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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

15 years for the white cat

Noritsu turns 15 tomorrow. What a magnificent cat he is. There is mystery about white animals, a spiritual aspect to them that does not go unnoticed at Apifera. There is the mystery of White Dog, the shape shifter of Marcella, and now Noritsu. Noritsu brought himself to me, there is no doubt. I saw his photo at the shelter, one that I don't normally adopt cats from, and that face stuck with me. A couple months later, after his face kept coming into my mind, I adopted him. Little is known of his past, except that he came from out of the area.

The past lives of these cats...what they knew, who they knew, where they lived...we never really have the answers. But I spend time just peering into their eyes, or resting my forehead on theirs...much is said that way. I just have never been able to put it into words...yet.

I hope we have many years with Noritsu. I call him Nurse Noritsu at times. When Laci, and Maxine were dying, it was Noritsu who stood with me while I cared for them.  He cared for me.

{If you like the work we do here with the elder cats and other animals, please consider a small donation, or visit our wish list page. Thank you.}

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When old cats just stick with you

I'm so glad I went back and got Miss Spring at the shelter. She had come in at some point during the weeks I was dealing with the inevitable for Laci, and not long before we lost Maxine, both very old, frail and thyroid issues. I felt I needed to hold off, not only to absorb the vet bills, but to give my heart a brief rest. But she was still there a couple months later. I'm also a sucker for Calicos, ever since Mama Kitty back in Oregon gave us years of kittens in the old barn. We could never touch Mama, only once did I, but she lived well into her 14th or older year, and came to the front porch to die in a basket, something I was touched by.

So, I finally went in to to see the calico needing a home. She had lived with someone who loved her who passed on. The cat, and her dog friend and one more cat were in descent shape, and a neighbor knew about the animals so alerted authorities when the woman died. All the animals have homes now. It turns out it was a hoarder situation, and they had to really look to find the cats.

The first thing I loved about her is she squeaks. This is reminiscent of Itty. She also does a half 'Meh' much like Itty. Just one more way that Itty Bitty lives on, both tormenting me and also comforting me. I named the elder Calico, "Miss Spring" in honor of the season, and the name is perfect for her. For not only did she arrive in the season of her name, but she is very agile and springy, leaping from table to ledge quite gracefully. The other cats do too, but I was surprised to see how far she jumps, considering her age. On a side note, watching Papi jumped is pretty comical, due to his large...um...girth. [We love you Papi].

So this cat stuck with me. I'm glad. Sometimes, an animal presents itself, and I feel the immediate need to rush to it and help. Other times, and I've had to learn this, I stand back a bit and ask if I am the one to take this creature on, am I doing it with pure motives? With Miss Spring, I was just feeling I did not have energy to take her at that moment and if she was meant to be here, it would happen, and it did. The shelter here is a very good one, the people are great and I knew the cat was fine there. Now, looking back, I'm glad I did not wait one day longer.

I have thought of bringing her in the house. We are catless in the house since Big Tony died. I have his cat basket all ready for a new cat, sitting in the window that looks out on M'Lady and the gardens....but we have not gone further at this point. We will. And I wonder if she might be a good candidate. The thing is, she seems very content in the Elder Cat Suite, and they do form a network in there. She has her windows that sit right in the woods, letting in dappled sunlight at morning and dusk. In time, they will be able to roam in the upper loft-a project that keeps getting pushed aside but will happen at some point. They all seem very content. I love each one of them and am grateful for the people that send us cat food and care about what we are doing here.

{If you like what we do here, please consider a donation, or a visit to our Wish List. Thank you.}

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Aging is freeing -at the moment-and my apologies to the arugula, again

Ollie turned one month old
May is always a very busy month on a small farm. We have the front and private gardens going-Martyn has reshaped the structure of the gardens and of course it is a work in progress, but one we love to work on it. We love to save Misfit plants too, and revitalize them. This is our third garden we have developed and it remains a passion we can share together, but also, we seem to be able to blend our styles together well-Martyn has learned that 'weeds' are okay- Queen Anne's Lace, clover, And many others I don't know the names of. And I have learned to mix plantings more, for texture, just like a painting. I also get my solid bed of hollyhocks against a wood fence, a must, and always, lots of sunflowers.

It seems I should know the problematic status of growing a vegetable garden around ruminants. Yes, it is fenced. But they always find a way into the side arugala bed. Honestly, if Girl George doesn't ruin it by laying it, old Sophie comes along and eats it. Of course, every year I say I am going to go buy another 'real' gate, instead of my raggedy pallets and fence and hay twine...but something always is more important. We have so much lettuce, this morning I just gave up and let them stay in with the arugala.

