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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ocean come to me

We live one hour plus from the ocean. And I rarely get there. It is hard to leave the elders in heat, I have to change water buckets through out the day, but I do hope to get to her shores soon. I always find going to the ocean is liking going to a mother–it kind of sets you straight, soothes worn edges, and sets you back to where you are meant to be with a refreshed perspective.

Ocean, come to me in this painting, and soon I hope to come to you.

{Currently available at Adamson Gallery in Sacramento.8 x 10" acrylic on newsprint, framed behind plexi, $600 plus shipping}

Poodle goats

{If you enjoy the stories about The Misfits, feel free to drop us a tip. Monly subscriptions are available and donations with gift rewards too. Read more here.}

There is some confusion amongst The Misfits.

"They are Poodles," said Little Moose.

"Good grief, no, they are lambs," said Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat as he flew by to get to the upper paddock, spying berries in the bramble.

"I am a goat," said Victor, calmly, quietly.

"You are all not very worldly!" snapped Sophie, definitely the sassy of the pair.

Victor is such a sweet guy. After all he has been through, he is trusting and calm. Sophie is a bit of a protector, although Victor is not a wimp by any means. They do stick together but are unfazed by the chaos of the other animals coming and going. It is wonderful to see how calm they are. They stay out of trouble–which means avoiding The Head Troll and Marcella– and seem to have found a routine of eating hay with the gang, then going out to find a shady spot. I was so pleased to see them sitting in my Monkey Hut! I will see if I can catch it in a photo.

They are still very bony and thin, which you can't see with their curls. But the eating routine of giving them a private stall to eat their food at night helps. Ernest is totally on to the set up, however, which is a challenge , so their stall has been made into a small version of Fort Knox.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chicken breeze

There is a breeze today which makes the shade almost tolerable for some of us. I tried to capture the beautiful motions of hair, tails and goat beards in the breeze–but was pretty unsuccessful. Some things are better being experienced in the real.

But I did capture this shot of Florence, our last remaining Buff Orpington. The breeze through her dabbled feathers makes even me feel a bit cooler on this hot day.

Inspired by old llama ears in the wind

The ears of the elder llama are captivating. They are shaped ever so slightly different than a donkey, and are more like a bunny mixed with a goat. As I reread that I realize that is inaccurate-they are completely unique in the animal world.

Aldo sits in the fields and his ears are there to to hear, but they take little dance steps with the wind, or twitch off a fly landing on their surface.

I was thinking about the wind, how many things it does. Selfishly, it feels really good on a hot day but that same day it might be fanning a forest fire. But it carries seeds about the field and blows earth around to help reestablish some areas and erode another. I guess it is just like us, yin mixed with yang.

I sure do like the way it looks floating in and out of Aldo's ears though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Melting Misfits

Thank you to everyone who has donated [with book rewards] to our Misfits and barn goals. And thank to everyone who has been buying art and books- it all goes swirling around and comes out helping me maintain the Misfits and share story with art and books.

The new Misfits are settling in. With Marcella, it is not as smooth as it could be, but she is doing okay and has already quit bugging Floyd...sort of. It is another round of hot days. We are always about 5 degrees hotter than Portland-so if anyone tells you it is always lovely and cool in the Northwest-they don't know what they are talking about. The valley gets hot.I won't go into my feeling on heat...because why ruin your day with me whining.

But we're all seeking shade where we can. Actually, the animals are very stoic about it. I found Scooby spread eagle out in the field and thought he was dead. I called and called and he didn't answer. But he was just sun bathing in 90 degree heat. Very funny, I told him, nearly gave me a heart attack. I made him get up and move.

Stevie spends most of the day in his cloth draped hut, getting up in early evening to wander around. His ear that had the hematoma is shrinking and will be wrinkled for life. Just another lovely quirk of this gentleman. He is doing great and there are no further signs of trouble like we had in June–no falling or casting. I'm just not sure what that was all about, but I'm relieved.

Floyd is not a sheep, as I have mentioned. He is a dog. He follows me everywhere, bleating. it is sweet, but I'm hoping he settles more. As we speak he is outside the studio door, bleating, like a lamb that was just weaned. I brought him down into the War Vet area as I call it–where the most crippled and old live, away from Marcella and the younger, spry Misfits in the barnyard. I wanted to see if he might feel more at home down here. He just seems to want me with him all the time, then he is fine. He bleats less now when I leave the barn, so I think it will all be fine. I wish I knew his history. He has a hole in his ear so was tagged once. I wonder if he was a working ram in a flock, and they couldn't bare to slaughter him in the end so neutered him. But I'm not sure he'd be this personable. Perhaps he was a 4H project and they decided to keep him.

