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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tribute to Jo Ann, my mentor, my friend

Jo Anne in the lead, Boone and I in the rear. A view I miss.
When I saw the number come up on my phone screen, from my old home of Oregon, I instinctively knew what it meant. I was doing chores in the barn, and reception wasn't good, so I hesitated to answer, and I didn't. I didn't want to hear it. I knew she was dead.

Returning to the house, I returned the call. It was a woman who was one of my riding buddies, telling me that our friend and riding compadré, Jo Anne, had died. She was 85.

When I left Oregon last May, the one person I knew I'd never see again, without doubt, was Joanne. In fact when we knew we were moving to Maine, knowing I'd be leaving her and her barn and all it meant to me was one of the hardest strings to cut for me.

When I bought Boone, I didn't have a trailer. Boone was a well seasoned cow horse, age ten, when I bought him. He was pretty bomb proof, as they say. But like most horses that want a good leader, he tested me. Before Boone, I had a green mare that was way over my head, and I sold her to my farrier before she killed me. Boone was the opposite in personality in every way, non flashy, a bit lazy, sort of a big old dog. But with my history of the first mare, I was a bit shaky on the trail, alone with Boone. A friend suggested I go to Jo Anne's and take some lessons. I decided to invest in a small, cheap trailer to haul Boone the 4 miles to Jo Anne's. It was one of the best decisions of my life, and Boone's.

Jo Anne was already 80 or so when I met her. She'd been a horsewoman her entire life and at one point had about 30 horses boarding in her barn. Her property had hundreds of acres with beautiful wooded trails, and a spot way up high where we could ride and see Mt. Hood. Well, I brought Boone over and began taking some dressage lessons with a teacher. If you had told me I'd be taking dressage with any horse, let alone a retired cow pony, I'd have laughed. But the lessons helped me and Boone so much.

But more importantly, it was my rides with Joanne on the trail that helped me get my confidence back, and helped me and Boone leap into a healthy and strong relationship of trust. One of Boone's issues was squishy, deep mud. It is understandable as years before I had him, he was on the trail and he and his rider got caught in quick sand like mud, and it was up to his saddle bags. The first time I took him out on my own, he would squeal and get anxious if he heard any seeking sound below him, even rearing when I first got him. Of course I got off, and he realized I wasn't much of a leader in squishy circumstances, and why should he endanger his life if I'm not going to lead him out of that.

So Joanne and I would would go to muddy places, not hard to find in Oregon. When I first started riding with her, we'd get a good laugh out of Boone's squeals in mud. In time, they grew less, and soon enough, he never squealed. The first day I went out on my own on the trail was a real big deal for him and me, and Jo Anne was so happy when we made strides like that.

But three months into riding with her, Jo fell. She was a tiny thing and had had so many broken bones and accidents, but was just the biggest come back artist around! She'd tell me these stories of her youth, galloping bareback and falling and hitting her head, "Oh just a little concussion," she'd say. Well, this time, she broke a bone in her leg, so she was sent to the hospital. I was so upset when I found out, because my mom always said when an elder person breaks a bone and goes to he hospital, sometimes they don't come out. Selfishly, I didn't want to lose her yet! Her daughter, who lived in the same house, called to tell me Jo was going to be okay, but that she was worried about me, 'her protege'. I thought that was so nice, I was her little protegé.

Well, eventually, Jo Anne was back in the barn, and in time, she was riding with us all again. We would ride and she would tell me wonderful stories about her kids growing up, and all the over night camping they'd do on the property with the horses, chasing down wandering cows, or losing track of some girl scout from an outing they would be having. In spring, we looked forward to the beautiful woodland flowers, and the dogwood trees that sprinkled her property. Sometimes as I rode I'd look around at where I was, and pinch myself, it was so beautiful and I was so fortunate to be able to ride there. I had a favorite spot up top of her place, where there was this sweet old apple tree, and Boone and I would canter all the way up, and then enjoy the apples together, while looking out at the mountains.I'd tell Jo Anne that people paid lots of money to take trips like that, and I got to ride there. I knew every ride what a gift that was. I know I told her that more than once.

