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.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Teapots can run like Abrabians too

She certainly does not lack confidence, that is for sure. She is brave and strong and it is clear already that the short stout teapot might be running the place before we know it.

Today I put the new addition out with the donkeys for the first time. They've had ample time to sniff and snort, so it was time. All went well. The ground is chunky and frozen, so footing is not the best. For that reason, I did not want the pony running with the llama, who after her bout with Meningeal Worm can fall more easily due to her hind legs/spine being weakened.

So I put her in with the donkeys, leaving Boone out at this time. Boone has never done anything to the little donkeys, but I wanted to be cautious on this first outing. Matilda was the most cautious, and her footing is not great due to her age, but all was fine.

Soon, I'm sure they will be taking hiking expeditions together and Paco will write poetry to her. I did overhear a conversation this morning as I did my usual barn chores:

"So is she really a teapot?" Lucia asked.

"I don't think so. But she is round so she is a living teapot," said Pino.

"She is like a big round ball," said Lucia.

"The moon is round, so is the earth, so it is good to be round," said Pino.

"Cookies are round," said Paco.

"What is your name?" asked Lucia.

"She told me it will come," said the Teapot.

The donkeys returned back to their hay, all except Paco, 
who put his nose close to the fence that separated him from the new arrival.

"If your roundness means you are like the moon or earth, 
I wonder if you are some kind of Goddess?" Paco asked her.

She stomped her little feet, and squealed. And Paco ran off.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Who says?" Me and the Teapot Pony start to listen

I worked the new arrival [still no name] this morning on a lead line to see what training she really does have. I can tell she has some foundation work, which was what I was told [supposedly she was trained to drive many years ago]. It's been awhile since I've had an equine 'project' so this will be a really good thing for me, I think, and her.

She is a pistol. She has a mixture of sass, but then walks over to you and puts her head next to your leg for love and reassurance.

She is rusty, but so am I, we will relearn together.

Today I simply worked on the basic commands. She did fine, although it was her first time out into the new barn addition, which still doesn't have the wood exterior up [happening in coming month] so she could see out to the woods and pasture she doesn't know yet. I let her trot her circle with her head out, she clearly was not paying attention, but I allowed it for the beginning of our first session.

This has to be fun or her, and me.

She needs work on 'stop' or 'ho', but all in all, we had some good beginnings. By about 20 minutes into it, she was listening better, turning her ears into me. Considering she has been here two days, I wasn't going to push her. I'm excited to continue though, and make progress.

I think she is going to be a mixture of Boone and Paco. Boone was trained well, a former cow pony, but he was desensitized -which had/has its merits. He is quite bomb proof [although no horse is 100%, and it would be foolish to not be aware of that on any ride]. But Boone needed a leader, and I had to learn that with him, how to be a better leader. This sassy lady is not fearful, which is good. If anything, she is a lot like me-when told to do something that might seem contrary to my liking, or makes me feel uncomfortable, I ask a simple question,

"Who says?"

There is nothing wrong with that, especially as a woman in a white man's world-why should anyone else think for me.

I have to show her I'm trustworthy as a leader. I have to be patient, and clear, and let her make the choice I want her to make-like backing up, or turning right-before I am tempted to over correct her, or tell her to do it again before she has had time to make the decision. Be still and wait. Let her make her move, it might be the right one. If she makes a right move, and is praised, she will safe to make other right moves.

It is pouring so hard with over an inch of rain today, so being able to work with her in the new barn addition was great. It makes me want to keep the barn addition a large open space but I am not sure if that is functional for us. If I were rich, and I am not, I'd build another small barn for therapy visits where I could also work animals. Who knows, maybe that will happen in time.

First things first. I really feel this little teapot of vim and vinegar is going to be fun.

Inspired by the new pony...available, just inquire

Monday, November 12, 2018

A new Misfit arrives and Paco thinks she is like a teapot

We love her free style hair do
We made the 7 hour round trip to pick up an 18 year old mini horse that needed rehoming. I had heard about her through the New England Mini Horse Society which helps network adoptions and rehomings. I have been keeping my eyes open for one, thinking it would be a wonderful addition to therapy sessions with elders.

This little lady was well loved, and had two little girls that cared for her, but as little girls do, they grew up and went onto other things. Their mother was feeling overwhelmed with some of the animal care of some of the girl's animals, and she knew in her heart the best thing for this horse, and her mini horse companion was to find a new caring home that could give her more time. As you can see, she is a tish overweight, actually 'obese' if we are being honest. It is said that in her earlier days she learned how to drive, and we will begin working with her, and Paco, to see if we can get them to pull little carts full of...cookies or something. Who knows.

Many years ago, when I had to rehome a horse that was way over my head, and dangerous actually, I felt like I was letting the animal down. I wasn't. I had tried hard to work through issues we were having, but I wasn't ready for that horse, and she was well ahead of me and knew I was not a good leader for her. She went onto a more experienced horseman, that took her all over the place on rides and it was meant to be. I was telling someone about feeling like I had failed her, and they said that they believed a horse comes to an owner it needs at the time, and vice versa. I believe that to be true. I encouraged this owner with those words, that this little lady is meant to go on now and reinvent herself. She did the right thing, the brave thing, really-it is never easy saying goodbye to a creature you've watched your children grow up on. She was really happy to know this little horse will work with elder people, and have a purpose again.

She will need some supplements to help get her coat back to snuff, and we'll have the vet out soon to do a Cushings test just to be on the safe side. She will have to watch her calories, but I told her I have to also so we are int his bulging midriff thing together.

