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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The artist-Misfit caretaker-non profit idea generator's challenge

"Abandoned Property" now available on the shop
Summer is over and my studio time is calling me. I am finding that with the non profit work I am working harder to find a balance with that work, and my art/writing. This is transition and it will be fine, I am not worried. But it's funny how people assume the animals take all my time-they don't-but the elder visits actually can eat up my time a lot. Anytime I have an elder visit on the farm, there are many details to deal with-getting certain animals in certain paddocks, getting the path clear for elders, cleaning out the area where we sit, and then rearranging the animals again after the visit. So I'm trying to work through how many visits I can do realistically and still paint, write and commune in my studio. And for the record, I LOVE these visits. I love them. I get so much out of them. Besides helping others get some simple joy, it is truly I believe part of my particular soul work. But so is my art. I do think though as a full time artist since 1996, my 'career' and how I shape it has changed, and that is not unusual.

Artists and writers and freelancers must remain focused, but also...fluid...especially in how we market or share our work.

I remember talking to a friend, a successful children's book artist, who had her first child and she said that she eventually found she was in the studio less, but while she was in the studio she was more focused and got almost as much done.

When I'm not consistently working on creative ideas, I get a bit ungrounded somehow. It's almost like I get unmoored and float from one point to another without focus. At the same time, I have been very focused on the non profit, growing our reputation, our first event, building the barn which still needs work...we have only been here two years and have done so much, and our infrastructure is stabilizing, but it is also evolving. And I like thinking of ways to evolve it and share it,grow it, get donations...I like that challenge of that.

One thing I'm sort of frustrated with is my blog. I feel it's main focus has changed slightly...most people these days go to Facebook to read about Apifera. I can't deny that, I see it in my stats, and it started some years ago for many bloggers. I know some people who work from home that still go to blogs, and are less attached to being on a smart phone all day. I have thought of quitting the blog, but instead I think I need to refocus my writing here on short story. I can still update here, but most people are reading that on Instagram and Facebook, they don't want to come here for that.

So I am percolating.

I will be back to working on the White Dog book soon, and I want to start drawing more, really drawing...even if it only lasts a short time. And I want to work on my sewn creatures.

Here I go again...many ideas, many projects.

I did these little paintings yesterday and started three wood pieces. It always take a bit of slogging through the first steps back into the studio, and while I can't say these two pieces are on my top ten list, I like the mystery of the top one.

"The Peak" now available at the shop

Monday, October 15, 2018

New Misfits...a bunch of quackers

L-R, Francis, Lincoln and Moses aka The Rhoades Boys
I have really missed The Bottomtums and knew eventually the right ducks would hopefully come along needing a new forever home. And they have.

Collectively, I call them The Rhoades Boys, separately they are Lincoln, Moses and Francis. Yes, I can tell them apart, they have unique patterns on their heads. The Rhodes boys were sons and grandsons of the first owner of our house and lived here with their parents Wealthy and Cornelius Rhoades. All of the five boys, except one, died in the Civil War, and some are buried with their parents at a nearby cemetery. Our home, and the first Rhoades was one of several first settlers of the area, and our house is one of the oldest, from 1760. I am beginning more research this winter. I think of the people that lived here way back, wondering what their days were like. I wish I had photos and maybe I can find some in the history research but might not.

The ducks are wonderful. They are Anacona Runner Mixes. They were raised by hand by a young woman, now a sophomore in high school, and she needed to rehome the drakes. She took great pride in them and was a really insightful and caring young woman.

Sometimes I have to take in animals I just...want. For my own self. Ducks are amusing and playful, and these guys are used to being handled. I've been holding them and rubbing their bottoms and necks, saying their names over and over. They live out in Rosie's barn, and this makes me happy since she sort of can have friends, even though we all know Rosie does not make friends, nor seems to ever have want friends. But for my sake, she can hear them quacking and it makes me feel I've given her companionship while she snoozes under her hay pile. She is her own pig and always has been.

They are truly elegant and beautiful, and their beaks are the most beautiful pistachio like green.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

New elders come visit...we plan

Eleanor give a final kiss to Birdie
We had a sweet visit with some 'new' elders that came to visit the farm on Friday. Some I had met on visits with Opie, but one woman, Eleanor, came from one of the homes I have been meaning to visit with Opie and hope to soon.

I was also happy that Birdie was part of it. She was fine and I was feeling good about our treatment she and I have been working through, and she needed some love herself. She did stumble that night, so her recovery-and I hope there is one-will take a month or more to see if she is permanently damaged. But she is walking, grazing and able to get up-although be it a bit wobbly at times. her hind end can be a bit off. But I am holding hope that worst is what we are seeing and she won't decline further.

