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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shepherdly relevations

I used to kiss that guy on the left. And so began my education about sheep...and testosterone...and why a sheep is a sheep, and not a pet.

People see the beautiful faces of the new lambs, many of them, ram lambs, and they see only that moment. Those tiny faces turn into 300# hunks of testosterone with testicles the size of small butternut squash. We started our flock with two ewes, and Joe Pye Weed, the fine gentleman on the left. He was 3 months old and he sired 4 lambs that fall.

I write short stories about my creatures and I merge their real personalities into story, often embellished for my humor, and to make a better story. I remain true to their personalities that only I know well, since I interact with them daily. But I do make them stories.

Rams are creatures with three things on their agenda - eat, procreate and stay alive by maintaining a hierarchy system that keeps them safe, and at the top of the herd. If there are two rams, or three in our case, in one pasture, there is a clear communication between the animals about who has bedded the most ewes, who should bed the most ewes, and who is in charge of banging the shepherd if she comes too close to the ewes during bedding season.

As charming as these faces are in these pictures, these two fellows are not leaning on one another in friendship. They are in fact, jockeying for the best position to show the very female shepherdess which one of them is in charge, and worthy of their attention. Chickweed is out of the picture for a reason, he doesn't bother to try to climb up the ladder at this point.

I have been writing this blog for over five years, and it started as a genuine document for myself, of our experiences on what was then our new farm. It is still a genuine, heartfelt account of what happens here, and what I feel, fear, and love here. It is an account of not only my triumphs, but failures as caretaker to so many creatures.

The blog shows snippets of this life. It carefully edits posts, and pictures are culled from many choices of the day. The din of ATV's in the nearby coast range, the fact I yelled at the dog right before sitting down to write, the fact I look like an aging rag- a-muffin and not at all like a romantic version of me I paint - none of that is shown here.

I feel like I have two lives. The one I think people think I'm living, and the one I live. I have a wonderful life. But it's just like yours - life, death, aging parents, dead parents, bruised knees, thickening middle, imperfect word choice when I'm angry, impatience leading to exhaustion, fear, of being found out for the real me. You just don't see that in these faces, do you?

Would you stop reading if you knew how imperfect I was? If you heard me speak in real life,would my voice not sound at all like you thought it was going to, and it somehow ruined the picture you had of this place?

I think in many ways, I've learned more about myself, and the order of nature from raising livestock than any other thing in my life. I see so many people start small farms and they can't separate their love of animals from the way an animal is instinctively born to act. I work at this every day. A ram is a ram. It starts out all small and cute, but within weeks, it is mounting other lambs. And someday, it is 300#. It is on the same mission each day, and it isn't to sit by and be your friend, but nor is it to be your enemy. But it has to allowed to be seen for what it is, not a romantic notion of what it is. That is one of the best lessons Joe Pye has taught me.