About a year into knowing Jo Anne, my elderly mother, who was basically very healthy and independent at age 87, began to have some health issues. She lived alone, near my brother, played golf, drove, and had the usual issues of age, but nothing that made us think her time was near. In fact we had just come back from her 87th birthday in January and now it was late March. She was having trouble breathing, and went into the hospital just to make sure. I had been telling Jo Anne all about it as we would get our horses ready to ride, and I was planning to drive down to California to be with her. That was a Wednesday. On Thursday, she died. I cried a river, and more, but then I decided I would keep my standing riding date with Joanne-my mom wouldn't want me crying alone, and horse therapy is some of the best. So Joanne was the first person who knew my mom died.

I remember thinking that maybe we were meant to meet each other in the exact time frame the universe gave us-I could help a little in the barn when she was down that first year, and then a year later, she was there for me when my mother died. Having Joanne as a friend at the time was so meaningful-of course in some ways you could say she was a mother figure, but she was more than that, she was a friend. I never felt a judgmental word from her, and she always had encouraging things to say if something was going wrong in my life, or with Boone.

A few days after my mom died, she handed me a piece of paper, with a poem she had found. She had written in down in her petite hand writing. She said it reminded her of me and how I always felt my parents were in the wind and birds, and that was how I conversed with them. I am going to make a copy of it and send it to Jo's daughter.

I remember the last time I saw her. We had had our last ride, and we agreed to not say goodbyes. I probably acted like I was just cheery and excited, but inside, I could have just wept like a baby at leaving. She gave me a Saint Francis medal to put in my truck for a safe journey. I still have it in my truck. I gave her a donkey doll, which was clothed in some of my mother's sweaters and quilt pieces.

When I heard she had died, I was so sad. She had been hit by a car in December as she was leaving the doctor, and then at some point in February she fell at home and went into a coma which sent her back to the hospital. She was brought home and died soon after, in her house, I imagine with little Oliver, her elderly Corgi by her side. Oddly, all that week she must have been in a coma, I had her on my mind. We had written each other, and spoken in the past months, but I had been playing phone tag with her since December. I had no idea she had the accident. So all last week, I kept thinking, I have to call her, today. I think she must have been passing through to say goodbye.

I told Boone the next day that Jo Anne was gone. I thought of Jo's horse, Boone's buddy, Tong. They were funny together. Tong will be cared for, as will little Ollie.

It is always a mixed bag of thoughts when an old friend dies. It brings up thoughts of our own destinies here on this realm, wondering how we will exit the party of earth, and will it be painless, or quick-will our animals and loved ones be okay. I know Jo Anne was a devout Catholic, and though she never preached, nor did she ever scoff or question my spiritual beliefs, I do know she was in her realm after she died. I just know it and believe it, and know there was a horse there. She and I talked about death quite a bit, since neither of us were strangers to it. I know she told me if she couldn't go to the barn, she would want it to be over.

It's just hard to think of her as not being there, walking to the barn with her little corgi, and I can still hear her greeting me, as I bushed my horse, "Hello! Hello Boone, do you need a carrot?"

Ride on Jo Anne! I hope maybe, just maybe, you can come ride with me when I get back on Boone this spring. Without you, he and I never would have made it to where we are today-you gave that back to us tenfold–the confidence and joy in our riding. I will watch for you!

People say things to try to be compassionate when someone dies. Sometimes, it all falls short. An entire life is a lot to try to caption in one sentence to the grieving. Each person has to rewind the movie they have of the dead person in their head, and watch, and rewind, and then go back to choice moments. In time, the choice moments stay, and pop back into your head and heart for the coming years. But in the initial aftermath of a death, the survivor is stuck in a room, no matter how hard they try to leave, and they alone have to witness the movie over and over until they slowly understand the main actor or actress is not returning for a sequel. The best thing anyone ever said to me when my mother died, was, "Your mom is okay."  It was so simple, but to this day when I miss my mom, I think that.

And now, I will think of Joanne that way too- she is okay.

The medel Jo Anne gave me for our trip to Maine. It stays in the truck.
Boone and his buddy, Tong.
Jo Anne with Old Matilda at Pie Day

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two special birthdays-we celebrate a man and a Goose

Today is a special birthday in many ways. It is Martyn's 58th birthday, and for the next two weeks we are the same age until I turn 59 in March. It is also the birthday of Goose the little goat that came to us in a a most wonderful way. It was 2013, my mother died in April. Along with the many deaths I constantly faced due to my work with special needs and elder Misfits I had taken on, my mother's death was explosive in many ways as we were very close. Without me knowing it, Martyn had a client that happened to have a little baby goat she was happy to send to Apifera. Martyn thought it would bring cheer. At the same time, in my Lucy Ricardo way, I found that a friend to Apifera had a little buckling that I fell in love with and without telling Martyn I told her I'd love to have some young blood at the farm to bring cheer.

