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

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

We are a care farm. And I'm meant to be here.

We made a little cubby just for Sir Tripod Goat, a crippled Misfit
To anyone who is about to make a huge move or change, I am here to tell you,

"Wait, listen, ponder, it will be bumpy and windy but there are beautiful vistas that will give you clarity-in time."

I have had a nice shift in the past couple weeks. The weather is spring like now and that does add optimism to ones outlook. But it's other things too. I have come to the decision that I want to focus Apifera as a care farm-a place where animal, land and people come together for beneficial healing. For that reason, this upcoming mid May litter of Eleanor's will be the last. I might have to find a pair of chastity pants for Earnest, but we had this unplanned pregnancy because we had to put up all our fencing when we got here, and Marcella and Earnest-working together like stealth spies-figured out a way to bust into Eleanor's [and Cornelia's] boudoir.

I've loved having the piglets, but I want to focus on The Misfits and helping more animals that need a safe harbor, which is why I was so excited to hook up with the Maine State vet so they can come to us in need when neglect cases come up. Our setup here is different than in Oregon. We actually have more land but less of it is open field, and some is marsh. We had three large barns out West, now have two medium barns [an addition is being planned]. So every inch is crucial.

Anyway, it might seem like nothing has changed. But for me, just saying it out loud to some friends-"You know, I'm ready to move to the next stage and not raise piglets [we already decided not to do any more sheep breeding once here]," it just was such a turning point for me–a reckoning, really.

It is as if moving to Maine opened me up to be able to finally do that. The more intimate space and land here-it was there all along, waiting for me to figure it out,

"We can give her exactly what she needs as a care farm. She'll figure it out."

It's about focus.

And about culling. I had to cull parts of myself, as well as some things from the past.

And when I looked at the last 14 years of Apifera, I realized the thing I feel I am best at-is care taking creatures in need. I can honestly say I'm good at that.

I was driving to the store yesterday, feeling very light and airy even though it was foggy and rainy. I thought that this might be my last run at this-I am 59 and if I'm blessed with good health, and Martyn is too, and enough income to keep going-this might be the last ten or fifteen years of this for me. That's the same amount of time I was at the old Apifera. I thought, do I want to spend it continuing to do things that seem to be more of a weight on me, that take my energy away form holding an old goat, or write about why that old goat helps me, or another person?

Apifera is a care farm. And I am meant to be a care farmer.

{Fundraiser now going on to help the 2017 basic care of the Misfits}

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Earnest knows Japanese?

Post Update: Yume is actually 15!

Today we celebrate the life and birth of one of the adopted elder cats, Yume, who came to us last year after our arrival in Maine. We adopted her and two other elder cats from the animal shelter. And I must say, this is the first cat of Apifera that was born in Japan.  Yum was a stray street cat there, and a family took her in. You an tell she has had a litter or two. Her owners then came back tot he states years later, and unfortunately due to a job change had to move again overseas, but this time cats were not allowed. But we are happy to have her. When we brought Yume to Apifera, she his under rugs and blankets. Over three days, she allowed more petting. And now, months later, she rubs noses with Anna and Tig, and is even up and about. She still is shy to strangers or even Martyn, but she is content, as are we.

I heard little voices as I walked  to the front barn this morning. Now that The Head Troll is gone, I am always a bit nervous as to what is going on inside the barn without her management. I waited at the barn doors, ear pinned to the crack letting me in on the conversation. They often skedaddle when they know I'm coming. It's a dance we play together: they know I know they all talk when I'm not around, I know they know that I know, but we never really discuss it.

It was Earnest talking.

"Tanjoubi omedetou, Yume" he was saying through the door.

My God, I thought, he knows Japanese?

And then he asked, "Toshi wa ikutsu ka?"

I heard a very faint, soft voice come from the cat room,

"Juu san sai."

I opened the barn door and everyone calmly returned to their stall, the cat room was quiet.

"Earnest, how did you learn to speak Japanese?" I asked.

He did not answer.

He is a pig of many mysteries.

