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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pino gets the news! Send him a poem!

Send Pino a poems or soothing thought and I will post them on the stall wall when Pino has surgery. You can put them in the message on this post if you like.

The good news is it is not cancer. The bad news is it is a sarcoid which means it will most likely be an ongoing issue-but sarcoids are not malignant. I am relieved, but also bummed at the same time–thinking of the difficulties we might face and discomfort for him in future bouts. The vet and I agreed we will proceed with surgery on this one, it must come off, but with each case that arises there are many variables to look at before deciding which path to take. There is a cream I can rub on them-it stings and is basically like the skin cancer treatment I did on my own skin.

We will go forward in Pino spirit! No complaining, tail swishing in play not fear, and get on with what must be done now!

We will have the growth removed here at the farm. I opted for this as it would have meant a night alone in a stall in a strange place and since Pino has never left the farm, I just felt with this kind of surgery it will be okay. He was...her...castrated here and I just felt better it be done here if the vet was on board, which she is.

Paco, the resident worrier, asked me to paint "right" and "left" on Pino's feet. I explained that I was sure the vet will not accidentally cut off Pino's feet instead of the growth.

There are options for treating future growths, but all are expensive and really the results aren't great [then again surgery to remove each growth is about $300-500]. Everyone has their opinions on this and people with one or two animals are going to look at their options differently than a farmer. Having said that, Pino is in good hands-my role is to do what is best for him-and that does not necessarily mean treating him the same way someone else would. Money buys a lot of things, but to my knowledge it still doesn't buy a cure all for sarcoids, and it often adds the ability for someone to opt to put the animal up for days in a clinic.

So please know I have many good vets, including Pino's former owner who is a retired vet and friend and very knowledgeable. So send your love and healing to Pino, but he is not seeking vet advice at this time–although Paco might entertain it.

Thanks to everyone who thought positive vibes for our Pino!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nap with Aldo's flock

Aldo sits near the edge of the pasture and keeps his eye out on the flock who are grazing in the lavender field. I am sitting below him, and above the flock as many are napping in the shade. This napping in the warm air is contagious and I think I will now nap. I haven't done that for a long time and with this head cold, the sheep have encouraged me to rest too.

A brief interlude with the flock gave gives me a sense of peace amongst the chaos, decisions, and concerns of an everyday normal life. Even dirt farmers have to sit from time to time.

Peaceful break

Take a break with me as I sit with Aldo and Scooby Keith this afternoon. Let me describe the setting for you. We are up in the middle field which lies next to the lavender field, where the sheep are grazing–we'll go there next. About 1/4 mile down the hill is the the river, full and rushing–you can hear it. There is sun and a light breeze with very warm air. If you take time to listen, you can hear the grass move, and grow. The latter is some might say is impossible, but it is the same as hearing snow, except it is grass.

When you're ready, we'll go see Aldo's flock.

Two survivors

Aldo the Elder, aka The Great White, sits outside the studio window. I had the wrong lens but loved the haphazard photo I took–almost like a mysterious book cover. The blue bottle has been in my family since I was a little girl, most likely Swedish in orgin and that bottle has survived so many moves of my family. After one move, my parents looked for weeks trying to find the famous blue bottle, but to no avail. Months later, they found it rolling around, unwrapped, in a drawer.

It is a survivor, that blue bottle, and I took it from my mother's home after she died. Some objects do hold a life in them.

Aldo is a survivor too, outliving his life long mate who went with him to Sanctuary One. Now his final days, weeks or months will be lived out here. I hope he can live with us for a year or more, but he is very old–I try to watch him each day to soak him up.

If you like these post, consider supporting The Misfits at different gift levels.

Monday, April 28, 2014

They don't wait, they are

Wilber the Acrobatic takes a moment to stand in the sun and watch the pigs in the distance.

Life always goes on, in some way. The weather is turning very warm and sunny this week after days of very stormy weather all last week. The animals are good role models for living the moment-they aren't waiting for the next big event. Right now, they are in the current event-which is the sun and warming earth.

People have emailed to ask about Pino-the biopsy isn't in yet, or at least I haven't been called. Hoping we hear this late afternoon, but it might be tomorrow. In the meantime, there is today, and all that holds in it. The garden is busy being pig tilled and I hope to plant within two weeks. Plans are underway to fortify an area of Old Barn so Doris and June can have their piglets there once bred. There are so many projects going on, and then there is the new book coming out, and Pino Pie Day–which will be extra loving this year for many reasons.