Well, the goat Martyn found was Goose, and low and behold he shared Martyn's birthday. The goat I found was Moose and he shares my birthday.

You can't make this stuff up.

The gift of Martyn in my life can not go unnoticed by anyone who knows us. While I know I bring things into his life, it is he who has followed me around with hammer and ladder, helping bring to life my big ideas. The moment I met Martyn, I knew he was kind, and he is. He also makes me laugh, all the time. He allows me to show my sadness, anger and fear and has a way of smoothing me out like water on a rock. We compliment each other. We love each other.

We are best friends.

And then of course there is Goose, seen here in one of my favorite photos of Misfits mingling, busily going about their day. Goose could have been a good therapy goat, but he was a real nibbler, and it took me a long time to cure him of that. He has switched from nibbling to giving tongue kisses. I suppose some might find this appalling, having a goat's little tongue give a quick lick on the human lips...but I like it. Goose has a beautiful little personality. He's inquisitive but not troublesome, and has an expression no matter what the day, or weather that says,

"Good day, glad to be here, eh?"

It is a good day, with sun, and warm air melting snow, reminding us spring is around the corner. And spring is a wonderful time to be born, as it reminds us we are part of the cycle of life witnessed so many times here on the farm.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two new Apiferians! Stinkin' cute alert!

Today we brought home two new Misfits. Rosie is a young-elder matriarch retired from breeding. She is very mannerly, walks pretty well on a lead and is calm and dignified. And then there is the little stinker. Man he's cute! The ten week old bottle baby lost his mother at birth. I thought he would be a great candidate for my traveling therapy goat, and I'm so excited to have them both here. Since he's been on a bottle since day one he is very personable and I will continue to bottle feed for about a week for bonding until I naturally wean him.

Right now things are a bit chaotic. I have Sir Tripod Goat living in the middle of the barn, where Scooby used to hang out. Tripod was getting roughed up a bit by the barrows, who can really get serious when they eat-they are pigs after all. So I have the little guy and Rosie with Tripod. Tripod gets along with anyone, he's a loner so had no trouble with introductions. But since Martyn is working on the new area above the barn-which I have not officially announced, but will next week- there is wood and building stuff all over. So I had to put the three goats in the chicken pen for the day-the indignity!The little guy was having a ball jumping up and down on the wood piles, much to the builder's annoyance.

I am really excited to get working with 'the little fellow' and will be making contact with some elder homes including one I've been in brief touch with. I'll be able to take him out in the winter, so Pino can have therapy duties in the summer, and this guy can travel with me-or that is the plan.

Life is pretty fun right now. Tomorrow is Martyn's birthday, which means it is also Goose's birthday which means we start our two week stretch of being the same age, until I turn a year older on March 10 which is also Moose's birthday. And somewhere in there, Cornelia will have piglets.

A post shared by Katherine Dunn / Apifera Farm (@katherinedunnapiferafarm) on

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring is in the air-new art cards

Today when I went outside I could smell the ocean. This was a revelation to me. I mean, I know we live by the ocean now, but in spring I never imagined the wonderful feeling of that first whiff of salt air. It was glorious. While the crocuses and tulips are already up at my old farm in Oregon, here in Maine I have the smell of the ocean in March! My relationship with the sea is beginning.

Anyway, to celebrate the feeling of spring, I've added two new art card designs, one celebrating births  of all kinds, the other celebrating birthdays with bunnies and cake.  Remember if you are buying multiple items to leave them in your shopping cart and make sure you are getting the best shipping price. I mark each of my shop items separately because some things have to shipped out in separate boxes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I like making the Itties–the raggedy, one-of-a-kind tiny dolls that come with the new book if you so desire. The book is only 4 x 6" high, so you see the dolls are...well...itty. Here is one I just completed for a customer who already has one Itty and needs another as a gift.

