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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Everyday we name the duck

She is the last surviving duck of The Bottomtums-the clan of six ducks that arrived some years ago to Apifera, along with their elderly goose, their matriarch of sorts who herded them like any good mother figure. One by one the ducks died or met their natural demises. We said goodbye to old Priscilla the goose last week. I do miss her, I must say. The ducks and goose came to us because their owner at the time was going through cancer, and had to leave their small farm-so my vet put us together thinking I was the perfect person to take them on, and I have cared for them loyally for all these years.

So now we have one duck. At first I felt a bit sad for her. But in the past days, I have to tell you she seems so content. I really think she has come into her own a bit in the past days. She has an entire swimming bucket to herself and waddles out there every morning for her first bath, she has many creatures who spread their grain around so she gets lots of good eating and doesn't have anyone quacking in her ear either. There are no males mounting her and grabbing her by the back of the neck-rough little lovers they are. At night, I put her in a stall for safety and she is just as content as can be, in my eyes. I've never bought into the idea that you need two of something to make them happy. I believe that if an animal of any species has other creatures, and nature, and daily routines and interactions with others-that is what makes them feel comfortable. That is my experience here.

So, I decided that being the solo duck is very special. And every day, I give her a new name, but always with the word 'duck' at the end. Today I called her Beautiful Rainy Duck to celebrate the water drops on her back-we are all relishing in the wet, and hope it continues.

Friday, August 28, 2015

An example of pig architecture

This may look like a mud hole to some, but to those of us lucky enough to experience a life with some pigs, we know this is a finely tuned example of a porcine water feature, complete with three swimming holes and one recycling water bucket. The black bucket is filled to give fresh water and let to overflow in hot weather. Wherever there is a bit of slime mud, the pigs role and use their snouts as their little chisels and hammers. Within an hour they can have a swimming hole.

I swear I've heard them out there whistling Hi Ho Hi Ho It's Off to Work We Go.

The pigs also have fresh water on a drip nipple. The nipple is secured into a large 6" PVC pie, filled with fresh water. The pigs push the nipple and get their drink. Some of my pigs always prefer the bucket water, which means I am wasting more water, because I have to clean it, but they often love to stand in the bucket and drink.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Donkey dusters

They stand on Dust Hill like this often, their ears become shadows with the arms and fingers of the old oak.

"The rain is coming this weekend," I said to them.

They looked at me, I looked at them, and then we all went about with our mornings.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Priscilla says goodbye and all is as it should be

It appears that Priscilla, the old goose that lived a long and good goose life, has returned herself to Earth.

I have no physical proof of this. She is not to be found. And now I must tell you that while I will miss her, and it is always sad to say goodbye, I am relieved-for both her, and me. It was time.

She was fading in many ways over the past year, but especially this fading was noticeable in the last months. She had lost weight, was less able to right herself quickly if she toppled forward, and she had no interest in the one remaining Bottomtum-the original ducks she used to protect.

In the past couple months, she had begun separating herself from the main barnyard, and squeezing under the main gate so she could wonder into the yards, and fields and drive below, looking for berries, or remaining water in the stream. Initially, this was all fine, she would waddle back around five and I would pick her up and bring her to bed down with her duck.

But in time, she would not be at the gate at her designated hour and I would have to wander the fields and bramble to find her. She used to always respond to my "Wack! Wack!" goose call, but perhaps her hearing was fading too. In the past week, I noticed that when I did go and retrieve her–which was becoming a nightly task–and I would carry her up to the barn, she would rest her neck and head onto my face. While Priscilla was never ornery, in her younger elder years [she arrived here at age 20] she never did this.

While I knew her body was failing her, and that this small act of resting her face to mine could be seen simply that her energy was fading, I also instinctively knew she was going to leave soon, and she was telling me. It might be a day or more, but I knew her days were ending. The ducks that left before her kept wanting to return to the natural water of the stream in their final days, rather than there beloved water bucket they were so fond of.

"Just letting you know, I'm getting ready," she said.

So yesterday I greeted her around noon while she was in the shallow bramble by Old Barn. This was a usual spot for her. I went about my business. By evening, I looked for her, calling, and traveling around the fields and dried out stream at all the many places she would frequent. There was no sign of her, her honking or her feet crunching dried leaves below her. I found not a feather. I waited an hour and took Martyn out on another walk about. I even went to places I highly doubted she would have gone to, but saw nothing. This morning, I looked again, and checked all of Old Barn thinking she might have dropped in there.

It's been brought to my attention that some people might have a hard time continuing to read my blog and updates, due to the fact that a creature is always dying at some point. In a way, this saddens me, as it means I have not done my job as a storyteller, I have not expressed properly that death is not to be seen as the opposite of life, it is the balancing arm of life, it is part of life. Priscilla was not walking around eating blackberries, fending off death, she was being a goose, living as a goose. Somewhere, an old goose is truly returning to earth.

I can understand how a loyal reader of this blog might get tired of the deaths-they read and fall in love with certain characters or animals, and one by one after ten years, those creatures start to die. They are most likely dealing with deaths of people they love int heir own real lives, so when they come here for some humor and story, more death might make them hit the pause button. I suppose it would be like if The Waltons television show–which I loved–went on and on into the elderly years of the young children and one by one they started dying-it might be too much to swallow.

