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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Treasures from the child

The former owner had young children and one of my favorite things to discover here at our new farm are the reminders of their imagination.

The hand made bow just felt so...heartfelt. I imagined that child fighting off trolls or beasts in their woods, or make shift forts. I have hung it on one of our back doors to remind me that an imagination is a gift we are born with...don't let it go stiff.

The painted rock was found by Martyn and I use it as a paperweight.

I have a dream that someday, when I'm at my end, I will have a visitor. A young woman will present herself as the little girl who is now grown up, but she is just passing through her old town and wanted to see the house, since it looks like it hasn't changed much. She has her own children now. I will point her to a shelf in the room or a basket by the bed, and she will pick up each item, and maybe remember them. What it might jog in her memory I don't know. But I'm talking care of these items, for some reason.

A place in The Wood for us outsiders

Boone and I come out of The Wood surprising the donkeys
Boone and I have been out in the woods a couple times. Nobody ever walked the property line with us and all we have are overviews of the lots, which are helpful, and the stone walls that most properties have as defining lines. But it gets tricky when the land is mostly forests on the adjoining properties. I was told there were paths in the woods and am discovering them. Some are not on our land and I was told one property allows us to be on them, but I will venture to the town clerk to get names of owners to introduce myself to make sure. Using someone's land, even for a walk, or a ride, is a gift-it is not a permanent right. There seem to be some people that think they are allowed to do whatever they want in someone's forest because that is how it was done by their dads and their dads and so on. We ran into this in Yamhill. It is gentle dance, one I am not always very good at, to discuss such things with property neighbors and long standing locals when you, meaning me, are the 'outsider'.

In the meantime, I am focusing on the south side of our property because it is not as marshy and has more potential I think for trails for me and Boone. The marshy area is a fact, and it sort of makes a curved loop in the middle of the land so is unusable about 6 months of the year. But, I am making lemons out of lemonade, because Boone hates squishy terrain and it is good practice for him. He has some small streams to cross too and we are doing fine. He loves the trail rides, it is so obvious in his demeanor and I do too. Arena riding gets boring for me, unless you have goals of a show.

There is a small section of The Wood over by the current edge of the far pasture that I like. It is where I've been entering with Boone. Yesterday instead of a ride I went there and spent time clearing dead wood and just getting to know the place. There are adjoining properties on the way upper portion of our land that I am not really too comfortable with right now. As Neil Young wrote,

"When Edith and Earl
Renamed the Double E
They nearly made history
The neighbors rose up
And some of them were mad as hell
'cause it used to be the Double L

Change comes slow in the country
When you're new
There's a lot of distrust
Years pass by uneventful,
And memories turn to dust"

So yesterday as I worked on the forest, I spoke to it. I explained my intentions. I hope to leave our forest in better condition than when I arrived. Not that the former owners did anything wrong, they were good stewards and let their children learn and play in Nature, it is evident in so many ways. There is a difference in considering yourself a landowner versus a land steward. We won't be allowing hunting here either, which has some feathers ruffled. I have nothing against hunting or hunters, much of my family hunts. I just don't want  it here for safety. If we had 100 acres, that would be one thing, but we don't. My call. Another reason I'm sticking to certain parts of the forest, for now. I have an idea for this part of the wood I'm working on, making it a little sanctuary of healing for guests, making wood huts out of branches. I went to a place like that in Wisconsin years ago, that started as the project of mentally challenged boy, and continued every summer as he aged. My friend took me there, you had to know how to find it. She kept saying she was taking me some place really special, and when we arrived after walking some distance through the woods, I was just so touched.

I want that for my woods. A place for beings to feel touched and safe.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Am I still worthy for you if I'm not helping animals?

One thing I have been quietly pondering in my shift of the move is my worth and value not only to myself, but to the outside world, and my followers. I began to feel a couple years ago that if I decided to quit adopting old and crippled animals, that I would fall from the graces of many people who follow me.

There are some people who want me to be one thing-an animal 'rescuer'. I've never labeled myself that for many reasons, and I detest being called one. I have never gone on to someones property and taken an animal, nor have I reported anyone or worked with law enforcement on rescue missions. I simply decided animals were welcome on my farm, and the doors began opening, and roosters showed up, you know the story. I am simply open to helping animals, but also want to help people, something i find some animal activists forget-people need help too and too many activists are quick to judge and point fingers when they find a needy animal. It's why I won't work with rescues anymore, one of many reasons. I help as many needy animals as I can, but it is not my only mission in life.

