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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Old lady and sassy lad arrive

They arrived late yesterday afternoon, just in time to experience their first evening call from Boone. While the chaos of the world continues and always will, the fact that two strangers offered to drive two needy goats to Apifera, a five and a half hour trip, is something to smile about. They asked for nothing in return, and I'm afraid the apple pie I made as a token of my appreciation was not my best, but it was warm.

We got Wilbur out of the crate first, and I noticed his scur [horn] area was bloody. I had failed to understand that he had recently had a stray scur cauterized while he was at New Moon Farm and Goat Rescue , and even though I assumed it was related to a scur and not serious, I treated it with some iodine just to make sure. Unfortunately, I didn't use my syringe, and Wilbur's lovely face is now a bit of a mess. Many apologies were presented to him, and by this morning, he seemed happy to see me.

Granny has missing front teeth, and what teeth she has are wobbly and crooked. Her tongue sticks out most of the time and she drools a bit. She is very gentle and loving, very friendly. Compared to Old Guinias, and Gertie and Georgie who came before her, she seems like a spring chicken...oh excuse me, I promised the hens I would not use that term.....what I meant was that she seems spry for her old age.

This morning Wilbur wandered the barnyard examining things, not very interested in me. But when he heard the donkeys bray, he came running for my side. It was quite charming, and from that moment on, I became his safe spot. As usual, Frankie is not the best welcoming committee, but Old Man Guinnias has been a gentleman.

Today's activities will be Barnyard Bonding, which will continue through the week. I have the hens in charge of barn tours. Cookies will be served at breakfast and dinner, as well as post nap time.

I want to thank everyone who donated for the adoption fees. You can still sign on to be a goat sponsor to help pay for feed, hay and miscellaneous meds.

Friday, January 28, 2011

One old granny, sassy lad included

It's official, Apifera is bringing home two more rescued goats from New Moon Farm/Goat Rescue!

As some may remember, we had intended to adopt old Forrest with Granny. Forest was found abandoned in the forest, in bad shape, but New Moon took him in and was getting him into shape. Sadly, he was found dead in his stall a couple weeks into rehab, all curled up with Granny.

Now Wilbur, well, look at that face. We are told he's 'fat and sassy', and I decided that it might be nice to have a young 'un in the old pygmy clatch. We deal with a lot of death around here, and having a young one to cause trouble seemed like a fun idea. After all, Frankie is around 8 or 9, so she's almost a senior too.

A kind person has volunteered to pick up the goats and deliver them to Apifera. [Brays, hoof stomps]. She will be rewarded with pie, goat slop kisses and gas, Apifera lavender and some pocket change. I've raised a little over half of the adoption fee. Feel free to donate, or not. Either way, we're bringing home some goats!

I shall wait to tell Old Man Guinnias on the day of the big arrival.

Help Old Goats

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old man with purpose

To keep Old Man Guinnias feeling like he is contributing to the farm, I have named him  Nightly Sheep Checkman.

So far, he's taken this role very seriously. Okay, it's only been 3 days, but it's important for old men to feel like they are doing something really important.

"Guinnias, what's the count tonight?" I asked.

"Sixteen," the old goat said with authority.

A small yearling ewe ran passed him.

"I stand corrected. Make that seventeen," Old Guinnias said.

"Any trouble you need to note tonight, Guin?" I asked.

"Slight limp on Daisy, appears to be muscle related."

"I'll check that out, good work, Guin. Thank you."

"Welcome," he said. And he hobbled back to his stall, knowing his nightly cookie was coming soon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

We lose Emily, but the donkey gives me weeds

There are some graphic wordings to follow. It's part of life here; if you are a novice shepherd though, you might learn from it.

I buried a sheep today. It was unexpected and shocking. As the vet and I prepared for the necropsy, I saw the donkeys over his shoulder, and Pino was holding a weed in his mouth, as if he was presenting it to me. The fact he then ate it made it no less of an expression of love in my mind.

Her name was Emily Wigley. She would have been one in a month. Fortunately she was not pregnant, as I never breed my pre-yearlings. I named her after a friend of friend, as she just wiggled a lot, and had freckles. Emily just seemed like a name for a freckled face.

I learned so much from the vet's post mortem inspection. The facts were right there in front of me. Nothing would have saved her. We performed the necropsy immediately after her death, out on the compost heap, with Boone looking over his fence, and Frankie standing nearby observing, like a med student.

If you had told me 8 years ago I'd be watching my vet examining my sheep's lungs for pneumonia or cutting open her intestine or liver to discover other death signs, I would have not believed you. But answers are important to moving on after an animal or loved one dies. We want to know, "Why?" As I tended to Emily this morning while she lay in stall, obviously dying, descending into the "death spiral" as my vet calls it, I felt frustrated not knowing exactly what it was. I knew her time was limited, the vet was on the way, and that she was most likely going to be dead soon. Could it be bloat- no, her left side was not that hard. Pneumonia seemed unlikely, but, well, maybe, I thought. I left her for about 20 minutes to go to the house, came back out, and she was gone. I held her head and said my goodbyes, and I asked, "Why?"

