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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Shepherdess has new optimistic hair stumps

I chopped about 4 inches off my hair. I felt I had to tell you, to keep it all honest here. It is part of my current expansion program-doing things that allow me to grow and expand, versus rest in certainty. I've had the same long hair for eleven years and always wear it my hair clumps, due to the course, wavy locks I was born with-they get matted easily in the barnyard in the Oregon mists. I often am worse off than old Mama Sugee or Boone.

My new little hair stumps are very wing like, in fact on my ride this morning I felt we floated at some point-collected of course! They are about the same size as Boone's ears now I guess. I plan to chop more off so the current hair stumps they will become mini hair stumps.

Someone called them antlers. I liked that. So here I am, my big ol' face shining back at you. Fifty seven and expanding into new things, new ideas, new plans. Would not opt to be 30, or 40 or 50 again. Will like 58 too. I like life, even in the sad times. I like wisdom, which has been accumulating since birth-although in my younger years wisdom wasn't a priority that much, as I recall.

I realize now I relate more to people who are expanding, who are demonstrating their opinions-by action-not shouting them from a pedestal. I like do-ers, not say-ers. I like optimists that inspire hope, not hysteria or depressing images that cause alarm and rabid chatter online. I despise cynicism-its a cover for anger and fear.

I like my hair stumps too. I think they are symbols of optimism, and hope in some way.

Heart swelling little things

There are many good things that are small at a first glance-small in that they last seconds, and often one is alone when they encounter it. I suppose it is like the tree falling in the forest-does it make a sound if nobody is present? I have always felt, well of course it makes a sound. Are humans so arrogant to think that by not being there, something doesn't exist to Nature?

So this moment existed, and now it can exist for you. It was the end of the day, I had been taking barnyard photos with my camera and was headed inside. But there it was, some 100 feet away, the purple tones of lilac and flowers juxtaposed against natural wood and orange cats.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The gentle kissing giant takes a stroll!

I was working today in the studio and happened to glance out back, and there was Stevie! This may not seem like a big deal, but Stevie rarely walks farther than the orchard area, which is about 15 feet from his outdoor shelter he likes. He spends most of his time resting, nibbling hay there, and to have him come all the way to the studio was really a milestone, a tender moment for me.

It means he's feeling good and he realized,

"Man, there is really tall grass over here."

I decided to let him into the back studio yard, usually off limits to anyone except the labs, just so he could relish all the tall grasses to himself, and help me out by trimming it down.

Stevie came to us from Sanctuary One. He was part of a huge rescue by the county of his herd of 30, and he was the worst off. He had been on his knees so long that he could not straighten his legs, so a vet and the Humane Society gave him an operation to at least allow him to get off his knees.

I am not a rescue, never have been, nor am I a rescuer, nor do I want to be. I adopt special needs or elders when I can [you all know them as The Misfits], and let them live the rest of their lives here, even if it is for weeks, or months. When I first heard of Stevie, it was because I was looking to adopt a pot belly pig-and was led to Rosie at Sanctuary One. But she came with her very own crippled goat, Stevie. Many of you know the story so I won't repeat it again.

But I anted to do this second post of the day because when I saw him out back, grazing, in a new place than his usual, seeing him active, it just lifted me in spirit. When I first saw a movie of Stevie before we decided to adopt him and Rosie, I wondered if it had been the right thing for him, to give him this operation. I think some times rescuers are so intent on 'saving' that they forget to step back and assess the animal, and what it really needs to be comfortable as that particular animal, both physically and emotionally. I am not criticizing rescuers, I'm pointing out something I've observed in the past 10 years of seeing various animals come to my attention.

But when I saw Stevie today, it was one of those moments I've had repeatedly living with him-that he does have a quality of life here and he does seem happy. To know he came over this far to the studio, it shows he was feeling pretty good. Maybe tomorrow he'll be a bit sore, but he looked very content. I thought we were losing him last May, when he kept casting. But he worked out of it, I don't know why or how, nor did the vet, but he did. [This is why his one ear is crinkled, it is what happens after he suffered from hematoma to the ear from hitting his head in his cast state, trying to get up.]

And yes, I did get a Stevie kiss just now. He never leaves without one, I know you think I'm exaggerating, just as I thought Sanctuary One was when they told me he gave kisses-but he does.

If you love Stevie, you can always subscribe or donate to help off set the monthly costs of caring for our special needs Misfits. 

Meet Juanita...the tenth

This is Juanita the XX, she is over 50, which is 250 in human years. She descends from the Juanita and Pedro line. She still gets up each day and dresses properly for breakfast. She has survived many cat attacks as well as raccoons.

She was born to Pedro VIII and Jaunita IX. This was before we had moved to Apifera, obviously. I found attic insulation on her, which makes me think she lived under the kitchen-above the root cellar where the insulation is visible. There are many secret passages-secret to me, that is-to and from the root cellars into the kitchen cabinets.

To survive this long is rather a miracle. Who knows why one does, and another succumbs to the death trap, or a cat, or natural illness. I guess it is not unlike our human world, you go when you go.

Juanita is proud. Even though she is very arthritic and getting around is difficult, she believes in keeping herself up to date, as much as possible. It reminds me of my mother-who until her death at 87 always took pride in her clothes. I know towards the end it became harder and harder but she always looked sharp, in a down to earth way. Juanita has trouble bending with her humped back, but still manages to keep her silks pressed, and washed.