I thought of Itty today. I wondered how she was. I am not in touch with the owners of our old farm for a variety of reasons. But it doesn't mean I don't think of Itty, and the old flock, Hazel the barn cat, Peach and all the souls buried there. But there are so many walking sounds here and that is my charge now-to care for them, and revel in their beauty.

I have some exciting news coming up soon that will make you all very happy I think.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Her Royal Highness

Let me translate:

"Hrumpf! Mmmmmmmm! The morning came too soon for me! How can I sleep amidst the sheep chewing cud? Hrumpf Grrr Rump! I need my beauty rest."

Friday, February 17, 2017

The snow of yesteryears

We had another 6 inches of beautiful snow a night ago. I awoke to the entire Wood covered in beautiful white clothing, every wood pile, every poop pile covered delicately in fluffy snow.

It was a night snow, katakana in Eskimo. Night snows are especially joyful I think, because you get up and open the door just as Dorothy did when she landed on Oz, and swoon.

To say White Dog is in his element is an understatement. This dog is so happy here. Not only with the snow, but his new solo job of guarding the small flock, rather than sharing that duty with Marcella.  I can tell he is very content here. I bring him into another paddock a few times a week during the day, depending on where the sheep are, and let him have wolf play with Marcella.

I never tire of seeing him at the gate, and even though I have taken the same photo of him there many times, each snow fall makes it different. The barn roof snow finally slid off, making him his own mountain which he proudly sits on for a perfect view all around his terrain.

As the Eskimos would say: there are ontlas all over {snow covering objects}, dinliltla cover the hind end pantaloons of the White Dogs {little balls of snow on dog fur}, and now quinyaya is appearing {snow covered in animal poop}. And there is the beautiful kriplyana {blue snow} that is so mysterious and makes me imagine an entire universe living under the snow.

Someone asked me if I liked having a wintery winter, versus what I considered sort of a cold spring in Oregon. There is so much I love about this kind of winter, but it is also problematic on a farm, I can not deny that. In a way, I'm glad we got the epic storm we did, where 24" fell in 12 hours on top of the foot we already had, and then another 6" a day later-it showed us what we need to think about next pre-winter, and it showed us what improvements we can make in the barnyards to help with clean out. It is no different than the learning curve we faced our first year in Oregon with floods in our fields. Oregon got fog and ice, we get snow and sun [usually]...winters go on here, I get it, and that was a sobering fact I had to face as i was digging out a small path, again, and again, this past storm.

Here's the thing, I've lived my life with one rule: Live in way, in place that makes you happy; if that changes, you can find another place. I've never left a home because I hated it, I left NYC, Mpls and then my beloved first farm in Oregon because changes had occurred, earthly plates had shifted, I had shifted, Martyn had shifted. I am not afraid to move with changes. I guess the biggest fear I have is getting to a stage I have to go where I don't want to go because of inability to care for myself, or not being able to live with animals.

I try to show my positive thoughts right now about winter. There is so much gloom out there right now for so many. I grew up in snow, so it just isn't an issue. I love that Maine has sunny days-light becomes very important as we age, and I do know that the grey in Oregon was really getting to me-and once you are wet, you never really get warm again. I have had thoughts of spring, it would be spring to me in Oregon, and I loved that tulips pop up there in February and the minute leaves fall in autumn the buds were there. There is never has that will winter ever end feel in Oregon [to me, a Midwesterner].

But it's beautiful. It's so beautiful. The Eskimos have a word for "the idea of snow, penstla. I was excited for snow when we were moving here, and I could feel the same excitement of the first snow here that I felt as a kid in Minnesota, my family all there, the idea of sledding on my mind or skating. Snow was a gift! Digging tunnels in the barnyard reminded me of the ice -snow forts we'd make, and the quiet they gave us when we crawled inside.

The snow of yesteryears, nylaipin, is still in my heart. The rains of Oregon never did that.

White Dog on his mountain-snow fall off from barn roof
Blue ice

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Under deep it's percolating

Even in winter, deep under the ground the seeds are percolating waiting to be birthed in spring.
{This is available as a print}
Hopper House-out back behind the barns where the wild rabbits winter. I pictured them the other night in the storm, hunkered down, safe and warm out the wind gusts.
{Can be made into a print, just email me}

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Up to our hipbones

The animals take it all in stride. This morning I awoke to the Little Apiferians singing their bird songs in the living room, and I could see the sun reflecting all over, bouncing off the frosty windows created by Monday's nor'easter. It was a relief to see the sun.