Victor and Sophie are a challenge to get fed, and it takes some coordination and special setups to get them to eat all their food, and not have Ernest or Rosie show up and squeeze through their stall doors. This is the mayhem time–a period of days or a week or two where I wonder if I'm nuts, but then it all settles in, and down.

So for now, we nap when we can, a lesson the pigs taught me.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Checking in with the insides

I started a canvas last week. August is my least prolific month, or I guess I just don't worry about output of any kind. I'm like the flowers out front, just struggling to keep my roots moist and not to worried about blossoming beautiful petals anymore. If you follow and live within nature, it always slows down, growth takes a break, the soil gets crusty-some moisture is needed for new growth spurts later on.

I felt a bit wobbly painting. Some of my paint tubes were even dried up.

Wow, just like me, I thought, feeling the heat of my skin from the summer temperatures.

But, I worked through it. The thing is, I have some other projects going on, one I haven't talked about and will if it comes to fruition. And the barn project is on my mind, as are the many Misfit issues. So when I felt a bit wobbly painting, I just thought,

"This is for me, only me."

I liked it, and sensed I was channeling rain. Who knows. I tried to see other shapes in the piece that might become something, if I felt they were really there. But I didn't see anything. Months earlier, I had made a comment online that I felt a need to go inward in my painting, work on some abstracts. This is perhaps due to the fact that writing exposes me, and literal pieces do too, more than an abstract. So the canvas will stay as it is for now. I think it's showing me something and it is also asking to remain as it is for this time period. I'll oblige.

I was thinking about life after death, assuming there is another realm, which I choose to believe. I tried to imagine what it is like to not have things, or recognizable objects, a realm where no words are used because they aren't needed. Nature won't exist as we know it on this beautiful planet but it might expand into colors. As a living human, wondering what it might be like, it can seem uncomfortable. But it also seems very free, to be unencumbered by all feeling or sensation as we know and experience it here and just become pure spirit and love. I think that is what abstract painting might be for me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The arrival

If you'd like to chip in for the new arrivals, please do and thank you too. We're increasing food consumption by 3 mouths- and they all have skinny bodies-that's about 7 additional pounds of feed a day.

They arrived on a hot afternoon, but came out of the trailer like immigrants looking over their new land, their home.

I got Floyd out first. He is a 13 year old wether sheep, most likely a Katahdin cross. I have never taken on a sheep due to the health of our own working flock, but I had a crush on Floyd for awhile, and something in him just spoke to me. And I am so glad. He is more like a giant dog than a sheep. He likes to go where I go, or stand next me and just hang out. When I leave, he bleats. When I arrive, he bleats. He is settling in, but the heat has made it uncomfortable even though there is plenty of shade. In time, he will find his place. Floyd is pretty arthritic, but not as crippled as I thought he was going to be. His pasterns are slightly fallen, and he will need supplemental feed at his age. But his teeth are good. he has a mystery skin issue on his rear end that the former vet could not figure out, and lots of work was done on it by the last rescue [New Moon Goat Farm], so we will just watch it for now.

But I will say this, Floyd is an exceptional creature. A bit on the Stevie wavelength-soulful, loving, kind, people oriented more than animal oriented.

I am more concerned about Victor. He is so thin, due to past neglect, and he is also a very slow eater. I watched him eat, and Sophie ate much of the food. I will need to separate them so I can make sure he is getting adequate feed. He was 50/50 survival rate when he landed at New Moon last month, so I do hope we can get quality weight on him. He has a great attitude, and is not bothered by his deformity in the hind end, although he needs to lay down a lot, so it does cause discomfort to stand. It is like his back legs don't stretch right, and he has all his weight on the front. Sophie is going to be fine once weight is put on her. I have found that sometimes in these severe neglect animals, they can have chronic sickness, and some don't make it. But we will always proceed with hope.

There is always chaos in the initial introductions here amongst new Misfits. And this time, we have the added element of Marcella the guard dog. The latter did very well for a 7 month old, I will admit, but she adds a new dimension to my tasks at this stage in her guarding career-in other words, she can really be a pain in the patuzzi! All in all though, she is not play chasing as much, and stops sooner when I say 'stop'.

