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

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

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Aldo's legacy-life and purpose

Aldo is gone but I can sense him everywhere a day after his death. Yesterday afternoon, I visited the spot where he died. It's a beautiful spot. It was one of his many final gifts, to die in a spot where we could see him. He likes the woods nearby and he could have easily lay there for days without us giving it too much thought.

I shall lie here and go to sleep, this is a good vantage point for me, and them, he could have thought.

When I arrived at the Aldo's Spot as it is now known, the young male llama was nearby. The flock was on the opposite side of the cross fence, so he was searching for a herd. Aldo had served a purpose for this youngster-he gave him stability and grounding in his new home on his first days. He showed the young male the ropes and was clearly the leader of the two. That might have changed, but Aldo did his job and it helped me out. The elder statesman could be relied on by me to bring in the youngster at night, if I wanted gates shut.

I have always believed that elders can have a role, a significant place of respect not only in the human world, but in our animal world. It is the young that have the loudest role in commerce, commercialism and often the family. Nature also culls the elders. It is part of keeping the rest of the herd safe, and healthy. To each there is a time-it should not be feared, it should be the catalyst for enjoying and respecting the life that is given, no matter how long one has.

In Nature, the elders show us they are transitioning out of the herd or their rightful place. I can't speak for every species, I am not a animal expert and won't pretend to be-but I do know my flock and I see how the eldest are now spending more time separating. I count them every night, the flock, to make sure old Daisy has made it back.

Aldo's life was repurposed when he arrived here. I try to do that for the ones that I take on-watch them and see what seems to make them content. Sometimes I move them into a different field, with different pasture mates, and they fall back into themselves, into a role they understand. Aldo was this way. On his arrival, I had him in the orchard, to get to know him. When he saw the flock, he went to the gate. He clearly told me he wanted to be there, and he settled right in. When the flock moved, he wanted to go there too. His old age and fallen pasterns and thin condition, made it problematic sometimes to always be with the flock-since I was trying to put weight on him. So I created another flock for him-crippled goats or piglets. If there was more than one body to watch, no matter the species, he was in his element. His little elder goat sidekick - Scooby Keith- that he arrived with followed him at first. But eventually, Scooby made it clear he wanted to be with me, so he came to the upper barn, and then in time, he was able to acclimate more to the goats.

We are trying out the name Otis, Wild Otis to be exact, for the young black male. He has gone from being Ollie Ollie Oxen Free to Wendell, and now Otis. I hopes this name sticks.

I went to the field to relocate Otis, figuring this could be a long process. But I was able to encourage him along and then into the lavender field.. From there he hugged the fence line where the rams were. So I went and got our resident love machine-Birdie-and haltered her, led her to the field where Otis was, and within time, he followed us back to the new barn, into a stall where I could grab and halter him.

Each time I have to halter him it is a lesson for him, and he did better this time than last. I led him over to the donkey paddock where the sheep now live at night. They then wander up to the high fields for the day, returning at night. This morning, I was so pleased to see him up by Old Oak, sitting amongst his flock. And this morning, he went right up with them to the fields.

In his passing, Aldo the Elder created space for Otis do to what he has come here to do-guard sheep. The elder statesman did not mind dying. And Otis now has purpose.

The Head Troll speaks

Monday, July 27, 2015

Aldo is gone leaving me to do my best

For the first time in eleven years at Apifera, I had to break a covenant I have with myself and the animals. Even though I did the right thing for this particular event, I am haunted by what I had to do and think I will be for some time.

It was early morning, and Martyn had just driven down the drive. I heard the gravel under his tires as usual, and the sound of the gate squeaking as he left. It was a beautiful Monday morning, puffy clouds, blue sky, and cool air. The dogs barked, and a car came back up the drive-Martyn often returns to the house multiple times, forgetting his coffee or other essentials for his day. I noticed his coffee mug on the counter and grabbed it for him, as the front door opened and he looked right at me and said,

"Aldo is dead. He's up in the field."

I was stunned. He went on, giving me the essential details I needed to hear to face what had to be done. I have questioned how much of these details to share here. Some of you come here for stories and photos of the farm and the animals. While I know you understand what death is, I know that doesn't necessarily mean you want to see it in detail here. But I need to write about this-for me, and Aldo. I will say one thing upfront, Aldo did not suffer. And if you are patient, and read until the end, I think you will be left with a beautiful image-an image of Nature returning to Nature.

Martyn went on, "The vultures are there. His face is already gone and the yellow jackets have covered his face."

All of this was problematic to getting the body off the hill. I've never had to deal with vultures before, or a large body on an upper hill, or yellow jackets in a carcass. I had just moved the flock to another field, and had left Aldo and his buddy to be in the lower hills. They like it there and had just spent the last couple months with the flock. I so loved seeing his tall white neck and head poking up out of the tall grass like a periscope. I had planned on bringing the two llamas back to the flock today.

I had to think fast though. We've had a stray coyote lurking and I did not want Aldo's body there. If the vultures knew about it, so did the coyote. Martyn could not help me with his work schedule jammed pack this time of year. I was on my own. I told him I was going to try to get my friend over with her 4wheeler. She is an experienced shepherd and has horses and llamas and is one to go to for practical needs. If she couldn't help, my other plan was to hook Boone up and drag him down to a safer field.

Fortunately, my friend dropped her plans to come help me. I was able to climb the hill and spray his head-which was a skeleton- to help kill the wasps. I didn't get stung, a miracle in and of itself. We had to drag his body down the hill and then....I had to make a decision on the spot about what to do with the body. My covenant with the myself and the animals is if you live here and are cared for by me, you will die here.You will return to Nature here.

