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.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Grumpiest Old Men being given a chance at Apifera

My contact at the local shelter where all our old cats have been adopted from contacted me a week ago.

For the record, I was minding my own business, working in the office when her email came in.

A woman had reared these two brothers from kittens, the mother was an outdoor ferel and she brought the two kittens in in time and they never left the house. She cared for them all these years but now had to go into assisted living. She cared enough to write a long note about them when relinquishing them to the shelter. My contact spent a lot of time with the two cats over the coming days, and basically, they are ferel. The only reason she asked me to take them in is they get along ok with cats. We all knew these two were not going to get adopted, they are 14.

So, they arrived this week and I can attest they are grumpy. They are also scared and I guess in the shelter went through the usual battery of shots and pokes and prods so were agitated from that. When we opened the crate door they went exactly where I knew they'd go, under the corner bench to the sheep fleece.

I worked with the ferel colony we had out west. Some never tendered up, Mama Kitty being one. I think some ferel or semi ferel can tender, others are wired not to. It is not my goal to tender them, it is my goal to let them live in peace here. At this stage, I am not attempting to get near them, I talk to them when I come in, but they are left alone. They have made it clear at this stage they do not trust me to get to near, one is much worse than the other. This was the same experience my contact had.

Noritsu immediately went over to check them out, no hissing and no claws. I told my contact if there is any sign of danger to the others, we will have to deal with it and she is with me on that no matter what. But they just want to be left alone right now. This was really the only option, they could not be put out for adoption. I am happy to try to give them a final home...as long as they know Papi is in charge, as am I.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Of the light...Tripod is gone

He is now of the light
I knew. He knew. It was time. There was no movement that didn't look uncomfortable, there was no position he could manage to lie in [and Tripod always had issues with lying down due to his condition he was born with] that was helpful at this point. When we took the bandage of the sore, it had worsened, and was eating into the muscle and body.

The vet didn't hesitate, and I knew she wouldn't. We had done all we could and it was time to let go. And we did.

The vet went out to the truck to get her shots ready, and I sat with Tri one last time. What was so telling is he rested his head against me, something he really doesn't do. I knew he was just tired of hurting. He declined swiftly after the initial sores arrived. His body was incapable of healing them and it also causes him to avoid using the leg at all, which caused the other legs to just weaken, almost overnight. When the drug was administered, his eyes flicked immediately, he was gone. No more pain, what a relief I felt for him.

He had become my buddy ever since I moved him into the hay barn when we lived out West. He was not interested in other goats, probably due to the danger of being knocked over. But in the hay barn, he tendered up and recognized I was there as an ally. When we moved East, he had many good days left, to sit in the sun and sniff the wafts of ocean air. I am so glad he ended up with us and that he was in our lives.

I will miss his sweet little face sticking out of his special cubby. But that cubby is full of other life and we carry on. Each brings new stories and experiences. There's isn't a sun until after the dark night.

Waiting for the vet

Tripod last year helping raise The Holy Child

Monday, May 13, 2019

Tomorrow might be a sad day but we will do what is best

The vet is coming tomorrow to give equine annual shots. I always have my vet do the equine shots, I do everyone else but just don't like doing the equines.

The vet will also help me choose the next steps for Tripod. Tripod was born crippled, with a hind hip and leg that are permanently frozen making him only able to use three legs. But it also compromises his body in other ways, and we knew as he aged it would be more and more problematic. And that day has come. This winter, I was able to keep him from getting elbow sores, since he was lying down all winter. He was not getting other sores and I thought we had jumped that hurdle. But then he got a very bad sore behind the elbow, in the crease and it is not healing. Bed sores are real problem for elder, crippled animals and at some point you are fighting an battle you can't win. So we were struggling with that in the last couple weeks. But what began to happen was his 'good' legs seemed to just become unusable to him, and he can't get up anymore. When I help him up, he cries, and gets agitated, so there is pain. He can't even get up on his front elbows much to eat grass. He wants to come outside, but he tries to get up and gets off balance immediately and falls down on his nose. It's so sad to watch. For the past few days I have been putting him in the clam sled and taking him outside.

So...it might be time to let go and let this beautiful soul be pain free. If his wound is as bad tomorrow as it was last week despite meds and treatment, it might be one more reason to help him fly off.

So please send light to Tripod, and me. It is so hard because despite his crippled condition, he has always had a good life here, and this is not how I wanted him to go out, in pain with sores and such. But we will do what is right tomorrow.

People sometimes ask me how I keep saying goodbye to the animals. How do any of us keep saying goodbye to so many things on a daily basis. We say goodbye to our elders, our mothers, best friends, favorite singers...our pets....Sunday always becomes Monday and we say goodbye to our flat bellies for sinking hips and hurting muscles, we say goodbye to youth, to autumn, we are saying goodbye to Mother Earth unless everyone wakes up...we are constantly saying goodbye. There isn't a moon until the sun sets, and there isn't a goodbye unless there was a hello. If I weren't saying goodbye so much, I wouldn't be letting new things into my life. And when I'm tired of saying goodbye, I'll die.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Opie's Surprise is out!