These aren't great shots, but I am so tired in the heat, and all the excitement and chaos of new additions. They don't do anyone justice, but these were taken about an hour after arrival. Marcella is being pretty good today, and I left the new ones contained last night. I think eventually they will get along in the lower Misfit herd-where the most crippled are. But for now I want them up in the upper barn as I have more fenced stalls. See, I need that new barn!

Thank you to Ellen at New Moon for helping them, and to Cheryl Munson and her friend for making the 12 hour round trip to bring them here. It really helped me out!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A whole bunch of Misfit anticipation

I have alerted the barnyard that tomorrow we will have more Misfits arriving. It was meant with calm, as summer weather brings out a more relaxed reaction to almost any event around here. But I can assure you the usual preparations are being made.

Pino has been warming up the band. Although the summer band consists of two hens, since the other hens don't practice in the summer. This leaves him with no horn section, no percussion either, just two soprano singers.

Oh well, we do our best.

But tomorrow a very generous woman will be picking up the three goats from New Moon Goat Farm Rescue, and she will make the 6 hour drive to Apifera. This is so helpful–I do not want to leave Mama Sugee right now, nor the pregnant pigs–and I didn't want to do the drive alone either with a trailer. So this angel stepped up to the plate and with a friend will help us out!

Donkey brays, hoof stomps and tail swishes!

I am hoping to get donations for the gas mileage for her. If you'd like to help, you can just go to the barn fundraiser and plop it in there. Anyone donating $50 or more gets a copy of Misfits of Love [or Donkey Dream]. Or you can simply Paypal me at my email.

Stay tuned to meet the new arrivals!

Message from a father

My heart skipped a beat this morning.

I completely forgot about this little intaglio print, and found it tucked way back in a closet. I did it at age 10, and gave it to my father back then. He framed it and had it in his office for all those years.

Near the end of his life when they were moving again, and I was living here at Apifera, he gave it back to me because he thought it was now meant to be with me. I remember at the time I was sort of hurt he gave it back, but not really–and I didn't say I was hurt, I accepted as I knew it was meant as a gift, and he was down sizing.

But now this morning when I looked at it, it was like his voice said loud and clear the words he never was very good at finding-

"Look, you dreamed that dream of a farm long ago and now you have it! Good for you!"

I miss him.

I also remembered that my mother, some time after my father died, mentioned the little print, and how he really thought it was meant to be at my farm. I had tucked it back in the closet some years ago when we were remodeling at some point, and it was rather ironic I pulled it out now–as I am once again dreaming of the next barn.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sharing what I have

{If you respond to the work I do here at Apifera-both with animals and sharing them with people-please consider donating to our barn project. The barn will not only house animals, it will provide a place for me to have one-on-one encounters year round like the one I had with Betty.}

Her name was Betty, and on her wrist she wore her late husband's watch. She also had on the same wedding dress she wore to marry him some 30 years earlier. Betty was in her eighties and had recently gotten out of the hospital-so the loose fitting, Mexican style white dress was roomy and more comfortable for her on this particularly hot summer day.

Betty had come to one of our Pino Pie Days, driven there by her caregiver, who was also her daughter. We sat in the shade, and communed for some time, initially with silence as Betty petted Pino, and smiled as if she had been reacquainted with something deeply familiar. The quietness of the moment must have brought up memories, because Betty began sharing stories with me. She had lost her husband only nine months earlier, and a tear came to her eye. I told her about losing my father not long ago too, and then I got teary eyed–but our mutual losses of men we had loved for so long was our most common denominator for that moment.

"Many years ago, when I was much younger than you," she began, "my husband took me on a long, exotic journey to Egypt. We travelled in the desert and it was beautiful, and strange too. But that was where I saw my first donkey. It was a long time ago and there is a lot I don't remember, but I remember that donkey, and I remember how drawn I was to him. I never got him. So I wanted to come meet yours."

She went on to tell me, as Pino stood patiently, still, at her side, how much that trip had meant hoer back then, because her husband had worked hard to make it happen.

"He was like that, he was giving," she said. "That's why I wanted to come pet your donkey, it reminds me of that moment I had back then."

So there we were, one elder woman and two fatherless daughters, sitting around a little donkey, each sharing moments that stung, but that also brought love out in the open, and made us feel better.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I don't know about you, but I'm astounded

Within each day, there are mundane tasks, where I, like many of you, shuffle along lost in thoughts and lists of things to do and dreams of the day's end when a meal and glass of wine await. But I don't think a day goes by when I feel moments of astonishment - so much all around me, right on this little piece of Earth-so many textures, smells, beauty. It's all so darn amazing sometimes–no all the time.