Bringing home a creature is always a bit stressful. You get them on the trailer, and you reassure them that it will be okay, but of course they sense something is happening. For me, I know once the trailer begins to move it helps calm them too, and our little friend-who knickered her goodbyes as we left [that was hard to hear] rode very well and didn't break a sweat. On arrival, she looked around and realized,

OKAY, there are trees, and leaves here too, and I hear animals...there is grass, and a barn where I sleep

I opted to put her in a stall where she could meet everyone over the fence, but would be safe on her own and get a good rest. Boone was right on it, being the first to give his approval. White Dog was really excited and is about the same height. Birdie was cautious as always but very interested. This little pony [she is a mini horse, but it is impossible not to call her a pony] is no push over, but seems to have a very good personality-she definitely likes people as she came and stood with me a lot. She likes to be brushed, and she lifts her feet well so the farrier will be happy. She is easy to catch and halter. So there is a lot of ground work in her, and I think she will fit in just fine.

She had goats and a large Thoroughbred at her old home, and when Girl George, the goat that lives on Boone's side, gets too nosy, she squeals and tells her to back off. But that will all end in time. And Girl George needs some tough love!

Poco is interested, but also cautious of the new arrival, all the donkeys are not afraid, but until they can get in the same paddock with her they won't be able to show some true bonding. I hope to do that this week sometime. Boone has never tried anything stupid with little Lucia so I think it will be just fine.

I have told her that everything is okay, everything will settle, it always does in a new beginning. I truly believe we will all look back in a few years and be so happy she came to us, and she will blossom in a new direction as she enters her senior years. We must all recognize we can readjust, and reinvent ourselves...it keeps hope in the heart that we will always be inspired by new things.

"I like the way she looks, too," Paco said. "She is like a little teapot all short and stout. Perfect."

{We welcome any donations to help offset the cost of this new little arrival and upcoming vet check}

First nose introductions

"She looks like a very nice teapot," said Paco. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

What if I had to choose: the horror we feel for the fires

Every time there is a major fire out West, I have visceral reactions to it. It is so hard to see the images of people and animals in such desperate situations. I have read some gut wrenching stories of people faced with leaving their horses to run free, and one woman rode her horse to a shopping area, waiting and hoping to somehow get her and the horse out. The firemen told her she had to go, and they promised they would do what they could for her loyal horse, and they didn't let her down. They told her they would get a Uhaul from down the street, and haul the horse out, and they did. The woman though had to leave the scene without him, they really made her go. Nobody knows where she went so she didn't get to see her horse driven away in the Uhaul.

Just writing that makes me agitated. To have to make these hard choices, stay and die, leave your horse and know he will suffer, and die...just so hard to watch. I get to turn off the images and walk away, they don't. Although i can't stop thinking of the images either.

I saw a pot bellied pig being guided out of a house by police, to a car I suppose. Thank you to all those people. Can you imagine if it were Rosie?

I saw llamas and a pony sitting on Malibu beach, tied to posts, their owners probably had no other choice and hoped the ocean water would at least keep them safe.

Two frightened shepherd dogs, dirty but healthy, looking lost and scared.

I took this photo of Benedetto two nights ago, the sunset was so striking. But when I looked at it again this morning it made me think that anyone that lives through a fire must see a sunset like this in a different way. I would imagine if it effects me to read these stories, the people that live through them are never the same, and visceral reactions must come even when they look at something as beautiful as a sunset.

We can only pray from our little house. They are facing such horrible things all at once, those people and animals.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

My blue hangover was worth it

Yesterday, Muddy came bounding into the bedroom at 5 am like always, pushed his wet nose under the blankets and flipped them up sending a shot of cold air on my skin. He does this every morning. But this particular morning was his 9th birthday so I sensed he was a tish happier than normal. Muddy starts everyday with enthusiasm,

"It's a new morning! Isn't it great?!"

Yep, yes, it is, Muddy, especially with your wet nose on me.

The excitement of the day's voting was also part of the energy and I was excited, but anxious. I know many were. In Maine, we overwhelmingly sent a message to the sitting governor, president and current political believers of the administration–NO MORE.

We elected a moderately leaning Democrat woman, and put the house and senate in Democratic hands. We voted against another Trumper business man for governor - and we have suffered through a horrible governor here for years. What I'm proud and relieved to see is there were no tight races, this was a mandate, with most Dems getting over 60% of the vote, and turnout was high.

I have hope. I think what I hope for most is that there will be an effort, somehow, for politicians to come together more in the House. Dump is not going to change, but he at least won't go rolling down a hill without brakes out of control without any speed bumps. He has wasted no time going right back to his onslaught of the media, and lies, pointing fingers, and we're right back into the circus.

One thing I feel needs to happen is to bring more understanding to the city elite and progressive leaning people about their rural neighbors, and that somehow rural people with certain views have to be more clearly heard and understood. I'm not talking about persuading either side to switch views, but I live and work with many people in my rural villages that are good people that voted for the current president. I do not believe everyone of them is a racist. I do however feel after two years, that sexism, and racism has to be acknowledged by everyone. If you can't see it, I believe you need to be educated on it...but I'm sick of rural people being designated as ignorant and uncaring.

To me, many [not all] of the city elite saying these things sound as elitist as the white men of the Senate and former House they love to criticize.

SO I was excited for the voting results. I also realized as I was in my little town hall in my village of 600, how much I love where we are, and how we are truly meant to be here. I feel a real sense of community here. When people went in to vote [it's the old school building that is now the town hall] there were-mainly elder-towns people there volunteering, and then there was a long table of sweets and goodies manned by other towns people. People stood and chatted. I stopped to get my trailer license, and someone said,

"Oh are you the ones who live at 315?"

