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

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

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paco's very tiny birthday parade

Today was Paco's tenth birthday. As some of you might know, it has become a tradition to give Paco a little birthday party, with his preferred Fig Newton Layer Cake. I take great strides to embellish Paco's birthday party with this favorite cake, for one because Pino has his pie party, Matilda seems to be the favorite at workshops, and Lucia is...well Lucia is just adorable and really doesn't need her own day because she is too busy being Lucia in all her adorableness.

I was aghast to find I had no Fig Newtons [collective scream in barnyard]. I had no time in my schedule to get the little fellow Fig Newtons and I was just horrified, knowing that face he would give me-the same face he always gives me but every so often we have to smoosh our human emotions on animals and convince ourselves they are looking at us and saying,

"What? You forgot the Fig Newtons? But it's not the same without the Fig Newton Layer Cake...."


Well, that's exactly what happened. He did look at me like that. So I reacted quickly with the promise of a parade of sorts.

Great, now I had to get a parade organized. The Head Troll was busy. I know, can you believe that? But she has her own schedule and had some kind of meeting with the hens in the hay barn where there has been way too much pooping going on on the hay bales.

So, I trudged out with my large bag of animal crackers to the donkey paddock, and began to set up the party, alone, like I always do. I began the little parade on Giacomo's grave stones, where we always celebrate festivities. I knew the donkeys were on to me. I mean they knew there was a party to be had.

And I must warn you, this was the fastest and most chaotic Paco birthday party I've ever given.

Matilda arrived early before the birthday boy. She promptly ate the parade. Then in came the donkeys and I had to get the parade going to make Paco feel special so I got those animal crackers into a line and started making a parade and was trying to go fast, but, well I couldn't keep up with the party guests.

And the next thing I knew someone had grabbed my cookie bag and that parade just got all out of wack, there was no straight line in that parade, nope. It was just a big pile of a parade at that point.

In fact, the donkeys ate the parade faster than the parade could march.

In the end, I hid one animal cracker on Pino. As I left the paddock they still hadn't found it.

I didn't do very well with my photos this year. Forgive me, but next time I have a parade I will have to coordinate with The Head Troll. It's ridiculous to think I can handle this all on my own.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sittings with Sophie

She likes to sit on an old cupboard. Her head is then bathed by the light coming through the window highlighting her curls and the cobwebs.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Frustration of the shepherdess

I had a simple plan this morning after chores. I would take Benedetto up to the newly opened upper fields where we just put the sheep and I would walk him on the periphery fence line so he could mark and learn the boundary. I took my camera thinking I would have a bucolic morning of walking White Dog, admiring my flock and taking romantic sepia photos of sheep and dog.

The best plans go amuck, which is what happened right after I took this shot of the flock.

Benedetto has shown us in the last weeks he is a runner. Perhaps this is why someone dumped him here. He is also a bolter, but with time I've helped this bad habit at the gates. I took the dogs out to the fields a couple weeks ago and they both made it under the fences to the next property. I was panicked, as there are cats there, and Benedetto hates cats it seems. And that neighbor has a gun. Marcella came back pretty quickly. Ben did not, but did return after about an hour of roaming. I have no idea where he was. He is not bonded with the flock because he is separate from them, but if he is to run a muck I can't keep in with the flock to bond.

Perhaps you remember I said some time ago when he first arrived, "This dog might break my heart." I still think he might.

So today, I was going to start baby steps with him and the flock. Let him learn the perimeter first. I had a crappy collar on him. He walks very well on lead, which makes me wonder if he was more of a pet to someone versus a guard. Anyway, I was shutting a gate and he slipped off lead, and zippidity do da, he went. When he goes, he does not look back. Marcella was very upset she wasn't coming too, and by the time I'd made it to the top of the sheep hill, there she was. So I collared her and called to Benedetto, who we could see running like a mad man in the nearby neighbor fields. Martyn heard me yelling at the dogs and met Benedetto on the road and brought him back up to meet us. So the good news is, he comes, at a certain point. That's when he looks at me like an old marshmallow and looks deep into my eyes. When he gives me that look, I tell him to not leave. I realize that perhaps I don't give him enough credit, as he hasn't ever really left. Even last week when he was gone over an hour, he came back.