I write about this today because I was thinking of all the former misfits from the old farm. I look back on the list and see how many I helped and how many I buried. I needed a break. But I had this poking in my gut, a voice,

Who will love you now, who will care about your posts if they aren't about the old animals? Go get another elder goat, hurry.

I have not brought on any new elders for some time, since we knew we were moving. And I felt a disconnect with some readers.

It's interesting how we can project our needs on to others. I've been guilty of it, and since being aware of that through my own self exploring over the years, I always attempt...ahem, attempt, I say.... to consider my motives when I find I am especially angry with someone online I don't even know, or the opposite-completely attracted to someone online I don't even know. It has always been more uncomfortable than flattering for me to get love letters from strangers about my work with animals. Most mean well, but I can tell they are seeing one part of me, not all of me. They are attracted to a part of me that fills a need for them. It's the danger of online relationship. Would they still love me if I decided to start...raising corn?

I know the people that know me in real life- some who have come into my life because of my animal work, or reading my blog and then we do become real friends- I know they see me as more than one dimensional.

I do plan to still help Misfits, and take more in. I have to admit I can't have the amount I had at the old Apifera. Not only is it very expensive, it is too much for me emotionally. I operated out of my own pocket, never getting donations of more than $2000 a year [and appreciating every penny] and at $500 a month to care for them-you do the math, I just can't do it. And i want to evolve Apifera here in Maine into a healing place, where I work with animals and people-that's always been my goal. People, so many of them, of us, need healing and love, and compassion and understanding. It's not just animals that need me, people need me too. I need me.

And somewhere out there, is a goat like dear Stevie. He'll find me, in time.

Woman walks llama to feel her feet

Moving is change and change puts anyone into a discomfort zone, which always leads to new experiences and growth. But it is disorienting to uproot oneself, especially when leaving one region for another different culture, vibes and terrain. I was feeling good about everything, then sort of had a "where the hell am I?" moment. I simply realized I had to get out and be with the earth and feel it, so

I decided to walk the llama. It made me realize I have many more coping skills than I did when I moved to the first Apifera in 2004 which was real culture shock having lived in the city for so long, and Yamhill is very different than Bremen in so many ways. Here it feels like a village, because it basically is. I imagine E.B. White's house was more contained like this, with gardens and a barn close to the house. {I plan to visit there sometime, it is a good day trip or two days, maybe I'll take Earnest.} Our view is flat, but there is great comfort in that. The picture of the daisy field is looking from the outskirt of The Wood towards the back of the house and where the new bra will be built.

So I am having times of disorientation, usually in the mornings. I seem to awake with memories of my old land, especially the vista from the front porch, looking out over the beautiful garden we created over the years, and up into the hills where the sheep and donkeys often were grazing. Do I miss that? Yes, I do, but I also have this place and I love it and we are new together and deep friendships take time to evolve. I just need some time for my body and head to come together again.

Walking a llama is a pretty nice way to feel the earth. The biggest change in our new farm from the old one is here we sit about 100 feet off a well travelled road. It quiets down to nothing around five. It's not unbearable at all, in fact, as we age it will be good to be closer to a main artery like this especially in winter, something we thought about as we looked at properties. And in time I might have a farm stand or book mobile with my donkey on certain days. Many people put up signs on the roads around here, taking advantage of the summer crowd-everything from antiques, gardens, art, bike repair, upholstery and more.

The front of the house is sweet, but we spend our time in the back, and then the land surrounds us and goes straight back for 30 acres. We have a fledgling garden. The former owner planted peonies and I love them, always have. They remind me of my mother who loved them. I was happy that there are some double ones in front, the ones in the photo are singles but beautiful too. I thought about our garden in Yamhill, how we arrived to nothing except old lilacs [which I loved] and we built that garden and created the rock area...it all took time. We sat and talked about our garden plans here. It will grow and develop and give us pride as our last garden did. This is the first year I won't have a vegetable garden -since we are newly here and have so many things to do first, like the barn-but it's killing me not to have one. I did plant pumpkins and sunflowers, and we have garlic that we are loving in soups, and the fruit trees.

I am more patient with this house, as patient as a normally impatient dreamer can be. But I'm learning things about myself-like when I feel agitated I know I have ways to cope-by walking my llama.

