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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Opie smile therapy-and how much should I help?

Jeanne and Opie

Opie and I had a really good visit with our friends in Wiscasset. I can say that each visit has been fun, good, full of beautiful moments, some visits are quiet some are more active...each visit has an energy, just like any get together with anyone.

But this visit was really a special one. I have known these people now a year, so part of it is getting to know each other. I think it is safe to say that Opie has become an extended member of the household. This comes from the fact we consistently visit, this is something I am committed to. And as I've said, I'm very fond of this group. I know that shows, I know when I give of myself in a genuine way-without motives of self-my higher self is emitted to those in my presence.

One thing that made it extra special was the conversation was really full of all sorts of topics, and we talked again about Jeanne's time as a professional dancer in NYC. It came up again because I brought up Gramercy Park-one of my favorite places and neighborhoods when I was living in NYC back in the '80's. And Jeanne, who is 97, smiled broadly and said that's where her sister lived. Her sister was Clare Luce, famous actress of the era. Jeanne also lived there with Clare at some point. We talked about Jeanne's career, and she traveled the dance circuit then, around the region, and did dance on Broadway too. I told her she should write a book.

"I tried a couple times," she said. She went on to say she had daily diaries and had tried to start books and never got it done. My little head was bursting inside. I was dying to read those diaries. I'm sure they were full of wonderful stories. I told Jeanne that, and that I could help her get the writing together into a book of some form. We smiled and that was the end of our visit.

All the way home I thought of Jeanne, and her life. We all have these rich wells of stories. You can walk down any given street and have no idea what that body and soul experienced in life. We all share something in common, something. Just think, years ago, Jeanne was walking around Gramercy Park. Years later when Jeanne would have been in her 60's [I'm 60 now] and I was in my late 20's, I was walking around Gramercy Park. I'm talking my place on the great mandala.

I wondered how much to push on these ideas. How much help can and should I extend to my elder friends? I have wanted to share more of each person's life, their stories, in a way they would enjoy. Maybe interview each one and write a story about them...share it with you, maybe the local paper if the residents liked that idea. Or maybe a book, "Opie's friends". We are all in this together, the people that came before me were rich with story. I wished I'd asked more questions. Someday, I might be somewhere, sitting petting a therapy animal...and my head might be thinking,

But they have no idea how I lived amongst the animals, I wish I could tell them all their names.I wish they knew Opie.

They really love Opie. The care manager of the home took me aside before I left to show me a scrap book she had started for them all, with Opie's first letter. That just made my day.

{If you like the work we do here at our non profit, please consider a donation. Donations help our elder/special needs animals and allow us to continue our elder outreach work. We do not take salaries and all our visits are our gift to the elders.}
Ruth also lived in NYC and was there when I was

Saturday, April 28, 2018

You can take home this dachshund

From "Little Tulip" a new book
I have two drawings from the upcoming book of comfort, "Little Tulip" {It Will Be Okay} that will go home with two people. One will be picked from the people that have already pre-ordered or supported the book, the other will be picked from people that pre-order today through next week.

Help me get this quiet little gem out to the world. I am going to making these books of comfort in small print runs, which will mean less out of pocket cost to my indie budget [I will still do other book projects in the coming year that will require larger budgets, FYI]. Making books is expensive, a labor of love, but I relish it and get joy out of each book. I hope you do too.

We are halfway there so your support is till needed. By pre-ordering, you are helping me a lot!

I will pick the new owners of these two art pieces the week of May 6.

Visit the pre-order page >

From "Little Tulip" a new book

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Facing fear again and practicing conversations with periods and commas-don't flatten me out

Boone and I went for our first ride this season. It was a short mile ride but I wanted to test him, and me, out. I can't say I was scared [if you are new here, Boone and I had a bad accident last June landing me in the hospital a couple days with a concussion], but I wasn't necessarily in the zone either. I wasn't rigid, but we were rusty.

I focused on one thing, my hands, aiming to keep my cues as soft as possible. Boone is a desensitized horse from all his early cow pony days, which has its benefits. I'd rather have that than a high flight risk or spooker. It felt good to be on him and I think he enjoyed getting out too after being cooped up in a paddock all winter.