Eleanor was the sweetest woman and she is 96. She was very appreciative that we have a pig named Eleanor. It's always good to meet people that know it is an honor to have a pig with your name.

This will probably be our last outside visit this season, but who knows. I am excited to get thinking about the indoor shelter we want so elders can sit out of the elements, but now I'm thinking we should go a bit bigger, with a structure that the animals can walk into too, and we could do winter visits with a heated area. I'm thinking about outreach too, and having drawing sessions amongst animals and elders as models, story telling hours where elders can share their stories, cross generational visits with the animals...stay tuned.

I will see as I percolate. We have lots of ideas to consider, and this year we have come so far, so fast in some ways,that I need to sit with my thoughts.

I am really so pleased with how we've come along with these elder visits. I realize too that we are building a community for ourselves, and I never really had that out West.

I'm also finding I need to learn to say 'no' better. I need more studio time, and of course, winter is my best stdio percolating time. I've never been great at making art in the summer. No pressure on myself, I just know that working with the elders takes creative vision too, and I need to not abandon my other passion-painting and story.

Life is very full. Life is rich. Life is a challenge, but it is juicy and I'm dancing as fast as I can.

The Two Great Whites

Red on red

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Another beginning - The Wood on the south side

The Wood, Southern side, that leads to Rag Tree and Quaker Cemetery
Hard to get a panoramic view on the blog
Late yesterday afternoon I took time to walk out to The Wood and explore a bit. I took a bucket to look for apples, and at certain points I took time to sit on my bucket and just look out at the view of our land {it dawned on me I was just like Pino and his bucket.

I feel very comfortable in the southern side of our Wood unlike the West side that feels...eery. The southern side butts up to the Quaker Cemetery [land that was deeded to the Quakers back in the late 1700's by the man who owned our home.] In that part of The Wood you find Rag Tree, and a plot of land that used to be pasture, but over years the trees grew. We plan to return some of it to pasture. It is also adjacent to the property that is for sale, and I still keep coming back to my scheme of someone buying it and working with us, or...sending The Misfits into our bank to get a loan simply because they are so sweet. The properties, like all of up here, are divided by midden walls of rock, and I have a natural place where we could create an opening.

My dream is to create fenced pasture, but also make nature walks in The Wood in that area, so we could do walk about with the donkeys, or whoever. I also just like going there and sitting for some reason. It feels safe to me and I can look over at the barn and animals.

I am slowly researching the history of the land and our area. George Rhodes lived here in the early 1760's with his wife Abigail Lincoln. I assume they built the house since it is one of the first ones, along with the Hilton homesteads [many of the Rhodes family are buried there too] Their son, Cornelius and wife Wealthy had the children that lived here in the early 1800's,, and all the sons died in the Revolutionary war except two. One fought and died in Gettysburg. I think of them when I am walking around, wondering when the pasture first got cleared. It is rare to find cleared areas in mid coast in our area.

So much history and now me, and Martyn, and our animals that return to the Earth are part of it too.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Birdie is in some trouble...and we will fight this together

I have an emergency need. And some scary news that I hope will work out.

Birdie showed signs of the dreaded Menagerial Worm and fortunately I spend so much time with her that I noticed it. I am hoping as is my vet that we have caught it fast enough to help her. This is a horrible worm, that is rampant in the east, and it is carried by white tail deer, and passed onto slugs and snails. If unnoticed and untreated it can kill a llama fast, or damage them neurologically. The deworming regime in Maine is so different than out west, and when we first got here and could not find knowledgeable vets [for ruminants, pigs or llamas] we had to rely on our 15 years of experience out West, and fellow farm people and online support...but llamas are unusual.

Last year I finally found a vet clinic I like and feel confidant with-well known in the region, far away so visits are pricey here, but it is worth it, and since I've built up some relationship with them, it is paying off today. A vet must visit a farm at least once a year [ours obviously comes more than that] and be knowledgeable about an animal before prescribing any medication. When I first noticed the signs [weak hind end] I thought she was just stiff when she was getting up-this first showed itself at the event Saturday. On the Thursday before at a therapy/elder visit, she was fine. On Sunday I noticed nothing that strange except maybe some stiffness but kept my eye on her, and last night I saw her dusting/rolling and when she got up, her hind end was very weak. I knew what it was and thought my heart would sink to my feet.

I treated her with what I had immediately and got up this morning and called my vet and I was right to do what I did, but now she will be on 10x that dosage for five to ten days. The bad news is this is a nasty worm, and some llamas-even ones that seem okay or are showing improvement- can die. I asked my vet to answer the answerable, would Birdie make it? I had researched enough to see university vet sites saying if caught early enough, and it starts in the back legs, there is a 70% plus chance of recovery. But my vet said she has seen all different cases where some llamas are downed and pull through, and some are like Birdie in not so dire a condition but don't pull through.

