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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Woman Horse, Horse Woman

It looks like one of my paintings today, a soft fog over the hills and pastures, and as I poured coffee into my cup, a blackbird flew and landed on the top of young tree. Perhaps it is like an old episode of Outer Limits - at the end of the show, our little farm is just part of a large painting.

I now have acquired another handy skill - banding, or as I like to say - castrating. No one says 'castrating" , but why sugar coat it - I have now altered the life of at least one small lamb who's destiny is now set. He will be butchered in late fall. The process itself was not that bad [for me anyway] and I was prepared for the lamb to get down afterwards and flop around -thanks to a heads up from my wiser shepherd sister over at Donkey Dan's place - but he got up and just sort of went on his way. Afterwards, I had a cast of something hanging over me - -I felt uncomfortable with being master over this small creature - I am in fact making decisions that will end his short life. Perhaps too, it was that I thought I had put up a boundary in my heart and head between the three rams to be butchered, and have not touched them much - but this morning I had to hold one in my arms and soothe it while we did what we did. He had a heartbeat, and warm little head and long eyelashes. He was not any less cute than any lamb, yet he had been designated, by me, as a meat lamb. I hate this. It has made lambing season different for me. If I live on a farm and raise livestock, some of them have to go, some of them stay. Some of them become trouble in the herd and are time and energy draining, some are just plain mean, some are dangerous. Those decisions seem to make sense. But when it's a tiny lamb, it's a conflict.

I was supposed to go down to the front lavender fields and weed for the morning, but instead I felt a strong need to be with Sky Flower, my horse. What was going to be a short 15 minute workout on the ground, turned into a trip down the road to my horse neighbors, and then a 2 hour trail ride with them. Being with the animal that I have worked so hard with for a year and who has come so long, along with me, is rewarding. It is even magnificent. A 1500 pound animal that has the ability to crush me if she chose too, yet agrees to work with me to learn subtle cues like 'cluck' means take one step, not two steps, Sky, but one step. And now she does. So she and I, we learn together even though it's not always pretty, or graceful. I was feeling tired before the ride and almost didn't go, but I am so glad I did. Sky and I had a good ride, and we got one more inch of trust built up between us - after all it is just as much about her trusting me not to lead her into danger, as it is me trusting her to believe me that I won't lead her into danger. She went down roads she had never been, and saw scary rocks that looked like trolls, and heard waterfalls that sounded like oceans and walked over bridges that made strange echo sounds that sounded like cannons. And through it all, she responded to me, and carried me home safely, where a flock of sheep stood on a hill, and a man worked in a field, and two goats greeted us as we neared the barn.