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.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Go out and play, now"

This is like when you were ten and all your cousins come over and your parents tell you all to go outside and play while they have cocktails.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Calling all crows

I've always loved crows, believing them to be messengers. Anytime a crow showed up in my life, I believed it was a message of good, to me. As I've aged, I see it a bit differently, a little bit less about the message being about me, but about situations that need answers.

I used to have lots of crows in my art, and still do, but...of late, crows have been visiting Apifera. And I was moved to paint them again. About a month ago, we had many crows hovering around, landing in fields in flocks [a murder, I guess] and screeching in a way I had never heard. I began to see them making a journey from our farm out to The Wood, where I would hear them screeching. I assumed they were mating, and saw a nest up in one of the trees behind the goat paddock. But I began to research, and am learning as much as I can about their behavior.

I've put shelf stand on one of the pasture posts, where I hung a shiny spoon, and I place dog food kernels there, hoping to entice them to land and start communing with me. I know crows respond to consistent reward. So when they fly above, I call to them. Sometimes it feels like they return when I call, but...I think that is my optimism.

A crow can't be forced.

And we have the White Dogs, who ever since an eagle took a duck in Oregon, bark at birds of prey, even seagulls. The dogs are getting more complacent though...but I wonder if the crows won't befriend me because of the dogs.

I just love crows. And I love hearing about their intelligence-like that they make tools to help gather insects, like that they recognize faces and will remember a face that trapped them or threatened them. Some of the screeching could ave been parents teaching the young when a predator was near. The young often help with the rearing of the next fledglings. They mate for life. A crow in the wild normally lives a couple years, but can live up to forty.

A senior crow...wouldn't that be something to help? I will put my intention out there. But I won't force it. Like I said, you can't force a crow.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

We lose a Tiny Apiferian...but it leaves an epiphany

I found one of the Little Apiferians dead this morning. And now we are four. But what was most interesting to me, is that as I cradled his tiny body in my hands, I had an epiphany about my work with animals but also with elder people of late.

First I want to share how much joy these little birds have brought into our home. He and his Zebra Finch mates came to us when we first arrived in Maine, and they were already pretty old. The owner of them was losing his home, and somehow one of his connections thought of us. I had never had birds-and never really thought to. But I somehow thought immediately this was a good thing to do, and it was. The six finches, five males and one female, had their own custom cage hand built by someone. The female died about six months after coming to Apifera, but the males have thrived. I used to count them every night after the female died, worried they were so old and one by one they'd die. There are little bird houses in their house, and some tuck themselves in there and are hard to see. This morning I did a count and had to really look for the fifth bird, and finally found him at the bottom of the cage. Every morning when I get up, the morning routine is to let the dogs out first, but I greet the birds,

"Good morning, boys!"

"Chirp, chirp, chirp!"they greet me back.

If I speak to them, they chirp back. When we watch movies- their house is centrally located in the living room-they react to certain music. If we are angry at the news, a regular thing these days, we ask the boys how they feel, and they start chirping like mad! They are joyful little creatures and enjoy flying around and I give them sticks and natural objects in which they prep nests. One person-of course a complete stranger-scolded me for keeping them telling me they should be set free. Sorry, dumb idea. These were bred and born in captivity. I took them on to help them. If you want to boycott bird breeding, go somewhere else and shame them, not here.

The epiphany

So as I held the little bird in my hands this morning, I apologized for just having found him. He had clearly died at least a day or two before. I'd been swept up in life and had not counted the birds. I told him how joyful he made our home, how his size did not compare to the music and happiness he brought into our world. I prepared his burial setting, and gave him a beautiful cloak to warm him on his journey. He of course did not need it, but the ritual of showing him I cared was important to me. I let the other birds see his body one more time, and then I buried him in the garden. I marked the grave and will bury them all there when their time comes.

The thought came to me immediately, as I held him and talked to him-this is what I was not able to do with White Cloud. And of course, I was not family, or staff, or a nurse, or hired to do that, or legally able to do that. And that is why I can't put myself in those situations any more. I am not wired to work with any creature, be it human or animal, for weeks or years, care for them, do my best, commune on a two way road, and then not be allowed to even say goodbye.

After my experience with White Cloud, I have felt adrift in some ways, floating about wondering why I felt so...awkward. It is because I do not want to work in a system that shuts me out when I feel my work is needed most-at the end of a creature's life. I do not want to walk into one more place and find out someone I cared about and visited for over a year is gone, but nobody can talk about it.

I can't do it, it is opposite of what my soul wants me to do. I have a covenant with my animals, and I have a covenant with people I visit. My job, in my mind and heart, with he elder people is simple-listen tot hem, share story, share animal, do not detract, don't treat them like invalids or babies.

People are so afraid of death, or most people are afraid of it I think. I do not think necessarily that all older people are afraid of it. I am not afraid of it. I don't want to linger in a cement building without nature or things that give my life meaning, being dependent on strangers, or on a bureaucracy that might be keeping people from seeing me, or talking to me. When I'm old, I don't want to be told what to do, I want to be heard. I had a recent conversation with an elderly woman who I used to work with, she is in her 80's-still sharp and interested in life-and the care residence she was in was, in her words, treating her like a baby, not letting her go out on her own after she had fallen once. She did not want to use a walker, because it was hard to get in and out of bookstores, and most importantly, she volunteered at the animal shelter twice a month and it was cumbersome there. She wanted to use her cane, and she said to me, "I don't feel like they want to listen to me, they just tell me what I need. They care more about me falling, than me going out and living."

So, when I held this little creature, I took comfort in the extra years I could give him. I took comfort in preparing his little grave site. I took comfort knowing this is the work I want to do. I don't want to partake in detracting from others. I want to listen, not talk at, other people.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It's a Cat with a Hat, of course

A cat with a hat

sits on a shelf.