{If you like the stories of Apifera, and also want to honor Yume, consider a donation to the fund drive for Misfit care and new buildings so Apifera can take on more animals in need. Read all about it here.}

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Opie goes a travelin'

Opie's first day out as an ambassador of love
Opie went on to tell everyone in the barn about his first visit out as an ambassador of love and healing. We had ventured over to our friends at Inn Along the Way-an elder community that is in the early development stages where small residences for elders, gardens, an inn and caretaker retreats will be built on an old farm to encourage healthy community living amongst people and nature. We plan to partake in some events there this summer and fall to not only support their efforts but to explain what Apifera's care farming work and share my books and art. {Do you like Apifera's work with animals? We have big plans here in Maine-please visit the funding page to hear about it!}

"There weren't any pigs there," little Opie told Earnest.

"Perhaps I too should call on them then, to share myself," Earnest the pig said.

"They were all nice. They held me and squeezed me all nice too, and they smelled pretty," said Opie.

"What does pretty smell like?" asked Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat.

"Like your mama used to smell," said Earnest matter-of-factly. And they all sighed.

"When I ran on the floor, my toes got all slippery but it was fun," Opie went on. "And there was a barn that was as big as this entire farm!"

"Not!" said Moose.

"Highly unlikely," said Earnest.

"How do you know how big it is?" said Opie.

"How many of you could fit int he barn?" asked Earnest.

Opie pondered.

"I think more than five hundred," he said.

"That's a lot of yous," said Earnest.

Opie smiled.

"I felt big there," Opie said. And he wandered off to lay down near old Rosie and Sir tripod Goat.

"I'm full of something good," he said as he shut his eyes for a good nap.

Opie meeting Sam

Sherri Flint, director of Inn Along the Way falling in love

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Send Anna the elder a birthday wish

In honor of Anna's birthday, consider a pledge to the Misfit fund
I have a list of Misfit birthdays on my desk. Some of the animals come with a clear history of birth, others don't. But Anna lived in a loving home, by all appearances and medical records, but had to be sent to the animal shelter here in Maine due to an illness. I know she was cared for. So I was upset with myself when I saw I had missed her April 20th birthday in which she turned ten. She still is a young elder and I hope we have her with us for many years to come.

Anna and the other two adopted cats-Yume and Tigger- are all doing well out in the barn room they currently occupy. Actually, they have it great-heat in the winter [it has a heater in it from the former owner], art on the wall, window seats to look out at forest and birds, cat perches and me coming and going. And let's not forget they got to cohabitant with a baby pig this winter-how many cats can say that.

Anna is the greeter of the group, the leg encircler, the high priestess who made Yume understand the hierarchy. She and Yume now sniff noses, no hissing and Anna is tolerant of me spending time with the others now. Anna likes the chairs and is helping me make the Raggedy Cat Chair-which I failed to photograph with her on it-next time. In time, once we get the upper loft properly windowed, the cats can roam up there too. Although I think they are pretty content in the cat room. I had plans for the cat room that are now evolving-due to the reality of farm life and space. Since it is a heated room, I am going to treat it like a stall/sick room/emergency room for the animals. Since we went ahead and are making the upper loft accessible to people, I will use that area for showing my art and workshops, and healing cat visits.

I was appalled to find one of Anna's toenails had grown into her pad. I must have missed this. I was able to snip it while she was standing on the window perch, perfect sight level for me, and light too-I snipped quickly and then had to pull it out. I was able to treat it and all seems well. I clipped her other toes too. I've never in my life had to trim cat toenails, but these cats were all house bound, life was easy, and even though they have a scratching beam, I rarely see them use it. I can understand why Anna didn't, that toenail in her pad must of really hurt. I am now on the lookout and was able to trim Yume, with patience over a few days, too. Tigger-he will be impossible without some kind of equipment to keep him from clawing me. I have a good catalog with items like this and will get something.

One of the reasons I take my relationships seriously and to heart with these adoptees, is because I know what it feels like to have had an animal I cared for and loved, not be able to be with me anymore for whatever reasons. If I became ill or unable to care for my animals, knowing there might be someone that truly gave companionship and consistent communion with my animals would help me.I don't know the people that gave these animals up, but I know they were all cared for, and that circumstances just got in the way, and they had to make hard decisions, and do what they thought was right for the animal.

I've learned in the past 14 years helping animals-it is not always a case of some 'horrible person' at the other end of an animal in a shelter or rescue situation. Too often on social media I see people bashing human beings in animal cases when they don't even have the facts. I don't tolerate it. We are all creatures that sometimes end up in difficult situations, or make poor decisions that cause a spiraling downward.