Two years ago that might have freaked me out. Today, I feel we are becoming part of the community and region, and we are also giving back to it with our work. I walked out of there just feeling so positive how the universe brought us to this exact town, and house and at this time, for a reason. It's all part of our path here.

I also feel the current administration-which is exposing the underbelly of America that has always been there-is also meant to be here, at this specific time, for a reason. I don't like it, and we can change it, but it is teaching us all many different things-be it the fact that whites are born into privilege no matter their income, and that racism is alive and thriving, as is sexism and every other ism.

But I felt hope again last night. And I do have a tish of a blue hangover, after a bit too much wine runneth over. But one has to let off steam.

And besides, it was Muddy's birthday.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Everyone wants to be heard, even the ones we think are hateful

I choose to believe the crow that I heard high up in a tree this morning, cawing, was sending me a message of hope, and a reminder to carry on. No matter what happens on Tuesday night, there is a lot of work to do in this world.

Crows have always been messengers, for me, and many others...and I suppose the cynics will say we read into anything when we need it most. Years ago in my youth, with a broken relationship haunting me everyday, I believed that when I saw two crows together, it meant the person was going to come back to me. I would find two crow feathers on walks and felt optimism. As months wore on, I would only see single crows. I told myself at that time that I just wasn't seeing the crow pairs, but they were there, and that this entire 'believing in crow messages' was a farce.

But the crow's message, and my reading of it, was accurate back then. Seeing the crow pairs was true to my mindset, as I had not let go of the relationship and there were still lessons for me to glean from it. In time, a single crow was exactly the message I needed at the exact time I was ready to see it.

So this morning, like many people, I'm anxious about the world, the hate, the underbelly of America that has always been there but in the past two years-or more-has been given a green light of acceptance from the top.

Democracy is not a straight path. Nor is freedom. I have remained silent on social media about it. For one, as a non profit, one is not supposed to be talking politics, and I don't on the Apifera business page. As for my personal Facebook profile, something I rarely interact on anymore except to post links to the blog, I see no point in giving my opinion there anymore, and my personal profile page is basically a way for me to interact with some people I actually know in the real world. There is no real discourse between 'the sides' and there are so many 'sides' these days. I see people talking to their own choirs over and over. I just backed away from it. Some people I respected I've lost respect for, not because of their beliefs, but because of how they are banging them over other people's heads, daily, hourly. These same people despise Dump [a sentiment I share] but they are using tactics of 'sharing' their messages to their own choir that–in my eyes–are some of the same tactics the president and his party are using.

But just because I'm not posting about the political environment, the racial hatred, the sexism, the fear mongering doesn't mean I'm not working against it in my own way. I wonder what would happen if people that only post their political hates [this goes for either party] of the moment, had face to face conversations with other people.Talking to people with different views-especially hot button issues-is not easy. I think we should have community help in this. It is a skill to share your beliefs without shaming others. I'm no expert at it either. But FB is not a safe place to acquire the skill, or hone it.

Everyone wants to be heard, even the people we feel are wrong and hateful.

Llama Update!

I’m feeling optimistic about Birdie who is doing well after our scare in early October with the dreaded Menagerial worm which we caught early and treated aggressively via my vets recommendations.

Her swelling has noticeably disappeared in her rear upper legs. I feel her wobbliness is at a minimum–in fact I doubt any of you would notice–and could still improve since it has only been 2.5 weeks since treatment ended. I doubt I’ll ever totally relax about it-but am grateful for this outcome and hope it continues. She now will get a monthly dewormer shot, versus a twice a year dewormer which was our protocol in Oregon. Our land here is wetter, and although we don't have dear walking around, they are here passing through The Wood, so...it is what it is.

I'm so grateful I noticed it when I did [on Misfit Love Day, I was talking to a llama person as we stood by Birdie and when Birdie went to get up, she stumbled and acted crippled]. I also feel badly that I didn't understand the problems of this worm. Part of it is the fact I am just now finding my vets, so I really didn't have anyone to guide me with llama issues here when we arrived, and llamas are an exotic, so there are not a lot of vets that really don't know them well.

Anyway, I've asked for Birdie's forgiveness, and even made art in her honor, which she appreciated.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Now what? The ongoing thought process of one woman and two goats ambassadors of love

I took this photo today, spontaneously, as I walked in the front gate after doing errands. There they were, just set up for a perfect moment caught forever by a photo.

Sometimes things evolve so fast that I have to stop and take stock of what was and what will be-or what I want it to be. I am after all the co-pilot of this raggedy ship. I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I want to grow our ability to share our love ambassadors. When I looked at these two, and then the photos after I got in the house, I got this big feeling in my throat, like my heart shifted up to my throat but then it fluttered all around my body and then burst out into the room where I sat.

Somehow, I stumbled on Opie and then I stumbled on Ollie, or someone stumbled on me to send me Ollie. Was it all written out on a map of my soul long ago before I was a human vessel? As I drove to the feed store this afternoon, I was again in awe of how beautiful the autumn was this year. And then I realized I was beginning to know certain areas more on my routine drive, I knew the coves and bays more and it felt familiar, it did not feel like we just got here and were fish out of water [even though we always felt good here]. I thought of the couple of friends I've intertwined in my life now who are loving, funny, positive creatures and I'm thinking as I drive-I'm here, this is so the way it is supposed to have played out.

I feel like I'm on a nice speed–propelling forward with my work, and life.

Opie will be turning two in December. Look how little he was! Meanwhile, Ollie is growing like a weed and continues to be a lover not a fighter. We need more lovers, don't we?

Yesterday I went and visited a very beautiful elder residence, with beautiful views of New Harbor, right on the water. I will be taking the animals there after the holidays for regular visits. The residents there have come here twice and I'm so excited to have yet another nearby place to visit. Remember the wonderful 101 year old gent that came to Misfit Love Day? He lives there.