These two retired elders came to us from the same farm as Opie is from. Opie is thrilled to have some of his great great Aunties or grannies or whatever they are in his home. He was really strutting his stuff when they came. These two old gals have been bred every year and have earned their place in the sun without the worry of childrearing.

The black one had the pedigree name of "She's The One" but the farm's little boy pronounced it Cheese. So I kind of like that. So her name is Cheese.

Still getting to know them and listening for the other's name.

I love them. Goose immediately grabbed onto the blonde girl. So funny. he likes light colored animals!

Memory of the concussion

{From the studio this rainy morning, "The Day I Fell of My Horse and Blacked Out"]

It's coming up on two years when I took a bad fall off Boone, alone in the woods on a ride, hitting my head, blacking out and proceeded to walk around for 30 minutes not knowing where I was [yes, I had a helmet on, always wear one]. It turns out I had called Martyn 10 times that 30 minutes. He saved the messages and I only knew I had called him after I got out of hospital. The messages are heartbreaking. I was scared, and unable to tell him where I was at first. I was in the forest, and could not tell which way I should go. My horse was gone, my glasses were broken and my nose bridge was cut. The messages were so hard to listen to, it made me want to hold me like mother and child. I can only imagine how poor Martyn felt, hopeless I'm sure. At some point, I wandered out of the woods, and was able to call 911. Boone had gone down the busy road and a neighbor took him in- it's a miracle he wasn't hurt, or so many things could have gone wrong. My theory is we slid on ledge rock, as we were cantering and the last thing I remember [it had been a wonderful ride]is 'it's time to go into a walk, there is some ledge coming up" My head must have crashed down on his neck rising. Oddly, I had not one scratch on me, not any stains or anything on my pants or bare arms, only a cut nose bridge where my glasses hit the horse. Boone had a few scrapes. I wish I knew what he did after-did he look at me and think, "Well, she clearly isn't going to lead me out of here so I'm leaving'...or did he stick around and sniff me, or just fly off?

To this day the only thing I remember is that last thought of we need to go into a walk from canter, and I do now remember being disoriented, scared, and not knowing which way to walk on the path-each direction looked the same.

I had a severe concussion and spent two days in the hospital. They made me stay to see if I needed surgery. Surgery? I told them that was ridiculous. I was still pretty out of it and Martyn says the surgeon said it was a pretty severe blow so I'm lucky. He said without the helmet, who knows. I got back on Boone a month later, but I will be honest and say the event changed me. I am not afraid to ride, but riding alone in the woods gives me pause now, which is sad. But I never want to put Martyn through that, or my horse, or me again. The thing is here in Maine the woods are so miserable starting about late June if not sooner due to the bugs. It's unpleasant for horse and rider.

Today was going to be my first spring workout with Boone, but it's raining. So I made this painting.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Opie can hardly keep his big secret

"Why can't I tell them?" Opie asked.

"Because," I said.

"Because why?" he continued.

"I said so," I said.

"You says so but I says it is so exciting for me!" he said.

"Well, I just know how this works and it is best to wait until tomorrow, when you have your surprise in your midst to show everyone," I said.

And he ran off singing and yelled to Ollie,

"Ollie, I have a midst!"

{Stay tuned...}

Monday, May 06, 2019

The goose continues on as caretaker

The goose seems to be continuing her-his care taking role. After first gravitating to Rosie the pig in her final weeks, then Birdie his llama in need, he has now latched on to old Else, who is elderly and crippled and frail. She arrived that way and seems to be growing farther into that state. I do not know if she will be with us in the coming winter, or if it is right to let her go through another winter. But for now, she is able to nap in the sun and lives in contentment. It is just much harder for her to walk, and she seems more tired, taking longer to get up in the morning.

The goose still roams and grazes, but he seems to go back to Else during the day to nap with her, or sun near her side.

It's endearing. I know I have a vivid imagination but I truly feel she-he gravitates to those bodies trying to release. Perhaps it is a smell we humans are closed down to. Perhaps she-he just knows.

The goose has not laid an egg. I have taken to referring to the goose as she-he, or The Goose, or My Grace that is Goose a guy. I suppose by mid summer it will be definitive that she-he is in fact either male or female, and not much will change, since I call her-him simply, Goose.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Opie and Ollie and the balloon

Today is Ollie's first birthday. There was an earnest discussion going on when I got outside this morning to do chores. I try to stay out of their personal conversations, but...it appears that Opie gave Ollie a balloon. By the time I wandered in, this was what I heard:

"I saved it for you, from my first birthday last year," said Opie.

"What do I do with a balloon?" asked Ollie.

"Not much," said Opie.

"Can I fly away on it?" asked Ollie.

"I don't know, maybe," said Opie.