But what I noticed is...I felt sad afterwards, not because of the ride, or even the past accident. I pondered it all day and decided that I really miss my friend Joanne who died last year. I met her about six years ago, when I started riding at her barn and property of 300 acres back in Oregon. It was one of the saddest goodbyes for me, when we left. When I met her, I had had Boone for a couple years and we were working through some issues-i.e. he was playing with me and was winning. I was not a good leader and lacked confidence. Someone suggested I go ride at Jo's and it was a life changer for me and Boone. We'd ride all winter out in Oregon, and Jo even encouraged me to take dressage lessons with her, which I did, amazingly. That was very worthwhile. Boone and I went on to ride in a parade, get some blue ribbons at school shows, go to the ocean, and do some tough rides in the woods too. We overcame his fear of 'squishy' ground [he's sunk in quicksand once as a cow pony and was freaked out by the sound of squishy ground below his feet] and I overcame my reaction to his fear. I became a good leader. I was really proud of him, and me, and I have Jo to thank for a lot of that.

I realized too that not only did I miss Jo and our rides, I missed our conversations, and I missed the type of conversations we had. We had an easy flow conversation. There was no interrupting, we could engage in all sorts of issues and I never felt judged, or belittled, I never felt I wasn't being heard. When she talked I listened, and vice versa. I felt she respected my experiences in life, and I respected hers.

I never felt like she was talking at me, or over me. I never left the conversation feeling like I'd been run over. Do you know people like that-when you get done with a conversation no matter what the topic, you tend to feel 'flattened out?" Kind of like your big bossy sister came in and basically told you what do, or told you what you might consider doing even though you had not asked her opinion.

I took a business seminar once on communication. One thing that came up was when we listen to someone else talk, and then we answer with, "But don't you think blah blah blah," what we are really saying is, "Yea, you just spent time telling me your thoughts and even though it looked like I was listening I really have to tell you a better way to think about this." I was quilty of this, it was a good lesson. I don't think we are perfect at communicating, it is a life long pursuit, to become a better communicator and listener.

I guess there are people in life that just do not mesh with our personal conversational styles either. But I don't like to be 'talked at', or patronized. We have an ongoing lesson in our house, we try to remember to use 'periods and commas' when we speak [we often fail]. Anytime Martyn and I are going to be at a gathering, when we get out of the car, we remind ourselves to use periods and commas. We had a house guest some time ago that had an answer for everything, even things they had far less skill in than we did. At one point after a couple days of exhaustion trying to listen all the time, I leaned over and said something to Martyn, and the guest said, "Okay, don't listen, go ahead and interrupt me." I pointed out that it wasn't that we weren't listening, but he never stopped talking so there was no chance to interrupt.

I guess I realized after my ride that I'd been having some 'conversations' like that with people. No periods or commas, no acknowledgment of my past experience that might bring some clarity or interest to the topic at hand. I was consistently leaving those conversations with he same people feeling...slapped.

And it made me miss Jo.

But it's okay. Boone and I will ride on. I have a person I'm going to call to see if he and his wife might ride with me sometime, just to get me and my head back in confidence mode with Boone. He lives a ride away, and he said he'd ride the same trail Boone and i had our accident on. I want to do that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Two weeks only- originals on SALE

I rarely put my originals on sale but that's what is happening for the next two weeks at the shop. I offer a payment plan for items over $1000 too.

Apifera's 2018 raw wool now available

The raw wool is ready for purchase from the 2018 harvest! Get it now, as in time I will be making it into yarn. A spinner's delight, the CVM is multicolored, and we also have a white from Calla and Sylvia. I have loved being able to work with the yarn this year too for the first time.

You can see all the various wools and yarn at the shop. For orders larger than one ounce, you can contact me and I will make sure the shipping is right.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It will be okay

If you love dogs, animals, pets, dachshunds, love, hope, tulips, and toast and banana in the morning, please consider supporting the new 'comfort book' "Little Tulip, fully illustrated, hard cover and open for presages now.

I have self published four books, all illustrated, and all labors of love. By setting up a pre-sell page for you to order copies, it helps an indie publisher with shallow pockets to avoid getting into debt. This is really crucial when making books. I do not make money on these funding events for new books, I basically hope to break even, and then move on and sell all the copies to help make a small profit.

Little Tulip is the first of what I'm calling a comfort book. I suppose all my books have promoted comfort through word and art, but I want to do a couple books a year that are printed in small quantities, so I can financially get some of my simpler story ideas out there.

I may be partial, but I love "Little Tulip". It was a joy to work on, even when it brought up some sad feelings. But the main thing I hope everyone feels when they read it is,

It will be okay.

