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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Help bring another elder, crippled goat to Apifera

Please consider making a small donation to help offset expenses to bring home our new Misfit. There are reward levels for those interested.

When I saw this story I immediately knew I had to take on one of these elders. And we'll be making the 12 hour drive to pick up this crippled little fellow. I asked Martyn if he might be p for a drive, not telling him to where, and he said "Sure". Even after telling him it was the familiar 12 hour round trip north to get an old goat, he didn't bat an eye. Sainthood must be next.

I immediately liked the name, Ezra, and looked up the meaning. I felt a lump in my throat. Of Hebrew orgin, the name means "help". It was like he was reaching out all along, and was finally heard. It's also the name of the poet, Ezra Pound, and you all know we already have a poet in our midst, so I think having another is a worthy addition.

Ezra is over ten. He was part of a small herd of Pygmies that were relinquished to New Moon Goat Farm Rescue up in Washington {this will be the 15th goat we have taken from them!} . The entire herd of elders was very malnourished, lice ridden, on their knees from foot issues, and most are arthritic and crippled from the neglect. When New Moon was called to take the goats, she went immediately, but two were laying dead in the paddocks, malnourished. She got the herd of six remaining goats to her farm, and I had my mind made up to take the worse off goat, but he died within the week. But as Ellen said, he died in a warm barn, being cared for–she and I have often discussed how a goat like this can get to a place they feel comfortable and safe, and they let go. This is a gift for them and it is part of taking these old ones on-you know they might not make it, but you also know you are helping give them a safe place, to either let go, or thrive for some more months or years. So I hope we get him in time to help nourish him-no matter what, we'll do our best for him.

Ezra is said to be a sweet tempered little fellow, very arthritic and crippled, but gets around okay. I thought he might be a good pal for Scooby Keith. It is very cold out and will continue to be cold until next week-but it is dry. I've seen it repeatedly where a malnourished elder arrives, it turns cold, and they don't have much resistance–sometimes they don't come out of it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A new workshop at Apifera!

I am beyond thrilled. I don't know what that word would be-"beyond thrilled"- but it is what I am. I have been mulling over workshop ides and have finally set the date for the first 2015 session!

It will be Saturday, June 27th from 9-5. I have an early bird special going on through January 10, so snap it up if you can. The fee is all inclusive [materials and lunch]. You can read all the details at the Workshop site, and also get an idea for accommodations as many of you will be looking at this as a great way to come to Oregon, and maybe explore the ocean after the Workshop.

This workshop is for artists of all levels, and non-artists. While there will be two separate painting sessions lasting most of the morning and day, there will be sessions with the many Misfits of the farm. You can read all about the agenda over at the Workshop blog.

Who is this workshop for?
Artists of all levels and non artists. No painting experience necessary. But painters are encouraged to think of it as a way of opening up to different levels and symbols that can enhance their current work.
Adults only.

This day will be perfect for anyone looking for internal answers, or someone who needs a nudge to go a bit deeper into themselves in a unique way. It will also be well suited for anyone who has suffered a loss, or is grieving, or trying to move on from a 'stuck' point. Or, it might be wonderful for an established artist to come open up under the sky of the farm, animals on the side. The painting sessions will be done in one of the barns, and it will be a supportive and encouraging environment. There is no "Oh, but I can't draw" going one here. We will work abstractly in the beginning, using colors and shapes to help us emote feelings, mysteries, fears, hopes and story onto pine board, with paint. We will explore our own personal symbols-that might already be popping into your life-and use them to dig deeper to share our own stories. The second session will evolve the painting into more of a story, with the abstract work as a base. This is how I have been working for years and it allows surprises all the way, keeping the work real, fresh and soulful.

But we also touch the old goats, commune with donkeys and soak in the farm. My hope is that you leave with a sense of hope, inspiration, and farm energy resonating in your heart forever.

I believe art is a catalyst that can translate our personal stories into color, prompting healing, joy and change in ourselves, but also to those on the receiving end. I also have witnessed how being amongst animals helps the hard surface of any stranger grow softer, and singes a second of joy in the heart of even the saddest person. The Misfits will be out and about, some will surely pop in while we work.Who knows, the pig might even show up.

Visit the Workshop site to read more.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Scooby Keih makes love

Scooby Keith has made love to The Head Troll. I know, because I witnessed it, twice. I say "make love" because of any copulation I've witnessed here, which have been plenty, I must say it was a very gentlemanly encounter.

Scooby Keith is elderly, adopted from Sanctuary One with Aldo the Elder. Scooby had been neglected badly prior to joining Sanctuary One, and when he arrived here he was thin and not the healthiest chap due to that past neglect. He has always been a loner. I kept him down in the lower Misfit village, along with Aldo the llama for his first months here with us. But he was prone to go lie in the cold rain, away from the pack, even though he had ample room in shelter. He just seemed to prefer being alone. But at one point last winter, I knew he didn't feel well, and I started giving him a regime of vitamin shots and such, but he wasn't eating well at all. I talked to the vet and she said I was doing the best for him, but we opted to dose some penicillin too in case it was lung related. It took a few weeks before I took a breath.

He pulled out of it, but never has been a fast or strong eater.