I wonder if that is what he is saying to me with his marshmallow expression, "Why the worry, why do you constantly tell me not to leave, I haven't left, I always come back."

Ben and I are bonded in a different way than I am with Marcella. Benedetto is almost like a child I lost and refound–I feel more panic when he runs off. Because Marcella was raised up here from a pup, this is her place and she knows it. The few times she has made it out a gate with Benne, she returns to her barnyard pretty fast. Benedetto, only neutered two months now, is still bonding with this land. He seems very happy and content, believe me, but he needs more work. And that is where I start to cling, because I don't want anything to happen to him outside these fences. Maremmas do not necessarily 'come' when you want them too. This is a good thing, really, because their job is to guard and protect, not come to any voice that might sound human and friendly.

But it is maddening. I'm frustrated.

I'd heard this from other shepherds, and trainers. It's not as easy as thinking I need to 'let go' and let him settle and learn the fields. I don't see how I can do that when he takes chase of the flock and then leaves the property.

Back in the barnyard, he came right to me and sat with me, as did Marcella. They never hold grudges, even when the shepherdess can be heard yelling in the hills. Martyn assured me it is a matter of time with them. Perhaps Marcella, as we intended, will be the real guard, and Benedetto will guard old crippled goats.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

They are here!

I am so excited about the Misfit Mail of Love postcard line! They arrived today and are beautiful!

Twelve different images with a simple bit of text, lots of room to write a note on the back and couple sentences about who the Misfits are and the name of the Misfit on the front. They are 4.25 x6" and are printed in traditional offset printing on a beautiful paper stock.

I love postcards. They are pure and simple, and fun. One need not write much, just a 'hello xo' can bring someone a smile. And of course by buying my postcards, books and other art products, you are helping me help The Misfits.

So spread some love, in a very easy way, the lick of a stamp, a word or two, and off it goes in the post. Let's go global.

And Valentine's is coming up-perfect timing. If you'd like to send a wrapped set of 12 to someone, let me know, it's no problem.

See all the cards and order >

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The funeral of Mrs. Aster

"You'll be with your old herd again," I told her.

She just wanted comfort, for her body, lungs and joints. Mrs. Aster went down late yesterday but seemed okay when I righted her squat little body. She ate normally. This morning she was once again stuck on her side but this time when I got her up she could not stand, and was clearly in distress. Her breathing was odd, and her glance was strange-it reminded me of the way BW's and Samuelle's eyes looked near death. Those were neurological issues and I was sensing this about Mrs. Aster.

I checked on her every hour. She managed to stay up, but was clearly in distress if moved. I dd stand her to ruminate her, but, she had no control over her hind end. I did not want to wait until the end of the day and put her though terror at night, for a pygmy on its side is in terror, and suffering.

But I couldn't get any of my normal vets out. One finally said they could come at 7pm tonight, but thankfully I was able to get in with my local canine vet who helped me out. I didn't like having to take her off the farm, but it had to be done. At the vet, we could see more signs that made us think it was neurological, and we had no doubts we were doing the right thing. She went fast.

I said awhile back I sensed Mrs. Aster would not be with us long, and it has proven to be true. You see it happen again and again-an elder animal lives through neglect or a bad situation for months or longer, they are taken out of that situation into safety and care, and sometimes, they just let go.

I have come to see this as a beautiful gift for the animal. I do not see it as a sad day. Exhausting, yes. For with any death comes the details of it-making the right decision in a timely way, carrying and lifting the animal around, proper final medical needs and then, burial. I feel relief for her, and the minute she was gone I felt hope for her-that she had melted into the feeling she once had of being with her herd.

I brought her home and laid her out in the lower Misfit village. This is the procedure I've always followed and will continue to if possible. I have always photographed the death scenes though don't always show them. This is more for me than anyone else, but I also feel it is an ode to the living herd left behind. Each of these images show the life going on much more than death. I did not doctor these images. I like to think of her energy just embedding itself in the light shining on her former herd, Sir Tripod Goat and Ezra. Perhaps that sentiment is if for the human in me, trying to make her a different form-but it doesn't matter. We all see what we need to in a death. Nobody can tell me otherwise. We all get to grieve it our own way and share the parts we want or feel a need to.

