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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

For his little witch

Enter the Dirt Farmer, stage left.

"I made you a little something for you..." he said sincerely.

I turned to find him standing with a broom he had just created while working in the barn. He made it from a piece of bamboo, and old de-budded lavender stalks.

Some women might be offended if their husband presented them with a broom as a gift, especially on Halloween. But I was delighted to have such a finely crafted vehicle to ride about tonight. I shall use it to fly up to the upper 10, and look down upon the old barn and fields from a new perspective.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Morning Chat with Pino

Find a seat

Paco's serious smile

Thank you to Jan Harris for letting me use these pictures from her recent visit to Apifera.

Each donkey has a unique expression. Paco rarely cracks a laughing smile, like his barnyard mate Lucia. Nor does he talk as much as Pino, the local spokesperson. But to me his sort-of smile says, "I'm trying really hard not to worry so much."

We love our Paco and some might be surprised he is so wonderful at Pie Days. But he loves attention and like any grumpy character, there is often a wounded little creature lurking inside.Perhaps this is why he is such a hit at Pie Days - the wounded hearted ones connect with him. And who doesn't have a bit of a wounded heart?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Comin' and goin'

[Pictures were taken by Jan Harris on her recent visit to Apifera. She has graciously allowed me to post some of the many photos she took that day. Thank you, Jan.]

I put my mother on the plane today. We left about 10 hours before the plane was scheduled to depart, even though it only took us 1.5 hours to get to the airport. I didn't bother suggesting we leave, say, 4 hours before the flight left, because at some point a daughter just understands her mother will always leave 10 hours before the flight takes off.

The plane was delayed 3 hours. So I guess she had lots of extra time to contemplate if the pilots might fly past Minneapolis.

Anyway, I think these pictures capture how I feel. Going in two directions. Rushing. Fussing. I've decided artists should hire hostess companies to come into their homes when their mothers are here. It would really be better for everybody, especially the mother. I rarely cook anymore since Martyn is the resident chef, and likes to cook. Actually, he also likes to feel full after a meal, and I'm pretty happy with a bowl of pickled beets sprinkled with feta and a drizzle of sesame oil. But I went into this attempt to cook. I burned a lot of things. Made some really tough bread. Made a bad crust that tainted my apple pie with Apifera's first good apple crop - although my kind in-laws ate it with abandon and praised it.

"You need to focus when you cook," my mother kept reminding me.

"I am focusing...on Stella and Iris, who just jumped the fence and are eating the plum tree again."

I drank extra wine after everyone was in bed. My head was thinking about projects. I missed my projects. I talked a lot in whispers to my puppets, and Huck. The One Eyed Pug can't hear whispers.

I just like to work. I like to use my head, mixed with my heart, for at least 8-12 hours a day. Talking about dead relatives, or dying relatives, or relatives I don't know - and their children- just gets me anxious.

My mother graciously treated us to a dinner out at a local French restaurant. I wore a dress. My legs felt funny out of my dirt farmer attire. It seemed nice being waited on and not having to get up from the couch for a second glass of wine. But it really dawned on me I was really, truly eating out when I realized there was no gas emanating from my feet- that is there was no gas coming out of the 90 pound lab at my feet. Sigh, it made me think of him, how much he'd enjoy this little bistro.

As lovely as it was to visit with my mother, I think I failed horribly as a daughter these past two weeks. I kept slipping out to the studio, where I was once again "me-artist-farmer-wife-goat rescuer-horse rider-do-er-dog lover-mediocre cook-pie baker- self enterter- half loner-writer - rogue daughter- person who paints the name 'Neil' on her jeans."

Keep on rockin' in your own world.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Old ladies land

"Why's everyone looking at us?"

"That old gent looks like a keeper..."

"Hmmm, possibly. But the other one looks a little pushy."

The old girls are home. I loaded the two-foot 84 year old girl into the truck, with the Dirt Farmer, and we headed to Milepost 140 on Hwy 5 to meet up with Ellen for the big goat hand off. As we drove into the busy rest stop to seek out Ellen's white car, there were two hobbling old goats [not Ellen, the goats], so we found them immediately.

I am so pleased we took these two in, and also so glad Ellen was able to take them in 6 months ago from the former owners. Obviously, their care had fallen off. A little arthritis is to be expected in a senior goat, especially a Pygmy, but these two are very crippled from lack of foot care. It's tragic. Ellen did her best to help their feet and we will continue, along with the compound to alleviate some of the arthritis.

But when I saw them hobble, I mean hobble, my heart hurt. The 3 hour trip back [which would have been 2 hours longer if Ellen hadn't so generously met us at the rest stop]

"Hey, Frankie, they sort of look like us."

was hard on the old ladies [all three], but we made it. We took the goats out of the truck and they immediately sought out the warm sun. Hobbled over to a perfect spot, and lay down.

I will take a movie of them soon. For now, they are acclimating, and I must say, their personalities are sweet as pie. They have been together their entire lives, are 10 and 14, so when one moves, the other one moves. They came with the names Pepper and Muffin, but we took a barnyard vote and agreed they will go through the Transformation Ceremony this week to accept their new names of Georgie and Aunt Gertie. Much like a woman leaving her husband, an old goat often requires a fresh name change after starting a new journey.

Old goat landing

"Why's everyone looking at us?"

"That old gent looks like a keeper..."

"Hmmm, possibly. But the other one looks a little pushy."

The old girls are home. I loaded the two-foot 84 year old girl into the truck, with the Dirt Farmer, and we headed to Milepost 140 on Hwy 5 to meet up with Ellen for the big goat hand off. As we drove into the busy rest stop to seek out Ellen's white car, there were two hobbling old goats [not Ellen, the goats], so we found them immediately.

I am so pleased we took these two in, and also so glad Ellen was able to take them in 6 months ago from the former owners. Obviously, their care had fallen off. A little arthritis is to be expected in a senior goat, especially a Pygmy, but these two are very crippled from lack of foot care. It's tragic. Ellen did her best to help their feet and we will continue, along with the compound to alleviate some of the arthritis.