But this particular situation with its own specific conditions was in conflict with my covenant. There are various ways to dispose of a body. I'm not going to go into that detail here. What is important to this story is that I thought of each one, quickly, and made my decision, quickly. The vultures stayed above us as we talked.

I had to do something that was very difficult and upsetting for me. I had to witness and partake with my own hands in something that was required of, to deal with the decaying body. I hope I never have to do it again, but it was my best choice of the moment-for the farm and for the safety of the other animals. Aldo was gone, I was doing the best I could for him even in death.

But now I want to tell you something that I hope will leave you with a beautiful image in your mind. It is the image I will hold onto. Just a couple weeks ago I gave Aldo what would be his final haircut. I trimmed his feet, and gave him his annual shot and wormer. Aldo is very unlike Birdie, the latter being a love machine. Aldo is dignified and more llama like-independent and cautious. He was not one to do a lot of llama love like Birdie. He liked to have his necked rubbed, but didn't come up asking for it. So when I gave him his haircut, I was pleased that he kept laying his head on my shoulder, and I rubbed his eyes which many animals love. He seemed to really like that, and we spent many minutes doing this, off and on, as I trimmed him. I took note of this, and even said, something like,  

You are really enjoying your eye rubs, aren't you?

I realize now that was our farewell. Perhaps he knew then what we all know now. Or perhaps it was by chance I gave him his haircut that particular day so I was given that moment with him, to have a final haircut, a trim, and some eyeball massages. That was a gift for me.

Aldo was old. When he arrived, I was warned by my vet not to expect him to live much longer. She also told me that llamas tend to just....die. No drama, no lingering illness, just one day they are dead.

When I found his body, it was not Aldo anymore. His spirit had soared long before.

"I'm just so glad you got your haircut and toes trimmed," I the empty body. I was unable to mourn over him like I can with most of the deaths here. It was difficult. The ground under me did not feel the same for those moments on the hill.

Aldo died on a beautiful cool evening. We had some rain yesterday, it was in the seventies. I imagine he just lay down and went to sleep. There was no sign of distress on his body, or in the surrounding ground. He died under the sky, having spent his final day with his flock. To die outside in your element, with sky and ground engulfing you, and winged creatures caring for your body- it is okay.

When I first went to his body before my friend came, I looked for the new young male llama. He is on his third name now and I hope it sticks, Wild Otis. Otis began to come over to the body when he saw me. I took these images with my phone. Then I stood embracing my final moments with what was once The Great White. There was a puffy cloud above and the sky was just beautiful. Aldo had such sweet white ears, and puffy white hair on top of his head. They used to stand before me and blow in the wind, just like that cloud was doing now. The vultures were above me and I could hear their wings as they flew all around me overhead about twenty feet. And their shadows...their shadows flew all around me on the golden burned out field. I will remember that scene.

I will miss The Great White. But mostly, I know his spirit was not in that body when I found it. I was honored to have a relationship with him this time around. I just feel very sad today, even though he had a good long life.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chicken mystery, chicken complexities

This morning I found many rooster feathers scattered and floating out behind Old Barn. I immediately assumed that Uno had been killed, as they were either his feathers or Papa Roo's, and I had just seen Papa. Francis is an Aracuana so I knew they weren't his feathers.

I felt horribly. I have been in a chicken transition for awhile now, which you know if you follow along-surprise clutches, new chicks, another surprise hatching last week-and then there is the shifting forces of the three roosters Francis, Uno and Papa Roo.

I feel great loyalty to Papa since he was here first and has always been a gentleman. He is a Bantie and is well over ten. When Francis came on the scene, there was not a lot of fighting, but within about a year or two, it was clear that some scuffles had occurred, and Papa was ousted out from the hen house, or chose to be. He took five hens with him and they began roosting on a ledge in Old Barn, near Rosie. One of these hens was the black Bantie who has been a master at hiding eggs and creating her own mini chicken factory.

I have been putting Uno in with the Francis gang in the coop, along with the new chicks. It's been working out okay. In the meantime, my last remaining Buff Orpington has taken to the goat barn, alone, staying there all by herself for the last four weeks. I assumed she was on her way out, but she keeps on greeting me every morning.

So there is a bit of chicken chaos at Apifera right now.

And then this morning, the rooster feathers. Clearly something had fought a rooster and appeared to have won, since the feathers stretched for about 40 feet and ended up going out a fence into the woods.

So, like I said, I felt horribly about Uno. I failed him. But, didn't I put him in the coop last night, I'm sure of it.

I went to the coop, and there was Uno, alive as I was.

I returned to look over Papa Roo and noticed that he only had one hen with him, another black bantie. But there was no Chicken Named Dog-a large white hen who has been here some time. She is not a setter so I started feeling she must have been killed. And there below their roost spot was a dead Aracuana, who had been dead for some time, clearly from a natural death. I hadn't seen her body because she was lying under a board.

I noticed Papa seemed a bit off, 'with a coma look'. then I realized his tail feathers were really plucked, and under his comb was some blood.

He must have been in a very big scuffle, or was dragged out by something, but fought it off. This is intriguing. A raccoon could easily kill him, even though Papa has big talons. I begin to wonder if he was defending Chicken Named Dog, but, there was not one white hen feather to be found. I will wait a day before I know she is clearly gone, she might be hiding due to stress, but...doubtful.

