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

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Magic 2014

This year, The Head Troll declared that at one minute past midnight on October 30, the first minute of Halloween, the Misfits should gather at the Pumpkin Patch. This alone conjured up great excitement. I am writing to you on Friday morning to try to share the magic of the night.

The barnyard is always excited for Halloween. They do not look at it as a night of spooks from the dead coming to haunt them, rather they anticipate the magic of the night. While any night amongst Nature without a flashlight will bring up all sorts of spooky feelings for most of us two footers, the animals are confidant in the dark and know it as the Moon Time.

The animals enjoy exchanging personalities during Halloween–something about donning a mask that can give insight into another creature. But this year, The Head Troll declared that no costumes would be made. Instead, at one minute past midnight on October 30, the first minute of Halloween, the Misfits should gather at the Pumpkin Patch. This alone conjured up great excitement. Firstly, nobody is allowed into the pumpkin patch this time of year because the giant orange fruits are still residing there, most of them destined to nurture the piglets. The area is always fenced off until I deem it open for Misfit meandering where they can nibble on weeds and tend to the many graves of former Misfits. The pumpkin patch is hallowed ground for as we tend the pumpkins or maintain the graves, we are walking above the bones of so many–Old Man Guinnias, Honey Boy Edwards, Gertie, Georgie, Tasha Teats, Doris the duck, Mr. Bradshaw, Lofa, Aunt Bea, Rosa's lambs, Emily Wiggly…and now, our newly departed, Floyd.

The fresh grave of Floyd is the largest grave we've ever had. It's fitting it is the size of a couch, because if you read about Floyd in my previous post, you know Floyd was like a couch–a beautiful, soft, ruminating couch. The burial is so fresh in my mind…and hands, back and heart…that I wasn't sure if I was up to a Halloween night. But I looked at all the Misfits going about their day, and once again was helped to join the living. Floyd would be with us, right there in the midst of the pumpkins.

In the past, I have seen things occur on Halloween night in the barnyard that have no earthly explanation. And while I was tired from the last week's ongoing care taking responsibilities, I was ready for some magic…natural magic. As always, I had no idea what the plan was. It was not my job to make a plan, or know the plan of Halloween night–it is always up to The Head Troll.

As the clock neared midnight on Thursday, I was sitting by the fire with Martyn. I had consumed some red wine, as always, but you must understand I had carefully maintained my wits. One does not want to miss magic, and intoxicants might make you think the magic is enhanced, but it is actually dulled and you miss many sensations of the moment. Besides, being tipsy around the Misfits on Halloween, in the dark, in a pumpkin patch is unwise as well as unsafe.

A rap came at the door, then the sound of rushing feet. A simple note was at my feet...

"Come now." signed T.H.T.

I used my flashlight to get to the gate, and there was Marcella, clearly visible in her all white coat, waiting to walk with me. I could see there was a distinct shining coming from the pumpkin patch, and as I grew closer I could feel lots of beady little eyes attached to little squat bodies glancing at me as I arrived, all the while as they sat around an enormous pumpkin, some 3' high. It was the biggest pumpkin in the patch– and while the pumpkin sat off to the side of Old Man Guinnias' grave, the seeds and stem had emanated from under his grave stones. I had visited the barn in the dark many times in the past week due to Floyd's condition, and had not noticed any shining pumpkin. I'm sure of this. But there it was, that same large pumpkin emanating this beautiful light, as if someone had hollowed it out and put a large candle in it. The group that had gathered did not make a sound.

And then the silence was broken. One of the Misfits, I think it was Wilbur, smiled, and sighed. Hoof stomps were heard, tails might have swished in excitement, Rosie looked at Earnest and familiar grunts were exchanged. There was no fear, it was more of a controlled excitement, like a crowd getting ready for the real fireworks display to begin.

So there I sat, surrounded by a bunch of squat pygmy goats and other crippled elders, two pigs and some fowl. I could see the piglets were on their fence line, huddled, not a squeal to be heard. Boone's head was leaning over the pumpkin patch fence, in silence, almost reverential.

The Head Troll got up and put one foot on the shining pumpkin.

"Thank you for coming to us." she said to the pumpkin light.

And then she listened, one ear in closer to the beautiful, glowing orb of orange with a streak of green. Several seconds went by.

"He says the dance troup is doing very well and that he is happy," she told the gathering.

We all knew it was Old Man Guinnias. He had written us after his death, several times and told us that he had started a dance troup to give all the old goats that die a chance to dance-many were crippled in their earth bound days. And I doubt anyone of you is surprised that Old Man Guinnias came to us on this magical night through the skin of a pumpkin.