But when I saw them hobble, I mean hobble, my heart hurt. The 3 hour trip back [which would have been 2 hours longer if Ellen hadn't so generously met us at the rest stop]

"Hey, Frankie, they sort of look like us."

was hard on the old ladies [all three], but we made it. We took the goats out of the truck and they immediately sought out the warm sun. Hobbled over to a perfect spot, and lay down.

I will take a movie of them soon. For now, they are acclimating, and I must say, their personalities are sweet as pie. They have been together their entire lives, are 10 and 14, so when one moves, the other one moves. They came with the names Pepper and Muffin, but we took a barnyard vote and agreed they will go through the Transformation Ceremony this week to accept their new names of Georgie and Aunt Gertie. Much like a woman leaving her husband, an old goat often requires a fresh name change after starting a new journey.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hey hey it's the monkeys

You asked for them, and I have delivered- more monkey pillows!

If you can't have a monkey, and trust me, I've tried, then these creations are the next best thing. And they are stuffed with our lavender so smell a bit sweeter than a monkey. There is a light blue floating monkeyfloating monkey, the classic red monkey fabric, and a banana riding monkey

If you plan on doing holiday shopping, best to order early so they can be put into my schedule.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Clean underpants syndrome

And what mothers and daughters can learn from chickens and sheep...

My mother is visiting for two weeks from Minneapolis. Having your grown mother [or "ripened" as she now calls herself] in your own grown house is nice...but crowded. I know most of you know what I mean - no matter if you're the visiting mother, or the hostess daughter. No matter what the mother-daughter relationship might be, someone's wings always feel a bit clipped. I feel a bit like a little hen that went off to the woods, discovered a forest all on my own where my eggs came out gold, and I rush back to the hen house to tell everyone of my discovery, which I found all on my own. But my mother hen shows up and say, "Oh that's nice, dear. Do you have any cream? And can we turn the heat up."

Am I complaining? No. Do I love my mother? Yes. Did I have a nice, wonderful child hood? Absolutely. I kept salamanders in my bed, wore red rubber boots at all costs, and hummed alot. But I was always snorting around in the woods, creating my own worlds, where I could think on my own. Preparing for my eventual golden egg journey. There were a lot of "You're so emotional" comments. Or, "You're just too sensitive for your own good." After a time of hearing such comments, a little creature can only believe "Hmmm, they're right, I am. I must be a freak or they wouldn't keep bringing it up." I was unable to comprehend at that young age how that same emotion would someday make my eggs so golden.

My mother came out at breakfast time yesterday, announcing there were so many spiders in her guest bathroom, so she killed them all. Of course she thought this was what any proper guest would do.

"What?! Not the Daddy Long Legs! They were a family!" I said.

"But you killed that spider on the couch last night!" my mother exclaimed.

"I didn't know him, and he wasn't a Guinevere spider."

"What is a Guinevere spider?" my mother asked.

"All the Daddy Long Legs, no matter what sex, are Guineveres. All those flat brown bugs are Ernies..."

"So what are the big giant brown spiders named, like the one on the couch you killed?" my mother asked.

"Like I said, I don't know him, or his name."

"But you killed him." she said.

"I know, and it was an overreaction on my part to his natural spider need to climb under the blanket."

Eyes roll from both females.

Human mothers seem to come in all sorts of ability levels, but the chicken mothers always seem to have a good system of teaching the basics: stay under my wing until you can fly, water keeps you alive, lay an egg but don't get to attached to the outcome, and for heaven's sakes "If you see a camera, make sure you have on clean underpants."

As I did barn chores this morning , I thought of our head ewe Rosie, our first sheep who tragically died last spring. When Rosie came to our farm she came with her daughter Daisy, who is still with us. Daisy spent every day of her life with her mother. When Rosie died, I thought Daisy might take over as head ewe, now that she had seniority in the flock. But she didn't. Always in the confidant shadow of Rosie, she never learned to be a head ewe, she didn't need to be, or didn't have space to be.

So mothers, when you visit your grown daughters who have now become head ewes, with shelves lined with golden eggs, best to just stand to the side a bit. This way you can admire your creation, and have a good vantage point if you see a head butt coming your way.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Old goat sponsorships

If you can't keep a senior rescue goat on your balcony, you can sponsor Guinnias and his two new lady friends here at Apifera. Here is the breakdown of what it costs to care for three senior pygmy goats each month. Note that we do not consider Frankie part of this sponsorship and she is paid for like all our other animals, out of our own pockets.

Grain mixture at 1/2 pound per goat a day [more if thin] $10; 2 bales of hay for $8; pine shavings/pellets for clean, dry stall $10; mineral and arthritis supplements $5; wormer and shots given 2x a year $2.

Sponsor/gift levels can be found here >

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Old goat collaborations

Remember a few days ago when I put out a plea for the lovely elderly goat ladies from New Moon Farm Goat Rescue needing a home? Well, someone came through!
Her name is Katherine Dunn...um, oh, that would be me!

Quit laughing. I suppose some of you just rolled your eyes and thought, "How long is it going to take her to pull a Lucy Ricardo on the Dirt Farmer and get
those old goats in the barn?"...Ellen at New Moon is so happy, and that alone makes me happy. I feel like I'm really making a difference, and she and I both know how hard it is to place senior animals. And she has so many to care for, and more arrive all the time.

I was torn at first, as bringing new creatures on creates a dynamic shift. But with each of our shifts, new and wonderful things have come into our lives. Still, I decided this was not just my decision, I need to get the blessing of the head man...Guinnias. Why bother the house-head-man with this decision. Besides, in my Lucy Ricardo head, I figured the Dirt Farmer might not even notice the extra dwarf creatures lying about, especially since one looks a bit like Frankie.

"Guinnias, really, what do you think?"
"Will I still get animal crackers in the morning?"
"What about my daily back rub?"
"Of course, one a day at least."
"Where are these ladies going to sleep?"
"With you, Guinnias! What elderly gentleman at any care facility wouldn't welcome one, but two fine ladies into his boudoir?"
"Hmmmm....Are they wormed properly?"
"Yes, all wormed."
" Well...I guess it might be okay..."
"I know it will, Guinnias," I said as I started his daily back rub.
Just then, Frankie busted in.
"Hey, for the record, I'm not giving up one drop of food for these old girls." and she scurry-waddled back to the hay area.
"Heavens, " said Guinnias, "So self absorbed..."