I am really doing my best to start painting again, and sewing. For some reason I'm at a stand still. But I do know that abstract pieces are in and out of my brain, and lately I've been very drawn to looking at abstracts. Rather than hearing story in my head, I am sensing I need a return, for a time, to wordless wonders of color and shape. I still feel quiet.I've had recurring dreams of my former life in Minneapolis where i am on my way to have dinner with my parents, and like all the past dreams, I'm realizing I need to get back to the farm and Martyn, but am having trouble for some reason. I feel at times my feet are in different realms. Life is a huge wave, and we all know waves go in and out, crash ashore but always return to where they came from and start all over again. it is what it is.

It is today that is glorious. The past makes wonderful material for books and movies, and learning-but it is the present that is my current glory. Maybe that is why the need for abstract paintings, and sewing, both are tactile and grounding.

Today the sun is out. My ride this morning was very nice. Thank you, Boone. And thank you for inquiring about Pino-I will post here the minute I know and we will go forward.

Paco and Pino enjoy the sun as bookends.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pigs working 9-5

I bet you all think it's easy to get pigs to rototill up the vegetable area. It is, but it is not always that easy to get them to stay there, and focus on one job–they get a whiff of grass or a sight of a field in the distance, and woops! There they go, under the pasture fence.

That is the first lesson you learn about pigs-they need a board on the bottom of the areas you plan to contain them in. Oh sure, they might last in a good fenced area for....a day...

{Insert laugh track from Dirt Farmers and all Misfits}.

I was also told that pigs won't necessarily root if they have grass.

{Insert laugh track from Dirt Farmers and all Misfits}.

My very experienced pig friend...yes, I do really have "pig friends"....recently shared with me that she has sows and gilts that root, no matter what, and others that don't. So after I let Doris and June into a small paddock near the orchard for some grass, I was shocked...

SHOCKED! {Insert laugh track from Dirt Farmers and all Misfits}....

to see that Doris and tilled half of it up.

Oh well, it needs reseeding and grading anyway. Thanks, so much, Doris.

So yesterday, I went on my mission, Dirt Farmer in tow since he was under the weather. I bought pressure treated 10' boards to secure on the bottom of our vegetable area so Doris and June could really do some work for me. I worked all morning on it, and at precisely 2:15 west coast time, I let them in to their new work area. At this writing, there have been no escapes. But the day is somewhat young. Rather than measure and cut the boards precisely, as I had first planned, I did it my way. Why cut and measure when you can get the job done faster? And besides, this is just a dry run to see if it works. If you walk around the farm it's pretty obvious which areas I have worked on, versus where Martyn has worked.

I sat with the pigs for awhile when they first entered the garden and observed them-the only way to get to know any creature-sit and watch, and keep your mouth shut. Doris appears to again be the rooter, but in the garden I was all for it. The paths between beds had become grass ridden and even though we put weed barrier down, then hog fuel some years ago, it needed more, and it got way ahead of me. So I was happy to see her literally pulling up the long roots of the very tough grass in the paths. OKAY, so she's taking the barrier too, it needed to come up to get the grass out.

I was very pleased with myself and Martyn came by and siad it looked pretty good. But if there had been a bubble over his head like a cartoon, it might have thought,

"Oh well, at least she got it done and I don't have to do it."

Yea, kind of raggedy, but my girls are working it.

Spring panorama

I know most people come here for photos, art and story of animal. They are contagious, the critters that live here under my care, at least I've been told. But I hope to share more of the other creatures in my life–the land, not only the land of Apifera, but the surrounding area where I ride, walk and drive.

The rural areas here, like many states, can be spotted with derelict properties complete with car museums or run down mobile homes that one can hardly believe are still inhabitable–but they are–to someone. But all around is such gorgeous scenery. I try to take it in and I think I do.

Spring is beautiful as the grass has a different tone and value of green and yellow than it does in June or late summer into fall, then winter. Even the yellow weeds that dot a fallow field provide entertainment to the eye, or the globs of shedded sheep hair [our sheep do not have wool, they are a 'hair' breed] that let the viewer see the hidden mini highways the flock creates through stream and bramble.