So this winter, I decided to bring him up to the goat barn. I let him stay in the hay barn one night and he liked it. He hasn't left, except for sunny days, which are few and far between here in winter. In the last couple months he has put on a bit of weight, and is eating better. He also seems very content in his hay barn. The only other Misfit allowed in there is The Head Troll, as well as Marcella. Old Man Guinnias used to come in with me every morning. And once and awhile Goose gets in behind me, bringing Moose, then Earnest, and Wilbur and Eleanor and who knows what else and its pure chaos-shepherdess yelling commands and goats leaping here and there hoping Earnest will knock over a feed bin-which he would if allowed even 30 seconds on his own.

But Scooby is perfectly well behaved-leaving the cat food alone and never upending buckets of locked grain.

I thought I'd leave him in a week or so, but he really likes it. His personality has blossomed a bit. He's always been friendly, but with me over the animals. Maybe he was someones main goat. I think he likes the one-on-one he can have with me, and the Head Troll. They even eat side by side. Unheard of!!

So, Scooby had sex and I'm glad. An old guy needs love in any way it comes. Touch is important to healing.

And this is yet another example how care taking these creatures often means watching for small signs of happiness from them-or contentment. Just the small change of moving into another area seemed to make him very comfortable. I'm sure he'll be back in the lower Village come late spring, but for now, i am thoroughly enjoying our one-on-one daily encounters.

Say it with me now- "W love us some Scooby Keith!"

{If you want to help sponsor Scooby and other Misfits, you can do so at reward levels here.}

Saturday, December 27, 2014

So you want to own pigs...

I love pigs. I have learned a lot about piglets in the past few months. They are cute. They are active. They scream. They remind me of rats. They do things in packs-including surrounding your feet while you try to walk with feed buckets screaming the entire time. Their noses are as powerful as an adult.

I'm not sure I'm cut out for pigletting. We shall see. I can't see a life without one or two, especially my dear Earnest, or Eleanor. I love Earnest as much as the sunset. Earnest is charming, low key and besides having the capacity to take down a couple gates when I'm doing morning and nightly feedings, he has posed no trouble. He lets me sit on him and hold him. Eleanor is a real talker, a non stop talker. She has warmed up a lot since I started keeping her in main barnyard. She was not as social as Earnest for some reason, but she is a sweet girl. But man, don't try to get a word in edgewise with that pig!

The part of pigletting [again, I'm aware this is not a word, but it is my word, much more interesting than farrowing, I think] that I find the most difficult, and worrisome in the long run, is what they have the capability to do to the land. If you travel out in the country and see a farm with a few pigs in even a large area/pen, it will most likely be eaten down, and muddy depending on the time of year. I had imagined letting my pigs graze all the time, but if I want to keep certain fields intact, I can't do this. The pigs are rooting a lot.

Note to all pig-owner-wannabes: I don't care what some people say, but pigs root. There is this myth amongst certain KuneKune breeders, and Guinea Hog people [not all, just some] that they don't root.


Depending on the time of year, they do root, and some seem more prone to it than others-something my friend and Berkshire pig raiser agrees with. In spring, they just love going for worms and grubs. If there is lots of ample grass-good grass with nutrition, they don't root as much. But put them in a low cropped field in winter and they will root something. My two Guinea sows like to root where the llama poops. This is good and bad. Good because the llama poops in one spot generally, and it covers about 5' of space. It's always in the middle of the field, far form compost areas, so the pigs have rooted and turned the soil for me. Along with the roots, of course. We've been meaning to reseed that pasture anyway.

Another myth is that Guinea Hogs don't need supplemental food. Big myth. If you live in a climate that always has fresh forage, with nutrition in it- great, no supplement. Especially if you aren't breeding. These guys can get fat fast and that's not good. But they need supplemental food. The Guinea Hog was the old backyard pig before producers started breeding pigs to be bigger and longer, then people started buying food from large farms, then large factories. So the original Guinea Hogs, that almost went extinct, were back yard scrappers.

I didn't breed sheep this year because I wanted to see what raising the piglets was like, and how it effects my cross pasturing. I'm glad I did that. The piglets have a huge dry area but now in the day they run in Boone's paddock. They will defiantly rid it of dog fennel, which is good, as nobody eats it and Boone's pasture is the last to still have it. Boone gets along fine with them, so far.

Piglets are cute. People see the photos and ooh and ah. But like any livestock, there is a lot of work they don't consider. I have spent so many hours, most weekends, fixing fences, securing better boards at the bottom of fences to keep pigs in, creating dry areas for feeding that they don't destroy with their noses. You turn around and something changes-it's just part of farming. I can not imagine having a huge pig operation-it would take some special fencing.

Now, I'm not trying to poo-poo [sorry for the pun] pig breeding, or ownership. They are lots of fun, if you have the right fencing, and the patience to always be working on fencing. They are not pasture ornaments [but then, what animal is?].

To balance this post out- I would never exchange the experience of breeding some pigs and rearing these fellows up. But I do think I might want to stay with one species for breeding. The cross pasturing, and keeping breeders and non breeders separate becomes much more problematic with pigs, even with my gentle Little Big man, Earnest. 22 acres seems like a lot to some people, but to rotate pastures with a working flock, and keep rams in another working paddock, and donkeys, and one horse-and keep it all healthy, takes some work. Adding pigs intot he mix really works the land overtime.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dear Father Christmas

I wrote this a few years back for Huffington Post, but I still love sharing it. To me it is one of the messages of Christmas-miracles and hopes being realized, but often in a time frame we don't expect. We can't control our dreams manifestations, but we can never stop believing in them. I hope you will enjoy it. And to all of you who follow along with Apifera and show your gratitude in so many ways-thank you. We wish you a peaceful Christmas and a much light in your heart as the holiday continues. A new year is before us-who knows what it will bring for The Misfits, The White Dogs, Pino, my work and the farm?