Stay tuned....I will be posting soon about $10 and $30 Goat Sponsorships, giving a line item of what it costs to care for these little senior creatures. Sponsors will receive an Apifera gift, which I'll explain then.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Queen of the stars

I just finished this pet memorial for a wonderful creature named Penny. Penny was a rescue dog, and her owner already had three dogs when she came upon her in a shelter. She was not looking to take another pet home, and Penny's card attached to her cage said she was bad with kids, dogs, and cats. She left the shelter, but could not stop thinking about Penny's eyes. A day later, she adopted her.

And what a life they had together. Of all her dogs, Penny seemed to be the soul mate, and together they had a ritual of sitting under the stars, making wishes. I felt Penny was royal now, a real Queen of the Stars. As I painted, a beautiful cloak fit for a Queen seemed to come forth from nowhere.

What was even nicer than spending time with Penny in the painting, was the reaction of her long time companion and owner, who said, "..... it is MAGICAL....I have tears in my eyes right now because I so much miss sitting outside with her and wishing on the stars... It is perfect...I just LOVE IT!! Thank you so much....captured her perfectly!!! You are the best....Thanks Katherine....truly it is perfect!! That face is so Penny!!!

I will take triple ! when they come. Truly loved the outcome of this one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overheard in barnyard

"They said it was very old." said Frankie.

"It was in a tin can?" asked one of the Janes.

"Yes, all rusty." said Frankie.

"Fascinating. I'd heard of such things, but now we know it is true."

Visit Tails & Tales, the short story site of artist/Katherine Dunn and find out what they're talking about.

Survival Tip #3

Paco will be posting his annual hunting survival tips through October.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Iris catches a quiet moment on her favorite dust mound, taking in the final dry days of Oregon's fall.

Friday, October 09, 2009

From an old tin can...


As the white petals fall

and the brown scorched


beneath my feet turn green


I stop, look towards the hills

and breathe in dead leaves

But the creek can be heard

running once again

from night time drinks of snow

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pino's Life Tips #1

Pino cares about water and the earth. He fertilizes the latter, and is very conservative with the former. He'll be sharing his life tips right here on Tails & Tales so stay tuned.
This image is now available as a digital 8.5 x 11" print. $25.50 includes US s/h.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Okay, really, the winner is....

Yes, the winner is....
Deborah Weber from Chicago! Chomp, chomp, chomp...

That's just Guinnias eating the rest of the entry slips up...

I do want to mention that Deborah in many ways is a well deserved winner - not only because she has donated to Guinnias, but also Tony's tooth emergency, and Samuelle's medical needs and Donkey Dreams and more. What else is special is Deborah works as a healer and how appropriate is it that a healer win the raffle here.

"You're not going to say everyone comes out a winner in this, are you?" said a gruff vice over my shoulder.

"Frankie, please, let me finish this..."

"Because everyone isn't a winner in this, most of them are losers, except that one Deborah person." Frankie continued.

"Yes, yes, Frankie, they lost, she won. But they helped Guinnias, so they feel good. They don't need a prize to justify the help they gave us..." I said firmly.

"Hrumph. If you get to the food dish first, you're a winner, get their last, you're a loser. Much better to be a winner," and with that she waddled off.

Now that she's gone...I want to thank you all again. I work with these creatures out of love and a calling to help them. It is on a small scale compared to many, but when emergencies arise like this, it helps to be helped. I know many of you can't have goats and donkeys and such, so it's nice for you to live though the farm this way, and feel like you are helping. And you are.

Ladies in waiting

In which the young ewes find out the truth that all ladies do at some point in their life...and Frankie gives her views on child rearing.
"Who did you get this year?" the large white ewe asked the other. The two sheep were the oldest and most experienced of the flock, and were lounging in the morning sun, waiting for the hay bar to open.

"I usually get Joe, " said Daisy, the smaller, but older of the two ewes. She was a beautiful coco color, with a white cap on her head, which she had successfully passed on to each of her offspring in the last 6 years.

"Hmmm. Well, I guess it doesn't matter if it's Joe or Mr. T, it's all the same in the end," answered Lilly, the large white ewe. She was the only all white ewe of the flock, except for a couple tiny black spots, which on first glance always looked like dirt. She did however produce freckled youth, a delight for all, including the shepherdess and dirt farmer that lived up in the Big House.

The rest of the flock had gathered around them now, as they rarely spent more than two minutes at a time spread out too far, even in a confined area such as the back paddock. Safety was in numbers, especially when the numbers were squished together in a tight circle. Terrorists were less apt to break through, or at least less lambs would die if they did.

A lovely young ewe, a face like nobility, walked up to Lilly and Daisy. Due to her gazelle like legs and long neck, she was named Audrey, after the the actress Audrey Hepburn.

"What's it like?" Audrey asked Daisy and Lilly, somewhat ashamed of her question. She spoke in a whisper, but loud enough that several of the young ewes overheard, and squished even closer together to hear the answer.

"Is it true it goes on and on for days, without a break even at night?" the pre-pubescent Rosalita asked, wide eyed.

"I heard if you stand up while you're doing it, you'll have a boy, but if you face West while you do it, you'll have a girl," chipped in a big, strong white ewe with spotted face and stockings named Betty.

"And if you jump rope the day after it will be twins!" exclaimed her twin sister Bessie.

A shy young ewe named Fern slowly raised her hoof. No one really noticed, until finally Daisy saw her. "Yes, Fern, what is your question?" she asked, like only a mother could, for Daisy was Fern's mother.

"Does it hurt?" Fern asked.

All the ewes gathered in close to hear Daisy's answer. A pin could drop.

"Well, it's not really pleasant..." Daisy said, searching for more words. "It feels like...a..." she paused.

Lilly chimed in, "It feels like someone put a slimy carrot in your magic place, that's what it feels like!"