As farmers, or people, we often don't get answers we so crave. I was so thankful to get an answer. Her small intestine had an abscess, and when we cut it open, there was massive infection. It could have been a thorn that festered, it could have been a type of worm that overloaded her. We did some tests and the worm load was zip [I felt good about that]. It is not genetic either, a relief. In fact, it was a rare thing to have happen.

Cutting an animal up is a very real experience. It doesn't get much more real than that. I learned I might have saved her if I had known about it maybe a week ago. But we never would have known, how could we? Sometimes, you lose some. I was told that my first year of shepherding. My vet said it again today, with compassion.

I love all things about the farm. If I hated death, how could I love life? One never embraces death, I guess, unless you're struggling to die.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Falling in with sheep

While I never stop admiring my flock, it is about this time of year, without fail, that I get all sheep conscious. Perhaps it is the spring like weather that flirts with us on these rare January evenings, with a much missed sunset escorting shepherd and flock back to the barn. Or maybe it is the anticipation of lambing, only 6 weeks away, that make my admiration levels for these creatures triple. Their hair coats this time of year are so touchable, curly and soft in ringlets, like a rag sheep puppet one might have had in the 50's, with real hair and not made in China.

I know there was a time when I saw sheep in a field as a child, and admired them, the way they looked like spots on a graceful roll of a hill. I suspect that was just one of the many moments that soaked into my skin long ago, and led me to where I am today. Long live the open eyes and heart of the child. And may all shepherds near and far have healthy lambs this season, and mother ewes full of milk and stamina.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More old goats for the old goat

1/22/11: A sad update: The old goat we had already opened our hearts to, died sometime in the night soon after we posted this. New Moon is heart broken, so are we, but we all know he died snuggled up to Granny, warm, and not alone. He was just tired, I think, and was ready to go and knew he was in a safe place. We still plan to adopt Granny, and hopefully maybe one more. Granny needs a week or so to get out of quarntine since she was being treating for lice. SO stay tuned. And we have one pron who thinks she can make the volunteer delivery for us!. Forest, rest in peace sweet man.

Now, I haven't told Old Man Guinnias, and only one chicken knows- because chickens really have a hard time keeping secrets. That's a whole 'nother post. But to keep Guinny healthy in mind and heart we will be adopting 2 more old goats from New Moon Farm Goat Rescue .
Update: thank you to Lisa and Ophelia for volunteering to drive the goats to Apifera!

As some of you know, Apifera recently lost two of our senior goat friends, Gertie and Georgie to old age. Gertie and Georgie were also adopted from New Moon, as was Guinnias, and now that I've had some time to lick my heart strings, I knew there was only one right thing to do. All animal loss takes its toll, and some really leave a visible dent. One has to take time to remember the one who was lost, giving the heart time to beat slower and then fill up with those memories, remembering it still has room for more love. There is always room for more love.

So two more short statured goats will come to Apifera and partake in afternoon cookie gatherings.

The goat seen here is currently named Forest, since he was found wandering in a national forest in Northern Washington state this winter. Noone came to claim him, and New Moon brought him to their rescue [bleats, hoof stomps, cud burping]. This fine gentleman was pretty rough, with a badly torn lip - a possible dog attack- lice, foot rot, very thin and not much zip. While his teeth seem to be that of about an 8+ year old, he appears much older and his age is unclear.

Granny [below] has no middle front teeth, so her tongue sticks out. Her feet are in bad shape from lack of care. So I'll have to work on that over time.

They will come here and live forever and ever , or until they melt into the sky. Georgie and Gertie were only with us 1+ years, but it was a year I can't imagine having had without them. While the older creatures might leave us sooner, they are the ones that have gone before us, done their time, and they need our care and comfort. We can all find ways to help one old creature, be it hoofed, winged or people toed, to live out their life knowing someone cares, is there for them always, and will be there to hold their hand or hoof when they are called by the wind.

You can sponsor the adopted old animals of Apifera if you like, at various gift levels.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Donkey ears now on Huffington Post

I have my first blog entry,"Inspired by Donkey Ears [and Why It Matters]", online at Huffington Post.

I'll be writing there a couple times a month. Posts will focus on art and observing, translating emotions into stories, talking mice and what ever else I am moved by. You know I'll write about puppets, donkeys and old goats as much as I can tie it into the subject.

I hope my posts there will continue to inspire people to look around there own daily world, and see the richness of subjects and characters. And of course, I hope it helps bring more people to this blog and my world of Apifera.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"She's back..."

Big Tony ponders my return...

"They have returned. The number of days that have passed do not matter, I do not live by the calendar as they do. I assume they will be back to sleeping in my bed again, so today I have squished myself into Itty Bitty Etta's basket, to prepare myself for tonight's sleeping arrangement. I am fond of them, especially the strong handed one with stubble on his face. He and I share a love for fire side rocking, good fish and warm blankets."