So I amy really sick about this. I am grateful I had built up this relationship and trust and like this vet a lot. I will be giving Birdie shots 2x day for 5 days, then the amounts change and we do 1x day. It's a blast of meds and includes a 35x dosage of one dewormer, and a double a day of an anti inflammatory drug as well as thiamine shots. I can do all this on my own, and have my vet consulting me as I go. If you have ever medicated a llama, twice a day, you know it is not the easiest animal to treat, but we will be fine. Besides, I get to hold her and tell her we will fight this together. There is a possibility she will go through the treatment and not show any signs in future, or she might be slightly neurologically damaged but all we can do is treat her, watch, and hope, and wait. Even after two weeks of treatments, I might still see symptoms, as it takes a month or more for a recovery if there is going to be one. I was also concerned about seizures which I guess can happen during treatment, but my vet felt this probably is not something to be alarmed about and she thinks we won't have any. Seizures are horrible to witness.

This spring my vet and I are also going to meet and examine all our deworming regimes, some of which are fine, some might need reassessment. I am having the extra meds overnighted to me, since its a two hour trip. If you want to help out, please do, I am not sure what it will cost. I just want my llama to live and I feel really sick about this.

I love you Birdie, I know you have many who love you so much!

Visit the donation page if you are inclined to chip in. Thank you to those who have already.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Overwhelmed...our first Misfit Love Day in Maine was...wow

I am simply so overwhelmed with many feelings, and was yesterday too. I was up at 4:30, it was dark and it seemed like the sun would never rise, but it did, it always has. I was in the barn as soon as daybreak. What had to happen next was a series of maneuvers to get certain Misfits in one spot, and others elsewhere. It all went amazingly well.

The weather could not have been one degree better-6o degrees, no wind and a deep Maine sky sprinkled with floating puffs.

At precisely 11 AM, the cars began arriving and did not slow down until 2. We were open until 3 pm and we are guessing we had about 350 people. This was by far the best and most consistent crowd of any event we had out West. Our location here is so perfect for this. We had people park on the front grass, and it all worked just fine.

But overall, the thing I have to say I am most proud of, and still blissed by, is the openly loving reaction we got from fellow Bremenites, and community people, as well as people who came from Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut just to come to the event. Over and over, people pulled me aside, and first thanked me for what we are doing with animals and people, but they also expressed how important and special the farm was, and the 'feeling' of it all. Many were amazed at 'how calm and friendly' the animals were-of course a lot of this is because I work with them daily, but I like to think the lovers and those needing to learn love come to me asking to live here.

I met so many wonderful people! One woman who had donated months ago came, she had raised llamas most of her life but due to health and aging, she quit and her final llamas were sent to live with a friend. I learned many things from her about llamas, some I knew, some I didn't. But it was just so nice and I told her I want her to come when she can.

We had all ages, but I was really pleased it was heavily leaning to the elder crowd. Of course, our area and state is an older population, but these people are vibrant, interested and engaged creatures, we are finding. I met many people who had been following us since they read about our trip with all the animals across the country.

I had bought a little tiara for Birdie, thinking it might be fun. I wanted to decorate her neck, but due to timing, I opted for the tiara. I told her,

"Look, I'll put it on and if you don't like it, off it goes."

But the minute I put it on, and the guests were arriving, it's as if she took to this new role. She sat herself down and her people flocked around her, snapping photos, she gave kisses all day. She met children, a 101-year-old gent, and her first firemen who really fell for her. We are pleased we now know a fireman in the neighborhood who will watch out for us. Opie and Ollie were great too, and I had the animals all together roaming about, which was a nice pastoral, natural setting. White Dog was with the pigs so people could pet him and he got a lot of attention. I failed to get enough photos, next year I will do better! There some more on Instagram.

There were times I got all swelled up inside. What we have accomplished here in a short time was truly wonderful and gratifying. We are surely meant to be in their spot in this time. My volunteers were so great, we found we needed two people by the gate to greet people but also keep the goats from getting out, and my ladies were so wonderful about explaining our mission and all. It was also rewarding that people, most that I talked to, came with a knowledge of what we are doing.

I think Emma, our board member who also volunteered, said something really interesting and helpful. She lived out West when we were there, and helped at most of our Pino Pie Days. We all loved Pino Pie Days but I felt it had a purpose there, and not 'now', and Pino too had done his duty for years and it felt the animals were shifting. Emma pointed out that at Pie Day, people came to the event for many reasons, some for pie, some just to drive in the country. It was more about self gratification. Here, it was people coming in and sharing their admiration for what we were doing, and wanting to help. I just loved this.

