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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Morning of good work

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Okay, I still have it."

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What is enough reality for you?

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

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

There was an uproar in the barnyard!

Let me refocus....

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Good health, good farrier, good horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

White Dog inspirations

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

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

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What do you want right now?

I've been stuck.

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

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

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

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

Katherine, back away from the computer.

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

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

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

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

That is the question.

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

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

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

Does Pino care about any of this? No.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Animal Conversations: Pig & The Shadow

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Special book rate for gift giving season

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

White Dog is now of Apifera

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pig and Pumpkin

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

And who was first in line?

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

Which Misfit gives you pause?

{Some of you posted comments on FB, but share here too. The Misfits always read the blog.}

I've updated the Misfit page where you can meet the adopted animals of Apifera- a.k.a. Misfits.

Do you have a Misfit that speaks to you in a special way, one that calms you or makes you smile no matter what photo you see of him or her? Which story of a Misfit do you remember, or have you met one or two of these creatures and have a memory to share?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pig and Pup....still

As many who follow along often ask, does Marcella still like Earnest?


Like any relationship, theirs has evolved over time. Marcella has been a bit sidetracked by White Dog's arrival, but she and Earnest still are buddies....and like buddies sometimes do, there is a fight every now and then. It is always around food.

If you think it might be complicated to feed the various Misfits, you are correct. I have an elaborate system that changes with each new animal's arrival or parting. There are so many gates and stalls that I rely on that it is too complicated to explain, but here's a recap: At this writing, Marcella eats in the hay barn with The Head Troll; Earnest eats in a stall with Rosie, Moose and Goose; Eleanor is now housed with Victor, Sophie, and Scooby Keith, but each has a separate unit within a giant stall to ensure proper feeding; the piglets eat in one area and the sows elsewhere; the lower Misfit Village is for Stevie, Raggedy, Professor and Rudy; and then Aldo who is now hanging with the flock knows to come up and eat in the orchard. But now I have to let White Dog out at the precise correct time-he sleeps in the lower Misfit Village and will eat the goat feed and fight over it, so he comes out and is placed in a interior hall in the goat barn to eat by himself. When he's done, only then can I let the chickens and ducks out, and everyone else. To further complicate matters, White Dog has an issue with the barn cats, so we are working through that, and that is why he can't eat in the hay barn.

So, I digress. Back to Pig and Pup. This morning Marcella was a bit under the weather, not sure why. But while White Dog ran out on his own, she took to sleeping in Rosie's hay bed-much to the dislike of Rosie. Rosie is powerless to Marcella, so she took her pink piggy body out to the sun. Earnest hung out in the barn with Marcella for the longest time. When I went over to Marcella to talk to her, noticing she wasn't feeling herself, she gave me a soft growl, which is her way to say, "I don't feel like being touched right now."

I left her and Earnest alone and went to hang out in the sun with the gang. It is cold here, rare for us, but about 30 today. The sun still feels good and as long as the animals are dry they are content. The best thing you can do to keep your animals warm is feed them properly and keep them wormed, and if you see a shaking animal in the cold, give them hay. It warms them up right away [of course, this is assuming you get them out of the wind and wetness}. Coats really aren't necessary to goats, but I have them on some of the elders.

About 20 minutes went by, and out came Marcella and Earnest, side by side, slowly. It was as if Earnest sensed she wasn't herself. Marcella came over to me and was very submissive. We sat together for some time.

Last week Marcella and Earnest had a fight over food. Despite all my attempts that you read above, there are always little bits of grain here and there, and sometimes Pig and Pup will fight for that one tiny morsel. Marcella seems to rule above the pig now, but every now and then, he gets a tooth in her, like he did this time, under her chin. But then you see them walking side by side, casually laying down by the cement wall to take in the sun's warmth.

{Books and art make a very nice holiday gift for the animal lover}

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Uproar! We have missed two birthdays!

I am just so sorry.

I didn't forget. I just didn't...think fast enough. You see, I have a lot of birthdays to remember and keep a little list in front of me on my computer. But the list sits next to about 350 other pink sticky notes.

So, when a knock came at the door, in this horridly cold and freezing rain day, I knew something serious must have happened. You know the routine–a note is slipped under the door, the hoof steps of little feet go off in the distance, and there before me is a note, brief as always, from The Head Troll:

"Old Rudy. Birthday missed."

Which of course made me look at my list and then I saw I had missed Muddy's birthday too! I was thinking it was late November. Good grief.