The old llama is as exotic as a sea creature, really, his ears popping out of greens. And this year's return of The Gods of the Garden-the Globe Thistles–is spectacular, especially with the surround fennel embracing them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And we will build a new barn

The other exciting news, if not heart burn making news due to the financial commitment-is we are taking the plunge and building a new barn!

We have been thinking of this for a couple of years, but I wanted to make sure it made sense both financially and for our overall farm needs. A series of things had to happen so that I could see this dream clearly, and know it is a wise thing, not just a fling of fancy.

This barn will hold life in it and cradle death at times. It will be a very symbolic structure for me-built by us after 10 years of our work here. It will be very guided by the Moon and other mysteries-it already is. For after a couple of years of being afraid to do it, I am listening to the voice that won't go away-

"Build it now."

When we brought on Marcella the pup, I separated out the most wobbly and crippled elder Misfits and put them in the paddocks by the barnyard. This allowed them to be safer from Marcella's puppy play. Martyn added another Shade shelter, and those three paddocks are well used - if you have been to Pino Pie Day you have seen them. The elder ponies also occupy one of those paddocks. But as summer has worn on, I realize how helpful it is to have this entire area near my studio as a place for my 'war vets' - the neediest of the Misfits. it allows me to keep my eye on them outside the stdio, and it keeps them safe from the younger Misfits. But these shelters won't be good enough to keep the elders in in the worst parts of winter. Last year when we had the big snows, I looked out and there was Old Mama Sugee standing with a foot of snow on her - the winds had blown so hard that all the shelters were snowy. I had to move every body up to the hay barn-it was like Noah's arc in there for weeks! Funny to have old geese and ducks, a grumpy pig, blind ponies and cripple goats all living in one barn...but there was no turnout and it got a bit...cramped.

And of course, wet rains and cold temps can really be bad for elders. So this barn will help a lot. It will also make my life a bit easier. Now when someone is being hospiced, or is in need of meds and look outs every couple of ours, it's right outside the studio. Both of our other barns are well used and filled up with purpose.

So, I want a new barn. I dream of the new barn, and it will happen. It is going to happen and it is for a good thing. many exciting and good things will come because of this barn. It will help me go forward with some out reach sessions I'd like to have too- as there will be more rain and shade protection.

We have begun the plan, sketches, cost quotes...it is exciting, although it is a big project and there will be turmoil as I will have to take current fence down and move animals around.We hope to start in late summer-before the wet rains make it difficult. We will have the poles planted and frame built and the roof, by a barn company. We will do all the leveling, build a rock wall foundation and put up wood walls to mimic and old barn, and build our own stalls. I'd love to have it all done by the company, as it would get done so fast-but Martyn is handy and wants to do it and it will save lots of money.

SoI set up another GoFund page so people can donate if they wish. I hesitated to do it, but I will gladly accept any help people want to give me. I think some people are getting tired of crowd sourcing requests. But I will gladly take any help I can get. I've been been doing my work with Misfits for 10+ years now, and sharing art and story too-so a penny in my pocket is a penny in my pocket. Anyone donating $50 or more will get a book.

More elder Misfits coming to Apifera!

I have two exciting things to share today-they both deserve equal time. But I will start with the wonderful news that three more senior creatures are arriving from New Moon Goat Farm Sanctuary in the next couple of weeks.

I have had a crush on Floyd since I saw him a couple of months ago. He is an elder statesman, and from I hear, already has a fan club up at New Moon-many were happy he was coming to Apifera, but let out a big sigh when they heard he was leaving. Floyd is a 13 year old mixed-breed wether sheep. I have never taken in a sheep, as to protect the health of my own flock, but Floyd is an exception for me. He just spoke to me. This is usually how it happens-I see an animal and we have some kind of internal conversation through our eyes, and it grows over the days. In time it becomes apparent to me that animal is meant to come here-for whatever reason. I do seem to have a knack for bonding with the ones near death, but that is okay, I am attracted to hospice work with animals. But, We hope Floyd will be with us for a long while, although he is 13. We hear he is the biggest, goofiest, friendliest sheep you'll ever meet. Sounds like a fit-and maybe a nice change for Stevie, since Floyd is tall. Sometimes I wonder if Stevie looks around and thinks,

"Everyone is so squat around here except me."

