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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Prayer Flag intentions

Someone mentioned that this little clip of The Prayer tree in the wind made them feel so peaceful. I feel that too, and am enjoying having it so close to the studio. The raggedy flags are sponsored by Apifera followers who want to donate to the final Pino Pie Day, and also have a flag hung in Apifera wind to honor a friend, loved one or animal mate.

The prayer flags of Tibet are rooted in their history and culture. I admire their religion, but am not a Buddhist, or any other religion. But I do believe in the movement of energy, and love, through intention. That is what the prayer flags here, and the wind, represent for me. When I'm tieing each flag to the tree, I have a simple intention-to send warm thoughts and health and peace to the name on the flag, and the person who sponsored it. That was Pino Pie Day's first mission way back when it started-to intentionally share love. That is the same intention have as I prepare for this year's final Pino Pie Day.

You can sponsor a prayer flag too by visiting the Pino funding page and looking for the Prayer Flag reward level. I take photos of each flag I hang and share it with you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Prayer Flag Tree

I've had a secret little prayer flag tree on Donkey Hill for some time, where I put raggedy flags to send prayers to people who might need them, or situations that are scary or sad for me. It has largely been anonymous, I don't usually tell the person I'm hanging a flag for, or write about it here except on one occasion.

But I got to thinking it would be really sweet to have a special Prayer Flag Tree at our last Pino Pie Day. I did think about it-prayers should come for free and quietly as I've been doing all along. But I put it to the Dirt Farmer, who is usually stoic and fair minded in these matters. He thought it was a nice idea and a way for followers and friends to help Apifera's fundraiser, but also have some Apifera wind floating a prayer for them or a loved one/pet.

Today I hung the first flags. I have to say it felt really nice. It's such a simple expression but what makes it even more special is the little tree they hang on, directly in front of my studio where the gardens begin. That little tree struggled for years in a landscaper container to survive. You see, Martyn has his own Misfits of Plants. Ever since I met him, he can't bare to throw out trees and plants that are dug up on his many job sites. This plum tree was about two feet tall when I met her, and was a perfect candidate to be Charlie Brown tree. She lived in a pot until we got to Apifera, where she lingered another couple years in the same pot before our gardens became more established. Finally, her roots were set free into the soil. It was still small and crooked, and after a couple years, it gave us one sweet little plum. Last year it really put on a beautiful show of color and gave us buckets of plums.

But this spring, we could tell that half of it did not survive the winter. It could have been a myriad of things-insects, blight, disease....or the fact that Stella and Iris got to the bark at some point in their illustrious careers. While the bark was not destroyed, coupled with other things, it might have killed part of the sweet tree. We sawed those branches off, and of late, the other leaves are shrinking. There is one tiny plum on her! What a precious thing, to struggle so and give us one plum!

We don't know if the tree will make it, so I told Martyn I thought she was the perfect place to hang the prayer flags for Pino's Pie Day. In that way, we are honoring her life too.

If you'd like to have a prayer flag hung in someones honor, be it pet, friend or loved one [or you!], just visit the Pino funding page and look for the Prayer Flag level.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From this will come huge things

Some animals that die leave bigger markings. They all leave some dent in the landscape, and all are to be remembered, but some leave much bigger heart prints.

Stella was one of the latter.

I see her grave as I drive up the road. She is buried in the lavender field, and I don't see it as depressing at all to see the fresh dirt mound knowing what lies beneath. I just think,

"There's Stella."

She had such a good life. Someone noted that there are many changes rumbling through the farm. It is true. We have been here 11+ years now, and there are bound to be shifts in Apifera's life. I'm okay with all that, excited too, now that I've announced this will be the last Pino Pie Day. Losing one event will free me up to create another, another that will be more in tune with the current Misfits, my writing/books and art, and my new hopes and ideas-and new muses I haven't met.

Stella's death, the passing of the farm's matriarch cat, the new barn, the shifting of the lavender fields, the opening of upper pastures, all of it signals change which means new stories, adventures, art and dreams. I remember when my mother died, as drastic as it felt, a voice came inside me and said,

From this will come huge things.

I've lived within one part of a dream for many years now-the dream of finding a mate, a sense of place, a horse and farm-and I will continue to admire where I've landed, and not take it for granted. But unlike some people I see who get stuck in their dream, hoping it continues to bring them glory, comfort, more book deals or continued public adoration, I'm going to stretch and allow myself to jump off some tall trees knowing I might scuff up my knees at times.

I have loved being within this current dream, but my wings aren't clipped.

Several months ago, maybe even last year, I began titling paintings with "Calling All Wings". My titles come to be subconsciously after a piece is done and I knew these had a many layered muse behind it, and that muse is now coming to the forefront.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy pug, happy tail

Hughie once known as Hewie and otherwise now referred to as The One Eyed Pug II not to be confused with the original never to be replaced One Eyed Pug is doing just wonderfully.

This is one smart pug. And, incredibly solid in his demeanor. Everyone who works with him seems to fall in love with him. He is very different than the first One Eyed Pug, in that he is less needy for starters. I think due to Hughies' first home where I think he was left a lot alone in a room due to his blindness, he had two choices-get needy or be calm. He seems to have gone the calm route. He has learned to navigate the house-which is mainly one floor so works out great for a blind fellow. I was amazed how fast he has adjusted. He has a bed in the main kitchen/living area so he is always with the gang. Like most pugs, he likes to be with his people-but what is great is he is very adjustable so if I go to the barnyard for long spells, I have crated trained him [he actually was fine with the crate when he arrived so already was crate oriented-I'm strong believer in crate training].

He is pure love and acceptance. He knows my voice and now that he knows the layout I don't have to always have him on his lead, for safety. I created a Hughie Garden-basically a puppy pen in the grass where he can lay about in the shade if I need to work in the garden, but he can still hear me. He sits on the chair with me and the heating pad at night for our glass of wine, by the fire, and then moves into the living room at night for television watching, on the couch of course, with old Huck in his spot. Martyn still gets to squeeze in with his girl, no worries.

I don't know how it happened, that the stars were aligned just right to bring him here, but they were. To all who helped make it happen, thank you again.