A cat with a hat is

all by himself.

Or he is?

No, because 

he is a cat

with a hat.

Paco the Poet wants you to know he did not write this poem, I did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My intention has been sent out

Our private garden is protected from the outside world, but is open to the fields and pastures and The Wood. We had to do a bit of work to make it so private and I have to say I felt so exposed when we first arrived. I had a hard time with it.

I'm basically an introvert that likes to share. It makes things challenging to live in a world like this.

I still have had no elders from the homes Opie visits come yet. I have extended the offer many times. I know the residents want to come but it is a transportation issue, and/or a staff issue, logistics...etc. I understand. I have done all I can do to make it happen. They all have an open invitation.

So, I'm looking into reaching out to elder people that are still living in their homes, but might have caregivers or attendants coming to help them with basic things-groceries, rides, companionship. I have found a couple of networks that provide home caregivers this way, and I'm just beginning to reach out. I much prefer an intimate setting versus large groups, so this is a good fit for me.

I think of all the elders that I have met  over the years that made such an impact on me either because they were neighbors and I became friends, or I visited them in their home or facility and we developed a relationship. I really loved those relationships, they impacted me and I know I impacted them.

So stay tuned on the evolving Garden of Respite. I know there is someone who will come into my life who will someday be sitting there with me, looking out at the goats and other animals in the fields, enjoying the bluebirds and butterflies, and just getting out of their house for something different and uplifting. I've put that intention out there. It will come when it is meant to come.
In the meantime, Apifera Angels sent the two garden benches, and seat cushions! So we are ready to make our guests comfortable. I have thought of a pop up tent for shade too, that I could take down easily after visits. I'm looking into that.

Monday, July 09, 2018

In which we must acknowledge Stanley and Janet Jane Josephine are gone

I had hoped it wasn't so, but I really feel it is, the barn cats have been taken by Nature, most likely, the red fox.

Stanley had not been seen for about three weeks, but JoJo was coming and going, even getting to the comfort level of sitting near me without fleeing. I remember I saw her most mornings right before the barn project started. Because the hay was gone, we were waiting for the harvest, I knew the barn project might make her leave the barn during the noisiest parts of the day. But the food was going on uneaten, and I have not seen her since, which is about three weeks. I thought when the hay arrived she might return, but I have not seen her.

At the same time, we had been noticing a red fox outside the lower pasture. We saw him three times around dusk. He was leaping at rodents or rabbits near the marshy area, and this was a place the cats would go when they first ventured out.

I really think he got them. Yes, it is possible they went of to another place...it is possible. But Jojo was talking more those last days. Perhaps she was ill, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

I feel quite badly about this. And I do not think I will bring adult ferels on anymore-UNLESS- they show up on their own, then they will be welcome to stay and I will care for them and attend to them spaying and neutering. I have nothing against the feral society that trapped these cats, spayed/neutered/vetted them-they are doing a worthy job for so many cats out there, especially with high incidence of rabies in Maine. But I have no idea where these cats came from-perhaps they were city cats, and I wonder if they had any instinct to be in Nature. Yes, there is an instinct in an animal to survive, but...after rearing 25 ferels out West, with most of them living very long lives, I just wonder if I did a disservice to these two.

I know my intentions were right. I also believe animals pick up on our true intentions pretty quickly-if not immediately. I had many talks with them. I did my best...but from now on, unless it is a mama feral with kittens, or wandering ferels who see the light in the barn and decide to stop in to test the waters, I don't think I'd bring two adults here unless I really knew their background. I suppose if someone had a true barn cat that had lived in a real barn, with indoor outdoor life, it might be one thing.

So we raise a glass to them. If they died, I hope it was a quick kill. I hope they didn't suffer.

If they come back..you will be the first to know. The universe around me knows my intentions with animals, the invisible gate is open to them.

Ollie learns the dangers of being like Pooh Bear

"This happened to Pooh once," Opie said to Ollie through the fence.

"Did he get out?" asked Ollie.

"Yes!" Earnest the pig called from another paddock. "Honey was his downfall, as is grass on the other side of the fence for you," and he went about his way.

Ollie looked a bit perplexed, "I have no idea what honey has to do with this."

"It means your eyes were bigger than your head," said White Dog, who came by the gate to assess the situation.

"I think if we push, all together from this side," said Opie.

So Opie, Else and White Dog pushed. Sir Tripod encouraged everyone, "He's almost through!"

But the rescue effort came to a halt.

"I'm hopelessly stuck," said Ollie. "Oh well, she'll come and get me, she always does. And I have the grasses to eat."

"That's how your belly got so expanded in the first place," said Opie.

So I found him just like this, stuck, his hip bones were the culprit. With everyone still gathered, I held his belly in with my hands and pushed with my knees, forcing his string bean body backwards.


"Thank you ever so much," said Ollie.

"The fence is for you to stay on one side, and those grasses over there are not for you," I told him.

He leapt off in joy, jumped up on his rock, flapped his Nubian ears, and looked happy as can be. A mix of danger, good grass and freedom is a good way to start the day...when you're a 2 month old goat with nothing but time on your hands.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Oh, Crow, I am glad you are back

This painting available through Sundance
I have always loved crows. In my younger years I always saw them as messengers bringing me specific good messages. I still see them as messengers, but in a more realistic way-it is not always about me or bringing me something that I want to hear.

Of late, we have had two to three crows, going from about a 1/2 mile radius in and out of The Wood, and at first I thought they had were using a nest in a tree by the new barn. I learned that crows use sticks, squirrels tend to use anything. Well, these crows have been screaming for days, I assumed it was a pair, then I wondered if a fledgling had fallen from the nest.