I am a horrible, horrible mother.

To make up for it, I'm asking everyone here and elsewhere to leave birthday messages to Old Rudy, who is 13+ and to Muddy who is 5. Everyone who comments here on this post will get their name in a hat-and I will let Mud pick out one winner so someone will get a book. He loves putting his head in buckets.

Conversation with Mother Matilda

"Animal Conversations" are a gift of my life  and I want to continue to share them with you, and explore the feelings and ideas that stem from them.  I hope you will find time to listen to these creatures too. To start out, I am posting a Conversation I had many years ago, when Mother Matilda arrived–some of you might have this one in the book.


Her job was to be a brood jenny even as she entered into her senior years. Living in neglect, she subsisted only on straw in a cold climate. Her fortunes changed after a donkey rescue found Matilda and eight other neglected herd mates. Eventually they connected with Apifera and she arrived after a day-long journey. She had the same name as my elderly mother—surely this detail was not lost on the universal forces in charge that brought her to me.  {This Conversation appears in the book "Misfits of Love"}

“I remember her ear tips as they drove away,” the old donkey said.

She was speaking about one of her many children.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bonding with the mystery

I am working a lot to acclimate White Dog. While it appears he will be staying, I said to Martyn last night,

"This dog could break my heart."

By that I mean, he is bonded to me, and Marcella, but I still feel he is not bonded enough not to wander. He is even more of a shape shifter than Marcella. He made it down to a field the other day and slipped under a low point in the fence ["Thank you White Dog, I didn't know it was there and fixed it!"], and wandered about 1000 feet down the road. The property up there breeds bulldogs, so he probably got a whiff. When I saw him, I was up at the middle barn and I have to tell you, my heart just stopped,

"He's leaving," I said out loud.

I ran the 3000 feet or so from the barn and he came to me right away, a good sign. I'm lucky to have a few good contacts who not only work with Maremmas and other guarding dogs, but one is knowledgeable in Maremmas and wolves. So I contacted him and was pleased that I am doing all the right things for White Dog. He just needs to believe that this place is not worth leaving. He needs to be nurtured not only with food but attention and clearly shown his property lines and boundaries. Maremmas are very attached to their leaders. You can't just stick them in a field and expect results.

This will take time. I have him contained with some Misfits day and night, ample outdoor room with secure fence. He gets nose time with the barnyard that way, including Marcella. Then three times a day I take him out with Marcella and we walk some of the lower fields so he can peruse the property line. Feeding is a challenge. he can't eat around the goats as they want his food and he will go for them. Marcella is the same way. I have to be really diligent in how and where she is fed. So I finally started bringing him after Marcella eats and staying with him in the hay barn and hand feeding him. I had to do this with Marcella as a pup, she had to eat out of my hand. They both are slow eaters. I assume this is one more bonding experience for him and me, so it is all fine-although my chore time is increased. I know this is just a temporary thing.

Like any new inhabitant of the farm, this creature takes leaps every day and settles more and more as I work with him. Yesterday, he squeezed through a barn gate letting him down to the donkey fields. This is actually what I will want him to do, but not right now, I want him closer so he bonds with all of us and knows we are the real deal. He seems very happy. Again, he came back up and cried to get back into the barn. Some shepherds tether their dogs for intervals out in the fields with the flock to allow them to bond. I am hoping I don't have to do that. But I don't want him straying. It would kill me to lose him at this point.

The photo above was taken, obviously, in direct sun. The effect was almost mystical to me. It is as if the novel I have been working on in my head is right there, only now there are two white dogs of importance, carrying messages.

We have an appointment at the vet next week. I didn't want to try and get an unknown 150+ guard dog stray into my truck without knowing him better. So I wanted to work with him awhile at first. We'll neuter him and I expect he needs a good worming as he has chewed or rubbed off the sides of his fur on his middle. This accentuates his slight underweight body-he's not horribly thin though, he just needs weight. Some of the photos certainly emphasize that though. His nails are really long which makes me think he might have been tied somewhere.

I am glad he's here, despite the learning curve and extra procedures needed during the day.

I look in his eyes often–deep, deep brown eyes–and ask him where he came from and will he stay. He just stares back into my blue eyes. I suppose he is asking me something too,

"Will you show me you are a leader that I can trust this time?"