The Head Troll then went around to each Misfit present, and whispered in their ear. This is a pretty stoic bunch, so most showed no signs of alarm, joy or sadness at what was whispered to them. Some did–Old Rudy sniffed and dried a tear, Rosie lay down afterwards and closed her eyes and slept, and Marcella acted like she'd just been given the Academy Award in something.

Everyone got a whispered message, except me. I did not show my disappointment in this, but I must tell you I was somewhat crushed.

The light on the pumpkin began to slowly dim. It was so beautiful when it was with us, and now took on a different beauty as it faded. But as it grew fainter, a small shape was shining way above us in the dark sky. The shape was star like and as it grew closer we all sat transfixed. Marcella was leaning into my side, while Boone whinnied softly at the fence. As the shining object approached, it's shape grew fluffier, like a clump of snowflakes. The light it created was even brighter than what the giant pumpkin had emanated, but this light felt softer even though it wasn't touching me.

The shape seemed to gravitate immediately to me, and all eyes were locked in my direction, breathless–except Rosie, who I could hear snoring. And then the soft shape suspended itself by the side of my face, near my cheekbone, holding itself up in mid air exactly parallel to my skin so it felt like my cheek was resting on…a sheep.

I heard a distinctive bleat of a sheep.

"Floyd? Floyd? Is it you?"
I asked, my voice shaky.

The soft orb dissipated.

Just a day and a half before all this, the vet had shaved off some of Floyd's neck wool in order to insert the IV of medicine that would carry him off on his final earthly journey. I had picked up that clump of wool and buried it with Floyd. But the morning after our night of magic, I found it again, sitting on Floyd's grave, with the giant pumpkin looking on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I will surely miss you, Floyd

I said good bye to my soldier today. Floyd began to show real signs of pain on Monday, but the pain meds seemed to help. What complicated my decision on how to proceed was he was eating, drinking [with my help] and although he couldn't get up on his own, he could stand with my help. I heard a lot of stories about animals recovering from being cast for days, or weeks. But they weren't old, and I knew in my heart even Monday what was coming.

Yesterday, I knew I had to help him move on. Sheep can be very stoic in sickness and even though he was still sort of eating, he was making more sounds indicating pain. He couldn't stand or even right himself with my aid. He had fought hard for six days and was tired, his lungs were probably filling, or eventually they could have collapsed. I have watched sheep die while being kept comfortable, and I've watched them die quickly in a death spiral-the latter is no fun to witness and leaves you helpless. Floyd's decline and signs of closing down were unusual for what my experience has been in eleven years of caring for elders and sheep, and it is one reason I have been guardedly optimistic these past days.

I had a restless night, but Floyd probably had a difficult time too, which was part of my restlessness thinking of his suffering. There was only so much pain meds could do. I could not get any of my regular sheep vets out yesterday, so one of my local equine vets was good enough to squeeze me into her farm calls today. I was so grateful they helped me out in a jam.

Yesterday, I felt off kilter all day, because I knew I had to wait a day for him to be put to sleep. I did what I often do, I created a farewell painting in his honor. I told him all about it, that he has rivers and sounds that he will recognize as home. I gave him wings not so he could fly, but so he could stay lifted up on his own free will. I finished it right before the vet arrived.

He passed very fast. He was worn out. So was I. But what a soldier he was! I told him again what an exceptional creature he was and though our time was short, I was just so glad I was able to give him a final home. He will be buried in the pumpkin patch along with many other Misfits. The barnyard and I will have a private burial tomorrow.

But let me tell you about Floyd and why his short time here will always be worth remembering with love.

I nicknamed him "The Couch" because he was...well, kind of like a couch. He was my shadow in the barn, moving right along with me, making sure he positioned himself right at my side. He came up past my navel and was a huge sheep. But his antics were never that sheep like. He was more like a dog. A dog couch. He truly seemed to adore me, and he just liked being with me wherever I was. He wasn't pushing around my pockets for food, he just liked leaning on me.

Every morning when he heard the barnyard gate open, he'd call out from the barn. I have so missed his calls these past six days. He never called out again after his fall last Thursday. Sometimes Floyd was so excited to go through a gate or stall entry with me, that the two of us would get sort of stuck since he is so big. Floyd tolerated anybody in the barnyard. He was not a fighter, perhaps because of his size he knew he didn't have to be. He put up with a lot from The Head Troll, who seemed to admire him and have a crush on him, but then could turn and smack him with her sawed off horns. And he just stood and took it like a man, not flinching.