On Tuesday, Hughie and his eyeball will be going to the vet to have a back tooth removed. I had noticed bad breath when he arrived and checked his teeth. My last pug had horrible teeth from a young age, Hughie is from better breeding for sure. His teeth are really good, except he has a split tooth which is half rot, so we will take it out on Tuesday, and he will be able to return home that afternoon. We did a senior blood panel on him Thursday and he was a gentleman with the vet. She is hooked, just like the last vet who saw him.

Hughie, Hugh Pugh, Pug, Hey Mister- all these names are known to him now around here. He is very happy, and feels secure now evidenced in his happy pug tail.

A video posted by Katherine Dunn / Apifera Farm (@katherinedunnapiferafarm) on

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Four hours with Boone and God

I did today exactly what was needed. I went for a four hour ride up in the mountain foothills with Boone and some friends. It's a wonderful place that is maintained by the local Muleskinners and the trails are just wonderful-challenging but never overly so. Boone did great and we went through our first streams together and waded in pools too. Many of the trails were steep and rocky, combined with wet footing and logs to cross so it was just a wonderful challenging day and so much fun. Every time Boone and I do any ride it is enjoyable, but these longer ones are so meaningful as they build us up as a team, and I'm always so proud of him just for being his calm stoic self.

Part of the trails are through private forest land and this is the only photo I took today. I am not religious and did not go to church as a child or young adult but the power of the best things of faith are embodied in Nature for me, and if there was ever an outdoor cathedral it is the forest. The old barn is a cathedral for me too, but old forests bring me onto hallowed ground. Looking up into the light bouncing off Doug Fir limbs, a statement popped into my head,

There must be God.

I do believe in God, but that statement came to me, strongly. Boone noticed things I did not, smelled and sensed what I could not. Perhaps that is God too, for him, but he needs not label it. I remember Joseph Campbell saying that we need the word "God" because we have to put a short description onto the entity that we can not describe in human words.

I needed this ride today and sometimes the beauty of the world is so overwhelming. Through certain parts of the forest, I could see coastal range foothills, and I wondered how many eyes were watching us as we rode though those paths. The horses themselves bring me great contentment. The sounds of feet hitting ancient rock and the sweat of the neck perfuming the cool air was worth thousands of dollars of psychotherapy. It was like it washed me, it didn't wash over me, it literally cleansed me and all the heavy thoughts I've had of late. Last night Martyn and I sat and talked a lot about giving up Pino Pie Day, and I was surprised how much it felt like a loss. I am very confidant it is the right thing to do, but it is a loss. The ride today reminded me of my small size in this universe, and another idea came to me,

If we had to walk in this cathedral before speaking how would it change our words?

The steady steps of my horse amazed me at times, and I daydreamed how I would most likely be slipping and tripping. Boone trusted me enough not to lead him into danger, carrying me four hours on slippery slope and never missing a step, never faltering or hesitating a turn.

I did not think about plans. I didn't ponder what might be in the future. I was just with Boone, enjoying the sermon of those trees and the light they cast on us and feeling pretty good there was a God.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The matriarch of the Apifera Cats is gone

About four weeks ago, Mama Kitty appeared on the front porch-where she lives with two of her remaining sons, Little Orange and Mr. Plum. Her chin was growing in size and was red. I assumed it was an abscess or a tooth issue. I kept my eye on her for the next couple days, as the area became very large. I have dealt with many abscesses on the semi feral cats and have been able to treat them topically in the past. But there was no way I could do that with the wild Mama.

But as time went on, it was becoming apparent it might be more than a abscess. It was really huge, and her mouth was changing shapes. I took her photo and showed vet, and they concurred it might be cancer for all we knew. So I set out to trap her. It took me two years to originally catch Mama. Back in 2004 when we arrived, there was a new litter in the barn, I was able to catch them all and spay/neuter them, along with Big Tony the patriarch. I could not get Mama, and she had two more litters, one who lived with us, and one litter she carried down to a nearby farm. After catching all the litters and spaying/neutering, I finally caught her. And it wasn't easy [obviously]. She was one smart cat, a survivor on many levels. Of the 25 cats that have roamed onto this farm arriving semi feral and ending up pretty tame [to us anyway], Mama was the only one who never allowed you to be close. Thirty feet was her normal boundary with me. After a couple of years, she suddenly appeared on the front porch to eat with some of her offspring. At some point in Apifera history, the original barn cat litters broke up into two groups, some headed to the front porch where they could live under the house and eat on the deck, some stayed in the hay barn. Mama appeared but never tendered. I touched her nose once, I can't remember how, but that was the only time I touched her. When I trapped her back then, it was with a special net contraption I'd invested in just to catch her.

So, I knew trapping her wasn't going to be easy. But I felt I owed it to her-even if she had cancer, I felt I owed it to her to not have her suffer. And I also knew she was old, probably over 12. Mama has always adored Big Tony, who lives in the house. He is the only creature I have ever seen her show affection to. While she was never mean to her offspring, she basically ate at the porch and left, but when Big Tony came out in the morning, Mama would wrap around him and flirt. It was so endearing.

So for the past three weeks we have been trying to trap her. I had two different traps, invested in lots of medicated smelly canned food from my vet, and also had a crate set up with my net. Several times I had her in the trap! But she got out, never tripping the release. We tried so many different ways to get her, including a box and string method so I could do it from the house, as the front door squeaks.

The only comfort I had was the huge chin mass did erupt, and was draining, I thought. If I could keep her eating, she might make it through. I have seen cats survive open wounds to the bone, so I had hope. But we still kept trying to catch her. In the final three days, I could tell she was changing. She would come to the window pane and make a small meow to me when she saw me. Mama never meowed at us. At the time, I tried not to let my human thoughts take over-I felt she was probably famished and wanted the medicated food which was smelly and easier to eat in her condition. But yesterday, I put Big Tony out and she tried to wrap around him-he sniffed her and walked away. That was heartbreaking, but looking back, he knew.

I knew she was weakening, so I spent an hour hiding in a spot near the porch, with my net, hoping I could get her in her weakened state. But no luck.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to go to the vet and found her lying on the road, alive, but right on the open road outside the pastures. I knew she was getting delirious. I got out and she remained still. Grabbing her was dangerous, even in her state, but I got about a foot away and she moved to the pastures. Her walk was catty wampus and she landed on the fence line, and then fell. I ran the 1000 feet in sandals back to the house to get my net, hoping I could trap her and take her to the vet to be put down. She was clearly dying. But I couldn't get her-she got into such thick bramble, I couldn't get her.