All the young ewes covered there eyes, and made sounds of girly dissatisfaction. In other words, a giant "EEEE-WWWWWWW" went out from the flock.

Daisy continued with a motherly voice of reason. She was after all the oldest of the flock now. It was not an honor she had seen coming, as she had always looked up to her mother as the flock leader as had the whole flock, and the people in the Big House. Daisy had come to this farm at age one along with her mother, Rosie. Together with Joe Pye Weed, they had created the building blocks of the Apifera flock. Each year, they loyally produced twins, healthy twins. And their offspring produced twins. They kept the fields healthy, and did everything that was asked of them. They provided food for those who asked for it. But Rosie died tragically, along with her daughter, Coral Bell, in the long two week Spring of Death in '09. Along with the two mothers, six children lost their battle in the womb to exist.

Daisy had never really gotten over that loss. She had carried on gallantly, without complaint, as she had two strong boys to feed while her mother lay dying. She had come into the world with her mother, and it was only right she could be with her the day she died. The whole flock was there, nursing baby lambs, sniffing Rosie and Coral from time to time, as if to say, "We're all ere with you."

So it was 6 months later, the first breeding season since the loss of Rosie, and Daisy felt she needed to be the voice of calm, just as her mother Rosie would have been. "It is just part of our lives. It does us no harm, it creates life, like all of you, and you will go on and create more life, " Daisy said. The flock stood wide eyed, and peered at each other as if for the first time they realized there was a point in the world when they did not exist. "You must never let the act itself get the best of you - you must look at it as a way to create more wonderful mothers."

"Well, now that's putting a good spin on a disgusting situation!" chimed in a gruff little voice. It was Frankie, the pygmy goat, who had wondered over hoping their might be pre-breeding ration scattered about.

"Frankie, don't scare them now, please!" said Daisy.

"If I were you girls, I'd walk right up to those smelly louts over there and just tell them straight out, "Look, big guy, you aren't getting any of my magic, no siree. Cross this line and I'll take my sawed off horns and do some scouting in your magic, know what I'm sayin', boys?"

"Girls, pay little Frankie no mind. She's just cranky because she can't have her own babies." Daisy said calmly to the flock of wide eyed girls.

"Oh paleeeeze!" said Frankie. "Who needs babies? Don't need to go through that every spring, no Ma'am thank you Stan. Child rearing is over rated. One can have purpose without having children."

Everyone looked at Olive Oil, who was beaming.

"Yes, like being Head of the Young Ewes in Waiting!" Olive Oil said proudly. Every one knew that Olive Oil, due to her size, would never be bred, and the shepherd had found the perfect job for the friendly little ewe.

"That's right, little Olive. Your role here is very important." Daisy said as she covered herself in a blanket to warm her non wool body.

A light breeze blew over them, and with it came a very strong, musty odor. Some of the young ewes started giggling, some flapped their tails back and forth. Some became quiet and shy.

"Oh brother, I'm out of here," said Frankie as she waddled off. "Hormones only lead to liaisons that can't be terminated in a timely fashion," Frankie grumbled under her breath.

The strong odor was originating about 20 feet away at a fence line, where the three rams stood, steam rising above their heavy coats.

The youngest of the ladies began more giggling at the site of the boys.

"Oh, I hope I get Chickweed again, He was a real gentleman." said Blue, a recent mother of two.

"And he made me!" said Betty, her daughter.

"And me!" said Bessie, her other daughter.

"It's not up to us who we get, "said Lilly,"The plan comes down from the Big House."

Joe Pye stood up on his two hind legs, facing the ladies directly. He paced back and forth, breathing heavily, sticking his chest out, licking his lips, dribbling goo from mouth and slimy carrot area.

"Ewwweee==eeeewwww!!!" all the young ewes squealed.

"Girls! Just ignore him. Go eat grass!" said Daisy. And the flock dispersed, even Lilly.

But Daisy stayed behind. She was caught in an autumnal moment , when the smell of the dried leaves mixed with damp air made an adult reminisce about younger days, like sitting with her mother, chewing cud, too young to recognize that things end at some stage. She wandered up to the fence line where the boys were.

"Hello Chickweed, Hello Mr. T, " Daisy said politely.

"Good day, Daisy, you're looking well, " said Mr. T. Chickweed gave her a sniff through the fence. Since they were related, they were kind and reverential to each other. Understanding that Joe and Daisy had a certain bond, Mr. T and Chickweed walked away, leaving them alone together.

Daisy and Joe stood quietly, a fence in between them. Sniffing scents in the air, and then gently sniffing each other's ears, Daisy said in a quiet, near whisper,

"I miss her, Joe."

The two stole a secret, tender kiss, like a little peck one gives a child who just cut his finger.

"I miss her too." Joe replied.

--The End--

Barnyard meeting mystery: Part One

Cameras are not allowed at these meetings. It's difficult to take notes and sketch too, but I did my best.

I was just about to do barn chores yesterday morning, when I heard a faint, not familiar knock at the door. I say unfamiliar as it didn't sound like a hand knocking, it had more of a 'click-click-click' sound to it, not human. "A cat?" I thought to myself. When I peered out the door's window, I saw no one. Then I looked downward, and there was the pygmy body of Frankie. She peered up, and very matter of factly announced,"Barnyard meeting. Starts in 5 flies." [A 'fly" is a system of timing for the animals. It took me awhile to figure it out, but basically one "fly" takes about 2 minutes to fly around a body, land, fly, land again before it creates enough annoyance as to cause the animal to swat or tail swap, so 5 flies is about 10 minutes.]

She waddled off in a hurry. Frankie took her role in barnyard meetings very seriously. She was in charge of gathering the barnyard on time, but also made sure the meeting's minutes were properly communicated to me, since I of course am the only one who can type and translate the stories to the outside world. In that way, we are like our own little mini publishing empire.

As I gathered my pencil and paper and made my way to the barn, there was much activity. But not the casual morning greetings I usually heard. It was a bit more like a breaking news story, and reporters were rushing to get a good position for questions. The hens were always in a flutter when such meetings were called...they chirped their opinions, fears, concerns and annoyances as they waddle-rushed to the meeting.

