals. She tolerated chickens, and me-on certain days.

It came time for us to move to Maine. I had many discussion with my vets. I was unsure if it was the right thing to move her. But it was not an option to rehome her, never. Nobody would have tolerated her. I just have a gene in me that allows me to be a punching bag for certain things-like grumpy pigs. On the day all the animals were micro chipped, we saved her for last. Somehow, we got it done, with a lot of grumpy words flung our way.

Any vet who has ever had to help me with Rosie, always remembers her,

"Do you still have that grumpy pig?"

Yep, I do. And she is turning nine. Which for her is getting old. For breeding pigs that would be ancient, for her, a spayed, pampered lass, it's like being 75, I guess.

The thing is, Rosie and I have had our ups and downs like any friendship. There were times in Oregon where I really was getting fed up. I worked so hard to make adjustments for her, and she was just plain...difficult. Even though she makes a lot of noise, she has never tried to bite me, or act threatening to anyone.

She is just grumpy.

I questioned if the trip to Maine would do her in. A five day-six night journey, where she would ride, alone, in a handbill princess pig palace in the back of the truck. The minute we got her in there, she went to sleep. She seemed to actually like her new arrangement. On our journey, when we stopped at gas stations, she would awaken, and people would hear sounds coming from our truck bed, but couldn't see her in her enclosed suite.

"That's just our pig," we said matter of factly.

"Hey, they have a pig in there!" and sometimes we'd open the lid of her suite so people could see her nose sicking out of straw.

When we first arrived in May of last year, Rosie continued to live in the truck bed in her private wooden hut, and for about two weeks wherever we went–to the hardware store, or out to lunch–people would be curious what they heard in that truck bed.

"Oh that's just our pig," we said without concern.

Eventually, she was moved to the chicken coop, temporarily, and did fine, but the chickens began picking her scaly skin [she has a skin condition], so we finally arranged a special private suite for her once the new barn was done. She sleeps side by side with the sheep, and Benedetto, and has her own private door. It made me so happy to see her greet me, outside her stall, one morning last summer. I sensed she was happy, and that she had the right mix of space and animal communing without being bothered by them. There are days when she seems to like having her ears scratched again. And this winter, she even tolerated me laying her down to do her toenails-now, "laying her down" did not mean in a graceful, easy way, and she was louder than a raptor fighting so I could only wonder what the neighbors thought-but we got it done.

Just like Benedetto, who loves the snow and cold but is not big on rain, we wondered if our pull to Maine was to make White Dog, and a grumpy pig...find their happy place.

We used to muse,

Maybe she'll never die...

She is and continues to be that kind of presence at the farm. But so were so many others that lived long lives with us, and they died. Everything dies.

So tomorrow, it is her ninth birthday. And it is also our first sheep sheering! I hope my sheering helpers will sing along to her...hopefully she will partake for seconds in a muted grumpy fashion-but why expect that from her.

She is clearly an old crone that knows who she is and has no motive to change.

{Do you like the stories of Apifera? Consider a small donation to help offset the adopted animal care}

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Boone's birthday, and a mother speaks

Today's is Boone's 19th birthday. Wow. We've been together nine years. So much has happened, together. Went through so much to find him, and then we worked through our bumps as a new team. I encourage anyone with a horse who is having issues, to not go it alone, to find a mentor you trust and work with them-that is what helped me and Boone. I didn't have to go to some fancy barn or trainer, I worked to find someone I felt comfortable with, someone down to earth. I'd had enough exposure to barns as a kid to know what I didn't want. It took awhile to find that person, but I did, in my friend Joanne, who died last month at 85 back in Oregon. I'm so grateful for her. You can barely here her speak in this video, taken back at her barn where we used to meet 3x week and run our horses and ride.

It is also the anniversary of my mother's death in 2013. I remember getting up that day and singing to Boone, and by nite feedings I wrapped my arms around his neck while he ate and told him my mom died. I remember thinking it kind of stunk her death happened on his birthday-then I immediately thought,

This is a gift, and it was meant to happen this way so every year on this day I feel my mom saying,

"Go be with your horse, I'm fine, continue with the things in life you love so much, like Boone."