This is a good day for Mrs. Aster. Because it put an end to what might have been-a night of suffering. And he did not die like two of her herd mates out in the elements in muck and filth.

But she was tired. Her eyes were strange today. They were more like shark eyes. I've seen it before. I thought of all the changes that old goat went through in the past month-being taken away from her former home, that albeit neglected, it was her home with owners that did love her [dementia was involved in the end]. She was taken to New Moon Farm Goat Rescue where two more or her herd died. She left her herd again to come here, and to be reunited with Ezra. She had a lot of changes. Not unlike many human elders, being shuffled about from home to facility to a death bed in a hospital after a fall where they just finally might....let go.

As she lay in state, I did barn chores first, and fed the Misfits. Marcella sat at the gate watching the procedures as usual. Ezra ate right over Mrs. Aster's body, without any hesitation. There was no mourning, not human mourning. I have never seen an animal here mourn. I've seen them acknowledge a departure, and most often, they simply recognize a death, and look for the food or move off and nap.

I carried her to the pumpkin patch, ripe and full of other elder Misfits. I chatted with Floyd, buried right next to her. He did not meet Mrs. Aster at New Moon, he left before she arrived. I told him she was a fine goat and would be good under world companion until they have left the dirt.

I buried a lock of Ezra's hair in her grave.

And then I came to the house and ran my dogs. I noticed how clear the hills were, and I counted the flock to make sure all 32 had returned from the upper hills. As I came back to my studio, I looked out and saw the lamp on in the pig hut, a stream of light shining on some of the remaining Misfits, munching on hay, The Great White at their sides.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The crippled goat revival show

Many things must happen in the barnyard when I am off in slumber. Standing in the barns in the dark shows me that-there are sounds one doesn't hear in the daylight, shufflings of critters from the underworld, scratchings from mice living in roof eaves...it all comes to life after dusk.

I imagine it is best I am not privy to all of it. Best to just dream and know that my crippled Misfits are getting by without me each night. They are a dignified bunch, they carry on without any complaint about their body deformations or bent legs of arthritis. In fact, I have heard music sometimes late into the night coming from their barn. I suspect a dance of some sort where they can dance without human intervention-they do not fear looking foolish, or falling. I hope to have this much dignity as I age. But I'm sure I might not be as stoic.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Me and the man in the rubber suit

We had planned to start another fencing project today. I wish I had a $1 for every foot of fencing we've added to this farm, I'd be able to...buy a lot of good wine. We have one more huge fencing job to do, and it is important, as it will improve our ability to effectively cross pasture. We've done well in that regard, but with the current flock, we need that additional 8 or so acres on our upper hills. We'll be adding about 1000 foot of fencing on one property line, and then adjusting the cross fencing. Access is an issue in the winter, so today we trudged up there in two trucks with a 300 foot roll of fencing, t-posts, and every intention of working our old butts off in the rain like we have so many other times in the last 11 years.

But it was pouring. The kind of rain that soaks your coat immediately and if you stop moving, you are a goner. My gloved hands were cold right away. I sensed I was caving. We basically moved everything up there and I suggested we do the rest tomorrow. Martyn didn't hesitate to agree, and we retreated back down to inside tasks for the day.

We have become much more realistic after 11 years here, and at age 57 I think I've earned a few wet days inside. I'm anxious to get the flock up there though. When fields are overgrazed they create bad runoff in the wet winter. We've never had to overgraze, but this year it seems things got grazed down faster, even with the same number in the flock. I'm not sure if it was the dry summer.

When I am up in that part of the property, I feel a real sense of pride-and wonderment that we are really here, doing all this. It feels so good to take land that was neglected, and help it, and learn so many things at the same time. We have a Fescue Blue Butterfly program going on in the very top portion of that land, where we will keep the flock off certain times of year to help restore the Wild Lupine.

Looking down at the barn through the Savannah Oaks, now covered in their winter moss coats of green, I always have a beautiful, calm sensation-that not only did that barn speak to me when I first saw it, but it spoke to me even before I came here. Somehow, that old barn and I are entwined in past lives. I'm sure of it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

News before you snooze

Here are some quick sound bites for you before you have your end of the week cocktail.