If you'd like to honor Anna with a small donation to the 2017 Misfit Fundraiser, we send Meows. The fund is helping offset the basic feed cost of the Misfits, as well as help pay for a small quarantine stall so I  can help more animals in need. Read all about it at the funding page.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth prayer

Earth findings.

Ground friends.

One is just born the other is in her swan song.

I celebrate Mother Earth each day in different ways but on this Earth Day I just pray for her and we will work on our garden plan and just be with her.

Hang in there, Mother Ship, there are many who are trying to care for you properly, without greed.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Earnest's mystery

There must be a reason, Earnest the pig thought.

"It must be the sea," he said to The Wood. "Is that why they brought me here?"

{To be continued]

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mother Matilda: a conversation

"Animal Conversations" are a gift of my life and I want to share a conversation I had many years ago, when Mother Matilda arrived–some of you might recognize this from one of my books, "Misfits of Love" {Healing Conversations in the Barnyard}. It is Matilda's 24th birthday so if you have time to read this, it will celebrate her spirit. If you are able, consider also honoring her and our work here at the 2017 Fund Drive.
Her job was to be a brood jenny even as she entered into her senior years. Living in neglect, she subsisted only on straw in a cold climate. Her fortunes changed after a donkey rescue found Matilda and eight other neglected herd mates. Eventually they connected with Apifera and she arrived after a day-long journey. She had the same name as my elderly mother—surely this detail was not lost on the universal forces in charge that brought her to me.

“I remember her ear tips as they drove away,” the old donkey said.

She was speaking about one of her many children.

“No matter where they took them, they came to the earth through me,” the donkey continued.

They can’t take that from her, I thought.

I put my arms around her neck and lay my head on her withers, looking back over her sagging spine. She didn’t move, except for ear motions to redirect a fly or acknowledge a fluttering hay stem.

“I never watched them get in the trailer,” she went on.

She reached over with her nose, touching an area of her back where scratching would be appreciated. I obliged.

“I could see their ear tips coming out of the trailer window as they drove off. They were pointed toward me,” Matilda said.

She scratched her knee by nibbling on it with her wiggling, giraffe-like lips.

To say the soul is not a physical entity could be disproven by looking into Matilda’s eyes. For there was a river of sentiment flowing from her glance into any viewer. I have seen it silence the outspoken, calm the over- energized, and touch the brokenhearted. Journeyers onto Apifera often write and share the more profound moments from their visits, which always include the simple phrasing,

“Matilda’s eyes.”

Arriving at Apifera, Matilda was placed in with the three resident mini donkeys. Her larger, white and brown spotted body must have seemed mythological to the gray minis who had never seen such a creature.
“She seems to have acquired spots somehow,” said Pino, the first donkey of Apifera, when he initially saw her.

“She’s very theatrical appearing,” said Paco, quite a serious thinker.

On the day of her arrival to Apifera, the always observant minis cautiously gathered around Matilda. I took note that the spacing between each mini appeared to be equidistant. I sensed this might be some kind of donkey ritual, of which I know they have many. I did not ask and they did not explain, nor did they share what was said in the huddle. It lasted a minute, if that, and then the little ones ran up and away to their favorite spot on Donkey Hill. Now their mini bodies were little gray spots with tails
prancing about, heads down in donkey play, but all the while they were looking back toward where Matilda stood, her sway back casting a shadow like that of a fertile mountain valley.

In the days to come, the minis treated her much like the Mother that she was. She groomed her little herd mates and they reciprocated, a charming equine behavior of acceptance. Matilda’s first weeks at Apifera were spent in carefree fashion, sunning and adjusting to her new heavenly diet of hay, grass, apples, and animal crackers. Old growth savannah oak gave her shade and at night she was free to dream deep in a century-old barn that had proven to be full of much motherly love itself.

“My purpose was to be a mother. I am old now. My children are scattered,” she said to me one day as I brought her berry branch clippings for a treat.
The conversation did not go past that, but as she chewed, I felt her searching for and then spotting the little clump of minis down near the stream.

Days turned into weeks, summer air became cool, with morning fog blanketing Old Barn. And one morning, the normal routine of the donkeys was diverted. I had gathered all the donkeys in a paddock and shut the gate behind me.

“What’s this?” the minis queried, speaking in ear twitches. “Is it shot day? Farrier day? So soon?”