Part of me, mind you, for seconds only, thought, Maybe I should just write fiction from now on and never really mention the deaths, maybe readers deserve only a happy place.

I'll keep writing about death when it happens-it's my experience here. And maybe in time, I won't.

And there are worse things than death. Life is the hard stuff, in my opinion, in all its messy glory. Suffering is hard, pain and fear are hard. Loss is a process for the survivor to overcome, but for me, the actual last moment of death is a door into Nature.

Priscilla is now where she is meant to be at this exact time. She was over 24 years old. Looking back on the photos of her arrival, I can see how old she looked in the past few months. The coloring of her orange globe was fading, and her body was losing mass. It's possible she just lay down, and her long, beautiful Grace Kelly neck, naturally reclined on the ground.

Postscript:  I looked up the symbolic meaning of an encounter with a goose:

You are being reminded that we often take on the quests of our peers and family without stepping back and discerning whether or not this is something that we ourselves would wish to pursue. Make sure that the path you are currently following is your own and look deeply into your heart to ascertain that the choice is yours and not what someone else has wished upon you.

Alternatively the quest you are currently on is about to take an abrupt change of course. Know that this is only a temporary thing and that you will soon be back on your chosen path.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Piglets private swimming hole

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

The piglets were weaned this weekend. This is nothing traumatic like weaning the lambs from their mothers-that can be bleating for a couple days–hard on the shepherdess as well as sheep! But the piglets just sort of accept the separation, as does the mom. And when they got out to their new digs and they found their own swimming hole, well, that sealed the deal.

This little black and white gilt is pretty funny. I call her Chunk, as she is built like a brick. All the gilts are pretty nice. I think two of the barrows found a wonderful home and will be off to their new lives next week-including my beloved little runt!

They are living in Lower Misfit Village area, with prayer flags blowing over their dreams.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Creatures to love

Juliette the donkey is going to the haberdashery. She sews all her own handbags and the haberdashery man is from Italian and he gives her beautiful fabrics, buttons and such in exchange for her handmade bags. Although lately, he only requests that she dine at noon with him. He is 78 and alone and Juliette, although much younger, speaks Italian so they can discuss books and current events. But he really just likes looking at her as she is beautiful and reminds him of his eldest daughter who was lost at sea.

Else the cat is ready for the museum. She spends many days there. She goes immediately to the room where the Swedish painters are, and sits on a bench and stares into the landscapes of her old homeland. She is a not married and relocated to America when she thought she loved an American. But he turned out to be scam artist and took all her family jewelry, the only things she had left from her parent's belongings–Except her scarf, which her mother made for her. She always wears red shoes because she says it grounds her. She says she will never marry or even date again, she only wants to go to the museum. Although she has recently learned to ski.

And of course, little Pino the donkey. I did this felted doll years ago and could never part with it, but...he needs someone to love him every day, instead of having to live in a box. He loves his red sweater and he thinks the "P" stands for "pie" so I don't tell him otherwise.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hazel, an original Apifera cat

In 2004, when we first moved to the farm, a little orange ball of fluff crept out of the hay bales. That was just the beginning of my life with more cats than I ever thought I would cohabit with.

That orange fluff ball was later named Angustifolia aka Gus, and he was from the first feral litter of Mama Kitty and Big Tony. There were five in that litter, and two remain–Hazel, pictured here, and Mr. Plum.

That first year and and a half, I actively trapped cats, both kittens and strays. All were taken into one of my wonderful local vets who always gave me a fair price for all the spaying and neutering. And, thanks to this blog, and the many followers and cat lovers, I was able to raise most of the money to have that all accomplished. It took a lot of time.

That first litter consisted of Mr. Plum, Quince, Hazel, Gus, and tiny little Sweet Pea. Gus disappeared about a year ago, which broke my heart as not only was he the last buddy for Hazel, he was a the first cat I met at Apifera.

Hazel was always buddies with the wonderful, much loved, bionic man cat, Samuelle Noel, who probably had the most vet care of any creature I've had-again, followers helped me though it. In the end, he had cancer, but I was with him and cared for him until the end. So after Sam died, Hazel was left alone in the barn. The bright side of that is it really tendered her up, now she comes out to me when I'm there, and asks for petting. She's a tiny thing, not much bigger than Itty Bitty.

Tomentosa is our two timing cat. He is part long hair, he comes for dinner for a day, then leaves, and always comes back brushed and healthy a week later. He must be 12+ now. I'm always so happy to see him, and he seems to feel that way about me, I must say.

After that first litter in 2004, Mama Kitty had two more litters. One litter she amazingly carried down to a nearby farm, and those kittens lived there. But the litter she had under bramble outside by Old Barn infiltrated into Apifera. Of that litter-Pumpkin Head, Little Orange, Blackberry, Teasel, and Fig–only Little Orange remains, and he lives with Mr. Plum.

Mr. Plum and Orange allow me to pick them up and hold them, They are fed on the deck and then spend their days in the front gardens or under the lilac trees.

Mama Kitty died last year, the end of an era for sure. I tried to capture her again, as I knew she was sick with a huge growth, but after two weeks I just couldn't get her, even though she continued to eat on the porch. It had originally taken me two years to capture her back in the '04 cat era. But remarkabley, she climbed into one of the baskets on the front porch, and died, all curled up in sleep. This was so touching for me, as she was the only cat that was still truly semi ferel, and I knew she would most likely wander off and die. I took it as a 'thank you' for helping so many my kin. SHe is buried in the front gardens, where her two remaining sons nap.