Pre-order a copy today >

Monday, April 23, 2018

I'm an optimist...I can't imagine how the pessimists felt

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm already making my list for winter prep. But first did I mention that we actually felt Spring, right through our skin into our old bones? What a long awaited day we had this weekend, sun and sixties. Oh my, I told Martyn I wasn't sure I'd ever see and feel this kind of day again, and I'm an optimist so I can only imagine how the pessimists were doing this spring in New England.

I much prefer to know my animals can roam around, and this winter was hard on all of them with so much snow and ice, one storm after another.

But yesterday, that disappeared. We have hope again...at least until the flies arrive, and arrive they will.

I got so much done yesterday that it reminded me of my mother telling me when I was young I would work and play all day from sun up to sun down, and then collapse on arriving in the house. That's how yesterday felt, but what a blessing to feel warm but not hot, the breeze wasn't chilly, and just seeing the animals sun napping made me happy. We worked on the garden and the area where we plan to have our elder visits so that is all coming together.

But, warm weather is also the time to get things done for winter. Our road to the outer barn is very soggy in wet spring days, so come summer, I like to get the majority of our hay in, some 800+ bales this year were used, up from 600 due to the hard winter. I'd say we have a month supply left, but soon we will have the pastures open.

But I need to begin to collect money for hay for 2018-2019 winter and will have some hay fundraisers soon. It is always the biggest achievement to get the hay in the barn, it feels like you are really taking car of things, for the animals. I'm glad we found two good sources now for hay, a load off my mind. Hay was really tough to find when we first got here, and it is more expensive than out West so I was a bit agitated by it. But all is well.

We also will be doing a lot of tree work and hopefully clearing for more pastures. A huge undertaking. The third barn is beginning in June or July and there is lots of reorganization to do with fencing and such before that begins, and then it will all have to be arranged once the barn is built.

But for now, it's warm and sunny, and I'm going to focus on that today. I worked all weekend, going to give myself an hour with Boone, it will be or first work together since last fall. We have a lot to accomplish this summer, or I do, after our accident last year. I need to work on some things in that regard.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The President of The Old Kitty Knitty Club calls order

Anna turns eleven today. She is considered a youngster in the Elder Cat Suite. I'm so glad we could bring her home. She came to Apifera along with Sir Tigger, and Yume and they were the first elders we adopted when we arrived in Maine. Anna is the one who scratches the inside of the suite door when she hears me doing morning feedings, and she has a spot that only she is allowed to eat, up by the bird houses.

"The celebration will come to order!" said Papi.

Being president of The Old Kitty Knitty Club has allowed Papi to grow confidence in his organizational and leadership skills. I guess he is like a cat version of The Head Troll.

I said, "The celebration will come to order!" Papa repeated sternly.

Sir tigger stretched, Noritsu yawned, Yume hid, Miss Spring stared at him, and Anna jumped off her perch.

"Listen to Papi!" Anna said.

Sir Tigger stretched again, Noritsu cleaned his face, Yume hid, and Miss Spring still stared.

Papi is learning that sometimes inspiring others is a difficult job.

{We graciously accept donations for our non profit to help animals and elder people.}

Thursday, April 19, 2018

ANNOUNCING! A NEW book of comfort

The PRE ORDER Page is officially ready for your orders! Books should be ready to ship late June/July if not sooner. As always, the order page includes reward levels, including original art from the book.

I have an ongoing series of "comfort books" I will be producing. I'm really excited about this. These will be illustrated books with an overall goal of bringing the recipient comfort, and a smile of course. I will be producing these in smaller quantities versus lage print runs like my illustrated memoirs. When they sell out, that's it, they will not be reprinted. By making smaller print run, I will make less money in the long run, but will be able to produce these sweet offerings once or twice a year.

The book: The first in the comfort book series is called, "Little Tulip" {It Will Be Okay}. It is 6 x 9" hardcover book, 56 pages, fully illustrated, and the book will be enclosed in a beautiful 'case'. The illustrations are emotive, simple and in black ink. There are also some color pieces.

Inspiration: I was inspired to make this story come to life for several reasons. How many times in life are we faced with something-be it loss, fear, a challenge, a change-and we just want to know it will be okay? How comforting is it to hear someone we love say, "It will be okay."?

No matter how old we are, we want it to be okay. No matter what creature we are, we want it to be okay.