I am also missing Ida, or Crazy Ida as I call her.

Marcella did not bark last night and if it had been a bobcat she would have. A raccoon could have come through Old Barn first, but from all the feathers, it seems it must have been a good struggle.

Even though papa has been surviving in Old Barn for months now, I am going to put him and his Bantie hen in Eleanor's stall tonight. He will have a job to do-eat the maggots on the poop to help keep flies down. Then when we get the new wing of the chicken hut done, he can live there, free from the other roosters.

It's eerie though. Just seems strange he could fight off a predator. Especially one that could have taken Chicken Named Dog, since she is a big, healthy hen. But as The Head Troll once said,

Papa will never die.

Footnote {6:00 post meridian} Chicken Named Dog appeared again, unscathed. After revisiting the feather trail tonight, I found racoon droppings near the final clump of Papa's feathers. Perhaps it was a youngster inexperienced with making a kill. It seems remarkable his feather trail was that long, and he got out alive. To be continued.

Friday, July 24, 2015

White Dog at dusk

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him as I'm doing chores, such as this one last night, and there is an electrification of my insides-the beginning of a swoon like when we know we have a deep love for that moment.

Sharing Blog Love: The story of Georgia Grace

I wanted to start sharing blogs I encounter that show a person sharing stories, with excellent photography/art or words. I think we all know that our interaction on blogs has changed since Facebook and other social platforms, but I still look at my blog as an intimate place, a time to converse individually without fear of being interrupted or shamed for something. I miss the many people that used to talk on my blog-now many leave comments on Facebook instead. I am seeing more and more harried people, not taking the time[or not having it] to stop and READ. Facebook is cocktail chatter which has its place, but the blog is an intimate conversation by the fireside. So I'm going to share blogs I encounter and like.

Kerry O'Gorman lives on Vancouver Island and is an artist and photographer. I first was introduced to her world after she commented on my blog, and she has since been a follower here, encouraging my animal care and writings. Her photos are really wonderful and I hope you will visit her site. She also does felted creatures that are charming and for sale.

A recent post on her blog came to my attention and it is another example of one person helping an animal the best they can. I really felt for her, as I have encountered so many cats here in the past eleven years and it takes a lot of patience to trap them and do right by them-it's also expensive, and can be emotionally traumatic.

So when I saw her story about a little ferel kitten, who had been rejected by the ferel mother, I read on. The little imp of a furball appeared to be blind-and once they trapped her the vet diagnosed the cat with a disorder that would most likely lead to removing the eye. To have found a kitten with eyes that looked so diseased, I know Kerry must have felt so heart sick by it.

But she forged on, and now that little kitten is thriving in her care. And her name is Georgia Grace.

I will be watching Georgia as she goes through life. She certainly fell into the right hands, and if you have to live anywhere, Vancouver Island isn't too shabby.

Thank you for sharing your world, Kerry. Please continue!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Walter pondering piglets

You're definitely not lambs. I know that,  thought Walter.

The piglets are two weeks old and are starting to romp and play more. Soon I'll move them down to the lower paddocks. This will be fun and challenging as little piglets-no matter how well prepared you are with fencing-get their heads into the tiniest holes. I think I'm pretty prepared after the last piglets, but we shall see.

We have some beautiful gilts in this bunch. My little runt boy is catching up. I've been tendering them all as much as I can a few times a day. The runt really seems to love being held. I hold them up high, so their heads rest on my shoulder, and their bodies lay down on my chest, just like when they lie in a pig row.

At the end of the day, after chores, I usually have about an hour until Martyn gets home around 7:30, and I love to be in my barn with the animals, just hanging out, no words, no deadlines, just listening to them chew, snore, swat flies and slurp water.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sometimes you get pecked on

Well, I still have a husband...although he is contemplating pulling up his tomato plants and leaving. See, I was truly minding my own business last night and was on my way to the veggie garden to put up yet more chicken wire around the now blossoming tomato plants-because occasionally we still have a chicken or two go in there and peck the ripe tomatoes. It drives us nuts but especially Martyn. I have tried to Fort Knox it, but with each chicken intruder, Martyn gets more desperate. So, back to last night, my plan to help the tomatoes was sidetracked by a ....chirp.

There it was, a chick, at the donkey paddock gate.

Not again, I thought. I had been keeping my eyes peeled in the last few weeks for my missing Black Bantie hen, the same hen that gave me 7 new surprise chicks two months ago [after I'd brought home new chicks, like I said, she didn't get the memo].

I picked the chick up and went to a spot used by this bantie before to hide eggs-the same spot I had checked a few days earlier. There she was, sitting amongst broken egg shells. I ran to get a crate and flashlight and scooped mom and babies up. Except one little chick got out and I couldn't find her.

Martyn arrived home. Now, even though I didn't want, or need, more chicks, new life is always rather exciting. But I kept my lips sealed. I should point out I never keep secrets from Martyn. I let him get one beer in his belly and then told him the good news first:

"I found that darn Bantie hen!"

He took a sip of beer.

"...sitting on some chicks!"

He then went into a monologue about his tomatoes. I explained these chicks had not seen a tomato let alone pecked one. He pointed out I had to do something about having so many chicks-and I reminded him I am not a chicken and I did not lay the eggs, nor was I fertilized by a rooster.

Martyn never yells. I think he has lost his temper with me twice in our marriage. He might scream all the way down the driveway, but I can't say for sure.