But now they have flown off, but reappear sporadically, such as last night, only to leave and fly off to The Wood, and I can hear them screaming. It is not a normal crow 'caw', they are screaming, like that viral goat that was going around. When I first hear it I went outside thinking maybe somebody was in distress, or had corned a baby in the barnyard or something.

I think they didn't like the presence of The White Dogs, who rush under and follow them when any large bird flies above. This started after an eagle took a duck back in Oregon. I noticed one of the crows came sweeping down into a paddock and left. Maybe they were testing the waters to see how safe The White Dogs are? I don't know.

I've been researching crows since, and oh my I love them more and more and think they need to come back into my art and life again...maybe that was their message. They mate for life, and the young help raise the next year fledglings. I also read the screaming I'm hearing could also be the parents telling the youngster to fly, and the parents could also be screaming at predators and is trying to teach the young who the predators are.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Sitting in a bucket thinking about freedom

That's about what we'll be doing in this heat. I'll be making mud pools for the pigs, hosing down Boone, and hosing off the llama's legs. I had aspired to write about freedom and what it means, but...my head is mush from heat and it's only 9am. I am a heat wimp as many of you know.

The heat will lift in a couple of days. And my brain will return in all it's...glory.

I am pleased so many on the media and radio are taking time to disect the actual meaning of the 4th. We are still a country with American values, although we are shaken by the underbelly of America that also been ignited to wake up and tromp on those values. And we are still capable of living up to those values, and voting for people that will protect our freedoms, not lie to us, or keep information from us. We are being tested as this democracy has been tested over and over, and it will always be tested. We are lucky to still be in a situation where we are being tested as a people, versus living in a country where there is no free press and there is oppression of any kind of free thinking.

Monday, July 02, 2018

A llama love...I guess we all needed that

Llama love in action[photo courtesy L. Wooten]
I get a lot of requests from people, often strangers, or people I haven't met, to come and see the animals. Sometimes I can accommodate them and sometimes I can't. It's always a fine line between hurting some one's feelings and creating privacy or time for myself when I need it.

I follow my heart and gut when I respond to these requests. Or I ask Earnest what he thinks.

"Perhaps they will rub my belly," he says.

When I had a polite request from Laura Wooten, a painter and artist from Virginia, if she could stop in for a brief visit, with her son, husband and elder dad-they would be driving through after a wedding in Bar Harbor, I immediately said 'sure'. For starters, I often find connections I make with fellow artists are supportive, and second, Laura has been a kind and generous follower and supporter of both my book projects, and my animal efforts. And, well, she is The Bench Fairy, who gifted us a bench this year for our 'trying to make it happen' garden-animal area for elders to come visit.

It was going to be hot, and humid. I forgot these folks are from Virginia, so the wimpy humidity we had this weekend was nothing like they are used to. It is easy to work as a freelancer, or independent goat-donkey-cat-chicken nurse caretaker and have days where you feel isolated or unheard...invisible. Not that I want to be on the street or news or top ten blog list of notoriety, not that I ever have an urge anymore to 'do lunch' or coffee...it takes a real desire to leave my haven, and walls, but when someone shows up and they are just really excited to meet you, and see the many animals they have read about for so long-it makes me feel good about what I'm doing.

When someone notices all this work we do, and gets an emotional connection to it, and genuinely shows that, it feels good. It's validating.

Her family could not have been sweeter. We took lots of photos together, and I've shared some of hers here too. First we went through the orchard Misfit Goat area, where they met-immediately-Ollie. How can you not meet Ollie immediately, as he is the immediate greeter. Off in the paddock, they saw a dog, and said, "We want to meet White Dog."

Of course, everyone wants to meet White Dog. He did not disappoint, and if he wasn't 95# and so loving I would have had him out with us-he likes to jump and 'hug' people around the neck, something that is endearing, but also a bit too much for safety reasons-he's getting better though. Marcella was in her private suite with Earnest, and she is a bit more problematic with guests, unless I take time to bring them in, do introductions and watch her closely in the introductions. She's only doing her job.

Then it was out to meet the grumpy, sleeping pig. Due to the heat, the pig was uncharacteristically somber, while sleeping. I rubbed her belly and got a few snorts, but we didn't want to disturb the royal highness's state of mind. They got to meet one of the many rats too. We went to the back paddocks to see the donkeys. But the first one at the gate was...Lady Birdie. She immediately sniffed them all out, face to face, and agreed they were not black bears, wolves, coyotes or...mean people. Birdie is once again showing us she seems to be the current heart throb, but also, she seems to be the current resident who really thrives in these greet ups. She not only gave light pecks on the cheeks, she gave full kisses this time.

I was also pleased that Matilda wondered out on the hot day. She wasn't getting the attention of Birdie, but she seemed very present to me, and I told everyone her story. Soon after, she lay down and did a good roll in the dust, which is always a hit. Pino was greeted too of course, as were the other donks, and Boone, and scampering, or limping, goats. Back at the front barn, We met the pigs, and the elder cats.

The one thing I regret, is that I didn't get to spend more time with Bob, Laura's father. He was so sweet. I'm a sucker for old men, what can I say. It was hot, and Bob decided to sit in the shade with Martyn, where he could look out at the animals and fields, and garden. I had told Bob that my father's name was Bob, and that we now were trying to help bluebirds and I call the blue birds, "Bob". And while he sat there with Martyn chatting about fishing and other things, he got to see Bob the bluebird fly into the birdhouse. Martyn told me later Bob really liked that because he hadn't seen a blue bird for many, many years.