I have been really down in the last couple of weeks-a combination of events. Yesterday, I realized one thing working against me, is I can't ride all year. I have not been able to ride since October. I really am frustrated with that. I miss my rides, not only for exercise but for bonding time with Boone.

I woke up thinking,

Four years ago, she was alive, for 8 more hours.

And then I heard another voice,

"Get out and find a way to ride that horse."

Thanks, Kelly, I miss you.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Miracles of the crocus

I tend to be an optimist which is probably what made living in a winter climate growing up be an okay fit for me. I had moments in the past couple weeks in our first year in Maine that reminded me what a long winter is. And I lost my optimism for awhile.

The thing about a spring that has sprung on your calendar but not outside is that it works in tandem with anything going on in your life that is causing strife–and who doesn't have that?

So, it seemed like I was thrown in a cave last weekend at some point. The real life strife events–I won't go into–but I do remember waking up to the new snow on April 2nd, and I felt almost claustrophobic. At one point, I wanted to sleep, but I just made myself go out in the barn and do early chores. Being in nature and with the animals is always helpful.

The snow was pretty. But it's April. And April snow is always a bit heartbreaking-even though that snow is now gone and most will be gone as the 50's are supposed to return to us next week–although they say more snow is possible tomorrow. Of course, this also worked me into a bit of a mini depression, as I saw Oregon people posting photos of quince bushes and other favorites blooming back West. I reminded myself,

I am here now. Welcome. Embrace.

Yea, but it's April.

The weather of the past two weeks, colder than normal, snow, more clouds, just compounded the daily challenges of life. Not to be secretive, but talking online about them is not a good idea and we are working at it and in time, it will evolve, things always evolve, just not always as quickly as we might like.

And then Martyn came in the house, knowing I had been fighting my mood and gloom, and said I needed to come outside with him. He took me to a patch of grass under Litte Apple, and there at our feet were the tiniest little crocuses I had ever seen. I gasped like a child seeing a first birthday cake. It made no difference what was happening back West in my old garden, what mattered is right there before me, Spring was speaking to me, in a much tinier voice that back West,

"Look at me! I'm tiny, but look at me!" that little crocus said.

Later that day, I painted a simple little ode to the crocuses, inspired by a memory of bringing our Lucia home when she was a baby donkey. She seemed to look at everything as new, fresh, a curiosity, a treasure trove at every angle–like any baby does.

The determination of a tiny crocus lifting herself up out of the cold ground, it is a wonder to behold.

Spring is a rebirth in any area of the world. But I was reminded that when one lives in a region such as New England with a real winter, spring is much more than flowers.

It is a miracle.

Baby donkey's first spring flowers. [Available at shop}

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Little Lonely is eating like a big boy

He's finally eating solids, slowly. I must say, he is the most polite eating piglet I've ever known, I suppose because he is a loner piglet. It's like he does exactly what my mother used to say,

"Chew slowly, dear."

Friday, March 31, 2017

What do you think?

I had shown this piece a week ago in other places and it generated a lot of conversation and had meant to post it here too.

This piece was inspired by some recent discussions with close women friends, all of whom are my age or older. We were discussing the question-do you feel more invisible [in your career, or stature] now that you are 59-80 or more, specifically among younger women in your line of work or by others in your field or social circles?