I got some more beer in him and we talked about other stuff. But then I hear a 'peeping". It was not a baby bird. Chicks that are lost sound different. I crept back out to the spot where I had found the chicks, and there was the one little fluff ball that had gotten away from me. I scooped her up and introduced her to Martyn. He was pleasantly polite.

This morning Martyn got up early as usual and kissed me good-bye for work. I was relieved to see that the tomatoes were still planted in the vegetable garden.

I'm pretty sure he will come home tonight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Paco's nose in a pose

All equines will stick their tongues out from time to time after a drink. But Paco does it almost each time he drinks. Just another endearing quality of the little donkey that was lacked confidence but now is the resident poet.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The story of Fiorella

Fiorella is 105 years old. She spent her life, from birth, in a small travelling circus in Romania. She is quick to point out she had a good life there, and liked the long walks between towns with her mother and other family.

Her mother was a prized performer for the small circus, but not like you might imagine. Her gift was her ability to calm the restless. Each town that they came on, her mother could soothe a crying baby, help an elder feel less stiff, and keep young children from stealing candy. And she did it all by standing still. Fiorella learned early on that patience and calm could bring about good things.

But all mothers age and Fiorella's was no different. She lived to be 125 years old so mother and daughter had a long life together. After her mother died, Fiorella began spending more time with one of the costume designers of the circus. His name was Paulo and he loved to sew. He told her stories of her mother's youth to keep her spirits up. He would sew all sorts of things for the circus, like velvet drapes for the stage and outfits for the clowns. One day he was measuring drapes for a set and he asked Fiorella if she'd mind if he draped them on her large body, so he could hem them without bending over–after all, he was sixty and had worked his entire life bending and reaching to sew hems and such.

From that day on, Paola and Fiorella were a team, they did everything together and people teased Paolo that he finally found a wife, since he had been a bachelor forever. They didn't mind, it was all in good faith, everyone loved them.

About the time her mother died, there was an earthquake and many new rivers formed in the small towns where the circus travelled. It made it difficult, because bridges had not been built yet. As they were moving camp one day, Paolo fell into a deep crevice. They spent hours trying to get him out and he feared this might be the end of it all. But Fiorella remembered the drapes from the stage. She retrieved them, and back at the crevice everyone helped tie drape after drape together, and Paolo was able to pull himself out.

They went on together like this for many years. As Paolo turned 95, he had more and more trouble sewing, and his vision grew blurrier making it difficult to finish outfits and drapes. He knew in time he would not be there for his friend, Fiorella, and this worried him greatly. So he began to make her an outfit that could help her go anywhere she needed after he was gone.

He didn't tell her what he was making, she thought it was just another costume.

On the day he died, they found a costume on the bedside, with a note for Fiorella. They read it to her, as she paced and paced by her friend's body.

Dear Fiorella, my friend, please take this outfit and remember that when you wear it you can let your wings take you where ever you need to go, without danger. I know we will meet again. Yours forever, your friend, Paolo.

The circus took the week off so that Fiorella could come to terms with her loss. They had an elaborate parade for Paolo, and Fiorella was the leader, walking in front of a carriage in her winged outfit, his coffin covered in velvet drapes.

Several days later, the circus realized that Fiorella was gone. She left a note,

I have my wings now. Do not worry. I will travel, until I find Paolo. Fondly, Fiorella

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eight years of ear conversations

It's hard to believe it's been eight years since I brought Boone home. That's eight years of ear conversations with him and they get more subtle all the time.

When I walk Boone into the arena, I do it off halter. He walks on my side. I stop, he stops. I have been noticing how much more subtle our cues are getting to one another. Well, his cues were always subtle and he was just waiting for me to listen.

I took this image the other day. He flies. It does feel like that especially when I'm on him. We've been doing so much cantering outside working on down hills. He loves it. He loves the trails. A friend was saying to me,

I wish my horse came to me like that. I wish my horse nickered to me like Boone does to you.

Boone always comes to me in the field, or comes to the barn when I am there. I never have to worry about enticing him in. There is the food factor, but as my riding mate said,

He likes you. He likes being here.

Me too.

There are plenty more Rides with Boone on the blog, if you yearn for some horse sensibility.

Filling water buckets and saying grace

With the hot temperatures, I can fill the sheep trough twice a day, 100 gallons. As the temps lessen, one filling will do. Keeping all the pastures with water is a challenge, but it's more important than food for them, really. Their noses tickle at the gushing water and I love the expressions I caught in this impromptu photo.

Filling the water in different pastures always gives me time to be with the flock, or other animals, the sole human in the field, watching the trees by the river, noticing birds and always looking over the condition of everyone. It can be considered work, filling water troughs, but it's also a period of grace.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lady llamas and Misfit updates

Since Old Rudy's death a few weeks ago, it has been calm as far as medical issues with the Misfits. I felt this year would be a lot of losses, and I my intuition was correct. But I knew it would be losses of the first animals of Apifera–Stella, our first goat, for example. We have been here eleven years so I sensed a changing of the guard would begin in this new decade.

I still will hear Stella. She and Iris were a team, and i often slip and call Iris by Stella's name. I apologize of course. Iris without Stella is odd. So many little energy orbs float in and out of the barnyard for me, poking me, reminding me of a face, a special bleat or distinctive voice of one Misfit or another.