ANd of course, we had many stray show up and never leave-all brought meaning to my days, some had a bigger impact than others: the incredible BW; the theater cat Phinnias T. Barnum who had to leave for his show; Samuelle Noel; Miss Prairie Pussy Toes; Mr. Brandshaw who ruled the hay barn but in the end was such a lover; and the cat I only knew for an hour.

Big Tony, who spread his seed well lives in the house, an old man now. He is allowed bed privileges, couch duty, counter top eating-he lives like a grandpa King. Itty Bitty also has indoor privileges and she and Martyn are dating. Peaches is allowed in for short spurts but she lives very independently of all the animals, preferring me.

Oddly, we haven't had any new strays come in the last couple years or more. I don't know why. Although I truly believe it is because of two things-one, the neighbors and I did a lot of trapping/spaying/neutering; and two, I don't think I've resonated a call out to the universe for more to come. In time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The grumpiest pig alive is still grumpy

Rosie the pig is still grumpy. In fact, I think her grumpiness increases by at least 5% of her overall grumpiness each year. This means since she arrived with Stevie the Kissing Goat some years ago, she is extra grumpy.

About a year ago, in the rainy season, I found Rosie standing in the cold, wet rain, while all the other animals were in the barn. This was not usual behavior, and she was trembling. She was up near Old Barn at the time, and she refused to come back to the main goat barn. I assumed at the time it had something to do with Eleanor and Earnest, and pecking order, or Marcella. So I managed to get her to go into Old Barn where I had a large area of straw for just such a surprise need. I got her warm water, and food, and brought in even more hay. I checked on her an hour later and she was buried in her royal princess bed, and the trembling had subsided. I decided to let her spend a week or so there to make sure she got rested.

But Rosie had other plans. This place is what I've needed all along, finally. My own suite.

Last spring, I tried to encourage her to come out to the barnyard again. The new sun was just the right temperature for her sensitive piggy skin-which as many of you know requires me to lather her highness in olive oil and sunscreen if she is outside. But Rosie was not interested in leaving her ground floor suite.

"I am fine right here. Leave me," she said.

So I did, thinking in time I would sway her back to her original digs.

There is nothing wrong with her staying in this palatial, private wing. She had her straw bed, and ample room to roam in-although Rosie doesn't roam much any more-she sleeps. And while there were no pig companions, there were roosters and donkeys, and depending on the time of year, thirty sheep that chewed cud from the other side of her bedroom-reassuring her she still lived on a farm, not a city condo. And lets not forget, Rosie never was fond of other pigs. She is what we call a "one pig pig".

But I missed seeing her in the barnyard. Despite the fact that each time I had encountered her in the barnyard in the past, the conversation went something like this-

"Hrumpf. No petting please, leave me be."

"Excuse me, my Pig, I apologize for catching you in a grumpy moment," I'd say moving on. "Grumpy today?"

In time, I truly came to understand, and accept, that she was perfectly happy in her suite, albeit in her own grumpy way. She didn't have to eat her food fast since no goats, dogs or pigs were wandering about; she wasn't awakened by giant white dogs with wet noses; the chickens caused minimal intrusion on her life there; she had her own water bucket so the ducks didn't dirty it and dogs didn't lay in it; and she had sun streaks streaming in from the cracks in the old barn lighting up and warming her portly piggy body without the need for sunscreen.

Like many of The Misfits that have come here to live out their days, she had transitioned to another stage of her life-where she could be her grumpy self and nobody would notice. And that is okay. She is content. Hrumpf.

When guests come, I ask them if they'd like to see the grumpy pig. But I tell them they must tip toe in through the old barn behind me, and not say a word, because the grumpy pig is buried in her straw bed, snoring. What I find most enjoyable is the guest-adults and children-really do mimic me and my tip toeing and it's a world of fun to know I get total strangers to walk like that. We all sneak up to her snoring highness, buried in her straw, and I gently call her name, and up she flies, out of bed with straw and dust flitting about her. I usually get one or two guests to jump too. It is possibly warped shepherdess humor, but it always is amusing. And then I rub her ears or belly, and introduce her to the guests.

"Hrumpf, hrumpf eeeiii squeal grunt hrumpf...snort snort."

I then take them out to rub Earnest's belly, so they understand that not all pigs are grumpy.

So that is what the world's grumpiest pig has been up too.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The path that takes you back

When I was five, we lived on five acres in West St. Paul, in what used to be the carriage house of a 50 acre hobby farm. It was by far my favorite house of all the homes we lived in-and there were many. The house was tiny, and my father, an architect, expanded the ceilings and upper attic for my brother, and there were two small bedrooms on the first floor, one for me and the other for my parents. There was an outdoor riding ring, and most days I would venture out there and just sit in the ring, imagining having a horse. I so wanted a horse.

There were narrow paths through out the property, trodden down by deer, and horses. Two teenage girls were allowed to come ride in the arena, Wendy had a quarter horse and Marta had a striking palomino mare named Sky. I was in love with the girls and their horses. If I saw them coming out the window I'd run to the arena. My mother would say,

"Don't pester them for a ride!"