Friday, June 24, 2016

New work..The Wood is certainly calling

I have done three pieces this week, my first here in Maine. The wood, or forest really, is a strong pull for me right now. I doubt it will go away, that pull. Of our 30 acres, about 25 is in forest, maybe less. Supposedly there are paths, more like old car
roads, in the center somewhere. I have not found them. Today I ventured out to make trails, hoping that eventually me and Boone will ride there.

I had to stop because I got too far in and Martyn had followed me. I was following the field stone property line [all the property lines are field stone walls, very common here]. I knew I could get a bit confused but I just kept feeling a voice,

Come this way, it's over here...

But I turned back when I heard Martyn who had followed me, out of worry. I will not go in alone again without my phone, and we will mark our trails. I guess it was foolish, but I hadn't planned to go that far, I was enticed to keep going.

I will tell you something. The wood itself is comforting - I do not feel any danger or evil in it, at least at this point of my relationship with Her. But I do sense something about some of the properties on the outskirts. We had a discussion with one of these people on our first week here, by chance at a local store, and it made us very uncomfortable. I won't go into it here and I think it will be okay in time. But that was not the property that spooked me today, in fact that property is way on the other end, a long ways off really. There is another place that of late has made me feel edgy-a place to avoid, and probably just ignore, but as I was in the woods, I did feel I was okay in amongst the trees as long as I didn't head close to that property.

All of these pieces are on the shop. I will have them at the Thursday 6/30 art walk unless they should sell.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Itty bitty love story

I have been feverishly working on a little love story, an itty bitty love story of huge proportions in my heart. I hope to have it complete this coming month ad we shall see where it goes after that. For those of you that follow along, you will recognize the lead character, and you will understand why it is a love story, and perhaps you will even understand the mission I am on to complete it. Stay tuned

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Emerging Crones workshop is set for September!

So very excited to announce that the Emerging Crone workshop is now set for Saturday, September 17, 2016 here at Apifera Farm in Bremen, Maine. We will work in the current barn, with stalls of Misfits around us, sewing dolls, sharing crone wisdom, learning from one another, healing each other, guiding out stories lurking in us-or just listening.

The idea for this workshop has been long in the making, and when I had my painting workshop a summer ago at the old Apifera in Oregon, one thing we all realized was the love and story that comes out of gathering together at a table and working with our hands, and sewing is a wonderful way to do that-our foremothers knew this, of course.

Read all about it and register at the workshop blog. There is an Early Crone registration until July 15, and then you pay the regular price after that.

The emergence of the old goat lady

Sophie continues to let me know she is ready for relationship with me. When I first brought Sophie to the farm in Oregon, along with the very crippled and deformed Old Victor, she was shy and preferred to hide behind Victor, or stay out of the mix altogether. She let Victor do the bonding with people. And anyone that knew sweet Victor knew he was very good at sharing himself, especially with that amazing smile. We lost Victor last year to a natural death and he is buried in the former Apifera Pumpkin Patch of Old Souls back west. Before we left, Marcella dug up his grave and brought out some of his clean white bones, displaying them in a tiny row for me to admire. Years ago this probably would have upset me, but Marcella can not be held back, even from the fence that surrounded the cemetery-she smelled dead and went for it. There was some intrigue for me, I have to admit, to pick up his ribs and see if I could somehow put them back together.

But back to Sophie.

After Victor died, I knew Sophie would either blossom, or fade. I've seen it over and over after a mate is lost-in both animals and people. I had only had her I think less than a year, so I thought she might just fade. I had worked hard to get weight on both of them but after such long neglect it proved to be difficult. Sophie slowly became more personable with me, and started venturing out more on her own. She has never buddied up with any of the other goats, probably to protect herself from being knocked over. She has a genetic condition that makes her hind end crippled but still gets around fine. What I found was that it was on our journey East that Sophie seemed to really step outside of her shy self. Perhaps it was the tight quarters, but she just seemed...to expand a bit. I found that Sir Tripod Goat also expanded with Birdie the llama, and this was very pleasing since he was such a loner, only really interacting with me in the past months.

But every day, Sophie seems to look to me, not just for food, but for some scratching' and a time where she can be with me in a corner, leaning her body in to me. I've had other experiences where this change in temperament can be a good-bye, Wild Iris was an example of that. But I don't sense that with Sophie. I think she just knows, for sure now, that I am an ally.

I hope she continues on for some years, but she is going on nine, which isn't horribly old, but considering her years of living without proper food management, it probably took a toll on her body.

I shall let her lean into me until her time comes.