Monday, November 10, 2014

Little Shrew and Donkey

One day in the woods, Little Shrew came upon the most magnificent thing. A donkey with stripes, just like him. The two became instant friends and never parted. They moved in together and were very happy. One day Little Shrew was out seeking acorns for a stew he was making of ground leaves and fennel when he slipped into a hole. He screamed his little shrew lungs out but no one could hear him. But Donkey knew something was wrong because Little Shrew was very punctual and when he said he would return by three, Donkey knew it would be precisely three, not three-o-one.

It was already getting dark, being late autumn but fortunately Donkey was striped so he lit up the path. He heard muffled sounds from below his feet and when he looked downward into a hole where the sounds were echoing from, he could see stripes. Thankfully, a kind rat who lived in the hole was returning for the night and helped Shrew out by carrying him on his back.

"You must not go out on your own, Little Shrew, ever again."

"I will get a whistle, " said Little Shrew.

The pair came home to their favorite, upholstered by Donkey. They love polk-a-dots against their striped bodies.

You can bring Little Shrew and Donkey to live with you-provided you have a wooded area with acorns or nut trees. The two must never be separated, or they will die.

Healing Visits and Workshops

I want to connect with teachers, hospice workers, senior care workers and anyone who would like to bring individuals or small groups to Apifera for arranged Healing Days to sit amongst our adopted animals and Misfits.

I am especially open to working with groups and people with special needs or the elderly who seek a visit of healing and comfort from farm and animals.

This might include:

~ returning war veterans, or any veterans
~ the blind, the physically challenged
~ city children with limited funds to learn about animals that have been neglected
~ the elderly

By bringing animal and human together in a farm setting, both will benefit. All heart beats will merge.

There are different ways the day can be structured:

~ Drawing the animals and sharing stories about them - for all ages

~ Communing and talking - often the animals bring up memories that come out and help the person share them in a safe and comfortable setting, and the animals don't judge. Wonderful for the elderly.

~ Reading to the animals - for all ages. Help children with their reading skills without being judged. This has been done successfully in many cities with children reading to shelter dogs. So why not read to the donkeys or many adopted barn animals too?

Group Size:
I would like to keep the group size from 2-10, depending on the needs [and desired activity] of the group. I am also open to private Healing Days with a caretaker and their patient or person in need of a special treatment.

Fees: Non profits, war vets, special needs
I do this all out of pocket and will ask each non-profit group to donate a small amount to help our adopted animals [many of whom the group will be communing with].  Please contact me with your group size and we can discuss if your group is able to provide a small donation to the animals of Apifera, and how we can proceed.

Fees: Schools, teachers, activity groups
Again, please contact me with your group size and other details and we can discuss a fee. The goal is to keep this affordable for all budgets.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

White Dog and White Dog...the story continues

I think it is fair to say we are all enamoured with The White Dog. There are many who believe in his magic and I am one of them. If I sounded hesitant on my Facebook posts at times, it is only because if I admit it is magic, then magic could take him away. Perhaps he is going to be magic all over the county. One can't control magic, that is why it is...magic.

Marcella now has been given opportunities to run with him and she adores him. Sometimes she looks at him like he really is The Great White Hope...or better yet, someone to be a dog with. Maremmas are very unique and rare. They are like no other breed I've known. He looks very wolf like when he walks.

I have allowed the two Whites to interact for short periods and this morning he came into main barnyard. I think since Marcella's heat was in October I am safe, but it is a risk. But I'm with them and no hanky panky is going on. The White Dog has met all the animals including piglets and pigs. What was just so funny was he was not sure about Rosie, but was fine with all the others. Once again, Rosie has lived up to her grumpy stature in the welcoming committee!

I'm enjoying watching an older, mature Maremma. And how he reacts to the surroundings and other animals is so interesting. He is a perimeter walker it appears. Whereas Marcella tends to guard one spot-but that could change. And while I tried to keep myself silent, I have begun calling him Benedetto. As I said it yesterday's post, it literally came to me–visually–in my head the other day and I felt it was a gift. It means "blessing" in Italian.

I have an appointment to get Marcella spayed in a week and a half. And I will neuter White Dog too. While many were and are hoping this will turn out like a Turner and Hootch movie with a gaggle of white pups [oh, yes, I agree, it would be fun...]it would not be a reasonable thing. I am not experienced enough with Maremmas to breed and sell responsibly. My breeder has worked with these dogs on his farm for years and travels to speak and teach about them for working farms. I have no place doing that. And I think I kind of have enough going on. So no pups. {Sigh of relief from the all the Misfits...and The Dirt Farmer}.