I don't know his history, although he had a hole in his ear where a tag used to be-this could mean he was a working ram somewhere and then was sold, and became someone's pasture companion. Or he might have been a 4H project and they were unable to go forward with selling him. When he was elderly, he was relinquished to New Moon Goat Farm Rescue, where many of the adopted goat Misfits have first been taken before coming to Apifera. He was over thirteen, which is old for a sheep, especially a big guy. He arrived with arthritis and a bit thin, but put on weight and fit right in.

Floyd loved to have his cheek stroked, and I did this a lot in the past week. Today when he went on his way, he was calm and put his head in my lap and I stroked him off on his journey. I shed my tears yesterday, knowing he might be in distress. But today, I was so relieved for him. He is at peace and doesn't hurt.

But I will miss him. He had a big presence here. He was my right hand couch. I will always remember his eyes and his big old head and nose.

{If you want to help offset the vet call today, you can donate at different reward levels here.}

Monday, October 27, 2014

Massages for Floyd

This mid morning I checked on Floyd and he was anxious to try to stand, a good sign I think. This was his best standing moment since he fell on Thursday.

I always stand behind his rump [no comments, please] to support him, and usually his body sways a bit and he can lose balance and fall backwards. But this morning I decided to start giving him a back and hip massage. I did this for about 10 minutes and he felt stronger than he has in three days. Then I sat nearby and let him stand on his own for about five minutes. He then collapsed. He's not eating as robustly as he did early on though.

He also tried to do a back stretch when he was standing. I am going to give him three massages -standing, I hope-a day and see if this might help.

Put a donkey under your pillow

Just a garish self promotion that there are lots Raggedy Sewn items on the store, they are selling briskly as the holidays approach. Yes, I said the "H" word. I might do a bit of sewing today so keep your little eyes peeled on the store if you are interested.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Floyd, my soldier

It has been up and down since Floyd fell on late Thursday. Each day since, I have had high hopes, then he seems to fade. This could just be his way of going through what we call "the death spiral", but I am being fooled by the fact he is eating and drinking. Yesterday, I really thought he was fading, but mid day I helped him stand, and he took three steps. At night, he was upright and seemed stronger to me and I stood him up again and this time his legs weren't wobbling. But he still can't get up on his own, or walk on his own, and when he walked with me today, it is only with me holding up his rear end.

This morning, he ate, but not as well. But this is how yesterday started too. Still, I felt something shifted in him. I think he is tiring. I am torn about pulling the plug and am going to go through one more day and reassess. He is a good soldier, but I am the admiral and have to make the choice that is fairest for him. He is not lying there afraid to die, but when a sheep can't move on his own, has to be held up to pee, my job is clear.

So today, as morbid as it may sound to some of you, I will dig a hole for him. We talked about cremating him if he does doe, but the thought of having him hauled off upsets me-which is silly. But it is how it is. Martyn has warned me I must come to grips with how to deal with the larger bodies we now have in our care and what we will do with them. It is part of what I take on here, no whining, but just letting the many of you who see this place as all puppies and rainbows-it is not, never has been. Once you have to deal with a body of a large equine or other creature, you learn somethings you never thought of before-and why would you? It is part of this life though.

It has been pouring for days. I have Scooby Keith in the same large suite with Floyd, and Victor and Sophie too. A small, low window in the stall-which was created a long time ago when we first brought home Lucia, then a baby donkey so she could see out at night-allows light in and lets Floyd look out if he can, and Marcella can look in. As always the reverence of these times come through in the light of the barn, somewhat mystical for sure, and the bustle of the other animals goes on as Floyd lays in repose.

I will continue to get him up and down until I feel for certain that this brave soldier just wants to sleep on.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Trauma for Floyd...and me

It has been a very traumatic and exhausting twenty or so hours. It started yesterday at dinner feedings. I was going about my business when I noticed my shadow, Floyd, was not there as usual. This is unheard of.

We have had lots of rain-down pours for a good part of each day–for about four days. The ground is slick. I saw his large cast body by one of the gates that leads to the other Misfit paddocks. His usually off white body was pretty much mud colored. He was not moving even after I called as I ran to him. But he was alive.

He was shaking. And he couldn't get up. I got his rear up, but his front would collapse. I got his front up, and he couldn't lift his rear. You could tell by the ground he had thrashed and tried to get up. So I ran to the barn to get a packing blanket-to hopefully roll him onto to it somehow and thinking it would give him traction.