I couldn't get her.

I can't tell you how frustrating it has been for three weeks, not being able to help her. I said,

Look, I've helped all your children, now let me help you, please.

When I got back from my errand yesterday, I looked for her in the pastures and the stream she had hid by when I had left an hour earlier. No sight of her and I figured she went off to die somewhere. But last night about nine, there she was curled on the chair on the deck. I couldn't believe she had been able to get there, after what she looked and acted like that afternoon. She was clearly checking out, as she let me get real close to her. I had left my net in the truck, but approached her thinking she was so out of it I could pick her up- but she jumped, fell, and fled under the deck.

I was so mad at myself for blowing my last chance, I figured, and also scaring her to possibly flee for good,into bramble to die.

This morning, I was so humbled and touched to find her in one of the cat baskets on the porch. She was gone, but she had remained on the deck to die. She did not wander off to the bramble. She was not hit by a car on the road. She managed to come up to the deck again and die where I could find her. Somehow in the last 12 years, I had given enough distance and respect that she knew it was safe to lay in that basket right under the window, and die. That was her last gift to me.

I buried her in a spot away from sight, behind the lilacs, not with the other small graves there. She liked being anonymous– that was was my last gift to her. I examined her mouth and whatever it was, it was much more than an abscess as it was a huge hard area that deformed her jawline. It reminded me of what happened to Samuelle, who did have cancer.

It is another end of an era. Stella last week, and now Mama Kitty-the mother of 90 percent of the Apifera cats. She never would have made it so long if we hadn't somehow trapped and spayed her. She was a beautiful lady, a fierce survivor and stoic mother. In the end, she went out as she came in-a survivor on her own.

Pino and I are moving on

I will never stop dreaming. But dreams and ideas evolve and flow. I can't be afraid of not knowing what the next dream is.

I have made the decision. This June 14th will be the final Pino Pie Day.

I've been thinking about this for some time, and if you pay attention to the posts here, you might noticed that I have sharing for months that there is change in the air. This change wasn't planned, it is the way things evolve. I debated a lot if I should even make an announcement, or rather just quietly let it slip away. I suppose there might be some that think it looks like a good gimmick to raise more money at the Virtual Pino Pie Day, but you can't make everyone happy. In the end I talked to Martyn and a couple trusted mentors, and made my decision final in my head and heart. And I am fine with it.

Besides, I hate secrets. I think it took me awhile to even admit to Martyn I thought it was time to pull the plug on Pie Day for several reasons. The event has become wrapped up into my online identity, and Pino's. It is part of the illustrated memoir, Donkey Dream, and I've had magazine articles written about it. It has been an exciting focal point of the year at Apifera and many wonderful memories and friendships were begun over it. But all things hit a wall.

All creative endeavors-and Pie Day is a creative project for me-have an energy of their own, an ebb, a flow, a high point and a decline. I feel like Pie Day is on the decline in energy. The event was not 'created', it was a spontaneous act of the heart-my heart. It began–and I know many know this but I'll nutshell it here-it began because I was walking Pino to nearby farms and delivering homemade pie, as a gift, simply because I had a hankering to do it. It was met with delight and I did it several times. But delivering pie with a donkey at your side is slow going, and Martyn suggested I bring the people to my pie and Pino instead.

Pino Pie Day was never about getting a book deal or making money. It was just me and my donkey sharing pie. I did write "Donkey Dream" later on, which was turned down by multiple publishers for not being commercial enough. It was shaped by a top editor who had worked previously at Chronicle for 20 years, but we couldn't find a home for it and eventually my followers graciously supported the Kickstarter to get it self published. But back on the first Pie Day, The Misfits weren't even The Misfits, there was no old goat even. The first couple events, I can't believe this, but I did it all on my own, with Martyn-served pie,sold aprons, took care of the donkeys and guests-and sold art out of the studio. That first year I made all apple pie because it was easier. I also remember being appalled at the end of the day how messy the pie table was, and now I have a volunteer Pie Queen who helps at the pie table.

Every year, I learned something new to make the event better, and I added something new to delight my guests-like the Museum of Misfits, or the kissing area for Stevie. I learned new pies like Buttermilk which is a favorite of all ages. My butter crusts were perfected over the years too, if I may say so myself.

But the magic began to shift for me. And it has been harder to put it on every year-both financially and energy wise. There is a lot that goes into it, as you can imagine, but much more than you can imagine too. The volunteers of recent years-many repeat helpers-have been a God send and I thank them all-but it is getting harder to arrange and get people to commit. I understand, Sundays are precious for people, standing around with a donkey might get old after awhile. Costs on everything have gone up every year-and it is becoming situation of not much return on my time or dollar.

Pino and I had hearts of children back then. Somehow that is getting lost in the event now, after almost 9 years. I think I've shared a lot of good pie, made some grumpy people smile, let complete strangers walk around my farm while me and the animals share our energy with them. It's been great.

But I think it's time to listen to the internal shift. There is something out there, waiting for me to grab onto and give it my energy. I don't know what it is, but I have to let go of some things to recognize it, and commune with it. Thinking about over the past couple months was scary-Pie Day is part of me-but now that I've made the decision there was only one more step-release that decision to the universe.

So if you can come to the June 14th Pino Pie Day, wonderful! I aim to make it as happy for my guests as I can no matter if there are 5 or 200 people here. If you can't come, be sure to follow the Virtual Global Pino Pie Day-where people can read stories of past and current pie day, see photos and movies. And of course, you can contribute at gift levels to help this final Pie Day.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sweet horse sweat and maybe it's time

Boone and I did an early morning ride up in the hills. The ranges in the background were Payne's gray and it was unseasonably sticky out–for Oregon. We hope to do a three hour ride up in those hills this holiday. We rarely ride on the weekends because I like to be here with Martyn and work on the many projects that are never ending. It's just a silent agreement I made with myself when I got a horse-I won't let it compete with time with Martyn. Martyn is my best friend so I have no trouble not riding on weekends. We are both a bit compulsive about working, and as freelancers we have to. But as we are getting older, we are slowing down. This summer we hope to take some day road trips with Boone, and Martyn can fish while I ride. He deserves some good fishing days. A fly rod to Martyn is like horse smell to me.