One friend said it felt more like she was felt marginalized by some younger women, when she had so much more experience [not only in her respective career, but as a mother and woman], but felt they weren't as interested in her thoughts, skills, words. [Please note I am not lumping ALL young women or people into being marginalizes.}

I have felt marginalized several times in the recent weeks too-this piece was inspired by that. We all agreed on one thing-we may come into contact with people who marginalize us, but we don't have to own that feeling, nor do we have to tolerate the behavior.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ten years ago we brought home Lucia

This was ten years ago, picking up little Lucia. Can not believe it's been ten years! I was 49 and she was about 3 months. Man....man oh man. She of course has aged perfectly, me-not as well. But she still brings me such happiness. My old farrier used to call her The Little Teacup.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Now available at the shop

And the branches lit up in the moon, the little barn on the hill shined a path and the donkeys could see their little red bucket sitting patiently while the protector watched their every step.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Little Lonely

Little Lonely turned three weeks old and has a nice chunky little body and appears to be doing just fine. He is a very calm and quiet little piglet, but when you pick him up he has good strength. He now understands that belly rubs are nice. And he is learning that coming to me allows for more belly rubs. I am still guarded about him, but I'm growing more confidant daily. Oddly, he doesn't chow down pig pellet, something pigs normally would be doing now. But he is not losing weight. I can only guess that because there are no litter mates, he is getting ample milk, and I do see him nibbling on hay. Fortunately Cornelia does still have milk-something we worried about when she lost the six girls- because the sow can dry up without pressure, but he must be milking a lot to keep the weight on and keep her in enough milk.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Little Mystery

Available now at the shop.

Mrs. Mercy Study knew she was being watched, but thought,

The Wood will take care of it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Old Mouse reincarnated from Mrs. Mercy Studley

She is available to a home who understands historical significance
When we moved here last May, I made introductions with Mrs. Studley. Let me recreate the scene:

While feeding, I came upon a beautiful little mouse in the pig food can, as I had left the top slightly ajar.

"Hello!" I said.

"Oh, hello, I figure you might come as I heard the animals rustling. I am Mrs. Mercy Studley," the mouse said.

I felt the hairs lift on my neck. You see, just the other night I had been reading the history of Bremen, our town here, and Mrs. Mercy Studley was one of the early inhabitants of a nearby village and at the time our house was newly built in 1760 era, Mrs. Mercy Studley was already 106.

"There was a woman from way back with your name, in a nearby village," I said.

"Yes," the mouse said.

"Did you perhaps know her?" I asked.

"Oh yes. She is me, or I am her. It is I."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring is hovering

I imagine the bees hovering high above, watching the snow melting, feeding the underground of hungry seeds. We are having a 24 hour cold snap with gusts, but sun. All is well.

{This is available as a print, and a slightly different original.}

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fred the frisbee has a story to tell

Today's movie is Fred, Memoir of a Frisbee.

I thought this is a good time to show this-many of you have been hit with huge snowstorms this past week, and I think Fred, and his friends in the movie will give you some hope for spring. This is a movie about friendship, never giving up hope and living with the rhythms of nature and one's own preferred lifestyle. Yes, this frisbee has worthwhile things to share with you! Enjoy.

You can leave a voluntary tip at my private payment link.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cloud room of comfort

I've been working on smaller pieces and I really have been pulled into the intimacy of the size. I think this is all part of my transition to this particular place, and my particular evolution as an artist and person. everything at our new Maine farm is more intimate than in Oregon-the size of the house, the barns closeness to the house, the paddocks...I typically like to paint on 12" board, and still do, but Martyn cut me a lot of smaller 7" pieces when he was working on the barn, and I thought it would help me do some pieces that were less costly than my 12" ones, helpful to interested buyers. But I find they are so intimate, and end up being very sensitive little works, like this one called "Cloud Room for Mother & Daughter".

Sometimes I sit down with a general idea in mind to paint, but most of the time it is all intuitive. I suppose this helps me from going crazy, and it keeps me grounded. I admire people that can sit and paint a 'scene' and make it look like the scene-but it doesn't inspire me to paint like that. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, and the clouds were really strong. My studio is on the second floor, which is different than any studio I've ever had, I am sure that influences what I paint.

I think I was missing my mom, maybe as it was my birthday recently and that makes you think of the past occasions, and the passing of decades is so fast, and faster even as you age. The party has an end time, it is very apparent. When you are 30 you can party all night, when you are 59 you know there is always a time to go home and you feel it. My brother sent me a care package with lots of Trader Joe goodies and a bottle of Oregon wine which was really nice. But it did make me miss my mom, and dad, as they were avid gift package senders.