It's beautiful out, pure virginal snow without a track on it. Just gorgeous. One can't be awed by the sight, no matter what trouble it brings. We were able to really get a good look at how much we had, and we estimate at least 24" or more, and then the 12" we already had. but I still think we have more, since it is almost up to the top of some 4' fence lines.

I arrived at the barn and opening the stall door was like a goat and pig version of Wizard of Oz. Marcella leapt out into it with out a care. I created a small patio for Earnest and the goats, and cleared a pig tunnel so the pigs could walk out and I could get to the barn. Then set out to task two, at the new barn. I was greeted by the avalanche of snowing coming off the barn roof, missing me but creating even more snow on top of the other snow. I started creating a pathway there after I fed everyone, and I had this moment-a moment, mind you-of remembering a time in Minnesota when I lived alone in a small house and shoveled the drive and then the plow came by and it was a mountain in the exit way, and I just kind of stopped, and cried a little. I remembered how this much snow and having to clear it can create that feeling of hopelessness.

So I just thought, it always melts.

I decided to tackle the donkey and horse area. I was concerned because they have a large 20' interior that is a 24 hour turnout, but right now there is no paddock for them, it is 4 feet deep in snow. I could see someone had attempted to walk out, but turned around after a couple feet. It's soft snow which is good. The roofline back there had not melted off yet and there is another huge amount that is about to come down on the already growing mountain that is beginning to infringe on the interior stall area. So I started digging. I gave up after 30 minutes. I gathered Martyn to come out and assess our next step, since he'd been plowing the drives most of the morning. We need to plow the roads to the barn and already had a lot of it done before the 24". Martyn started on the drives, because we might get another 12" tomorrow night...insert a swoon from barnyard...and I set out to create a mini sized area that gave the equines more space to walk around in the snow area, and create a bare spot for the roof snow to land.

About every 5 minutes, Matilda wandered out on the path I was creating for her pleasure, looked at me as if to say,

"Aren't you going to make it big enough so I can get to he back field I like?"

On her third visit to me, I admitted to her,

"You probably aren't going to see that field for a long time, my friend."

She flattened her ears in airplane style, and returned to her hay.

I called back to her,

"I'm going as fast as I can!"

But nobody ever listens to me.

{You can see more snow pictures at Instagram}

Monday, February 13, 2017

Apifera hunkered down in the nor'easter... a place of deepness

It's winter.

It's really winter.

The storm they predicted to be "epic" did not disappoint. I guess I was glad it was all it was cracked up to be. It gives us a chance to see the improvements we need to make for next year. And it also is a cold, hard reality check that we have left Oregon.

I am no wimp. I ate weather whining, as you might know, at least in public. I have to say though, I was very restless last night and I kept waking up and wondering why I was restless. The worst of the storm hit in the late night/early morning when the winds picked up too. One thing that is different here in a storm compared to Oregon, is the windows get really snowy and crystal speck, so you feel a bit covered in an avalanche. That has cozy moments, and moments where I think I am feeling a bit claustrophobic, which took me by surprise.

This morning Martyn shoveled a path to the front barn for me, and as I did feedings he shoveled another path to the new barn, about 200 feet I guess. It's light and fluffy so not that hard, but the snow was deep enough to go down into my Mucks and create snow packs in my socks. Icy! When I got out to the new barn, there was White Dog, in full winter spirit, ready for his breakfast. Rosie's slider and blown open an inch and the high winds had blown in some snow–she was buried in her usual hay bed, but had snow on top of that. But she was snoring and warm to the touch so all is well.

I did my chores and just wanted to hold all the animals. They are so stoic with weather, and in some ways, I think the cold and snow [it was 25 so not that cold, but very windy] is almost easier on them than constant rain and mud. Once you're wet, it's hard to get dry out West.

It was, and is as I type, white out conditions. I had momentary thoughts about Oregon, and know that the buds are on trees and the grass is green and on and on. I wondered why we were here. What is so important, I thought, that we felt propelled to come here. I went through the long list of the facts of why we chose to move, and that was all fine and good. But I wondered, there must be something that will happen in time that will make a nor'easter just like another rain storm.