I would wait patiently by the riding ring, taking in the smells of the saddle leather, and horse sweat. And Wendy, the one with the quarter horse, always would give me a ride at the end. Looking back, that is something I would do today for a child, but I realize how nice it was of her. Often, Sky would buck Marta off, and would flee back a mile back to her home barn. It always left Marta the owner in tears. Sometimes Marta would come and baby sit me, and she'd play her guitar and draw horses. I was just learning to draw and to me Marta was like one of those beautiful hippie girls I'd see on TV, with long legs and hair.

I think about them from time to time, wonder if they are still around, and what happened to their horses.

But mostly, when I walk on the many narrow paths around our farm, usually I take a trip back to that house and property of long ago. It's a good trip, lasts but a few seconds. It is how we carry our families with us over our lives. It is not grief. It is how life is worn on us, and in us, in our memories.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Caring for the elder matriarchs begins

I knew this day was coming when we started raising sheep. While I retired both Daisy and Lilly from breeding around age seven, I kept them with the flock, to spend their days and nights with their daughters, granddaughters and herd. I am experienced caring for elder animals, and knew there might come a day when I'd have to separate them from the flock to keep them safe.

That day came and went. They are now living in the orchard of the Lower Misfit Village, with access to the new barn, the shade of Stevie's kissing hut and the company of pigs and Misfits on all sides of them. Today Marcella and Benedetto stopped in to see them, I don't know how, but they are shape shifters as I've repeated to you often.

I've given animal husbandry a lot of thought. I enjoy raising animals but I knew that there would come a time when I'd be faced with my flock aging. Many farms send elder animals off to the auction due to lack of space and money to care for the elders. I understand this and do not judge that. I am a small operation with a herd of thirty four and have the space to care for my elders. I will not send any animal to auction. They've done their job well and have given us life and food for our nourishment. They will now be cared for by me, until they are unable to have more good days than bad. Daisy is very arthritic which is why I relocated them to the elder wing. When those two stray dogs ran the flock down the hill, I saw how badly her body took it. When you stand with her, you can hear creaking and possible bone rubbing.

Both Lilly and Daisy are totally toothless. Lilly is Daisy's daughter and was from our first lambing in 2005. She has thrown some of the best ewes we have, strong, sturdy and prolific. Daisy arrived in 2004 with her mother Rosemary, who we lost in the Spring of Death in '09. So Daisy is very special to me. She and her mother built our flock, and calmly showed how lambing was done, without panic, with great grace. I'm sure she rolled her eyes a lot the first time we lambed-I must have checked her udder ten times a day even though I had no idea what subtle changes meant. She watched calmly as I gave my first shots to the flock, stabbing myself here and there. But I gained her confidence.

So, the flock is aging, but I'm not going to abandon them. It might mean that the Misfit Village will be full of aging sheep, toothless and limping, but that is okay with me. I have taken care of other animals that have been abandoned by other people or given to rescues when those animals needed them most-in their elderly years. I will not do that to my sheep.

It might mean adopting less, or even no more Misfits. But I have enough Misfits to care for.

Because I am responsible for my flock–my beautiful, aging flock. And I don't mind one bit having them here until they are ready to pass on to the next realm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Marcella shows me how it is done

I've had some really good days with Marcella since I wrote about some of the inner challenges I was placing upon myself.

For me, working through inner fears is a process that can chug along for awhile, and then one day, it resolves itself-not by magic, but because I worked through it in my way, and in my time. It's very similar to writing or painting-there are moments of insight and clarity, others of frustration and loss of hope, and then clarity.

My turning point came with the fact that kept coming into my head-

She knows how to go anywhere, let her be.

I just got up one day, opened the barnyard gate, and said, Let's go work and then I kept walking, trusting her to stick around, go off and come back. And that is what happened.

Because most of you have never been here, it is difficult to explain where each and every gate is, what fences have the best escape routes for her to get to a pasture if needed, what paddocks have what animals in them-and it is unnecessary to tell this story. It is not a simple set up, nor is it a set up than can simplified easily because of rams, ewes, elder crippled goats and pigs all needing certain living arrangements. But as I got more comfortable with her freedom, I decided to let her figure that out.

I suppose you are wondering what took me so long. I had to do it my raggedy way with my over thinking hat on.

So after a brief trip with her up to the highest point of our land, where the sheep currently are, and where I can not keep my eye on predator activity, I was feeling more relaxed. She was exploring boundaries, wasn't driving the sheep off, and also as important, Otis was quietly doing his job, not in a panic, but simply walking the flock away from her if she entered.

I don't want her coming to the porch or merging with the house dogs. That is not her job and a guard dog can easily be softened that way. So when I took Mud for my walk yesterday, she came out and followed us to the gate. I got tight again, knowing she could easily find a way under the well fenced area we were leaving from for our walk. But she didn't, we walked away and she went off up to the field.

She truly is a remarkable creature. Her ability to suddenly show up at my side is sometimes eery. I believe if I fell into a well, she really would help me–cue the music. The other thing I'm proud of is that she is responding much more quickly to my needs at the moment, partially because she is maturing, but also because I'm not over correcting her.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Honoring Aldo

I did this tribute to Aldo today. I was really happy to spend time with him again. I know a couple weeks ago when I went to paint something of him, I wasn't ready to accept his visit, or he didn't come because he knew I was still questioning some things on the day of his passing.