In the book, an elder woman wants to get another dog for company. She hears all the reasons from others why she should not get a dog at her age. Even the shelter won't let her adopt one. Meanwhile, Dorthea the dachshund has a litter of pups and the little runt yearns for a home.

It's the story of many people who age and find themselves faced with others wanting to 'detract' from them.

It's a story about the flow of life.

It's about the simple things that make a life worth living.

It's about conversing with those that are gone in a new language.

I hope you will keep it by your bedside when you need to know, "It will be okay."


Ready for pre-orders now

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Yume- we have success!

Yume a couple weeks after her meds kicked in-looking good!
A quick update on Yume, the only Japanese speaking Apiferian, oh wait, I forgot about Earnest the pig.

I'm pleased that the meds we were trying from the vet seemed, knock on my head, to have done the trick. I am glad at this point we did not have to go through a lot of trials with different meds. So, I hope Yume will continue on without flareups but if she does, we can at least know there is a drug to help.

I have collected $100 as of this morning to help offset Yume's $200+ vet bill. If you can chip in, wonderful-it helps cash flow for the 501[c][3] and is much appreciated.

And to those who have sent some help, we say,

“Doumo Arigatou” 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Opie writes a letter...companionship to the elders is the best gift

Opie wrote his first letter. I thought it would be fun to send letters to our elder friends in Wiscasset inbetween our therapy visits. And besides, Opie is practicing his penmanship...or is it pengoatship?

I didn't want to share the letter before our friends received it, but thought I'd share it now. They really got a kick out of it. I also made a puzzle for them with their photos with Opie and they liked that too. Puzzles are great for all ages, we always had a table with one going when I was growing up.Just a nice way to gather, use your eyes, brain and maybe have some chatter too.

I have no intention of buying a bunch of stuff for our friends. My mission with my elder work is simple: bring animal and nature to them, stories of the farm for cheer or conversation, and just be friends. Gifts are nice, or even essentials, but I want my main focus to be on companionship. I like bringing handmade surprises, or eggs, and the wrist warmers this fall from our sheep wool is a way to bring the farm to them. And pie...have to bake a pie. I also share eggs with residences when I can too.

Keep it simple and from the heart. Don't need to start buying 'stuff'.

I made special stamps for Opie's letters too. I might have to have him write me so I can get one in the mail.

{We do not charge the elder residences for our therapy visits. We are not taking a salary from the 501[c][3]. If you would like to make a donation we are always in need of them. It helps feed and care for the animals and allows us to continue our elder therapy work. Thank you.}

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Are you the fairy? And Yume needs some help.

Update: the fairy has announced herself! And Yume already seems to be reacting with improvement from the drugs, Stay tuned. Please donate if you can to help offset the vet bill.

We were so excited to get two big boxes recently. We had told our readers about wanting a couple of garden benches for our evolving area we are creating in the back gardens for a place where elder friends can come and sit, and mingle with the Misfits. We hope to have it ready for visits by late April.

So I put the benches on the Wish List. I requested 2. And one person came forth and said she had ordered one for us. Oh yay! But then two arrived. Oh double yay!

But I do't know who sent the second bench. Some people love to send beautiful gifts and are perfectly happy being anonymous, and that is just fine. But being a Minnesotan at heart, the idea of not thanking that person makes me squirm. Either way, I am so excited, and can't wait to have photos to share, in time, of our friends sitting in the gardens with Misifts running about.

You can still donate seat cushions too. Have to keep the guests happy and comfortable- even my bum gets sore on a bench.

I also want to tell you that Yume needs some extra help right now. I got her into my vet today [they have an urgent care doc on call most day] because she appeared with ulcer like sores on her nose and face. Yume has a chronic issue with her nose and breathing, so this might be related, and it might be other things. We are starting her on some meds for two weeks, and then we will assess. She will be getting meds by mouth twice a day.

If you are able to donate to help offset the vet bill of $280, it really helps. Thank you.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Sometimes I'm afraid...then I get up

I am not sure why, but lately I have been having feelings of fear when I wake up in the morning. Not panic or anxiety, just thoughts come into my head, like,

What if Martyn dies? What would happen if I died today?

I don't know what is underlying these thoughts. I guess it feels like the same way I felt when I took a new job in NYC in my twenties, or went off to school for the first day as a first grader. When I was younger, I didn't have the skills to work through these things as well as I do now.

I have a very good way to deal with these thoughts. I think them, mull them for a few minutes. And then I get up.