Monday, January 10, 2011

No passwords

Goin' down to my river to talk to the fish, 

then I'll be to sitting with my donkeys in our secret place way up high 

where no electricity can find us and no one knows the code.

We'll be refreshed come next week.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Conversation with fog

Dedicated to those who work enthusiastically in their daily lives to make a difference for those who might not have a voice, even if it means putting themselves in the line of fire. Hate never trumps love.

"Where have you been?" I asked the fog.

"Up on the hills, with the sky."

"What were doing?" I asked.

"Nothing," it replied.

"Will you wrap yourself around me?" I asked.

"Certainly...shall I cover your head too, or just be like a blanket?" the fog asked me.

"Head too. Like a cave, I need you to be my cave today, at least for an hour," I explained.

The donkeys came over too.

And then I was warm under her white, weightless cloth.

"Thank you, Fog." I said.

"You're welcome, I'm going down to the river now, to cover the fish."

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Togther again: we lose Gertie

While this is a sad time, it is full of hope and possibility. A leaf falls and is eaten by worms, a father dies and his heart returns in memories and dreams, and an old goat dies and helps nourish the pumpkins. She whispers, "Go on, help someone else, you did your best with me."

Gertie has died.

I laid her to rest in the pumpkin patch next to her life time companion, Georgie, who died ten days ago. >

Gertie had fallen a couple weeks ago, and I knew her elderly days were numbered. I thought I was losing her then, but got her to rebound, and all this past two weeks, she was up and eating grass, getting around. But this past week, it was getting harder and harder for her to get up, and finally one morning, she didn't, and I found her struggling on her side. I knew it was her day to die. I've seen enough now to know it. I propped her up in a small corner she liked, and wrapped her in a horse blanket, then some hay to cover her since it was very cold. I surrounded her with two intact hay bales so she wouldn't be able to roll on her side. And then I waited. Three hours into the day, I felt it was best to euthanize her, since I knew it would be about 12 hours before she'd finally succumb to the inevitable- the rumen was unable to clear itself properly, the fluid was building up in her lungs, the heart and other organs were stressed, and eventually, she'd suffocate from fluid. It took Georgie 12 hours to die. I didn't want Gertie to go through it.

But all three of my vets, all at different clinics I use, were unavailable. I didn't want to put her through a bumpy drive into town. I checked her every hour, each time she was weakening, but still able to rally when I arrived, to make one sad, painful bleat- she was uncomfortable to say the least. By 4 pm, I simply asked the skies to take her, please, "You're going to take her anyway, let her go now." But the skies had their way.

I remembered the horse blanket I had in the barn, brand new, gifted for Giacomo, and never had the chance to use it with him. But for a 30 degree day in the barn, it was what I needed. Gertie was plenty warm from her hay and blanket, but the horse blanket kept us both warm together. I lay with her, literally, waiting, telling her stories, talking about how wonderful it was to have had her with us, and told her it would be okay soon. I was doing my best, I told her.

By 6pm, I felt her go somewhat unconscious, not responding to stimuli, but still breathing. I was freezing and went in to warm myself and have dinner. I returned around 8 pm, thinking she'd be unconscious and somewhat out of discomfort. But when Martyn and I entered the stall, she rose her head, and let out one last call, muffled in fluid. It was horrible. Foam was coming out her mouth. She was close to death, drowning. I cried, cried! "I'm so sorry! " and as she let her head fall into my one hand, I put my head to hers, and I gently covered her nostrils. She was dead in 30 seconds.

It was the hardest thing I ever did. It was the most profound thing I ever did. I felt very raw for hours, into the night. Just last week I talked to my equine vet about learning better ways to put an animal out of misery in emergency situations on the farm when a vet is unavailable. We ruled out guns. Overdoses are risky. There are few options left.

I did my best, little Gertie. She knows it. My only regret is I should have acted sooner. Even though I was with her, she suffered so much. What a soldier she was!

Oddly, a friend had come to visit the day after Georgie died two weeks ago and brought me two heart rocks for Giacomo's grave. She had no idea Georgie had died that day. So I told her I'd place one at Giacomo's and one on Georgie's grave. How prophetic it was she arrive with two heart stones instead of one, I told her. I hadn't had time to place the rocks, but when Gertie died, I realized they were met for these two little ladies, old, worn down and crippled, but very loving right to the last moments.

This morning, Old Man Guinnias switched places, and went to sleep in the corner that Gertie had died in.

Come Spring, I plan to adopt more seniors from New Moon Goat Rescuewhere Guinnias, Gertie and Georgie were from. To everyone who have sent animal crackers and donations in the past years to the Old Goats of Apifera, there will be more to come.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


Moments from a walk, months or maybe years ago, slept - or worked - within me only to present themselves later when I had paints in my hand. I don't know where those moments go after they are presented. Perhaps it's their one shining moment of being out in the world, or perhaps they just come and go in different visual forms.