Tomorrow we will have the residents of some of The Greens come for a farm visit. I'm glad. I love my "Greenies" as I call them - The Greens is a group of seven homes, in small little vintage houses in different village settings, where 6-8 elders reside. And next week, I'm visiting one of The Greens I have not been too that we've been given the go-ahead to have animal visits at, and residents from the other homes can come on designated visit days. Part of the reason this is happening, besides my interest, is the help of one of the Greens employees [thank you, Cindy!} and a local man who now can drive the residents. This is so wonderful and he's great with the people too. It's very hard for the elder homes to get people places, due to staffing issues.

So one of my big goals is to develop these winter visits.

My other ideas are to start drawing days in the upper loft, which we plan to winterize and summarize -hoping to do that this winter. The elder cat suite will be opened up so the elder cats can walk around up there too. Elder people won't be able to get up there, it is a lot of steps. So I'm a bit frustrated on not having a place here for elder people for winter. But maybe it is meant to be that I find these other places for winter animal therapy visits?

I still would love a little winterized shed for animal visits-but the logistics of keeping the snow plowed around it, safe for elders-it's the little details I need to figure out.

Meanwhile, Opie and Ollie, are ready to report to duty as soon as I say, "Let's go!"

Opie on arrival back in December 2016

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It's exhausting around here...

I forgot how exhausting Halloween can be around here, especially without The Head Troll to help organize costumes. This year, Paco was a ghost, he is always a ghost, but this year he simply asked me for toilet paper so he could make his own outfit-he did not want to burden me with sewing. I asked him how he got the TP to stick together..."Staples," he said. Yikes. Note to self: find staple gun and hide it.

And for some reason, there was a Marie Antoinette theme too.

It was Ollie's first Halloween. Like I said, Marie Antoinette was a theme for many of the goats, why, I don't know. I was told Birdie helped create Ollie's wig, which explains it's three foot height.

"Do you even know who Marie Antoinette is, Ollie?" I asked.

"A country singer, I think," he said.

At precisely midnight, according to Paco, all Marie Antoinette wigs will be eaten.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Old Pony

Back in the studio, feeling like I want to draw these days...hoping to do more black charcoal pieces.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The old cat gets older

Sir Tigger, who was one of the first elder cats we adopted out of the shelter once in Maine, has turned 18. He was the oldest elder for a long time but last month we brought on Gilda a twenty year old and her 15 year old son. Tig doesn't mind, he takes life pretty casually, hanging back from the crowd, not fearful of anything but not a bully either. He will let you know when he is not in the mood for what you might be in the mood for.

He came with the name Tigger, and I added the Sir to it...it is fitting and if you ever meet him you will understand.

If you like our work with the elders, consider a donation, or visit our Wish List page where you can buy cat food for Tigger and friends. {Thank you}

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Burial shrouds for a pig...preparing to let go

A beautiful item for Rosie's resting spot from Lisa Hofmann
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned on the Apifera social media pages that it was becoming clear to me that I have to face facts about Rosie the pig. Both Martyn and I feel that it is becoming less of a 'good' life for her and I might have to put my big girl pants on and help her to the next realm. Rosie is old, crippled, blind and her hind end is weaker and weaker. The vet said a couple years ago it could even be a spinal issue. She mainly sleeps, and this summer never left the barn. With another cold winter approaching, I worry that she can't properly watch out for herself as she tries to stay warm. She is not as good at making her pig bed [covering herself in huge mounds of straw]. Each night I try to make sure she is fully covered, but that doesn't mean she doesn't get up and move around and get uncovered and not adequately recovered.

We tried a blanket for her, made graciously by a pig lover who likes to make pot bellied pig blankets. But even though I altered it slightly, to help her from tripping up on it, she kept getting stuck in it, due to her weak condition. I felt it was unsafe. She now will trip more, and falls every now and then. She trembles too, all summer, like Katherine Hepburn did.

So, I feel I have to be strong and do what is right for her. I am not sure why I am having such a tough time with this one. Each animal is precious of course, some get us in the heart strings worse than others. Some of you might not know Rosie's story, but I will tell you that she is a very difficult pig. She really doesn't act like all the other pigs I know. She is grumpy and has been grumpy since she landed at Sanctuary One after her elder owner died. Rosie had been living like a royal highness in the house, in a room with her own bed and furniture. When she got to the sanctuary, she was so grumpy no other animals would have anything to do with her-nor she them, except one crippled goat, Stevie, who ended up coming to Apifera with Rosie. That is a whole 'nother story, a good one too.

So she has been a challenge. No vets liked to work on her, nail trims were impossible and I'd spend enormous amounts of time trying different regimes to get basic care done, even giving her beer-it was a fancy micro brew and she didn't like it, Marcella drank it for her. After about a year, she even quit sleeping with Stevie, she really preferred her own suite, and showed me that in no uncertain terms-I think too she felt safer and was afraid of getting knocked around and was most likely already losing her site. When we came to Maine, Rosie was already getting old, and I wondered if I was doing her a disservice by bringing her to a cold climate. But I did, and she seemed to thrive here that first spring and summer, even venturing out to flirt with Earnest in the sunshine through the fence.

But by the next year, we noticed she really was pretty blind, and she couldn't go out and wander near the barn even, because she often tripped and fell. She mainly...sleeps.

So I told people that I was going to make a burial blanket for her. I didn't want to think of her in the earth all cold, even though she will be dead and at peace, I won't be, and I thought making a burial item, a ritual for those of us left behind, would help me begin to let go. I told people they too could sew small items and I could attach them to the burial shroud, or include them. One friend is making a knit cover to place over her eyes, before we place earth on her-I had told her that was my ritual, and she is making it out of Assumpta's wool. I received two quilted stitched pieces from followers, shown here, that just got me! And another came today that is lovely.