We are also bringing home two elder goats that were severely neglected. Victor was the worst off, and now has a deformed spine and hips causing him to walk oddly, but he seems to be pretty content according to Ellen and she notes he adores people. He will be coming with Sophie, an 8 year old Angora doe who is "sassy". If you want to see the work New Moon did when they first acquired Victor, here is a brief look. Victor was so matted for so long that he was raw under the wool, including his penis. His feet were horrible and I'm sure will give him trouble as he ages. They still have a ways to go to gain weight but have a new start on life thanks to New moon's efforts, and now ours.

I'm so excited to meet them. When I decide to take an animal on, I get very anxious before their arrival, as I feel like they know they are coming. This mystical connection is something I truly feel, no matter how woo woo it might sound to some. Some animals seem to have a stronger energy, but I always am relieved for everyone when they are on the ground, here, safe and open to a new life, even if it is the end of a life.

If you'd like to send a donation or make a monthly subscription donation [at reward levels, or no rewards, visit here. All help is greatly appreciated,needed, and used with love and care!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nap like a pig

I went out to take some photos this afternoon, and I obviously came at Pig Nap Hour. Nobody informs me of anything around here. All around, little lumps of pigs. To the untrained pig eye, one might gasp,

"They're dead!"

No, just napping. And yes, if Pearl and Doris look extra plump, they are. They are both full with piglets. Stay tuned.

But now I must nap.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Annual merging of sheep to land

Every summer about this time, the colors of fields and flock begin to merge. We've had over a week of 95 degree temperatures, but the slow burning of the remaining grass reminds me the next season is autumn. The flock's earth tones melt with the land now–even the white sheep turn dark from the sticky weed that coats them with oil, and then the dust of the earth hops on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer percolations and The Great White

Yesterday I insisted with myself,

"You have to try."

So in the hot afternoon I took to the cooler studio and sat down to sketch. I have been wanting to do some things of Aldo and Marcella. I felt wobbly, but was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. I know many artists–including well known ones I've read of–who take breaks for various reasons, and wonder if they can still paint or draw. I felt this way of late. Summer is never my most prolific painting time, never was, never will be. This is one time I can say "never". I'm like any creature-I lay a bit lower in summer, closer to the earth. It's warm, sometimes hot-best to walk slower and head for shade, save up energy for the burst of autumn's cool. Summer is a great time for resting and pondering for me-I have a couple big projects I'm excitedly percolating with-which I will share if and when they are more concrete.

I really love to write, and photograph. I was wondering if my muses have simply shifted in the dance line. I am not afraid of it. I think I will always paint, but it will not be in the same outpouring of product as in my younger days-back when I numbered everything and had a long list of paintings each year. And I don't fear that my production schedule has decreased. Quantity doesn't matter. I need to make a living, but my living is made up of so many facets-word and art in books,story,animal care taking and writing about it, farming...and art.

I am very graced to have ended up this way, and still able to make a living. I'm lucky to have found a mate who loves his work too, and can also collaborate with me on the farm in my passion for the animal work I do. When I go for my morning walk with the dogs and we get to the top part of the hills 2 miles away, I always stop and breathe, and look–and sometimes I say,

"Keep it coming. Thank you."

It was nice having an image of Aldo that I felt captured him. I will do more sooner or later.

Today is another 95 degree day. Heading for shade.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Annual Pig Hair Blow Out...starring Rosie

When I first adopted Rosie the grumpy pig years ago, [from our friends down at Sanctuary One] I was horrified to notice her hair falling out that summer. I excitedly emailed a pig friend [yes, I have pig friends], who explained this is a normal summer occurrence.

Nobody tells me anything.

Pigs 'blow' their hair out each summer, or at least some of them do. i am not a hair blowing out expert, but Rosie's starts falling out around July 1, and then she gets her sweet little mohawk as you see here.

"Look, Rosie has her mohawk!" The Head Troll announces, and everyone gathers and "oohs and ahs".

You think I'm making that up...but I'm not.

So I went out and sat with her today to enjoy her hair, or lack of hair. She obliged by getting up from her piggie nap, snorting around with me and trying to pose her head in a way I liked. Eventually, she just snorted and went back to her nap.

What a fine pig she is, grumpy or not. And I must remember to buy more sunscreen for her little bald head.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Old Mama Sugee and I keep on trying

Working with the really old elders means things can change very quickly-from an animal holding their weight to a drastic weight loss. Old Mama Sugee begun to lose weight, drastically, and it seemed very sudden. I had the vet out yesterday to examine her. She too saw the drastic change. It's frustrating, as I had been able to put on a lot of weight on her, and even though I knew she wouldn't regain muscle necessarily especially in her hind end, I had made progress. But that changed in early to mid June. I upped her feed then, but then I had the scare of watching her seizure a couple weeks ago.