I've also been consumed with many details of many things. This is what I call 'doing human' state of mind. it can take a person over. But I always try to stop, sit, commune with the gardens, and animals several times a day. The older I get, the more each day of health, stamina, the ability to walk and work at things I love, the ability to still see, hear, think...love amongst the vitriol being spewed...savor my food versus worry about post menopausal 15+ pound weight gain....age has a way of separating out the gravy from the grease. I have less tolerance for ignorance, stupidity, laziness and people that just don't try, aren't honest, are arrogant and live by their ego not by their heart. I no longer mince words with people that ignore boundaries, or I just don't let them through the physical gate out front or the invisible one I carry with me.

Being sixty is freeing that way. I imagine each year might become more freeing, if I am fortunate to remain independent.

This weekend I realized too that one of the things I really like about our Maine property is the intimacy of the barns and house, and how the barns are close to the house. I really missed the vastness of our old farm, and the openess of the land out West. Midcoast Maine has lots of woods, unmaintained, kind of has a northern Minnesota feel. But I realize too more and more, this is a really different gig. And we needed that for many reasons. But I'm finally settling into the difference of character between the two farms. And of course, we aren't breeding sheep or growing 4,000 lavender plants-we are no longer 'farmers' per se. We are stewards to our land and animals. We are caretakers. We are walking on this spot of Earth as gently as possible, communing. And as I was looking out my studio window this past week, I could see at one point most of the animals, including the equines in the back paddock fields. I felt they were safe, I could see them, there was and is less of a feeling of predatory possibility here. It is there, coyotes and dogs, but it feels like I have more ease with keeping everyone safe. I can move the animals around more easily. I put them in at night, or in paddocks, it is just more contained.

It's funny how a move takes a long time to settle in a person. There is also a bit of 'hanging on' to things that worked once, but really don't work anymore, or don't work well. Letting go sooner, also seems to be a perk of growing older.

And for the record, little Ollie is stinking' cute.

He has not told me his name yet
View from the second floor studio

Friday, May 25, 2018

Do you like Maine, they ask, would you do it all again?

M'Lady Apple from my studio
We have been here exactly two years now. In 2016, we loaded up 33 animals and headed from our first farm in Oregon to make the 6 day journey to mid coast Maine. One of the first beauties we met was an old crabapple on the property, always in my view...I call her M'Lady. She is in full bloom now and simply stuns me every spring.

I can say that as we go into our third summer here, I am more grounded than the first two. Part of that is...logistics and getting through the upheaval any move has on a household, and in our case, a farm. We had to build a barn, and are about to start the third one. We had little or no fencing here. We created our gardens and stone walls and privacy areas. The house needed little attention in the beginning, it felt perfect in many ways, small but quite open for it's size. I have since done painting mainly and have slowly been recreating the rooms to our needs. We left a lot of furniture behind. I knew it would not fit in this little house. I sadly left all my father's studio teak work tables behind but I really had no choice. I left the couches too. In fact, the one thing I can say I would do differently is the personal property we left behind, for free. At the time, we were under the gun. The first buyer, who we grew to see as not the buyer we wanted for the farm, fell through. Even though we were relieved, we had many reasons we had to scramble and do as we did. I did my best. But...the only option would have been to possibly lose the house we are now in, and lose the $3000 downpayment we had on the equine hauler, slow down the sale of the new buyers and stay put and hope for the best in finding another place that fit our needs. It was either rush around and try to sell things, or move. But...I would have insisted on a separate payment for the probably $10,000 or more of personal property, including the 10 year old Kubota. That is one thing that I still get angry about, that I didn't do that. There were other things in the sale I can't think about because they make me mad, so I don't. I can't tell you how stressful the sale was...and all the logistics of the move I had to handle with the animals.

So, it took time to resettle, emotionally and physically. But we have.

And yes, we like Maine. I hate the bugs and flies, but you could put me anywhere and I would tell you summer, despite all it's pluses, is not my season. I love the winter here, really I do. So does Martyn, he gets to be on the farm working, the summer people are gone, it gets beautiful and quiet. Back West, Martyn was driving a total of four hours a day just to get from the farm to his landscaping clients. He was home by 7:30 on a good day. He was running out of steam after running his own crew and business for 20+ years. Keeping up with his estimating and billing was really getting problematic. I sensed at some point we weren't going to be able to sustain ourselves emotionally for another 15 years when the mortgage would be paid off, and we would have been 70 by then. And then what? We saw a lot of people wait too long to sell their land and farms as they grew older, and they would get into trouble.