Rosie is going to be okay. I know she will. I think the reason I'm having a bit of trouble with letting go is...she still is sort of symbolic of my relationship with my father, and she was my first pig. So many 'firsts' happened out West at the first Apifera. My dad was in hospice when I brought Rosie to the farm, and I would lather her up in sunscreen and oil [she has a skin issue and always has] and it reminded me of my father's dry skin who often was in pain in the last months due to it, but the nurses would put soothing lotions on him. So as I cared for my grumpy pig, my father lay in hospice and I could not travel to him, but I thought of him through Rosie. Her personality is also like my father-a heart of gold covered in layers of grumpy thoughts. But I loved him, and I love her, even though she refuses belly rubs, and just wants to be alone.

So, we have talked about 'when' and 'where' and I won't announce that until the deed is over and she is on her way to a heaven where maybe everyone will be grumpy and she will feel very happy-grumpy. It is complicated too that she is a muse and always has been. But muses must rest. And it would be wrong of me to keep her alive for my own selfish reasons...and I also know that if she began to suffer in the winter I would be upset with myself, and she probably will.

She is a very unusual animal. I saw a photo of her that was taken in her prime, her hair was thick and she was out and about in the sun. Her hair today is very thin, her rear end is weak and she can hardly walk with out stopping or tripping. I know the vet agrees.

The items people are sending are helping me, and honoring her. It will be hard that day, but, a relief for her, and me when she is free of her old body. You can still send things-even little trinkets, buttons, toys-things that will give her help on her next journey. But don't wait too long. Winter is coming.

Rosie the pig
c/o Apifera Farm
315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen ME 04551

A letter that made me cry came with a little quilted piece

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The rapture of the first fluffs

Old Matilda came out with me today to greet the first snowflakes of the season. I greet snowflakes the same way I greet spring tulips-with rapture and kid like joy. My farrier and I were in barn early for trims this morning and it was raining, when we left, snowflakes. And I yelled out, "Snowflakes!"

They are such sweet little creatures that are each individual in their makeup. Imagine their journey, they start out as liquid and swirl around way up high and travel down to earth, some have short lives, others stick around.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A house built for tiny people full of cats

Our house is small. It is cozy. We are lucky that nobody destroyed the integrity of the house, built in 1760, and when we moved in we basically freshened up wall colors and wood work. I still have to paint the upstairs which was painted at some point for young children and is not my taste. but it was a relief to move in and not hate the interior. In our last farm, we spent years and lots of sweat equity to fix it and take it out of it's 1970's outdated and not-to-our-taste decor, not to mention just fix everything that was outdated. We have things to do here, the kitchen needs help...but basically the house is what it was, and will be for the remaining time we are here. Not only do we not have the money to expand it, it would ruin the house, in our minds. I would love a lager entry with a real mud room, instead the 'mud room' is an uninsulated 8x8 room, stuffed full of recycling, boots...and 'whatever needs to go somewhere until it is gone' room. I was at a friend's beautiful old home, small, but they remodeled it and it has an entry and mud area that I coveted. But then I got over it when I returned to my little oasis.

This house is cozy, as I say. I joke it was built in a time when people were much tinier. I imagine what it was like for The Rhoades with all those kids, and that was before they added on the 'meeting room' in the 1800's, I believe. I imagine the kids all slept in one room.

The good thing about this small house is we have to think about any thing we bring into it. There is no chance for gathering a lot of stuff. I've never been a knick knack person, but this house has very little storage. We have just enough glasses and plates to fit in the tiny kitchen. If I wanted to rob a bank and splurge on new linens, there would be no place to put them.

So that is that. We live simply, always have, and are content.

And just because we have little storage, does not mean I can't stuff the house with animals. Three cats, two dogs and some birds...oh, and the bunny. I think Omar, Oscar and Mister Mosely fit in with the wall color and furniture quite well, don't you? Our fireplace area where we have our tiny dining table, has a beautiful wood floor like the rest of the house-it is covered in dog beds. But somehow, it all works.

I like it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Flying squirrel in an old man's body

Omar turns 15 today. Everyday he rises at 4am, flies around the house [literally] and then once Martyn is up at 5, Omar returns to bed. I have no idea what he is thinking at such an hour, but, I guess I envy his ambition to get up that early, one gets so much done if one gets up that early. I am more of a 'rise around 7ish' kind of girl.

So raise a paw to Omar. We are so happy he and his son Oscar came into our home, and Mister Mosely of course. Taking in elder cats from the local shelter has brought with it such good things-like watching an old man fly through the air. As long as he is able, I tell him.

Omar does not liked to be picked up, but he loves to lap sit and now with the fire season, he likes to sit on Martyn's lap while he is in his rocker by the fire. It is wonderful to be squashed together in our tiny little living area, with two dogs and three cats, sipping cocktails and pipe dreaming. I wonder if the original settlers here, The Rhoades, ever did that. I imagine they were pretty tired by sunset. And cold.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Present day ghosts

Inspired by the many who have lived on this land before us. This winter I'll be diving deeper into the history of our 1760 property, first homesteaded by The Rhoades back in 1760, one of the first houses along with that of the Hilton's. I've been to their burial plots, and the history is rich, I feel it when I walk around, more so in the southern Wood. Then again there is the Quaker cemetery over there too.

"Present Day Ghosts" 12" acrylic on wood, now avaialable at the shop.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bust out! Shark like pig escapes and takes dog with her

I was minding my own business early this morning, brushing my teeth, admiring the 100 year old hydrangea tree outside the bathroom window when I saw...Marcella. If you know our layout, this is not suppose to happen.