The vet came out took blood and we talked about all the possibilities. She observed her a lot and agreed she was really losing mass and muscle.

We know Sugee is very old-late 30's to 40, so there are many things that could be working inside her. Putting and keeping weight on old equine is very hard. We took blood and the results came back better than we expected. In fact, there was nothing indicating we should panic, or euthenize.

She is slightly anemic, but not horribly anemic and her liver/kidney/white blood cell count are fine. So we are upping her feed and changing the mix a bit, going to 3x a day feedings. Her heart rate was so slow with murmurs that we cold not put her under for more teeth floating–so I will try another type of shredded hay with her, in addition to the supplemental equine food.

Her old body is fighting, and possibly cancer or other chronic issues related to her extreme age are working against her. But she is old. My vet and I are on the same page about this-we will keep trying to get weight on now and examine blood counts in a month.

At this point I will continue to try for her until we feel it is not in her best interest. She still is interested in moving and being her old lady self-so I hope we will see improvement in the next 30 days with increased feed and a different mash.

If you'd like to sign up for a small recurring donation, or one time donation to help Sugee and the other Misfits, It is greatly appreciated and it helps a great deal! There are gift levels too. Recurring donators get a book when they go over $50.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The shepherdess sweats it out...stand back

The animals are so stoic in the heat. Not me. I lose my temper quickly if I'm out in it, lose my patience. It has always been this way for me, even as a child. My fair skin and red locks have centuries of temperament boiling just under my skin, so when the temperature gauge rises above even 85 I get a bit cranky. Today it was 97 in the shade.

But I did get up early for my morning 3 mile walk with the dogs and the air was beautiful and cool. I've been rising earlier and walking, getting my heart it's exercise as well as my dogs. I found I have to get up, not to one thing except get dressed and get out the door, no email or even breakfast-it is the only way I seem to get my walk in.

The vet came to look at Old Mama Sugee around noon and take blood work and it was still reasonable. But by the time I went out at three to refill water buckets, the temp had spiked. Doris the pig was in her mud pool, man, was that tempting.

And then I found that the water tank was dry. Grrrrr. So I hauled mid day water to Boone, the rams and was able to get water out of pipes for pigs and goats. But the thought of walking down to the river to turn the pump on...oh, it killed me just thinking about it. That would be like, 1/4 mile and then back.

I went in and took a nap instead, in front of the fan with my shirt off. Afternoon delight.

But the globe thistle sure like it. As usual, they are the Gods of the summer garden and I never tire of them. Mixed in with the Queen Ann Lace and the deep mustards of the fennels, a hint of red rose here and there, the garden is beautiful. I will attempt some photos this week, if I can leave the house.

It will be high 90's for the upcoming days, which means it will be 100 here. They always underestimate the valley temps, as I see it. But we have the river and I'll go swim with the trout, if they are around. And we have the trees to give us shade too. And I have Martyn to make me laugh through it. The man is a saint. He knows I do my best in the heat, but he really understands I am switched off, and my breakdown is switched on. I will do my best to just stay calm and collected.

The summer has so many bounties! Food, fruit, warmth, flowers, rides in a warm breeze...but it is right about now when I begin to hold onto the hope of autumn. Yep, that's right, autumn. And I know I share this sentiment with many. And as stoic animals are, it is hard on them too, this heat.

But as my mother used to say in such situations,

"It's only weather."

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Land messages a place of sense

Back in my former city life in Minneapols-which seems like a short time ago, but also a life time ago, I believed that crows brought me messages. I believed this with all my heart. At the time, I was seeking, a lot of things. I wanted a mate, I wanted a sense of place which I didn't quite have - yet. I wanted purpose and vibrancy in my daily steps. I wanted to feel secure.

Like many seekers - I reached for many false talkers who I hoped would give me quick answers and clues to get me on a track that was meant only for me. I read a lot of books - some I look back at and realize how wobbly my land legs must have been to have read into such dogma. I guess it all got me moving around in certain directions, and made me seek my own answers, which is what it is all about in the end.

But I never stopped believing that crows were harbingers of important messages. At one particular time, when I was attached to a drowning man who was only dragging me along on the bottom of the sea, I believed that when I saw two crows together, it was a message that this man and I were still as one, still meant to be a couple.