Ollie sat on the balloon. It popped, and let out air and squirted and flitted around before there eyes.

"That was delightful," said Ollie, and he ran off.

Opie sat down, holding the remnants of his balloon.

"I have to ask, Opie, where did you keep your balloon safe this entire year?" I asked.

"In the hayloft, under the third beam by the north window where I play sometimes," he said.

"Hmmm, what do you play?" I asked.

"I make card houses," he said. He let out a long sigh. "My balloon is dead," he said.

"But Opie, it made you happy when I gave it to you, and it made Ollie happy when you gave it to him, and it went out flying-that's a good life for a balloon," I assured him.

Opie ran back to the barn. The goose followed him, saying, "All things must pass."
No photo description available.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

Well, I think My Grace the goose is Goose the Guy

We have been waiting to see if the goose would lay an egg. We are beginning to realize that My Grace is most likely a My Lord, or a guy. I think she-he would have laid by now. When the goose arrived, the former owner thought it was a girl, but said she was no expert in vent checking geese...who is? I did attempt to research it and spent a short bit of time examining the vent but didn't see anything or feel anything that supposedly made she a he.

But, I am no goose vent expert...again who is?

I also began to think she was a he when she-he gravitated to females–Birdie, Marcella, Rosie. She-he seemed uninterested in the new male llama, and even got a cow kick out of him.

I don't care what sex she-he is, I love the goose. We have worked out the current arrangement in a way that suits many. Goose spends nighttime in the barn, safe, and sleeps with Henneth the blind chicken, Sir Tripod Goat and Else. Sometimes Opie is in the mix, but of late, she-he has gone after Opie at breakfast. During the day, the goose goes outside, but stays on the opposite side of the fence where Marcella is. This allows she-he to be safe from hawks and eagles-I hope-but also hang out with the three goats, and also have Marcella access through the fence. Marcella and she-he were getting along, but Marcella can be really aggressive around food which his a Maremma trait, and even though I separated her at feeding, if there was one kernel of food left she would snap at the goose. I just didn't want any trouble. Sometimes I put she-he in there so she can play in the puddles. She-he also doesn't get along with the male ducks.

In fact she-he is an independent mover and shaker. I suppose I will have to get him a wading pool for the warmer months. She-he seems very content, and when the goats come in at night, there she-he is, I don't have any trouble out of him.

I admit I still look for the golden egg...Earnest would love them.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Our Easter wish for all

All of us are wishing you a joyful Easter, a time of renewal and rebirth in so many ways. No matter what is going on in the world, or your life, I hope you can find things that bring you that sense of renewal that Easter is all about.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Inspired by floating llama and grounded ones

"Upside Down World" {available through studio, contact me}
Yesterday this came out of me. I found it so tender, and sat back and felt comfort from it. I still hurt from the loss of Birdie but the life around me carries me on. The new llamas are so very different than Birdie, in every way, color, personality...everything. There are moments that is a sad thing, then I snap out of it, that is most likely Birdie above, or my guides reminding me how lucky I am to be working with all these beautiful creatures everyday!

I was pleased with this too because I captured, if you look closely, the teeth of the old girl [some are suggesting I name her Kukla, which I thought of too, but it doesn't suit her, she is like a gargoyle on a skyscraper and needs something to fit that]. I also caught the tiny wisp of white on the boy's top notch, and his sweet legs with puffy hair and how he stands. It's amazing how they get in you if you have an open door.

I have worked him on the halter daily since his Sunday arrival. Today he showed more 'I am me' attitude but is learning the right distance to stay from me. We also worked on him just standing calmly while I sat a couple feet from him. I worked today on dragging a tarp around with him, to help him be used to odd sounds and sensations. I also took him into the orchard to meet the crippled Misfits, and the goose. The goose came over, the boy put his nose down, the goose got a bit nosey, and bam, he got a cow kick. No harm done. But the goose shows no signs of interest in him which does not surprise me. He has been very happy in the front barn with Tripod and Else, and then can be near Marcella outside during the day.

So, stay tuned as llama Love grows here. It will be some work but if I brought someone here today and sat them on a bench I know the boy could do the job, but we will keep working together to give him confidence and let him grow to partner with me. I don't want to rush him. He has so much to see and learn here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Two of the new llamas arrive, Birdie On!

First steps into Apifera
We made the long drive on Sunday to bring two of the group of llamas back to Apifera. I will tell you that it was nice to see the Berkshires in the distance, but more than a few times we laughed that we had no idea how we made that 5 day journey three years ago from Oregon and survived! Our older bones were sore!

But it was worth it and the meet up at a designated exit off I 90 went off smoothly.

This is an exciting time for Apifera. After a year and a half of becoming a non profit, I feel so good about how our mission to help animals and elder people is really jelling. We are getting more known, thanks in part to the monthly article I write for the paper, but also because it is a small, vibrant community of people that are interested in what we are doing, and word travels. I feel really good about the coming months and am so excited to get my elders here to meet the new animals.