Floyd is a big, big guy, much bigger than my sheep. I guess he weighs about 250-300#. I tried for about 20 minutes and could not get him up. Man, I tried! My back was already strained and I knew I had to stop. I was completely soaked. I was able to get him on the blanket, and I ran and got one of the new pony coats someone just donated, and blankets. I have no idea how long he was down. It had poured from about 2 pm on, and I had last been in the barnyard at noonish. I had to get him to the barn, so I tried first roping his body and pulling, but I just didn't have the strength-and I'm no wimp. I knew we needed to strap him to the tractor somehow to get him up the small hill to the barn and I needed more man power.

To be honest, I was starting to get frantic. Martyn usually comes home around seven and it would be dark by about six thirty. It was near six. I ran to call Martyn and fortunately he was 25 minutes from home due to the rains. I then got some electrolytes and sheep drench in Floyd hoping to get him warmer.  I fed him grain-which he devoured–a good sign. Feeding a downed sheep has its risks, but I opted to do it because he was shaking. I stayed with him and lay on him to help with some warmth. I sang him "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", an odd song choice but its all I could think of do do at that point, waiting for Martyn.

Martyn arrived and I was sure we'd have him in the barn soon. But no such luck. First we tried together to get him standing. He just couldn't stand. Then we got the tractor and rigged up some roping. I held his head in a towel to protect it, and we started dragging. It was horrible to watch. We kept having to stop to adjust the packing blanket underneath him. And when we got to a certain point on the hill, he was precariously positioned, and slid back.  I knew we just had to somehow drag him together into the barn once we reached level ground, and we did. The mud helped the blanket slide, but it was still back breaking, even for Martyn.

I got more electrolytes and anything I could think of into him. He wouldn't drink warm water so I gave him propyl glycol. We positioned him so he'd be sitting upright. He did give me a few burps so that was good. His eye was swollen from his attempts to get up. Fortunately he is a wool sheep so though he was wet, his wool helped, and it was about 55 out so not too cold. But he was still shaking. I stayed with him for more than hour, watching, hoping he'd stand for me once calm. I'm sure it was a horrific ordeal for him.

But he never got up, and a couple times just wanted to lie on his side. Not good. I propped him up, stuffed hay all round him to try to keep him up, and then just let him be. I had done all I could and I talked to him for awhile before going inside about eight. I was soaking wet from head to toe and was shivering myself.

I went to check on him at 10 and he was upright, and his eyes looked good. He was breathing calmly. He had good color in his lips and eyes. But, I sensed a closing down. I stayed with him and he seemed to like having his face gently stroked, and then I went inside for the night.

I found him on his side this morning, but got him upright -he still could not stand. He ate well again and I dosed him with more electrolytes. His body functions are normal. I decided to put Victor and Sophie in with him in a private suite-it is Old Man Guinnias' old stall, and it is the stall where the sick and hospice patients go. It is where the lambs are held before harvest. It is a very special place, the light is beautiful there and I propped him up so he can see outside.

I have a vet on call, but right now we are waiting. Each time I have gone out, he has moved his position slightly, but still can't rise. I'm afraid feeding him while he is lying down [not cast, just lying down] will eventually catch up to him. But, it's all I can do. He doesn't seem to be in pain-no teeth grinding or neck stretching. And today I felt like he really wanted to get up. I am hoping that he will gain strength.

I don't know why this happened. He could have had a mini seizure and gone down. I don't know. None of the other animals had gone to him either, which I thought telling. But, I'm often wrong.

I think one clear realization for me is that I can't take on any more large animals. I have to be able to care for them on my own if Martyn isn't here or it is night time. We should probably invest in a fork lift for the back of the tractor, I could put a pallet on it and might have been able to get him on it. I wouldn't trade one second with Floyd. But when I couldn't lift him, I can't tell you how scary and frustrating it was, thinking he might be out there so long that he'd die because of it. Many animals on farms or the wild do die that way, at no fault of anyone. It is nature. But I told him as I held him in the mud patch, both of us shaking, "You are not going to die in this way."

So I will stay calm for Floyd, and he is safe now, and in a dry place. He knows I come out and check on him and he knows the sound of the gate opening. He does not seemed panicked. He might just be tired, and he is very old for a big sheep. This just might be his time. This is a very reverential time. I only hope to do the best for him, and what is right at the moment. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Henrietta, attention please!"