  • New paintings up at Sundance
  • New article out about life with goats
  • The new Misfit Mail postcard line is in printing! Pre-order now!
  • The new barn is on the schedule for March to get sided and finished
  • Old Mama Sugee has gained lots of weight-photos soon. So has Victor.
  • Earnest has attempted to make love to an old goat and a blind pony. He is quite the Casanova. Don't worry, both ladies explained they weren't interested.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sir Tripod Goat finds an ally

This is not the best photo, but I got out of bed yesterday and saw this sweet site-one of the new arrivals, who seems to have the name Sir Tripod Goat at this moment-was sunning next to the old llama. Sir Tripod came with Mrs. Aster, and he was still unsettled at day two after his arrival. He's going to be fine, he just needs to learn who to trust.

I love that Aldo the Elder has become a safe zone for many of the Misfits. I've seen this in other cases, a new animal shows up and they know that Aldo is safe, and usually they sense this in Stevie too. I took Mrs. Aster and Sir Tripod out of the upper barnyard because Mrs. Aster had a slight mishap with Earnest the pig. I caught him mounting her. Oops. But all is well. The dogs also sort of frazzle Sir Tripod, Marcella is still prone to over play sometimes. So I brought them down to the lower Misfit village and they've been soaking up sun and are free of wandering pigs and overzealous dogs.

I know in time Sir Tripod will warm up to me. He is just needing to earn my trust. Raggedy Man was even worse and it took a few months for him not to scatter when others arrived. It will happen. Animal crackers in the pocket will help in the first weeks, but then I'll be mauled by a pack of short statured goats.

The rains are back tonight. I have coats on the elders. One is wearing polk-a-dots, another bright red, and then there is the hunter green jacket held on by hay twine. Fashionistas!

{Apifera has brought on a lot of new Misfits! Consider supporting our work here by buying the new Misfit Mail line and spread love the old fashioned way-by postcard. Or, you can donate/subscribe at reward levels. And you can buy books.}

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The motherly nightie to hug

Eighty nine years ago my mother was born, most likely on a very cold day in the upper regions of North Dakota. While this day marks her birth, it also marks the fact I haven't seen her alive for two years. We had driven down to be with her in California on her 87th birthday and I can remember when we left, we got in the car and said our good-byes, buoyed by the fact we'd be back in May. As we coasted down the very long drive, I could see her out my rear view mirror, waving, getting smaller and smaller. She waited until we must have been out of sight to turn back to her apartment-and I too, watched, until I couldn't see her anymore. That scene comes to me over and over. If a movie director had orchestrated it, I would have begged him to make the car stop, so I could have rushed back and proclaimed I would stay another day, or month, or year. She died in April, suddenly.

I looked back at the grief blog I made in the days following her death. It is raw in the beginning, and it's almost heartbreaking to see how off kilter I was. I grabbed at anything that might get me to stand up in those first shocking days-like creating clay doll that I carefully placed under a quilt square she had made some 70 years earlier with her own mother-if I could not be with her to lay out her body I could do this from afar. The photograph of her nightie seems so ethereal and haunting, but still pure-it was the same nightie we found in her house, hanging where she left it the morning she entered the hospital for routine exams. I keep it in my bedside, taking it out to smell for her scent. There is still a little of her smell left, so in a way, the objects left behind must also be let go of, and taken off of the pedestal we put them on and just become normal again. But at this point, two years later, that darn nightie is like a shrine of sorts. I don't take it out much anymore, but sometimes I do, and I press it into my face.

The photo of her is one I keep on my computer. I used to go to it so often, but as one moves on, one carries the face and hands of the departed person deep in their inner psyche. Still, I will go to that photo and stoke her hair through the computer screen. She used to stroke my hair, even as I grew into a woman, and it always felt soothing. My mother was not a hugger or demonstrative person with "I love you" but she showed it in so many ways. I never doubted it.

So here are so many of us, motherless, marching on like dutiful humans-acknowledging we have a lump in our throats when we think of the mothers or fathers we've lost. We recite quotes sometimes, sharing our realization that it is the life we have now that is what our mothers would want us to focus on. And we do. But every now and then, like on a mother's would-be 89th birthday, I get to celebrate, but only after I sneak that nightie out of the draw and smell for my mother.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

More Misfits arrive

{If you like the sounds of all this, consider a subscription or reward level donation to help me and the Misfits chugging along}

It's been an exciting few days - culminating in yet two more Misfits arriving from New Moon Farm Goat Rescue.