I'm so enjoying Birdie. I have her up in Boone's normal paddock, with the elder ponies. I move the animals around depending on my needs, and on what pastures I have my sheep in. It's complicated. One of the complications is that the new boy llama, who went from being called Ollie Ollie Oxen Free to Wendell [and I'm not sure that's right either], is still intact and can't be castrated for another few months. So I can't run him with the flock if they are fenced by Birdie because we don't want llama love-I know you all would love a a baby llamas! But for now, Birdie must remain virginal. There just aren't enough virgins in the world.

Having Birdie in a spot where I see and handle her multiple times a day is so enjoyable, and rewarding. And of course helpful to tendering any creature. Time, that is what animals need with us, and touch. What a unique creature she is. I think she might have some swan in her after seeing this photo, or maybe Grace Kelly has been reincarnated into her.

All the Misfits are doing pretty well. Old Mama Sugee, our earless wonder is eating but not swallowing her food as well. I am anticipating issues by winter-but I said that last fall. She has had one seizure this month which I witnessed, but I haven't more since. If she continues with more seizures, I will make decisions, and not hesitate this time. She has had an extension to her already long life by coming here-but a life with seizures on top of everything else she has going on is not good quality for her. Meanwhile Wilma, her chubby elder daughter, has her ups and down depending on the season due to her chronic founder issues.

You can see Sir Tripod Goat in one of these photos, the little black goat that can't use one leg. He arrived very skittish, and still is with newcomers. But, he finally has figured out that back scratches are divine, especially when I get to this one out of way spot on his hind end that he can't reach. I find that tendering an animal with treats has its limits-I want them to understand even without food, I'm pretty safe and nice to be with. I remember how long it took Raggedy Man to stand for scratching, now he's a love muffin.

I like having the species mix. I think its good for them. Why wouldn't it be? I don't want to only be around people, I think it gives them excitement, drama, humor and something to keep them on their toes.

More Updates:

The Cats of Apifera: After the loss of Mama Kitty, the matriarch, it seems so catless. We are down to Plum and Little Orange on the deck, Hazel in the barn, Tomentosa comes and goes, Big Tony and Itty Bitty in the house, and Peaches the kitty slut. In some ways, it's a relief. But I still think about the different faces that lived here-all 25 of them–and have spurts of missing each of them.

Donkeys are all fine. Matilda is on supplement year round now and holds her weight well.

Stevie has been strong and active all summer, so far, He hates heat so we are glad for more normal temps.

Raggedy Man, Professor Otis Littleberry, Scooby Keith, The Head Troll, Wilbur, Moose and Goose are all well. Watching their pygmy bodies in a line heading for breakfast-it never ceases to crack me up. I must get a video for you.

Sophie and Victor face the challenges of their condition with grace. Sophie is doing excellent, and is more personable each day-a rewarding thing for me, and is putting on some real weight. Victor is doing his best with cheer and sweet smiles. I watch him like a hawk for signs of further issues.

Rosie the pig is grumpy,of course, and living in her private suite. I am going to do a post on her soon. She has put back on the weight she lost in the winter, and her skin is looking good, probably because she is inside the barn all the time.

Priscilla the Old Goose just keeps on going, but now only has one duck to shepherd. I sense that final duck is a bit lost. We lost so many of them this year, two from age, one to an eagle strike, and one to a raccoon.

Subscriptions, small donations help me continue on with my work here with the special needs animals. And when you shop, it helps me make a living, which all goes into this farm. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sweet Old Victor

You know, I'm posting several things today on the blog. So much happens here on a daily basis that I might have days where I do multiple posts. I started this blog to share my stories of the animals and farm, and one post a day doesn't always do that. Besides, I'm beginning the new book in my head and it is a good thing for me to start writing short spurts.

Our dear Old Victor. He is perhaps the most challenged. I am guarded about him going into winter this year now that he is not using his front leg. The shoulder is not pooed as it might look on first glance. Since he has never had proper alignment or the ability to put all his weight on his hind end due to his condition from birth, it will only get worse for his front end. I watch him very closely for signs that he is simply running out of 'desire', and so far, I haven't seen it.

Victor has other issues too. When rescued by New Moon Farm, he and Sophie were so matted they couldn't find his penis. He was skeletal thin, and has put on weight but is still worse off than Sophie who is really looking pretty good.

What a sweet soul he is though. Not a quitter, that's for sure. Since I put him in the Lower Misfit Village, he seems to zoom around more, probably due to the softer surface. He is a very good and happy eater, which is a blessing for me.

I will keep our covenant to him-to watch for his time.

Raise a glass to hay twine!

There was a time when I first started blogging–ten years ago, gads, a few worry lines earlier– when I wondered if people came to the farm and didn't feel the same about Apifera as they did seeing it on the blog. After all, there is a lot of mud, poop, broken down stuff, bent fence, and very in focus images when you are here in person, versus the lovely, slightly blurred ones I often post.

I got over that irrational fear early on, pretty much because I knew I was living genuinely both on this blog, and in my day to day life. At the workshop this month, I asked the guests if the farm was like they saw it on the blog, or not as 'magical' as they'd hope. They all felt it left them with even more donkey dust and glitter than they had imagined.

This 'gate' for lack of a better word is a symbol to me of creative farming-real farming- which of course involves not only living within your means, but getting things done quickly, without panic, usually on your own to prevent further trouble. It started as a nice little wooden gate which worked great as a lead in to The Lower Misfit Village way back when. But then came Earnest with his pig ability to crash through sweet ambiance props such as this one. With one twitch of his snout, up and out went the gate. His desire? To go sniff up some sows, as in Pearly June and Doris.