{If you like the work I continue to do with elder Misfits, consider a subscription or donation to help.}

Friday, June 17, 2016

Finally, it's me and Boone again

I haven't worked or been on Boone since May 3rd due to the move and today I made time to drive over and pay for some arena time where Boone and the donkeys had boarded last month while we made our way to Maine. It's a full dressage arena and is pretty nice and I had the place all to myself. I hope to find a closer arena to ride in, and one a bit closer to my raggedy budget! But, it was worth it and I had to get back on him and wanted a safe environment to do our first ride in, and its the only place I know.

I could tell by his body language that Boone was really happy. That made me happy. I wasn't sure if he would be a bit full of himself but as I learned through the past year's experience, riding your horse, consistently, is the best thing you can do for him and you. All the round pen work is fine, the videos of ground basis, but you have to get in the saddle and ride and ride. It pays off after a layover to have had those hours together to get back in stride. I apologized to him too, because I haven't kept up on grooming these past weeks and his tail is wind blown and needs some work. It was so nice being all alone,but together, grooming him in silence.

Except for the fact his feet are long and I need to find a new farrier here, all was well on our ride.

But the main thing I took away from my outing with Boone, is that he was happy to be with me, and ride together. He did everything I asked of him today and when I talked to him he kept his ears in his happy-to-be-with-you position. Boone will provide me with a link to normalcy after the upheaval of the move. We are in a different state, and region and know hardly anyone, but we are still me and Boone.

And it is also another feather in my hat to get back to my normal routines. Obviously it will take time to get all we need to get done here to a point where we feel settled, but each time I do something I love, something I did consistently in my Oregon life, it makes me more rooted here, and more sea worthy on the road.

As I drove home, an idea for a book came to me. It will resonate with all ages but be in a children's book format with images and fewer words. It will be a very therapeutic one for me, and I felt really strongly it would be a good way to get back to the art table.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The house that glows

From the first time I saw our Maine house in the online photos, I felt quiet, and warm, and accepted. This house is a welcoming house, it is not boisterous. It is calmer than I am at any given time. At certain times of day, it has a glow. It has stood since 1776 and has weathered storms of both nature and man. But somehow through all that it has remained calm.

At least, that is how I resonate with her, and I know that the few people who have had the good favor to come inside have said this too. Even when we walked into her empty, she was that mother we all cherish and want and need no matter how old or bold we are.

Today I put up some art. It pleased me and I realized it also made me feel more sturdy on my feet. I had planned to do some art today, but I am a nester, and I need to prep my nest, not only for the animals, but for my husband, and me. I like the house so much that I wasn't really rushing to decorate, or unpack boxes. I plan to paint the front room - not seen here- as it is a New England red on the wood work, that I like, but I don't like red next to green. I want my greens, my olive tones, all around me. It will be cool in summer and warm in winter. Since I plan to paint that front room, I haven't completely unpacked the book boxes, and I got lazy thinking I'd wait to hang art until the painting is done. This is the first house I've lived in where I didn't feel like I had to repaint everything. The buff walls are dirty and worn, and should be painted in time I guess, but I kind of like them that way.

The bottom photo is the view from our bed, an intimate glimpse, I know, but it is so pleasing to me. I have trees out both windows and you can hear the wind and birds. The small room seen at the top photo is a sweet center room of the house, with a small dining table. We found an old table for $45 yesterday and when we got home we gathered the four old chairs we had brought with us-chairs that came from Martyn's childhood and his mother had purchased from antique stores. Martyn came to me later and said he had had a moment with the dining room, because

"...it was like the chairs had been waiting all these years to live here."

We sit in the front room at night and can look into this room, and the fire. I truly love it.

As I put up the art today and brought out old favorite items, I felt really calm, and quiet...and...I felt just like me. I am feeling like me.

I shall paint soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

That damn patience thing...and the llama smiles

Our barn set up is very different than the old Apifera. There are things I like about it much better-like having everyone congregated to greet me. And there are things I miss about the old layout-but that will change because we are building another barn which will create more space in other fields too and make the current paddocks less crowded. Right now The White Dogs can't run and it kills me, but they seem pretty happy and are guarding their Misfits.

I think I wrote recently patience is a virtue but one I often lack but as I 'mature' I find I'm getting more patient....usually...kind of...depending on the day and weather conditions. I am excited to be able to have the current Misfits out in the bigger paddock by the current barn-the one you see the donkeys in the photo below- because right now the Misfits are in two really big stalls with turn out. I hope to add some fill in low spots so they can have a mound to climb on. They like mounds.

