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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The thread of order

One moves to the farm for the first time and makes many mistakes - especially animal lovers like me who have waited years, decades, to get that first farm and fill it up with animals. It is easy to have things grow into complete chaos - even when the new farmers are well intentioned and compassionate people. I've seen it happen, and I've certainly made many errors in judgement, but fortuantely, as I continued to learn, and watch others and learn from their successes and failures, I've managed to maintain a peaceful barnyard, and a healthy one [knock on wood].

I learned the first year that those cute little ram lambs grow into large testicled beings with one job - to breed. If they aren't breeding, it is not wise to have them. We also quickly learned the value of cross-fencing. I think cross pastures have kept our animals healthy and have given me more options on a daily basis for animal management. We are slowly increasing our fenced pastures. It is expensive, and if I had money, I'd do it all at once. But we chip away at it - just this weekend we added another 1/2 acre to the existing area where we put our meat lambs when they've reached that 'I can jump on you missy and make a baby' stage. I know I live on a farm because the one thing I notice most when I drive anywhere out here is...fencing. Good fencing makes me drool with envy. Bad fencing makes me feel like running up to the farm's front door, and say, 'It's ok, I know you're doing your best...want to come over and have some pie?"

I sometimes feel like I am doing everything 'not as good as I should be', - or maybe another way to say it is, I sometimes feel like, "Phew, I did everything well enough today so that no one died, including me." It's a constant learning curve, and a constant shuffling of creatures to keep a nice balance. We had thought about growing our flock up to 50, we have the land, but after getting some lambing seasons under my belt, I feel like the number we have is a good balance for now. And we can't afford the cross fencing right now.The main flock of 10 grows up to 20 with lambing, and then I whittle it down to 10 or so again by fall through sheep sales and butcher dates. Any more sheep and I think I would be doing everyone a disservice - me, my art, the sheep, my husband, and all the other animals I love to spend time with. I know that my mistakes can adversely affect these creatures. Perhaps there is a special place in the after world for farmers to go and meet up with the creatures they have mistakenly damaged, just to apologize again. For when a farmer hurts an animal without intending too, a little needle becomes wedged in his heart - it doesn't feel good.

When I'm in the barnyard, I can breathe in and relax that in that very moment there is a thread of order keeping it from chaos. I've learned many things - like the language of many animals. This picture is a visual representation of how Paco says, "Excuse me, please, could you stop what you are doing immediately and rub that one spot on my rear end that feels so good? I'd really appreciate it."