Now that we are getting the upper loft ready for workshops, I think there might be some large paintings in my future, again. Part of being a self supporting artist is the constant balancing act of painting what you want, and need, and trying not to let sales dictate what you should be painting. Like the gallery owner who once said to me he could sell anything if it was red and had a horse in it-people comments can lead you astray. I have a lot of larger pieces out at Riversea Gallery in Oregon that are not moving, and Sundance has quite a few. At some point, in my small space here, large, unselling canvases become sort of...heavy load.

The world is agitated more than usual right now, so am I. It seems to be affecting sales for many artists I know. I try to share things with other artists about such matters because I think it is easy to get down, and to assume it's your lack of something that isn't bringing you new work or customers. When I look all the way back to 1997 when I began as a freelance artist, sales always came in surges, and droughts were no different. I learned to tolerate the droughts, and use them wisely-or use them to do something really non art related-like walk, garden, visit my mom, or ride my horse. The worst thing you can do is think that when the sales are high, they will always be-they won't. But it is also counterproductive to think droughts will last forever. every time I have a drought though, i still go through 20 Questions with myself-what am I doing wrong, what is wrong with everyone, blah, bawaaa blah. Then I remember, just like spring has always returned, sales always return.

But see, I still deal with this part of being self employed, and being an artist. I just get up every day and basically forge on, pick myself up and do something, anything to keep going. I try to be kind to myself. And I think that's why my insides painted this yesterday...a cloud room with a mother and daughter seems very comforting.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pig plows and wind inspirations

I did this little painting yesterday as I was tucked into my little studio with bunny at my side. The storm began in full strength around noon or so, with lots of strong winds. I'm still amazed and infatuated with the wind here. It has its own particular language and voice, much different than in Oregon. I guess because of the sea being so close. And the other intriguing thing-the house talks in the wind. I really mean it. Sometimes, we are sitting have done at night in a wind storm, and I'm constantly saying,

"Did you hear that?" and I'd turn the volume of the tv down.

But it's always the wind, but it can sound like voices. Very mysterious.

We were prepared for two feet, and I'm happy to say we got about 10-12". It's a bit heavy so it is not as easy to deal with and I didn't bother trying to shovel out to the far barn, I let the pigs help me out.Some people in upstate and west of us in NY and Vermont got 30-40". Spring is in less than a week and it looks like temps are going to be colder than normal next week-like in the 20-30's. Bwaaaa. I am ready for 45 and could be happy with that for a long time to be honest. No flies, no humidity!

So we are fine. Had a nice bottle of wine last night, didn't lose power and all the animals took it in stride. Even Little lonely, who hasn't even seen sky or sun yet since he and Cornelia are still in the heated cat room until I feel it's okay to come out-which it probably is, but I'm giving him some more time.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

This ain't for sissies

White Dog guards the farm against wind gusts and white out -the official storm began around 1 and I'd say we are getting at least inch an hour right now - the winds are pretty fierce. Ideally, I got a belated gift from my brother for my birthday loaded with Trader Joe goodies and an exceptional bottle of Oregon Pinot I can open in a couple hours. Stay safe to all my east coast friends!

Morning communion with Marcella

When I do my morning chores in winter, I make it a goal to commune with the animals, usually picking out one or two that day and just sitting with them quietly. Often no words are spoken, that is my language, but we have our other language we speak-or at least we learn to interpret. I think the animals are far superior to that interpreting than we humans, but I truly believe we as people can hone our lost sills as communicators with creatures. We used to speak this way in earnest, and with grunts that each had a different meaning I assume. Just like the pigs-they have so many variations of a squeal and a grunt. I should start recording them.

This morning I sat with Marcella while the goats ate. Marcella is a glutton for this. She is not 'soft' either-meaning she has not turned into a marshmallow guard dog as we used to hear of when we researched guard breeds. Marcella has adapted to the new place as stoically and enthusiastically as I expected. Her area is smaller now, and often at night she is in the goat barn where as Benedetto is always free to go to the fields to patrol, but he lives in the field barn, and Marcella lives in the front barn.