She has been widowed over twenty times. Mouse marriages are often short, due to, well, death. But she can remember each husband, the first being Pedro Carlo Luiz and the last being a fellow named Frank Simmons. Frank came from a local clan down the road and he adored Juanita, perhaps more than any of her other husbands. He was 20 years younger, but found Juanita's knowledge of the local history entertaining. Frank was an accordion player but switched to harmonic in his later years. To this day, the sound of a distant harmonica always makes Juanita's ears twitch, and she has to remind herself that Frank is gone.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lady llama selfie love

Middle aged women taking selfies with farm animals, a new trend, or dangerous occupation?

Who cares?

This little lady is really endearing to me. It started the minute I met her at her former home where she was bred and born. I had intended to bring home one llama who would be with Aldo most of the time, but also the main flock, to help keep me comfortable when we try to further develop the upper fields.

But this little imp came right up to me and acted like I was her long lost mother. The breeder also noted that her behavior was really amorous, and that she might not be a good guard candidate because of it. I went home to think about it and knew the right thing was to bring home one of the males, but the face of the white girl kept returning to me. I resisted. I have no intention to breed, and it would mean keeping the male separate until I could geld him-llamas need to be about 18 months before being gelded, so we have about 8 months to go.

But I realized Aldo was old, and had lost his life time mate before arriving here, so thought he'd really love a new girl to grow older with.

That's called sound farm reasoning!

When I brought her out to meet Aldo, he was not in the least interested. And after about a month now he has settled with the boy, after spitting a lot the first couple weeks.

But I do not regret this decision. It is almost as if she was meant to be here, for me, I don't know the underlying significance yet, might not ever know that, but I know she and I will have a significant relationship. Because of her willingness to interact with me, I plan to walk her on the road and collect trash every now and then. She and I will have a job together. Maybe I'll have her pack a tea caddy up the hill for afternoon scones. Who knows what one woman can do with a willing lady llama. Maybe her role is just to be, as I be along side her-pur enjoyment of companionship.

So I finally settled on a name, or the name settled on her.

Birdie. And on special occasions her name is Lady Birdie.

Birdie currently lives with Boone and Wilma, and has the rams next to her. She sometimes grazes with them and will eventually switch pastures, back and forth, she is very versatile that way. All the llamas seem to be. Aldo and the black boy-who I have named Ollie Ollie Oxen Free are getting along fine, and are on duty in the lower side fields with the main flock. Ollie is a goof ball and looks like a Kukla, Fran and Ollie puppet to me. His fiber is beautiful. He is gangly and childlike in his movements but has settle in just fine. As for his desire to come take selfies with me, not so much-but that is fine. Our relationship is meant to be much more distant. He is to bond with sheep, not women.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Kidnapping out of the sky-goodbye dear duck

Sunday afternoon update: It's official. We saw the a bald eagle swoop low over the barnyard this afternoon. I'm proud to say The White Dogs made a run for him and made a raucous, he turned and flew up and in another direction. Part of me is relieved-because I know what I'm up against, and because I can't out smart an eagle. I'll try keeping everyone in lock down for the next couple of weeks. But when you live on a river, it's their river too. I'm just glad his carcass wasn't a waste, as the eagle would have taken it all.

We lost a duck yesterday. Out of the blue, out of nowhere, unseen by either of us as we worked outside all day. He was most likely plucked out of the sky and didn't see it coming and if it was an eagle as we suspect, it was a quick kill and he didn't suffer.

There are two consolations. One, his body most likely will feed baby eagles, or a mother brooding them. Two, he lived a long life, much longer than your wild duck, or cooped up duck. He died in Nature, in a field, eating grubs, amongst his little flock.

I was wishing I had witnessed it. But then thought it would be a haunting image, even if I adhere to the philosophy this is what Nature does, it recycles. It does not judge, it simply takes and gives, over and over. We are the graced ones for her bounties, and in return we need to be good stewards to the land.

The Bottomtums arrived at Apifera in 2011, after one of my vet's had a client call me–she had to leave her farm after her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The old goose that had been the den mother to the ducks also came, and her name was and is Priscilla. Priscilla was over 20 then and is now in her elderly years but still pops out an egg every now and then. We call them Granny Eggs. When they arrived, their wings had been clipped and I didn't want them to leave the barnyard, even though my vet wanted me to let them free range and eat slugs and snails, which can host parasites that infest the sheep in spring. But the ducks and their old goose were very content in the barnyard, and never ventured to the fields.

Until this spring.

I don't know what possesses a duck to get up one day and declare,

"Let's go to the lower fields for a picnic! Come on!"

But after spending four years in the barnyard, maybe they sensed there was an entire world of mud and puddles down there. So for the past few months they have been free ranging about, with the piglets and lower Misfit Village gang. Some days they go to sleep in their old duck hut, and some days they randomly return to the goat barn where they wintered. I let them decide.

Last night when I did feedings I noticed a male was missing. They never separate. I looked everywhere, and just couldn't believe he'd been nabbed out of the skies. But that is the only possibility, unless he dropped dead, which chickens often do. He is old. While you might think we would have heard a lot of commotion, I have seen the animals over and over show that they respond to death so calmly. Fear makes them act up, but there might not have been a reaction because an eagle might have nabbed him about ten feet from the others and they didn't even have a chance to fear since they were busy eating with heads down. I wondered if it was a hawk, but researched it and I guess that would be too big a haul. We've only had one hawk strike, right before my eyes, and I think the body would be there without the head, the usual hawk evidence. I am going to do another walk about to see if there are any feathers but didn't seen a sign yesterday. We have a farm friend down the road who constantly loses big geese to eagles, and we've seen him on out riverfront.