I have not named them yet. The older female was really loved, and I know the farm thought good and hard about all this. I'm grateful they took so much time to understand my needs. We decided the young male-he is 5 months-would do better with an older llama around, and since she is retired and had her last babies, she became that llama. She is 19. No spring chicken and I really hope she can live another few years at least. Llamas can live well into their 20's but 19 is considered old. Aldo came to us back west at 19 but was not in good shape ad he lived another couple years. This lady is in very good shape, good weight, strong, gentle, good teeth too. Her pastures have fallen, just like with Aldo, but she gets around well. She has this cute front tooth thing going on, like Kukla the puppet.

The little guy is so great! He has hardly been haltered but is doing great with that, and today I did his first bit of lead training. The most crucial part of working with him will also be a challenge-at least initially- and that is not to 'love on him' too much. Obviously, the first thing I wanted to do was hold him like I did Birdie. But because he is an intact male, and can't be gelded until he is at least 1.5 years, he has to be given clear boundaries, for my safety, and his well being. You can find all sorts of stories of people who bring home a cute fluffy camelid, intact, love on it like a puppy and all of a sudden when it gets a bit more mature it begins to act in a dominant way-jumping up, even biting like young males do in a herd. It is a lot like training a young colt, or Maremma. I can pet him, even kiss him every so often, but right now, I am teaching him that I set the boundaries. When we walk, he can not lean into me [like he is in this sweet pic, which he is doing for reassurance]. As much as I'd love him to lean into me, he needs to learn there is a boundary between him and me. It's kind of like a kid that loves to hug, but as he gets older didn't learn that you don't run up and jump into someone's lap without being invited.

At the same time, he needs to be exposed to sounds and situations, and he seems to be a great fit for therapy. I will be challenging him as we go forward, making him go into rooms, across a bridge, over buckets, etc, just to show him I can be trusted and we can go anywhere and be safe.

Having said all that, he has beautiful eyes, and lashes, and adorable legs. His color is like a slate blue. his fiber is gorgeous.

The female is gentle and calm. She is more personable than Aldo was. We did not think she will be a star therapy llama, but you never know. But her role is to relax and retire and be a role model for the little guy.

Then, we are waiting for another of the llamas to have her cria [baby] in late May or June. I hope its a girl! We will be bringing the mother and baby back her a few weeks after she gives birth. As exciting as it was to maybe have a birth here, we all decided it was much better for all concerned, especially the llamas, to have the baby there where she feels safe. Once born, cries and mamas can travel without problems.

When I got to the barn this morning-I had left them inside barn, for safety at this point-I knocked. That amused me-there I was lightly knocking to alert them. All was well and they ate well which is good. It was just so cool seeing llamas in there. I had two sensations-excitement and joy they were there...and the realization Birdie was not. But later, I realized it was meant to be that I found llamas that are dark colored, and so unlike her. Because. That is why, because.

I also had a beautiful moment where I felt Birdie's spirit. After I had walked the young male, I returned to the barn, and decided to turn on some classical music for their first real day at Apifera. They have access to the pasture, but can come into the barn of course. I stood looking out one of the front doors, and could see the two llamas in the distance, and the empty barn in front of me, with the music playing just like it had for Birdie. I felt her spirit, like she was telling me,

"Okay, good first step, keep it up."

Friday, April 12, 2019

Pre-Order "Goose & Llama"

I'm so excited to share this little story book I made in honor of Goose & Llama, and now you can preorder it.

For every 50 I sell, $500 goes into the barn fundraiser. 

The story is told in the voice of the goose. It is 33 pages of story, photographs and a bit of art. I felt that I needed to do more to memorialize their beautiful relationship, and I also felt my followers, after the shock of it all, might also be comforted by this little story.

The book is a soft cover, on premium paper, and is 8.5 x 11, 33 pages.The $35 price includes USA shipping. INT'L orders will need to pay at least $35 range more for shipping.

Monday, April 08, 2019

New Misfits arrive - introducing Jim Bob and Rosco

Rosco on the left, Jim Bob on the right
They landed yesterday after a long journey from their home they had lived their entire lives. Such sweet boys! They were a bit overwhelmed with all the new sounds and chaos-since the goose immediately started honking because Marcella started barking and when Marcella barks, Goose goes on high alert. The poor chaps had not been around dogs let alone geese.

They were well taken care of. In fact, it is sort of a sad story. The family who loved them so much decided they could not care for them because there was a very difficult ongoing health situation, and they had to downsize, keeping only the oldest goat and an old pony with special needs. They were a really sweet family and I tried to reassure her that she was doing the right thing. I think she was reassured, and grateful. But it is a hard decision and I feel badly for what they are going through.

So they are very friendly and sweet –they just need time to settle in and get used to all the activity. They lived in a more remote and isolated barn. In fact they are a bit chubby which is great! Usually elders arrive to me thin and neglected but these two have been well cared for. I really think Rosco might enjoy elder visits so time will tell.