I refuse to be a winter wuss. I will go hiking in The Wood tomorrow if the wind dies down, look for tracks. I had moments feeling like I'll never see the grass again. I felt kind of agitated.

And then I realized that the storm is bringing up something in me, memories, or deep down things to be examined in an intimate setting. Someone I really admire that I've sought guidance from over the years, recently said that our time in Maine is for a reason and part of it is to allow me to "go deeper".

I think winter is like that here. It is a place of deepness, it is not a carefree place like a walk in a spring field can be. It can bring out darkness, or help you reach for ways to address darkness that may keep you in touch with light.
White out conditions all day today

Digging a tunnel from the front pig barn

Friday, February 10, 2017

We survived!

The nor'easter came and went and left us with a beautiful 10-12". Last night the winds picked up and rattled the windows and made snow patterns on the outside. It was like being in some kind of fairy book. I have always felt our house looks like a place a fairy would live, a warm place to come to after a long journey.

I've been having some memories of winters passed, from my younger days in Minneapolis-where I can remember shoveling two feet of snow [a law in Minneapolis that you have to keep your sidewalk cleared] and then by the day's end I'd do it all over again. Growing up in Minnesota I remember winters being all snow, lots of snow, enough to build ice forts and sled and make angels. I remember winters in upstate New York when I was in college, and I wore my Wallabe shoes without socks, yes, what can I say? The latter gave me cracked heals for the rest of my life-I was young and glowing then, but not as sharp in the brain.

And in Oregon, we would get a snowstorm a year at the farm, and I can remember thinking,

Man, raising sheep in a winter climate must be horribly hard.

So for now, the winter weather is just fine with me, I like it. But I don't have to get anywhere fast, nor does Martyn. The roads here are plowed constantly-a huge difference than Oregon where the state shut down, once for two weeks, after about 5" of snow. So winter here is simply...winter, another bunch of months on the calendar.

Winter here makes me feel like I can focus more on what is inside of me. I feel it gives me a chance to go back to my root-in an artistic way. It's beautiful, pure, and I can see the bird tracks, and I now know where the bunnies live as I track their toe prints. I can see the squirrel nests high above in the bare trees, and with a dusting of snow they are like beautiful dried floral arrangements. I love our bedroom because it is so old and the wind here off the coast is an entity of its own and I feel safe in my big bed, looking out at the snow at night. You can see white in the dark, I like that.

Nobody is suffering. Last night though I worried a bit about the equines. They have ample shelter, but we are learning where the east winds come round the one side of the barn, and next year we will add one more wall. It means when I arrived this morning for feedings there was a bit more snow in the overhang area, but some good hay got everyone warm again [feeding grain is not the way to warm your horse, it's all about the hay, and the actual process of chewing creates heat in the body-I find that really interesting].

There are certainly inconveniences on a farm to a 12" snow. And I can't use my hoses so I carry the water in buckets, but the barns are closer together. Besides almost being buried in an avalanche of snow sliding off the metal barn roof, I'm surviving. And of course Martyn is here full time, keeping the fire going and plowing our drive.

The White Dogs love it. The pigs go out but mainly hang out in what is an amazingly warm stall even on this ten degree day. Their body heat keeps it tropical in there - well, it feels tropical after you come in out of a brisk wind.

I do remember the longness of winter, how it can get very old, quickly, if you are living to shovel. Then again, I feel that way about humidity and heat. Mid coast Maine is not as severe as Minnesota, we were surprised by that. Certain things grow here that you can't grow there, and while we do have a winter, I don't think it will compare to Minnesota. But, we are suppose to get two more significant storms in the next few days. I will attempt to revel in it, as a White Dog.

{I post photos at Instagram too and you can see some snow images}

I tied hay twine to my cleats hoping it would help keep them from falling off.

Thursday, February 09, 2017


We are all snuggled down and battened in for our first real nor'easter. Martyn is like a kid in a candy store, checking snow depths and watching wind patterns. It's really sweet to watch him. We have our fire, the animals are hunkered in and we'll see how much we get on top of the 6" or so we had in last few days.

As you can see, Hughie is content. We are amused at how he gets as close to the fire as possible. Perhaps at that distance he gets a glimmer of what light is, since he is now blind. But I'm sure it feels good on his old Pug bones.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Bensohappy snow

We had a nice snow on Tuesday, about four inches, and I would say it was a "slap" snow, which means "powder snow" in the Eskimo language-as you might know I am trying to learn the 100 Eskimo words for the many varieties of snow.