Matilda’s soul streamed into me, questioning me with concerned eyes and active ear movements. The last time she was herded up like this, she was put in a trailer and after hours and hours, landed at Apifera.

I reassured her without words, gliding my hands up and down her back and neck, but I was soon interrupted by the cars coming up the drive. Matilda stood close to the minis and observed the strangers walking toward them.

They were all very polite and quiet, and carried nothing that raised suspicion—no vials of medicine, no syringes in chest pockets, no halters with long ropes.

Once in the donkey paddock, the people walked all around, slowly, watching, listening, and drawing things on paper tablets. Many seemed to gravitate to Matilda, who stood motionless.
“I am here, come closer,” the old donkey said with her eyes. “I will mother you.”

They began resting their hands on her in silence, gently rubbing her shoulders or her mane and temples. Matilda acknowledged each person’s space and then looked into their eyes, deeper and deeply. Some put their ears next to hers, others leaned on her body, running their hands on her
curved spine of age and neglect, recognizing it as a sculptural sensation.

“I felt compelled to get close to them,” Matilda told me later when everyone had left.

“They gazed on me like a Rubens painting of clouds,” she went on to tell me. “They shared the symphonies that play in my ears,” and she paused to eat some grass.

Her new purpose at Apifera was now sealed and she clearly understood her present and future task.

“I shall stand and be me, and love.”

She slightly bowed her head before me so I could use it like a head pillow. We spoke not a word while clouds blew over Donkey Hill.

{Excerpt from "Misfits of Love" {Healing Conversations in the Barnyard} by Katherine Dunn}

Monday, April 17, 2017

Soap opera flip flop moving day

Overheard in the barnyard:

"We are moving next door", said Earnest.

"Why?" asked little Opie.

"I hear it has a view of the ocean over there," said Moose.

"Doubtful", said Wilbur.

"I'm going to go the ocean some day," said Earnest. "I have a plan."

{now back to business}

This weekend, we were busy with all the things that must get done before summer hits.

For me, that meant delicing and shots for all Misfits, applying the first fly/tick spray and rearranging the sleeping areas to get ready for Eleanor's pending May farrowing. I also had to get Little Lonley and Cornelia out of the cat room where they have been snug as bugs to help Little get through the chilly part of his life. But with the first warm days, ammonia wafts were setting off the fire alarms! Despite the twice a day cleaning of bedding, the warm air made the ammonia potent, since that room is insulated, and the floor is painted so runoff is problematic.

The cats were unimpressed.

While this might seem like not a big deal, it meant taking Earnest-Sir Tripod Goat-Wilbur-Moose-Goose-Opie_Rosie the goat and Marcella and putting them in the stall next to them, which meant moving the two barrows and pregnant Eleanor out to another paddock and then relocating them in the newly vacated stall. These things often go off without hitch–which it did, I was pleased.

Little is getting big, but he is still a charming little bloke. He is old enough now that his mom bashes him away if she feels he is getting too much of her breakfast-that's pig talk for,

Hey, that's mine, back off.

So, that is step one for spring management. Today I am giving sheep shots and foot trims and entertaining the tractor maintenance man while he gives our tractor it's free inspection. We are starting to plan the garden, and while plants are in full upright since as they would be in Oregon, it does me good to see things growing again...including grass, which to me always translates to 'food for the animals."

{Thank you to those who have donated to the 2017 Fund, which is also helping raise money so I can build an intake quarantine area so I can help animals in need that come the way of the state vet and animal control.]

Friday, April 14, 2017

In which I'm reborn all happy and there's news

Life is funny. One minute you are pontificating and sharing little inside feelings of the blues, a couple days go by and things seem much more buoyant-like a little puffy white cloud has lifted the body up high in the sky and said,

"Look at this bigger perspective, see how much better it is."

And as a friend just said in the last post's comment section,

Don't be saddish, have a raddish [let's all thank Carole's father for this gem, oh the wisdom of our dads.]

Anyway, it is Easter after all, a time of renewal...and lemon pies. And then there are all the Misfits wandering around in rabbit ears. I was pretty impressed they found them-after all The Head Troll was always in charge of that stuff-but I guess Paco has taken his new reign as not only the resident poet, but Easter Activity Director, to heart. Oh Paco, we love you.

