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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Apifera says goodbye to a founding father

The following is a somewhat over dramatic post about a 52 year old woman and a 5 year old ram.

Joe Pye Weed, father to many, lover to many, has left Apifera. It's a bittersweet reality for me, but I know as a shepherd and caretaker to the creatures here, it is for the best. He is now living on a huge working ranch in Idaho, where he will have a flock of ladies all to himself. He has much work to do in his coming year, and I know they will treat him well. The new owner was kind enough to send me a picture of Joe in his new field, and while it put a lump in my throat, it made me happy. The new owner also has an old pug, so he must have a good heart.

Loading an animal into a trailer is never really pleasant. While the procedure went just fine, it was the moment when the squeeze gate shut, and Joe looked at me and bleated. The human-mother in me heard him say, "What, you're sending me away, what did I do? Get me out of here, please!" The shepherd in me heard him say, "This isn't my normal place, I feel trapped, please get me go back to my pasture."

This back and forth internal monologue of mother-human versus shepherd have been going on some time now when it comes to my relationship with Joe. He was our first ram, brought onto the farm at 3 months with Rosie and Daisy, and the the three of them built our flock. He provided us with beautiful ewes, lots of color, and other fine rams like Pokeweed, and Chickweed who still resides here with Mr. T. But when we lost Rosie and Coral and other ewes were sent to other farms to keep the flock at a workable number for me, it became clear that Joe could only be bred to so many ewes now due to genetics, and there is no reason a small flock like ours needs three rams. It made it difficult at breeding time and really wasn't ideal, for anyone. Lots of head bagging when you get three testosterone laden guys in one field, as the lovely scent of randy ewes wisps through the air overhead.

So, when a man approached me abut buying a mature, proven registered ram, it seemed like the universe was just helping me out, knowing I needed the perfect fitting place in order to let go. He went to an experienced farmer/shepherd, and he will do the job he was born to due, in the sun, on grass, surrounded by lady friends. He will do them proud, and Apifera too.

But Joe, I will miss your face, and the ripples it acquired with age, and I'll miss saying, " Joe Joe!" in the morning. Thanks for all the creatures you've given us, and for the nourishment some of those creatures have put on our tables. As the new owner climbed into his truck and we said our goodbyes, something came up about it being Memorial Day, and that he was a vet. I told him my dad was too, and as he started to drive off, I saluted him, and kept saluting. So dramatic, yes? But it seemed fitting. Somehow that darn ram's leaving had a lot of symbolism for me.

Now I didn't cry or anything. A farmer always cries in the barn, alone, with animals or hay, that's what I decided when I moved here. I did chores, and then visited the donkeys, gave them some hay even though they didn't need any. I held Pino around his waist, with my head on his back. He stopped eating, while Lucia and Paco munched away. He knew. I shed a few tears while holding him while he stood quietly waiting for me to finish, and then I got on with the day.

And Pino brayed as I left the barn.