However, there is always immaculate conception. I wouldn't put it past this creature.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The mystery of White Dog...let's stick with the magic version

We all want magic.

The world is so chaotic, with the masses iphoning, apping and texting as they rush by one another not making eye contact. So much vitriol fills the airways outside Apifera/

We want happy endings...because there are so many sad endings, or unfair ones.

Sometimes, we want magic, real magic. The kind of magic that sets the hairs on your neck straight up and makes your heart pump faster.

And that is one of the gifts White Dog has brought us...that feeling that magic does exist here. And it can be shared and multiplied through story and images. One could summarize the entire episode of White Dog appearing in our fields in a factual way–he strayed here because dogs often stray. He smelled something in the air and went a wandering, randomly stopping here and somehow got into the fields.

But the more I suggested that in the past couple days, my readers wanted more-they want the magical answer. That he came here for me, he was meant to come here for reasons we might not grasp, or I might not grasp yet. But I am leaning in that direction.

After all, this is not the first time an animal has appeared in a magical fashion. There was Lloyd Baines for one, a rooster hiding in the bramble in the middle of nowhere, who refused to get in my car so I could take him home to safety.

"Look, you won't last out here much longer. Apifera is one mile up the road, take a left through the fields and head down 3000 feet."

Two weeks later, there he was in the barnyard.

I can't make this stuff up.

So when a white dog shows up, the same rare breed as my own, out of nowhere-after eleven years of not one dog penetrating our fences-I took note. My initial reaction was a tingling sensation coupled with glee. I was floating through air when I met him.

Some people mentioned that he was a gift from our recently departed, Floyd. I must admit, I did consider this. After any death here, there always seems to be something that hits me over the head with,

"We're sending you this universal gift, take note."

The day after White Dog appeared, I had a phone meeting with an editor I worked with a few years back on a manuscript, and I had hired him again to review some book ideas I was percolating since he is so knowledgeable about the market and industry. He gave me lots of good things to think about, and steered me clear of a few things too. And he gave me a couple ideas that were just spot on and so clear-ideas that helped me visualize right there as he was speaking what my next projects could be, and will be, if I choose to say 'yes' in my heart to them. And as I was thinking that, there was White Dog outside my studio window, looking in at me.

Many out there seem to believe White Dog is here to stay. I am still not sure. He might be passing through. While he seems very happy here-and clearly likes the flock and the set up, and me, I might add-I am trying to not get attached...yet. But I'm failing. This morning when I went to feed, the name, "Benedetto" came into my head. I looked it up later and it means "blessed". I told Martyn and he warned me it is too soon to get attached, and it is. But that name just came to me, so I have it tucked away for a few days. I want him to stay.

I have done all I can do in the form of ads, calling vets and other resources to alert that he is here and no one has come forth. I've analyzed it all to death. The fact is, in my mind, he was either placed here by someone that has come to know my farm and blog and felt he'd be safe here, or...

...he was pulled here by invisible hands and energies rooted deep in the pumpkin patch. The most stoic way to look at it would be that he showed up because he smelled Marcella-although she's not in heat–perhaps she perfumes herself each day.

We all want it to be magic. We all need it to be magic. So let's stick with that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A magic white dog appears

I was minding my own business....

You know how this story might end...if you read here often enough.

I had gone out for a long walk with the dogs, taking advantage of an entire day of sun breaks, with beautiful, broody clouds of all shades of gray followed us, sans rain. The backdrop against the fall color made it better than any four mile panoramic instagram photo.

Upon returning to our gated drive, I noticed a white animal in the lavender field and assumed it was Stella, one of the Boer goats who has accomplished negotiating any fence, anywhere, anytime. It is just part of our life here. But the white animal came running towards us, and I realized it was Marcella.

Or was it?

She was on the other side of the lavender fence, and I had the dogs on leashes. They never play together, it isn't allowed, but they have met-but she was acting rather strange. I looked at her again and realized,

"You're not Marcella!"

It was a male Maremma just like Marcella, except the head on this dog was blockier so it might have had St. Bernard in it.

My first thought was,

"Gads, get the chastity belt on Marcella!"

I immediately went there in my mind-the sight of Marcella guarding her litter of pups. When I took her to the vet a couple of months ago to get spayed, I was told to wait until after her first season. This was new to me, but I agreed. She has had her first season, and now let's just say it is open season. Luckily she is not in heat...at this moment.