Dear Father Christmas,

It has been many years since I've written, but I was reminded of you this week when I saw photographs of the heavy snow fall in my old homeland of Minnesota. As an Oregonian, I rarely experience snow anymore, but I'll admit, when it does come, I think of writing you -- but I always get busy.

Seeing the drifts of white fuzz in a photograph can carry me back 50-some years -- in an instant -- to Christmases where I would wake to fresh snow blanketing the world outside. It was so quiet but snow has a sound of its own, even when at rest. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. I suppose it is the little flakes melting into their next life as puddles.

I wrote you often back then, always with hope and anticipation. I remember the year you and I actually met, or at least I saw your back as you left the darkened area where our Christmas tree stood. My parents and my older brother didn't believe I'd seen you, but to this day, I knew it was you. The next day I had perfect proof you had been there. The huge imprints left in the thick rug in our house didn't fit any one's boots or shoes. Our feet were all meek compared to yours.

Each year you always came through with many items on my Christmas list, except the one I wanted more than anything -- a horse.

Every year I asked for a horse, and you never brought me one. Oh, you did bring me horses made of china, horse dolls, horse books, horse boots and riding lessons, and horse sketch books. Thank you for those.

But I began to feel your magic had waned, that perhaps you were overworked or even bored with your position as chief gift giver. Or worse yet, that you didn't hear me. My friend said you were a fake, but I told her you were not a fake, and I would prove it to her when you brought me a horse that year. Fortunately, she moved away before Christmas, and I did not have to face her at the neighborhood parade on two feet, versus in my saddle.

It was then I quit writing you.

Not long ago, we had a heavy snow -- the kind that shuts things down in rural Oregon. Martyn and I (yes, I did finally marry even though I wrote you once I never would) took a walk down our long road admiring the beauty of it all. We heard not a truck, human, or even a farm animal, only the faint ticking of the large flakes hitting our coats. But off in the distance, we heard bells, like jingle bells. As we lifted our legs in giant high steps, we came to the main road and the bell sounds grew closer. The snow was falling heavily and there was a mist, making it hard to see. But out of the cloudy distance came a sleigh, pulled by two horses. It was a nearby farmer delivering hay to his cows the only way he could in the heavy snow -- by a Percheron-pulled sleigh.

We stopped and chatted and they went on their way, the bells becoming more distant as they slid down the road. We made our way back to the house, and smoke was coming out the chimney and the barns were all buried in snow cocoons. I heard my horse whinny from his paddock, his red coat stuck out from the white background and his mane was flecked in flakes. I saw the heat rising from his body into the cool air, but I knew without a doubt that mist was really you, Father Christmas.

"My child, I did get you that horse, it just took awhile."

You sounded just as I remember so long ago.

And I had to write you, Father Christmas, and say "thank you" for the horse.

Love, Katherine

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Head Mistress in training

Today the weather is wonderful–arm and mainly sun. To be honest, I had a tish of a hangover after we stayed up late with friends celebrating the Solstice. The best way for me to deal with a hangover is to work outside, so the universe played along with me.

I need to really get the flock together with the White Dogs, in earnest. Benedetto is very calm around everyone, he is more mature than Marcella that way. But Marcella is doing well. She still has a tendency to chase if animals start running. So I hung out doing chores in barnyard and kept the flock in with the dogs. Soon I'll start leaving them together all the time.

I sat with her a lot and when she was calm around the flock I praised her. I walked about the barnyard and anytime she put her head down to begin what looked like a chase, she was scolded, and then praised the second she stopped. Nobody's pregnant this year so I don't have to worry about mamas being chased. I still have some work to do with fence repair before I trust her and Benedetto in the bottom field. Benedetto found a hole to get through Old Barn, and he really had a good run about yesterday and this morning. Marcella went with him. I need to relax about this, it is what i want him to do, but not yet. One more month and I'll feel better. There is still one side of our acreage with ways for animals to escape, and we plan to fence that this coming year. I mainly worry he might go somewhere and chase a cat, and get shot. So I was just really pleased he came back after his long run. And Marcella comes back sooner since she is more bonded with the barnyard. Once he's more bonded with flock, I'm hoping I'll relax.

One of Marcella's habits since a pup-and I've heard of other Maremma's doing this- is she sits in the middle of the hay pile at feeding. Sometimes she even eats some hay. I just love that. She is such a wonderful dog.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Annnual Christmas Garland Festival at Apifera

The Garland Festival has become a tradition here at Apifera. It began after a friend and follower of The Misfits and my art gifted me with a lovely felted garland. It was so pretty and I casually took a photo of the dogs wearing it to share with her as a thank you. Of course it grew from there.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The continuing journey of Francis

I am thoroughly enjoying working on the children's book idea and have finished the main manuscript draft and plot and now am working on spreads. Once the dummy is done I'll assess the next step needed.

It's a bout a drunk rabbit who gets lost in the woods....no, no, it's not although I think that would be a fun story to write. Rabbits are too wise to get drunk though.