Fear not-they are just fine and have ample roaming room. But I want them to be able to have more space and grass and some climbing mounds like they had before.

The plan is that once the new barn is built-hopefully by late summer-the donkeys and Boone will have stalls there with turnouts to the fields we are busy fencing. Then, the current barn will be more of a Misfit barn. I will have my workshops in the current barn and it provides perfect access to the animals. The new barn will store hay and equipment and will sit out in the field with its own road. During events, I envision that road becoming the entrance to Apifera.

It's beginning to be drawn in my head-and of course it will evolve as thing gets done and I can see it all.

As usual we are putting lots of time and savings into the farm. I underestimated the fencing we'd need, but its okay, we'll figure it out. The good news is it is very flat. The bad news is there are some marshy spots we hope to work on over time.

I'm also rethinking who we are as a farm. I miss my sheep. And the relationship of being on a small farm connected to both life, and death, and the cycle of birth to death, is significant to me and I would like to continue that. Mobile harvest units are non existent here. I have been talking to a lot of farmers about it. I made a vow not to haul my animals anywhere if we chose to raise a small amount of meat. I am sticking to that right now.

I still envision my life here to be about healing through story, art, workshops-but always connected to animals and Nature. I am excited to get in the thick of all that. But....patience. Damn patience.

So, the barn site will be prepped next week I think. We were disappointed we couldn't hire this great barn company, run by women I might add, who build post and beam barns. We just couldn't afford it so are doing a pole building, but will skin it in old wood so it will tie into the farm here. Martyn and I will be putting up the siding and all interior work, and helping with site prep. The roof will be done by a roofer. And we will have to put in a road there, no small cost. It will all be worth it when I see people driving up to have pie with me and Pino some day.

Want to help? Buy art at the shop or at Sundance. I am the sole income earner right now, perhaps through the year. I appreciate everyone who buys my books and art! Thank you!

Apifera is evolving yet again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hits you like the wind

I am a bit off kilter. I know this is a phase. I went through this in Oregon when I moved to the former Apifera from the city. It was jolting. It took me months, even a couple years to find my real voice. I don't think this transition is the same, as I am used to country life, farm, isolation etc and I've been writing a long time and painting and have my inner gig. But, my creative voice is a bit out of sync. I went to sit at my drawing table and my chair is too low so I sit on a bunch of moving pads for now. I left my old ergonomic chair in the old studio. Why? I don't know. I think the final weeks at the old farm were so hard in my heart that I was trying to get out as fast as I could without breaking down, coupled with the limited space in the moving van and I was leaving things behind, I had to, but why that chair- who knows, I did my best. And now, after the excitement and thrill and love of the new farm I have time to reflect on what I left. I underestimated how much I would miss...well, the dead bodies buried there. Sounds odd, I suppose.

But I was wrapped in them, all the creatures I cared for or hospiced, help die, watch die, or found dead. Yes there are spirits and energy that live on but knowing their bodies were all there like a big misfit family, I guess, meant more to me than I knew. On the other hand, it was holding me down.

As I was unpacking stuff I found so many momentos of old friends-Stevie the Kissing Goat, Aldo the Elder, Lofa, so many more, Guinnias, Floyd...Giacomo to name a few. I realized I had pushed that out of me, those goodbyes. I thought I'd said good bye, but I haven't. I suppose maybe they will come to me here in different ways, or in art. You don't need to tell me there will be new animals, and story, and life and death. I know this.

But, I realized that all the wind we’ve been having, really strong wind and it comes off the ocean and it's been gong all night and day-it is very comforting to me–it is a message to stand in that wind, and just get blown up a bit, tossel the raggedy hair clumps even more, let go but acknowledge-it is grieiving I guess. This painting was about wind, with Doris and June, two pigs I left behind with the new owners. I also need to make art again, and...sell it. Perhaps garish to put it at the end of a poignant post, but selling a painting is an acknowledgement for me, and it helps one's creativity pop, and checkbook.

I wondered though, how would I paint the wind today. I might attempt it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Interrupting your news feed for peace

The view from my new studio window, my peace spot

Many people on social media are swept up into the angst of the shooting in Orlando. It is of course a serious, heartbreaking situation that deserves careful thought, and maybe in another Congress's lifetime, action. I heard one blogger, who for the record I have little enthusiasm or respect for, state that what bothered her more than the issues of gun laws and shootings, were the people who were not talking about it online. She inferred they were the scary ones. I thought this a very poorly thought out statement, and perhaps the motive was to gather a response from her readers.