I've been taking short breaks to sit with them and talk to them. This morning Jim Bob was so startled at the barking dog he ran to me! So sweet. So Jim Bob might look like a monkey - and in time I think his real personality will emerge-but he is a softie.

We are grateful we could help this family, and we get beautiful spotted goats in return...they will be well loved.

{Do you like our work here with elder people and animals? Consider a donation to help us, thank you.}

This morning they met Ollie and gang

Photobombed by the goose!

Friday, April 05, 2019

Children artists inspired by Birdie...Birdie On!

I shed some happy tears on this. An artist and teacher, Suzie Skugstad, shared these with me. Her class was following the journey of Goose & Llama on IG and they were moved by the story and created clay sculptures.

I was once again blown away with another concrete example of the power of Birdie, and her love..but also, I'm realizing too that it was and is the power of the love Martyn and I gave to try to help her and the energy and determination Birdie gave back that also resonated with readers.

It also reminds me of the importance of my stories, and sharing them, that we learn from them, and are inspired by some or helped by some. Stories have power and depth capable of opening minds and hearts.

Thank you Suzie and please tell the children that there is more llama love coming, and that Birdie knows what they did.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

We will Birdie On!

We need to add one final addition to the barn. This addition will house some equines to take pressure off the current equine area. This will not only provide a safer area in the winter [it gets a bit crowded at present in winter, and feeding can be a challenge in winter and rain], it will allow us to manage mud control better in spring, helping equine feet issues which we are experiencing for the first time since having them. And, this addition will provide loft space for 1/2 our hay, meaning the current barn will have freed up space and get hay into lofts versus on the ground/pallets. Martyn and I will be doing a lot of the work on this barn, the ground prep, siding, loft finishing and interior details. We are slated to get going June, and hope to have the frame and trusses up by August. Then Martyn will do the siding before winter.

The addition we did last year became the physical therapy suite for our beloved Birdie the llama, who died after trying so hard for two months to make it. We are so devastated as are many of you that we didn't have a different outcome. But, we learned that that area is necessary to have as an emergency area -now complete with a 500# lift should we ever need it again. I feel Birdie there all the time, and I asked her to find me more llamas [a hard thing in Maine]. I talk to her all the time. I began looking for llamas knowing it would take awhile and that they would be out of state. I didn't want to rush it, but didn't want to wait so long that a whole year went by. Birdie gave me so many things, and one was she taught me what llama love is all about. Well, low and behold, I found a woman through a woman through a woman who is like a mentor to me in my heart and we are bringing home two older llamas, and two young ones...including a baby due in May. They will be part of our therapy program for elder visits.

When I go into the suite where Birdie and I tried so hard, I feel her smiling, telling me to BIRDIE ON! We are naming that area the Birdie Memorial Llama Love Room. While the llamas will live there, it is also a good gathering spot for events and therapy visits for able bodied people. The wall I put up planning to make it the wall of hope for Birdie, is sitting there blank...but I think that is fitting. It is a clean beautiful white wall, white like Birdie, white like the clouds she floats in, and that wall can be filled with extensions of her-stories that will be coming as we add our next llama family.

It is a whopping $20,000 to get the initial phase up. We hope to start in June and be done with the frame, roofing by August and then Martyn can do siding before winter. We have to move our vegetable area, grade and reconfigure paddocks. But I can't wait to have more room for the donkeys...and hay.

If you prefer to send a check make it to Apifera Farm Inc.
315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen ME 04551
You will get a receipt immediately after arrival.

Our EIN # 82-2236486

Monthly Donation

A mother died, a horse was born

Mother memory doll, with a quilt share she made as a child with her mother
Six years ago, my mother died suddenly. It was a beautiful day in Oregon, where we lived at the time, and I had planned to go for a long ride with Boone. It also happened to be his birthday. I remember going to feed him and thinking that now his birthday will always be tinged with my mother's death.

But being the optimist, and student of Nature that I am, I realized that was not how I wanted to look at it. It was almost like it was a message from my mother,

"I'm gone, I know you are sad, but you have that horse that took you so long to get, go ride him, child."

That was a surreal day. It was a very hard loss. I was close to my mother, sometimes too close, but she was truly my advocate. I was really ticked off she died. She was eighty seven, and lived independently, still playing golf and driving her little ancient VW convertible with her golf hat adorned by her sunflower. It's how I often think of her. She was having trouble breathing, so my brother who lived near by took her to the hospital. She called me on the way there, and left a message. Her voice was a bit shaky. She had always told me that old people don't like going to the hospital because they know they often don't come out. That night she had a mild heart attack. We were told her lungs were calcifying. I talked to her the next day, and said all the things I don't say when my animals are dying. I told her not to die, I told her I wasn't ready to lose her. I cried. She said she wasn't ready to go. I told her we loved her, and that I was driving down to California in two days. She knew how impossible getting off the farm was for me.

"Really? You're coming down?" she asked.