I won't give much more away accept that here is Francis, taking shelter under some trees, seeking a warm place out of the storm. But he has entered the forest of The Thing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crew of chickens

You just have to accept the crew you are given on any day around here. I'm thankful for this bunch though. While they were right int he middle of hay debris I was relocating to the piglet pen, how could I not stop and look at them, all lined up like little compost guards.

"Excuse me, you can go now," I said. Seconds transpire. "Please."

And off they went.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

White Dog love continues

I have such strong feelings for these White Dogs. In some ways, maybe too much. I grew up with house dogs as pets, they had every comfort they needed. I never had dogs that lived outside and had day and night jobs. It is an incredibly rewarding relationship, although it challenges some of my comfort zones.

One comfort zone is the fear that Benedetto will flea. It has been almost 2 months since he magically appeared out of nowhere on our farm, and it has been one month since he was neutered and chipped. He is definitely happy here, and every day I notice behaviors that show he has established a real comfort for his new role.In fact, it's like he just knew it all along, there seemed to be no transition period amongst the animals. He was meant to be here for some reason.

He is so eager to work, but I want to wait one more month before he can really be out in the sheep fields-only because there are some areas where he could go under fences. I fear more he will get shot in the upper hills-if he went after a cat, or just showed up-there are people like that around here. My vet told me an adult dog when neutered can still produce pups for a couple months, so I figure his wandering eye and nose might be safer to wait another month.

But I have to learn to trust him, and let go a bit. These dogs, as I was told from the start, can find a way to get to where they want or need to be. That's kind of the point. Benedetto and Marcella are not jumpers, but they can contort themselves in ways to allow them to get under the smallest fence openings, I've witnessed it. Benedetto and Marcella get roaming time every day in an upper sheep field, right now where the piglets are grazing, and they can see the flock in the next pasture. Soon I will be putting them in with the sheep at night to bond, and in a month or so, days will be spent with the flock.

The other day I took them down into the lavender field to walk the fence again with them. Marcella found a hole under the fence-a cat and raccoon door for years-and she was under that thing in a heartbeat, and on the road. While we are a rural road, we have a lot of morons around here who drive like their pants are on fire, so I just did a heart flip flop. I scolded her, and she came back pretty quickly, and was praised. Benedetto did not follow her under and listened to me as I warned him not to go. I was pleased with that. Maremmas do not 'come' on command, it is a fact.

So, baby steps. What is wonderful is to watch these two together. I just can't imagine Marcella now without Benedetto. He is one of the sweetest dogs I've met, very agreeable. I like that they can be independent of one another too, and they do have areas that each one seems to clearly favor, as 'theirs'.

But Benedetto wants to work. He tells me every time I look at him by one of the paddock gates that lead to the sheep fields. Marcella is already working in her own way, in her barnyard, and learning from Benedetto who is older than her. She helps the Misfits eat their hay, keeps the pigs in line if they rush a goat, and sits amongst them, watching, listening. She has also alerted me to a couple of pig escapes.

In the huge wind storm we had last week, I looked out in the barnyard after the dusk, everyone was safe and snug in the barn, but there was White Dog. He was standing on the concrete wall by Old Barn, his hair blowing in the strong gusts of wind, head held tall, watching. It gave me goose bumps.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Over the river and through the mud

It was not fit for man, beast or sheep today. Or shepherdess. I captured some iphone shots as I went to let the girls in. What is usually a 6" wide rivulet is a torrent in spots, but they know all the right spots to jump. Still if this keeps up, I'll have to move them into another area as a couple of the elders might not be able to jump it if certain areas get washed out. If it rains like this tomorrow, the road will surely wash out.

Today was a classic Oregon down pour-the kind that the entire country thinks we get every day all year round. I must say when it comes down like this it feels like it might never stop, like the arc really does need to be built and it better be big, without holes.

Its also the best way to see how well, or not, I did on my extra drainage work in the last month. I still need more depth to the culvert I made at Stevie's hut, but what I made is holding fine and he is dry. Some of my hog fuel paths-thanks to the darn little munchkin piglets, were blown out by water. Sigh. All that work, and one 30 pound piglet takes his nose to it in an hour of fun destruction.

I will be so happy when the new barn is done. I could sure use it right now, but everybody is well. It's a warm rain, which makes all the difference to me, and the animals.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Pino is on Modern Farmer and so is Paco

I wanted to share an article I just wrote on Modern Farmer called, "I Believe in the Healing Powers of Donkeys".

Paco got to be the lead photo and he couldn't look cuter. {This image here was also included, one of my favorites of our Pino}. The article discusses the concept of care farming and how I'm attempting to do that here. I have witnessed the healing powers of the Misfits and the donkeys with a variety of visitors. I also give a shout out to my role models, Sanctuary One, one of the few farms doing true care farming that I know of in the States. Care farming is more popular in Europe especially Britain. Care farming recognizes that there is a reciprocal relationship between land, people and animals.

I hope you'll have time to read the article-I point out one encounter Pino had with a visitor who had recently suffered type of stroke leaving her speechless. It was a really beautiful experience.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Pino sets the date!

Pino has set the date for his big pie party!! Stay tuned for more details come spring!

If you are interested in volunteering this year, email me and I will add you to the list.