We are really exhausted. The first event in a new place means different set ups, and it all worked. Lots of details though and we of course have new ideas for next year. The fiddler was great too and next year I'll be more on top of finding music earlier on.

We earned $1500 net, which is better than we ever did in Oregon. But the main thing is, we are gaining respect in our area and region. Every bit helps us here. Out West, except for one local paper, I could never get any press. We have a much more engaged community here with what we are doing.

I am so lucky to live with these creatures, and share them. Thank you to everyone who helped. And to Martyn, who did so much to help make it all go smoothly.

Feel free to donate now to our mission here, helping both animals and elder people.
She stole the show

Her first goat friend. Ollie was great.

Pam Weeks came and played fiddle for us.

Our first 101 year old guest-oh he was so sweet!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

A sign to appease the pig

Full speed ahead on the prepping for our big day on Saturday. I'm busy making signs and all sorts of stuff to give our guests a story book feel when they enter the gates. I know this event will evolve over the years like our old event out West...but I am working hard to make it magical and special. The weather is supposed to be good [hooves, toes, tails are all crossed].

This is our first public fundraiser here in Maine so I am a bit anxious to see what our turn out will be. However, we have had wonderful reception from the local papers and that is so rgreat. And we are on a main artery of a road, so it is a convenient location.

And we found a fiddler! Pam Weeks will be playing amongst The Misfits and guests. I am so excited about that, and I know the donkeys especially respond to music, or at least Pino did at one of our past events.

Hope I get to meet some of you!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Miss Spring has died

I have to tell you the news that we had a death last night. It was expected, and in some ways I was relieved. Miss Spring was one of the elder cats. She came here in spring after she was brought to the shelter out of a hoarding home, where the owner had died and neighbors knew there were animals in the house. At the time the shelter told me about her, I put off taking her because Laci was not well, and eventually would die. I think it was another month before I went to see her, and she had been at the shelter for a few months.

I named her Miss Spring since it was a new beginning for her, and it was the season. She was the sweetest old lady, every morning she was there on the table for me, mehing, when ever I opened the door. I always picked her up and held her, I'm so glad I did that. Not every cat likes to be held, and get a smoochy face from a human, but she did. I knew a couple weeks ago her behavior had changed and she was fading and she had declined really fast. On Tuesday when the vet was here, I told her my thoughts, and she concurred. In the last two days, she was transitioning and I was able to tell her it was okay to let go, and slowly she did. I have two piles of raw wool from the sheep and in winter the cats love it. She had bedded down in one for the past few days, it was not her normal spot but I knew she was cradled in comfort there. She wasn't showing distress, just fading. This morning, she was gone, sleeping in her wool bed, the other cats up and about on a new day.

When I got the email about taking on the 20 year old [also a Calico, like Miss Spring] and her 15 year old son, I thought of Miss Spring. One might have thought, "It's not fair to Miss Spring, wait until she dies before bringing in another." But I knew when I got that email, Miss Spring was somehow showing me she was letting go, and she accepted this, and less than 24 hours after the new elders arrived, Miss Spring was gone. She did not rise yesterday, I talked to her and petted her, Noritsu as usual came to my aid to nurse us.

And this morning, I did all my chores in the cat room, and attended to the living, first, before going to her, because I could tell she was gone by looking at her body, tucked into her wool bed. Finally, I reached down to touch her, and she was indeed dead.

But she opened the door for another elder, one who is also probably not going to be around long, but I really innately feel the two lives were meant to entwine like this. One Calico leaves, another Calico arrives.

We are going to bury her amongst some tulip bulbs I just bought, and when I look out the dining room window in the morning, she will rise each Spring, forever.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

I was minding my own business...twice

This is a two part 'Minding My Own Business story.

Part One:
A few days ago I was minding my own business, working in my office on paper stuff. An email came in from the shelter, wondering if I might be able to take on a 20 year old female cat and her 15 year old son cat. I said 'yes' without hesitation. And I said I'd come Saturday, today, to pick them up.

Part Two:
I got to the shelter and met the two old cats. The female 20 year old is really slight, and I am not sure how long she will be hanging on. She isn't really sick, except for kidney issues, but 20 is very old, and she is thin in the hindend and seems weak. The male is jet black and a nice healthy build. So I signed all the paperwork, and waited off to the side of the front room.

Once again, I was just minding my own business when I decided to venture into one of the cat adoption rooms, to pass time while I waited.

And there he was.

I swear, I had a visceral reaction. He smooched his face into me and just had this presence. My little head was all full of images of me sneaking him into the house before Martyn saw him, and I immediately began planning my Get-Cat-In-House plot. When I got home, Martyn was out in the field on the tractor-I thought this was a clear sign it was truly my lucky day as star were aligning. I made introductions of the new cat and Omar, Oscar, Muddy and Hughie. I explained to them, it is imperative you act like pros when Martyn comes in for lunch, be cool... Martyn arrived in the house and asked if I had brought home the two old cats.