It kind of all happened in a nice series of events.

As you know, Martyn and I brought home Ezra last week. He was part of a herd that New Moon took in after the owners relinquished them, dementia was involved and the goats had not been cared for well by the caretaker. Two were already dead, and one more died after arriving at New Moon. When I picked Ezra up, I had my eye on another little crippled goat, but he was only 3 and I felt Ezra the elder needed me more.

I made a quip that if someone put that little crippled goat at my gate I'd surely take him in. Well, New Moon heard that and ran with it [after asking me] and a woman and her little daughter, who had just adopted one of the same herd, volunteered to bring the goat down to Apifera.

But it gets better.

The next day after we made arrangements to get the new goat to us, one of the same neglected herd needed to be euthanized. She just couldn't make it and needed help to pass humanely. But that left her very bonded herd mate alone. New Moon felt the two had been mother-daughter, or maybe sisters, because they were heavily bonded. The remaining doe was very dazed, just sort of lost without her bonded herd mate. It really pulled at my heartstrings. So many upheavals for her and the herd. Knowing that the elderly couple had obviously once cared and doted on this gang [they are all very personable so someone was tendering them fr sure], also pulled at me. What if that was me someday, or you? So I told New Moon I'd like to bring her down, and we all thought that being back with Ezra, one of the original herd she'd been with for so long, might help her little soul.

So, they arrived yesterday. She'd been named Aster in a naming auction, but I was informed by The Head Troll that that was not to be her name here. Her name had to be "Mrs. Aster". She may not come with millions, but she is wealthy in the love around her.

The other sweet chap, the younger crippled fellow, is quite healthy, full bellied and besides his deformity, gets around great. His back leg and hip do not work, and never will, causing him to use only three legs. The vet thinks he was born that way, or it was an injury at birth or early on that wasn't corrected [if it even could have been]. He comes with the current name of Palaver, but I have not hear in the wind if this name will stick.

I'm happy I can help them. It feels good, and they are both sweet-they just need time to settle.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Creating an essence of home for all creatures

{We have taken in two more crippled Misfits this week-please consider subscribing, or a reward level of your choice if you haven't already, if you are able. Or you might order some new Misfit postcards to share the love.}

When I was a child, and into my teens, I had a home. That home had parents who provided for me, and showed me in a multitude of ways that I mattered to them. They didn't say "I love you", but they showed it over and over, daily, until the day they died. I always liked school as a kid but I also loved coming home. I knew there would be a snack of some sort, and dinner cooking, my dog...and my mom. There was always a home cooked meal. When my parents went out for the night, I always knew they'd be back. At night, I had a room where I felt safe, and warm, and I could be me–unemcumbered from head butts or bullies or people calling me "curly fungus". I know that not every one gets that in life. How fortunate I was.

When I go through the barnyard gate, I am the caretaker. I give all the animals what they need. They are fed, watered, wormed, medicated, clothed in fleece if needed, sheltered, and petted. If I am in doubt about one, I call a vet. If someone seems off, I take time to watch them. I take time out of my life, just as my parents did for so many years. The animals know I will show up every morning, and night-they thrive on routine. A farm of Misfits, or healthy animals, is not for the chronic traveler. If you don't enjoy observing individual animals everyday, it's okay, but don't live this life. It's not right for you, or the animals. That goes fro raising sheep, pigs or any kind of animal. You have to show up, and watch. Generally, if something goes wrong in the day, I am there to help.

I give the animals, The Misfits, the flock, the same things I got as a kid and young adult. I show up here just as my parents showed up for me. I knew then the essence of "home", and that is the essence I want the animals here to feel, even if they come here malnourished and elderly, and need hospice for weeks, or just days. I never questioned if I was safe as a child, I just felt safe once I hit the driveway of my home. With the animals, some are more vulnerable physically than others, so I go to great lengths to observe, daily, and make sure the mix in the barnyard is right. Sometimes, an elder needs to be moved into the lower Misfit village. Sometimes months later, they move back up to the barnyard. Sometimes I make mistakes-and I fix them.