I am also here to share that I spoke with the state veterinarian who I really liked a lot, and Apifera is now an option for them when they come across animals that need to be taken out of needy or neglectful situations. I really feel good about this, and it gives my animal work a focus here. So I have started a fundraising campaign so we can add an additional shelter where we can quarantine an incoming animal to make sure it is safe to let them roam with the other Misfits [or not]. I am also raising money for the feed costs for 2017 for The [current] Misfits. It is all laid out for you at the funding page-and of course there are reward levels.

I am happy to take personal checks too [and give a suitable reward if so desired].

So let's all have a raddish, and smile, despite any woes we might have.

I was just handed some bunny ears, so I must be off. Hip hop.

Visit the funding page >

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Yea, I guess you can't hide the blues but I'm shining my glasses now

The friends reconnected on a spring day
A good friend sent me a note and said she could sense in some of my posts of the past few weeks there was a tinge of the blues coming through my words. True.

I am so transparent.

It's true. I had the blues, or the blahs, or the stumbles. It sort of crept up on me and was due to a combination of events. Weather in March was a drag after a warm [we thought] late winter and I think that triggered some memories and questioning about where I was, physically. We got hit by surprise taxes-I won't go into details, but I am seeking a new accountant for next year. The latter will be rectified, in time, and it will be okay. But that was made worse because my sales were zilch for March, and Martyn was still not working. When I don't sell, for a month, it effects my confidence. I can't deny it, after 20+ years as a freelancer, no sales makes me question my self in so many ways. I don't need a life coach to tell me why, or how to get out of it, it is just part of the ebb and flow of freelancing.
We were also having some issues with a nearby property and everything just seemed doomed.

BUT! The sun came out, the sheering day lifted me up, Martyn is back to working full time until winter, and I sold some of our wool which made me happy.

I don't like to use my blog as a way to vent, I think long time readers can attest to that. But at the same time, I think it's good to come clean every now and then...we are a tribe of humans forging forth, or trying, day by day. I did a painting once of a little tree, branches limp, leaves gone, stating, "Even trees get sad."

Last night I had a dream-a recurring theme-that I was floating over what was supposed to be our old farm in Oregon. I was thinking, in the dream,

Maybe we can get out of the deal, and stay, but I know this was improbable.

I had a moment like that, a year ago this week, when the first buyer's finances finally fell through, and I wondered if we should just stop, and wait for another time. It would have meant losing a lot of money, some that was paid to haul the horses and was non refundable, deposits on moving vans and the house in Maine we were trying to buy. I remember that moment–it was very physical- and it is always a time to ask,

Is this real, or is this the jitters?

Martyn had already given notice to his clients, we had bought the new trailer to haul the 32 animals...and we forged ahead.

People ask me,

"Are you happy there, in Maine?"

I am happy. We've met so many good people, and Martyn is thrilled with his new landscaping gig. The fiber people have been wonderful and if someone said we had to leave Maine, I would be upset to leave some people, that's how quickly we've attached ourselves to some people. I feel like the me in Maine is starting to form, or reform I should say because parts of me are still here, other parts are waning. A few weeks ago, in my blues, I took a step back, and I pressed the pause button on some things I had been planning to do: I cancelled the bee order, realizing I have enough on my plate and I want to focus on my flock/fiber, and the animals, and creating our gardens. I also put my workshops on hold-or at least I am only offering custom workshops for people that might contact me.

I did this because I realized it's time to "leave the flurry to the masses, and take my time and shine my glasses" [unknown author on that quote]. For once in a long time, I am really listening and waiting for the flow to come to me, instead of throwing myself into the flow and swimming fast.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sir Tripod Goat our hero

If you appreciate the work I do here and have been doing for over ten years with special needs farm animals, please consider a small donation [with reward levels if you desire]. It is much needed and appreciated.

Sir Tripod Goat was born with a crippling condition to his rear hip so has never been able to straighten his hind leg, or put it on the ground. He has horrible feet because of it, and since he doesn't walk much his toes tend to grown poorly. He has always been one to hang out away from the crowd, and even prefers his own company-but I think that is mainly due to the fact he can't easily defend himself or stay upright if someone knocks him, as goats do in play and posturing.