So The Bottomtums are in lock down in the Lower Misfit Village where they can swim in the piglet puddle and roam about. I am not sure if they will be venturing into the fields again. Then again, I can't control Nature. We live with her.

The male ducks have such beautiful colors, so many variations in their feathers. The iridescent qualities int he sunlight are gorgeous. Their little curled tail tips [the females tails don't curl] are like carefully coiffed bottom bow ties. I appreciate I got to live with such a fine duck, and that he had a good long run. I will miss his waddles and beautiful neck, and how he loved his private bucket to float and splash in. But I will also enjoy the remaining Bottomtums. I would feel dreadful if I lost Priscilla to an eagle, and feel I must do my best to protect her. But that is the human in me judging Nature's way-to die by an eagle is just as worthy a death as lying in a hut and not waking up.

Friday, April 24, 2015

They are here!

The Puppet and I are celebrating the arrival of the new Donkey Wisdom journals! The Puppet has also forgiven me for not being in the actual journal and still hopes he can write his own memoir some day.

The journal looks so great and I especially love the rounded corners! Simple pleasures. This will make a wonderful gift for a donkey lover; some one who likes to keep a journal or lists will appreciate that each spread has a donkey wisdom to help you better your day.

For a short time longer the pre sale page will be online so you can still get those introductory prices, but that will change in a week.

Thank you to everyone who pre ordered! I am so grateful and even though I wasn't able to pay for the entire printing up front, I would still do it all over again. It's hard to know why this one didn't pre sell enough to pay for the printing [both of my books did]. I think self publishing has many risks but I just know when people see this journal, they will love it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Snap shot moments

The great and powerful Itty Bitty Etta-what is she thinking, you wonder.

How did I become Queen so young?

And if you look carefully in the bottom photo, you will see one the recent arrivals.

Last chance to adopt a donkey painting!

This is the last chance to possibly take home an original painting valued at $950 when you pre-order the new Donkey Wisdom journal at the $64 or higher level. The journals arrive tomorrow [hoof stomps!] and I'll be shipping all pre-orders out in next few weeks. The pre-order page will come down soon and regular prices will be in effect. So pre-order soon!

I will be picking the adopter of the art piece this weekend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day trash service brought to you by Boone

I got a late night email yesterday,

Wanna pick up trash tomorrow on Earth Day?

It was a friend about 2 miles up the road who had partnered with me before to walk and collect county road trash. How could I turn the offer down, and it was a perfect opportunity to get Boone out on garbage duty, something he does well.

We met, with another friend; I rode Boone and it actually came in handy-we could act as scouts and see trash they might miss on the ground. As their garbage bags grew full, we tied them on Boone. We walked on one of the busier country roads at the end of our 2+ hour outing-we know the road well and it can be dangerous with its curves, and the occasional I'm-never-going-to-die-driver going like a bullet around corners. We were careful and had a system of safety. Most people were courteous, including one of the county public works trucks who slowed way down and smiled big at us-I'm sure seeing anyone picking up trash makes his shift.

It was another beautiful day, a time to remember how far I've come with Boone, or how far we came together. I never would have ridden him on this rode when I first got him, let alone put garbage bags on him, although he would have probably tolerate the latter as he has always been stoic. He would have been okay, but I wasn't ready. It's not a road I choose to ride on much, but now I can and feel confidant about it. When my friends were picking up trash, he stood politely as garbage bags were tied onto his saddle. He didn't flinch at zooming cars or banging bottles and cans on his side or back.

Boone is a stoic fellow. But I ride him consistently, and not just for 15 minutes. I read some one's blog recently who had a miserable ride on her horse, a horse she rarely rides and then gets upset with when she gets on him and he–in her words–acts like a jerk, actually I think she used another word I won't use here. All sorts of people gave their two cents on her situation. I didn't feel sorry for her, nor did I offer input since I don't know her from Adam and she didn't ask for it. But if she asked me how I got here with Boone, I'd tell her,

I rode him, a lot. And I took some lessons for a year-to improve me, to be a better leader.

Most rewarding thing I ever did and so glad I had a mentor who guided me that way. My farrier too once said to me, after Boone and I got through our initial year or so of misbehaving-

"Number one thing to do with your horse-ride him. You can do all the ground work in the world, go to fancy clinics, read books, but you have to get on and ride him, and not for 15 minutes but hours. Consistently."

Agreed. And it all makes riding around with bags on your back full of garbage much more doable-and fun! No drama!

Thanks, Boone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Do you know what you look like?

I did this painting last week. It was almost too sweet even for me, but I decided to leave it as is and many seem to like it. I do like it, it's just that I wanted the shepherdess to look older, like...me.

I tried to add jowls, sagging neck, some wrinkles, and it all looked bizarre. So I decided maybe this is what I feel like, this face on this woman, the face I had not too many years ago. I was looking at some photos of me from five years ago and had this calm epiphany

"Wow, I've aged."