"Cluck, what's it about?" asked Vivienne the red hen.
"I hope it's not about water issues again.." worried Henny Penny.
"Cluck, no, something about Pino." Gracie chipped in.
"Bok, Bok!!!" all the young hens screeched.
"Pino? I just saw him yesterday, in the upper bramble, he looked fine." said Chicken Named Dog calmly, never one to worry.

With that, the older hens found there place at the meeting area, which in summer months was held by the back of the old barn. This allowed privacy from any Two Foot cars on the road 1/2 mile down the hill. There was a strict seating code at these meetings. The chickens stayed in a flock, with Papa Roo and his chosen hens at his side, then all hens fell behind them. This was the first barnyard meeting for the now 4 month old hens, so their excitement was noticeable. Since they had not been named yet, they were treated kindly, but were not allowed to speak at the meeting. This had to be earned through one year of egg laying. Old Guinnias was the first one there, since he left early to get there being so old and slow. He was given a seat right next to me, and the Speaker of the Barnyard, Boone. This helped Guinnias hear of course, plus it was the honorable thing to do. The flock of sheep gathered, and huddled in a tight group, with Daisy at the lead. They had left a small spot within the area they now stood huddled in, and on that small spot was a sprig of rosemary. This touched me, as it was the first barnyard meeting since the passing of our beloved head ewe, Rosie, and it was their quiet way to honor her. The rams stood in the distance, listening, and the many cats of Apifera all took to their preferred perching areas. Huck and Billy sat at my side. The only ones missing from the meeting were Big Tony and Mama, who were always given a choice to attend or not. Finally, Stella and Iris came from the pasture, and directly behind them walked Paco and Lucia. But Pino was nowhere to be seen.

As everyone settled, Frankie scuttered about, understanding it was now time. She jumped up on a bucket, so all could see her short statured pygmy goat body, and she declared, "Madames and Meisseurs, ladies, weeds and bambinos, and to the one mouse attending,may I present, the Speaker of the Barnyard!" We all stood up and applauded, and made as many respectful noises as possible. From the distant shadows of the old barn, Boone strode in, looking so dignified. He had his meeting attire on, which he had mimicked from watching reruns of "12 Angry Men". He took to the Speaker podium, and clomped his hoof on a rickety wood stand three times.

"The meeting will come to order! Silence!" Boone declared.

A hush grew over the barnyard crowd. A kernel of corn could have dropped and not one animal would have rushed to eat it, so great was the suspense of what this meeting was about.

"Fellow Apiferinianites, we are gathered here today to discuss a serious infraction on this barnyard. And that infraction was made on us..." he paused, hardly able to speak the final words.."that infraction was made by Pino."

And a collective gasp came over all of us.

Stay tuned for part 2....

--To Be Continued--

Bradshaw Speaks

In which we learn exactly why Mr. Bradshaw left...and returned.

"So, was it bigger than here?"

"No, much smaller, and closer together...It smelled different, like...bacon."

"Bacon...oh, bacon...there's never bacon here, that would be a good reason to stay there, I guess."

Frankie the pygmy was reposed, as was Mr. Bradshaw, conversing about his recent Walk Away. He had taken off on his own and had been residing alone, unbeknownst to anyone, in a pump house on a property up the way.

Mr. Bradshaw had arrived at Apifera as a young bully cat, about a year into the dirt farmers showing up.He had heard about the cat coverage there, and his accommodations up the way were not that desirable, but that's a whole 'nother story. So he made his way to Apifera, like many before him. And he had been living there without any fanfare for over 3 years. Well, there was that one incident, when he was trapped by one of the dirt farmers and held captive for 2 days, only to wake to a woozy feeling in his crotch area. He refers to it as 'the day my rear berries shriveled'...but he eventually held no grudges for it, for he found his mood was more relaxed, and he was less uppidity around felines of the girly variety.

"I just don't understand why you did a Walk Away..." Frankie continued.

Bradshaw was not the most wordy of the tribe, but when directly asked a question, he would answer. This was the exact opposite of many of the first tribe members, such as Angustifolia, aka Gus, who was known to mull over questions for days before providing brief two or three word answers.

"Well, I just felt I had to see what was there." said Bradshaw.
The two sat quietly, Frankie chewing cud and Bradshaw occasionally lifting a front paw to glean it. "It gave me perspective..." he went on.

"Perspective? We sit up high on this hill, I can see the coast range beginning from over there, and I can see if it's raining up Mt. Richmond over there...The moon's over there, and the sun starts over there. What more perspective could you need?" Frankie asked.

"But have you ever looked at our farm from a mile up? " he asked, pointing to hills a mile up.

"No, I never leave my barnyard." she answered. "What did you see that I don't know about already?" she asked.

"Well, at sunrise, Boone looks really ruby red, but he looks small. And the rust on the barn blends nicely with his color. And the sheep move in combinations and leave trail of dew, like a ball of string on the open fields. There's land up behind the barn dotted in yellow spots, it's very soothing. From up there, Frankie, you can see an overview of the river, and it all seems connected to the pastures that are connected to our barnyard. The fence lines look like veins and the whole farm feels like it heaves up, and down, like a beating heart."

Much silence followed between the two. Frankie finally spoke.
"So why did you come back, especially if it smelled like bacon?" Frankie asked.

"Bacon's a temporary gratification. The view of our farm from up above was only missing one thing. Me. So I came back to my place in it."

The two continued to sit on in the same spot, even though the conversation had reached it's natural end. Bradshaw had gone into a Cat Awake Asleep state, and Frankie continued to chew her cud...only she was pretending it was bacon.
--The End--

The Story of Mama Kitty

One of my many ongoing projects is compiling stories from Apifera to be pitched to publishers as a collection. It's A combination of fiction and non-fiction, illustration and photography, whim and tears. Here is a story from Chapter One, The Cats of Apifera.

Mama Kitty...in which we are introduced to the first cat of Apifera.