I remember when I lived alone in Minneapolis. I lived alone most of my adult life, always preferring to have my own apartment or home. I had two boyfriends in all the years I was a single woman and they were only around for a year...although both of those breakups caused me great pain. I let the first grieving go on way too long, I hung on in so many ways...including trying to maintain a friendship. I know that is how I had to deal with it at the time, but I think seven years went by before I began to really move on. By the time the second person had come into my life, and ended our time together, abruptly, and in a very secretive behind the scenes way, I did grieve it, but I remember waking up and thinking, I'm not letting this grief or this person hold me up for as long. And I didn't. The latter was also not a very honest person, so it was a different kind of feeling during the grief.

I see women my age or older lose their husbands and I wonder if I would get through it. I remember some well know scientist in an interview, forget who, but he lost his wife and best friend after 60+ years of marriage, he was now alone at about 90, and still working. When asked how he was coping, he said he had lots of good things in his life, including his work, but when his wife died

"It kind of took the fun out of everything" he said.

I can understand this. So much of my time with Martyn is spent laughing. He is really funny. We just really enjoy each other. He makes my days brighter. We spend a lot of time together. In winter, from November through March, Martyn is here on the farm working and helping take care of the snow, maintenance and all sorts of things. He is the main chef too and our meals together, breaking bread, talking about the day, our plans, visions, are all wonderful, juicy things of life together. We come up with ideas, and then bring them to life, together, each one with a separate set of skills to see it through.

When I'm with my animals, I feel whole. When I was hurt, confused or lost in my youth, or other times in my life, animals and my relationship with them and Nature, got me through. So did having my parents around, they were best friends too before I met Martyn. But touching and working with the animals keeps me grounded to Earth, the place I am meant to be now, in my evolution.

But I don't know what I would do if Martyn died before me. And I guess it's a 50/50 chance. And I don't like to think of him without me. Don't worry about something until it happens, they say. Sage advice. And I'm not worried. I am simply stating...I'm aware of this thought that pops into my head lately.

I'm not sure, like I said, why this is popping into my head these days, more so than at other times. Maybe it is just the uncertainess [for me and many, that is] of the global world and our chaotic administration. Maybe it is part of the transition into my 60's. Maybe it is because Martyn just ended his winter-at-the-farm-routine and his days are now off the farm working with the landscape crew. I am perfectly content on my own during the day, my life is busy and full. I do not spend my days mired in fear. I'm not seeking advice.

I just am acknowledging the recurrence of these thoughts. I like to think I would go on with gusto [at some point] and that the animals, and the land, farm and my art and writing are what would get me through losing my best friend.

I guess...you just do your best. And you have to determine what the best is you can do each day when you are faced with a big loss. It is your own way, not another's. Nobody has the right to tell a person they aren't getting over something fast enough. Nobody has the right to tell another person they aren't grieving well. The person that gives an opinion to grieving person telling them -even though they have not asked for advice-that they could or should have done something differently while the dead person was still alive...is cruel and narcissistically informed.

This photo was one I took yesterday of me and Calla, one of the elder flock members. I just love the look of her head, so big, almost like it is out of proportion, but it is so like her, to come to me and lean into me and we just can sit that way for many moments. I had no bad thoughts while sitting there with her, no worries...and if I had I'm sure they would have been lifted, even if temporarily.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The pig knows Japanese. "Tanjoubi omedetou, Yume"

Today is Yume's 16th birthday. Yume is one of the many elder cats we have adopted into the folds of Apifera. She was born in Japan, as a street ferel and taken in by a family who were stationed there years ago. They moved around for the job, and ended up back in the states at some point. Yume ended up in the shelter when they had to relocate again, and they could not have animals in the place they were going to. Yume is still very shy around strangers, but converses now with me, and greets me each morning. She is getting less shy when The Old Kitty Knitty Club meets.

Just like last year, I arrived in the barn this morning to hear a familiar voice.

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.

{Feel free to pop a dime or two to our Apifera account...to help maintain and care for Yume and her friends here at the farm, a non profit.}

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Earnest...and the giant pile of a rat tunnel

A couple times a year, I clean out the entire stall where Earnest, Goose, Moose and Wilbur live, and Marcella and any other visiting or wandering guests. I don't do what is called 'deep bedding'-where layers of straw over time create a thick matt that is left to soak up urine and still leave dry surface for the animals on top. But over time, the straw I put down in one winter for the animal's warmth breaks down, and becomes dust, eventually matting when liquid gathers through it over time...and you get thick layers of compost. It also becomes a perfect environment for rats to tunnel under the thick matted surface.