I used to always look younger than my years, I thought. Now i think I just look my age. I'm okay with the aging part because I like who I am and who I've evolve into, and I plan to keep expanding each day, an ongoing metamorphosis since birth. I like women in their late forties and older-they've discarded some of the crap that bagged them down in their youth.

But there is this odd thing that happens when you do start to change physically, for me it was about 55 when things really started shifting. My skin has aged, although I'm blessed with Irish looking skin and have worn hats and sunscreen my entire life [thanks to good training by my redheaded mother], and I don't smoke. The odd thing is that I can't really tell what I look like right now. It's a stage, I know it. I suppose it is like what happens in your teens, and then your early twenties where you start coming into your own more. I remember in college tromping along, feeling unworthy in the looks department, and one day I just sort of realized,

Oh, that's what I look like! I'm okay.

In my forties I went through another slight shift, but it was not as drastic as what happens in the mid fifties.

I hope to maybe do some self portraits, for my own purposes in the next year, but maybe I'll drop that idea. I have so many other projects I want time for-like my puppets and dolls I want to spend more time on this summer, new books, clay, my photography-I might lose interest in what I 'feel' I look like and just grow into a comfort zone of it. My face does not represent what my soul is doing, but it is an expression of it in some ways. It's the skin, the covering that allows me to be a soul here on a planet walking in a body, a vessel. If nobody had ever seen me, they would react to my art and writing because of what my soul put into it-it would have nothing to do with my face. While beauty in the commercial world does sell, I do believe that a person's actions and heart are what shine through the skin, and that is what people respond too-even though they can also be attracted to physical beauty. it is the action of the soul extended out into the world, that can move people to do good deeds, inspire art and good will to earth, people and all creatures.

What do you all feel as you are adding years on and looking in mirror? Do you see the face you know is yours, or did you get a bit ungrounded by it? Did it seem like a phase for you, just like the awkwardness of being a teen?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

White dog selfies, hair cuts and cancelations

The casting call was abruptly cancelled because I inadvertently had scheduled Moose and Goose to be on clean-up crew in the chicken garden where I need to plant my sunflowers. The Head Troll was remarkably polite about it, since it is rather hot today, and she keeps changing the script. I was relieved too, I had so much to do this weekend with the vegetable garden getting tilled and planted and....Misfit haircuts.

Firstly, I took some selfies with The White Dogs. So trendy of me, yet so...what's the word-annoying! I decided why not become part of the narcissistic selfie generation of small farm-artist-writers who take pictures of themselves over and over...and over. The Head Trolls said I need a wand thingy to make better selfies but I said absolutely not, it is bad enough we are taking selfies let alone buying land fill accessories to improve them. I do wish Martyn were into photography because I'd love some real photos of me on the farm, especially as we grow older. So these will have to do. Not easy getting 2 big white heads in there...maybe I do need a wand thingy. The President has one I think.

I spent most of the afternoon shearing [for lack of a better word] dear Sophie. A sheep friend out east explained how the wool will rise and then it is easier to slip the scissor under the matted part of wool. This proved to be true. Part of her body was pretty easy. We went swimmingly along and then I reached an area that felt like I'd never get it done. But we did it. I had bought a pair of real sheers but found them annoying 50% of the time so switched to my art scissors. There go my art scissors. But they worked. I will have to educate myself better on shears. I was pleased I only nipped her once, and was pleased to see not too many lice, even though she is treated regularly with all that wool how can you not have some. The one thing I almost blew it on was I forgot she had two waddles! Fortunately for her I was going deliberately slow so no harm was done. She was so happy to have her waddles cleaned off and scratched. They were crusty and itchy. Sophie did really well, I was proud of her. She was very patient considering how long it took. She and Victor both have birth defects that make them crippled in their rears, but Sophie is not as bad off as Poor Victor. She was able to stand the entire time, Victor won't be able to and the small amount of trimming I've done on him, he hated it. So I'll rest for a week and do him next.

I'm going to use some of the wool for my puppets and dolls I'll be working on for the upcoming show.

It was a beautiful weekend, full of farmy things-vegetable planting, trimming some feet, cleaning field water buckets, mending fences and now...time for a shower and some wine in the garden. The lilacs are at their peek, the bees and Buzzies are here [hummers] and the garden is showing rose buds and all sorts of delights. It is a beautiful time, before bug and gnats come-but they are on the way.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Casting call for Misfits

You know the routine. Scurry of feet, two raps at my studio door, scurry of feet leaving, a note is left.

This should be interesting, if not exhausting. I most likely won't be able to report back until after the weekend. I guess I should feel pleased I was invited to try out. If you don't know what is going on, the barnyard is having their own Misfit Summer Stock. I guess The Head troll was inspired by some old Gene Kelly movie, or was it Judy garland?

No matter what, it is bound to be....challenging. I mean, have you ever worked in a cast of short statured pigs and crippled kissing goats? But as I said once before, this is an experience that will engage me and entertain, and allow me to expand.

Stay tuned. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Garden party of chicken underpants

It is a spring tradition. We till up the vegetable garden [after the pigs and goats have cleaned up what they can] and then we let the chickens in as we lay down new 'black gold'–manure, compost, and stall cleanings that have aged for years-looking just like the deepest black dirt you can find.

I swear the chickens prepare for this day.

"Are your underpants clean?" Alice Waters says to everyone. She sports her light buff colored pants, perfect for spring.