I pulled on the Mucks and headed out and she greeted me at the garden gate-that is also not suppose to happen.

The front slider gate was open, but as I gathered her into the barn, I still didn't know how she got out, since her area with he pigs is far away. I wandered out to the paddock she and the three pigs live in-Eleanor was gone, Cornelia and Little Lonely aka Freddy were there. And then I saw where one of them busted down a part of the wood fence, two pallets of wood toppled over. I had no time to assess that, my head was full of images of her on the front road. She had so much to eat out back I started calling and looking there but it was silent and she usually responds. She wouldn't go through the stream, I figured, so I headed out front which is the front garden, and the dreaded road. Nothing. No grunts. No alarming barks from White Dog. I decided to keep feeding and calling her as I did.

And then I heard a far off snort. She had reappeared out front, and I went out with grain and she ran all the way across the yard to me. Eleanor is about 350 pounds, and of all the pigs, the least personable. She is not mean or unfriendly, but she is...a pig of her own desires. I call her The Great White Shark begins she swims the area looking for her next meal. But I was pleased she came, and I got her back in another paddock, so now I can try to remaster the place they busted out.

I had just put Marcella in another area yesterday, with the three pigs, to give her more of a job. She was bored in the smaller Earnest area, and was starting to overboard him, and me. I initially blamed her in my mind, that she started it, and Eleanor followed. But I think Eleanor due to her size and strength-she is about 350#- was snorting around that part of the fence, digging mud, or rubbing her big l' butt, and she snapped the side of the pallet where it was attached.

I talked to Marcella about it. She looked at me with those huge brown eyes, then lay flat on the ground, showing her submissiveness to me. Instead of looking at it as a bad morning, I told her it was a good morning, because so many things that could have gone wrong didn't-Eleanor came back, Eleanor didn't head for the road, Marcella didn't get hit by a car, I got up at 7am and just happened to be brushing my teeth at that exact moment when she walked by since I usually dwaddle in the morning for breakfast...and the breach at the fence is refillable and it will be okay.

In fact, she really did what she was supposed to do, go with Eleanor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The artist-Misfit caretaker-non profit idea generator's challenge

"Abandoned Property" now available on the shop
Summer is over and my studio time is calling me. I am finding that with the non profit work I am working harder to find a balance with that work, and my art/writing. This is transition and it will be fine, I am not worried. But it's funny how people assume the animals take all my time-they don't-but the elder visits actually can eat up my time a lot. Anytime I have an elder visit on the farm, there are many details to deal with-getting certain animals in certain paddocks, getting the path clear for elders, cleaning out the area where we sit, and then rearranging the animals again after the visit. So I'm trying to work through how many visits I can do realistically and still paint, write and commune in my studio. And for the record, I LOVE these visits. I love them. I get so much out of them. Besides helping others get some simple joy, it is truly I believe part of my particular soul work. But so is my art. I do think though as a full time artist since 1996, my 'career' and how I shape it has changed, and that is not unusual.

Artists and writers and freelancers must remain focused, but also...fluid...especially in how we market or share our work.

I remember talking to a friend, a successful children's book artist, who had her first child and she said that she eventually found she was in the studio less, but while she was in the studio she was more focused and got almost as much done.

When I'm not consistently working on creative ideas, I get a bit ungrounded somehow. It's almost like I get unmoored and float from one point to another without focus. At the same time, I have been very focused on the non profit, growing our reputation, our first event, building the barn which still needs work...we have only been here two years and have done so much, and our infrastructure is stabilizing, but it is also evolving. And I like thinking of ways to evolve it and share it,grow it, get donations...I like that challenge of that.

One thing I'm sort of frustrated with is my blog. I feel it's main focus has changed slightly...most people these days go to Facebook to read about Apifera. I can't deny that, I see it in my stats, and it started some years ago for many bloggers. I know some people who work from home that still go to blogs, and are less attached to being on a smart phone all day. I have thought of quitting the blog, but instead I think I need to refocus my writing here on short story. I can still update here, but most people are reading that on Instagram and Facebook, they don't want to come here for that.

So I am percolating.

I will be back to working on the White Dog book soon, and I want to start drawing more, really drawing...even if it only lasts a short time. And I want to work on my sewn creatures.

Here I go again...many ideas, many projects.

I did these little paintings yesterday and started three wood pieces. It always take a bit of slogging through the first steps back into the studio, and while I can't say these two pieces are on my top ten list, I like the mystery of the top one.

"The Peak" now available at the shop

Monday, October 15, 2018

New Misfits...a bunch of quackers

L-R, Francis, Lincoln and Moses aka The Rhoades Boys
I have really missed The Bottomtums and knew eventually the right ducks would hopefully come along needing a new forever home. And they have.

Collectively, I call them The Rhoades Boys, separately they are Lincoln, Moses and Francis. Yes, I can tell them apart, they have unique patterns on their heads. The Rhodes boys were sons and grandsons of the first owner of our house and lived here with their parents Wealthy and Cornelius Rhoades. All of the five boys, except one, died in the Civil War, and some are buried with their parents at a nearby cemetery. Our home, and the first Rhoades was one of several first settlers of the area, and our house is one of the oldest, from 1760. I am beginning more research this winter. I think of the people that lived here way back, wondering what their days were like. I wish I had photos and maybe I can find some in the history research but might not.

The ducks are wonderful. They are Anacona Runner Mixes. They were raised by hand by a young woman, now a sophomore in high school, and she needed to rehome the drakes. She took great pride in them and was a really insightful and caring young woman.