Then last night we must have had another four inches, maybe more, and the temps rose a bit in the night and we could hear some sleet. This morning it was beautiful, pure, virginal landscape and when I walked outside, it was a "slimtla" snow- crusted on top with light fluffy snow underneath.

The White Dogs love the snow. We joke that Benedetto somehow found his way to the old Apifera in Oregon, knowing way before we did that we would move to Maine where he could have snowy winters. He naps in it, plays in it, and rarely is seen inside the barn. I love how they look in the snow...there is no Eskimo word for "White Dog in the snow" but perhaps there should be..."Bensohappy" perhaps?

We are supposed to get another four or six inches tonight so this is our first true feeling of a real winter. I like it. Although I'm getting fat and I have to start hiking more. There is salt on the main road so I will have to get booties for Mud. The Wood is a nice hike but only a mile and my muffin top needs 3 if I am going to stop from becoming a version of Cornelia. Oh well, I have my health, and some more fat, but I am content.

Things are a bit slow this past week as far as income, so don't forget the shop is full of art, prints, books, cards, journals and more...perfect for Valentines Day...or just a treat for yourself. The Itty book is really getting some nice reviews by people. I did not even consider the ways it would effect people. One reader found the book helpful to her current challenge-accepting that her elderly mother was being her "ownself' by insisting she stay at her beloved farm as she ages.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Scooby Keith flies off to live with Aldo

My right hand old man, my independent browser–Scooby Keith–has died.

I knew last night he was not well. I opted to let him sleep in the chicken coop, away from the pigs who can often be so happy to snort out grain on the floor they inadvertently run over old men. When I left him he was alert and standing, but clearly not well. But Scooby and I have been through this so many times together. In fact, on his arrival, he was sick and that first winter I thought I was losing him several times, but we always pulled through together. I had a medication regime I did with him, with my vet's approval, and he was just such a little stoic fighter. Those first couple years, it seemed each winter he'd get some kind of pneumonia like symptoms, but this last year, even though we were in Maine, he didn't have a sign of it all winter. Even last night his symptoms were not that he was sick, they were that he was checking out.

I almost hated to get up. Arriving at the barn, he had made his way to the coop door, and was in an awkward position, but was still strong enough to bleat out to me.

I know this goat, and his language. I know when his bleats me, "I'm ready to eat" versus "Put more in my dish"; I know when he is content to be in the pig paddock for the day, or when he would rather be by himself out in the orchard yard. I know his "Hello," versus his, "Hey, I'm over here, come get me". And this morning, I knew his bleat meant,

"Help me, I need help."

I got him out and he couldn't stand, his head wobbled and he could not right it. I lay him down on hay and got him comfortable, covered him in more blankets and assessed him as the background of pigs, goat and near by donkeys all let me know that breakfast was late. I have done this so many times and I knew he was not coming out of this one, and that he was already in what the vet taught me is 'the death spiral'.

He was not panicked, but I knew what a survivor he was and hoped he didn't try to fight. I did my chores and came back, he seemed pretty near death, but he bleated out a strong bleat, without raising his head. His eyes were losing their feel to my touch, his mouth was getting cold. I opted to take him into the Cat Cottage for warmth even though he was well blanketed. I sat with him for a good half hour and I kept telling him,

"Look for Aldo."

You see, and some might remember, Aldo was a very old llama I took on. He was at the end of his life and his old mate had died. I adopted him from Sanctuary One, but Aldo came with his own sidekick, and that was Scooby Keith. Scooby just really liked Aldo, and on arrival, I tried various arrangements for Aldo and Scooby, so that Scooby could have a goat friend, but Scooby just didn't resonate with the goats. He liked Aldo. Then Aldo died one summer, a real blow to all of us. Scooby carried on, but I decided to move him to an upper barn, where he preferred to hang out with Boone. He slept in the hay barn at times but during the day, he ate with Boone. I guess he liked bigger animals.

So, today, I told Scooby to look for Aldo. It gives me comfort thinking of Aldo, somewhere, in some form be it large, white clouds calling out to his old friend. I sang my go-to song for the dying, "Over the Rainbow" with appropriate words for the hospice patient. I hope someone sings that to me on my big day.