"I will not be bending over," said Jane. "Mine are tarnished."

"I shall be going too," said Franklin, the youngest rooster of the farm, now developing fine hackle feathers. "My hackles will look stunning with your spring underpants."

"Just stay away from me and my underpants, Franklin, I belong to Papa Roo's clan," said Chicken Named Dog.

"Suit yourself," said Franklin.

While they clawed and strutted, I worked on de-chick-a-fying the vegetable garden. Last year for the first time in 10 years, the chickens ruined our tomatoes by pecking at them, then leaving them to rot. Martyn was on the war path. He threatened to have 24/7chicken lock down all summer. To compromise, I convinced him an addition to the chicken hut area would let them stay there during peak tomato season and still have some grass and dirt, and that I would also add yet another span of chicken wire and barriers to the vegetable area to keep them out. I don't clip wings and don't intend to, so any little ledge allows them a new way to get through the pasture fence. I spent an hour or so working this weekend to make a Fort Knox of Vegetable Gardens, only to notice a chicken at my feet when I was done.


They had easily gone under one of the gates. So I will add a board there.

In the meantime, they are happily parading in clean underpants, except Jane. But that too shall pass.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The monthly animal update

I thought I'd begin giving a monthly update of the Misfits and any other working animals that have news to share. I won't mention everybody in monthly posts, we'd be here all week, but feel free to ask about anybody if you'd like. If you like the work I do here with the animals, or my art and story, please consider a subscription. Scroll down to see lots of photos.

Sir Tripod Goat is settling in well. He is still a bit of a Here she comes I must flee or be caught kind of fellow, but he is doing fine. When he first arrived with Ezra, he would go off and be in the duck hut during much of the day, then eventually came out more and more. Now when I arrive in the morning, he's sleeping with everybody else in the lower Misfits Village-Stevie, Rudy, Professor Otis Littleberry and Raggedy Man, and usually Uno the rooster who has a rogue spirit. Sir Tripod Goat can not use his hind back leg, and is basically a Tripod. While he isn't that old, he will definitely have more issues as he ages due to this deformity.

Old Mama Sugee
, the elderly near-40-blind-earless wonder has put on wonderful amounts of weight. I did a post on this not long ago. I took her winter coat off to brush her and was so pleased to see her hips had filled in pretty well. So happy for her. We've had not seen an incident of seizure since they were happening last summer. Mama and her ancient daughter Wilma are living up by Boone this winter, with the rams, and the new girl llama [name announcement soon!] and she is brought in every morning to eat in a private suite to ensure she gets her senior formula, and Wilma doesn't get it -Wilma is chubby and has founder issues, so we have to watch her.

Victor and Sophie, the genetically crippled fiber goats that were born with conditions that make their hips and pelvic areas not operate properly, making Vincent pretty crippled, and Sophie somewhat so, are doing well. My biggest challenge is getting them sheared in coming couple of months. Victor was rescued by New Moon Farm, along with Sophie, and their matted coats were so bad that Victor had raw skin. I noticed a patch of Victor's matted hair had torn off leaving a small raw spot so i spent time trying to get the pee-matted wool off his belly. It is a challenge. Another reason I don't usually take in anything with wool or heavy fiber [our sheep are hair sheep, no shearing].

Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat
, as some of you recently read, was the victim of a barnyard bobcat strike, most likely a young bobcat that didn't have his hunting skills down quite yet. We know that Benedetto and Marcella helped ward him off, and fortunately Wilbur suffered lacerations on both sides of his neck, but no other wounds were found. I doubt that bobcat will be back soon, but to be sure, all Misfits in the upper barnyard are locked in barn with Benedetto now, and Marcella is on patrol.

Scooby Keith has had a bout of respiratory issue, on and off this winter, which I treat with Penicillin. He seems to come through every time, and it at this point seems to be seasonal, so it might be allergy related. Scooby wintered in the goat barn, in the hay room near Hazel the remaining barn cat, and where Boone's stall looks into. During the day, he goes out with Boone and he suns and naps. Horses tend to like goats and Boone gets along with everyone. Scooby still is sporting his winter fleece, which came with the many old dog coats people sent for the Misfits.

The Head Troll is very busy, of course with normal barnyard procedures, but now with Misfit Summer Stock. Even though she is as powerful as ever, she is aging, and also sleeps in the same area with Scooby. I've noticed she naps more, and now rests on her knees to eat. We don't discuss the aging of The Head Troll around here, because we think she might live for ever.

Stevie is doing really well after our scare last June, where he was falling a lot. He has kept his weight on so well, and after years of working on his horrible feet, the 'hook' is finally gone. Took a lot of work to get there! He continues to be the farm's best kisser and is looking forward to this year's Pino Pie Day to give some out.

Rosie, the world's grumpiest pig, spent the winter her a semi private suite in Old barn, with a rogue gang of hens and Papa Roo, and passing donkeys. She had an eye infection and it caused her to be somewhat blind, so she preferred the solitude there. In the next weeks, Rosie will try leaving the upper barnyard where she lived, to move down to the Lower Misfit Village, where Stevie, her old friend lives. I am hoping she will like the duck hut, and she will have more green grass. we think she will prefer it to being with the White Dogs, and Earnest and Eleanor.

Stella and Iris are living now in retirement in the barnyard, after leaving the Donkey pastures for good. Stella is becoming week in her hind end, making it sometimes impossible to rise on her own. Iris might live forever, we are not sure. They sleep with Victor and Sophie, and sometimes the ducks.

