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, 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

Protected

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}

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Rosie freaks me out and Little Lonely hanging in there

Last night I had a scare with Rosie, the goat Rosie not to be confused with the pig Rosie  {I have not told the pig there is another Rosie, I think it will only irritate her. How could there be more than one me? she'd ask.}

Rosie had just finished dinner-I have her on a bit of grain as she is a bit thin-and she got choke. If  you've experienced watching a goat with choke it's horrible. You feel pretty helpless. I've never had one die of choke, and typically they pull out of it, but it is so scary to witness, and the first time you do you think it is all over. It happens when a goat eats to fast, which can be compounded when they eat in a group. They toss their heads in distress as they can't breathe, and they foam and shake their heads, some cry out as Rosie did - good sign really. And Rosie would jump up and around trying to expel the choke. Some people misdiagnose this when they see the froth as frothy bloat, fyi.

Some people put rocks in their dishes to slow them down-that never worked for me. So I massaged her throat, got water down her and then did drum beats on her sides. I've never had a goat take so long to work herself out of it though. Of course it was night, and it was one of the chillier nights so there I was sitting with a goat, and of course Opie was trying to help. I finally went into give her some time to relax, as all the commotion can make them even tenser. She was breathing, she just could not expel what she needed to. When I returned she was much calmer, and I knew she was going to be ok, but she still had some fits. I was so relieved she worked herself, finally, out of it. No more grain for her for awhile and I will start to mash is in water I think.

Little Lonely is hanging in there. I have shied from constantly taking pics of him, but I will this week. I think he is getting enough milk, and Cornelia's bags are fill [some anyway] so i think he's milking well. He seems strong, in fact he's downright feisty when I work with him. Bugger even gave me a bite already. Pigs get teeth fast, and they are sharp. I tried to supplement with a bottle but he just refuses, but i think because he is getting enough at the mama milk bar, right now anyway, it is okay.

I'm pretty beat. Please forgive me if these past couple of posts wreak of exhaustion. I am determined to be back in the studio tomorrow and all month focus on painting, now that my little Spoken Word memoir is done-which by the way, NOBODY has purchased. I'm crushed! It is the sweetest story. Perhaps people don't think a frisbee has any insights-this frisbee does!


Sunday, March 05, 2017

New 'Spoken Story Book" is here!

The new Spoken Word Storybook is now available!! The story is spoken [by moi] and includes a cast of charming characters.

I think you will fall in love with Fred. And Helen. And Kevin.

Fred is a frisbee and one day, his life changed in an instant. He was scared, and began to lose hope that things would change for the better, but he learns a thing or two-with the help of Helen, a seed sprout.

Fred will help anyone out there who feels like winter will never end, or their bad luck is here forever...he'll remind you to be what you want to be even if you were born into something you didn't ask for.

I loved working with Fred, and the other guest characters in this story. I never knew a frisbee could be so charming.

If you like the movie, please consider a small tip - it all helps me care for the Misfits.




Little Lonely's fight



Little Lonely made it through the night, and I was feeling pretty good when I saw him up and about this morning. He does have this weird breathing spasm, I've shown to some pig friends and they agree its odd. But no signs of pneumonia or rattles/fluid in the lungs. Cornelia is ok, she is still really tired, but eating and drinking. I'm going to get some goat milk which one of my pig friends uses on her pigs and she learned it from a vet in a similar situation when the sow had a singleton and her milk was not plentiful. Cornelia has milk, and he has the hang of the milk bar, but just in case, I might help him for the first couple days.

It's hard with just one as he doesn't have his mates to sleep with so he wants to sleep with her and each time she gets up I cringe-but you have to let go of what you can't control. The cold weather snap is suppose to gradually warm by tomorrow and 40-50's in mid week. We feel like hypothermia was the killer. We analyzed our actions, mistakes, lack of foresight, missed cues if any...and we ended up with the same conclusion-it's sad, but it happens. I never would have had piglets in winter, but Earnest had other ideas, and we just hadn't gotten our paddocks totally secure since we just arrived in May with so much fencing to do all at once. But...I am responsible, and Cornelia and I have an understanding about it. It is between her and me.