Sometimes I have to take in animals I just...want. For my own self. Ducks are amusing and playful, and these guys are used to being handled. I've been holding them and rubbing their bottoms and necks, saying their names over and over. They live out in Rosie's barn, and this makes me happy since she sort of can have friends, even though we all know Rosie does not make friends, nor seems to ever have want friends. But for my sake, she can hear them quacking and it makes me feel I've given her companionship while she snoozes under her hay pile. She is her own pig and always has been.

They are truly elegant and beautiful, and their beaks are the most beautiful pistachio like green.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

New elders come visit...we plan

Eleanor give a final kiss to Birdie
We had a sweet visit with some 'new' elders that came to visit the farm on Friday. Some I had met on visits with Opie, but one woman, Eleanor, came from one of the homes I have been meaning to visit with Opie and hope to soon.

I was also happy that Birdie was part of it. She was fine and I was feeling good about our treatment she and I have been working through, and she needed some love herself. She did stumble that night, so her recovery-and I hope there is one-will take a month or more to see if she is permanently damaged. But she is walking, grazing and able to get up-although be it a bit wobbly at times. her hind end can be a bit off. But I am holding hope that worst is what we are seeing and she won't decline further.

Eleanor was the sweetest woman and she is 96. She was very appreciative that we have a pig named Eleanor. It's always good to meet people that know it is an honor to have a pig with your name.

This will probably be our last outside visit this season, but who knows. I am excited to get thinking about the indoor shelter we want so elders can sit out of the elements, but now I'm thinking we should go a bit bigger, with a structure that the animals can walk into too, and we could do winter visits with a heated area. I'm thinking about outreach too, and having drawing sessions amongst animals and elders as models, story telling hours where elders can share their stories, cross generational visits with the animals...stay tuned.

I will see as I percolate. We have lots of ideas to consider, and this year we have come so far, so fast in some ways,that I need to sit with my thoughts.

I am really so pleased with how we've come along with these elder visits. I realize too that we are building a community for ourselves, and I never really had that out West.

I'm also finding I need to learn to say 'no' better. I need more studio time, and of course, winter is my best stdio percolating time. I've never been great at making art in the summer. No pressure on myself, I just know that working with the elders takes creative vision too, and I need to not abandon my other passion-painting and story.

Life is very full. Life is rich. Life is a challenge, but it is juicy and I'm dancing as fast as I can.

The Two Great Whites

Red on red

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Another beginning - The Wood on the south side

The Wood, Southern side, that leads to Rag Tree and Quaker Cemetery
Hard to get a panoramic view on the blog
Late yesterday afternoon I took time to walk out to The Wood and explore a bit. I took a bucket to look for apples, and at certain points I took time to sit on my bucket and just look out at the view of our land {it dawned on me I was just like Pino and his bucket.

I feel very comfortable in the southern side of our Wood unlike the West side that feels...eery. The southern side butts up to the Quaker Cemetery [land that was deeded to the Quakers back in the late 1700's by the man who owned our home.] In that part of The Wood you find Rag Tree, and a plot of land that used to be pasture, but over years the trees grew. We plan to return some of it to pasture. It is also adjacent to the property that is for sale, and I still keep coming back to my scheme of someone buying it and working with us, or...sending The Misfits into our bank to get a loan simply because they are so sweet. The properties, like all of up here, are divided by midden walls of rock, and I have a natural place where we could create an opening.

My dream is to create fenced pasture, but also make nature walks in The Wood in that area, so we could do walk about with the donkeys, or whoever. I also just like going there and sitting for some reason. It feels safe to me and I can look over at the barn and animals.

I am slowly researching the history of the land and our area. George Rhodes lived here in the early 1760's with his wife Abigail Lincoln. I assume they built the house since it is one of the first ones, along with the Hilton homesteads [many of the Rhodes family are buried there too] Their son, Cornelius and wife Wealthy had the children that lived here in the early 1800's,, and all the sons died in the Revolutionary war except two. One fought and died in Gettysburg. I think of them when I am walking around, wondering when the pasture first got cleared. It is rare to find cleared areas in mid coast in our area.

So much history and now me, and Martyn, and our animals that return to the Earth are part of it too.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Birdie is in some trouble...and we will fight this together

I have an emergency need. And some scary news that I hope will work out.

Birdie showed signs of the dreaded Menagerial Worm and fortunately I spend so much time with her that I noticed it. I am hoping as is my vet that we have caught it fast enough to help her. This is a horrible worm, that is rampant in the east, and it is carried by white tail deer, and passed onto slugs and snails. If unnoticed and untreated it can kill a llama fast, or damage them neurologically. The deworming regime in Maine is so different than out west, and when we first got here and could not find knowledgeable vets [for ruminants, pigs or llamas] we had to rely on our 15 years of experience out West, and fellow farm people and online support...but llamas are unusual.

Last year I finally found a vet clinic I like and feel confidant with-well known in the region, far away so visits are pricey here, but it is worth it, and since I've built up some relationship with them, it is paying off today. A vet must visit a farm at least once a year [ours obviously comes more than that] and be knowledgeable about an animal before prescribing any medication. When I first noticed the signs [weak hind end] I thought she was just stiff when she was getting up-this first showed itself at the event Saturday. On the Thursday before at a therapy/elder visit, she was fine. On Sunday I noticed nothing that strange except maybe some stiffness but kept my eye on her, and last night I saw her dusting/rolling and when she got up, her hind end was very weak. I knew what it was and thought my heart would sink to my feet.