Tripod is never one to make a fuss, or complain. Even with what is probably sometimes painful condition depending also on the weather, he always is calm, and dignified. To forge on as he does, I can call him a little hero, knowing how hard it is to do simple things when one is not up to par that day. More and more, his knee pads are cracking, and I take great care to watch them and step in at any signs of infection. One of my old vets in Oregon said, once their pads start cracking all the time, it can become the beginning of the end. But. we are far from that, he is still relatively young, and strong in all other regards. His condition will play a role in his senior years though. Then again, look what Old Victor went though, or Stevie-nobody ever thought they'd last that long.

Over the last few years, I've tried different living arrangements for him. In Oregon, I ended up putting him in the hay barn, where he spent his days on maypoles, alone, with Scooby going him at night. It helps him sit comfortably to have a mound of something do go down on, and helps him get upright more easily. Once here in Maine, I put him with the once younger piglets who left him alone but as they grew, as pigs are known to do, the pigs push with their heads to get you out of the way of their feed, so it became more difficult for him. At that time, Scooby Keith was still with us [sigh] and the two of them became bed mates in the interior barn. When Opie and Rosie came along, they all seemed pretty well suited for each other.

I am always happy to see him get up and go outside. He doesn't last long, since he has to watch out for the youngsters pushing him from food. I put him and Opie and Rosie in a separate area at night, for his own peace of mind. I hope to build a small shed in the apple area so he and his buddies can hang there most of the summer and fall.

Tripod has opened up a lot emotionally too. Imagine, if you got sent to live at different places, and even if you were treated okay, you might think,

Why get involved, I'll only be leaving again.

I have moments with him, and even did in Oregon, where I sit with him and I can tell he recognizes me as a leader, and a consistent source of help. It gives him confidence to share affection and communion with me and even some of the other animals.

It's the best I can do for him-shelter, safety, food and water, and a consistent presence so he knows,

It will be okay, she will always come out and help me.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thank you sheep: Fiber added to the shop

I've added our raw wool to the shop. I have been working with it all weekend and the variations in the CVM breed is amazing. It is such a surprise to see what is under that top layer of dirty wool coat! Lillian has the most gorgeous silver crimped fibers, Assumpta's of course is to swoon over, but all the hogget fleeces have beautiful intricacies. Even Little Sylvia Pettini's fleeces, I think, will belike her mom's, Calla, someday. The hogget fleeces are so soft-I am not sure what people like to do with hogget fires since they are less durable, but man are they like butter.

The weather is finally warming up to normal and man does it feel nice. I didn't think we'd never get here. Things are slowly starting to pop out of the ground and it is a delight. I am trying not to compare everything to Oregon-which is already in full bloom-but instead just relish each and every thing I notice, like a tiny bud, or the tips of the chives coming up, a bee passing by, the smell of the salt sea has returned, and for the first time since last autumn the donkeys and sheep were all out lying in the sun.

I think we've turned a corner. Hallelujah. It truly is a feeling of rebirth. No wonder you see creatures romping and running in spring. It is a time of twitterpation!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Little Sylvia Pettini's first sheering

Litle Sylvia Pettini's first sheering day

I am so excited to get back to my fleeces and work with them! We sheered the six sheep, and Sophia, and did a quick skirting [that is where you pull off debris, poo, and as much matter as you can] and then we roll the fleece in sheets until we are ready to work with them again. My fleeces were a tish damp even though I had the girls in for 1.5 days, but my barn floor is bedded with damp matter....but all is well. I have the fleeces laying out in the upper loft to get some drying time.

My biggest delight and relief is they really weren't that full of chafe as I feared they would be since I didn't have coats on. After partaking in another sheering where the shepherd had coats on her sheep, I was concerned, but it was fine.

I was also pleased the girls weren't overly thin, since this was my first shepherd experience in a cold climate. With hair sheep like my flock in Oregon, I could always see their bodies, but the woolies can be hard to tell even with rib checks. I have one ewe lamb I am not happy with weight wise, but that will change and be fine.

Right now, they are as soft as bunnies! I kept them into today since it is a heavy rain tonight. I coated the elder Sophia, and this weekend everyone gets their spring check-up, worming, and toe trims and deicing if needed.

It lifted my spirits today to have some other shepherds come and help with he harvest-and then we came in the warm house and had a potluck with Martyn's chili, a friend's home made chèvre, and another's pudding.

I feel good.

I am so proud of my little flock.