Saturday, March 04, 2017

Little Lonely day one

Sadness, shock...and only one survives


I just didn't think last night was going to be her night to farrow. She was eating, active, just didn't act like it was her time, and I knew it was going to be cold until Monday, which was her due date so I just kept hoping for Monday.

I didn't put the heat lamp on last night, I take full responsibility for that. But I don't like having those things on unless it is absolutely necessary due to fire danger. And since she was eating so voraciously, I didn't think it was her night.

Arriving at her stall, I saw a piglet up and walking. But another two lay nearby, listless. They were dead, but dry–two beautiful girls, beautiful polk-a-dots like their parents. I was really upset, but wanted to attend to Cornelia and make sure she was okay. She was hungry and had just passed the placenta. She lay down for me and really just wanted to sleep. The little survivor piglet seemed okay, but sort of breathing funny, and even though he was warm, he was trembling a bit in his rear, but that is actually sort of normal the first day of life as they aren't strong yet. She had milk, and he could suckle, but I did notice she hadn't bagged up that much.

I started to clean up around Cornelia, and then I found four more dead piglets-all beautiful girls. I was warned way back when by a friend who raises pigs not to have too much bedding in the farrowing area, because piglets at birth can get buried in it and then can't get out. I had made sure there wasn't that much, but had to leave enough for warmth. So I wonder if they got buried. I don't know. But 6? 

They were good sized, and healthy looking, full term, and she had cleaned them off. This could mean they were still born and she cleaned them, or that they were alive but got chilled. It was very cold last night about 5 degrees, but she is in an interior stall.


I couldn't believe it. We've never had even one dead piglet - which is a miracle and it is bound to happen, but six out of seven... I sat on the ground with Cornelia, and cried for her. She had worked so hard I'm sure, and did such a good job, and then they all died, or were dead. She was unconcerned with the dead babies so had accepted nature's hand. It was I who was carrying on. I try not to create drama around the animals in these times, but, I was caught off guard by so many being dead.

But then Cornelia was acting kind of weird and I wondered if she was okay. By the time I came back from my other feedings, she was eating her fresh hay and seemed more normal.

The six little sisters are all together in a row, just like they would be if they were sleeping together. I will have to bury them on Monday when the ground is a bit thawed. It's hard to look at them, but I sent time petting them and wanted to admire their beauty, even though they didn't make it.

 I feel so sorry for the little barrow. He seems ok, but I'm worried he might not make it. And since he is a loner, there is more chance Cornelia might accidentally crush him-every pig owners fear.

What a sad morning. I'm proud of Cornelia, but sad for her hard work, all alone.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Piglet Watch!

It happens. Despite the best efforts of humankind male pigs are known to bust through fences to get to a lady to...you know, make babies.

We moved here last May and scrambled to get fences up for the animals, so I knew triaging the pig paddocks was a on the list, but would wait until this year. We usually have a board on the bottom of each fence, but I had not gotten to that yet.

Enter Marcella and Earnest. If you follow along, you know Marcella the Maremma came to us a pup, right about when Earnest the boar piglet came to us-and they bonded. They were the cutest odd couple around. They continue to be bonded, and reside together in one of the paddocks next to the lady pigs. But now Marcella and Earnest conspire together, I am sure of it. Marcella pushes and loosens the fence, and Earnest gets his sausage style body under it somehow, if he smells that delectable lady scent of heat. He is built like a stiff Mack truck, but where there is a will there is a pig way.

Anyway, there they were one day, Earnest and Cornelia, doing it.

OK, they're in the act, I'll let them have their privacy, I thought.

I marked my calendar and noted that 3 months-3weeks-3days would be March 5. I noticed signs of pregnancy awhile ago, but now it is clear she is going to farrow soon. I hope she does ok, she is squat, and I kept her as my buddy pig, she is not who I intended to breed. But Earnest can't take it back, nor can she.

I am full up in pigs and so will begin marketing them for sale this week as soon as she farrows.If you know anyone interested in Kunekunes, have them contact me. I have not seen many Maine people raising them so hope I have a good chance on getting them sold.

I talked to Earnest tonight about it.

"Do you know Cornelia is getting ready, babies on the way, Papa?"

He flopped down for a belly rub. He has no interest in child rearing, just food, and sex, and belly rubs. Oh and winter ice skating. Perhaps swimming this summer too.

Stay tuned!
Earnest and Marcella-they are a team