Friday, December 05, 2014

I'm blog hoppin'... how ideas percolate

I agreed to participate in an international blog hop today. This is a good way to practice being open to new things-because it often leads to other new things, even far down the road.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

I thought she'd be here forever

{For the faint hearted, I assure you nobody has died.}

The Head Troll is one of those creatures that come along in life and you just don't ever think of a life without them. The life you had before you meant them seems to not have existed, and a future without them in it seems unreal and laughable.

But in the past couple of months I've noticed some behaviors in our fearless leader that remind me she is in fact...mortal, er, gortal. She too is aging. I gave her the name Franklinia on her arrival because I knew I had to call her Frankie. She was a girl with a tomboy heart. Perhaps that is why I overlooked her mischievous ways and rather non cuddly attitude towards anyone. It all makes sense now, she knew back then that being sweet was not going to get her job done. She was to be a leader, a planner of major barnyard events, a notary, a list maker and a task keeper. She was to be one of my greatest muses. In a very short amount of time she was casually christened The Head Troll because before there was Marcella or a grumpy pig or crippled goats, you had to get by Frankie at the gate, and it wasn't easy. I've never know a swifter vessel-capable of squirting her troll body through a man's legs like a speeding bullet. This goat could get anywhere, anyhow, anyway.

Frankie has always come into the hay barn with me where the feed is kept. It boggles my mind that of all the goats, she is the one that does not tip bins over. She is the only animal besides Marcella who is allowed in the hay/feed room. Cats of course reside there, but Frankie is allowed there anytime. It is where she keeps her lists and special buckets to pick names out of. But in the last couple of months she has taken to staying there, carving out a simple bed in the hay area, a spot where she can look out a small hole at the light where the rams eat breakfast, and cats come and go. She is always facing away from me or the gate.

She is not sick, she is simply slowing down. Perhaps the chaos of running the barnyard all these eleven years has begun to take its toll on our Troll.

If you follow along here, you know I have a ritual when an old Misfit is clearly beginning to check out. I let them know it's okay to leave. But with Frankie, it is not okay to leave. I've told her this, a huge burden, I know. But such is our relationship, we don't hold back with one another. She's my rock, my empress, my go to in a pickle gal.

I had a similar feeling when my mother was getting up into her late eighties and things were beginning to unwind. I knew her time was coming–some day– but life without her seemed impossible and if she no longer existed neither might I. I mean, who knew? It was an unsettling feeling, and then I'd move on to other tasks.

And so that is how it feels to see my muse resting in her private little spot of light. Unsettling. And somewhere I can see my mother, rolling her eyes for having just been compared to a goat in some way. It all comes back to my mother.

{Do you like all the stories shared here? This shepherdess is going on the 10th year of blogging you art and story from Apifera. Consider buying books this year for gifts, or supporting a Misfit in other ways. Hoof stomps!}

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Snapshot moments

I'm going to start posting some "snapshots' from the farm. These are taken with an iphone and are unplanned, usually taken with a bucket in my hand and without thought or care, as I have animals all over me while I take a blind shot at a photo. They show glimpses into the chores around here. I will not abandon my photography, but I'm finding these quickie shots -mainly posted on Instagram-to be a fun way to lighten up and just let you get glimpses into daily life - and if I fall in the mud I'd rather lose an iphone than a Nikon. I won't post any words for snapchat moments-however, you can feel free to ask questions or start a dialogue in the comment section.

Monday, December 01, 2014

"Let there be Misfitlians!" declared The Head Troll

I've been bombarded by cyber specials for the past four days. Delete. Delete. Delete.

So I was hesitant to do some shout outs about...well, me. But a shepherdess is not a sheep, she does not lived on legumes. So I must make some non subtle suggestions to you to go be a consumer.

If you don't like the sound of that, I alerted the Head Troll and asked if she could come up with a more inviting, spiritual word for a shopper of Apifera goods.

She was at it all day.

"Misfitlian," she had scratched on a piece of a seed bag.

I do not often argue with The Head Troll. She is a notary for crying out loud. You can't object to a notary.

In all seriousness, if you are a past Misfitlian, or a new one, by buying my books, art, cards, prints or whatever else you can scrounge up from me, it is going right into this wonderful world of Misfits. You can also give a donation gift this season in honor of a friend who has lost friend/family member or animal.

The book sale is going on and remember if you have already purchased either of the two books, you don't need a minimum order to get the low price. Just email me and I'll get it all done for you.

So now all you Misfitlians, go forward in cheer and peace, and buy, buy, buy. With each purchase, a donkey feels their wings.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Morning of good work

It has been cold for two days, but beautiful and clear. There was snow in the upper hills but we didn't even see a flake. The air felt so good to me this morning. Without the rain, the cold is revitalizing.

I have had the flock in the donkey pasture where they can take shelter in Old Barn. It is a magical set of circumstances that make my morning chores go off without chaos. Today everything just clipped along and I was in no hurry either. I let the flock out first, they descend from Donkey Hill where it is dry footing, make there way down into the marsh area and then up and over a rivulet to graze up on Muddy Hill-named for Mud because as a pup he and Huck would run there and Mud so loved it. It is cross fenced now and I need to get a foot gate up there so I can walk there again with dogs, man and beast.

The flock always look so beautiful to me, in motion, they are like leaves really-there shades all work together but are unique tones of ochres and browns.