Donkey Hill is alight, and Old Oak is beginning to put buds into leaves, barely. Donkey Hill is a spiritual mound, for sure, not only for me, but probably for past inhabitants, more like a vortex than a hill. The donkeys are often seen there, under her, eating moss. It is often the first sight I see as I drive from the road up to the house. A sight I never tire of, a picture of 'home'.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Prayers for Pino

It's true what they say - that when you hear the word, "cancer", you immediately go to a dark place. At least I did yesterday when I heard the vet's opinion.

I hesitated to write this post today–thinking I should wait until Monday or Tuesday when the lab results are back for the biopsy of huge growth found on Pino. Putting these things online can lead to a lot of people trying to be helpful, but giving out advice and surmising on things they know little about. As one good friend said when I told her, "Try not to worry until it happens, worry just takes the good out of today". Very Buddhist, I told her-and true.

And Pino is not worried. Animals just don't think of the future. They are in the present. He is looking for food, sun, shade and shelter. He is not projecting. He is not starting his day with, "What if?".

I had my vet coming out yesterday for routine maintenance of the pigs and check ups for Aldo the Elder and Mother Matilda. I am new to llama care and needed advice on feeding, since he is quite thin. I've managed to put weight on him, his teeth are good, but she said not to expect him to live much more than a year since he is ancient for a llama. This is part of the deal I make with the universe when I take on the old ones–you do what you can for them, but the real purpose of Apifera is to let them feel safe, so that they can let go when they are ready. I try to remember that. I kept Matilda's weight on all winter but she is being supplemented twice daily to get some rib meat on her. Once they start losing that back weight, it's tough to keep it on.

Anyway...Pino. My farrier and I noticed the growth on him two days ago. It is on the exterior sheath. It's huge, with another growth on top of that which erupted. I immediately thought it was either a dirty sheath that got infected or a sarcoma which I've dealt with before. I called my vet and wondered if it was an emergency, but she said to hang tight for her visit, since he was eating and peeing [sorry for the graphics-but this is part of farm living and caring for creatures].

When she saw it she immediately reacted and said it looked more like cancer than a sarcoma. My dirty sheath possibility was blown out of the water due to the appearance. The hard feel of the mass made her think it was not a sarcoma. The second growth on the larger mass is bloody and raw and she took a biopsy on the spot. Pino was so stoic and calm and allowed her to do that. The next step is to wait for lab results. No matter what it is it needs to come off surgically.

I think what made it so shocking was...it was Pino. Out of all the animals here I never thought it would be Pino. I always imagined Pino standing stoically over my grave, years from now, grazing on bramble living on into his 50's. Perhaps it was just that in the moment I heard "cancer" all my animals felt old and precarious–which many are. If I'm not trying to keep weight on Old Rudy or Aldo, it's Old Mama Sugee or Matilda, and so many others.

But we will face whatever it is. We are in very good hands. And once the results are in, we will proceed with whatever we decide is the next best move for Pino. It will be about Pino.

This morning I was out with the donkeys. Each morning, and night, I have to water down feed for Matilda and feed her. It is easiest to just stand with her so that no one else gets her feed, so she won't rush and suffer from choke. She was almost finished and I was about to leave, but Pino came up to me and I knelt down and held him a bit. I communed encouragement without words. I was scratching his neck which he likes, but he kept arranging his body so my eye level and head were in front of his massive growth. Each time I pushed him back a bit, so I was hear his neck again, but he'd take a few steps and rearrange himself so I'd be next to his massive growth. Donkeys are so sensitive. I really felt he was showing it to me, asking me for help. While it appears to not be causing him pain-as he is running, rolling, eating as usual, it must be uncomfortable and probably itchy. Maybe he is telling me, "It's okay, it's there, I know, but I'll be okay no matter the outcome."

To a donkey, finding out you have cancer means little to them. It is the care given to make appropriate decisions on how to treat the cancer-to remember their animal needs over human caretaker needs. But we'll face that when we know what we are dealing with.

So. whatever your preference in higher powers, perhaps take a few minutes to request that Pino, and I, enter the next stages of whatever this is with optimism and steadfast calm. I told him it was his time for healing, since he is so adept at letting others hang on to him and feel comfort. For any of you who ave followed along all these years, I don't have to tell you, Pino is a very special entity.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Paco writes The Sun...again

Paco has been known to write The Sun from time to time–mainly in the early days of spring like we are in now, where we get lots of sun, but then days more of rain, with sun breaks. It can get to a guy, even a poet like Paco.