I told her Martyn would stay and I would come to help. Now, my mother knows I hate hospitals, I can get physically and emotionally stunted when I enter one. It has always been like that. She also hates having visitors at hospitals. I mean she would welcome seeing me, but...the next day, she died.

A friend who knew us since childhood said that my mother made it easy on me. I guess she was right. A nurse went to give her a sip of water, and then asked my mother [whose last name was Dunn]if she was done, and my mother said, in true form,

"I'm done, Dunn, and DONE!" and she died with a smile on her face.

But there out in the barn was my living, breathing horse, Boone. And he turns twenty-one today. We've been together eleven years. I tell this story because I almost forgot the date today, and looked at my calendar and realized it was April 4th, the day that holds so much history for me. I tell it because for all of you who are missing people, and you see a day on a calendar every month, and the grief sticks you hard and you think,

"Another month without them,"

I'm here to tell you that time will soften the date. You get to do it at your pace. But keep taking steps in the living. One day, you will realize the date has less power over you, because that person filled you with so much love that you are out sharing it with other creatures be it human or animal.

Monday, April 01, 2019

I am now a Maine Apifera...so some reconfigurations are going to happen in the barnyard

Little Sylvia Petinni is still the sweet little thing she was on arrival. She was a bottle baby, and started out life a little on the rough side due to her troubled birth. I took her on with her retired mother, Calla, who is still with us. Calla had some issues so was retired after giving birth to Sylvia. Sylvia is still very personable due to her upbringing. She comes to me, usually, looking for some attention. She has overcome all her eye issues she had after birth and is healthy.

When we first arrived here in Maine, I missed my old flock back West terribly. I mourned the old farm, and my old role as shepherdess. I underestimated how much sadness t would bring. I had to leave them behind, it was just unfair to move them out here, and we didn't know our pastures well since we had never visited. I knew they would begetter staying on their land they'd known since birth. I'm so glad I made that decision. I put down some of my oldest girls that were on their last days, and sold some young ewes before leaving, but about half the flock stayed on the farm.

So when we arrived here in Maine, I kind of had my feet on both sides of the river. I was still a mourning shepherdess, and we had not become a non profit. I was still evolving as an Apiferian in Maine. So I went out and found a small flock of five wool sheep [we had raised hair sheep out West]. They were CVM sheep, a rare breed in danger, and I liked the fact I was helping-just like when we got into Katahdins they were endangered and we helped bring them back along with many others out West. I was torn about breeding, my gut was telling me not to breed, but it was what we had done for 15 years. But my gut won out, and I did not get a ram. Raising sheep from birth to death is so much different than just owning them. I care for each of the five, but except for Sylvia and Calla, I am not as attached to them as I had been to my original flock. It's just...different.

In time, and now that we are going on our 4th spring here, I know I am no longer a shepherdess, nor do I want to be. I have grown into the Maine Apifera. My mission is to help people through my animals. The animals we help are connected to the people we help. So I have decided to rehome three of the sheep who are young, and should be with someone who truly appreciates their rare fiber. I like wool, I really do, but I am not passionate about it. This breed is rare, it is a heritage breed that is being helped through breeding. I want them to go to a home that will breed with care, and it appears I have found that home, thanks to the help of the farm I bought them from. I would not be rehoming them if I felt uncomfortable.

Sylvia and Calla will live out their lives here. And it will also allow me to reconfigure some paddocks for...well, I will tell you all that soon. It is all good, and it all ties into our therapy work. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Opie gets out his dress suit

{We are off to visit another elder residence we have not been to yet, I'll hope to take a few pics.}

"Opie, why do you have your good winter suit on?"

"I want to look professional for the elders we are meeting today," he said.

"Well, you look very nice, but this is a more casual get together, so I think you should change out of your suit," I suggested.

"Okay. I'll go naked."

We lose Cornelia, but my hands are on living bodies

I just could not believe it. Arriving at the front barn on Wednesday, I found my beautiful, sweet pig, Cornelia dead. There was no sign of struggle, her bedding was tidy, nor were there any physical signs to give us a clue as to what happened. Her eyes were closed, so she died in her sleep, otherwise her eyes would have been open in the death stare I've seen a million times. The only thing that came to mind was that she ingested a shard of glass out in the ancient midden piles she likes to sun in, but I had a sheep do this and it was a process of suffering and clear signs something was wrong, and in that former case the vet found something blocking/ripping her lower intestine. We would have seen other signs in Cornelia. The night before I sat with her, the goose and Marcella as I often do before going back to the house. I'm so glad I did, and I'm so sad she is gone. She was truly the cutest pig. She was the one who stayed by Daisy's side when she was dying of old age.

So, it is a double whammy. I've been dong this for 15+ years and it does seem like things come in waves in life-good and bad. Perhaps the energy gets released and attracts like energy. Perhaps the gods know there is a reason this is for the best. I do think Nature has so many mysteries, but is all knowing too, and non judgmental about what has happened.