Marcella takes her guarding here as seriously as she did in Oregon. She recognizes the front road and traffic that might be 'unusual'. She knows the nearby neighbors but will still alert them she is here. But mainly, she has taken to guarding her charges from birds, and squirrels, and eagles. She witnessed a duck killing of a chicken in Oregon, and from that day on both she and Benedetto will chase birds in the high up sky and alert us there are flying predators. I doubt a squirrel will do much harm, but I appreciate that she has that covered. She also has kept the rats away, at least out of sight. They had easy living when we arrived, but things changed for them with Marcella. I often find small holes dug into the stall bedding, going about 6" down. I'm sure she's tracking rats under the barn.

Now two days ago, we saw a beautiful little black mink by the bird feeder, which sits outside the kitchen and is not part of the barn. As beautiful as he was, I worried he might be on to the chicken coop even though they are penned up, he could get in if he really wanted too.

I told Marcella about him.

"What am I saying," I told her today, "I'm sure you knew all about that mink."

She is strong and independent, in command of her domain. Her success has nothing to do with beauty but is from her genetic makeup and willingness and desire to be useful in her breed's capacity. But her beauty is apparent, and watching her guard, or take charge, I have to admit her looks enhance the experience for me. She understands our relationship–something we both have had to work towards.

Her eyes still mesmerize me.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Funeral for The Head Troll

As requested, the barnyard asked me to transcribe the funeral of The Head Troll, without any interference of photos.

I heard foot steps rushing to the front door.

My heart nearly stopped. It couldn't be her. But it was the sound I had heard so many times, of The Head Troll, scurrying to slip a note under my door, and then rushing back to the barn for whatever duties she had that day.

The footsteps were slower, heavier. And the note was pushed under the door as the footsteps retreated to the barn.

I picked up the note, crudely written,

Bring the ukulele? 6 am meet at the picket gate

Oh good Lord, six am? Well, they are early risers and it is a beautiful time of day, with the morning light sneaking in as darkness lifts.

So there we all were this morning, at the picket gate, huddled together. We are in the middle of a three day cold snap and I remind myself that soon I'll be whining about flies.

Paco appeared from the barn. My heart nearly cracked. He had some how found the old horse blanket I had draped over The Head Troll as she lay dying. He walked as only Paco can, in a slow shuffle, his head down, much like Eeorye, his tail making a swish every few steps. Around his neck, he had the special necklace I had crudely made out of one of The Head Troll's broken horns years back-a horn that fell off after she got herself stuck, for the thirtieth time, in fencing-as she tried to engage her mouth in grass on the other side of that fence as it must have appeared much better to her than the grass on her side.

Nobody spoke. The goats chewed cud, a sign of solidarity I thought.

We walked the short distance to the gravesite. Frankie had been buried the day before, out of necessity. Martyn had found a beautiful stone spire and placed it as her monument-we can see it from the house and it is so fitting to her, a strong stone pointing upwards-no hill was too tall for Frankie.

Taco brayed...and brayed...and brayed. Then Pino, Lucia and Matilda all brayed. It was as moving as the gun salute at my father's Marine service, I can attest to that. Paco began by saying,

"We are here this morning to salute The Head Troll, a goat of small size but remarkable strength. I was with her longer than any of you. I knew her when she had no purpose, I had no purpose. But I watched her over the years, and I admired the way she could get things done, without ego, without complaint. And boy, when she told all of us to line up, we lined up!"

The entire group cheered, "So true! So true!"

"So let us now honor her, and line up according to our heights, smallest first over on the right," Paco declared.

And they did. Well, there is always some confusion with Earnest and Moose, so Moose stood in front of Earnest.

"I have written a poem for this occasion," said Paco, and he began to read.

As I looked to the sky this morn,

I saw five birds, tussling to perch on the wire.

And I did not cry for you.

They flitted around,
and then perched in a tidy row, side by side,
and then they whistled a tune.