So when I was cleaning up an area in the donkey paddock, Paco slipped me a sealed envelope, addressed to: "Sun, c/o Sky, Universe, zip code unknown". Like before he trusted me to put a stamp on it and mail it. Why not? Why can't the Sun get mail.

But as usual, the Lucy Ricardo in me took over and I held the envelope up to the light to read the contents. I am not sure what is more endearing, that he trusts me with such tasks, or that he is on a first name basis with The Sun.

Dear Sun,

It is me, Paco. I am hoping you will be out
this weekend. It is my annual gathering of mice
and the other donkeys where I read one poem.
Last year it rained and my paper got wet.
I can not memorize. 
Please come out at 1pm on Saturday.
Thank you.

Fondly, Paco, Apifera Farm

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Special Pre Order Book Rate on NOW

I was so excited to get to see the color proofs of the book today from the printer! It is going to be so wonderful-I am so thrilled, and so happy this book is finally being born after a very long gestation, and labor.

Through the last day of May you may pre-order the book at a discount{Kickstarter people take note, you got the same price rate, just so you know!}. The prices in the drop down Paypal menu INCLUDE USA shipping. I have also set up a separate page/site for Donkey Dream the book so you can share it with friends or read excerpts and see sample pages.

Note: International orders may email me and I can tell them the extra shipping.

If you order the 2 book rate, books must ship to one USA address. If you want them shipped to separate addresses, it will be an additional $7 which will be invoiced separately after you buy.

Delivery Date: Books are expected to arrive mid June. So I will ship by end of June or first week of July.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Eating machines and something always goes wrong sometime

They eat, they sleep and their old bodies never stop needing some kind of care, be it routine or emergency. I love working with these guys, I love helping them-it's rewarding, it's purposeful, and all in all, it is fun. There are days of peace an days of chaos. But it is just the way it is on any real small working farm-and this small working farm has an added group of old Misfits.

So a day or so ago I posted a link to a fundraiser via GoFund to hopefully raise money for the spring maintenance of all the various Misfits. But I took it down. I felt in my gut it wasn't the way to go. I was feeling liked a used cars salesman.

But, at the same time I must face facts. It takes a lot of time, and money to care for these animals-many were neglected over years so there are always going to be chronic issues, often requiring me to determine if a vet call is necessary-or a 'come out now' vet call such as happened today with one of the equines who appeared to be choking. It passed, and normal behavior ensued, so we dodged a bullet. I have a vet coming out this week for pig shots, llama care and to do a herd overview of Misfits and Matilda.

I think I will gather some sketches and old art pieces and do a little art sale later this month. Stay tuned. In the meantime you can support the barnyard here, with gift levels of books, or you can choose to give without a reward at that same link. There is also a monthly subscription option. We are not a 501c, but rest assured each dollar is used on a helping a Misfit.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bucket kicking afternoon

Iris and Matilda shown here on a calmer afternoon.

Marcella was able to squeeze through the center gate in Old Barn, a boundary break that was bound to happen. While it might sound like no big deal, it set off a series of things that made my afternoon barn feedings what we call "bucket kicking".

1. Marcella enters the old barn, leaving the gate wide open. Meanwhile, I had just walked through the old barn to feed Matilda in the donkey paddock and left the gate open down there, since no one is usually behind me.

2. Marcella spooked Matilda who scattered from her feed I'd put down.

3. Meanwhile Little Goose had entered the old barn. I saw him coming.

4. Stella and Iris were onto to the entire thing and were now at Matilda's food, just as Goose was trying to eat it.

5. Stella head butted Goose-no contest- and Goose went flying out of there to escape, but chose to flea into the donkey paddock, the opposite end of where he should be.

6. Paco enters. Paco is portly. Paco eats the food.

7. Marcella was up close to the donkeys for the first time-trouble. I threw a bucket near her to try and scare her off.

8. She grabbed the bucket and fled, "Hey! Great, this is fun!" dragging a bunch of stuff with her not knowing it was caught in the bucket handle.

9. Ernest heard it all and came to check it out. So did Moose. And Raggedy.

10. There are multiple escape routes for goats in the old barn, but only one for a human-unless I begin to fly or leap.

11. I began to try and fly and leap anyway to get everybody out of the barn but they were doing the 'Run fast-in circle-stop-run opposite way in circle-wait for farmer to trip or grab her sore hip" maneuvers. Highly successful.