You don't have to talk about it online, or with others, at this moment, to be caring, or concerned. In fact, I think reflection inward before speaking is a skill in and of itself, one that many are not taught, or were never taught. That instant feeling of hitting a comment post button to strangers seems mightier than the internal wisdom that percolates when we settle down, breathe, and think on our own first. I have also see a few thoughtful conversations about it -perhaps that is in the minority-but I saw that too.

I'm not perfect at it always standing back. But, I am blessed to recognize, for me and my makeup, the importance of returning, always, to Nature–the importance not only to my health, but to my ability to try to learn something in the face of a tragedy, one that has opened so many wounds on many levels.

My week has been free of such trauma. In times like these, I just seek the light of the creatures, try out the old oven for that first pie in Maine, and while I'm thinking of the hurt families and loved ones I do feel pain. But perhaps while bathing in the light around the donkeys, it is a safe place to learn something. Maybe there is something in that silence I can share somewhere that might soothe one tired heart. I don't know.

Piglets in a row, a llama smiles, a moment of smiles in the heat of the world

The first pie is baked at Apifera's new home

Cornelia the big sister makes me happy

My first raggedy creation-a fence for sunflower birthing

The light of the donkeys and Boone-can I share that somehow in art?

Hughie suffers

Hughie fell prey to vertebrae disk inflammation and we made a visit for the first time in Maine to a vet. I had been through this with the Old One Eyed Pug back in Oregon but he was much older. Hugh is going to be ten and Pugs are prone to this disease as are certain breeds of dogs, often the small ones.

It is so sad to see a sad Pug. Something about their faces just exhibit sheer pain and gloom when they are under the weather. As someone who suffered the greatest pain in my life last year with a sprained back, I know what these ruptures can feel like. The poor fellow cries out in the morning when he is picked up or has to get up so he can be carried down the step. By mid morning after his meds he is doing better. He is on bed rest, for 4-6 weeks, that is really the main thing that is needed. The anti inflamatories and muscle relaxers will help manage his suffering. If it continues with morning crying, I will revisit the vet. She did not want to use steroids, and I know the last pug had a real problem with them. But if he is suffering, we shall see. At least he is getting relief.

Moving to a new state, with this many animals, is always unsettling when you need a vet, especially if someone is suffering. The vet was fine, although it made me miss all my vets I had in Oregon, only because they knew me so well. I am sure in time it will be like that here, I hope.

I guess it comes do to trust, trust in new people, doctors, friends, contractors and service people. You don't really know who to listen to and like a dog, you have to sniff people out, then decide who to trust. It is all part of the discombobulation of a big move...in time, you put the pieces back together of your own infrastructure and things smooth out.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Every Troll yearns to accessorize

As mentioned in a previous post, with a move comes self exploration and a jolt of inspiration to make changes in one's life. When The Head Troll went to town last week, that was a surprise in and of itself to many of you, I'm sure. But I can understand what is going on here.

For twelve years, she was on top of every detail in the old barnyard-presidential elections, deaths and births, world and farm events, Halloween traditions in the pumpkin patch, Christmas Garland extravaganzas...and let's not forget her attempt to have a Summer Stock play.

But I think the move opened something up in The Head Troll, a space just for her. Just as a friend of Apifera noticed that our new Apifera seems 'softer', perhaps too The Head Troll has softened somewhat. While never a bully, she certainly had a head mistress-no nonsense personality.

So when The Head Troll came back from her village outing with a hand bag clutch, embroidered with her initials, I didn't question it. Nobody in the barn snickered either. Like seeing an old school marm dressed up out on the town, I suppose seeing her with a feminine handbag could have brought teasing amongst the Misfits. But it didn't. I think they too accept that she is seeking out somethings in her life that might have been missing....like accessories.

I'm dying to sneak a peak inside her handbag, but that would be wrong on so many levels.

{You can read all the many Head Troll stories going way back to her arrival}

Friday, June 10, 2016

Jumping in the deep end

When I was five years old we lived on Goodrich Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota, right off Grand amongst the large homes of yesteryear. The neighbor had a pool, and they were my buddies. My mom never learned to swim and she hired Buzzy the 18 year old to teach me. I can remember the first day, I loved the appeal of the pool water, but was afraid to get in. Buzzy was very patient, he tried everything to give me courage to jump in. I remember it went on–him encouraging me, me balking.