So I was glad to see him again. I'd like to have an archive print made of this and send it as a gift to Sanctuary One, who first took in Aldo before he came to Apifera. So if you can spare a small donation to help offset the printing, feel free. It will honor Aldo, and the work I do here as caretaker and artist. I will add your name to the card I send with the print.

If anyone should donate $50 or more, they too will get a print.

Take your daily dust bath

The donkeys take daily baths of dust almost all year, but especially in the heat to help keep flies off of them, and to itch off the burrs and little stems of blackberry. I don't think I've ever see it this dry in the eleven plus years we've been here. But more than that, it seems so golden this year, and as tired as I am of the summer, my least favorite season, I have to say I have been in awe of the beauty of it [fortunately, we are not having fires, so I'm grateful for that, and my heart goes out to all who are within fire areas].

We ran one of the wells dry last weekend. It is the well that feeds our vegetable garden, chicken hut and donkey paddock. The house has a separate well [which barely keep two people in showers] and we have river water in the summer-thank goodness-for the barnyard. So now I have to hook up hoses to get from the river tank water over to the donkeys. It's all fine. I just hope the well recovers.

I find that if I look at these inconveniences as extra quiet time to be outside with my animals, I'm graced by that inconvenience. If it is over 85 degrees, it can be harder to have that fairy in the woods mentality.

It gives me pause every year-the thought of the wells running dry. But I will take a Buddhist view, and remember not to worry about something until it happens.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Paco's wearing big boy underwear now

Last March, Paco the Poet was kind enough to post his thoughts on the blog about....the bridge.

Paco believes there are multiple black bears living under the bridge, and also thinks that if you step on it just right, it will fly off like a magic carpet and the bears will be hanging on from below-the danger being they will eat the magic carpet and any donkeys on top of it will fall to the ground.

He truly believes this.

So, once again last week I began letting the flock go to the upper hills, which requires going over...the bridge. All the donkeys happily paraded over without a thought, all of them except for our dear Paco. I did my usual training with him, even enticing him with Fig Newtons.

"No, and get off the bridge!" he yelled to me, "Bears like Fig Newtons too!"

So for the past week, Paco has been left behind in the lower pasture, and he watches his friends as they gallop up the steep incline, disappearing into the burned out earth of August. Every few hours, he lets out a bray, reminding everyone,

"I'm still here! Don't forget to come back down!"

That was rather sweet, but heart breaking to watch. At the same time, he has had special duties while waiting in the bottom pasture. When the flock comes down to drink, about four times a day, it is Paco who now becomes the guard. He takes it all very seriously.

I knew eventually the day would come when he'd make it over.

And that day was yesterday. We saw him coming down the hill in the afternoon with the herd so knew he had made it. I ran down with my camera to capture the big event. Years from now when Paco is one hundred, I will show him this photo and let him remember how brave he was to conquer the bear infested stream.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The black beauty, Otis

When I visited the llama farm last spring, one of the reasons I chose Otis immediately out of a sea of llamas was his jet black coat. I could imagine him up high in the fields, where the sheep look like little specks, and his blackness would stand out in the golden fields of late summer. I think he has fulfilled that view for me.

He is a bit over a year, and still young for reliable guarding, but he is bonding with the flock well. He also is getting on with the donkeys, although they keep different schedules. I also find that Otis is a bit above them perhaps in rank, even at this age.

The first days after Aldo died, Otis seemed lost. In fact, when I needed to try to move him from the field, I tried a few tricks to no avail. And then I called out

"Aldo! Aldo!" and he came down to me. Rather heartbreaking, but also a beautiful tribute to Aldo, for me. He knew the sound of Aldo's name,but not his own since I always relied on Aldo to do the shepherding of Otis.

But now when I call out,

"Otis!", his ears prick forward, and he looks towards the sound.

He is going to do just fine.

At the moment he is the resident Apiferian goofball, tall, skinny with a space between his teeth that reminds me of Kukla, Fran & Ollie puppet.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The runt gets a friend, and Apifera shares itself

I had someone come today to look at the piglets, as they would like to buy one for their small farm. I've grown very fond of the runt, who is the least flashy of the group, but his personality is very nice and I was really tickled the girls took a shine to him.

These were very well mannered little blonde sprites, their mother has taught them well. If you come to Apifera as a child and you love animals, it must be like getting loose in a cupcake factory. With each animal they saw, there was a request,

Can I go meet them?

Of course. How can we not?

It also gave me the chance to show them the proper fencing for a pig and discuss the commitment of owning one for its entire life, which I felt they were all ready for. So we trampled around on this beautiful morning, and met animals one by one. As usual, Birdie was quite the hit. What a little movie star she is, without the attitude. The girls knew how to hold their hands flat when petting noses and had a very good time. Stevie gave one kiss, Old Victor got some love, and Boone shared himself, but of course.

They were all set to leave, but wait, what's that?

Donkey brays. So off to the donkey paddock we went.

And then I mentioned the grumpy pig. Oops, okay, come on girls, let's go through Old Barn and see her, but don't worry, your little pig won't be this grumpy, I promise you.

That led too,

Can we see the piglets one more time?

Off we went, to hold the runt again.

On our way back to the car, of course we have to go hold Old Priscilla, the goose. She kindly shed a under feather for them.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Muddy and my Mother Ship ready for duty

Please take note: I will not be turning this site into The Post Menopausal Farmer on the Run blog.