Rats, as in...rats the rodents.

I adore rats, and mice, I really do. We have the absolute best place for rats, we are a rat mecca, a holiday oasis for any rat. We have marsh out back, and feed in the barns. We saw rats the minute we moved in, and were actually entertained by them as they ran in and out of their tunnels. The front barn is perfect for them, as it is post and beam making it easier to escape under the barn. But they have also been making tunnels in the thick under layers of the bedding in both stalls. When I was cleaning the pig stall a few weeks ago, I could hear baby rats under my feet. Don't worry, they weren't dying by my feet, they were fine, and soon after we saw the young population taking over the chicken coop for hen pellet...I'm talking about 20 rat at once. I didn't dare post the video.

They also started to take over the feed room, even though all the feed is secure in big buckets, they began to eat anything of cloth-like my lead ropes that might dangle down to the floor. They ate some leather reins. If I have plastic sacks of old cat food cans from the elder cat suite, that have not been taken to the dump, they get in there.

I now can be working in the barn and a rat will run by me, or peak out of a hole in a tunnel. Last night Benedetto was pouncing on some as they ran by him, and they ducked into one of their many tunnels by the barn, but as he stood there greeting me, the rats came out and were casually looking for pig pellet under Ben.

I really love rats. I really do.

But it has become a real problem. They can carry disease. We have been trapping them, maybe one or two a day, in the feed room. I hate traps but I didn't want to do poison. But we are winning the battle.

It is really getting out of hand.

So I consulted with a few farm people, and a person I really respect who works at the feed store and has animals. If I don't want to shoot them, poison is the only way to get them under control. I do not like this alternative. I believe in a quick, humane kill, and poison is not, I don't think.

Rats can carry disease, especially in this size population. Everyone, everywhere has rats. They are survivors. But they are very destructive. It is only a matter of time before they start eating the eggs, and electric wires. Some of the adults are huge. The trick is to put the poison in their tunnels, away from the other animals. I will not put in in the chicken area, or the pig stalls. There are tunnels out front and I will start with that. The people I spoke with say it is a fact of life here, with all the water, and it is not a one time fix, it will be a maintenance issue.

I'm not happy about it, but we have to get control of it.

Touch someone, really touch them

Touch is important to all of us. I had times in my life when I was without touch...and I am not talking about sex, I'm referring to the simple touch of another's hand on my arm...and times without that kind of intimacy are hurtful to the soul, I think.

I remember once sitting in my mother's couch with her, I was probably in my early forties, and she reached over and stroked my hair. I remember thinking how good it made me feel, and how little in some ways, and I suppose for her it made her feel like a mother, a caretaker thinking,

How did she grow up so fast?

Once I was in a church, I am not religious, though love the gathering of a church, the pomp of it at times, the chorus, the cathedral setting, the light. I was there because I had recently been dumped by the guy I really wanted to marry. I'm now grateful he dumped me, my wings were always clipped when we were together, he was raised in a strict reformed religion. But I was there because it was Sunday and I usually was with him, so I got myself out of bed and dragged myself to church. I sat in a pew next to an older woman, in her 70's or older. And then I started to cough, something was in my throat. I tried to contain it. She reached over to me, gently touched my hand, and gave me a cough drop, and smiled. Because I was in such a raw state, her touch meant so much to me,

She cared enough to touch me, I thought.

I've never forgotten that simple act.

I touch the animals all the time of course. Sometimes we sit quietly, like here with old Sophie, and I stroke them. I know how it makes me feel when someone I love and feel safe with stokes my face, even one time.

Go touch someone today, just a light tap on their arm, to say,

Hello, I see you, I know how life is.

Friday, April 06, 2018

The-World's-Grumpiest-But-I'm-Fine-As-I-Am-Pig turns another pig year...grumpily

Today is Rosie's 10th 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 2016, 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 today is her tenth birthday.

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

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

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A horse is born and a mother dies...ride on

April 4th will always be a day of symbolism and reflection for me. It is Boone's birthday, and is also the day that my mother died, five years ago. I can remember where I was standing in the barn out West when I looked at Boone that morning, almost forgetting it was his birthday. I had planned to go on a nice long ride with him, when I found out my mother had died. I remember thinking it was sad that now every birthday of Boone, I would remember my mother's death.