Laura and I both kicked ourselves for not getting photos of her dad with some animals, but neither of us wanted to force anything, and it was so hot. So she sent me this photo taken at the wedding they attended [in which Bob had surprised his sister who was helping put on the wedding, and she had no idea he was coming and so wanted for him to come up from Virginia, and they pulled it off!]. I think you can see what a good soul he is, as is Laura and her family.

So, sometimes, many times really, it is good to say 'yes'. I think that in the 16+ years I've been doing this, with a public presence on the blog and elsewhere, I've had a couple visits that were not good ones, or felt forced or out of character, where I did not follow my gut to say 'no'. But I'm also learning that even in high humidity, saying 'yes' can really fill a lot of hearts, including mine.

Bob and his daughter, Laura

Real men love llamas

Friday, June 29, 2018

When goats and art merge...and then there is the calm

"Old Goat Revival Show" available as a print on shop
I've been going through years of art and choosing images to add to the archive print section at the shop. One thing I learned long ago as an artist-just because I have moved on from a painting after I finish it, doesn't mean that a new viewer will show up years later and see it as a brand new piece. In other words, I forget sometimes that my past work is as valuable as my new work, as far as making a living.

And it is fun to revisit these pieces for me. Sometimes there is a sense of melancholy too, remembering a time in my life when I painted something. And sometimes, I have to really search my memory for what was in my head and heart when I did a piece. But none of that matters to the new viewer of the art, they get to resonate with it all on their own with their own set of experiences.

I also had a very good couple of weeks in the studio, finishing off about 5 abstract canvases for Sundance [see below, I think these will be available in late summer]. I always amaze myself when I can still paint! I know many other artists go through that. These came out of me quickly, which in my mind means I really needed to do them. I need to be in the studio more, and that intention will become a reality now that it is hot outside, and fly season is about to reemerge.

One thing I am feeling though–I think I am just starting to really settle into our new life here in Maine. I was remembering that when I moved to the old farm In Oregon, in 2004, it really took a few years to get my legs back, and I didn't even have the blog until '07 I think. There was actually a time in my life when I didn't have Pino, or goats, or characters running in my heart and head, and onto the paper or canvas. And I have been putting a lot of energy into getting the initial year of the non profit up to speed-which of course will always be a chunk of energy and time. But I think I need to tweek things, and make sure I don't neglect to incorporate and merge my art into the non profit too. I already do, but I have been specifically keeping them separate. And the way Apifera was born was due to me merging art, books and animals. So I will be thinking about that and being less shy about showing art on my Facebook non profit page. It's tricky, because when someone buys a painting, it is not a tax deduction, it is how I support 50% of our living here. So I want to make sure nobody confuses that.

Maybe I over think things.

Anyway, the piece above is one of my favorites. I never sold the original. It was inspired by many of the crippled or elderly Misfits that were or still are in my life. I imagined how wonderful it would be if when I went to bed at night, they all got together in the barnyard and had an Old Goat Revival Show, and their physical limitations went away just for a fun night.

The pieces below are the abstracts I did in the past two weeks. They make me feel calm. I have had a very stressful week. It was a mixture of things-the state of our country, politics, the hate and shouting...I felt really hopeless, more hopeless than I have in a long time, so I turned off the radio completely and listened to Schuman and my favorite classical music a lot in the studio and just allowed myself to work with color and shapes. These are what came out. I feel my soul was reminding me that inside there, there is light and color, and it is my best self in there, it is the self I should project to the outside world. And it is easy to fall down a rabbit hole in these times, in any times, because there will always be dark and light forces in the world. Always. The underbelly of America never went away and we are all facing it head on, we must.

But these paintings were gifts of respite from it. I hope maybe they soothe someone else.

"First Fireflies on Path to Ocean"

"Ocean Cove"

"Fog and Road Find Old Orchard"

"Early Spring"

"Full Moon Over Garden"

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The garden awaits those in need, sometimes I see her on that bench

Being able to have a garden is an immense help in my life, a place to be amongst color, texture, seed, dirt, butterflies and hummers. It's a place we painted together, me and Martyn, a creation we enjoy looking at, talking about, and envisioning what to move around like a working collage.

Lately, I have been missing my parents immensely. I think I know some of the things that triggered this, I don't want to share those things publicly, but it took me awhile to figure out why I would have this feeling of loneliness for them, come so hard at this time. I often think of them when I'm in the garden, they would have loved it here. Two old teak garden benches came from their Minneapolis home, and when they moved at some point, they gave the two benches to me and Martyn. My parents jokingly told me that we had to name one of the benches, "Bob" and the other one, "Kelly". When they come over and visit, we always laughed about that, because we never knew if we were sitting on Bob or Kelly since the benches were similar.

Sometimes when I sit and have coffee by myself now midday, in the garden, I look towards the other empty bench-but I can see my mother sitting on it, in one of her hats. I had so many talks with my mom on those benches, in her garden. A lot of those talks I would cry or share some issue I was having at the time. And often, we just sat enjoying the birds and flowers, or laughing about something. When I lived in Minneapolis, I was single and freelancing as an illustrator, my life was forming itself as I entered my late thirties into forty. I would usually have coffee mid morning with my mom. I remember one person telling me that I needed to quit doing that so much, that that was why I had not met anyone, I was relying on my parents too much emotionally. I am glad I ignored them. I am glad I spent so much time with my mom, and my dad.

My life and what I am doing with it, I believe, show I live my life in the present tense, but I am not ashamed to say I still miss my mother, and father. And some days, I feel really lonely without my mom to talk to, I feel like I will never feel exactly safe again, or understood again. It's a different kind of understanding from her than from my husband or anyone else, even my closest friends. I'm blessed I had a relationship with my mother that left such a void.