Since Monday is a holiday, Martyn might want to work on a client project on Saturday, since this is the busiest season for him, freeing me up to go on an all day ride with friends. It will definitely test my legs, but my Tucker trail saddle helps with knee soreness. But I'll be sipping the wine that night for sure.

Boone is almost shedded out and he worked up nice sweat this morning. I love that smell. You are either born to love horse sweat, or not. Fortunately, I have the gene.

It will be a nice break from thinking about Pino Pie Day, either virtual, or the real deal coming up June 14. The event is wonderful, but I am considering other options for coming years. I'm desiring more time for projects and I'm wondering if it has run its course. All things have a breath and an energy and it might have reached a place to rest it.  I think perhaps I've become attached to some things, some things that feel like they are molding my identity, and I am preparing to let go of weights I don't feel I want to carry anymore. Pie Day might be one. We shall see after this one is over.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Face of a Moose, and Goose, and Acrobat

Sometimes I happen to be out there taking photos of something and the subject matter absolutely must turn to them, as id did last week. Each time I take Moose's photo, it is like he understands that he has power in that lens-all his joyous monkeyness comes out in that slight smile.

It doesn't take long before more smiles surround me, posers per se. It is a short string of moments in a busy day, but those flecks of light captured on camera might lift another in spirit today-perhaps someone bed bound who will look at these faces and remember a time long ago when they too had goat encounters on a daily basis.

When passing a stranger on a city street I have the choice to look up and smile, or pass by with my head tucked into a coat collar. If I choose the smile, I think maybe it lasts longer on the other person's heartprint.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Even The Head Troll fails

I heard her sighing–deep, heavy breath sighs, then some cud chewing.

She was sitting with her head in her feet, alone, there was nobody within sight of what is usually a busy barnyard.

"I sent them all away," she said to me, seeing me standing by the gate.
It was my cue that I could now dialogue with her, even though she was in no state to converse.

"What happened?" I ask softly.

"They did not understand my vision. I could not express it well enough. And once Stella died, it began to unravel....I guess when I changed the script to Latin, it was more than they could handle. they said it wasn't fun," she paused, more sighs heaved out of her tiny body- a body now beginning to show its age. "Is creation always "fun"? I asked them. Do we not have to stretch sometimes to grow, and expand?"

She went on, "I had Iris stand in for Stella, but it was useless, an utter waste of my time. I have to face facts-I can't run this place and give my words and ideas justice anymore. I let my muse down."

More sighs.

"I have failed," she said in a matter of fact way.

"Everyone fails at something," I tried to reassure her.

"No, I never fail at what I set my mind to. It has always been this way. But lately, I can't keep up. My feet hurt too. I can't be everywhere anymore. I can't remember all the places I've hid the secret codes. I need to fire myself," she said.

I had never seen The Head Troll this way. Always my right hand aid, the task keeper of the barnyard, it was hard to listen. She has been my rock for so long. I did not want to believe these things.

"Sometimes people think I can do it all, I think," I told her. "They make me what they need me to be in their life. I walk around, knowing I can't live up to it. So it's a daily failure, of sorts. It's always under the surface, an inner voice saying, you fraud."

We sat together on the rickety stage that just weeks early had held such excitement for The Head Troll, and therefore, for me.

Earnest came out of the barn.

"I learned all my lines," he said politely.

"I know you did,, Earnest, but Summer Stock is cancelled for good. I am not capable of making it happen. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I got to learn Latin," and he walked off to his mud hole.

"Maybe that is enough. The pig got to learn Latin," I told her.

And she scurried off, "I just remembered where I hid that code book!"

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Snapshot moments

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Friday, May 15, 2015

You can come to a Virtual Pino Pie Day!

I'm trying something fun and different this year. Pino Pie Day is Sunday, June 14 here at Apifera. It is my main fundraiser to help maintain The Misfits here at the farm. But this year I wanted to have a coinciding Virtual Pino Pie Day-which will run from now until the actual event.

I thought this would be a fun way for people to partake. I have set up both a Facebook event page and a fundraising page with lots of reward levels-you can get a virtual kiss from Stevie, or The Dirt Farmer, a private message from Pino, and more. It takes about $5,000 for me to properly take care of the Misfits. No matter what, the animals are cared for-but very early on, followers of the blog wanted to chip in as more and more needy elders arrived. I am grateful. Everyone gets a reward, unless they request not to.

On the Facebook Event page I'll be posting almost daily right up until June 14-with fun videos, photos, and of course, the infamous Pino Porta Potty Movie [coming soon].

Pino Pie Day is fast approaching. There is a lot going on here, and a lot to do to get ready, as usual. Today I bought local fresh strawberries for the pie-earliest we've had them for a long time! I buy from Munoz Farm, by the way.

So if you can't come to Pie Day, or even if you are, you can enjoy all things Pino Pie at the event page-and if you are in the right place to make a donation at a reward level, visit the fundraising page!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Love returns with a one eyed pug

There was a part of me this past week that felt that the universe was taking away things to make room for what was needed. I have been telling close friends that things are shifting here, I am accepting some new visions for the coming decade. There is a reason this old pug came to me, and it was part of that 10-year plan, he just got here sooner than I thought.

It all happened in a day.

A friend sent me a link to a cross posting on Old Dog Haven...of an older one-eyed-pug needing to be rehomed. I make a point never to look at online ads or rescue sites, for many reasons.

I gasped. Then sighed, then stepped away to do chores. I had made a plan to have a pug again, and always swoon at photos of friend's pugs online, or when I see one walking somewhere. But my plan was to wait until Huck passed, so only two dogs would be in the house. Huck is ten and I hope to have him with us for a few more years if he's able. Muddy is five. I had felt that Huck deserved to live out his final years without pug puppy torturing him, but had never considered how an older pug might be a delightful addition for the elder Huck-and this is seeming to be true as the new-old pug is settling.