Priscilla and The Bottomtums
have finally, out of the blue, started going down to the lower fields to eat slugs, which is a good thing since they are bad for sheep in the spring. They followed the piglets there one day and now forage their each day. They also like the pig pen since there is lots of mud. Priscilla is 25+ years old, and about twice a year, she has laid an egg for us-which I have to find before Earnest does, or Marcella.

Old Rudy is very, very arthritic. But he is such a trooper. He still likes to venture down to the lower field when it is available to him and graze. It takes him a very long time to return, but he retains a wonderful attitude and is very loving. He is thin but eats well.

Raggedy Man and Professor Otis Littleberry are puffballs and live in the Lower Misfit Village. They are masters at grabbing food from anyone, but are the funniest little chaps that it is hard to be cross with them. Raggedy still looks like a Muppet.

Goose and Little Moose spend their days happily, always. Moose prides himself on being the littlest Misfit, and likes to mount Goose to tell him he may be short but he is a big boy.

Old Mother Matilda and her donkey gang are all just fine. Matilda held her weight well with senior feed and a nice winter coat tht she willingly put on. Paco still writes her poetry and thinks she's his mother-we don't try to dissuade him. Pino is doing his very first venture into Portland with his April 9th Pino's Book Mobile of Love where he will help me sell books, and share his heart, along with Lucia.

Aldo the Elder has adjust to his new llama co-worker, a beautiful, young black male who still has not presented his name. Meanwhile, a young white female llama is currently living with the rams, near Boone and she and I are fast becoming more than friends. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring fashion-it's all about the lips

One of the glories of spring on the farm is the beautiful earth toned lips the sheep wear. So suck in those cheekbones, ladies, and put on your lipstick!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Daisy, oh Daisy our beloved gummer

Daisy turned twelve. She is our oldest sheep and along with her mother Rosemary was a founding mother of the flock. She and Rosie were the best teachers a novice shepherdess could have had. We loss Rosie in the horrible Spring of Death, she was too young and she was such a marvelous sheep in every way-coat, personality, and mothering ability. I think back to that first lambing, the excitement before any lambs had come, the constant fretting, are they going to lamb today? If we only could have known what was going on inside her head when I was going through the first lambing season. Probably something like,

"Really? You just checked my udder five minutes ago, don't fret, I am not having this baby today."

Daisy has provided so much to the flock, and to me. After Rosie died, I expected her to become the lead sheep. While she was and is respected, she seemed to take another approach.

"What a relief, I can just let the younger ones take charge."

Sheep hierarchy is very interesting to watch, and it isn't always pretty. Head banging and rough housing are just sheep language for reshuffling the pecking order. I've noticed that Daisy has never seemed to participate, or be the recipient of it.

In the past year, I have watched her decline. She is now toothless, a true gummer which makes her a bit thin right now. Everyone looks scruffy this time of year, with shedding and coming off winter grass. Soon the grass will be much more nutritious and bellies will expand overnight. Daisy has begun to separate herself out a bit from the flock at night. I took these photos this morning while she was still napping. Her front shoulder is very gimpy, and she is always the last to enter the field. Last night I noticed she could not keep up when the flock came running into their night time pasture when I called them. I will have to decide if pulling her out of the flock so she can be in the fields by the barn is what is now best for her–I would also take her daughter, Lilly, who is also part toothless and getting up there in years. But it might be best to let them stay with the flock, as long as they are in the lower fields. It's getting to the point where it worries me to have her in the upper pastures_if she went down, getting her quickly back to the barns would be almost impossible. She is the first one I look for in the morning and I always count heads when the flock comes in at night. I really miss breeding her since she always gave wonderful colored lambs, usually always with a white cap on their heads. I retired her around seven, after she lost two of her triplets one year. I will bury her with those twins, up on Sheep Hill near her mother.

Many of the original animals of Apifera-the ones that came before there were a gang of Misfits-are aging. The Head Troll, Stella and Iris, Papa Roo, and Daisy and the first lambs. The results are inevitable. Some losses are more pronounced, causing a visceral reaction of the skin, body, mind and soul. Such will be the case when Daisy goes. But until then, she has grass, sun, and a flock of relatives. It is a good life for her here. I take notice of her beautiful cinnamon hair every day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

New chicks lighten up the old chick

It never gets old, bringing home some new chicks. It's been awhile since I've mothered baby chicks in the bathtub, and I forgot how fun it can be...and messy....and loud.

I had the Nursery all ready for them in the main coop-but then my heat bulb broke on me, so I brought them into the small guest bath. One day led to another-it is easy to start being too human, telling yourself,

"Oh it is too cold out there, they might catch a draft. Better give them another day in the tub."

Besides, it's nice to go in and use the facilities and while you're at it, chat with the chicks.

I much prefer having Mama Hens sitting on chicks, but our flock is getting old. We are down to 11 hens and I'm guessing about 5 are retired from egg laying. I know I am suppose to cull hens, but, nope, not going to do it. Just like my sheep, they provided a service to us by giving us food, and they retire here. I really wanted some more Buff Orpingtons, so got two and I also ordered a couple of Golden Sex-Links, which I've never had but are supposed to be good layers. Since we eat 75% or more non-meat diet, we love eggs and use them for fritatas and all sorts of things.

