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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Growing grass, losing hair and the shepherdess ages

Our flock of Katahdins are a hair sheep-they do not produce wool and require no sheering. It is always a delight to see their hair come off in late spring, and remember how deeply browned some are, or spotted in places you forget.

Right now the grass is growing faster than it will all year. In our early years we would be out weeding, mowing and breaking our old backs trying to keep up with it in the lavender fields-but I began to realize it was more for appearances. It wasn't hurting the health of the lavender.

Back then, we kept the sheep out of the field all year. But I hate to see grass go to waste. I am much more relaxed about the lavender now, and I prefer to use the grass for food for my sheep, rather than worrying about the plants. The young rams seem to nibble on only certain varieties, and at a certain point, we move the sheep to other fields. In other words, the sheep take precedence. We still harvest our plants in July-September and I sell Grosso bundles wholesale, and make bud out of the rest. The sweat and tears that went into those plants! But many are on their last legs as they are over 10 years old now-old for lavender. Much of the Provence took a beating in the cold winter this year and didn't make it. We toy with ripping out the lower section and planting Filberts, but we always settle back with a glass of wine, and sigh, and life goes on.

A farm is always evolving, flowing around what is working, or not working–and the farmers change too–growing older, and their priorities evolve. I remember meeting people when we first moved here who were then in their late 60's. We were in our 40's, bright eyed with clean nails. I had real clothes then, from city stores. I had ideas. The couple had done it all in the past, had lots of animals, bred sheep, planted fields and forests, and ten....they got tired. Or they got tired of feeling tired about some things, and they couldn't get things done as fast as in their younger days. I think we are just entering that phase of the farm. I look at younger couples now and just try[try] to keep my lips sealed. They will figure it all out for themselves.

I still enjoy being out in the field this time of year. The shoots do produce a lovely scent when you swoosh by them, and different members of the flock come and commune with me, briefly–like Irene, seen below. She is out of one of my favorite departed ewes, but I've never bred her, and won't. I could, there is no medical reason why I couldn't, but I just sense she is not up to the task. She just never really put on weight like I'd like to see, and fights with cocci every spring despite my best preventions and treatments. But I like her and she will stay here until she dies.

So if you come to Pino Pie Day and see fluff on the lavender, you know what it is!

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~