Finally, he grabbed me and jumped in with me. And then, he couldn't stop me from jumping in over and over on my own. I was a fish ever since.

Making a huge move and change of life is just like that-jumping in with out anyone to catch you but with an inner excitement that you will swim and make it to the other side.

And if you do, you will surprise yourself. You will go from a new oven to one Paul Revere's mother used and you will find bread still can be baked.

I have people tell me this has to be my next book-the move-and I am pondering it. After all we left a place we loved and were emotionally vested in, but it wasn't like we were miserable. We weren't that young either. We spent a lot of savings to do it to haul animals and that is always unsettling for anyone, especially freelancers of sporadic income. Martyn left a 25 year list of paying clients that he will have to totally rebuild. And we continue to have to spend money to get the barn done and purchase furniture and supplies since we left almost all our household items due to the size of the house and the cost of the move [...this is not a preamble for a GoFund campaign...we made our own choices.}

I did leave all my wind chimes. Why did I do that, I wonder? I'm not sure I was thinking straight the last couple days of packing, I was just trying to get through it without having an emotional crack up, I think. I find some things I packed and feel it was simply a way to get me here-by packing it it felt like things, life preservers, were on board. But some, not all, but some have no meaning here.

Not everyone can move down the street, let alone across the country to a place they never saw. Sometimes it is financial, sometimes it is commitments to parents or children that keep one land locked. Sometimes it is fear, or laziness. And some people don't need or want to move. I'm not sure what the focus of this supposed new book people say I should write is. Is the theme about jumping into the deep end or the insanity of driving 5 days with 28 animals in a trailer and sleeping in stalls every night? I think the people are tired of women moving to farm stories, especially since most of the women in those books aren't really farmers. I'm not sure they are interested in my journey from coast to coast where nothing really went wrong. I can just hear some editor,

But nothing happened. Nobody escaped on the trip, nobody died, everything worked out. Where is the 'arc'? Where is the drama?

I think the best response is, I'm in the arc, man. I'm riding it. The trip out was chapter two. The arc is developing. The wood out back is full of arcs. That mouse has something to say, I think. I don't now. I didn't move across the country to write a book, but there is a book somewhere in all this.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The shepherdess in me is verklempt

I was so happy, and emotional, when I opened my copies of the new issue of the beautiful magazine, Wild Hope, to which I contributed an article with photos about some environmental work we did at the old Apifera in Oregon. They arrived yesterday and I sat in the car and cried a little bit.

I'm happy. No buyer's remorse. Let's get that straight.

But when I saw my old farm, Old Barn, my sheep my old land, Marcella running free which she can't do here yet, and the late but great Aldo the Elder, my throat swelled and so did my heart.

I encourage you to visit their site and buy a copy. The magazine's mission is to educate and inspire everyday people to look at their own relationships with the environment, and contribute what they can to making a better world for nature, in small ways or big. It is designed by the talented Jane Palacek who I always wanted to work with in my young days as an illustrator and never had the chance, so I was thrilled to get it. Thank you too to editor Kathryn Arnold for this opportunity to write about something I cared so much about, and still do.

The article discusses how we maintained a flock of sheep and other animals while we still designated a small portion of our land to help the wild lupine reseed which in turn would help repopulate the endangered Fender's blue butterfly. I'm pleased we have lupine here and lots of wildlife so i hope to tap into what I can here to help Nature.

In the past week as we settle-and there is still a lot of that to do-I have been analyzing if I want to get some sheep again. I'm leaning towards yes. We have land here that is a bit marshy in spots and would be fine for ruminants. I underestimated how much shepherding had entered my blood. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Diary of a pig: June 3

In which Earnest the pig continues to write in his musings in his journal

June 3, 2016 Maine

I live much as I did, wallowing in dust after mad baths, waiting for a breeze to blow off flies and in the inner peace that I am always fed and watered.

The children are growing. They are right in the paddock beside me, with their mother and the tall elegant white lady who smiles a lot. I like her, she is somewhat odd in her movements but much like a giraffe I saw on National Geographic when someone copped that old TV out of the old barn. That was a great night for all of us.

We had rain yesterday, a torrent really, unheard of back at our old homestead. It left the paddock nearby flooded, but I slept through most of it. The rain here comes through the summer I'm told. This will be a treat.