What I shared with my social media followers is that I have witnessed a lot of death on the farm, and Cornelia had a good death. I like to hope Birdie did too in the final moments, but I don't know. I know Cornelia died in her sleep, and she had a beautiful day to nap in the sun before she died. As far as a pig's life goes, hers was a good one. I have seen so many pigs-probably more in the pet category-live not so great lives. I guess people like to assume that pet pigs have it better that pigs at farms, but I would argue against that. How many people go out and bring home a 'micro' pig [there is no such thing] only to tire of it when it grows into a ...well, a pig, or they don't like that the pig is ruining the house [no, I would never have a pig in the house]. These pigs often end up in bad health and sent off to some rescue where another person buys them who doesn't know pigs well and the revolving door starts again.

So Cornelia got to live like a pig, and I was blessed to have her.

Little Lonely and Eleanor, and Marcella, were all standing around waiting for breakfast when I came in. They knew Cornelia was gone, and they were showing all of us once again how to deal with death-acknowledge it, and then step back into life. One can and should grieve, but always while balancing it with the understanding that life will end, so best to live in it now.

Still, I was mad. I said some choice words to the heavens, or lack of them. But that was a release.

I almost felt like keeping it to myself. Followers often get worn out by this I think. Like one woman who quit reading me wrote, it's not that she didn't like me or the farm anymore, she just couldn't see one more of her animal friends die. I guess I just have never gotten to that point. I mean, I just see death much more as a morning to night experience-both are beautiful times of the 24 hour period. You can't have one without the other. An animal dies, and there is a shift in the barnyard, interesting things happen-an animal might gravitate to another animal creating wonderful stories or an animal dies allowing another to blossom as the hierarchy changes. I don't relish death of the animals, I just try to look at it from Nature's perspective. You can't beat death. And how sad it must be to be so crushed by a death of animal or human that you shut down to more love from other humans or animals. It is a process, this grief, I am not downplaying that, but any farmer will tell you that death is often Nature's best remedy for times when facts can not be revealed to us trying to help.

Having said all that, I am looking forward to spring, and the surprises it might bring-will the goose finally lay an egg or is she a he? There are some new Misfits slated to come soon. Will a new llama appear for me? Will the blind chicken lay eggs again? I try not to think, "Oh no, who will die now?" but it did cross my mind the next day. But it is a beautiful day, I have been doting on the donkeys and grooming them and The Teapot. My hands on living bodies, eyes averted when needed to look towards the graves of fallen friends...but only for moments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Earnest's shares his needs for his new Earnest House

Martyn found this nailed to the door. I had mentioned to Earnest yesterday to start thinking about his needs for his new special Earnest hut...glad to know someone listens to me around here. I'm not sure how he found a nail, and a hammer. Anyway, Martyn will start on a hut very soon for him so it is good to get the pig perspective.

Else is glad it is spring again

It is finally warm enough to get the crippled elders outside. Else came to us very crippled and old and we knew her front leg would only continue to get worse over time, but last winter was tough on her lying around so much. One of the lifts we had been using for Birdie is now used to give the old girl some help. I don't take it lightly the thread of that-it helped one animal and now it helps another. We carry on. I was pleased that even in the two days Else has been out more, she is walking better.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Still breathing in fog...and Grace carries on

{My friends sent this beautiful poem to me after Birdie died. I have read it over and over, and it could not express better what I feel right now}

"Pavement Ends"

At last the pavement ends.
Now if I lose your scent
I can follow your footprints.
You're still breathing in the fog,
your lungs ghostly and delicate
like white lilacs.

I don't care how many or what kind
have walked here, or run.
I only care about you,
your tracks fresh and firm,
as though you're nearly within reach.
Don't let me slow you down.
I will find you.

~Connie Wanek~

We continue to miss Birdie, but the warm weather helps remind us that the earth is percolating with new births. My Grace and I are exploring the place and creatures she feels most attracted to living with now that her white goddess is gone. I have been placing her in different paddocks to watch her. She is a bit lost, and it dawned on me that perhaps her new charge has not yet arrived at Apifera...more mysteries then for her and me to come, I guess.We still are wondering if My Grace is in fact, My Lord, since she-he has not laid an egg yet. It might explain a few things.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Goose and I tend to the body

Over 200 comments on the last two Birdie posts on IG, have me in tears, but I am also reminded how love is a ripple wave, inspiration is too, as is soul work of any kind. People telling me they have been following for years whose name I never knew reach out after falling in love with the spirit of a llama, and her goose. So thank you for all these comments and emails and such...I am still in shock, as is Martyn...it's just a real...blow.

But she is okay now.

People are asking about My Grace. I am a firm believer in not suger coating death for readers or the barnyard, and my experience is the animals know this stuff way before we do. After all, it was the goose who was right by her when she died. That is comforting to know. I think the goose is a healer, and I think like other animals, like Stevie the goat, she will continue to find out what animals need her. Let's not forget her first charge when she arrived was Rosie the grumpy pig for her final weeks.