I train all my hens to stand at attention. I use this command strictly for photo opportunities, no other enslavement is involved. Of course, they don't all listen to me and the ones that do fall in line such as Henrietta here, only do it when they want to. But when they do stand at attention, especially against the background of a red barn, it is always pleasing, even if it lasts only a second or two.

At ease, Henrietta.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn Fashion Show of Misfits

The Autumn Fashion Show of Misfits was a success, although quite exhausting for attendees and models not to mention the photographer who rallied against slippery mud and slippery goats to dress each one quickly to make it on the runway in time. The Misfits now have a great selection for the colder, rainy weather that might require outfits and we are all thankful for the generosity of our followers who sent us dog coats, pony jackets and old sweatshirts [which are remarkably useful on a farm].

If you don't see your coat in the fashion show, it is only because the models ran out of steam. And the upper barnyard of Misfits already had a little fashion extravaganza. I also have two now that will work for Victor and Sophie should they need them on top of all their curly wool some extra cold winter night. There are some very small ones that would work on Moose, or sick lambs if needed. Thank you, everyone!

So sit back, and enjoy the show!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coats for goats, donkeys gone wild and other stuff

The rains and fog have been so comforting. Like old blankets out of a cedar chest, brought out each cool season with smells conjuring up old friends and a mother's scent from long ago. I needed that. The donkeys have been allowed out into the side sheep fields, which has never happened before. They have gone mad with joy, more hills, fallen leaves and other stuff that donkeys find irresistible. It was sort of an accident. I had rearranged some fence so I could have the sheep on Donkey Hill for the night, near Old Barn, and then in the morning could lead them more easily to their fields without running them down the upper drives where they always get sidetracked into gardens. I wasn't sure about this change-I like looking out the front of the house and seeing donkeys on Donkey Hill, a couple old goats aka Stella and Iris. But to see my flock up there under the old oaks, I really loved it. It is also good education for Marcella, as she knows how to get through Old barn to them and is learning to not chase running sheep.

Yesterday I got a box of caring. A woman sent me some old sweatshirts for the goats. She too has sheep and understands the need for a warm, functional cover up for old or young animals from time to time. I too have used sweatshirts and sweaters, and I think one of these will be perfect for Scooby, and Rudy, who seem to be having trouble finding the right fit in dog coats. Also in the box were some wool pieces-beautiful ones-from the sender and they are lovely ad I will use them somehow in my dolls, which in the end always help me, and the farm-and therefore The Misfits. I hope she is reading this, as I lost her email, and will get a proper note to her today in the post. Thank you, Mother Katherine in New York, and just so you know, Victor is doing very well again.

It's been a wild couple days. The article was well received and I continue to get really thoughtful emails from total strangers, from all over the globe, sharing their thoughts. I knew there would also be a cyber troll group that would trash my thoughts and parade their agenda in the comment section, and that's just the way of the cyber world.

And I awoke again to fogs, and my view of my working flock on Donkey Hill.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"This is where you define yourself," said the trees

It's a beautiful autumn day. You cherish them even more this time of year. I was restless inside and took my camera up to Muddy Hill where the sheep were grazing. There is this part of the woods up there that as you climb up the hill, you reach the sky and the ground merges into it. It is a place that I've always loved climbing to, with the dogs, or on my own. And the sheep were milling around, some eating fallen oak leaves, others napping, like the elderly Daisy who is going on eleven. She is showing her age, with no teeth, laying down more, a bit arthritic, but her life is good. She was retired at age eight and now lives amongst her daughters and grand daughters. I take each month with her as a blessing, as she was one of my first two sheep and helped build our flock; she taught me so much with patience and gave back even more through her offspring.

One of my favorite parts of this hilly wood area is a clump of Savannah Oaks that grew in a formation so that there is a little magical space inside it. Daisy was napping in front of it. It is big enough for me to stand in and I've always felt it has some kind of magical qualities, like if I stand there long enough maybe I'll be transported far away, or maybe I can talk to whoever I want to even if they are gone.

It is like one of the sumac forts I had as a child-a place to go to and be unencumbered by the outside world. As a child that outside world seemed simpler than the one I live in today. I certainly don't remember people being so angry, but back then there were no anonymous faces barking at each other without rules on a cyber road.

I went to that hill today because I was restless. I wasn't sure what I needed to do that would satisfy that restlessness. It was the pull of the hill that drew me up there, and the sheep. The flock always ground me and bring me happiness. I communed with Chessa, and old Daisy and Alma. But when I stood in that clump of trees, a huge visceral sensation poured through me-physically.
It spoke loud and clear to me-

"This is where you define yourself, and carry it back with you."