12. They all finally fled the old barn.

13. But I forgot to shut the donkey gate and as I walked to the goat barn I heard familiar hoof steps. I chased the donks back to their area but Goose followed.

14. Stella and Iris chased Goose down a ways in the pasture and then he refused to come back, afraid of their size. So I faked him out with rocks in a bucket to sound like feed, donkeys following. Carried him 150 feet back, holding him like baby Jesus, and his little face was looking up at me with, "I'm still so cute, aren't I? This is fun"

15. Back at the goat barn it looked like a bad day care center. Marcella had taken about 10 buckets and scattered them and then pulled ropes and halters off the wall.
She also looked up at me with, "Gee this was fun, wasn't it? I'm still so cute, aren't I?"

That is the bucket kicking episode for the day.

What we see isn't always

I love this photo. I hesitated to put it on–anyone who comes here regularly knows I love blur in photos, for it shows the living quality of the moment it was take–that's my way of thinking of it anyway. It would make a great arty statement if I ever got interviewed about my images, don't you think.

But when I took this photo I obviously didn't intend to cut the head off, or have the entire thing blurry. Still I liked it, and keep looking at it. There is something really lush and emotive about it, to me. This is Henrietta who has the most beautiful chocolate brown coloring and the way the shadow mimics here fluffy chicken underpants profile-lovely.

I was thinking, if this were a painting, with a tile like, "Moment 2050" one might not worry about the blur or the fact the head has been cut off. I don't really know what my point is, I just thought I'd give an audience for this lovely blurry brown headless chicken.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The annual chicken egg prank

There was snickering as I entered the coop this morning.

"She's making pie today for Easter. Let's play with her head a little bit," I heard one of the hens say, with a cluck chuckle.

I knew it was Alice, named after Alice Waters–every year she likes to play the same little trick on me, always timed for Easter.

I entered and began to gather eggs.

More chuckle clucks. If you've never heard a chicken laugh, it sounds just like the way you say, "chuckle cluck" but you have to say it fast.

And there in the roost was one teeny egg, green in color. They had hid the other eggs but later after chores Edmonia Lewis told me where they were–Edmonia hates pranks and always feel they are a bit cynical. I appreciate this, but must say, I've grown to love seeing a little egg every now and then.

I left with my eggs and walking back to the house heard Alice laughing in her huge Chicken Guffaw Laugh,

"She probably thinks it's one of those store bought chocolate ones and will bite into it."

More chicken snorts.

But I could feel Edmonia Lewis rolling her eyes even though I was already in the house.

{ I'd like to assure everyone there are no Samuelle Noel hairs included in the recipe.}

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Annual Pig Sunscreen Drive is here!

Contrary to some chatter, I did not use styling gel on Rosie, she does her own hair and make up, thank you very much.

It's time for the Annual Sunscreen Fund!

Every year in mid summer, Rosie loses all her little bristle piggie hairs and is bald–all over. Besides the fact that she has very scaly skin even with hair, without hair she becomes burned and her skin suffers. She often rubs it and it scabs. I have kept the scabbing at a low with the help of Destin, a diaper ointment with cod liver oil [a wonderful product for many skin ailments I must say!].

My regime with Rosie is to massage her with baby oil at night. Then in morning I add Destin in, and the left over baby oil on her body helps spread out the thicker Destin. I use spray on sunscreen all over her throughout the day. I also find the Destin doesn't tickle or sting her. The spray on screens are great for coverage and is much easier to cover the worst bald areas of her piggie body.

If Rosie is in a grumpy mood - a 90% possibility - covering her in sunscreen can be quite a challenge- but she is much more accepting of it now that I do it all the time.

How to help:
Either donate a small amount to the sunscreen fund - or scroll down for "Buy" button.

Send Sunscreen:
Rosie is accepting spray on sun screen this year. The spray on is much easier to get good coverage on her grumpy body, and as you can see from these photos where she was somewhat burned, she needs sunscreen!

Desitin Ointment - accepted year round
Rosie's skin chafes and I use this year round to soothe her skin and keep her scabs from rubbing to a minimum. "Desitin" is a diaper rash ointment found in the baby section at the store, made with cod liver oil - I also use it all the time for the other animals when skin issues arise.

Rosie appreciates your help. And no, the working pigs of Apifera do not need sunscreen because of their skin and their hair doesn't blow out-so rest assured your sunscreen is all for little Rosie.