But it just seemed too much of a fit, too much a gift–especially after the last two weeks of saying goodbye to so many creatures one after the other. So I emailed and got in touch with the current foster mom, an elderly woman who had been caring for the pug for a few months, and adored him. Sadly, she felt it was not in the dog's best interest to keep him, because she was very unhealthy, arthritic and had trouble lifting the pug-and because the pug is totally blind, he needs to be lifted at certain points. She wasn't going to give him to just anybody, and wasn't in a hurry, but when we talked she knew she had found the right person.

So I organized a Pug Pickup with a good friend to Apifera, who agreed to drive from Seattle to Bellingham [2 hours] and then down to Tacoma [3hours] to meet me. It really helped me out as I could make the round trip 7 hours in one day, and alone. She has also hauled a goat down to me and is just a love. Thank you, dear Lisa.

The anticipation-even though only 3 days would pass before agreeing to take the pug and getting him-was so great I had heartburn and was even emotional at points as I made the drive. I knew of course this was not Billy, it looked like him, that's for sure, but I knew I was not bringing home my old dog. But I was so excited, so touched to be able to have found this pug. He's nine years old but in very good shape. His teeth seem good and even though he is blind he is just a trooper, but very calm and polite. And quiet so far-unlike the original One Eyed Pug who snored liked a pirate and farted like a squeaky toy [constantly]. The gas passing will most likely come when One Eyed Pug II starts eating more normally again. His given name is Hughie and so far we are sticking to that although you know what happens around here-I'm sure he will have many addendums to his given name.

Hughie arrived with his own luggage-blankets he liked, a crate, a cushy bed, his favorite toy, special treats and food. He even has a special dog tag that says, "I am blind". There was also a touching letter from the foster mom, who wrote everything I'd need to know,

He likes his chin scratched. He barks at trucks but knows the UPS driver. He likes a little bit of turkey, but in tiny bites.

He slept by our bed last night as a trial run. He had slept in the owner's bed in his former life, but I was not going to allow that. We already sleep with two cats on our heads and its unfair to Martyn-and I like my bed, it's our bed, our boundary. I had his crate ready in case, but he slept all night without fuss. Morning rituals will be a bit complicated-Martyn always gets up early and feeds the dogs, but I will be in charge of Hughie, he needs someone to be with him since he is so blind. I might try to redo the back so I can leave him safely for 15 minutes. And what snoring he did was very civil. Martyn snores like a freight train. This was a relief since I have one on my left and one on the right.

What is really sweet is to witness his personality emerging as he settles, and he and the elder statesman, Huck, played a bit this morning. Itty sat up on a chair watching. I'm sure each animal smells different to another, so they know this is not Billy. But you wonder their thoughts. Both Itty and Huck were close to Billy-he was nursemaid to the then 1# Itty when we found her, he was hospice nurse with them during lambing. Itty seems enthralled, but has so far not gone to Hughie to be suckled like she continued to do with Billy through her adulthood.

I'm really exhausted. All the trauma of the last weeks-caring for Earnest the pig [who seems to be back to his normal self, thank the pig gods!], trying to help the prolapsed Henrietta and having to put her out of her misery, losing baby chicks and then care taking the surprise clutch of one of the Banties, losing a Bottumtum to an eagle, and then-losing Stella. So today, I took extra time with everything. I made banana bread to warm the house and give the new-old pug the scents of a good, nurturing home. He's lying near me as I type, in one of the original One Eyed Pug's mini beds, snoring lightly, with Huck at his side.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The barnyard's graveside service for Stella

I did not attend. It's not that I wasn't welcome, but I've learned that the barnyard should be allowed to have their own good-byes, as they see fit.

I had not been informed of a time anyway, I think there was just so much going on in the barnyard last week–Henrietta's illness and death, Earnest being ill all week–that The Head Troll wanted to keep it simple and dignified. This can be problematic when you are dealing with the likes of Moose, Goose and Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat, and a grumpy pig.

So when I looked out the bathroom window this morning while I was brushing my teeth, I noticed some figures gathered at Stella's fresh grave. Martyn and I buried her in the lavender field yesterday, mainly because we had run out of room in the pumpkin patch. Stella was never allowed in the lavender field, so it seemed appropriate to lay her to rest in a field she would have loved to have escaped in to.

I saw the touching scene of Iris, who had lived her whole life with Stella, kneeling at the graveside. She was placing teasel weed on the grave which was adorned casually with dried leaves and debris, and some English Daisies that are blooming right now. Pino was there representing the equines–it's a known fact that of the donkeys Pino does better at graveside services–Paco gets weepy, Matilda gets unsettled and Lucia just can't stop fidgeting. Earnest, who seems to be back to normal, sat politely with Eleanor. The White Dogs kept guard. Edmonia Lewis represented the hen house.

They were only there a short time, maybe 10 minutes.  I could tell the The Head Troll was speaking but couldn't hear. Then they all left, except Iris, who stayed for a while longer, touching the grave. She got up to leave, walked a few steps, turned back to the grave....and grabbed as many weeds in her mouth as she could.

Later that morning, I asked around, if anyone knew how the service went.

The Head Troll read a poem about apples and how good they are and how lucky Stella was to have had a life with apple trees,
said Earnest.

Eleanor rushed in, excited to tell me,

And we saw white wings in the sky as we left!

I wanted to tell her,

Yes, that was her for sure, she's of Nature now.

But everyone was out and about, getting on with the day, content.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

No! Yes, we say good bye to Apiera's first goat.

I arrived at the barn this morning to find Stella dead. While I was not surprised, I was outraged. Sometimes certain losses do that. This is a goodbye I knew was coming; I had a vet on call for Monday to put her down-the signs were growing. Yesterday morning, I tried to get her up to walk about and stretch her rumen and drink some water before I left all day for the book event. Usually I can get her hind up up, and then lift her front to help her, but she just couldn't do it. We tried together several times. I left her there, her favorite area of the barn, with Old Victor, while I went off for the day. When I arrived home I did feedings and she hadn't moved much. I tried to get her up again, but that was not going to happen. I held her head in my lap. Stella always liked that, not Iris, but Stella had a wonderful, loving personality.