Nobody defines me, or this farm. That's my job.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When pigs marry

I am trying to stay out of the planning. Then again, perhaps I need to take a strong lead in the preparations. Planning a pig wedding can go haywire quickly-and they haven't even gotten to seating arrangements and the menu. I did overhear someone suggest that an entire buffet of mashed pumpkin should be the first course-but do they realize that will depend on the season?

Do they realize this lovely grape head piece the bride likes might not be available in January?

I am impressed with little Earnest. He is staying out of the details, but does enjoy peeking at the bride to be. By the way-no engagement has been announced as of yet, and I urged him to give Eleanor time to adjust before any of this. But The Head Troll rushed in and was so...Head Trollish.

I was pretty impressed with the gown made from bleached seed sacks. And the shoes...you might recognize them, they are Rosie's, who has lent them to Earnest in the past. They are said to have magical essences sewn into the heel, so that when clicked two and a half times, a wish will be granted.

What started as a private barnyard wedding, seems to be taking on a life of its own. I have seen this happen over and over-you have too, I'm sure. One of my best friends-a down to earth, non frills person, found herself swept away into a NYC bridal extravaganza, ending up with a Vera Wang gown. I do know, through the grapevine–alright Marcella told me-that the once private barnyard only affair now might go public. The Head Troll insisted this is one way to get more gifts...of pumpkins.

But again, does she understand that will depend on the season? I am not paying for pumpkins to be flown in during off season.

Keep me in your thoughts. A pig wedding is going to happen whether I like it or not.

Victor back to his normal self

A reader asked me for an update on old Victor-and I felt horribly, as I neglected to post here on that. I had updated on Facebook, but not here- the woes of social media overload.

And Victor, I'm relieved to say, is doing really well. After the initial couple of days of no eating and being unable to stand without falling, he came through. It took a bout a week where I felt safe to give a sigh of relief. I don't know if it was a rumen issue-which is all I could treat him for- or something else. His condition and issues will most likely be problematic as he grows older. But it sure is good to have him walking around again-or as much as Victor ever walks. He does like to get out though and has special places he usually heads towards before laying down. I did note that Sophie has really put on some descent weight [needs more, for sure] but that Victor hasn't added as much as her. We will keep working on that. I have coats ready for them this winter-thanks to some kind souls who donated old dog coats! I'm afraid winter might be hard on him.

Part of caring for the old, neglected ones is you have to learn to accept the outcome isn't always what you would plan for. Sometimes, an animal arrives like Victor who was severely neglected, starved really, and they don't pull through even after they gain a bit of weight. i always feel that some animals arrive and just feel it is safe, they sense what I do here, and they 'let go', where as others have a will to continue on.

And even though I believe that, I have grown fond of Victor and I was so relieved to see him turn around. He is so gentle and sweet and agreeable, trying to always get to his food without getting in the way too much [unlike Floyd, who I call "The Couch" because he is huge and always there no matter where I am.]

So raise a toast to Victor who doesn't let his physical limitations get in the way of being kind to the herd and shepherdess.

Monday, October 13, 2014


We have a new spotted addition, and Earnest is pretty excited. We brought home Eleanor, a KuneKune piglet who is now 10 weeks old. She had a long 6 hour drive to get here and barely spoke a peep the whole way home.

Like Earnest, she has charming red eyelashes and lovely spots. For the time being, she is living with The Rat Pack - aka the piglets- so as not spoil her purity with her soon to be husband, Earnest. Of course, Earnest is like any fiancé, ready for some pre-nuptial anything, but until the wedding he will have to just admire her from afar.

Yes, a wedding, a pig wedding. Why not? I've never planned a pig wedding and already there are people that seem to think they will get invited. I'm afraid it will be a private barnyard affair-I don't even know if I'll be invited.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

They do come to life

Her mother had taught her to sit still in a 
forest if she wanted to talk to her. Even though she was gone in body, she could hear her in the branches creaking and see her in the birds landing near by.

Sometimes she sat 
alone looking at stars, wondering, 
is that her too?

My work has grown to be story in all forms. I realize I really love making books, so right now, all the media I work with seems to want to be a book-even if it is a one page book.

I mentioned some time ago my internal muses pushing me to do more sculpture forms. The small kiln arrived this week and hopefully I'll be making clay forms by next month. I envision combining cloth, clay and wood to let animals come to life. I want to make settings for them, diorama like things-I shall see how it evolves. Right now, I need focus and time [a huge uproar is heard from the barnyard!].