But within minutes I realized it was a gift to have these two events coincide on one day. Like bookends, the day symbolizes the journey we all must take. We are born, and if we are born, we will surely die. All that living that goes in between, the meat of the sandwich, is what we are left to ponder after someone is gone.

I did go for a ride that day, five years ago. I went over to my friend's barn and rode there. She came in and asked me how my mother was doing, and I had to say, for the first time out loud,

"She died."

I said it calmly, without crying. My friend Jo was the first one to know my mom died. Being 84 herself, she had buried a lot of people in her life but was my riding buddy and friend. We talked, and I told her I wasn't going to ride, but being on my horse was better than sitting home crying, and my mother would have liked knowing I was doing something fun.

So my horse helped me that day, as did my friend. And now on this day, I also remember Jo who died a year after we left Oregon. I really miss her and our rides.

So that is what Boone's birthday is for me. A day to recognize what he brings me-joy on a ride, the benefits and healing of being with him, and on him, and the fact that it is important to grab life on a day of death....even if you have to take baby steps after a loss...you grab on to anything that is alive and you feel it, smell it, listen to it and appreciate it, even if you shed tears in between.

Boone is twenty today, I've had him ten years. He was a cow pony in his youth, then went to live on a gentleman farm at age four. He didn't work out for the woman's grandchild-he was a bit lazy and would not go forward for them. After 30 days of training to tune him up, I went down and rode him for a day and bought him. We had some issues to work out together. He was fearful of squishy terrain ever since he had sunk up to his saddlebags in quicksand-I found that out after he reared on me in wet, soppy ground. And he had my number. I got help, because I had never dealt with that, and the is how I met my friend Jo. If you had told me two years later I'd have some blue ribbons with Boone from dressage schooling shows, I'd have laughed. In fact, if you had told me that my former cow pony and me were even going to take dressage I would have rolled on the ground laughing. And if you told me I was going to ride a horse in a county parade, wow. But it was really good for me and Boone. When I started my trail rides with Jo, on her beautiful 300 acre property [oh how I miss our rides!], Boone would let out this little squeal, like one of the Three Stooges used to, if he felt wet ground. After lots of rides, and lots of mud work, he stopped the squeals. I even kind of missed the squeals, but he still does them during feedings.

The confidence we both gained together as rider and horse was so gratifying. And then we had our accident last year, where I fell off during a canter in the woods. We still don't know exactly how it happened, but I think he slipped on ledge rock as we were coming out of the canter and I lost my balance. I blacked out for 20 minutes and had no idea where I was, ending up in the hospital for two days with blood on the brain. If I had not had my helmet on...who knows, said the surgeon. Fortunately, no surgery was needed, but it was sobering. Boone was not hurt except for some scratches, and after about two months I rode again, but I still had the event on my brain- a bad fall can really play with your head, no pun intended. This spring, I am determined to get back to regular rides, even though I have not met someone like Jo. I hope I do, nobody will replace her, but I feel like Jo checks in one me when I ride.

I love you Boone, we are alike in many ways. Thank you for working things through with me, and now we will work through some things again.

My friend Jo in the lead, on one of our many rides

Always tolerant, Boone helps collect trash on Earth Day

Play run at Jo's barn

Dressed up for a parade

Riding at the Pacific Ocean. And now he's seen the Atlantic.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Apifera Wish List

Visit the Apifera Farm Wish List 

Friede...physical challenges but still a smile

Friede was one of the three elder special needs goats that we took on after the state confiscated them out of a neglect case. I named her Friede because it means 'little elf' but it also means 'strong'.

I always had a 'no horns' rule at the old farm. The Head Troll had stubs when she arrived, as her horns had not been disbanded properly...but Friede is the first of our horned Misfits. She has a condition she was born with, making her hind legs and hips weak, and while she is not incapable of defending herself, she stays out of everyone's way....especially Girl George who can be quite the bully when she turns more male that female [she is a hermaphrodite].

I am growing very fond of Friede. She stays by my side, often, when feeding is going on. I have come to her aide many times, not that she is in danger, but she always gets to the hay the last, and waits for the others to position themselves. Sometimes I feed give her separate pile of hay. But she knows I am her defender, and now she also knows back scratches feel good. A few more more months, and I'm sure she will tender up even more.