I would like to officially apologize now to all crows.

Last year when my mother died, a mourning dove began arriving and sitting nearby, for long periods of time. I had never witnessed a dove sitting for such long time spans, close, patiently. I believed it was my mother. I still believe that. That dove stayed and would appear in the next few weeks when I needed it most. I'd come home up the drive and there she would be, sitting on the lower gate, waiting for me. I'd hear her cooing in the morning outside my window and this helped me get up and carry on. Just about any dove I saw, I took to be 'that dove' and believed it with all my heart. In time, I'd see the dove with another dove, and that became my parents, together, looking in on me before they flew off to their current realm.

The fact that I really did believe this is what helped get me to this 'place of sense' that we now call Apifera. I think to land in one's path takes not so much believing in oneself, but believing in...crows bringing messages, or doves becoming mothers. I had to unzip my body and step out of it, in order to see the possibilities of what my life could really be. By finally taking the plunge and leaving my homeland in Minnesota, I sacrificed things that brought me comfort-having my parents near by and having wonderful friendships that took time to nurture. I sacrificed what I knew like the back of my hand-the old neighborhoods I'd grown up in, the stores and street scenes that had many memories and gave me a sense of knowing where I was. I gave up not needing a map to find anything.

And I gave up a little house with wonderful old trees. I had to let go of the trees. But trees are a clan, a wise woman told me soon after. Where ever you go-the trees are connected to one another.

Living on land engulfs a person in messages. One is acutely more aware of harbingers of all season, storms, trouble and danger. The intuition we had when we once swam with dolphins is honed out here. I am still not as aware as the eagle over head, but part of the reason I feel so 'on my path' on the farm is I am a crow, I am a dove, I am the land as I form a continuum from dirt to working boot to breath. And that dove is still my mother when I need it to be.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

When the old man needs a haircut

Working alone with a creature, or nature, allows you to go back into your own memory. It gives you quiet space to percolate, dream, grieve, love, laugh...remember.

All around the world, women patiently give their their old men haircuts. My mother did it for my father in his final years. I've always cut The Dirt Farmer's locks and am sure I'll do it until I can't-at which point he can just grow it long and wispy.

So I felt obliged to get Aldo out of his winter suit. I had waited because of the rush of Pino Pie Day and had hoped to find a shearer, but to no avail. Since I do everything on my own anyway, I felt it was a good bonding time for me and llama.

For starters, I talked to my llama friend up the road and got some tips. Fortunately, Aldo is very obedient and there wasn't any problem between customer and hair cutter. No spits or kicks. In fact, I think he liked it. Who wouldn't like getting all that hair off?

Now, I don't think I will win "The 2014 Best Llama Haircut" category this year, but since I didn't enter one either, who cares. I don't. I just was pleased I could help him out. It took about three hours, and that was because I was using three different pairs of scissors.

NOTE to all llama experts reading this post-and I know you are out there- please do not write and scoff at me for my scissor choice. I simply felt serendipitous upon waking, and even though I knew I didn't have the proper gear, decided to forge ahead to do a hair cut knowing the heat was coming.

So of course the minute I started cutting, I immediately knew I had to invest in llama shearers, and I will. I could have taken off another inch, and might try to find a proper clipper and do that this coming week or next. Martyn had to be summoned several times to sharpen my scissors, and as he gave me back one pair, I'd take the newly sharpened pair and he'd run off and sharpen the dulled pair.

What I really loved about giving the haircut though were the simple moments between woman and llama. Aldo really likes to have his eyeballs gently rubbed, and even kissed. Since he was tied, I got to do a lot of that. The other wonderful part about working alone with a creature, or nature, is it allows you to go back into your own memory. It gives you quiet space to percolate, dream, grieve, love, laugh...remember. I had a memory flash through me of giving the dog a haircut when I was about six - I got a hold of the electric dog trimmer unbeknownst to my mother. That shaved little poodle took it in stride. I then proceeded to shave the bangs of my next door neighbor, also my age, but my mother found us just as my friend was about to clip my hair. I guess she got the worst of it, but we thought it looked fabulous. Our mothers did not.

So Aldo's hair cut might not be the best, but nobody was laughing around here. In fact, all the hair on the ground provided intrigue, and Aldo had many visitors during his post hair cut. Even the pig came by to roll in it.