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Earth's best art

My paintings can not compete with the art of Mother Nature. We had a bonanza red pepper year, which makes the Dirt Farm very happy. I love the color and shapes of these fine fellows, but now I must start my usual autumnal warning to the cook to contain himself when adding them to meals-my tender shepherdess sensibility is so easily overheated.

Monday, October 06, 2014

When passions merge

I've said it over and over, I walk the paddocks, barnyard and fields and all around me are paintings, or is the painting just a creature that comes to life while I walk around. I might sound mad, but...that is how it feels, and it is a good feeling to live a life with all my passions-animals-caring-land and art-so entwined.

This piece is now available at the store, as are others. I rub donkey dust on the backs of all my paintings to ensure it arrives in company-if there is a donkey in it, of course, it would be inappropriate to rub donkey dust, on say, a goat portrait.

What passions have you merged into a life? Or, perhaps, what passions do you want to merge?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Victor falls ill

If you'd like to help support my work here with The Misfits, please consider a subscription or donation at reward levels to help offset the costs of maintaining the Misfts. {And thank you to all who do!}

Victor was not able to get up yesterday morning. He wouldn't eat or drink. I helped him get up but it almost seemed that put him into a state of over all body shaking. If you don't know this kind gentleman, he has many issues, including the fact he has a crippling condition that makes it impossible for him to walk correctly. he is unable to firmly put his hind legs down. X-Rays were taken at the former sanctuary and it has to due with his spine, and it is what it is, it will not get better and he's lived with it a long time.

I continued to assess him through the next hours. I helped up again and he was able to walk about 5 feet and then he'd collapse. So I wondered if his front end was caving on him out of weakness, since for years it has done all the lifting. If you ever see Victor get up and down, it is a long process. I got him to a favorite soft spot in the shade and let him be.

And there was another sign that shook me.

Sophie, his long time partner, also affected by the same condition but not as severely crippled, had separated herself from him. She is usually very observant and almost protective of his whereabouts. Animals move on differently than we do and I felt she sensed he was leaving. {And obviously some of this is instinct-in the wild you would not want to be with a fallen comrade too long.}

Upon returning for dinner feedings, Victor was in the same spot. When I helped him up, he shook all over like he was going into a spasm. He walked with my assistance about 3 feet, and totally collapsed. He also was stressed-teeth grinding and a slower breathing, like a sheep in quiet labor. I got him into his main stall, with some more falling and got him comfortable and calm. His temp was only slightly elevated. While he drank water for me in the morning, he would not drink. I could tell he felt lousy and he turned his head, he wanted to be alone and free of touch. Sophie stood far away looking in, but never went to him. I gave him probiotic and vitamin B fortified to help his appetite.

This morning, I was surprised but pleased that he rose on his own. He was wobbly, but he rose. He was totally clogged with feces-large soft clay like lumps, not pellets. I cleaned him up and thought the fact it was firm and not runny was a positive sign. I got hm to a corner and he lay down, and he did nibble on grain and hay, and drank for me.

I have him contained today with Floyd and Sophie. I'll medicate him again and hope for the best. His attitude seemed better this morning, but he still is not his usual self. But maybe it was just a rumen issue or a slight bug.

I gave him my usual speech last night-it's okay to do whatever you need too, I love you, everything is okay no matter what, and I sat with him without words for awhile and then left. I think silence communing with an animal is so calming and helpful for both them and me. When I'm sick, I don't need words, I need silence and sleep.

It's part of the deal, working with elders, and elders that were completely malnourished for a long time. It's really a miracle he made it this far. I was happy to note that Sophie has put on a lot of weight, but Victor not as much. He might just have his limits.

But he is resting and we will guide and help all we can and let go if needed.

Friday, October 03, 2014

What are we all assuming?

I was thinking about people's perceptions of other people's lives, how we often get it wrong. We make assumptions based on our own past experiences, or prejudices. For example, there are some people that think because I have a horse and can take time to ride a couple times a week, that I must have ample resources. Not true. But I make the time to ride because it helps me in so many ways-both physically and emotionally. I have the beginnings of arthritis and movement is very important for me. Spiritually, I get some of my calmest thinking done on my horse. When I'm on Boone, especially when I'm alone with him, I feel almost whole, like no wounds I have given myself are there, or that they will heal. Any fear I have about anything seems to subside for a time-it is like his back becomes a boundary for all that can suck the good out of me. It is the closest thing I can think of to having unconditional love of self, when I ride.