As usual I think about love making some, with Eleanor right next door. We are set up nicely though, we are the right height to visit with noses and eyes and heads. But they secured it so I can't get to her. This is both comforting and exhausting. We don't need more children right now, they are the consequence of seconds of my release. But it's nice knowing she is there. Living amongst other species is fine, but as a pig, I feel at one with another pig.

It might appear nothing much happens in my journal. But I have yet to uncover percolations that were brought to the surface, briefly, as we travelled. And there are different sounds here, from the wood.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

She said it feels like a softer Apifera

Someone I consider a friend to both me and my work and all things Apifera, who has been to the old farm many times, made a succinct comment after I posted photos of our new Maine property. She said,

It feels softer.

This really resonated with me and how I feel things unfolding here. I knew there were many lessons to our move and that I would also come to understand many deeper reasons than I can even understand right now as to why I felt propelled to uproot ourselves and our animals from a place we loved to move across the country. And one of the reasons is just what my friend said,

It is softer here.

Not only is the landscape smoother - I mean smoother in how it makes me feel- it has me acting more smoothly.

Perhaps, I thought as I was doing the usual feedings and chores this week, it is simply that I'm becoming slightly smoother as I age. But it is more than that. I clearly needed a change, a big change, not only to my environment, climate, and address but also to the extremeness of my daily life. The weather in Oregon had become to feel extreme to me as had some of my animal duties. I felt disconnected to people in  a community sense. I felt unrooted to the community. I feel more connected here, as I did in Minneapolis, even though I've been here less than a month. {This is not to say I don't love the friends I left behind, please understand that if you are one of them.}

As we live amongst boxes, rooms that need to be painted, and areas of the house that seek my attention for simple needs-such as a real waste basket in the bathroom instead of a paper bag, I have noticed that I am being remarkably patient [for me]. Patience is not my strong suit. But it is something I am leaning into lately. I learned so much from the near debacle of almost leaving my beloved farm and sheep in the hands of the wrong person-all because I got my wires inside crossed, propelled by my desire to get to Maine fast-that experience is like a canvas I have hung in my memory to remind me to slow down a bit...and listen not only to me, but to muses, elders, guides and earth.

I am here for many reasons. Some of those reasons I know. Others will become clearer as we evolve here, and Apifera herself evolves.

But I do think Apifera is softer. She needed to be to move on to her next chapter.

Friday, June 03, 2016

The flowering of The Head Troll

{Post Script: As some have asked, yes, she arrived home, before dusk as she said she would. However, she came back clutching onto a small handbag, with a shell handle.}

It is not my place to decide how any of The Misfits will evolve in there new environment. Just as I know my life will be stimulated in my new farm, creating new opportunities for expansion, why would it not be the same for the creatures that find themselves in Maine?

The Head Troll is aging, as am I. I sensed even back in Oregon her duties were beginning to feel heavy for her. She spent more time in Boone's pasture, especially after Marcella clearly became the guard of the main barnyard. I didn't feel sadness from her, more of a relief–like an old teacher who decided to go to a part time schedule.

So when I found this note tacked to the barn door this morning, in some ways I was not surprised. In fact, I felt happy for her. Nor does it surprise me she has ventured out to the village on her own, unafraid, to see what ever it is she has in mind-lunch perhaps? As someone who rarely, if ever, went out to lunch at our old farm, I can say Martyn and I enjoyed the luxury of eating out when we first got here two weeks ago. It felt like we were in Italy or Paris being waited on with no dishes to do. We can't afford to eat out much, but we hope to every so often here due to [hopefully] changed financial loads.

So The Head Troll is in town, somewhere. She is smart, I don't fear for her, people are sensible here and i suspect by day's end, there might even be a committee formed by resident village shopkeepers to put up a "WARNING SLOW DOWN TROLL CROSSSING" sign.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

In which I meet Mrs. Mercy Studley

Yesterday while feeding, I came upon a beautiful little mouse in the pig food can, as I had left the top slightly ajar.

"Hello!" I said.

"Oh, hello, I figure you might come as I heard the animals rustling. I am Mrs. Mercy Studley," the mouse said.

I felt the hairs lift on my neck. You see, just the other night I had been reading the history of Bremen, our town here, and Mrs. Mercy Studley was one of the early inhabitants of a nearby village and at the time our house was newly built in 1760 era, Mrs. Mercy Studley was already 106.

"There was a woman from way back with your name, in a nearby village," I said.

"Yes," the mouse said.

"Did you perhaps know her?" I asked.

"Oh yes. She is me, or I am her. It is I."

{to be continued...}