"Yes," I said quietly.

He knew something was amiss. I turned my eyes toward the window seat where I'd left the newcomer.
Martyn said, "Oh myyyyyy..." in a kitty talking tone. I knew I had him hooked at first sight, just like I was.

"Wow, he is big..." and he started doing kitty coos.

So, all is well.

I have another cat in the house that is so magnificent of a cat, everyone is calm, and I still have a husband. Prepare yourself for lots of cat photos in the coming days. The two new elders arrived at the cat suite without any fanfare, and the twenty year old immediately went to sleep.

The twenty year old mother

The fifteen year old son

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Painting for Jason...and Maggie

"Maggie knew he was like a cloud now but sometimes he would be a giant blue magnolia in the sky."

Three weeks ago, I wrote about a friend who died by suicide. It was a great shock to everyone, and to me, and still is. I still have not fully grasped it and probably never will.

People have been grieving and sharing about their loss in many ways-sharing memories, sadness, shock...and also in more uplifting ways...the grief evolves down the winding road to what hopefully will be more peace for the people left behind.

Jason had a therapy dog he brought to his office where he saw his patients. Maggie had a real following and still does. I know she is giving comfort to Tony, Jason's finance, and I know she is cared for and loved. I know in my own life, I have lived with many, many animals, some who have gone through great loss, separation, hard times, or neglect. I've seen that animals do not react to death the way humans do, and why would they? I am not going to say animals do not grieve, I think they sense loss and grief. But I also think they accept it in a much different way than we do. I believe that animals, if given consistent companionship, food, shelter and caring, adjust to loss. I believe they sense our true intent, and they resonate with people that have consistent, pure intent.

I think of Tony a lot, and Jason's mother, and Maggie.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Misfits seem to have a manual typewriter

When The Head Troll was still alive, she was in charge of Halloween. It was such a relief. Since she died in 2016 the tradition of outfits sort of fell to the wayside. This morning there was a note slipped under the door, typed no less...how did this get by me, a manual typewriter? Anyway, suggestions were made for masks The Misfits want. I yelled out the window,

"Nothing will be discussed until after Misfit Love Day, capiche?"

I could hear the tail swishes and hoof stops from afar.

"I'm only one woman!" I yelled out again. "I love you!"

Whinnies, squeal and chortles rang out.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Little Big Man proves me wrong-surprise!

So...it all started out innocently enough. One of The Secret Sisters went broody on me, sitting on a clutch of three eggs.

"I really don't think there are babies in your eggs, I told her," she stared at me, intently. "I have watched Little Big Man, and even though he surely believes he can get the job done, I don't think he can." More staring.

You see, Little Big Man is the Seabright rooster we brought home after he was left at a local shelter. He is tiny, about a pound. He is way shorter than the girls. I have watched him get on their backs and do his thing, but it's like watching a toy on top of one of the mechanical ponies you see at grocery stores. I could not imagine how he was even close to impact. But I should know better. Where there is a penis there is always a hole. So I decided to let the hen ride out her broodiness with her clutch. I marked the eggs and threw her grain each day. She had found herself the perfect spot, right behind Sir Tripod Goat's cubby bed, tucked under the stairs.

Yesterday after a very long day of work, I was doing front barn chores and noticed that Henneth the blind chicken was very interested in the broody hen. Then I heard it. That distinctive little chirp. And there it was.

I have to tell you my heart skipped a beat.

"You were right," I told her, "I apologize for not believing you," to which she stared at me again.

I gathered up mother and chick, and the remaining eggs and put her in a little stall created just for such occasions.

This morning, I congratulated Little Big Man. I have no idea what his child will look like, and let's all pray it is a girl. Girl Power! A Seabrite mixed with a Buff Orpington should be interesting.

I forgot how wonderful it is to discover these little surprises. Now that we don't breed, ahem, Earnest are you listening, it is up to Nature to delight me with her charms.bI just hope the sound of a baby doesn't give Earnest any ideas.

Little Big Man, on the right, clearly go the job done

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Martyn, I have a new idea..."

We had a last minute scheduling of some elders who wanted to come see the animals, so we gladly agreed and they came over Saturday for an hour. It was a really sweet visit, as always, but as importantly for me, it helped me think of some next steps to improve and expand our elder visit area.

I had told Martyn I wanted to build a shade hut for the guests, in the same area we now sit. There is shade but it can be difficult to arrange seating especially when some people are restricted by walkers or wheelchairs.