I did morning feedings and noticed E.B.White was completely off his hind back foot. While I worked on him, Benedetto came frequently to check up on me. The door he is standing on opens up into a series of three more stalls, all large, 14' or more and they are used during the year for various Misfits. During lambing the ewes are bedded there. The light in this end of the barn is always so beautiful and White Dog's head was like a glowing cloud, a lite bulb up high might be construed as his little halo. I neglected to find any abscess or rot on E.B.'s foot but it was warm so perhaps one is forming.

I gave booster shots to the sows, trimmed some Misfit feet and moved hog fuel-the final bit of 2 units-so that Stevie's den is drier. I made the mistake of not getting his hut's gutter up before the rain, so the deep sand I'd put in the hut-which he loves, as does Aldo, got damp.

And now I'm back in, baking another Buttermilk Pie since we didn't bring home leftovers from the holiday. I'm also working on a story idea in the studio and loving it. To be re energized creatively of late is a very good feeling, like thinking,

"Okay, I still have it."

So it was a morning of good work. I hope you had one too.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What is enough reality for you?

I read an article by a blogger who also farms stating that perhaps farmers should be showing more of the nitty gritty of farming in their posts. She was seeing a lot of beautiful images of farms and animals and wondered out loud if this was a disservice to upcoming farmers or those that dream of having a farm someday. She encouraged farmers who blog [not that many 'real' farmers blogging, I must say] should also be showing images of the not so pretty. Her article had pretty tame photos though-a rooster with a bloody comb [happens all the time], a pile of compost, and a lamb coming out of the birth canal [all by her and beautiful images]. She did make the point that because urban farming is a hot trend, wouldn't it be better to show more of a balance.

Having been blogging now for - wait for it, today is the NINTH ANNIVERSARY OF THIS BLOG!!!!!!-

There was an uproar in the barnyard!

Let me refocus....

After years of blogging, I know that some readers come here for the soothing and calm-words and images. I've always made my goal of this blog to be first, before anything else, a safe place to write and document my time here, for me, and then share for whoever might come upon it. That is all I owe anyone, my honest feelings and words no matter if I'm writing a short story or posting images. I do know that once a person like myself develops even a small following, one can fall into "posting what you think they will like" trap, especially if one is selling art, books or whatever their product is.

While I do post the nitty gritty, I think I do it with taste and a boundary that I choose to set. When an animal is sick, the reader is let in on it,  but I don't feel posting graphic images is always necessary to convey a story. I remember when the day old lamb was dying and due to the weather, I brought the lamb into my studio to be near the fire. A natural scene unfolded before me that was so beautiful, and so captured the way animals deal with death, that I grabbed my camera. But I paused first, "Is this right?" I had done all I could for the lamb in the last two days, and my artist soul took over. I don't regret it.

I have nothing against others posting birth scenes or bloodied roosters. I guess I don't think that is very wild and gory at all. But I'm not going to post images of some of the many graphic things I've scene here. I don't think it is going to help any new or young farmer, nor is it going to necessarily help me share a story better. I do know there are things I can see and handle now that I could not have 10 years ago. I'm not jaded, just more experienced seeing certain things.

The fact is, if emergency situations arise in the barnyard, or a goat's abscess burst on me [I happen to love lancing abscesses] or I have diarrhea all over my legs after helping a sick ewe, the last thing I'm thinking is-"Let me grab my camera". I made a comment on the woman's article because I did feel I wanted to share that with her-that when I'm in the barnyard, my first and always foremost priority is to the animals, the farm and doing what comes first for both-not documenting. I felt that carrying my camera around when I know a ewe is giving birth-that becomes an art/journalistic project for me. Nothing wrong with that, but that is not my personal priority as a farmer.

I do understand what the author/farmer of the article was saying though. You hear it all the time here and elsewhere. People fall in love with a life through images and story, but they don't experience the day to day mud, falls, cut hands [man, do I get a lot of cuts]. I am never clean. My nails are split, the fence patches of hay twine are rampant, no matter how you try there is duck poop everywhere a duck goes. I don't hide it, but I decide the boundary that is right for me and the farm-and my readers.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Good health, good farrier, good horse

It is the people who first started following this blog in November of 2005 who helped give me confidence to keep writing...and painting. Many of you helped in the early years to pay for the many animal needs I took on-trapping the 25+ semi ferel cats {remember that?}, helping the original Misfits when they were sick, funding my books and buying them too, sharing my art and vision–all of this support is so important to me. Even you lurkers, as many of you are [I have no problem with lurkers, in fact, I lurk a few places] generate energy that seeps into this blog by reading [one need not always speak to show support here]. Over the years I've received a five dollar bill in the post with a note in shaky hand from a stranger wanting to help an old goat; I've read letters from people who lost mothers, mates, or children thanking me for my "Misfits" book; I've gotten drawings of Pino for Pino by five year olds and aprons from octogenarians across the sea. So as I go on my 10th year of this blog, I'm thankful for the community it has birthed for me.

I was thinking about what to write for Thanksgiving. I've so much good in my life. Life is not easy-even for those Kings or Queens who appear to have it all, for they might look at me with some envy–noticing the freedom I have each day. Even the simple barnyard tasks I do daily must seem like vacation for them, for when I'm slopping pigs in muck boots there is no paparazzi lurking in bramble, and certainly no newspaper wanting my opinion on the day's outrages.