Muddy is one of my cheer leaders. He is thrilled to walk, anywhere, anytime and turn around and do it all over again. When he looks back at me as we are walking, his look is a combination of pride, joy and sheer devotion-not only to me, but to the day, to the smells of the earth.

When I lived in Minneapolis, I walked over four miles a day, with my side kick, Louie Louie, the fox terrier. It was so easy to take my mid morning walk, put on one leash, hop in the car and drive 5 minutes to one of the lakes and walk. I never gained weight. If I did, I ate extra lean for a day and it was gone. Sigh. Ladies! Do you remember such days?

I realized this past year I've been mourning that body's chemistry too long, and it had me down. That led to feeling down about some other things, and it became a cycle of self loathing and doubt.

Another reason being with Muddy is good, he is never down, ever.

When I moved to the farm, I still walked, but it became less and less with all the other activities. It's funny how people say,

But you live on a farm, you must be in shape from that?

Yea, I am, in many ways. I'm still pretty strong and compared to many 57 year olds - or thrirty year olds- am in descent shape. I've spent so much time in the past eleven years putting the animals first, that some things have crept up on me and my vessel-my beloved body that has held my soul and spirit for my entire life. My Mother Ship has some cracks in it, as aging vessels due, a few leaks, but the structure appears intact. The casual maintenance it has been receiving needs to be adjusted.

I found this wonderful Naturopath licensed doctor and had my visit today. Her office is in a little cottage that sits next to a horse farm. It is not fancy at all, but very comfortable. I felt like I was walking into an episode of Marcus Welby, except everyone was a woman. I had the best doctor visit I've had in years. My last doctor visit was this spring and that doctor-even though she was of my age range-was totally unconcerned about the issues I brought up. We did a blood work, but she did a casual job picking the tests-mainly because she really wasn't listening, I was just another routine women of that age. I walked away feeling very depressed, like nobody really understood what I was trying to communicate about my body changes. So I didn't go back to her. And am so glad I didn't.

Don't worry! I will not be turning this blog into The Post Menopausal Farmer on the Run. I just was so relieved, almost emotional, as I drove away. An hour and half consultation and exam, with no feeling I was being pressured to rush, all questions were answered and there was actual conversation and detail about the issues at hand-as in medical facts, charts, etc. I like facts and science. So now I have a plan for some of the issues we addressed.

So Muddy will be thrilled. We need to increase our walks one way or another by 3x. He will adore me.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The neurotic shepherd is learning to let go

On Wednesday I was coming across the living room, heading out for my morning walk with Muddy. I heard a stampede coming from the upper hills where the sheep were, turned my head to look out the window and saw the flock racing in panic down the steep incline, and over two wood bridges.

What is going on, I wondered, and all within a second I saw the faces of each sheep in sheer terror, Otis the llama running with them towards Old Barn, and then...two stray dogs chasing them at manic high speed.

I ran outside and started screaming for Marcella-like she's my assistant or something. But I wanted to get her in that paddock to chase the dogs. As I got out I realized Martyn was still home and he was chasing and yelling at the dogs, who turned around and fled up into invisibility. The donkeys were in the barn, as is their custom in mid morning, and were no help at all, but I'm sure Matilda and Paco would have chased those dogs.

Meanwhile, Marcella sensed my panic, and didn't want to leave the barnyard, her barnyard, that she had protected for two years.

At that moment, I felt failure as a guard dog owner.

Marcella is not fearful, it is me. I'm afraid of losing her, afraid she'll run and get shot, afraid, afraid , afraid. I grew up with dogs in the house, as pets, this is my first working dog and first dog to live outside-since she was brought here at 10 weeks old. So before I go further-let's all give me a round of applause for not taking cute smooshy puppy into house.

The thing is, I've been having some physical issues. I am going to a naturpath tomorrow to get a handle on it, and yes, I've had my blood panels done and I don't think I'm dying. But, I realized something. It is not the physical work I do here that is at issue with my body.

My body is taking issue with my head and what is in it. I realized how overwhelming keeping everybody safe has become. In that regard, I'm a crappy farmer.

I can not keep them safe all the time, but I can't let it go as easily as it appears other farmers seem too. I can't fight Nature. For eleven years, I've put their safety first. I really have. I have done way more than the average farmer in this regard-because I have a small farm and can, and because I'm crazy enough to want to. I'm not saying I'm a better caretaker than anyone, far from it, but I possibly over think everything. I over feel everything. It's what makes me create and paint, so I can't really hate that part of me.

But it is Marcella that I have to let go of. I have to let her get out there. When she arrived, my flock-due to the season-was not easily available to raise her by their side. I knew this was the best way to bond her with the flock but I wanted her bonded to everything, and to be in and out of every pasture. Benedetto's arrival kind of put a chink in my beautiful master plan. If I didn't care about him, I'd say, fine, you are out in the fields too and if you run off, fine, that is how it is. But I can't do it. Benne hasn't had a runabout for months-but I have him in the goat barn at night. Would he run again? I don't know. You don't know. But I can't stand the idea of him doing it.

Yesterday I had a good experience and therapy session with Marcella. I took her into the paddocks where the sheep were. The donkeys were up in the high hills [where the sheep should be but aren't do to the scare of the dogs at large], and first we just hung out with the sheep. Then I took off for the high hills, with Marcella. I let her go anyway or where ever she wanted. I took a breath, and let it out.