"I have a new idea," I told Martyn after the visit.

He remained quiet and listened.

"I think I need two huts, one for inside the orchard, and another inside the other paddock close by so the donkeys can partake more easily."

He pondered it and said,

"That's a good idea..."

Wow. What a guy.

It's been great to have these visits this past summer, to try out our area and work out the kinks. Actually there haven't been any, and the sand we invested in to make walking for the elders easy has worked great. The huts will also help me provide shelter in case there are sprinkles that day. We obviously would cancel any visits if it is bad weather, but sometimes a sprinkle blows in from the ocean. I also handed out hats this year in the heat, which was fine-and pretty sweet since many of them were old hats of my father. Made me sigh. But it would be nice to have more shade.

On Saturday's visit, it was cool, about 60 but sunny, and I thought it would also be good to have blankets. But then I thought, wouldn't it be cool to have followers of Apifera make...quilts? Then we could have have warmth for the elders if it is a bit chilly [they weren't bothered, but it would be nice I think.]

I've been sad not to have my donkeys at these visits. I haven't had them participate for a few reasons, one being it always seems to rain the day before and they roll in the wet sand/dirt and are pretty donkey dusty. I also have to lead them into the area, and the llama, and then all the little goats are there. Mayhem as not ensued yet, but adding donkeys into he mix might create mischief. So the second hut would let me have the equines in the paddock right next to the regular sitting area, and we could venture in there too, or they could at least see them close by. The elders are of all different memory and mobility levels...so it is good to have these options.

I will have Martyn do a plan and see what money we are talking about. He would be able to do all the building so I'm going to guess $2000 range. We would also like to get more sand for the ground, it really works well with elders and canes, walkers and wheelchairs, and I'm 'guessing' that will be under $500.

Everything is happening in it's own time!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

One must decorate the llama

Yesterday I created a happy piece. I needed to just make something of whim that brought me joy, and I know it will make others smile too. You can purchase this as a print or art cards now.

Thank you, Birdie, for being in my life. I am so glad we found each other. You are a treasure to all of us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A friend dies of suicide, and I sit with the old donkey

Note: This post was originally written and shared publicly last week after I learned a friend died from suicide. In the past days since his death, his family and friends have begun the process of grieving, sharing and also, teaching, just as Jason would have in this time. I deleted the original post, because I used the term 'committed suicide' and I learned through posts by family, that this is an inappropriate use of words. Criminals 'commit' crimes, suicide is not a crime. So I wanted to edit that. As I said in the post, I have never felt suicide was 'selfish', rather I think it is a courageous act that happens in a hopeless moment. I am still shocked, and so many people are too. I don't have any answers, and am sure I never will. That is the aftermath. But I know he is at peace.

I lost someone I know to suicide this week, someone I never met but had known for about 8 years through blogging and Facebook, and over time, had intimate conversations with. I cared about him and his opinions, and learned from him, and laughed with him too. He stood up for me in a very public way after an extreme group of vegans slandered me and my farm online, really in a vicious way-he turned it into a teaching moment. He was funny, he was vibrant and he could also be biting. He was not perfect, he was damaged like any of us humans are. A friend once said to me, “We are all damaged, some of us just more than others." I only found out about his death the day before I took this photo. When I looked out at the old donkey, Matilda, lying in the paddock near the grave of the elder sheep Assumpta, who died a few weeks ago, I was drawn to go over, even though it was supper time and I was about to return to the house.

I said ‘Hi, Matilda,” and then I sat down on the ground with her. She did not move, she did not even reposition her front leg for comfort. I told her a friend of mine was dead. I closed my eyes and thought of my friend, in light, in calm, out of mental pain. His suicide was shocking to so many. I thought of the place a person has to be in at the moment they do that final act, alone, and how much pain, either emotional or physical or both, they have to be in. Some people like to say that suicide is selfish. I don’t feel that way. I think suicide is a courageous act but it is done within a place of helplessness. For a person like my friend, who was a psychologist who worked with many hurt people, to have reached a place, a moment, where he went over, he must have felt so helpless like it was the only way. He had love in his life, a partner, a career, a family, a dog he adored, he loved to cook and share everything he was thinking and caring about. He was a gay man in a world that isn’t so kind to LGBT people, and he was outspoken and an advocate for them in society. He was outspoken about injustice and racism.

So, I sat with Matilda. It was a beautiful day and night. Autumnal breezes and no bugs, a sunset coming behind us. One by one, the other donkeys left their hay dinner in the barn and returned to our private Donkey-Woman sit down, but they stayed about ten feet from us, as if they recognized-wait, they did recognize-that Matilda was letting me express important things. My friend loved animals and I envisioned him looking down on us, smiling.

“It’s okay, now, Jason,” I said to the sky.