But in the last few weeks, each time I held her head, I knew she was letting go. Last night, I tried to get her to drink water. After an entire day of warm weather even in the stall, she refused water. Her rumen was gurgling. Her expression was tired. I held her head for a long time and talked to her internally. Every minute or so, she'd look at me. I knew that last night she was ready.

There she was this morning, on her side, dead. There was one second of relief for her. Then I wailed. Each death is unique here, as is true in any community. But the loss of Stella is the loss of Apifera's beginnings, of the hope and excitement of our first months and year's here.

She was our first goat, along with Wild Iris. She was the first muse for me. There are many Stella and Iris adventures. Iris was the main culprit, but Stella followed along, but always in a loving way. Where Iris would jump a fence for her own good, Stella would first greet you and say hello before she ate a newly planted rose bush right in front of you.

Stella was here before Pino, The Head Troll, White Dogs or pie parties. She was brought here with Iris to clear the back paddock areas, and she did, and she did it well. She also cleared the willows and any edible in her way, but we forgave her of that. But she was always more than a worker bee to me, she was my first goat. I had wanted goats for so many years, had always rushed to any goat I saw if I was driving in the country side–back when I was a city dweller and dreamed of a spot of land somewhere, and a mate. Stella was the fruition of that dream-I got the mate, then the land, and then the goat.

When you lose a muse, it is hard to know how to honor her. Do you bring her back in story. Do you give her a Ballet Theater in Heaven–which has worked out well for our departed and loved Old Man Guinnias?

Stella arrived here as a 5 month old goat. She arrived before I knew I'd be taking in old goats. She was the first goat, along with Iris, to grow old here, and the first goat of such a category to die here.

So, yea, I took my hat off this morning, and knelt down by her body, placed my hands on her sides, and wept and cried and rolled my body like there was music. In my head, I remember thinking,

I've seen photos of people weeping like this over loved ones bodies.

The White Dogs were there, then Wilbur, Moose and Goose passed by quickly, Victor got up from the corner and stood for a second, then returned to lie down. They witnessed it all last night, the death. They were not traumatized and not sad. But they knew I was grieving. Marcella cleaned Stella's face, licking off the expired rumen liquid, and waited for me to get up. Benedetto stood in the corner, waiting.

But before I did chores and feedings there was one thing left to do. I brought Iris in.

Go there, see her, I said.

She went in, observed and left. She was ready for a new day, and a new breakfast.

We had planned to dig her grave today to be ready to bury her on Monday. So we will stick to that plan.

I told her over and over in the last months, knowing she was failing, what a wonderful goat she was. She was more than that, of course, to me. It is the beginning of the end of one of Apifera's eras.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Surprises and inevitabilities

I was reminded, yet again, of the constant juxtaposition of life and death in our daily wanderings. Stella is fading, unable now to get up without assistance. Sometimes she can, but her front legs are now weakening too. I wanted to get through this weekend's book event, and Earnest's fevers, and hoped I could before making a final decision on her. It is the right thing to say goodbye to her soon. More and more, her face tells me and I suspect it will be next week sometime. In the meantime, I spend a lot of time with her, checking on her, helping her from the sun into shade at a certain time of day, holding her-she was always more affectionate than Stella. I have to grasp it all, that she'll be leaving us, one of our founding members, a muse, a friend, a clown. The dogs sense her condition. But they still romp around about her, making her life even more precarious as she will collapse from a light breeze it seems. I found them lying near her this morning, a sweet image to hold in my memory.

Martyn was up early as usual and out and about in the barnyard. He came in around seven and while I was still half asleep, said,

"You know that black hen in the old barn?"

"Is she dead?" I asked.

"No, she has about 10 chicks with her this morning in the donkey paddock."

Well, I can't say I was happy. But, there is always an excitement with new babies of any kind. Still, my mind percolated what to do–let the hen be-she is a Bantie, a fiercely protective mother-and run the risk of Nature taking some of them.

I opted to intervene and put the chicks and surrogate mother in the Nursery in the coop. Once I saw them-eight in total, I couldn't stand the thought of any getting taken by a hawk, and there were already hawks circling when I did feedings. Perhaps they already nabbed some, I found her sitting on them growling outside the old barn this morning.

Obviously the hen did not get the memo that I just bought 8 new chicks from the feed store. So now I have three batches in the nursery. It's so much fun though to have a hen in there, sitting on chicks, protecting them with her wings. The one month olds are definitely aware that Mama Hen means business and nobody is going to harm those chicks. I was tempted to open up the cage of the 4 one week old chicks, but I'm not sure mama hen would bond with them and then they might get run over by the older chicks. Problematic. It will be fine-so far everyone is doing well and I can tell some of the chicks are banties and some are Aracuana crosses. There are five hens that broke off of the flock and they live up in Old Barn with Papa Roo, our oldest and original rooster, a Bantie. So I know those are the mothers.

I'm sure there will be more roosters. Dang. I have three roosters. Perhaps this is why the universe took that one day old Buff Orpington rooster from us.

Pino is ready to travel!

Pino and I are very excited for our first ever Bookmobile of Love! What started as a wacky thought has turned into a real deal. Lucia will also accompany us into hipster land–Portland! We will be selling our books, journal and postcards and some lavender too.

What do I wear to a Bookmobile with donkeys? I'll ponder as I sleep.

Hopefully some of my blog readers might show up. I'll be the one with hair stumps and a donkey or two at my side.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Earnest slowly improves and the prayer flags wave

After going down Sunday morning with a high fever, Earnest is slowly improving. Yesterday he stated out good but his fever really rose to a high level. And didn't recede much until this morning. It is still a bit high, but, there are many good signs in the past eight hours, and my pig vet and I are feeling somewhat better. We think it might be respiratory related but aren't sure. The antibiotic he is on last seven days with one shot and is sometimes referred to as a miracle drug by some farmers, I'm told, and it covers many infections. The other drug is injected 2x a day and is helping him relax and be comfortable, and helps reduce the fever [but not the infection]. So the next step is to get through the next two days on the one drug and if he goes off it Friday and his fever returns, we'll cover our next steps then.Sheep shots are easy, pig shots- tough skin! And he is feeling better, shots are harder to do, but he and I have our ways.