The idea one is not living in the present if they miss a dead parent, friend, or pet...is rubbish. Death is part of life. Dead people and creatures don't leave us, but they live us as living bodies. Being sad they are gone...is not throwing away the present, it is not avoiding the reality of death-it is simply living with an open heart. I know people that get stuck, they can't 'move on' after a pet dies, or parent/person. I understand how that can happen. To say that person should 'move on' and live in the present, is unfair and arrogant. Nobody knows the make-up of another's heart, mind or soul. If a person simply can't get another dog after losing their old dog, that has nothing to do with not living in the present. It simply means a new dog might bring more pain than joy. That is their heart work to live with, not anyone else's.

The blind one-eyed wonder must sense the peonies
Big Tony's grave amongst the foxglove

Monday, June 25, 2018

Papi is terrified he might lose weight

Shout out to all the Apifera Cat Angels out there- we are very low on cat food for the Elder Cat Suite. The last cat food call was so successful I have not done one for many months, so thank you to all who have helped in the past.

The Apifera Wish List is where you can buy the food for us. It's always nice if you leave your name when you shop, so I know who sent it [Papi keeps a journal of Cat Angels].

Papa was terrified he might lose weight if we run out of food, I promised him that would not happen. We can't let Papi lose his beautiful figure.

We use both the urinary tract canned food, and the dried Science Diet. I also accept the Purina cheaper food, because Anna seems to do well on that.

The cats are all doing well. I keep thinking I need to have some Cat Drawing Days, to bring people into the farm and mingle with the cats and draw. I will. The barn project is keeping us very busy and there are only so many things I can do at once. My art days have fallen to the wayside, but they will return!

Friday, June 22, 2018

I'm happy, they are happy, we are happy

The Hay Greeting Committee
It is always a momentous day when 550 bales of hay are delivered. Any animal that lives in the hay barn area knows its hay day, and they all come up to watch, and of course, test the hay. This year the hay was really exceptional I must say. So exceptional that Boone grabbed a bale or two while we were unloading and stuffed himself silly.

Last year I thought 400+ bales would get us through, but this year I played it safer and got 550 bales. If we have a severe winter, that will make me feel better. Now that the new barn is up-no walls yet, I was able to put some bales in there. We have the main barn stuffed with hay, and all is well. Anyone will tell you that having a barn full of hay for your animals, well before winter sets in, is a good feeling.

I prefer to get all my hay at once. I've done it a variety of ways over the years, but here in Maine, it's crucial for a place like ours to get the hay in. There just are not a lot of growers here, and if you run out in winter, good luck, although our hay guy is pretty well stocked. It's that running out in April that can get you, and I ran out mid May so my timing was pretty good.

Birdie put on a show for the hay guys. Every bale that came in she thoroughly examined it with eyes and nose. All the animals were stuffed in one of the side stalls, watching the event fold. And hay deliveries of this much hay are an event. Young guys most under twenty show up with two leaders and start leaping on bales and tossing them up over their heads. I can't do that anymore...or won't. I bucked enough hay in my years out West, and with my shoulder issues, nope, won't do it.

It is much more pleasant to sit on a bale and watch them all toss them up and down, and sweat. I stayed cool and dry!

We are raising money for the hay to replenish the Apifera coffers. The hay should get us through until May of next year, and hay is probably the most crucial feed for the animals. Our hay guy is really great, and his family are just a delight to work with- all the kids are super polite, and good buckers and stackers. Nothing worse than loose stacked hay.

So Boone is so full right now he is napping and the broken bales will leave everyone feeling over stuffed for awhile, but that is okay.

And the smell of fresh hay filling the barn? Nothing better.

Knowing the hay is in, its just a good way to end a long, hard week.

{Please consider a donation to the hay fund. Thank you!}

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Paco explains summer solstice and Lucia worries her head might explode

I arrived to do morning chores in the outer barn, and there they were, the three of them just as you see here. I stopped in my tracks and took a photo. They did not move, and as I returned to the inner barn to do my cleanup, I heard Paco,

"The summer solstice, also known as midsummer, occurs when a planet's rotational axis, or geographical pole on either its Northern or its Southern Hemisphere, is most greatly inclined toward the star that it orbits."

"Huh, is that so?" asked Pino.

"I don't like thinking of the world as spinning," said Lucia.

"Im glad there's gravity or I'd be on the moon," said Pino.

"And your head would burst open if you didn't have a space suit on," Boone chimed in from the other paddock.

Lucia started to hamper, she did not feel good about this.

"It's okay, Lucia, nobody is going to explode. it is a day of celebration, It is the longest day the year, and think about it, we can take more dust baths under the blue sky today than any other day in the year!" said Paco.

"That is something to celebrate," said Pino.

And with that, Paco rolled, and rolled, and rolled.

I might strip down later today, after the hay has been delivered, and do the same. No pictures.

{The majority of our 540 bales of hay arrive today! Please consider a donation to help us refill our Apifera piggy bank. Thank you!}

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I'm mad and anger fuels action

I have been increasingly angry, upset, dumbfounded, and worn out by this administration and what they are doing to our country, our people in need, and our global community. My anger spilled over this week, and that turned to hopelessness, what can I do, how many times can I write congress people who turn deaf ears to protect their own interests? There are so many things to cry about, cry in anger, fear, sadness-the earth, the immigrants, the children, lets not forget Puerto Rico, the lies, the I-don't-care-if-they-lie-accomplices. The underbelly and dirty underpants of America is alive and well, thriving, it seems. It was always there. Martyn and I talk about this a lot-that this administration is here to teach us what was always there, and make us wake up and do something about it. I am going to continue my local work helping animals and people, do more art and writing, share inspiration when I see it, show disappointment when I feel it. And I think the get out the vote aspect is so important. I need to do better on the latter.