There is a gut wrenching aftermath to suicide. I understand why many people use terms like “selfish’ to explain it. The pain and thoughts that the surviving loved ones are left to deal with, forever, well, it can’t be denied. But it is not about them, or me, or us. It is not to be judged. Nor is this a time to analyze a person’s faults or missteps. It is a time to hold that person in the light.

I thank Matilda for calling me over silently to give me space and time to do that for Jason.

Links from Jason's family:

Talking helps. For the many who have asked for help finding support groups:
Friends for survival: 800-646-7333
Heartbeat: 719-596-2575
American suicide foundation: 800-273-4042
American association of suicidology: 202-237-2280

Monday, September 17, 2018

Everything dies, everything stays

[This is available as a print]
Every year we say a bittersweet farewell to the sunflowers, goddesses in their own right. Such amazing presence these creatures have in the gardens. While there is nothing happier than a sunflower, they look so sad at a certain stage before death is final...but that is just human thought. They are busy spreading their seed by bird and squirrel carriers so that next year we will watch for their kin.

Nature is always my comfort when something or someone dies. It teaches that the energy we hold within our bodies never dissipates, it just expands or changes its foundation. When the rock is washed away by water, what does it become? It is part of the water. When the body is turned to ash what does it become? Part of earth on the ground or blowing in the air only to land somewhere to blend with the soil. We are Earth.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A beautiful day of elder friends...animal and human

Our elder friends from one of The Greens residences came for visit on this gorgeous mid coast Maine day. Oh we had fun!

We all sat with the goats in the orchard, and then one of the elders really wanted me to bring White Dog in. I knew he would do great, but he is about 120 pounds, and though he is so loving, he has big feet and still has a habit of wanting to 'hold hands' and I did not want any tender skin getting broken. But I brought him in on a lead and he was wonderful Perhaps this is a new gig for him now. We shall see.

I also let Freddy the Dreamer, aka Little Lonely, one of the smaller pigs in. They have so wanted to see a pig. The other pigs were in the paddock in close proximity so they got to see them run around and that was fun. Freddy was very interested in the grass since he has been on dry lot for a long time, so he had little interest this visit, but I know he will be good.

Ollie is also a fine therapy goat, so happy for him. Opie was there, and has continued showing his big boy personality of quiet resolve, standing back and letting the other animals do the running around. And of course, there was plenty of Llama Love...including kissing galore. What a showstopper she is.

But what was fun, and always is with this bunch since I have grown to know them pretty well, was just sitting and talking, outside, watching the animals, feeling the breeze, smelling the ocean. They are a wonderful bunch and Martyn was able to be here today too. I just love them all. When they were leaving, one of them said,

"Now wasn't just so wonderful to all be together here, and just sit and talk?"

Yes, I think so.

We are planning to build a small hut for both man and beast, and I'm hoping it might allow some seniors to venture out even in November, or spring time-but we will see.

If you like what we are doing-bringing animals and elders together-please consider a donation to our non profit. Thank you!

Friday, September 14, 2018

The aging of the acrobatic goat

He once flew through the air with the greatest of ease, without a trapeze. Now, years later Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat is turning nine and beginning to show his elder status in both appearance and activity level. The other day, someone chewed his bear off a bit, shortening it.

I looked at all of them, lined up, and asked sternly,

"Who is chewing on Wilbur's beard?"


"His beard has shrunk considerably in the last few days," I said.

Opie stood forward. "It wasn't me but I know who it is," and he returned to the lineup.

"Opie, you are complicit by not telling me," I said.

Earnest came froward, "May I ask what the said consequences will be for the said perpetrator?"

"I will scold them," I said.

"Shaming is harmful to young minds!" Opie screamed.

Everyone hushed him up.

"Opie, I think you know more than you are telling, " I said. "I'm going to count to ten, and if a name comes out, everyone will get carrots, even the perpetrator," I said.

"It's ME, It was MEEEEE!" screamed Ollie in joy and he ran forward to get a hug.

So, I sat amongst them, and we ate carrots. And Ollie chewed on my buttons.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Oscar...the imperfection of his actions confound us...but we love him

Oscar in the front, elder Omar his papa in the back 
Omar and his son Oscar have been with us about a month now and have settled in very well. We really love them. Oscar is a year old and Omar will 14 next month. They are truly bonded and call for each other when they are apart in the house, usually joining up for naps on the bed, and coming together for window sunnings, and movie watching at night on the couch, where all of us human and beasts are stuffed together but happy as clams. Oscar likes to snuggle with Martyn during television time, Omar is my guy.

Every morning when Martyn gets up at 5:30, I stay in bed, and the minute they hear him get up, the two of them arrive with enthusiasm on the bed, to lie on me like a couch.