I got the dogs in the house and went back to the white dog. I took the phot you see here in case I needed to investigate where he lived. I gave him the pat down...he was intact.


But my second thought was...how magical. A strange white twin of my shape shifter Marcella appears out of nowhere. We've never had a dog breach our fences. What makes it odder is I'm struggling with trying to get some concepts down for a novel and a white dog is a prominent character. Perhaps he's here to help me, I could sure use it.

But I knew he'd never leave as long as he found his way down here. Anyone with guard dogs knows if they want to be somewhere, they will. He had a collar on, no tags, had good teeth and was in descent shape – a bit thin but that isn't that unusual. He was very friendly. I let him walk up the drive since he was there already and he visited Marcella at the gate. If she'd been in heat she probably might have jumped her gate, but didn't. She barked a lot and acted just as I had hoped–"Stay out of my barnyard mate!"

But he knows she is there.

And now she knows he is there.

I walked back to the lower field with him and asked him to go home. Yes, that's right, I asked him. Why not? I asked him to not come back. Sure, sure.

I turned and walked a few steps, turned around, and he was gone.

I have to tell you, I know I have an active imagination, and open heart, but it did feel really almost spiritual that another white creature showed up...and the same breed as Marcella made it even more so. I've never seen a Maremma anywhere near us and we tend to know most of the dogs in the area, and their barks. If he is lost, he doesn't seem to care. One has to be careful handling these dogs, they are not interested in being strong armed. I noticed that he tried to place himself in front of me and the gate where Marcella was-this is is perfectly normal in a guarding situation...except he's guarding me from my own barnyard.

I decided to leave Marcella in with some of the Misfits tonight, just in case she went into heat. And as I left the barn, I could see the white dog far down in the corner of one of our fields.

Monday, November 03, 2014

When creatives go to the fog

When I look back at many of my paintings in early days here in Oregon, my work was always covered in a luminous cloud, a covering of water droplets suspended in the atmosphere. How could I not see fog as a new muse, with its quiet beauty making my pastures, trees and sky meld into one beautiful blankets of payne's gray.

Today, I was thinking of another meaning of fog:
"...something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone's thought processes".

I feel like I am in a bit of that right now-with my career. And to all the artists and writer's out there, let's raise our glasses to being in a fog. I think it is here to help, not hinder.

I decided to visualize a linear line with each calender year on it, there would be a bold red dot at 1997. That is where I set forth like a brave and excited pioneer into the unknown world of illustration and freelancing. I was 39. Along this linear line there were explanation points, black dots, and dotted lines going downward and back up again. At 2002 there would be a big square in bright colors-the time I left Minneapolis for Oregon, married, and moved again to the farm. My illustration career was dipping, my medium was changing and I began writing, and painting. Things were evolving, my identity was shifting. I was still an artist, but was carving different zones for myself-sometimes without realizing it. I wrote some books along the way and the animals became a huge part of my soul and therefore my persona and identity as a creative person. So now as we land on 2014 on the linear line, there is a little cloud of fog.

I think the fog is here to help, not hinder. The fog is giving me a bit of a rest, to recharge, reexamine, shuffle the mediums and see what sticks. The fog creates a boundary from the public platform that demands so much for so little.

"What should I focus on today?" I ask myself. I really want to do another book, and would like to see a relationship with a publisher-even though my two self published books have paid off and I am glad I did it that way for those two books at that particular time. I just believe in my writing and books and would like to see a wider audience for them. I want to create clay creatures that will tell story three dimensionally. I'd still like to do a children's book or two. And I've started trying to get on paper an idea I've had for years...for a novel.

TAKE NOTE: This is not creative block. This is standing at a place, a passage in your life and career and knowing it is changing and you aren't sure where, how or when it will appear as settling into the new form.

I know there are other working creatives who have been honing their careers for as long or longer than me and I know they too can be covered in fog sometimes. I'm always inspired by other artist/writer's careers and to see how they expanded as they enter their sixties and move into their seventies, eighties and nineties.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Scare the farmer pose

Maybe Earnest was just overwhelmed from the magic of the other night, but I came upon him while I was taking photos of last night's sky. There he was doing his best "Let's scare the farmer and lie down dead like" pose.

He is one sound sleeper, that Earnest. He can find a spot on any muddy, chilly day and flop for a nap. My little big man, still a gent even though he's packing a lot of testosterone.