Send your sun screen to:
Rosie McDonald McDermot
c/o Apifera Farm
14710 NW Tupper RD, Yamhill, OR 97148

or donate a small bit here:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

She recomends the book with all her heart

I was so pleased with this book review of "Misfits of Love" that I had to share it. Perhaps better than anything I'll ever see in The New York Times, this reviewer seems to really understand the essence of the book. This isn't just any reviewer-it is from a savvy reader who happens to be in 5th grade. It made my day to get an email from her Aunt, who wanted to share it with me, and I asked permission to then share it here with you.

As I read through it and I came to the paragraph on me and Old Man Guinnias and my father, I choked up, as she hit the nail on the head.

So thank you, Lili, I could not have asked for a better review of my work. And I am also pleased to see you received an "A". I hope you and Misteltoe continue to have conversations, and perhaps you will write your own book someday–if so, I will be sure to read it.

Dear Mrs. G,

Recently I have been reading a most amazing book.It is a collection of short stories, all of them true, written By Katherine Dunn of Apifera Farm.

This book Misfits of Love has no main character. In fact, the characters are mostly animals. There's no plot, story line or protagonist. What happens between one cover and another is purely soulful. The animals in these stories are amazing to think about, to wonder about. My favorite tales are "Hospice of a Lamb" and "Conversation with Old barn".

Mrs. G, I apologize if this is a short letter essay but this book is so powerful that my eyes are watering up reading it. My writing, though not nearly as powerful as Katherine's, is quite similar to hers. We think the same way about animals and their lives and passing. My favorite quote is,

"To say the souls is not a physical entity could be disproven by looking into Matilda's eyes."

I will explain who Matilda is later, but so powerful was that statement, I actually get teary just thinking about it.

Katherine shows a lot of similarities between the animals and humans around her. For example, when she took in an old goat named Guinnias, she would often talk to him and, as she did, she realized she was also speaking to her father who was dying several states away. I think it gave her comfort to have those conversations with someone, even it was an old goat.

Another example is Frankie, the Head Troll, a funny, bossy goat who arrived at the farm and immediately took charge of everything going on. Katherine's comments are that some animals–like people–"leave a bigger mark on one's daily life." Katherine said she could hear Frankie's voice in her head when she writes. Amazing to know that animals can have important voice when they don't speak at all. Or maybe it's that we don't listen?

Unfortunately, to truly understand the miracle of the book, you have to read it yourself. What you can understand without reading it is the impactful creatures that live or float along in our very real world. An example of this is Mother Matilda. She was originally kept as a brooding jenny, and then came to Apifera a neglected donkey. She is loved and cared for to this day.

Mrs. G, experiences with animals are not frequent, but are always incredible. I have a question for you: if you have ever experienced anything like the powerful connection I have made with my dog, Mistletoe? Please tell me if you have ever had that sort of a feeling, since I find it wonderful when humans and animals think together.

And that, Mrs. G, ends my essay. I hope that, although it may not have been as detailed as my others, you are curious about reading this book. I recommend it with all my heart.

Sincerely, Lili

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I find that there are many ways to pay homage to a person or creature-writing about, painting or drawing the subject, or taking a photograph series. The latter somehow allows me to not only really spend time observing an animal I might not have had an opportunity to examine up close, but it also just lets me partake in it's worldly vessel that is now about to take on a new form of dust.

I've been wanting to start a series like this and each time I see a beautiful moth in the water bucket I think about starting but life kept getting in my way.

But no more. So yesterday when I found this White Crested Sparrow in the lavender field, I decided to finally start a photo series called "Homage".

Please visit my main art site to see all the images. And as I do more I will let you know.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The farm as church

I was not raised with a church background, or a religion. Years later when I was in my thirties or older, my mother said she wondered if they did us a disservice by not giving us some sort of organized Sunday church going. I told her that it allowed me to figure it out on my own as an adult, and I didn't have to peel off the many layers and dogmas many churches prescribe too. I went to church for a short time at certain periods in my life, often to hear the choirs and I did enjoy the spirituality of certain buildings and communing of people.

But nature is one of my churches. So is the farm. I know it is Passover today and we-me and the Misfits and the other worker bees of the farm-are all busy today putting our spirits into action here on the farm. As is Martyn, of course.