But for now, I'm so happy he got up on his own this morning-groggily-to see that he got some breakfast. And, he pushed Eleanor out of the way, a sure sign he is improving. He went out on his own and drank, pooed and peed-which I declared,

"Earnest, you're peeing! Good"

"Of course, I'm peeing, good grief," he said in a glance. "And don't poke that stick in my poop shoot again, please?"

Another sign of feeling better-he was getting more and more irritated by his temperature getting taken. Although Marcella was thrilled with this. Marcella has been nurse to my doctoring all week. It has it beautiful moments-ones I wish I could have captured on my good camera. But I felt I had to focus on th doctoring. I took some pics with my phone. So many moments, I'd glance at Marcella and she'd be staring at Earnest, then she bound off to check the barnyard, back to me and Earnest.

But perhaps the best sign today was seeing him standing with Eleanor–who shows no signs of illness–and seeing him take a couple sniffs of her derriere. This is farming at its best.

I will go to bed exhausted but feeling less afraid to enter the barnyard tomorrow morning. Pigs are so different than sheep, and I know how to deal with sheep/goat issues. I am still learning pigs.

But as things improve for Earnest, Stella is declining. I was hoping I could have Earnest back 100% before I had to really focus on her. She is really becoming too weak to stand on her own. I will write more soon.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Prayer flags for Earnest

Postscript: Earnest has been getting some wonderful, heartfelt prayer flags from all over- Harlem, Canada, France, Belgium as well as near and far in the States. I have been lifted by them too and this is the first time I've ever asked for something like this on FB. Sometimes, you have to ask for what you need-if it is a just thing-and a little invisible love and healing thoughts and prayer from all over is something I needed as a caretaker, and that was translated into my hands and out in healing touch.

It's been one of those times, when the care taking duties are on overdrive. Old Mama Sugee's visit with the vet yesterday shows there are more challenges to care for her, as her remaining teeth begin falling out, the semi chewed cud compacts-leaving a mass of...silage. Of course this can cause bad things, but because we can't sedate her any more, we are limited. It took some doing to get most of the crud out of her jaws. We have her on antibiotics for now to help if there was an infection brewing. Right now, she still has a quality of life. And she is strong. it is a month by month assessment with her though, with my vets.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Earnest feel ill on Sunday. I knew when I arrived in the barnyard that morning there was one face missing. Earnest is always there to greet me, with Eleanor and Marcella. When I found him lying in the barn in his hay bed, I knew he didn't feel like himself. He didn't even get up when I did feedings. I can't say I was panicked, but I did at that very moment know I have become very attached to that pig. How could I not? Anyone who meets Earnest falls in love with him. I am still rather new to pig health, so the fact that the night before he was just fine, and then next morning he was not, left me concerned. A sick sheep, I know the routine. I don't yet with pigs. And getting a good vet that also knows pigs is not always easy. Fortunately, I have good vets.

Animals often go into a state of repose and quiet when ill. I know Marcella will go as far away from everyone as she can, including me, and she makes it clear she doesn't want to be touched. I figured he could just be passing something. He had no signs of digestive issues, but he was trembling. But his temperature that morning was pretty normal. He could get up and walk about–if I made him– but mainly wanted to go lie down.

At the same time, I had another equine vet coming out to work on Old Mama Sugee, so my pig vet had my equine vet give me some meds for Earnest which was very timely. He went from a medium high fever to a normal low temp which was good. And then this morning, he actually got up-still not in a normal fashion for him, but he did get up- and he ate a tiny bit of food. But his temp was very high. Not good. He is obviously fighting something. These things take steps, like any medical mystery, and it can be frustrating, and scary...and pricey. The injections I just picked up and gave him today will help if there is an infection he's fighting. If these don't help, the vet will put a tube down his ear for treatment. If we can draw blood we will too, if needed. But we need to get through Wednesday and see if he responds to the new meds. The other shot I gave him will lower the fever, and relax him.

I can't really ever explain why, but certain animals on the farm have a stronger bond with the caretaker. This is true in my flock too, or with the chickens. Some just respond more personably. Even with the Misfits, each relationship I have is unique, not unlike one has with office mates or school chums-and sometimes, when we lose someone, we grieve it harder.

I realized at some point in the past couple days how scared I was to lose Earnest. I was letting fear of an unknown outcome play havoc on my body too. So I tried to stand outside the situation, and know I am doing all I can. He has been a very good patient, and even tolerates my poking his bum, along with taking his temp 6x a day, how indignant. But he is responding to belly rubs and I force him up to get in the sun sometimes. I am very attached to his presence and his personality. I will do everything I can within reason for him. I really miss having him out and about. Marcella is aware he is not well, but is not concerned. Eleanor spends her days as usual, but I often find her napping with Earnest, which breaks my heart right now.

He is young, it is not his time, I told the universe. leave him alone! But how would I know this? There could be a basic infection in him, or something worse. I don't have control over that. I only have control over what I can do for him. Usually I don't get overly emotional when I'm treating an animal. I know that bringing drama to their side is not wanted or helpful. But sometimes an animal just brings up...fresh dirt. I guess Earnest is like that for me. I can't imagine the barnyard without him. I don't know what the fresh dirt is, exactly, I just know the idea of losing him is making me feel raw.

I made a little event page on Facebook, Prayer Flags for Earnest. When I see someone-human and animal-in need, I hang a prayer flag on the farm somewhere, often on The Healing tree in the donkey pasture. It started when a friend in need asked me to hang one for her, and I did. They aren't really flags, more like strips of cotton, always white, tied at random–I call them Prayer Rags. So I reached out and asked people to hang a prayer rag or flag for Earnest. Silly, perhaps–but of course, it is a gift for me. And when I saw some of the photos people sent of their offerings to Earnest, it was so powerful, and I cried a little-again, this pig has brought up fresh dirt, I don't know why. Even though I tell Earnest about the flags and messages, I believe it is my intention he senses. Our language we share together is not words, but intentions. Animals speak in intentions.

So stay tuned. I'm working as hard as I can, and so is my Little Big Man....Earnest.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Good bye, dear Henrietta

{I have and continue to be in the midst of three animal crises. One resolved itself today, the other two are ongoing}

It has been a whirlwind in the past two days. I am not sure how much to unload on you all at once, but since things come in waves-the good, the bad, the ugly, the real–I guess you are all aware that life happens, and we're not always being at the steering wheel.