So I went to the feed store to pick up my chicks, but only the two sex links were in, and the Buff Orps wouldn't be there for another few weeks. Not ideal, since now I'll have two crops of babies, and hoping here won't be issues with pecking.

So why are there four chicks in the photos? I really was minding my own business, and the girl says,

"You wouldn't want some Silver Laced Wyandottes, would you? We over ordered."

Why not. Bringing home only two chicks didn't seem right.

Yesterday was very warm, and the I moved the chicks to the super nursery area. It is part of the main coop, which is about 12' high and 15 foot room, cement floors and built in nesting boxes. Pretty nice. Martyn put up a frame wall and we hung landscaping material that allows the chicks to have viewing of the hens, but they are in their own private room. It even has it's own ramp and dutch door going outside when they are ready for it. I checked on them this morning and they made it through their first night of real life chickeness, versus human involved living in the tub chickness. Chicks can break a heart, they can just die. It happens. SO I am always glad when they get a bit bigger.

I'm excited to see them grow. I was thinking of our first hatchlings years ago, which led me to think of our first lambs, and first piglets, and first everything in the last eleven years. The joy of watching these little creatures grow each day before your eyes and develop feathers and wings by leaps and bounds-the joy of having new life, or trying new experiences is something I hope to never lose.

I posted something on Facebook today-noting that my goal is to bring activities into my life that expand my soul, not retract it. Working with the animals, growing them, helping them, breeding some or hospicing others- it expands my soul. I was noting that being on Facebook has begun to feel the opposite-like it is puts my soul in a retracting mode. Having the chicks reminded me that my life in the barnyard expands my perspectives and soul.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The barnyard puts on a play...oh dear

I knew something was up. I had heard lots of pounding of hammers, or one hammer, and a sawing sound, which is always scary when it is coming from the barnyard during the week, since The Dirt Farmer is not home. I was busy, really didn't want to be bothered with diversions, but when I looked out the studio window I realized i better get out there.

I entered to find some of the pigs in heated discussion with The Head Troll–something about inappropriate dialogue in their scripts.

I have learned to step back and observe before offering assistance in these matters. While they are my charges, The Head Troll, as well as Marcella, are my under soldiers and I have to let them manage without my interference if at all possible. The Head Troll threw her arms up in the air, tossing her notes to the side and fell down into her director seat.

Where did they get the director seat, I wondered. Best not know, for now.

"Break! Cut! Take five!" The Head Troll said.

Earnest came over to sit with me. He was the only one not wearing an outfit.

"My pantaloons didn't fit me, so I am naked for the dress rehearsal," he told me.

I rubbed his belly, hoping he'd say more.

He did.

Apparently The Head Troll got a bee in her bonnet to put on a play. She was inspired by some old movie where everyone works together and builds the set and make the costumes and someone writes and directs, and at the end of the summer, voila, an audience is given the gift of a play.

I have got to toss that old TV out in the milk parlor, even if there is no sound on it.

At first, the idea of a Misfit Summer Stock seemed like a really bad idea to me. I have a show myself in the fall, and a workshop in June, and Pino Pie Day, and a Pino book mobile-the added pressure of helping out with a theatrical production starring pigs and crippled goats seemed like bad timing.

But as I got up to leave, I looked at the trial set they had built. It was a miracle it was still standing from the raggedy way they made it-but I immediately got a twinge of excitement.

This is just what I needed, I thought. A Misfit production to be part of, something fun and real, with living creatures instead of a computer screen of profile photos. I remember as a child watching Spanky and his gang on television. They were always putting on a play of one kind or another. I partook in each one in my mind and then would go out and try to do one on my own, with myself and my dog. It was never quite the same.

So here I had a wonderful opportunity presented to me-to be part of a gang! To put on a show!

I asked the Head Troll what role I might have, or how I could help. She said she will be back with ideas soon, but her first priority was to rewrite some pig dialogue.

Stay tuned as the Misfit Summer Stock progresses in the coming weeks and months!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Your name could be picked out of the donkey bucket for this art!

Someone might take this original 13" x 9" painting home.

All you have to do to have your name put in the special donkey bucket out in Pino's barnyard is go on over to the pre-order site for the new and Donkey Wisdom journal. You have to order at the Donkey Art Lover reward level. If you already ordered at the $65 reward level, your name will graciously be put in the bucket too.

I'm also tossing in some Misfit Mail postcards for all pre-order shoppers, so come on down!

You all have until April 17 to pre-order at these prices. Once the journals ship to me after the 17th, a new buy page will be created.

If you have a friend you want to share this offer with-you can send them this newsletter link that explains it all.

It's just donkeyronkulous!

Monday, April 06, 2015

We celebrate the birth of the World's Grumpiest Pig! Rosie!

Today's is Rosie the pig's 7th birthday. She grows grumpier each year and we like her that way. You can read all about how I took Martyn fishing one time and came home with a grumpy pig. She came complete with a crippled goat who we all know and love as Stevie- yes, the one who gives kisses.

Pig language is intricate. It took me much longer to learn than goat, donkey or horse. While Earnest is polite, and Eleanor never stops talking, Rosie...well Rosie starts out a grumpolopapous and gets more so.

Her alter ego the Grumpy Pig Puppet is here to honor Rosie and all her Rosiness.