This is a very disturbing time for many of us, for many in the world. Perhaps the most disturbing to me, is the ugliness, the cruelty and selfishness of the GOP party. And don't sit there and tell me you are a Republican and didn't do this, and don't tell me all Republicans aren't the same [I'm aware of this], don't make this about YOU, this is about our children, our world, our Earth, people that need us. I don't give a rat's ass who you voted for, that's past. I care about what you see and how you are reacting to your country and world NOW. Tell me instead you are spending your days calling your party members and telling them to get some backbone, and a conscience. Tell me you care about the press and aren't buying into the sake screens. And don't tell me it's not your fault because you voted for Bernie, or Hillary...get on the phone and show your outrage...find a candidate and help them. I'm going to listen to Madeleine, she knows what she's talking about.

Let's educate ourselves , and at least one person on fascism-don't tell me it can't happen here...just don't. We are all culpable if we let this happen.

Monday, June 18, 2018

One year ago, I guess I could have died...or worse

Sometimes what could have happened is worse than what did happen. Either way, accidents and their aftermath play with your head.

One year ago, it was a beautiful June day, and after working in the morning, I saddled Boone up for a quick trail ride. I was excited to go back to a trail we had been given permission to ride on, one I had only discovered a week before. It was a well groomed woodland trail leading about a mile or so down to one of the many water bodies here in Bremen.

I remember as I rode off from the drive, feeling like it had been a productive morning, and the ride would be great, and I had ideas in my head to get back to once in the studio.

We rode down the trail. I remember seeing a yellow butterfly dart out in front of me, and I said out loud,

"Joanne, is that you?"

Joanne was my riding buddy, friend and mentor from Oregon, who died shortly before, at the age of 85. Looking back, I think it's interesting I called out to her. I wonder now if she was there with me and maybe she helped me in ways I can't fathom.

We rode all the way down to the water, for the first time, and then headed back. At some point, I asked Boone to canter. I am not a risk taker in riding, I love to canter, but since I had walked and trotted most of the new trail all the way down to the water, I felt safe knowing the path enough to do a slow canter. At some point, nearing the edge of where we had entered the wood, I knew there was a slight incline, very, very slight, but with some slippery ledge rock, so I thought to myself,

Time to walk.

And that was it.

The next thing I remember was being in a daze, trying to figure out where I was. I had no idea. I had my helmet, and phone, my face was bloody and 1/2 of my glasses were gone. Boone was gone too. I don't remember it, but it turns out I had called Martyn six times in a row, and when I was at the hospital, he let me listen to the messages. I wanted to hear them for any clues of what really happened. They were heartbreaking to listen to. I was so scared, each message I was telling Martyn I was lost, that I could not tell which way to go. Somehow, I went the right way. I kept telling him I was scared. I was crying. I asked him to come find me. The poor guy was trying to piece the messages together while at work, and figure out what to do.

The messages lasted 20 minutes.

At some point, I found my way out of the forest, and I hung up on Martyn. I sort of remember knocking on the door but no one was there. I do remember calling 911 at that point, and I remember I couldn't tell them where I was, but I said I lived in Bremen, and I was close to my house. They pinned me and within minutes were there.

I still don't know really what happened. Boone was a cow pony in his early years, and was trained to stop on a dime if you gave even a minuscule infliction with your hips forward. I think as I came down into my saddle transitioning out of the canter, I threw him into a halt, and I lost my balance. People have their theories- a bug stung him, an animal flew out... I had no bruises, and I bruise so easily, my pants weren't scuffed, my hands weren't cut. Boone had a few scuffs on his legs, but that was it. The fact my glasses broke at the nose bridge says my face smashed into his neck, or his neck flew up as he tried to right himself.

I wish I knew. I wish Boone could tell me- he left the scene, at which point I don't know, and made his way towards the farm, only about 1 mile down the road. The fact he didn't get hit on the busy road, or get caught in the reins...it all could have been so much worse.

I had major bleeding all around my brain and was in hospital for two days, but I didn't need surgery. When they refused to let me go home, and said I couldn't eat or drink since I might need surgery, that's when I started to worry.  Recovery was slow, but I was lucky. To this day,  if I am stressed, I can forget words, or get 'stuck' while talking, almost stuttering.

It has effected me. It's easy to say get back in the saddle. And I did, about 6 weeks later. I don't know if I will ever canter again on a trail, which saddens me, but maybe I will. We have had a hard time finding riding buddies, and I miss Joanne. Martyn and I have talked about making a small corral for me so I can keep riding, safely, and still do trails but keep Boone and me in shape together. We worked through so many things in our beginning relationship, I don't want to lose that.

It changed me, it changed my perspective on lots of things. It was traumatic, it was like being so out of control. I think the part I remember the best, is standing in the forest after I came too, and I could not tell which way was the right way to turn. One way led a mile or more down into the wood, the other was probably about 50 feet from the exit of the woods. It all looked scary and deep. The fall also has changed my relationship with The Wood. I see The Wood as an entity, which I always did, but I see it more as a force that has its own motives when I'm in it, not a partner. This is something I think I will work through.

But mainly, I am grateful I didn't die, or Boone didn't, that nothing was broken, that except for some minor things I am the same physically. I still have pain in my inner thigh from it.

Life can change in a second. After the accident, it seemed every where I looked there was evidence of that. I have friends that have taken bad falls, one friend lost her beloved husband of 52 to a seizure and then a fall down stairs. I think about falling and the dangers of it more, and of Martyn or anyone falling and the consequences.

The pundits will say you have to go forward and not get stuck. Not fear. Good for them. How many have had brain injury before, or fell off their horse and had The Wood take over? These are my shoes. I think in many ways I'm still recovering. I was going to ride on this anniversary, but decided not to. I don't know if that is fear. I just didn't want to. I will ride this week.