"Home" is an essence that is fluid. It can change. My home was the Midwest for much of my life, except five years in NYC. While I loved NYC and my time there, it wasn't home. When I hit the driveway here, I am most definitely home, I feel safe here behind the gate. Things do happen here, accidents, deaths, trees fall down, I could fall and hit my head tomorrow. But in the meantime, I'm walking around like my mom used to, just keeping the home fires burning, keeping if consistent, keeping it a home.

When I walk through the barnyard in the morning, it all begins again, the routine of feedings, the shuffling of little feet to get their place to eat, shoving with the pig, the crackling of the old goose. I know the distinctive brays of each donkey, and the different sounds of my 35 sheep. They know my calls and what means, 'Come on up, now," versus what means, 'Get of me this feed bucket isn't for you." It can be chaotic, like any large family or small village. But it is always like home for these animals–at least that's the lifetime gift I strive to give them, for as long as they are here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Misfit Mail of Love-help spread it!

I am beyond thrilled with a new line of postcards! The "Misfit Mail of Love" line showcases 12 different designs, with my photography and art combined and is now available for pre-order. I encourage you to order upfront like this if you love what we do here for one simple reason-cash flow–The Misfits and I love cash flow. I set up a pre-order page at GoFund where you can pre-order postcards, or add a donation-it is up to you, no pressure.

I did these because I wanted a simple paper product that could share Misfits and their love. And aren't we all craving for real mail again? A postcard from afar just lightens up an elder's face, or makes your mom or daughter feel remembered. And with the ponderings of Misfits combined with their beautiful faces, well who wouldn't be happy opening up the mailbox. I love postcards, always have. So inexpensive to send some love.

The prices are for USA addresses only and include USA s/h. Int'l orders will be charged additional shipping at time orders are mailed. The postcards will be shipped to you in early February. [Turnaround will be much quicker after this initial print run]. Copyright does not appear on actual printed postcard front. If you prefer to pay in another way, just let me know.

Pre-order now >

Snapshot moments

Monday, January 05, 2015

Misfit reading of the elder

I love getting emails likes this one:

I bought copies of 'Misfits of Love' for both my mother-in-law and my mother (wrapped so exquisitely, I must add), but it was my father who began absorbing my mother's copy on Christmas day. (I've attached a cell phone picture of him engaged!) He loved it, and had all sorts of questions about your animals and your storytelling. he is not internet active, nor does he typically read a great deal, so it was beautiful watching him get involved in your words and art. He is 81 now, but he retired as a production manager in a plastics plant after 35+ years about 18 years ago. (He's been doing woodworking and gardening since then, but he is, truly, a simple, kind man with a gift for storytelling; he just doesn't realize he has stories to tell.) We lived in the suburbs of Atlanta, and aside from his Italian immigrant parents raising him to garden and appreciate food in his native new jersey, he had never been around livestock or farm animals until my husband and I got goats in 2005. He's always enjoyed animal stories, but i had never seem him connect like he did with your book. He has also struggled with fears of death and with ongoing depression--and until reading a book he borrowed from me about reincarnation last year (I think 'seriously lapsed catholic' would be the best descriptor to insert here)-- he really did struggle daily with loss of life. He's seemed better, and he dug into 'Misfits' with abandon! You are gifted.Angelina Bellebuono, Georgia

Getting messages like this validate my work, making me recognize I am walking the path I am supposed to be. Like I said in yesterday's post, I see my work as a conduit of service. It is also what brings me joy. The world goes mad multiple times each day and reading Misfits seems to bring calm to old hearts looking for answers, or young ones seeking calm in nature's way, even death.

You can read more reviews of Misfits at the book blog.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Ezra lands safely and I am just a conduit

{If after reading this post about my 11+ years of helping old, crippled creatures touches you somehow, please consider making a small donation or subscription to help me with the costs of operating place of care taking.}

We awoke at three a.m. on Friday, and left at 3:50 to drive up to Arlington, some 6 hours away. We had breakfast with Northern Mother - a real treat, usually when we pick up a goat, it's "Hi, gotta run!" and head back. But we had a nice catch up talk over breakfast, then packed the old goat up and headed back to Apifera, making it home around six. As we've gotten older, the 12 hour drive nearly kills us, but never does.