{I will be selling our fiber on Etsy...hope to get on this very soon}

I left Assumpta's ringlets for now, will clip and sell

Assumpta's beautiful fleece

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The-World's-Grumpiest-But-I-Am-Fine-As-I-Am-Pig about to turn another year grumpier

Tomorrow is Rosie's ninth birthday. If you had told me way back when I first brought Rosie home that a] she'd live this long, and b] I was going to drive her across the country from Oregon to Maine at some point, well, I might have pig snorted.

As one of my former vets said,

"She is lucky she came to you, I'm not sure anyone else would have handled her all these years."

It is true, she is grumpy. She is not like my other pigs who enjoy belly rubs, sun naps on my lap, or a certain amount of polite conversation after breakfast. When Rosie first arrived, she walked the barnyard more, but always with a grumpy cloud above her. It was never a problem, because she stayed out of the way, and preferred to be with Stevie the Kissing Goat, or by herself in a hay bed of her liking. Her care became more of a challenge when her first foot trim was due. I tried everything to get that pig to cooperate. I even gave her beer, an old farm trick-she refused it. I took a day to get one toe done, but it was better than nothing. The next time, I had my vet come out and it took three of us, with a pig snare, to the tune of $175. For the record, I am not one to pay $175 to have a pig's toes done, and I was slightly taken aback by the cost, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Each summer, I lathered her in sunscreen and oils to protect her skin from burning and to help her chronic skin condition. As she aged, and spent more time inside, it became less necessary, but she still needs her ears treated.

In time, Rosie became more of a recluse, and seemed to prefer that. One day I found her in the rain, shivering, far from her normal stall. I somehow got her into Old Barn, and she never left. I tried every spring to push her out into sun, but she liked her private area, away from Eleanor and Marcella and Earnest. I'm sure the other pigs shoved her around and she just isn't a fighter of other animals. She tolerated chickens, and me-on certain days.

It came time for us to move to Maine. I had many discussion with my vets. I was unsure if it was the right thing to move her. But it was not an option to rehome her, never. Nobody would have tolerated her. I just have a gene in me that allows me to be a punching bag for certain things-like grumpy pigs. On the day all the animals were micro chipped, we saved her for last. Somehow, we got it done, with a lot of grumpy words flung our way.

Any vet who has ever had to help me with Rosie, always remembers her,

"Do you still have that grumpy pig?"

Yep, I do. And she is turning nine. Which for her is getting old. For breeding pigs that would be ancient, for her, a spayed, pampered lass, it's like being 75, I guess.

The thing is, Rosie and I have had our ups and downs like any friendship. There were times in Oregon where I really was getting fed up. I worked so hard to make adjustments for her, and she was just plain...difficult. Even though she makes a lot of noise, she has never tried to bite me, or act threatening to anyone.

She is just grumpy.

I questioned if the trip to Maine would do her in. A five day-six night journey, where she would ride, alone, in a handbill princess pig palace in the back of the truck. The minute we got her in there, she went to sleep. She seemed to actually like her new arrangement. On our journey, when we stopped at gas stations, she would awaken, and people would hear sounds coming from our truck bed, but couldn't see her in her enclosed suite.

"That's just our pig," we said matter of factly.

"Hey, they have a pig in there!" and sometimes we'd open the lid of her suite so people could see her nose sicking out of straw.

When we first arrived in May of last year, Rosie continued to live in the truck bed in her private wooden hut, and for about two weeks wherever we went–to the hardware store, or out to lunch–people would be curious what they heard in that truck bed.

"Oh that's just our pig," we said without concern.

Eventually, she was moved to the chicken coop, temporarily, and did fine, but the chickens began picking her scaly skin [she has a skin condition], so we finally arranged a special private suite for her once the new barn was done. She sleeps side by side with the sheep, and Benedetto, and has her own private door. It made me so happy to see her greet me, outside her stall, one morning last summer. I sensed she was happy, and that she had the right mix of space and animal communing without being bothered by them. There are days when she seems to like having her ears scratched again. And this winter, she even tolerated me laying her down to do her toenails-now, "laying her down" did not mean in a graceful, easy way, and she was louder than a raptor fighting so I could only wonder what the neighbors thought-but we got it done.

Just like Benedetto, who loves the snow and cold but is not big on rain, we wondered if our pull to Maine was to make White Dog, and a grumpy pig...find their happy place.

We used to muse,

Maybe she'll never die...

She is and continues to be that kind of presence at the farm. But so were so many others that lived long lives with us, and they died. Everything dies.