We're not poor, today, but we have been. We're not rich either, monetarily. Sometimes i feel like my life is held up by one worn piece of hay twine. I've had many lean days, but fortunately, Martyn and I love simple things-sitting around and enjoying our own company, working on the farm, building things, cooking and eating in. We are homebodies. It's funny how we decide things about other people-I'm no different. Maybe I meet someone and make all sorts of assumptions-oh she must be happy because she has a new book deal [turns out she wasn't]; that one over there must be doing pretty well, they bought a new Lexus [nope, it was leased and he just filed for divorce and lost his job]; I must have a trust fund to have bought this place and be a full time artist and raise animals [no, never had a trust fund, nor did Martyn, we both have excellent credit from hard work and good skills and we made some good decisions along the way to allow us to buy 22 acres in our mid forties].

So next time you see a middle aged self employed artist enjoying a ride her horse, don't jump to conclusions. She might be taking a 2 hour ride on a fall day, but she also might have worked until 9 pm the night before and will be working when you are out for a casual espresso. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Pink Thing

As you might guess, there are many different needs to caring for the Misfits–food, obviously, but also incidentals like...fashion.

If you've been here, you know this is not Martha Stewart's set, nor is it a hipster faux homesteading kind of place of which there seem to be plenty in the New York Times and publishing lists. This is a raggedy little 22 acre farm and we are not trending on Twitter.

But every now and then, we enjoy a lift up. Winter is fast approaching and with the elders the cold can really create worries, especially in the wetness of our climate. Of course we have ample shelters and barn stalls, so nobody is sitting out in the rain or muck-but I wanted to acquire more coats for the eldest of the Misfits-especially Scooby [who has a hard time gaining weight despite all my efforts], Stevie, and Old Rudy...Victor and Sophie too even though they have nice wool coats...and of course, Old Mama Sugee. Old Matilda already has a jacket if needed. So I put a note on Facebook that if anyone had old or used dog jackets they didn't need anymore, I'd gladly take them and in exchange would send one of my books. It seemed to make people happy knowing old goats would be wearing the attire that their dogs used to.

I received a wonderful coat for Sugee and am already using it on her since she is the most needy. She has taken to it well and while it is a bit big in the shoulder, it stays on and she can roll in it without tripping up. I am so appreciative of one of my followers - an equine person herself- who sent this all the way from the great state of Kentucky. {Thank you again, Kay!}

And another follower of Apifera sent three medium/large coats that work great on Stevie- he too is already wearing it at night. He actually stands so still for me when I put it on, and take it off, it's like dressing a well behaved child, then he gives me a little 'Stevie peck" on the cheek. What a guy. [Thank you, Deborah!}

All of these were practical and utilitarian coats-which is what is needed. But then we got this adorable, fashinista Pink Thing from a follower-and while I realize it is not something The Misfits would normally wear, we just loved it. I think it would have been wonderful on The One Eyed Pug–pugs really love dressing up [really, they do]. So first I tried it on Scooby. It was a bit small but I let him wander around in it....while he let out goat bleats asking me,

"What is this Pink Thing?! Get it off me, HELP! Aldo, help meeeeeeee!"

And old Aldo was very concerned and pranced around him sniffing the Pink Thing and making worried llama sounds.

I figured it would fit Goose, who really doesn't need a coat, but he's so little and it fit him - almost. He was checked out by everyone in the barnyard and The Head Troll took a real interest in it, but I think when I took this photo she was giving me her real opinion-perhaps because she knew her belly would never fit in it. I do know that in some future spring, there might be a lamb or two that need extra warmth...oh my, that will be something. And Little Moose tends to be prone to colds, so he might be sporting it.

The Pink Thing now hangs high up where The Misfits can gaze on it, wondering who will be the next Chosen One to wear it. [Thank you, Joan!]

So, thank you - and I hear there are some more on the way. I underestimated the size of the Pygmy bellies, so 'Large' is the best size I think. I will of course send a book to anyone who surprises us with coats. They are always useful, and get dirty fast so having a variety is good.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Animals speak

I'm behind in loading up some new paintings on the store, including these three. I've been busy painting and will add things soon. So if any of these speak to you, just let me know and I can share details [these are in the 4" range, $375 each includes USA shipping, on kiln dried wood, ready to hang].

You can also visit the main site and if there is anything you see there you are interested in buying, email me, and I can tell you if it is available. Some of the pieces are with me, some with Sundance [or in transit and will be available soon].