The hardest transition, for me, was losing the more rural feel. But now we live in what I describe as a postcard New England village setting. Old houses from the 1700's dot the roads in midcoast, the sea cove is in view, old apple trees, the smell of the sea...it's all different than the Wilamette Valley. Oddly, I've met quite a few Oregonians who moved here, some who are small farms. The appeal of paying 1/2 for a piece of property [versus what it would cost out West] here is what first intrigued us. As freelancers, especially for Martyn, at some point you might not be able to put in the hours to feed a mortgage. So we don't have one now. We live simply, and hope our health holds out, but who knows.

I miss my vets. I was warned by one of my vets out West who had hands on knowledge and experience with the situation in Maine of the large animal vet care, or lack there of. I believed him, but thought, well, that was 20 years ago, surely it is better now. It's not. Equine vets a plenty. But farm vets? Nope. I have not found a clinic yet that I can I say I honor and trust. I started working with a highly regarded place, but just to get them to the farm is $100, anything they do here, such as coming to examine a goat, has a $150 minimum. I talked to them about this, that they are treating small farms like people with pets versus herds and flocks. She understood, and I really liked her. But, that's the way they choose to operate, it's their business, not mine. I feel sorry for both new farmers and the animals in their care-the vets I had in Oregon taught me so much, over time. And they weren't cheap, no vet is. But what would have cost about $375 total the other day was almost $800 here. So I'm grateful I had 15 years under my belt and know the basic treatments and do most of my own vetting thanks to the vets I had out West.

Would I do the move again? I always find this question odd. It's like asking, "Would you be born again if I had a choice?" Hindsight is 20/20. I would do it again, but I wouldn't want to, and I would do a couple things differently. It was hard leaving my farm. That farm was my dream, a dream I'd had since my first encounter with my Uncle's farm in North Dakota. I write about that dream in "Donkey Dream". But it was not a question of should we leave or not. I felt we had to leave. I felt compelled to move, as fast as we could really, and I felt it had to be Maine. I will live by that and swear by that. There were invisible reasons we had to get out of there at that moment, and get here at this moment. I just went with that, i believed and let that internally. Martyn is so happy here. I knew his work schedule was killing him back West. Mistakes were being made too that were effecting our finances, he was just...spent. He gets up at 5:30 now and goes to work 15 minutes away, for a small landscape company. He is treated well and works with a great boss and crew. He has no ego about not having his own company, or not being the boss. He works on beautiful ocean properties and doesn't have to think about the logistics of the job, he just shows up and does what he loves-landscaping. He doesn't have to worry about billing. And I know exactly what money is coming in and it's easier on me too. It feels much more manageable.

When I had my riding accident last year, I asked Martyn, "Would you stay in Maine if I died?". He didn't hesitate, he said, really in a positive happy tone, "Oh yea, I love it here."

Martyn gave us so much over the years, and still does. I think more than anything, I love Maine because Martyn does. He deserves so much.

And I have people here, and creatures, I love now. I love them. I wouldn't want to have not met them, including my elder friends, and including M'Lady.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Conversation of The Secret Sisters...chicken speak

The Secret Sisters are the clan of Buff Orps that live at Apifera. They have separated themselves out from the Barred Rocks who are under the domain of Father, the Rooster. The Secret Sisters now live with Opie in the front of the barn, away from the constant demands of Father. 

"No, really?" the hen said.

"I kid you not," said the other hen.

"He really said that?" said the first hen.

"Quiet, here she comes," said the third hen.

"She does't speak hen," a chicken said.

"Oh, yes she does, I converse with her all the time."


By the time I walked by the hens, they had repositioned themselves near Opie, sprawled out on his lawn chair as if he had just worked a six day week. I went onto the barn.

"So tell me again, what did he say?" I heard a hen ask.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

She emerged like Grace Kelly and took over the room

If there was ever a day I wondered if I do enough, if I'm doing it right, if my animals and I are a team contributing to this community, all I have t do is look at these images and my heart feels just fine.

Today we took Opie, Pino and Birdie over to Inn Along the Way to have an "Opie Day', where some of the residents of the local elder communities could enjoy the energy and warmth of the animals. If you have been to either of our farms, and were lucky enough to be in the presence of Birdie the llama, you know the impression she leaves can last a long time. And while she had been involved in all of our past farm days, and did fine, I had never taken her out into a public setting before. The Inn was a perfect, safe place to test Birdie out as an ambassador of love. I knew she would do fine, but was curious to see if she would shine as she does at home.