Saying good-bye to Scooby has many other layers of grief for me, of course. I guess each death, in its own way, causes us to snip strings we might not be ready to snip, or are ready to snip, but are taken off guard how much their dissolving stings and resonates. Scooby's death is like all the deaths of the old farm rolled into one somehow. He is the last true elderly-elder goat that came from Oregon-Sophie is 11, Tripod is severely crippled and about 6, The Head Troll is 15+, and Wilbur-Moose-Goose are youngsters by comparison. So, Scooby Keith's death is loaded with reasons to cry today. And I did.

But mainly I told him how fabulous a sideman he was for me, how much I loved hearing his distinctive foot steps coming into the feed room each morning, where he ate by himself, away from the clamour of pigs, dogs, chickens and other Misfits. If it was warm and dry, out he'd go to eat leaves, on his own, content.

But mainly, I told him to look for Aldo.

I was cold and needed a warm me up coffee, so left him for a break. I knew he'd be gone by day's end or sooner. I had done all I could do for him, and he wasn't fighting it, he wasn't in distress. He was close to 17 and was...old. I left to get some coffee and my last words were,

"It's a beautiful day for this once in a life journey. Look for Aldo."

On my return, he was gone. And that instant, I missed him already.

{See all the past stories and photos of Scooby Keith.}

Sunday, February 05, 2017

In the Wood, out in the light

I walked the entire Wood today with Mud. It's only about a mile loop, but I really love The Wood in the winter, especially since it is marsh in much of the center so can't be walked the entire way in spring. It's fun to watch the tracks of deer and coyote, and we suspect a bobcat.

The winter here has not been that hard on us, in fact, Oregon is having a harder time since even 1/4 inch of snows freaks everyone out and the roads come to a standstill pretty easily there. There is a difference here in that nobody complains about the weather that much, it is just weather. Much like Minnesota, or my days in upstate NY. I was taught as a child by a mother that lived in the furtherest north city in North Dakota,

"It's just weather, don't whine about it."

And I rarely do. So many other things to whine about it.

We are beginning to comprehend what we want to do to our acreage, and of course that will evolve too. We have lots of plans and ideas, dreams. Martyn has already begun to push the growth back from the existing pasture. We plan to create more open space on part of The Wood, a place that was obviously pasture at one time. It has some old growth apple trees, and is above the marsh and stream spots. I like it over there, it borders the Quaker cemetery.

Our little farm is very different here than in Oregon. I am adjusting to that. There are still days I have some pangs for 'what was', but...it's not necessarily the farm itself. It is something else and I haven't figured out the words to express that, and maybe I won't have to. We have been here eight months, that is not long at all. I remember how long it took in Oregon to feel rooted. And I'm not sure it has anything to do with being here, versus "there". I think it has more to do with the realization, the fact, that my decades on this earth are coming to an end. I'll be 59 in March. That's not old, but, a decade zips by. There is so much to do here, that we want to do, and it just feels different thinking ahead at 59 then it did at 42.

To be honest, I feel a bit fat, a bit old looking. I was pretty once, that was nice to experience. It means nothing to how you live your life, what kind of heart you have or what art you make. But, I can now say, I've entered that place where 'pretty' is not the word I would use to describe anything about my appearance. In fact I don't like looking at myself much. I think this might pass. I'm sort of in the 'between' stage of aging.

So walking in The Wood helps with anything. Touching old trees, hearing the stream under the ice, and Muddy was so happy to be with me.

In the meantime, while we gave up the Big Sky feel of the West, we have huge clouds that are closer to us here, and lots of days of beautiful sun and blue sky. The snow comes and goes, and it has been an easy winter so far as regards to snow. But of course that can change, but no matter, we are fine. And t was nice to look over to the new barn and see the flock, and the smoke coming from the house chimney.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Rabbit knows

It took a lot to make the moon cry. Rabbit understood.
{Available now at the shop}

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Itty readers of the world sharing

I am getting photos from people all over the country who have received their Itty Bitty books, and are reading it to their feline friends.

I'm hoping the book will also be read to pigs, llamas, horses, donkeys and goats, and elders in homes and children before naps.

You can see some of Itty's readers at the book page. Keep them coming!