So tomorrow, it is her ninth birthday. And it is also our first sheep sheering! I hope my sheering helpers will sing along to her...hopefully she will partake for seconds in a muted grumpy fashion-but why expect that from her.

She is clearly an old crone that knows who she is and has no motive to change.

{Do you like the stories of Apifera? Consider a small donation to help offset the adopted animal care}

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Boone's birthday, and a mother speaks

Today's is Boone's 19th birthday. Wow. We've been together nine years. So much has happened, together. Went through so much to find him, and then we worked through our bumps as a new team. I encourage anyone with a horse who is having issues, to not go it alone, to find a mentor you trust and work with them-that is what helped me and Boone. I didn't have to go to some fancy barn or trainer, I worked to find someone I felt comfortable with, someone down to earth. I'd had enough exposure to barns as a kid to know what I didn't want. It took awhile to find that person, but I did, in my friend Joanne, who died last month at 85 back in Oregon. I'm so grateful for her. You can barely here her speak in this video, taken back at her barn where we used to meet 3x week and run our horses and ride.

It is also the anniversary of my mother's death in 2013. I remember getting up that day and singing to Boone, and by nite feedings I wrapped my arms around his neck while he ate and told him my mom died. I remember thinking it kind of stunk her death happened on his birthday-then I immediately thought,

This is a gift, and it was meant to happen this way so every year on this day I feel my mom saying,

"Go be with your horse, I'm fine, continue with the things in life you love so much, like Boone."

I have been really down in the last couple of weeks-a combination of events. Yesterday, I realized one thing working against me, is I can't ride all year. I have not been able to ride since October. I really am frustrated with that. I miss my rides, not only for exercise but for bonding time with Boone.

I woke up thinking,

Four years ago, she was alive, for 8 more hours.

And then I heard another voice,

"Get out and find a way to ride that horse."

Thanks, Kelly, I miss you.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Miracles of the crocus

I tend to be an optimist which is probably what made living in a winter climate growing up be an okay fit for me. I had moments in the past couple weeks in our first year in Maine that reminded me what a long winter is. And I lost my optimism for awhile.

The thing about a spring that has sprung on your calendar but not outside is that it works in tandem with anything going on in your life that is causing strife–and who doesn't have that?

So, it seemed like I was thrown in a cave last weekend at some point. The real life strife events–I won't go into–but I do remember waking up to the new snow on April 2nd, and I felt almost claustrophobic. At one point, I wanted to sleep, but I just made myself go out in the barn and do early chores. Being in nature and with the animals is always helpful.

The snow was pretty. But it's April. And April snow is always a bit heartbreaking-even though that snow is now gone and most will be gone as the 50's are supposed to return to us next week–although they say more snow is possible tomorrow. Of course, this also worked me into a bit of a mini depression, as I saw Oregon people posting photos of quince bushes and other favorites blooming back West. I reminded myself,

I am here now. Welcome. Embrace.

Yea, but it's April.

The weather of the past two weeks, colder than normal, snow, more clouds, just compounded the daily challenges of life. Not to be secretive, but talking online about them is not a good idea and we are working at it and in time, it will evolve, things always evolve, just not always as quickly as we might like.

And then Martyn came in the house, knowing I had been fighting my mood and gloom, and said I needed to come outside with him. He took me to a patch of grass under Litte Apple, and there at our feet were the tiniest little crocuses I had ever seen. I gasped like a child seeing a first birthday cake. It made no difference what was happening back West in my old garden, what mattered is right there before me, Spring was speaking to me, in a much tinier voice that back West,

"Look at me! I'm tiny, but look at me!" that little crocus said.

Later that day, I painted a simple little ode to the crocuses, inspired by a memory of bringing our Lucia home when she was a baby donkey. She seemed to look at everything as new, fresh, a curiosity, a treasure trove at every angle–like any baby does.

The determination of a tiny crocus lifting herself up out of the cold ground, it is a wonder to behold.

Spring is a rebirth in any area of the world. But I was reminded that when one lives in a region such as New England with a real winter, spring is much more than flowers.

It is a miracle.

Baby donkey's first spring flowers. [Available at shop}

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Little Lonely is eating like a big boy

He's finally eating solids, slowly. I must say, he is the most polite eating piglet I've ever known, I suppose because he is a loner piglet. It's like he does exactly what my mother used to say,

"Chew slowly, dear."