So up went a layer of wood-all in one piece, as in a wood pallet. And you don't need a hammer around here! There is hay twine, my best friend besides Martyn.

Well, things were looking up but then the ducks figured out how to squeeze under it and I didn't want that because they ate the goat feed at breakfast in The Village, and ended up in open fields where eagles can get them as happened one day. More gate reinforcements were added.

So far so good. But the only thing is we can't open the gate so it's really not a gate right now. Another new gate will be added...someday. I have to redesign that entire little area because the duck hut is settling and I want to make it into a permanent Misfit shelter-they all seem to love that darn shelter.

Let's all raise a toast to hay twine!

Snapshot moments

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Marcella enters the sacred nursery

Ever since Friday, when Eleanor was popping out piglets, Marcella has been itching to get into the nursery room and introduce herself. The stall where the piglets were born is a sacred one–it is where many of the elder Misfits are brought to heal, or die. It is where I take a sick animal to keep them calm away from barnyard rough play. This is the stall that Old Man Guinnias had his last breath in, where Earnest lay so sick I was worried I was losing him. On it's straw bedding I held Floyd's head in my lap as we put him to sleep and roosters have come here to back into the dark interior walls, hiding in the cobwebbed corners from the another roosters who have taken a step up in the flock pecking order. It is the place that Rosie the grumpy pig first made her bed along side Stevie the crippled goat. Here in this 14" x 14" hallowed ground, I held Boone's head and learned all about teeth floating, I learned to give my first equine and sheep shots and other shepherdly lessons from my vets. Up above, every spring, the same bird's nest is full of baby swallows.

If I had to be confined in a stall of my choice, it would be this one, for I could hear the goings on of the barnyard, see the sky through the window and hear the animals munching.

Marcella is interested in anything new that comes along into her barnyard, much more so then Benedetto, so it is understandable that when she smelled birth, heard the different grunts from within the stall, she was on a mission to get in there. This is another reason this stall is best suited for birthing or care taking-it is very secure.

Since Eleanor is proving to be a calm and good mother, I allowed Marcella into the nursery last night to meet the piglets. They were asleep in their little row. I could lie and tell some of you non pig people that I trained them to do this, like little Von Trapps, making them line up to an individual whistle. But alas, they do this all on their own, daily and nightly. This is their preferred nap position in the normal temps. But they often pile on top of one another, yes, in a pig pile.

Marcella strode in, as you can see in the photo, sniffed Eleanor, and came into the stall with me. I would never have let her do this on the birth day, or even within days of birth, just in case the smell of after birth was still evident. Sometimes the guard dogs will lick the new borns as they are prone to lick wounds of their herd, meaning no harm, but they over do it and tragedy can follow.

Marcella was interested, but not overly so, which was good. We will begin doing this routinely. Within a week or two, I will move mama and piglets down to the lower Misfit Village where they will have room outside and a stall. At ten weeks, they will be weaned. Marcella will then be able to come down and really check them out if needed but there will be no problem. Pigs are tough little creatures. They are already poking and prodding one another, and the mothers do the same. The pig's nose has a entire language to it-different nose shoves can take on varied levels of meanings, anything from a casual,

Hey, that's my food, bug off


I said NO, beat it NOW before I bite your neck

I am learning each piglet. They are all different markings, unlike the last two litters from Pearl and Doris who are Guinea Hogs. I feel a different relationship with these piglets, for sure. The runt is the least attractive of the bunch but I've been giving him special attention. There is an Earnest junior, and some beautiful girls too. I wonder if Marcella will form any relationship with the junior Earnest? Doubtful, since they will be in a lower paddock.

Marcella left the stall and went on with her routine-a bit of a romp with Benedetto, helping me get water to everyone, a lay down here and there, and then she laid down by the stall door, looking out on the barnyard as night fell.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Sale! Only book sale this year!

This will be your opportunity to buy multiple books at the lowest rate possible, this year. There will not be another book or art sale this year [I mean that] so if you are wanting to get presents for holiday or to have on stock, now is the time to buy books, journals, postcards. I also listed a few art pieces.

Let me know if you are hoping to buy more than four books, I can make sure the shipping price is accurate. Also, if you prefer a copy of "Misfits" and a copy of "Donkey Dream" as your two-book-purchase, just let me know.

Always at my side

I often take the back road for the 12 mile trip to the 'city'. I suppose the front road, which is paved, would feel like a back road if you live in a metropolitan area.

All the roads here have the back drop of the beginning of the coastal range, reminding me daily of where I transplanted myself 13 yeas ago. The area combines many of the natural beauties of my old homeland of Minnesota, especially as late summer approaches. The valley farm land has stretches of flat expanses much like where my uncle farmed in North Dakota. The hills always accompany me outside my driver's window, side by side we go like having a dog at my side. We drive along the curves and swoop down deeper into another pocket of a valley, the road before me with a beautiful, fresh mustard yellow line could be a sculpture if lifted up and suspended like a Calder. Even when I'm in a muddled, sad, or anxious state, 'rushing' to the feed store at 35 MPH, I always look to my side, and take note,

There's the Coast Range. Hello.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pig pile naps

You can see the typical activity here of one day old piglets-napping, and lots of it. But already as day two approaches, they are exploring a bit more, their land legs are less wobbly after floating in Mama for 3 and a half months. I'm afraid I'm already in love with the little runt male. He is the least flashy in color, no polk-a-dots, and tiny as a mouse, but I'm pulling for him. He is the black one in the photo below who climbed on board the pig pile.