As I left, The Great White looked a bit smaller. A bit older. I was happy to see he wasn't as thin as I dreaded. But like all old men who get free haircuts from their women, he hobbled off a bit lighter, and appreciative of the help I'm sure.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Apple Pie for Dreamers at your service

I was so pleased to get a message from someone who not only came to Pino Pie Day all the way from Omaha, but she also was a supporter of the Kickstarter project and had recently received her copy of Donkey Dream. She and her young daughter had been busy, making the Apple Pie For Dreamers. And they followed the directions to the note, so I'm sure the pie was as tender and caring as can be! This just made me smile in a visceral way. My work had been done.

It's the circle again-the moments when I do something, put it out there, someone else is inspired, they do something and share it back with me. It makes my life meaningful, full and responsive to my heart, but also gives me a connection to an outer community. It takes only a small thing-like sharing a pie recipe, or sharing a donkey hug, to inspire others and make them feel good.

Want to make an Apple Pie For Dreamers? The book is now available!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

From lamb to man, er, ram

We named him "Little Walter", after a blues singer–a working ram's life has definite perks, but a guy can get the blues when he has to leave his girls and hang out with the boys again in the off season.

Time has flown since I first brought Walter home. He was about 7 months old then and I brought him on to keep the line fresh, plus I loved his color and his sire's disposition and build. Walter is still a complete gentleman at age three with two breeding season's under his belt. Sometimes after breeding, a ram can get more dominate, but so far, Walter remains a charmer. And he throws wonderful color and size.

Some farms choose to switch out their ram after two years, to keep the line healthy. For those not in the know, you don't want to be breeding a father into a daughter, so obviously if you have related ewes, sooner or later you need a new ram, or a separate flock of ewes. We've done a bit of both. And because of that, I plan to keep Walter forever, even after retirement-unless he goes aggressive on me. Right now, I still have EB White and plan to sell him as he is so related to our flock. He is a nice guy, no real trouble with him, but he is more dominant in the ram field. I have two beautiful ram lambs out of Edith and Walter that I'm holding onto, so there are 4 rams in the field together. Once EB White is gone, I might see a shift in Walter's personality, but I'm thinking not. But who knows-I'm not in charge of that. I just really like Walter a lot. Even still, he is a ram. I never lose sight of that when I'm working in his field.

I had one ram-Joe Pye Weed-who I had a love-hate relationship with. I always had to have a stick or rake with me around him. Once I was safely out of his eyesight having left the barn, and he turned around came out the barn and nailed me from behind, badly, got me to the ground. He went off to live on a dairy farm and is probably gone now. When that farmer came to pick that ram up, I asked him to shake on it, that he'd let Joe die on the farm there. I hope he lived up to his word-but it's not my farm or operation. And in hindsight, if I had a ram like Joe now,  I'd relocate him one way or another. I need to keep my oxygen mask on firmly, safely, before I help all the critters on the boat.

Walter developed a white crew cut look after his second year. I found that so charming as well as amusing. And it definitely gets passed to his offspring. I think he looked fabulous next to the thistle- which I did mow down after this photo–so all you arm chair farmers don't have to jump on me. Besides, I'd be happy to have you come out and live in the ram field and help de-thistle.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The odd couple meet Marcella

I do not let Marcella hang out at will with the old llama. Although he is very docile, and elderly, I don't trust her around the llama. She still has some play in her that could be problematic. Like I've said recently, at almost 7 months she is maturing, but is still prone to outbursts of,

"Hey Hey! I'm a monkey! I get the funniest looks where ever I go!" [Perhaps you youngsters won't get the humor in that].

I mowed last night and had her out with the war vets, as I call them, the most crippled of the Misfits, and that includes Aldo. He ignored her, but kept his eye on her, and she pretty much stayed away from him. But there were some moments when she got too pokey. She's big enough now to get away from a kick. She has to be able to run through a field with Aldo, that is just how we are set up here. Since Aldo is older, and appears okay with it, I don't think it will be a problem as she begins her real work the sheep.

I grabbed my camera on the day I let Marcella in the field. Scooby immediately went to Aldo's side, it was sweet. He is very independent of Aldo here, but is bonded to him for protection, I notice. Nobody picks on Scooby, he is an island, a real talker and his routine is to wander into a remote part of the field and graze. Then he chats up a storm when he sees me far off in the barnyard. But this particular day, when Marcella entered in the field as only Marcella can- full speed ahead and guns a blazin'-Scooby was staying close to Aldo. And when Aldo left, Scooby left. The image of the two of them leaving, seen here at the bottom, was so amusing to me.