I have been dealing with multiple animal issues in the past two days. Henrietta and I were working hard to get her through a very severe prolapse, but it became clear that what was right for her was a humane exit to peace. I had been cleaning her 3-4x a day, applying witch hazel and hemorrhoid creme to try to reduce her swelling, and keeping her separate from the flock so she wouldn't be pecked [chickens are carnivores [ a reason vegetarian chicken feed is rather ridiculous]–when a chicken sees blood, they go for it. When I found her prolapsed, she had been pecked, or cut, and was bleeding. Even if the prolapse had retreated, her chances weren't great.

The way Henrietta came to Apifera is a sweet story–I was standing waiting in line at my local feed store, minding my own business, and a gentleman in a suit [a strange site] walked in with a box...and a chicken. He had promised his little girl he would find it a good home, versus the alternative, and there I was, charmed by Henrietta. I often thought of that little girl, knowing she must have carried that comfort with her for some time, that her chicken went home to a nice farm.

There are many ways to kill a chicken. I considered them. But I had my equine vet arriving this morning–for one of the other issues which I'll explain in a second. I was also comforted that my vet didn't flinch and said I was doing the right thing. Henrietta would always have a possible chronic prolapse issue, and this is just not a good way to live. Even if you chose to keep one hen with a prolapse, besides infection and tears, there is fly strike. Plus, it doesn't feel good.

I was able to sit with her and sing to her as she got swept away into dreams and then final little breaths, and she was gone.

I never take those last moments of life casually. No matter what the size of the animal, or age, it is an honorable role, to sit with one's last breath. I tried hard for her, and she willingly went along with all the cleanings and care-but she had a good life, first with a little girl who loved her, and then here with chickens and grass and Apifera.

The other upheavals deserve their own posts. But in a nutshell, I am very, very worried about Earnest. I have him on the vet's suggestions, but he is down, and with a fever. We got that down today with meds, but I am still very worried. Seeing him like this breaks my heart. I miss him. Then Old Mama Sugee developed a large lump on her face, at the jawline. I immediately suspected abscess or tooth issues. Sugee has horrible teeth. We have floated her several times but that is not an option due to her slow heart rate and elderly age. Infection is a concern–I will write more today if I can. Right now, Earnest is heavy on my mind. I have become very attached to that pig. I knew this, but this morning I was almost afraid to go to the barnyard. Not having him walking about, not hearing his voice, it all makes me hurt from gut to my heart. I think we need to have a prayer-in for him. I will pull one together.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

In which Victor forgives his haircut

After three separate days of trimming, I think Victor's hair cut is done. I will honestly admit this to all of you-it is probably the World's Worst Haircut on record.

But, I did my best, as did Victor.

"It's okay," he seemed to say, "I don't care what it looks like, it feels really good."

I do miss his locks, which are now in my studio and being used on my sewn Raggedy Creatures.

Sheering Victor is problematic because of his deformity and condition. He can not lay on his side for more than 5 minutes and even that is probably very uncomfortable for him. Nor can he stand still, he has to constantly shift his three good feet. In the past months, he is not using his front leg to put weight on anymore. We don't know why, but his body is so messed up that his shoulders are probably giving out.

When I worked on him, he was a real trooper, but he–and I–could only take so much at a time. It was really hard on my body too because of how I had to trim him while he sat down in the position he likes–it was the only way to keep him still.

This is case where I am wondering if the quality of Victor's life is worth what is most likely a lot of discomfort. Now that he isn't using one leg, I just don't know if it is right for him, to keep him going. His disposition is good, so I haven't made any decisions. He is tripping more when he gets up, due to his weakening.

In the meantime, he still loves to sit on the compost pile in the sun, and that is the best thing I can give him right now. Sweet, old, crippled Victor.

{Did you know you can either subscribe monthly, or give a small donation? It helps reward me for my 10+ years of stories here on the blog, and in turn helps with the monthly cost of caring for The Misfit}

Snapshot moments

Friday, May 01, 2015

Mother Dove returns

Two years ago when my mother suddenly died, a Mourning Dove appeared in the front garden, near where I sat crying. It sat so still, and for so long-some 20 minutes or more-that I felt it somehow was my mother. By the end of my setting there with her, I truly believed it was her. When I walked back in the house, I went out the garden window and she was still there in the same spot, and I turned to return to her outside, but she flew. She wanted me to get on the task at hand-my life.

I have found this to be true in my own life, I can't speak for others-but when someone I love dies, they are not lost, they are only evolving into a myriad of other forms. They take up residence in songs, stories, smells, familiar places, an article of clothing, or a family Christmas ornament. For me, my mother is not one dove any more, she is all the doves. When I see a dove, I greet her. I am especially happy when doves fly very close by, and land on a fence post if I happen to be walking by. This feels like a private meeting one-on-one with my mother.

So it was with great happiness when I noticed a new nest in the piglet paddock in the pony shelter. I was doing what I'm usually doing in the piglet paddock-cleaning up poo-and there she was, sitting calmly.

She was warming the new life that was to be. She was expanding. Life was there, again, safe within a womb of shell.

I hoped I hadn't spooked her, the nest is only about 10 feet high up. The next day I made sure to have my cell phone so I could take a quick unobtrusive photo of her on her nest, and there she was. She obliged by sitting still.

That same afternoon-yesterday-I went to find that one of the new chicks was dying. I had brought home the second batch of chicks on Wednesday, Buff Orpingtons, including a little rooster as I've always admired them. No, I don't need another rooster, we have three and so far all is peaceful. But I could tell from the get go he seemed a bit off. By afternoon he was clearly dying. And he did. One of his mates also looked odd, and she died a bit later. Chick death happens and I'm not sure what it was but I replaced them with two more chicks today and hope for better health. The first four chicks I brought home a month ago are thriving and adding feathers day by day.

When I left the hen yard after burying the little chicks, I thought of Mother Dove. Outside the coop, life was evolving in some little eggs. Life and death, like mismatched socks are often worn together.

Hey hey we're the monkeys

I put them in a stall last night, after the recent Bobcat scare and they looked out at me like prisoners waiting for their dinner cup, or monkeys hoping for popcorn or bananas.