She had no name, and had never had a name, but as she saw it there was no use for one.
Her age was most likely hundreds of days, but she had lost track, as there were more important things at hand, like survival. She had begun life in a burnt out truck, cohabiting with mice and rats, until she had to kill them all for food.She was not mean spirited, but she chose instinctively to eat, versus not eat. At the time she was heavy with kits, and often ate double her normal meal, when she could find it.

The clan who owned the truck, or who trashed the truck and left it to rot into perfectly fine soil, had recently brought home two new dogs. Though they were small spaniels, they were nothing short of a nuisance. She could have wiped their eyes out had she chosen, but why waste energy, and like I said, she was not mean spirited. So she took her overloaded belly and moved to the farm up the hill. The former occupants had left months ago, and the place still sat empty, so she knew there was no danger of dogs, or being shot.

She had only been there a few days when the moving van pulled up to the old farm and a man and a woman emerged and began unloading things into the Big House. She viewed them from a safe distance in her preferred perch in the old barn and watched for insights to the couple’s essence. A slight move of the woman’s hand indicated she was happy, maybe even excited; a laugh from the man showed he was not in a state of mind to provoke her.She sensed enough to feel comfortable staying in the barn for the night, because she was very close to having her litter.

Within days, she did have her litter, five healthy kittens. One was very red with Tabby markings,two boys had soft blondish red fur like her own calico markings, one girl was a dusty, mottled mix of calico and tabby. The final kitten to be born was also the teeniest, so tiny, like a little mole with a long tail. The mother kept the runt close at hand, giving her as much chance as she could to survive.

The woman of the Big House had spotted her brood as they had taken to playing in the sun.She cooed and made sensitive remarks to them, and she also began putting food out on hay bales.While mother ate, the kittens romped. While she still did not let the woman touch her, within weeks she allowed her kittens to be held.

She went on to create a small dynasty on the farm. So cunning a cat was she, that it took the woman two years to trap her. While she flailed and fought the trap, she found herself free two days later, back in her barn surrounded by her many children. She never had children again, which was quite a relief to her.

The woman had a habit of naming any creature on the farm, and even though all her little kittens had unique names, she had been crowned ‘Mama Kitty’. Years earlier, she would have scoffed at this, but now tired after years of nurturing, she rather liked the name, and felt a bit nourished herself.. As time went on,she left the old barn to reside on white wicker on the front porch of the Big House. She remains quite a stoic cat to this date, but every so often, one sees her playing with one of her sons, just like a kitten.

To this day,she has never allowed the woman to hold her, preferring the touch of her own kind.

---The End---

The story of Stella and Iris

The sun rose like it did everyday, but today being Wednesday, it was just a teeny bit earlier than yesterday. So noted Stella, the largest of the two Boer goats sitting on a wooden pallet, surrounded in mud with the heads of new grasses peaking out.

"Gate is shut", she thought to herself. Then she focused her attention inward, while she chewed her morning cud, listening to the sound of it, and tasting the after effects of the hay she ate earlier. Up the way, she heard new spring arrivals singing frantically, like an orchestra tuning up."Birds," she thought. "Young."

"They need worms," said Iris, Stella's pasture companion. Stella and Iris had been together since birth, though they were not sisters. Born of the same father but different mothers, they shared some of the same genes, but like many mixed families, the two were very unique. Stella was clearly the leader, the 'send her in" gal, the one who led without trepidation. She was calmer, more stoic, and more friendly on a consistent basis. Stella was the 'thinker' of the two. Iris, her full name being Wild Iris, was just that. She had an expression to her lips that made you think she was smiling, but just as you warmed to the smile, it turned to a grin, and then a laugh. She was voted "Most like a monkey" by her human caretaker, an honor Iris was very proud of. This honor was bestowed on her due to her ability to climb anything, and swing from trees by holding onto small branches with her teeth. And if Stella was the 'thinker", Iris was the "doer".

Stella and Iris had been together a long time now, over 5 years, and they were like many seasoned couples. They could communicate with glances and finish thoughts for one another. They could entertain each other one day, and require a little 'me time' the next. They led a fair and balanced life, and had landed on a farm that provided all the necessities of a good goat life- shelter, water in a bucket freshened daily, and natural shade areas from the large Savannah Oaks on the hill. More importantly, they had a purpose in life, to clear bramble, and this made their souls strong and effervescent to all who met them. Since their homecoming to the farm, they had cleared acres of blackberry bushes, poison oak, thistle, and scotch broom, all for free room and board. They took this job seriously, and except for their sun naps that happened precisely two times a day, they worked vigorously.

"Why is the gate shut?" asked Iris.

"She's trying to fix our fences up the way."
Iris giggled. "I like her, I really do, but why does she continue to try to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down again? Have the myths taught her nothing?"

Stella answered respectfully, "Yes, yes, I know. But in her mind, it's her job. She thinks fences will create specific boundaries for us. Like the way they have walls and doors in the Big House. She yearns for order."

"Order?" Iris said with a flipness. "The randomness of nature is order. Humans fret so about order, and in so doing only create more chaos, like that clear-cut up the way."

Stella added, "I heard her mumbling to chickens yesterday. When she mumbles, she usually sets out to try to create more order."

"Well, we'll just play along like we usually do, it helps her out I guess. She means well." Iris said, her soft side showing.

So the two goats sat unencumbered, enjoying the morning sun, and the lack of breeze, since the temperature was a perfect 55 degrees, and there were still no flies or gnats to pester them. They chewed cud, and did not speak, but stared off into the blue skies, deep in their own thoughts which I'll keep private.

An hour or so later, whose keeping track, the woman came and opened their gate. She spoke in her nice-nice way, but tinged with a bit of anxiety. "OK, now look you two, try to stay INSIDE the fence, please? I don't want you on the outside, I want you on the INSIDE." And she started back to the Big House. "I really mean it this time!" she yelled back as she was walked away.

"Yes, yes, INSIDE. We get it!" said Stella, as she stood up, stretched, and let out some oral gas.

"Right-oh, captain. We're on it." Iris yelled to her.