I treated her with what I had immediately and got up this morning and called my vet and I was right to do what I did, but now she will be on 10x that dosage for five to ten days. The bad news is this is a nasty worm, and some llamas-even ones that seem okay or are showing improvement- can die. I asked my vet to answer the answerable, would Birdie make it? I had researched enough to see university vet sites saying if caught early enough, and it starts in the back legs, there is a 70% plus chance of recovery. But my vet said she has seen all different cases where some llamas are downed and pull through, and some are like Birdie in not so dire a condition but don't pull through.

So I amy really sick about this. I am grateful I had built up this relationship and trust and like this vet a lot. I will be giving Birdie shots 2x day for 5 days, then the amounts change and we do 1x day. It's a blast of meds and includes a 35x dosage of one dewormer, and a double a day of an anti inflammatory drug as well as thiamine shots. I can do all this on my own, and have my vet consulting me as I go. If you have ever medicated a llama, twice a day, you know it is not the easiest animal to treat, but we will be fine. Besides, I get to hold her and tell her we will fight this together. There is a possibility she will go through the treatment and not show any signs in future, or she might be slightly neurologically damaged but all we can do is treat her, watch, and hope, and wait. Even after two weeks of treatments, I might still see symptoms, as it takes a month or more for a recovery if there is going to be one. I was also concerned about seizures which I guess can happen during treatment, but my vet felt this probably is not something to be alarmed about and she thinks we won't have any. Seizures are horrible to witness.

This spring my vet and I are also going to meet and examine all our deworming regimes, some of which are fine, some might need reassessment. I am having the extra meds overnighted to me, since its a two hour trip. If you want to help out, please do, I am not sure what it will cost. I just want my llama to live and I feel really sick about this.

I love you Birdie, I know you have many who love you so much!

Visit the donation page if you are inclined to chip in. Thank you to those who have already.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Overwhelmed...our first Misfit Love Day in Maine was...wow

I am simply so overwhelmed with many feelings, and was yesterday too. I was up at 4:30, it was dark and it seemed like the sun would never rise, but it did, it always has. I was in the barn as soon as daybreak. What had to happen next was a series of maneuvers to get certain Misfits in one spot, and others elsewhere. It all went amazingly well.

The weather could not have been one degree better-6o degrees, no wind and a deep Maine sky sprinkled with floating puffs.

At precisely 11 AM, the cars began arriving and did not slow down until 2. We were open until 3 pm and we are guessing we had about 350 people. This was by far the best and most consistent crowd of any event we had out West. Our location here is so perfect for this. We had people park on the front grass, and it all worked just fine.

But overall, the thing I have to say I am most proud of, and still blissed by, is the openly loving reaction we got from fellow Bremenites, and community people, as well as people who came from Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut just to come to the event. Over and over, people pulled me aside, and first thanked me for what we are doing with animals and people, but they also expressed how important and special the farm was, and the 'feeling' of it all. Many were amazed at 'how calm and friendly' the animals were-of course a lot of this is because I work with them daily, but I like to think the lovers and those needing to learn love come to me asking to live here.

I met so many wonderful people! One woman who had donated months ago came, she had raised llamas most of her life but due to health and aging, she quit and her final llamas were sent to live with a friend. I learned many things from her about llamas, some I knew, some I didn't. But it was just so nice and I told her I want her to come when she can.

We had all ages, but I was really pleased it was heavily leaning to the elder crowd. Of course, our area and state is an older population, but these people are vibrant, interested and engaged creatures, we are finding. I met many people who had been following us since they read about our trip with all the animals across the country.

I had bought a little tiara for Birdie, thinking it might be fun. I wanted to decorate her neck, but due to timing, I opted for the tiara. I told her,

"Look, I'll put it on and if you don't like it, off it goes."

But the minute I put it on, and the guests were arriving, it's as if she took to this new role. She sat herself down and her people flocked around her, snapping photos, she gave kisses all day. She met children, a 101-year-old gent, and her first firemen who really fell for her. We are pleased we now know a fireman in the neighborhood who will watch out for us. Opie and Ollie were great too, and I had the animals all together roaming about, which was a nice pastoral, natural setting. White Dog was with the pigs so people could pet him and he got a lot of attention. I failed to get enough photos, next year I will do better! There some more on Instagram.

There were times I got all swelled up inside. What we have accomplished here in a short time was truly wonderful and gratifying. We are surely meant to be in their spot in this time. My volunteers were so great, we found we needed two people by the gate to greet people but also keep the goats from getting out, and my ladies were so wonderful about explaining our mission and all. It was also rewarding that people, most that I talked to, came with a knowledge of what we are doing.

I think Emma, our board member who also volunteered, said something really interesting and helpful. She lived out West when we were there, and helped at most of our Pino Pie Days. We all loved Pino Pie Days but I felt it had a purpose there, and not 'now', and Pino too had done his duty for years and it felt the animals were shifting. Emma pointed out that at Pie Day, people came to the event for many reasons, some for pie, some just to drive in the country. It was more about self gratification. Here, it was people coming in and sharing their admiration for what we were doing, and wanting to help. I just loved this.

We are really exhausted. The first event in a new place means different set ups, and it all worked. Lots of details though and we of course have new ideas for next year. The fiddler was great too and next year I'll be more on top of finding music earlier on.

We earned $1500 net, which is better than we ever did in Oregon. But the main thing is, we are gaining respect in our area and region. Every bit helps us here. Out West, except for one local paper, I could never get any press. We have a much more engaged community here with what we are doing.

I am so lucky to live with these creatures, and share them. Thank you to everyone who helped. And to Martyn, who did so much to help make it all go smoothly.

Feel free to donate now to our mission here, helping both animals and elder people.
She stole the show

Her first goat friend. Ollie was great.

Pam Weeks came and played fiddle for us.

Our first 101 year old guest-oh he was so sweet!