I told someone I know Boone knows the story. But they wisely said,

"Maybe not, maybe he doesn't want to remember it either, his leader fell, that was scary for him too."

I always wondered what Boone would do if I fell on a trail and was hurt. I like to think he didn't bolt, he is not a bolter. But that he sniffed me, and thought,

"Well she isn't going to be leading me today, think I'll go check out that grass." I'm proud that he calmly wandered towards home, and the women found him and cared for him in their yard before another friend came and got him. He was calm, and stoic.

SO, Boone and i are now in our 11th year together, he is 20, I am 60. We are still together and will be, we will just work through this, we've had some casual rides this month and all was well. I am not scared when I ride, I'm just not the same...yet. Time will strengthen my memory, and it will be okay.

The eyes of White Dog...no words needed

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Time for another Very Bad Haircut Day!

"Not too short on my neck," Birdie said.

"I know, I know," I replied.

"I'd like the Audrey Hepburn look, something that will look good when I'm in a convertible," the llama said.

"With Cary Grant?"

"Yes, he will do, and a scarf loosely around my head, and neck, like vintage Grace Kelly, cruising on the Riviera."

And so began yet another annual Very Bad Haircut. I first started giving them when I was four. I got my parent's dog trimmers, and gave my best friend and neighbor, Julie Cummings, a haircut. My mother spent the rest of our residency in that neighborhood apologizing. I don't know why, me and Julie were thinking it looked great.

Yea, I could hire a shearer for $40 to sheer her in one swoop shave, but what fun is that? Plus, I like her a bit longer and not shaved. This year, Birdie was a pro. After three years she is more mature and likes sitting in the beauty shop chair.

"Do you have any movie star magazines to read? Vintage? Stars today are so crass..." she asked.

The other great thing is we got it done in about an hour, with only one pair of scissors, mainly because Birdie behaved, and I have perfected my Very Bad Haircut technique. It's all in getting under the wool and making continual cuts.

She has a lot of taupe brown under there and even some polk-a-dots.

She had a good dust roll later and seems to look so dainty.

"You look like a tea cup," I told her.

"Heavens, no. I look like Audrey Hepburn," she replied.

Yes, yes, it is true. When not looking like Grace Kelly in motion, she looks like Audrey Hepburn. If we could all be so blessed.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Conversation with Chickens

"She has her camera! Out of my way!" said one of The Secret Sisters.

"You are such a gluten for photo ops, as always!" said another hen.

"The wind will catch my feathers just right, if you would get out of my way so I can run!" said the first hen.

"Oh Lord, you are just too much to behold," said the second hen, and she got out of the way.

After they were done voguing for the camera, they came upon the blind chicken, Henneth, who was hearing all the commotion. She stood at attention, catching what was going on by intuition.

"Watch this," said one of The Secret Sisters, and she quietly snuck up behind Henneth and looked up her underpants.

"That's mean, she can't reciprocate," said the other Secret Sister.

"I don't mind," said Henneth, "I do have beautiful underpants."

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I just had the most beautiful encounter with llama love...I guess I needed that

It was sort of a hard bunch of days for several reasons. Some I wrote about, others I kept private. I was back in the studio this week, much needed, and when I finished one of the pieces, the title came immediately, "Sometimes You're Upside Down'.

As an intuitive person, I know when I'm off. I felt that this week. Being off doesn't mean you are or bad, or unworthy, or doing it all in the improper way. But it can feel that way.

When I was doing chores this morning a beautiful thing happened, an encounter and I needed and I didn't realize how much.

I was mucking out stalls and cleaning water buckets in the outer barn, the sheep were still taking their morning lay downs, chewing cud in the shade. Birdie the llama was nearby, laying down. I approached her and she remained down, and I massaged her neck.

I got up and went about with my chores. Within seconds, I felt a presence, a light breath, and Birdie was standing directly behind me, her llama breath hitting my neck, softly. I laughed, she is known to do this to guests or vets, anyone visiting and talking to me will be checked out by Birdie. But when I turned to leave the stall, to go out to the pasture, she blocked the exit. I laughed again.

"Do you need more attention?" I asked, rubbing her neck. She then laid her head on my shoulder, another thing she likes to do while I cradle her head. Llamas don't usually like their heads touched, or 'patted', which is why I always instruct people to rub the neck. But Birdie has always been different from many llamas-even the breeder said this about her and suggested I not take her as she was already too interested in me, which would not make her the best candidate for protecting the sheep. I took her anyway.

I stood with her for some time, holding her head, kissing her nose and eyelids, rubbing her neck. At some point, I tried to again leave the exit. She repositioned herself slightly, and pressed into me, laying her head, strongly this time, onto my chest as if saying,

"Stop, stay here with me. I mean it, stop."

And I did.

It dawned on me that I am the one who needed this, not her. Oh I guess one can surmise anything in the woo woo world of animal love. {While I'm on that, please don't call Birdie one of my 'fur babies" it really wrinkles us Apiferians to be labeled 'fur babies. We think its fine if you live with fur babies, but we do not.}

I realized this week I was so absorbed in my 'upside downness' that I was a bit shutdown to Mother Earth, and I think Birdie knew this, or sensed my unbalance. I have seen Pino pick out the depressed one in a group, I've watched Opie stay put with one elder over another sensing something I'm not privy too but he senses it.

When I am unbalanced, I feel it inside. I feel uncomfortable with the world, with certain people, with 'the outsiders' which entails anyone outside the front gate. That's a lot of people. If I can feel it, I can rest assured my animals can, and some partake in healing, some down't.