And I did not cry for you.

Because you taught me, once long ago,
that when I'm scared, whistle.
You told me it vibrates the heart
and the blood moving around warms the
perspective of a fearful glance.

And I did not cry for you.
I whistled with the birds.

And then he began to whistle, "Che too madre" from Madame Butterfly. The funeral procession did their best to whistle Puccini and I made an honorable effort to play the ukulele in a fitting operatic way. One by one, the funeral party dispersed, heading back to the barn, leaving me and Paco standing at that grave.

Paco turned to me and he carefully, and so gently, wrapped the horse blanket around my shoulders and placed the necklace with Frankie's horn around my neck. We left the scene without a word.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Song for Moose and Paco will officiate the funeral

I wanted to let you all know, tomorrow there will be a private funeral service for The Head Troll, officiated by Paco, who asked to lead the service. This is a big deal for Paco-he arrived at Apifera without any confidence, but gained it through love and experience. Paco and The Head Troll both came from new Hampshire, arrived in Oregon and I adopted them, so it is also fitting he lead the send off. I know at feedings this morning he was in a corner, working on poems. He doesn't have a special writing spot here, yet, I hope to make him one this summer. So check back tomorrow. I have been asked to write about the service, but there will be no photography allowed.

While there has been much loss of late, there is still much life, and the percolations both under the ground and in my new life here are everywhere.

Yesterday I turned 59, and Moose turned 4. I didn't too well on a lavish party for Moose, but it's pretty easy to please these guys on birthday parties if there is any kind of food involved. As you can see from the movie, chewing demonstrates content party goers. Later that night I made myself a old family recipe of white cake with chocolate frosting-a classic sturdy cake my mother used to make. We had wine and good stuff, and slept well after a hard week.

I went to a sheep farm yesterday to meet a fellow shepherd from Hatchtown Farm, but this one really knows her fiber. She is very good at sharing her knowledge on many levels and next weekend she invited me to go with her to help at another farm's annual sheering day. I'm really excited. I really want to make something of my fiber and am also thinking of getting some Coopworth, which she has, a longer fiber breed, versus our CVM's which are a fine fiber breed. I think I can handle a few more sheep but need to really focus on good management to get as most out of my girls as possible. I am a nice at wool sheep, so have so much to learn. By the way, she sells her fiber and it is gorgeous!

Anyway, so many people contacted me about The Head Troll, and my birthday and it was very kind and helpful. I am fine, The Head Troll was aware of the shifts happening in Apifera, and with me, I know this, I really do. It was very like her to...give some more room for the new life we are creating here, and it was her time.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

I am gutted. The Head Troll is dead.

I am in shock, and I'm gutted.

The Head Troll died in my arms today.

Last night when I did feedings, she was sitting quietly in a corner, very unlike her. After all, she is in charge of lining everyone up in order of their heights, so the fact she had not done this for the breakfast line concerned me. I called over to her when I put hay down, and she came to eat with everyone. But I had an inkling,

This is the beginning of the end.

This morning the flock, and White Dog, Birdie and Sophie were all at the fence line waiting for me, but no Head Troll.

I found her in the same corner, upright, and she called to me. Her voice was a bit weaker than normal, but she did get up and came to find food. I decided to bring her into the front barn since the temps will dip again tonight for a couple days, and because I could feed her separately. By the time she walked the 200 feet to the barn, she stumbled, and I had to carry her inside.

I really thought she'd go right then, she was calm, and on her side. But she rallied enough to want to sit up. I knew that Frankie [her given name, The Head Troll is her working name] would go out on her terms, just as she had led her life in the barnyard. What I felt from her heart to mine though, was she waited for me this morning. In some ways, this surprised me, but then again, she and I have a working relationship in the barnyard. I sat with her and said my tearful goodbyes, shared with her all the things she achieved in the barnyard-the parades, the garland festivals, the pumpkin story nights, the celebration of Obama's inaugural night, the burials of so many and all the funerals she helped me coordinate. The Head Troll was not one for mushy scenes, and I apologized for the tears.