The two headed out to do their usual loop, a path they had created over many years. It might not make sense to the untrained observer, but they started in the bottom wet area, since new grass heads felt tender and warm in the late morning, like a baby spinach salad. They walked the fence line, observing all the tidy little changes the woman had made to their many escape hatches.

Iris giggled all the way up the fence line. "I love it when she uses old hay bale twine, it's so festive looking."

Stella agreed. "She missed this spot.And that one. Oh, there's another."

"Stella, I'm getting that monkey feeling again." said Iris, who already had elegantly squeezed her body under the fence, going through one hot wire without flinching.

As Iris swung from the oak branches on the outside of the fence, Stella waited on the inside, reflecting on the situation in it's entirety. "I really should stay INSIDE the fence. There is nothing wrong with INSIDE. But there is the OUTSIDE, right over there. And I see nothing wrong with OUTSIDE. Inside-outside, outside-inside - they are one,are they not."

And over the fence she went.

--The End--

Dress Rehearsal

In which the stunning event mentioned in the last post is revealed to my readers. Proceed with an open mind, or don't go in at all....

The music was so beautiful, a cross between blue grass and traditional Italian waltzes. I had no idea Angustifolia played guitar, and certainly not at this level. We could hear the variety of hooves and feet stomping to the beat, and amazingly, even little chicken feet resonated. A dance stage had been rigged up, made of various pallets that always can be found in old barns. Martyn was speechless, as was I, but I soon found my grounding. I have lived long enough, on earth and this farm, to know it is best, when presented with magical events, to soak it up calmly.

We huddled together in the dark shadows for some time, waiting for an intermission of the beautiful melodies being played by the cat - bird band. As soon as the song was over, I approached my animals. Usually, I am told, when a two footer comes upon any animal standing upright, the animal will immediately go down on all fours, so as not to ruin the secret standing skill they all possess. But I was amazed that they all continued to stand upright while I approached. I was honored.

Boone came to me, and like in a dream, his horse voice was laced with human words. "We are having a dress rehearsal," he said matter of factly. "so we can be properly prepared for the real event." Just then I noticed Frankie scurry out. "Would you like some swill?" she said, as she handed me a glass of a very foul smelling beverage. "Highly volatile, but good for celebrations of monumental magnitude," she said. I never knew my pygmy had such a big vocabulary. Old Guinnias limped by with a cane, headed for the pie table, and looked so gentlemanly in his attire.

I called Pino over, as I knew I would get to the basic facts faster with him, even if he spoke slowly and deliberately. "Pino, where did you get that tux?"
"It's my grandfather's." The things a farmer never knows, unless told.

Pino went on to explain the situation. "The Big Eared Day is happening on Tuesday. Like small children, we were encouraged not to attend. But we want to celebrate properly, and the magnitude of the event requires our dress rehearsal tonight."

"I see," I said calmly. And then Angustifolia tapped his foot, and the music began again. Martyn joined me now, and we sat together on a hay bale that the creatures had dragged out. We spoke not a word, but took it all in. Pino danced with his mother, Gabriella - I have no idea how she got to our farm unattended, as she lives 2 miles up the range. She looked lovely, painted toes and lips. The ewes did not partake in dance, but I could tell they really enjoyed the festivities, and they giggled like young lasses with dance cards. Perhaps one of the sweetest sights was watching the hens dance around the one eyed pug, who is night blind, and sat on a red cushion enjoying the vibrations of the music and dance, and the smell of fresh pie. We both had a sip of Frankie's drink concoction, and secretly poured it out behind our backs, but Guinnias licked it up. Later I saw him do a twirl with Prairie Pussytoes.

Even descendants of Lord Jimmy came out, attired in red velvet, which I was told is the wardrobe mice preserve for highly optimistic events.

Frankie was the only one not dressed in farm black tie. This did not surprise me, but I did notice she had painted her toes for the occasion.

I felt so odd, but in a good way. What will I do with this information, I thought to myself. Can I share it, or is this an evening no one should know about but us, and the creatures at hand? Has the magic of this farm gone too far in my head and heart? Am I completely blurred into a reality that does not exist, except to me? Sensing my brain overload, Martyn took my hand and we started back to the house. I told Boone to make sure the noise level was kept reasonable, and asked Huck to make sure he guided the One Eyed Pug back to the house.

As we left, Pino walked up from behind me, and tapped me on the back. "May I have this dance?" he asked. I am not sure why, but a tear came to my eye.
I rested my head on his shoulder, and we did the basic box step, very slowly. He whispered in my ear, "Isn't it all wonderful?"
--The End--

Milk Rain

Tonight, at a little donkey's ass before midnight, the Ghosts of Fallen Cows will put on their annual "Milk Rain" show in the old barn.

As I've mentioned, our farm used to be a dairy, so there are many brave souls buried here. It is said, and I have never dared find out, that if one spends the night in the old barn on October 31st, that milk will begin dripping from all crevices. I've been told it is a gentle haunting, and as one of the ewes said, "Milk is a mother cure for many ills, so the cows are just commending us in their own way."

I decided this year to make a little costume for Frankie the pygmy. She is so often teased for her appearance, that I decided a peacock outfit would be appropriate - elegant, beautiful, but still bold. But on my first round of measurements, Frankie balked. "I require no costume, or mask. I will go to the "Milk Rain" au naturel. Let the ewes gussy up. It's just not my style."

Somewhat disappointed, I relented. I did get to see Boone preparing - it was sweet, he had decided to get down on all four knees, and go as Pino. Pino did his usual feather headdress and went as Black Elk, as he admired the wisdom of his writings. Rosie went as a ram so she could ram into Joe Pye all night, and Joe Pye Weed went as a daisy, because he thinks being named after a weed doesn't show his sensitive side. Lucia was a flopped ear rabbit, and I saw her struggling with the hay twine to get her ears just right. Paco had carved out a hay bale and wore it like a suit- he said he was a cat bed. Hmmmm.

I took great pictures, but mysteriously - cue the music - all of them had a milky white gauze on them. Except this one of Frankie.