But life is not easy for so many people-and many don't show it. The faces you see on the bus or walking down the street, even the smiling ones might be hiding pains and fears that have cripple their hearts. Some might be in physical pain and in pain a body takes over and life becomes much more veiled in shades of gray.

I posted this photo of Boone and my farrier for Thanksgiving because it represents so much of what a good life is for me. My farrier and I are about the same age, we've come to a stage in life where many family and friends have died or will die soon. We see people our own age start to vanish, or fall ill with the myriad of illnesses that can change your life in a second. And as he trimmed Boone's feet yesterday, that's what we settled on-we can move, breathe, and are not in pain. We have best friends as mates. We enjoy the grape but are grounded in our work. We can still pick up the horse foot and carry on to the next.

I wrote this brief note to everyone on Facebook yesterday for the holiday. It seemed to resonate with readers. So I'll share it here.

"Every day life is hanging by atoms and a string-I think the one thing I have that I have to bow down to ...is life itself, here, with a healthy body. Life is much different without health, and I'm grateful for it. Put a check in the bank today. Filled the tank. Kissed my husband in the morn and I'll kiss him at night. Hung out with some pigs and groomed anyone who would tolerate me. I drew in pencil on beige paper. I had bacon for breakfast and tofu for lunch. It was a perfectly balanced day. And I showered. Now I'm going to make Buttermilk Pie and Chess Pie. Happy Thanksgiving. I hope each of you can find many things to be grateful for, even if in pain."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

White Dog inspirations

I was propelled forward last week to spurt out two paintings. I had no idea what was to come out, somewhat the norm around here, but it was clear the spirits of the two white dogs were speaking through me. I finished these a day apart from one another and felt satisfied, like I'd been given a love letter, an encouraging nod, from many sources, including the magical source of the White Dogs themselves. These pieces are already sold and will fly off to their new home very soon. I rarely have trouble letting go of paintings, and I am not sad to see these go. The important thing for me is that my muse was there, and I answered. You have to answer the muse or she might just stay away like a dog left to its own resources if it doesn't get fed consistently.

"White Dog Had Wings" acrylic, pastel on maple board, 27"

"Calling All Wings" acrylic, pastel on maple board, 27"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What do you want right now?

I've been stuck.

I fell into a horrible trap that many artists and writers do-I started paying way too much attention to the bottomless pit of the cyber world, comparing myself to other artists and writers and it has crushed my sensitivity to make prompt decisions for my work. Rather than making confidant suggestions to myself, like,

"I need to work on this story now and go forward with it",

I've found myself immobile, unsure of what project needs to be birthed. This is not like me and it might be too that now that I'm 57 and have a lot of different pokers in many blazing fires, I just need to realize my focus is easily distracted.

What's even more irritating is I have found myself looking at some writers I really don't like or respect as people and thinking, why does that person have an agent or publisher when we all know they are real jerks to people and the writing is self absorbed,pompous and in some case, bad. Ah, but they have 'profiles', some not any better than mine, that for one reason or another was deemed more commercially viable to the guy writing the check.

Katherine, back away from the computer.

So, I must stop that crippling downward spiral. I have one book proposal floating around out there at publishers-and that waiting seems to easily stifle creativity. You think maybe you will hear this week, and you don't, and for some reason it can create that 'frozen' feeling. The best anecdote is to start another project immediately.

So I'm going to start a new idea for a children's book next week. I was looking at some old book dummies ['dummies' are layouts with crude sketches and the spreads of text laid out for a book] I'd done years ago, back when I had an illustration rep and I was anxiously trying to break into the kid book world. I shared some on Facebook and some of the thoughts were very helpful, but I think the muses in those little stories have evolved out of me, and the stories seemed forced and not very magical.

I don't live in the city and am somewhat disconnected with what is relevant in the commercial world of art or publishing, except for what I see online. I don't have an agent to help guide me so I just forge on. I have felt more like I am entering a different market though. I am not hip or trendy to anyone, nor was I ever, but the commercial world wants that. I must ignore that and do my best work, and listen to myself first and foremost, and then seek discussion from someone I trust.

I have a scribble on my wall, in front of me, "What do you want right now?"

That is the question.

To be read by a wider audience. To be acknowledged. To continue to be able to make a living.

But more than ever, I want to...live, and not feel so compelled to spurt things out in teeny online doses. I love sharing images and my life, it is fun, but I am seeking a longer thought process, a quieter dialogue between me and my muses...and my audience-whoever the heck my audience is.

I walked around last night after chores. The sky was so beautiful, and very eruptive, changing each few minutes, grey clouds blowing in with blue windows behind them. When I'm looking at Old Barn sitting in this show of Nature, would it make it more relevant if I get another book published this week? Would my work with my animals lose meaning if I never sold another painting, or lost the will to paint? Does having an agent or not mean I'm not relevant my current readers? Will having an agent like some make my writing more important to me, or better? No.

Does Pino care about any of this? No.

All around me, the things that end up in story or art first come through me viscerally, through this life, here at my farm. It's my world. In this way, I'm always working. I just have to get back on track and listen inwardly, to know which story to pursue in the best way I can.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Animal Conversations: Pig & The Shadow

For those of you who know the story of Rosie and Stevie, this is from their early years.

Pig grumpily arrived at her bed of straw mounded in a dark corner of a large stall in the old barn.