Happy Birthday dear Rosie! Today I woke her up from her morning nap and gave her eggs, which she liked, but then let me know she was disturbed at being awake.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter walk on Muddy Hill

We took Huck and Mud up to their favorite romp on Muddy Hill. We wanted to see how the grass was doing since the flock is destined to eat their next. Such a juggling match when you cross pasture-but in a way it is part of farming I really like, once I learned to go with the flow and not fret about the natural pace of Mother Earth's rhythms. And of course that rhythm can change each year depending on weather conditions which makes cross fencing and multiple barns a must for convenience and animal care.

Huck was very happy to be allowed to run free on the hills. He is so old and gimpy now and can overdo it so easily with his front shoulder. But to see him out there again, he looked so happy. Broke my heart-in a joyous way. And that is what Easter is to me-joyous celebration of life. I was not raised in any church, but always loved the Easter celebration. Bunnies aren't bad either, but Easter feels like an opportunity for expansion. So I guess it was appropriate that Huck got to expand today. Looking down at the flock, and Aldo the Elder, I felt blessed, with Martyn, my charges and this land. It is not perfect which is a wonderful fitting since we are so flawed too. We were pleased to see how the grazing of the sheep was helping the small stream that runs through the property-at some point it might not, but for now, it is helping eradicate certain weeds and blackberry.

I like looking at my flock. I was thinking what a simple pleasure this is and how farming has many of these internal moments of peace-despite the hard work. I would assume that a farmer with a large operation has these moments too, but they are hard to explain to another.

This morning, I smelled a scent that comes at Spring. The sheep manure begins to dry and it mixes with the new grass scent, and it is almost a salty smell. While some might wonder how manure's waft can be pleasing, certain kinds of it, in the right conditions and amounts float me to a wonderful place of contentment. Come to think of it, it's not floating, it's a solid feeling of standing on the earth and reaping it all in while I do chores.

May your day be one of renewal!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Benedetto's bobcat

We were working in the barnyard today, securing a certain part of the fence that the White Dogs tend to jump up on. It is with good reason. This part of the fence looks up into the woods, and that is where wildlife pass by. Every night when I leave the barnyard after feedings, Marcella runs to that area and barks for about a half hour. The first thing Benedetto does in the morning is run to that area and check it out.

Of course Benedetto and Marcella were right there with us, watching every thing we did to the fence. I was kneeling down petting one of them when I realized Wilbur was standing next to me. Wilbur is an agreeable goat and not one to seek out mushy talk, but he does like to stand for scratching. So I obliged him.

"Martyn!" I gasped. "Come look at this."

The photo can't mimic what we saw. The claw marks were long and left welts. I'd guess they were about a week old from the condition. They were on both sides of his neck. They were huge. No way were they left by a barn cat, no way. Besides, the two remaining cats that still live in the barn never come in the barnyard, nor do the remaining porch cats-and if they did, this is not something that would have happened as they are tame and elderly. And Benedetto does not tolerate cats. It seems to be his one passion-chasing them.

We started thinking about it, and realized that from the looks of the wounds, this might have coincided with the night Benedetto broke out last week-something I didn't share here, yet. That particular night, we had gone to bed about eleven, and heard Marcella raising a real fuss. Her barks were different than her normal nightly 'Hey, I'm Marcella barking, stay out of my barnyard" barks. We decided we better check it out. And we realized Benedetto was gone. We walked to the nearest property hoping he was there, but no such luck, and decided it made no sense to wander around in the countryside armed only with a flashlight. The next morning a neighbor down the way called and had Benne. He had gone to their house once before, so they fortunately knew him and contained him until morning.

That next morning I saw where he'd gotten out. It was the place by the fence we were fixing today, a place that Benne likes to sleep by during the day. And it's the place the dogs go to bark at night into the woods. It is also the same spot where years ago I encountered a bobcat in the barnyard, calmly walking by at ten in the morning.

As we looked at poor Wilbur's wounds, it was like he was saying,

"Thanks for finally noticing."

I felt badly about that. He had not acted unusual at all and since he still has his winter coat, I didn't see any signs of blood, cuts or discomfort. And he was eating and acting like the little acrobat he always is. But then I remembered that when Benne came back from that nightly outing of a week ago, he had two big scratches on both ears, long wounds that I had blamed in my mind on Earnest. When the dogs get up and moving, they look for any feed that has been left behind, and so does Earnest. It can lead to scuffles, and pigs have very intense incisors that can leave rips in a dog. Marcella has learned this lesson, Benne was learning it, I figured.

But now we really think that that night a Bobcat was passing through, and Wilbur was in the path, or went to investigate, who knows. I leave the youngsters out-Moose, Goose and Wilbur and usually confine the crippled Victor and Sophie, the ducks and Stella in stalls for their safety. If it had been Moose, or Goose, who knows if they would have faired as well as Wilbur.

We thought of a raccoon, but the position of the claw marks, and the space between each claw didn't make sense for that. Nor does a skunk.

This might also be what happened to our beautiful Vivienne the hen, who disappeared not long ago and we never found any remains.

This morning we also flushed out a grown coyote as we were up investigating our upper fields. It is always magical to see a wild creature living in nature, but also reminds us each time that we are just the stewards here, living on their land.

I continue to understand the important job The White Dogs play. Who knows what we don't get to see after hours. I will start putting the little ones in stalls at night, I guess. Even with the White Dogs, it might be wise.