I took a series of photos of her the other night, one of the first warmer and dry days we had had. I loved the smile on her face here. Despite crooked legs and probably arthritis, and a change in homes, she smiles on. she makes me smile too. I guess we have a reciprocal smile friendship.

{Donations to our non profit help us to help and care for the elder/special needs animals like Friede. Thank you.}

Monday, April 02, 2018

The creature that is the garden

Our garden is a creature too, to be shared. The healing that comes from working in the dirt, the hope that comes when you look out at barn landscape after winter thaw and wonder if the flowers will grow, the joy of remembering something you planted and forgot about...all of that-juxtaposed with the backdrop of Misfits walking around...it will be so good for our elder friends to get out and feel that, smell the smells, hear the sounds.

Donations help us continue our work with needy animals, and bringing them together with our elder people.

Exciting project! Helps elders come to the farm!

Opie visits with one of his many friends last week
We started an exciting project a week ago. We are creating an area between the back gardens and the closest barn that will be safe and suitable for elders to come visit-a place where they can sit and some of The Misfits can roam free. We will also make it so they can enjoy the garden, but the Misfits won't be able to devour the garden.

It is good to have a landscaper husband and best friend that relishes in my ideas and goes for it. Martyn has graded the area, and as I type putting down weed barrier cloth and fine gravel. This way our elder friends with walkers and wheelchairs can come visit.

I'm so happy about this. When I take Opie on visits, he has to remain on his halter, which is fine-he really gravitates to the people anyway-he knows why he is there. But we all talk about how fun it would be for the residents to see him run around.

The new area will allow me to bring in the donkeys, the llama and other Misfits too. And, I can invite the elder residences that are a bit off my normal path, making it possible to bring more elders and animals together.

My hope is to have some people out by late April, weather depending.

This project will cost about $1,000-which of course doesn't count all the man hours Martyn is putting into it. If you want to donate to our Apifera Farm fund, it would be wonderful. As you know we raised the money needed for barn #3, and that begins in June. We will also have the hay bill due in summer, spring shots coming up, rabies due soon too, so it is always important to keep donations of all sizes coming in. And knock on wood, we have been emergency vet free this winter - again, knock on wood!

Opie and I made an overdue visit to our friends in Wiscasset. We had not been there for 4 weeks due to snow storms and schedule issues, so I was so happy and relieved to arrive and see all the faces. We talked about all sorts of things-movies, books, spring, the farm, puzzles, and writing letters. Opie is going to start writing them a letter in between our visits, it will be great fun for them, and us.I even bought special Opie stamps!

So, you can donate good old money, you can see some items I added to the Apifera wish list too. I added two benches I saw at Lowes, they are sturdy, but light enough that I can move them around on my own. I will need to get cushions too but have to explore that.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work, and follows along-even all you lurkers. We love lurkers!!

In time, this will be an oasis for our elder friends

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Well, I guess for now my goat has a pet chicken

Opie has been very good to his chicken. The chicken has laid regular eggs and seems very content, especially since she is out of the path of Father and his overzealous love machine behavior. The chicken also has the ability to fly into Earnest's stall and out the back door to freedom, and if she chooses to do this, in order to be outdoors or back with the flock, that will be her statement to me.

I told Opie,

"I have decided you can keep your pet chicken, but if she shows she wants back with the flock, that will be her choice."

"Then will I go live with the flock?" he asked.

"No, you are not a chicken, you live in here with the goats," I said.

"But she is not a goat and she is living in here as a chicken with goats," he responded.

Good grief.

It is very seductive when you write a blog, and have a bent for story telling, and an over active imagination, to let these things get carried away. The last think I want to do is to have the chicken become some kind of blog prop. She is after all a chicken and I want her to remain a chicken, and be...well, chicken like.

But I have to tell you, she seems to enjoy her new altered life of living separate from the flock. And she can at anytime be with them, and can see them too through the chicken wire walls that are at the end of the goat barn. When I put down Opie's breakfast yesterday, I was amused at how polite he was with his chicken, actually stopping to let her eat a bit before he devoured his food like any healthy goat. Was I imagining this? I don't think so.

Opie was enamored, for a brief moment, with his chicken's egg. It being Easter and all he assumed it was an Easter miracle.

"Are you a rabbit, too?" he asked his chicken.

"No, I am a pure chicken," she said.

I think for now, she is happy. So I told Opie,

"Do you want your chicken to have a name? I will leave it up to you."

We shall see.