"You're ready, I need to be ready, you've got this," I told her. And she left me and patrolled along the fence. I didn't watch where she went, and I walked about 3000 feet up to the Lupine area, the top of the property where the entire farm is visible.

I am not going to worry where she is, I thought.

It was about ten minutes I guess and I was thinking,

See, this is fine, everything is fine, she will be fine, but just as I thought that, without a sound or warning, there she was, right at my side. We've always said she was a shape shifter and she is.

We roamed around, and I watched to see how Matilda would react to her. The donkeys know the White Dogs, but they aren't in the same pastures. It all went fine. Perhaps if we had stayed some running would have ensued but nothing to be worried about.

We walked back down. I watched Marcella scoop under sheep fence with ease. I knew she could do this, which is good, it means she can get anywhere when she needs to. But it reminded me of the task at hand-she knows what she's doing, let her do it.

So this weekend, I think I will move the main flock to the lower fields, better fenced for stray dogs, and it allow me to put Marcella there and observe for awhile. Then I can do another fence in the upper hills to help keep strays out.

Old Daisy came down from the panicked run and was clearly worse off because of it. She did not eat her hay. I am thinking of pulling her and her eldest daughter, Lilly, out of the flock to be in the Misfit Village. It breaks my heart, but I don't want her going down in the higher hills.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A man who will work side by side with a pig

A good man is hard to find, but when you find one that will also work side by side with a pig, you definitely have a keeper.

Earnest was somewhat enamoured with Martyn's hammering as we worked last weekend getting the chicken yard extension completed.

The Great Chicken Relocation Project of 2015 is underway. I have all the hens back in the main coop, including the overzealous Bantie hens that refuse to give up on hatching eggs. The dominant rooster is Franklin and he rules the roost, but so far he is tolerating Uno, who is very submissive to Franklin and stays out of the way. But now I have the problem of Papa Roo, our eldest and original rooster.

I feel for Papa. I took his last remaining hen away-the foxy Bantie that has given us two surprise clutches in less than three months. Enough! I had to do it. But I have been unable to catch Papa, for a variety of reasons. One being he is very wary of Franklin, who ran him out of the main coop some months ago. After that, Papa took five hens and moved to the old barn. They stayed safe there for a long time, but I couldn't keep track of rogue egg layers. So now I have no idea where Papa has been roosting at night, or even in the day. We think it is near the house porch. I am trying to get him back to Old Barn at night, with food, so I can go out after dusk and nab him. It's very easy to grab a chicken at night. He is probably the hardest chicken I've ever had to catch, but that might explain why he somehow escaped a raccoon last week.

Francis will eventually kill him, there is no doubt in my mind. And while papa Roo is pretty old for a rooster and has had a long, good life, I guess he'd rather go out by another form of Nature, or naturally while sleeping. I feel loyal to Papa as he arrived first and has always been a gentleman to so many. So now that the extension is done, I am going to cover the other side of the coop yard with a chicken wire, so I can have Papa in there with one hen. I have a separate stairway that goes into the chick nursery, ample room for Papa and two hens. That way they can't fly out and I can find their eggs to prevent more chicks. Unless of course that clever Bantie finds a way to make her eggs invisible, which is possible.

I just hope I can capture him in time. And then of course, I will have more roosters from the hatch to deal with. I know there are two in the first group, and we will have to wait to see how many show up in the second younger clan.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

When those we love return

In which an old goat, and my father return to me out of thread and cloth.

I sat down recently to work on a new creature. I had it in my mind to make a llama doll in honor of Aldo. I worked for a couple of hours and it became very clear that Aldo was not with me that day, but someone else was. It was so good to see Old Man Guinnias again. Just like I imagine him at times, out for a morning walk in the cool air.

I also recognized that my father was with him too. Hence, he is attired in fine fabrics including a hodgepodge scarf made of fine linens-all from my parent's collection. Those yellow linen napkins were ones we used at many dinner celebrations since I was very young. I made a quilt out of some for my home, but now am using them as I feel the urge in other items.

I felt very calm working on my doll, I always do. And the creature that presented itself to me was the creature I needed to see. Perhaps my father too was saying,

"Hey, what about me, I'm here too, don't forget me."

This is something my father might think, whereas my mother would not. My father never really understood how much I loved him, how much I wanted him to be happy in his post retirement, and how much I admired his talent as an artist, draftsman, engineer and architect. I remember sitting on the couch with him, months before he would die, and we were talking about drawing. I told him he was such a good draftsman and could draw anything [which he could].

"Really, you think that?" he asked.

What in the world had I not said enough that he would still, at age eighty three, think I didn't believe that. i know I'd said it over and over. Perhaps he wasn't listening. Or, perhaps he was just as unsure of his abilities as I am sometimes. We had a good relationship, I'm so grateful for that. We had our complications like any father-daughter, but we had much in common which can sometimes conflict with peace.

The older I get, the more I understand the man. I talk to him all the time, but in a very simple way.

I'll be struggling with some of my own insecurities that might bring out a reaction in myself that I don't like, and I think of him and something he might have done or words he might have chosen under stress that were hurtful, and I just quietly say to him,

"I understand."

A friend once said that everyone is damaged, but some people are more damaged than others.