And many have double wattles. This is a good thing. Although I can't quite tell you why yet. I have heard differing opinions on this, one being that pure bred KuneKunes are usually double wattled if wattled. Eleanor has one wattle and is 99.9% full Kune, so combined with Earnest's 7/8 pure bred Kune genes, I guess that's where they came from. I will do more digging on this.

Eleanor is doing very well.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Earnest and Eleanor are proud parents

Last night I remember thinking,

I better leave Eleanor in the stall while I go to town tomorrow, in case she piglets on me.

I was busy doing my routine feedings this morning, and usually Eleanor is really vocal. She is very talkative, to the point she drowns out even the chatty goats in the morning. I heard her, but then she would go silent. I wondered if she was starting to farrow. I have a routine at feedings so continued to focus on that so that The Head Troll wouldn't reprimand me-and she does, with her one horn–reminding me it is her breakfast time. I took Eleanor her feed, already forgetting my suspicion, and there they were in a lovely polk-a-dot pig pile.

Seven little Earnests and Eleanors lined up in a row. All are doing well, even the tiny male runt. Her after birth was neatly piled for me and she was very happy to have me clean her up a bit. I was so tickled to see all the polk-a-dots and ginger color. Mostly, I'm just proud and happy for her, she did it on her own, which is the norm, but still, she did it well without me and is a very good mother. She is calm, attentive and not flighty. I spent a of of time with her and massaging her belly as her piglets suckled. I sense already this gang is much more personable that the last AGH/Kine cross piglets.

And she waited for the heat wave to be over-thank you, Eleanor! Today is our first cooler day, overcast, perfect day to be born.

I wasn't quite sure of the actual breeding date. It's not how I do it with my sheep as they go in with the rams on a schedule and pretty much lamb like clock work. But unlike our breeding with June and Doris, I let Eleanor and Earnest be together, and let Nature plan the due date. Once I knew she was pregnant I began supplementing her a bit and she has come out of farrowing looking really good, much better than Pearl did. Last week I noticed her vulva was enlarging, and her teats, so the time was coming. And I could feel the babies move. So while I knew it could be any day, it could have been weeks-still I was putting her in at night in case. My biggest fear was that Marcella would attentively lick the after birth, and possibly kill one without really meaning to, and then eat it. It happens and you can't hold it against a guard do to do that, which is why most shepherds keep the new borns separate for awhile.

In a week, I'll be moving Eleanor and her babies down to the former piglet area. I kind of hate to not have her up with Earnest. But he has Marcella, and me. Earnest has one favorite thing now-naps. It appears we have 3 boys and four girls. I hope for continued health.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

This makes me happy...and proud

One of my followers sent me this photo she took at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY. It made me really happy. And proud.

It's a great bookstore and they also bought stock for their Vermont store which is great feather in my book hat. I love getting pics like this so if you see my books anywhere, please send me a secret spy photo! Or go visit this great store, or one listed below, and buy them all so they order more!

When I see these simple photos of my books, sitting next to other books published by "real" publishers, I'm proud. I have created two beautiful books, all by myself, and I raised the money to do it both times. A book store of this caliber would not be buying them if they did not think the same. In fact, many bookstores will not consider indie books even though the stigma of 'self published' is definitely waning. If they do, many insist on consignment, and returns, or they only allow local authors and tuck them all into a Local Author book shelf. I know there are many horrible self published books so they have to set some perimeters, but I just know when people look at my book, they buy it. And, the writing is good too. I worked with a former editor from Chronicle books on the writing-best money I ever spent, he taught me so much and I'd love to work with him again someday.

I am beginning a new book very shortly. It is in my head right now and I have gotten bids from my printer so have the 'feel' of the book in my heart and head. It will involve Misfits of course, and will be presented in my usual non commercial style. When I first began thinking about what book I wanted to write next, I started at the wrong end–I was thinking about what I could write that had the best chance of finding a traditional publisher. I felt that would increase my following and show more and more of an audience my work as artist and caretaker here at Apifera. I want more people to see my work here, and my art. I have a nice following, but I want a bigger following and deserve it, gosh darn it.

But it is very hard to get a traditional publisher to pick up books like the one I'm starting-I tend to like to mash memoir into fiction and illustrate it in what they always label "beautiful but quirky", code for non commercial.

So at first, I thought I'd write a book without any art or images, strictly real life stories about my work here at Apifera, with my animals-hospicing them, caring for the special needs they have, burying them, dealing with illness and death, etc-and how all it teaches us humans. I realized that is an idea I can pitch to some publishers. And that will leave to me to start my next self publishing book- which I can't wait to start, and get you all excited about too, because I'm going to have to raise some money again.

In the meantime, thank you to all of you who have helped my books in one way or another, and to the many of you that return to buy more as gifts over and over, and to the stores that have given my book a chance!