Goose is still with Birdie who lies in state in the barn. We will have to hand dig a grave which will be rather difficult but the mud and permafrost will make things impossible with the tractor. Getting her buried is very important to me, and I will not be at rest until that happens. I choose to leave Goose with her, with her classical music playing, and her giant bucket to swim in. She will be allowed to help us take the body out to the 150 feet to the grave, if she chooses to come.

Goose knows where Birdie is. When I entered the barn last night, she was on Birdie, a common occurrence, but she was much more demonstrative as you see in this video. Many will have opinions of what Grace is saying, but for me, she was telling me she will stand as protector of the body until Birdie is of earth. I feel the same way.

I sat with her body after barn chores, and removed all her bandages and wraps. I wanted her to be free of them. It is all very hard, and sad to have to carry on without her. We were just getting started her and I.

It was really windy this morning, sea wont through The Wood. I closed my eyes and held my hand up to the sky and said her name. Within an hour the wind died down.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Very sad, very hard news to share

Taken the last morning of her life
I always do the barn chores in the front barn first, feeding the goats and pigs, chickens and lastly, attend to the elder cat suite before heading out to the outer barn. I was deep in thought as I was cleaning litter boxes, thinking about Birdie, when Martyn came in. He never comes in while I'm doing chores.

"Birdie died," he said.

I can not even tell you what sounds came out of my body.

Some might wonder why we were shocked, but we were. Devastated. Gutted. Mad. Sad. Empty. Squished like a bug.

In the last two days, I could tell Birdie was in more discomfort. I was unsure if this was from inflammation [she was on anti inflammatories], general discomfort and muscle aches from the situation and therapy, or if the two sores she had that we were treating caused great pain-the latter weren't that advanced and after finding them we wrapped her entire legs top to bottom, instead of just problem spots from lying down. Her last three therapy sessions were harder for her. She just seemed more ouchy, and less ready to be a willing partner. In order to even get her up into the lift, she usually 'helped' me by lifting some from the torso, but a couple days ago, she wasn't that willing.

Last night, she was clearly ouchy. I spent a lot of time with her, soothing her by massaging her face, but she clearly just kind of wanted her space. I respected that. I went to the house and brought back a pain shot for her, and she was eating as I left.

We don't know what killed her in the end. While we firmly, along with our vets, think she had the M worm, and responded to treatment, her relapse 2 months later had us all scratching our heads. Maybe the pain was more than we knew and she had a heart attack. She might have had a tumor on her spine for all we know. We will never really know.

The thing is, I think she knew what was coming, and I think she knew that in my heart, I knew. One day ago, when I sensed she was in more discomfort, I asked her if I needed to listen better to her, if I was clearly understanding her needs at this moment. I think we had such optimism because we were seeing improvements, but while we were watching for those things, other things were going on inside her. I also noticed her eyes just seemed less bright.

After I gave her her pain shot last night, I told her how hard I knew she was working and I was so sorry this was happening to her.

So...here we are. Llama less and heartbroken. Spent. We all tried so hard! And that includes a village of people who tried to help. She was given the right antibiotics, treatments, and was on certain vitamins for nerve repair. Massages, acupressure, acupuncture with vitamin b shots...music therapy, physical therapy and love from us and a goose...her fans sent her prayers and leg wraps and hope.

This is a huge loss for me and the farm. We were just getting started her and me, she was meant to be a therapy animal. I guess she was able to do that, and by coming to Maine and being part of her first years here, she won the hearts of anyone she met. There is no other llama like her. No other creature like her. I just can't even tell you how painful this is, it is physically painful. We were a team. And I got left behind.

This morning we had a scheduled Opie therapy visit with our sweet friends at Wiscasset Green. I did not for a second think of cancelling. I knew it was something I needed to do for us, and them. My goal was not to blubber about Birdie, and I told Martyn to not bring it up. Well, they asked about her. And we told them. They were genuinely sad, they loved her and often asked about her. And they were genuinely sad for me. I didn't blubber but got teary eyed. As we were leaving Joe gave me a hug and told me that Birdie was out of pain, and when his wife of 60 years died that is what kept him standing, knowing she was not in pain. And that is all I thought of today. Birdie is not in pain. She is okay, just like my mom and all the other creatures that have died before me. Birdie was tired in the end, she put on such a fight. Did she do it for us? Maybe, but in the end, I think she did what she needed because she knew I wasn't ready to do it.

When we got home, there were bunches of tulips that had been left at our gate from a dear friend, someone I had told early in the morning about Birdie. The card said, "It will be okay." She knew that was my mantra, and she knew it was the perfect thing to say to me, and it was.

When I turned to open the gate, there was a little chickadee nearby, sitting, looking my way.

"Bird," I said. I called her Bird a lot. She is all the birds now I guess.

Taken the last day of her life

I covered her head this morning, Goose inspects