I thought that was a really powerful way to look at others, and ourselves. I am blessed to have had a good childhood, not with perfect parents, but ones who never scared me, belittled me or bullied me. I liked them. I got to have them around in my adult years too and that can add a lot of understanding to the child-parent dynamic. You think you have it all together at thirty? Get to forty. You think you really added some wisdom and grounding in your forties? Travel on into the fifties. My parents shared many lessons, thoughts, fears and stories as they grew into their eighties. I know for a fact, if I make it to eighty, I will think of them at times as I'm putting one foot in front of the other, and say,

"I understand."

Horse ballet

Monday, August 03, 2015

The upcoming show "Calling All Wings"

"Calling All Wings" opens Saturday, September 12th at Riversea Gallery in Astoria, OR.

I'm really excited about my upcoming solo show. I've been focusing on the paintings and still have some more to do, but I'm feeling good about it all. This piece is going to be the show announcement.

When I started working on the paintings, I had to keep a title in mind. I didn't have to wait long. Some time last winter I did a piece and the words "Calling All Wings" came to my mind, and kept repeating in my waking and sleeping state. I sensed the year, or years, ahead would require wings-to change, expand to new places, fly off, fly back, land on higher ground, and perhaps get away from predators. I sensed this for both me, the farm and even Martyn. It is a very strong calling, and sometimes if I think about it too much, it agitates me. But mostly, it excites me.

Change is part of every day. I can go outside and new chicks have been hatched, a lamb is born, or an old creature has died. Sometimes it isn't that dramatic–a tree is never the same from one hour to the next. The leaves are constantly changing color, size, crispness and underneath the roots are spreading or contracting. Everyday under that trunk is an expanse of change.

Sudden change is different of course. Sometimes we know it is coming-the death of a parent in hospice, the adult child about to become a mother, or the house that will sell someday once the sign goes up. It is the unknown sudden changes I sense coming.

This is not doom or gloom. Rather, I feel I'm entering my beginning crone state, having passed through maidenhood, and mothering. Unsettling changes are happening to my body, and I'm working on that with as much grace and humor as possible.I have slowly begun to create a new crone wardrobe.

But something lies in wait out there. I feel it happening from now to a year or two.

Such a mystery, eh?

But anyway, that is the meaning of the title of this show. So it is a very spiritual show for me, and one of mystery and intrigue too.

I'm also excited that for the first time in my show history I'll be exhibiting some of my hand made creatures.

I look back at the first dolls I made in about 2004. They were little raggedy messes. They are still raggedy, and messy but I like to think they have acquired some style and sophistication. I am now combining wood, cloth and clay. The electrical just got finished for the small kiln, so I hope to have some of those clay figures in the show. I'm working with ideas on how to pose them for the show and am having fun. They are very comforting to make.

"Calling All Wings" opens Saturday, September 12th at Riversea Gallery in Astoria, OR.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Florence, we celebrate your wonderful life!

I have stayed away from the mobs of anger on social media in the past week. Fight fire with flowers is written on the wall in front of me, so I have been quietly creating, not partaking online.

I figured if I present this story now, its likely nobody will read it. Oh another death at Apifera, can't read that right now. But they are missing out...on light. I do suppose people get weary of these stories of death here. I considered not sharing it. But like I've always said, this is a blog I started to first and foremost record my days here, and that includes death.

Florence was one of my three original Buff Orpingtons. I just love Buffs. Clara and Golda passed in the last year or so, but Florence continued on.

She had a perfect death.

About two months ago, Florence separated herself from the flock. Once in awhile I'd see her with Uno, low rooster on the totem pole, but usually she was alone. She was puffed up a lot, like chickens do when they are protecting an egg or chick. I began to worry she was egg bound but she continued on, and was eating and drinking. Every night, instead of returning to the main hut, she would go to Stevie's hut-gentle Stevie, the crippled goat that has been the safe harbor for so many creatures.

Within time, she was getting very light weight, moving less, and I knew she was checking out. So I put her in with Eleanor and the piglets. I have heard stories that a pig will eat a live chicken, but Eleanor was getting so much food that I felt it was safe and I've never had a pig eat a chicken [although I don't doubt the story, if a pig is really hungry, it will do such things]. One morning, she didn't get up, and when I urged her too, she had little balance.

So on Wednesday, I carried her into the hay barn. I knew she was dying. But she was still alert and responded to me each time I came in. I'd find her with her head tucked, looking pretty dead, but I'd say her name, tentatively,

"Florence, are you there?"

and she'd cluck, cluck...slowly.

It's been horribly hot again. I bathed her twice a day with cool water. Normally my chickens aren't crazy about this, but she seemed to really appreciate it, and when it's 104, it was a relief for her.

I got to spend a lot of time with her, holding her, and talking about her next journey. We talked about all the eggs she'd given us, and just how special she was, because she was the final Buff, and because she was Florence.

Each night I asked her if she was ready. Each morning she was still here. Until yesterday. She had died in the spot I'd left her, on the cool cement of the barn floor, in the shadows of the barn that must have been echoing the many familiar sounds she had known all her life.

And while the cyber mobs are fuming and spewing hate for mankind, they are missing out on this beautiful photo of Florence, bathed in the light of the barn that must have greeted her yesterday as she flew off. I'm just grateful my chicken, and Aldo, had a great life, and died in places of light, not hate.