This is the 16th elderly, crippled goat we've adopted from New Moon Goat Farm Rescue. I just can't imagine a life that didn't have any of these elders in it, or New Moon. Ezra is settling in well. He has gravitated tot he lower Misfit village-he told me very clearly that is where he preferred for now. I had him in the upper barnyard for the first night, let him explore and he head down that way, and he kept returning there. I don't know if he was attracted tot he outdoor huts which he might be used to, versus the enclosed barns. He also feels safe with Stevie. Man, that Stevie-talk about a healing presence.

Time and time again, people ask me why I keep doing this. After all, some of the elders don't live long-they lived in neglect somewhere for months or years, hanging on, and when they arrive at a safe place, they let go. Some don't, and fight on to a healthier state. I have a stock answer for the question now: "I don't know why, but I feel called to do it, I feel comfortable doing it and I like doing it."

Sometimes I see a creature in need of adopting, and I step away from the computer. But often they stick with me for days. Floyd was like this, Guinnias for sure. Sometimes the ones that stick with me and then come here to live are the ones that die within a short time-Lofa was like this, as was Floyd. Honey Boy. Aunt Bea to name some. I had picked out one of Ezra's herd mates weeks ago, but he died within a week of arriving at New moon, he was the worst off of the bunch and it is such a blessing he died in love and care.

I guess what I'm trying to explain is-I don't think I'm doing this alone. Universal forces seem to use me as a conduit in many cases. I can see there are eye rollers out there, but i truly feel and believe this. I don't think every Misfit comes this way, but many do. I just want to be open to being of service to the ones that need companionship as they die. It is not a life for everyone. I don't consider myself a 'rescuer" and balk at he term. I consider myself a conduit of service-for all creatures and that includes people.

And I think my work as an artist and writer are also conduits of service-for healing, joy, grieving and introspection.

I think being with any creature at the beginning of their lives is truly a miracle-so many physical things have to work and come together to create life. It is astounding in both animals and people when a baby pops out-even if it is ants hatching eggs. But when you come into the world, there is at least one other being with you-a mother ship of some kind to grab you, feed you, hold you, touch you. You and that mother enter your life together. And as you grow, you can share that moment somehow. You have photos of first steps, first breaths, and stories from your mother if you are lucky.

But death is a solo journey after your last breath. I've always been fascinated with death. It doesn't scare me. I don't think it is helpful to see life and death as yin and yang, but rather as a continuum. So many people seem terrified of death, and when it comes to the death of an animal, many on the social media platforms seem to think it is the absolute worst outcome. I have seen many good deaths, and some bad ones. We all hope for a good death for our loved ones, our pets, and for ourselves. But being present at any death is, for me, helpful-not only for the dying but for those left behind. I guess I should say it is helpful for the dying if the caretaker comes at it without drama in their heart. Death is drama, I guess, but I mean that I always try to enter a hospice situation of an animal with calm, because that calm emits onto them. An animal doesn't need me blubbering over them at this time. Of course, there can be tears, but ears can be shed in calm, sobbing can be done over a dead body. I think the most traumatic event I had here with the Misfits was not being able to get Floyd up, and having to cover him with my own body to try to keep him warm, watching the dusk come, waiting and hoping for Martyn to arrive, which he did-then having to drag him with the tractor due to the hill, and his weight, it was horrible. I kept telling him it would be okay, but I know he sensed my fear. I regret that as a care taker-but you do your best.

Years ago I realized there was this entire thing called "hospice". I was young, in my thirties and thought,

"Someday, I'd like to work in that area, somehow."

And here I am. I certainly didn't plan it. I know when Old Man Guinnias came to Apifera, as our first old creature, something clicked inside me. The fact that he had been relinquished to a goat rescue by his family as he entered his elder years, just grabbed me. He arrived at 15-very old for a goat, and lived to be 21.

But I'm not done. I still want to do better at bringing people together with The Misfits-elders, grieving people, wheelchair bound or blind people-all to commune with the animals that once been neglected. I've done much of this in small ways, one on ones, but I want to do more. I will continue to work towards that in the coming months and years. I will do my best to be that conduit.