With her arrival, there was the nightly exodus of each and every barn animal that might have been standing nearby at her passing. They left in an orderly fashion–but with a clear purpose–to get away from Pig.

Making sure she was indeed alone, finally, Pig began to prepare her humble bed, by carrying clumps of straw in her mouth and mounding it into a pile, and then burying her self under it, creating first a tunnel and then a womb to lie in.

"Good evening," said a gentle voice in the shadowed corner opposite her.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Special book rate for gift giving season

These special prices apply through December, 2014. No returns. You must purchase a minimum of 3 books. You can mix and match "Misfits of Love" with "Donkey Dream"-just let me know at the time of your purchase.

All books will be lovingly wrapped Apifera style and include a hang tag that will be left blank. Please NOTE: books will be shipped to one address only. If you want a book shipped somewhere else in the USA it will be an additional $6.

Prices include USA shipping. {Int'l orders will pay more for shipping}.

{FYI-The normal non-sale price for a book plus shipping is $28.50}

IF YOU ARE A RETURNING BOOK CUSTOMER: email me. Anyone who is in my database for having purchased a book in the past does not need a minimum order of three [you can buy one or more at these prices].


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

White Dog is now of Apifera

I brought White Dog and Marcella back from the vet this afternoon. I took them in yesterday early morning for his neutering and her spay. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did going in the car and being in the exam room. Marcella actually lay down and napped. White Dog was not at all fearful and was a big hit. We opted to also put a chip in him, so he is officially of Apifera now. And his name is Benedetto which means "Blessed". If you've been reading along, the magical way he appeared out of nowhere is seen here as a gift, and I will always feel that way about him.

I hated leaving them at the vet. The look inside Benedetto's eyes as I looked deeply into them and said, "Trust me,", I won't forget it. Marcella was in a kennel directly across from him and she seemed very calm when I left. But upon arriving to pick her up, even though her surgery went well, she was not herself. Her vitals are fine, it is just her way. I know at her first season she went into a real moody period, like she hurt and didn't want any activity around her. She does this if she has a wound too. She takes to the barn to a spot that is not of the norm for her, and growls at anyone who comes close, even little Earnest...or me. I've learned how to deal with it. I growl back-if I have to move her or medicate her. It has worked so far-I simply growl until she stops, then she rolls and goes submissive.

But tonight when I got them home, I was doing feedings and Benedetto was fine. He ate well, checked everyone out, roamed a bit and was really happy. Marcella was not feeling herself and hung out in the sun for some time with the other gang. She even snapped at poor Earnest who was just happy to see her. But I'm sure her tummy area feels funny. I put Benedetto in other goat paddock so he wouldn't bother her. At feedings, I always feed Marcella and The Head Troll in the hay barn, and Benedetto stays outside and eats, otherwise it would be a fight. But Marcella didn't eat-that doesn't concern me at this time. It is normal for her. When I went to get her pills in her, I knew it was going to be risky. She had been glad to see me, but she just felt lousy, and let us all know. So I showed her the pills and she even tried eating them on her own, which didn't work. So I went to show her the bottle, etc, went real slow, and at some point, she just grabbed onto my upper palm/hand, and held on, tooth deeply embedded. Ouch. Hurt like hell. I knew not to pull, as it would only entice her to hang on harder, and she eventually let go, but I have a very big ripped hole in my hand. I disciplined her by pinning her down, using a broom, until she went submissive for me. I then left her, and did chores. She eventually came outside and came to me and dropped and went submissive. We sat for a long time together. I looked deep into those eyes, and I told her I didn't always understand her reactions, but I was trying. She licked my wound, she loves blood, and always licks the wounds of any animal. And then she let me put the pills in her mouth and I helped her swallow.

After she had bit me and I was disciplining her by holding her down [this lasted about 10 seconds], Benedetto was on the other side of the gate, concerned, but not aggressive. I went out with him and spent time with him and assured and praised him a lot. He is a wonderful dog. He is going to help me with Marcella, I really believe this.

I have never had a dog bite before. Not even with all the terriers we've had, at least not a deep, penetrating one from a guard dog. I know several Maremma people who have worked with the breed for years and I know this is not uncommon, it is part of learning this unique breed. These dogs are not for sissies, nor are they family pet material. It kills me to see people casually talk about getting one of these guys-like they think they can just plop one in a field and it will be happy, or worse, in the backyard in the city. They need guidance and boundaries like any of us. And they need a clear job. I haven't quite figured Marcella's actions out. She was tolerating me petting her in a soothing way, and I was not coming at her face quickly which can be a threat. I had spent about 40 minutes letting them reaclimate in the barnyard-they hadn't been together for 2 days- before attempting to give her the pills. Benedetto let me put them in and push them back, zippidity do-da, finetto.

I am just happy they are home. White Dog came to us, somehow, I just hope he stays. I can only to my best for him. In the next couple months I will spend a lot of time walking the pastures and fields with him, with the flock. He seems so happy and I do feel even now in the barnyard with so many animals, he feels he has more of a purpose than perhaps he had elsewhere. A purpose is the reason he will bond and stay with us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pig and Pumpkin

The final pumpkin of the season was rolled out of the pumpkin patch and left for the Barnyard. The piglets had been enjoying all the pumpkins this fall so I felt the barnyard deserved the largest pumpkin, grown by Old Man Guinnias [of course].

And who was first in line?

{Want to meet all The Misfits? They are waiting for you!}