You won't see Girl George coming over to commune with me, but Birdie, White Dog, Boone, Paco, Pino, Marcella-they are pretty tuned into me. There were many like this back at the old farm too. So there I was, trapped by llama love, forced to stop and care for myself with a beautiful long neck pressed against my heart. I allowed myself a short cry. Not a blubbering one, but the kind you have when you stub your toe and it hurts intensely for seconds.

I thanked her, and she slowly loosened her neck from me, but you know,I think she was prepared to stand there longer. I better check in with her later today, make sure I don't need another session.

"When You're Upside Down" an original

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ladies, your beard will grow back

When we did shearing back in March, I neglected to tell our wonderful shearer not to shave Sophie's beard. To be honest, I was so absorbed in dealing with the wool, that I didn't notice Sophie's beard was gone for a couple days!

So I am pleased to announce, The Beard is returning!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

I don't even know how to title this...but it's important...to me anyway

There is no doubt about it that caregivers and managers at elder care facilities have a stressful and difficult job balancing the needs of the elder residents and their needs with the needs and concerns of the outside family and friends. I was aware of HIPAA laws but really not well versed in them, why would I be? I have since learned a lot, and continue to educate myself on it, even though I am not an employee of a hospital or facility. One thing I have learned, even though the law is there to protect a patient's right to privacy and security of their medical information, it is a flawed law, and all you have to do is 'google' it and you will find that out. I am in no way saying people should not abide by the law, but am pointing out how the law can create difficulties.

Some incidences that occur with this law, to give you an idea of why I use the term 'flawed', are that let's say a resident lives in a facility or home, and one day his friend doesn't come to breakfast. The staff is not allowed to tell him what happened, unless by chance the disappearing person put his friend on a list. Anyone that might have been volunteering at the facility, no matter how long they had been coming and no matter how fond they were of the disappearing person, they too would not be told what happened. Many articles talk about how the law has made many hospital/medical/care givers fearful, and when someone is acting from fear, I wonder if the patient is really number one anymore. And it puts stress on the caregiver too.

I found out last week on one of my visits with Opie, that someone I care about deeply and have grown fond of over the past two years is transitioning out of this realm. I will refer to this person as Beautiful Cloud. When I arrived, there was someone in a room with the window open a crack, and there were a couple of people I did not know with name tags on. One of the name tag people tapped on the window, and asked me to hold up the goat. I did, and through the window I heard Beautiful Cloud's voice call Opie's name.

I knew something was happening but did not linger at the window. I went to sit in the garden waiting for the residents. It was a perfectly beautiful day. Before the residents came out, a staff person who has always been very nice came and told me I was not to mention Beautiful Cloud's name. Because of HIPAA laws, no details could be told to me.

One by one, Opie's friends came out. Looking back on this day, I truly think Opie picked up on the vibe of everything...maybe more from me than anything. I was my same usual happy self with the residents, but inside I felt off balance and off guard. If someone could have warned me before hand about White Cloud, or perhaps given me guidelines of do's and don'ts it might have helped, but I was told that is against HIPAA laws. Opie was very quiet, and even lay down, which he has never done on a visit. We all talked about many things as usual–movies, gardens, food, and aging to name a few things. But then the residents brought up White Cloud, and even though my lips were sealed, they told me of White Cloud's situation. They were not fearful for White Cloud. I wanted to talk to them about it, but I decided to be honest,

"I was told not to bring White Cloud up," to which they said they trusted me, and we talked about the idea of heaven and such, and what a good death can be, and we moved onto other topics.

As I was leaving, I had to go by the same window of White Cloud, and I asked the manager if I could at least acknowledge her, with Opie, through the window, I felt it might help White Cloud even for a second–and I wanted to acknowledge this being, this part of our relationship, by saying something. Yes, saying something, anything, to White Cloud would help me too. The manager got the window open more so I could hold Opie up, and White Cloud was only about three feet away. White Cloud said what they always said upon seeing Opie,

"Opie...Opie...Opie..." with a weak smile.

"He recognizes your voice, White Cloud," I said through the screen.

"He does? Opie, Opie..." White Cloud said one more time.

"Opie and I are going to be thinking of you," I told White Cloud, who was now feeling a bit weak, so we departed.

So, I don't know. I get this is part of the work I'm doing. But I left that day feeling frustrated. What will happen to any of us in our old age if we are pent up in rooms with laws meant to protect us, but not able to communicate basic small things to the outside people who might make a small difference in the end of our lives. I will miss White Cloud, I have no idea where they are in their transition, and I will not be told. That is the way it is.

My work with elder creatures has shown me the powerful effect of simply being present at the end of a creature's life...of laying a hand on the brow, to say, "It's okay, someone is here."I realize my role with Opie is not to be a hospice nurse, or daughter, or mother. But I guess one of the things that upset me to my core on this visit was, after getting to know White Cloud for two years, it felt like that was underestimated. I'm glad I asked if I could say something to White Cloud, if I hadn't asked, I never would have been able to say those final words and let them see Opie.

Maybe I don't know one darn thing about anything.

Saturday, June 09, 2018


Just a beautiful image of a beautiful animal under a beautiful sky. That's a lot of beautiful.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Annual hay drive

It's easiest to do this on Go Fund so please consider help-if you can!

I bought 450 bales last year but with the harsh winter we needed another 150 in February and were lucky our hay guy had it. So this year I'm getting 550 bales.

Bales were $5.50 last year, hoping they are the same this year.  Poco the Poet has agreed to partake and send poems out, he is pondering the essence of hay, something he will relish writing about, I think.

There is also a reward level for a print.

If you prefer to send a check, that is fine. Make checks to Apifera Farm, 315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen, ME, 04551 and mark "Hay Fund". I will add your donation tot he online total. Your donation is tax deductible.

Visit the hay funding page >

This is about 1/4 of our annual hay