"How am I going to get anyone to do anything, without you?" I asked her.

I opted to take her inside the hen coop, for peace and quiet away from little Opie and all the goings on, but she could still hear the sounds of her life, which I think is really humane in any creature's death-be it man or animal. To die with the familiar sounds of compares fading in and out all around you, must be helpful.

I left her for only a short time, about twenty minutes, and Martyn was working nearby. When I came back out, she tried to raise her head, and she tried to speak, but she was nearly gone. I was able to hold her head in my lap and say my final goodbyes. Within ten minutes, I watched the final breath. Once again, she surprised me-she had waited for me to return. Always independent and determined, I was touched and humbled she had waited. But it made sense. It wasn't so much she was scared I don't think, or that she had to see me again, I think it was the organizer in her, it was her way to make sure I knew that on her last breath, it would really be up to me, not her, to keep order in the barnyard. And she knew I would do the right think taking care of her body, just as she had watched me bury so many animals.

"I will never live up to her skills," I said right before she died.

Of course, this is not just the death of one of the original Misfits-it is so much more than that. It is another part of a former me, dying right along with her. For months, I've been telling Martyn, I'm not sure who I am here, and each death of an old friend strips me barer. She was perhaps my strongest muse, the closest to me in personality I would say. While Pino shows us his tender Buddhist side, Paco is the worrier with a heart of gold, The Head Troll forged on like a force of nature-to get the task at hand done-efficiently and without too much patience, or complaining to the public. If she needed to gripe, she did it in the privacy of her stall, with a cocktail. She did it her way.

I knew she was old, I had been reminding myself and followers of this for months. I knew she was getting thinner. But she went from normal one day, to making it clear her number was up–so suddenly. Then again, that too is just like her. Like my mother who was playing golf one day and dead a few days later-I think both knew it was time, why fight it.

In fact, holding The Head Troll today, when she still could stand, I knew she was dying, because The Head Troll is not one for mushy exchanges. She is not a hugger. She showed her love like many of my Minnesotan relatives have-through hard work and consistency in showing up on time and with a house gift. Holding her was a really beautiful experience though-it was as if after all our years together as stoic partners, she finally let her guard down, and asked for my help,

"Can you just be with me while I pass, just to make sure it goes okay?"

Frankie came to us back before I had a blog, she came with Paco and both came to Oregon via New Hampshire. Frankie was unfit and thin when she arrived, and her ear tips had frozen off in the winter at some point. Her horns had not been properly removed but were sawn off. In time, she broke one off while trying to get grass on the other side of the fence. As I sat with her today, stroking her beard, I could hardly stand the idea of not having those little chopped off ears around.

I am stunned from this. I know, I should be used to it. She was 16 at least, Martyn always said she was 30 which always made me laugh. I feel like the universe is stripping me of so much lately. I have always believed in the power of the universe and the wisdom of it-it is not a judgmental thing they have done, nor do I believe I'm being punished. But I do feel all these passages of the last week-my elderly friend and riding mentor, the piglets which I feel were my responsibility, Scooby Keith-I feel it is a clearing of some kind, from the past life I had in Oregon. There is something out there that is so big, that the land around me is being prepared for that planting and harvest-and that means clearing...culling.

I don't like knowing The Head Troll is gone, but I can't change it. I did get a chuckle that she died a day before my birthday. She could have waited a day for the dramatic effect. But knowing her, she didn't want my birthday to be tied into her death, she wanted me to take all day to be with her, and mourn, and clear the way for my birthday celebration with little Moose tomorrow. She would also point out that it is garish to remind people of your own birthday, especially on the internet as it suggests one is looking for gifts and gifts should come from a place of desire not manipulation.

And that reminds me of all the birthday parties she organized at the old Apifera. There will never, ever, be another Head Troll. It saddens me she is gone from the barnyard, and that she is gone forever from my stories.

I will make her a funeral like no other. She deserves that.

{You can read all of the things The Head Troll has participated in over the years}