--The End--

Lord Jimmy lives on

As I explained to my readers back in September the giant pumpkins were created by a mouse lord from long ago. The mouse Lord, named Jimmy, bred the giant pumpkins for geodesic home domes for his colony of mice, of which there were thousands. Mice workers would tunnel in and carve out the giant orb, creating a perfect winter home for a large family of rodents. Mice prefer round objects to anything with sharp angles, allowing them to pile together in a natural ball form. It was even thought that Lord Jimmy had lived out his final years in the Pacific Northwest.

At least this is the story I had heard from someone, or something, some time ago. And it's the story I told Paco back in September, to give him a sense of purpose in his Giant Pumpkin Guard Duties.

Well, I have been warning Paco that the time of releasing the Giant Pumpkins to their true purpose is nearing. I had anticipated that the Jimmy clan would wait until we had deeper frosts, so I was completely unprepared to come out to the pumpkin patch at the end of the day to find the obvious work of the Jimmy clans-mice. I had done barn chores at 8 am and the pumpkins were all fine. I put the donkeys out in the front fields as usual, leaving the pumpkins in the care of Ward the rooster. In all fairness to Ward, his gimpy leg has been bothering him again, and I'm afraid his pumpkin watch duties might have been a bit slack. When I returned to the barnyard at dusk, I was shocked.

I could see the giant pumpkins in the distance, and their deep orange exteriors had been skinned. I found a small mouse, dead, lying next to the giant orbs, and I gasped, "They've been here!". I then found several of the giant orbs with neatly carved out front doors, perfect for a mouse clan to shimmy in and hunker down for winter months. When one got hungry, one needed to just nibble on the wall of the pumpkin room.

I was amazed at that speed of the mice clan, that they could work this fast in 8 hours. I could see Paco in the distant field, and I knew he would require soothing over his giant pumpkin loss. Fortunately, I had grown some of the giant orbs behind a fence, to keep for our pleasure, and had placed a small sign on the fence stating "Not for mouse houses, please". I was grateful the Jimmy clan had followed my request, and left those pumpkins virginal. As I went to gather the donkeys, the five young yearling ewes I have separated out from the breeding ewes came a running. They did not run to their nightly stall, nor to me, but gathered around the giant orbs and bleated. They then began to neatly skim the giant orbs, while I stood watching."Audrey! Honey! Olive Oil! You, you did all this - not mice..." I was sort of disappointed. The fable of Lord Jimmy was just that, a fable, and I had believed it. What a fool I am. I walked away to do feedings. "Wait..." came a small, faint, tiny voice. I turned, and I kid you not, I saw a mouse run out of one of those pumpkins.

Do the Lord Jimmy mice really exist? Do they speak? Am I making all this up? Perhaps the Lord Jimmy clan had heard of Apifera, perhaps they knew there were sheep here. Being rodents, they opportunistically took advantage of a breed of animal with razor sharp grinding teeth [if you have never witnessed the sharpness of sheep teeth, they are flat and sharp like a razor, not to be messed with]. This was perfectly plausible to me. The mice were simply working within the system. And now, they have a wonderful village for winter.

Martyn has threatened to move the Lord Jimmy Village to the burn pile, or worse, cut it up into edible size pieces for all the sheep. This of course will not happen. You see, when I did bring the donkeys in that night from the field, I told Paco his Pumpkin Guard Duties had now evolved into more of a Home Security Duty for the mice sub development. As usual, Paco showed no excitement, he simply had a quick drink of water, and took his patrol position like a pro.

Back in my studio, it was almost dark and I looked out towards the barn and could see the faint glimpse of Paco's ear tips. And tiny little reading lights within those giant pumpkin houses.

--The End--

Secret of the Giant One

In which Billy Baker the one eyed pug shares a secret of his breed, knowing the audience of this blog is open to the many mysteries of the universe, or at least not judgmental.

As a young pup I knew my daily life was unique, as I could see much more like a fly. While I was often ridiculed by even the best of friends, I just got used to the stupid comments. People are much worse than the creatures with what they think are humorous pokes at my facial look. "Did you run into a wall?", they'd asked, in that baby talk voice they use on their own fledglings. I got so tired of it. At some point, I just couldn't stand it, and I took to passing gas, silently of course, if they told a joke about my face.

I lived just fine for many years with my over weight eyeballs, until one day, while living in the presence of the chocolate lab named after a pie, I was partaking in a good game of 'run around the tree really fast". As usual, I was slower, but since I am much smaller, was able to trip the big chocolate fellow up. This unfortunately caused him to fall, and I don't know if it was his toe, or a stick, or grass, that grazed my bald eyeball. But whatever it was, my eyeball fell ill, and did not improve. The Two Footers squeezed cool liquids and medicines into my aching orb, but one day later, my eyeball felt so heavy and so strange like it was swirling outside my head. When blood squirted out after one medicine was applied, the Two Footer rushed me into the Medicine Keeper in town.

They shot giant streams of light into my aching eyeball. I knew already what this meant. Our breed is forewarned even before we are born, in dreams and embryonic classes, on what life is often like with our bulging eyeballs. We know that there are many obstacles to our eyes. And we are raised to appreciate every day with out having something run into our eyeballs.

So by the tones of the Two Footer, and all the kisses I was getting, I knew my eyeball was moving onto the Great Place to live amongst stars and other magnificent orbs. This did not worry me. I knew my eyeball would be returning to where it originated, to the Giant One in the night sky. The Two Footers call it a moon, and they say it orchestrates tides of the ocean. The Giant One sends off little eyeballs to all the earthly mother pugs precisely at the time the mother pug gives birth. We pugs don't bother to tell the Two Footers that our eyeballs are born from their moon, because we know they would scoff at it. But I am sharing it here with you, in case you live with a pug, so you can be more respectful of 'full moon' nights. We pugs call it "Giant One Calling" night. For once a month, on the full moon, all pugs instinctively gravitate to the garden, or window seat, and sit amongst the loving shinings of the moon. And for those pugs who have lost an eye, they look up at pride to the night sky, knowing their eyeball is now with the Giant One. It will be nourished by starlight, and in time, it will return to another mother pug, and placed in a young pup to once again see earthly delights.

--The End--