I have new gates up which I'm pleased with-thanks to the Dirt Farmer- so now I have the pigs tilling up some of the vegetable area. But now that the ground is drier, they seem to prefer eating grass. The first weeks of warm weather I let Doris and June graze, but they rototilled soft areas of grass looking for worms. I was worried I had trained them to only till since they spent the winter in a dry paddock being fed hay and feed. But yesterday I spent the majority of the day with them as I tidied up the veggie area, getting ready for planting. And they mainly ate grass and weeds. If I created a wet spot for them, they did a bit of rototilling. I am still learning the language of Pig and it is very interesting.

Yesterday was also a big day for Earnest as he spent it with Doris and June. I have been on the fence about breeding them. It was my intention when I bought them all. We are self sustaining and while you can rest assured that Doris, June and Earnest will always be part of Apifera, some of the offspring will be sold, and a couple will grace our table. I know this rankles some of the rescue world-a world I separate myself from and stay out of discussion with online-but Martyn and I choose to eat pork and chicken and some lamb [lamb is anything up to a year-so if you are a zealot vegan, please do not write snarky comments about us killing baby lambs-they will be deleted anyway as I don't tolerate dogma from anyone of any agenda]. Anyway, the pig behavior is so different than sheep, and with pigs the fencing must include a bottom board, or the pigs will lift the fences with their noses. One of the reasons many small farms are going to the smaller pig breeds is their manners and maintenance are much easier-on fences and farm. Having experienced the power of Big Pig-who we tried to adopt so she could retire here- I know how important good pig fence is.

SO I wanted to see how Earnest's weight and height was compared to the gilts [an unbred girl pig]. Earnest is a Kunekune and will get to be about 200-250#. The girls are Guinea Hogs and currently a tish taller. The Kunes are a wonderful, docile breed. So are the Guineas, but from what I read and hear, the Kune is more docile. Earnest is not pushy at all and still easy to handle.

So, in they went. And little Earnest began his job with gusto. I will keep this post PG rated, but let me assure you Earnest gave it the college try-for hours. I was there the entire time and even made him take time outs with mud baths. From what I can see, I'm not sure he is quite tall enough to make full contact-but we'll find out. I was pleased to see he is catching up in size, as I know the Kunes grow a bit slower.

Today I have the smaller Misfits in the veggie bed, and Old Rudy is in the back yard off my back studio-usually shut down to animals-but Rudy is helping me clean up brush and grass there. The sheep are grazing, Aldo is watching, Scooby is napping..oops, well, we all must rest during our work. The donkeys are busy with brush and eating too. Chickens are grooming the flies off water buckets. Marcella is trying to help with everything.

So church today-with a big top blue sky and warm temperatures-has been glorious.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We salute the head matriarch

Today is Daisy's eleventh birthday. I can hardly believe how that time has passed. Daisy arrived with her mother, Rosemary, in our first year here at Apifera in 2004. I had little knowledge of raising sheep and was so lucky to have stumbled on those two, along with Joe Pye Weed who helped us build our initial flock. We lost Rosie, tragically, in the Spring of Death in '09 but her calm demeanor and leader abilities were passed onto Daisy.

I retired Daisy a few years ago. She is toothless now and her arthritis is showing more and more. She is slowing down in the fields and the other day I watched her try to keep up with the flock as they ran to the gate for dinner. It is best she stay with the flock though, rather than separate her out into the barnyard. If I ad to do that for her safety, I would, and would bring in Lilly too, her eldest daughter who is also retired.

Today I put the lambs and mothers back with the main flock. The lambs are a month and it is always exciting to have everyone back together-they greet old friends, butt some heads if necessary, sniff out the youngsters and let them know the pecking order. But in minutes, everything is calm and quiet again, with lovely white and brown shapes floating around the fields, eating grass. The two ram lambs shown here, are very nice too, really growing nicely.

The photo seen here of Daisy is included in the book, "Misfits of Love".

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Which way do I go

This is one of Little Lil's ewe lambs. We are at one month old now and all the lambs are looking good and growing well. I sat in front of her and took this sequence, but then it went on and on–she kept looking one way, then another, back and forth.

"Where's Mom? Where is sister?"

I enjoy spending time with the flock like this. I find one has to sit quietly with animals, a lot, to really observe, in order to comprehend some of their motions or why they react to certain things as they do. It is all interesting to me and is one reason I continue to love farming. You learn from each season, each group, each field.