Retail Stores that carry my books, journals and/or postcards:

Bella Luna, Rehobo Beach, DE
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Camerons, Carrboro, NC
Celebrations, Deep River, CT
Derby Farm Flowers, MA
Heart Strings, Clinton NJ
Heavenly Metal, Ann Arbor MI
Imagine, Santa Barbara, CA
Joanne Rossman, Roslindale, MA
Kingdom of Herbs, New York, NY
Monticello on Jefferson, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Nesting, Concord MA
Northshire Books, Saratoga Springs, NY
Northshire Books, MAnchester, VT
Old and Everlasting, Cazenovia, NY
Porter Square Book, Cambridge MA
Roost, Salem MA
Schuyler Pond, Saratoga Springs, NY
Stonefish, Tenant's Harbor, ME
Swag, Northfield, MN
Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH
Terston, Kent, CT
The Adamson Gallery, Sacramento, CA
The Backdrop, Woodstock, IL
Third St. Books, McMinnville, OR
Three Birds, Seattle WA
Tinsel Bright Trading, Gorham, ME
Under the Dogwood Tree, Southwest Harbor, ME

Mr. Haircut is back

We have a new ritual. Every year, since last, Aldo the Elder becomes Mr. Haircut. This lasts one week from his summer sheering. It is so startling, I'm sure for him too, to see him go from heavy, burdensome fiber dripping off his limbs and back, to a sheered bunny coat, that I can't help but call him "Mr. Haircut" for a short period until we all adjust. I give a horrible haircut, choppy and rough, but the end result is the same as a good sheer-comfort for the beast.

"Perhaps a professional barber would be appropriate," he suggests politely.

Considering I haven't invested in sheering clippers yet, perhaps he's right. But I enjoy it actually. And any kind of grooming with the animals is also trust building. Last year it took forever to give Aldo, er, Mr. Haircut his sheer due to my inexperience. You learn to let the wool lift off the skin, and take your scissor under it, cutting, in large pieces–versus just little snips. He didn't sit down once, and it was only toward the end where he threatened a cow kick as I tried to work on the final lower hind leg.

"Suit yourself, you can keep those too wool lumps by your ankle," I said.

I also was amused at the many natural items I found within his wool coat as I clipped away–acorns, long stems and a pebble.

"Your like a walking suitcase," I told him.

I'm behind on the sheering and I apologized to him for that. The two week heat wave has me behind on many things as I am incapable of working outside in it. My redhead skin just boils and I get physically ill. So I finally am getting caught up with the llamas and now have to do Wendell, who used to be Ollie Ollie Oxen Free but he is now Wendell. He just wasn't an Ollie Ollie. He actually reminds me a lot of Gomez or Cousin It. Anyway, he is next and his beautiful black tresses will become part of some of my raggedy creature dolls.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Capturing care

I so loved this photo that one of my recent workshop students took at the end of our day. It captures a moment with me and Birdie, but also captures an entire life of caring. I know I'm not a perfect shepherdess , or wife, or person. But the way my hand is cupped on her neck, band-aid and all, the look on her face, knowing that when that photo was shot she was murmuring to me, feels me up with pride.

Who is caring for whom, here? We have a mutual relationship of extending and revolving energy, the animals and I–the farm and I too-. That energy moves about me as I work inside or out, it bounces off my energy and reads it so well when I walk amongst them. The beauty of my work here is I don't have to be perfect for them. Only people can demand perfection, or perhaps more to the point, only we ourselves feel failed when we don't live up to perceived perfection.

My biggest in born flaw is most likely my redhead temper. It has settled in my middle aged and on, but it is there. It's usually brought out by a heat wave, or exhaustion, and then I might kick a bucket or two. They stand amongst me and just accept it, not judging. Bucket kicking is always followed by quiet moments with one or two of them, holding them-or letting them soak into me for my own hug from them. I walk away hoping to do better next time. But they don't expect that, or anything from me-except consistency, leadership and safety.

So this photo captures my real essence, it's okay, my soul is saying about all those buckets I might have kicked in heat waves, your essence here is what wraps around this farm, not your temper.

Thank you Lisa Hoffman for sharing this photo with me.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Misfits have spoken- "No Fireworks!"

The Head Troll has already begun her attempt to keep the barnyard safe this July 4th. Buckets are being gathered for head armour and ear plugs are being handed out. I'm always amazed of her ingenuity–collecting the sheared llama fiber, twisting them into little Q-tip like wads and adding string or sticks to make them into functioning ear plugs. Raggedy Man is usually first in line and Professor, always the quiet one, is right behind him.

Every year since we've moved here, the property up in the hills from us sets off real fireworks. The first years I was actually terrified. There seemed to be no law of the land out here in renegade-ville, and to a point, there still isn't. Part of this comes from,

We've lived here forever and have always done this, so did our parents and their parents.

This combined with nobody complaining, except behind closed doors, doesn't help.

The other fact is there is a real shortage of patrol cars and deputies in most cities, let alone rural areas. I feel for the fire departments this time of year, especially this summer. An over dry winter, warm temps all spring with no rain, then with June setting record high heat wave temps–we are on our second full week of upper 90's-the land is a timber box.

I can not imagine any reasonable person setting off anything this year, even sparklers-which we also frown on. I don't care if I sound like an old fart-matches plus explosions-hey, what a great idea when the ground is parched!

The Misfits and I rarely make political statements, but this year, we are here to say we don't want fireworks and think they should be banned. We will be sitting on our deck as usual, after a picnic here with friends, waiting for the explosions to begin. Sure they can be pretty, but novices with explosions in forests, and a wind that can carry it all to my farm or a near by one, cringe worthy. But rest assured dear people of the hills above, if you do choose to set them off, we will be here for you, calling the fire department, hoping they can get to you before your century old barn burns, or before the wind might pick up and take ours too.

The Head Troll has one final thought,

Just be reasonable.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Three beauties in a summer sale

Limited quantities of these three images are now ready to buy in a summer sale. I work with a great archive printer to pull my prints, they are not sold anywhere but through me. All are printed on archival fine art paper with archive inks, and a 1" border around an approximate 12" print.

Visit the sale section now to secure your print.