We have been frustrated with some of Oscar's...confusion, and I have tried everything to get him past it. Oscar uses the litter box regularly, but about 50% of the time, he decides to go pee in the house, in a specific spot by the back door. I tried bringing in a second litter box, I tried cleaning the box-literally-about four times a day. He also will poop in one of two spots on regular basis, but still uses the litter box too. Omar has no issues.

"Can't you explain it to him, Omar?" I ask him.

I can deal with a cat poop-God does know poop is just a thing around here we don't bat an eye at-but cat pee is another issue. Fortunately, he is doing it in a spot that isn't in the main part of the house. Unfortunately it is on the old wood floor. I tried spraying different urine away products that say they keep the cat from re-peeing there. False advertising. I did not want a litter box in my front hallway, so we now put a piece of tin foil down, and then a shop rag on top of that. It keeps it from soaking in the floor. I have caught him in the act and scolded him, I have caught him in the litter box and praised him. I do know there was always sort of a doggie smell there when we moved in. The house is from 1760, I am sure someone peed there at some point, maybe a moose, maybe an early settler. It's just odd he immediately used the litter box regularly, and then started this behavior. The spot he is going on is literally about six feet around the corner to his box.

We talked about separating them and putting Oscar out with the elders. But I couldn't do it. I am sure Omar would have actually kind of liked his independence in the house, but they really are bonded. I've never seen a male father cat so bonded with a youngster.

Omar and Oscar were relinguished to the shelter. From what I understand, they came from a very cat heavy population household that it sounds like had grown because they had not spayed/neautered-Omar was still in tact at age 13. The couple had retired and decided to reduce the cats because they could not afford it. We think there were so many cats around that it had become a free for all. Oscar is also tiny and I would assume was inbred if Omar was running around mating. We also notice that Oscar is ravenous, where as Omar is more mellow about eating, but eats well. When Oscar was at the shelter he had runny stool for many months and they did a bunch of tests, when he arrived here his stool was fine within a few days. I think he was simply stressed. He also barfed his food quite a bit on arrival, and that has subsided, and again I think he was used to having to gorge his food with all the other cats around.

So, that is part of the deal of taking on animals. You have to work through it, try lots of different options and give it time. I really hope Oscar grows out of this one behavior. He and Omar are here to stay...assuming he doesn't start peeing on every thing...but I am confidant that isn't going to happen or he might have to live in the elder suite.

And I look at him, when he has made this mistake, he just looks so stinking perplexed. He is really a sweet guy, as is Omar.

Omar is a truly lovely guy, going on 14 in a couple weeks

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Autumn is here...oh yes oh yes oh yes

I entered the barn yesterday morning humming Zippidity Do Da, the weather had me perked for happiness and enthusiasm no matter what came my way. It is technically not Autumn on the calendar, but, for me Autumn begins on September 1 and I am always so glad for her arrival. The weather cooled off for us, I even wore socks last night and a sweater as we sat outside having a glass of wine.

Oh Glory!

I'm relieved for the animals too, who take any kind of weather without complaint. I'd rather see an animal in freezing weather eating hay, than sitting in humid and hot fly infested air. I think they agree.

So, on we go to the beginning of so many things, for that is what this time of year means for me-beginnings even amongst the dying leaves. Something is always starting. Ideas, new projects, new goals, new memories, new animals...are all in front of me.

I even got on Boone yesterday and took a spin around the fields. We hope to ride into the early winter now that the flies are pretty much busted. It was good to be on him again.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

More elder friends come to Apifera and I now know for sure we are in the right place

We had such a nice visit with new friends from The Lincoln Home, an elder residence in the nearby town of New Castle. It was just a lovely group of people that came, sharp and witty and full of questions.

I brought Birdie in, and all the goats, and you can probably guess who put on a kissing show. I tell you, I am so grateful when I went to get a llama that day that I picked her, she was a kisser then and is to this day.

I felt really good about our first two on site visits. Today, when I looked at the photo of Birdie kissing Phil, the gentleman in the photos here, I just thought,

We really did come to the right place.

Today we brought the benches into the orchard, so we could be in the shade, it was really hot and sticky but we had a breeze. It was good because we are planning the shade hut for the elder guests, and now I know at this time of morning there is good shade where we were, so I thought it would be nice to have some more permanent benches there.

I'm just really so happy thinks are humming along.

I think I want to try and bring Boone in on these too, but I will have to think about logistics. I left the donkeys out of today's visit because it was so hot. And to be honest, Birdie is such a presence and such a hit for people. It is the Time of the Llama. Pino has absolutely no remorse about that. He has done years of service in his own quiet way, and will continue, but we will go with the flow the universe is sending us.