She emerged from the trailer like Grace Kelly walking onto the red carpet. That is not an exaggeration. It was as if she was in her element. Now, llamas are not all like Birdie. Anyone that knows llamas will tell you that. She was love from the day I picked her out. Even her breeder said she had never seen a llama act the way she was towards me, and suggested if I wanted a true guard llama [which was her first purpose], not to take her. But I could not NOT take her. I knew she had other purposes at Apifera. Now in Maine, I guess today was a turning point.

Birdie greeted everyone, she swooned her neck and batted her eyelashes. She kissed people, some on the cheek, like a peck you give an acquaintance, and some she swooped in and laid her head on their shoulder. The woman in these photos was smitten with Birdie, and I think you can tell. The gentlemen was visiting from Houston, and as you can see, the two of them seemed to have an intimate encounter right before our eyes.

She's special. I always knew it, from the day I found her. I was really proud of her, for just being her. She will be having other days of Llama Love, for sure.

Opie stood back most of the day. He was quiet and calm. Pino too, stood his ground in stoic donkeyness like he always does. I know when we quit doing Pino Pie Day a few years ago [we are reviving it here in Maine in October of this year] I told people that Pino had done his part, he had sold aprons for his cause, delivered pie to nearby neighbors, got lots of mail, shared his wisdoms in many ways...but I felt back then it was time for him to just be a little donkey, Pino. He is still an ambassador to love, but he has help now. And I sensed that from Opie today. He knew what was going on, he knew he has his own stages to shine one, but he gave the light of the room over to todays' intended star, with her grace and exotic appearance...Lady Birdie.

{Do you like the work we are doing sharing our animals with elders, then please consider a donation to our 501[c][3]. }

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sometimes humor inspires giving

Ollie's procedure went just fine, he is disbanded and banded now and he came out of his sleepy time medicine bouncing and ready for a bottle. One of the things we have found, and I am still getting used to, is the vet costs here are almost double from what we are used to. Today's vet bill was over $700. We also gave equal shots and rabies to the equines only-the other Misfits get rabies shots in the fall.

Please consider a donation if you can. Thank you.

Help Opie console Ollie

Today is a big day for little 3 week old Ollie. He will lose his baby makers, aka testicles. No easy way around it, no matter which procedure we do it will be uncomfortable. The vet will be doing it as I stink at it. He's had a hard enough start in life I don't want to add to his trauma. It will be over quickly though. We will also assess if it is too late to disband him humanely. If not, he will keep his horns.

Opie has begun to take a shine to Ollie. At first, he was unsure of what hewas, as far as I could tell. He seems to be more of a chicken man. But once he realized Ollie was not taking his place, and that he got just as much attention with Ollie or without, he seemed to figure out that Ollie could be sort of a fun buddy. I even saw them running together.

"Look, Ollie, just don't look, no matter what you do when the vet comes, just don't look. Think of the best thing in the entire world,, and think about really hard."

"The best thing in the entire world, what would that be, I've hardly been anywhere," Ollie said.

"What is the best thing in your day?" Opie asked.

"My bottle!" said Ollie.

"Well, just close your eyes and think of your bottle then, Ollie. And remember, it will be okay."

{It is always helpful to get donations incoming when we have a vet visit. It keeps the cash flow of the 501[c][3] healthy, which is important to all of us. Please consider a small donation in honor of little Ollie's big day. Matilda and the donkeys will also be getting an annual visit from the vet today and shots}

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What do you say when a friend's mate dies...with open ears and heart, I say, "It will be okay" {somewhere in time}

I went for a ride this week, placing dandelions in Boone's halter after the ride. It was a beautiful, perfect day. I had no complaints, really. And my husband, my best friend, was alive. Every thought came back to that.

A day earlier I had heard the shocking news that a friend of mine lost her husband, who was only in his mid fifties. He had lived with the consequences of seizures his entire life, and knew the ramifications but always had a wonderful attitude about it. He had a seizure, fell on the open stairway and suffered a brain injury that he could not recover from.

My friend tells of how she awoke that morning and was a bit sore from her long walk the day before, and her time in the garden. Her husband said he'd give her a mother day massage. They had no children, but loved their dogs and they were family. I imagined all the people who have woken up to normalcy, and hours later, they are living in between two realms.

It is normal and human to think of our own worlds when we hear of a sudden death. We are not only shocked and sad for the survivors, but it knocks you between the eyes that life is life, death is death and the two are intertwined every minute–you don't get to choose which one you want, it's not an a la carte menu once you are born. One false step, one fall off a horse, or stairway, and it could be gone, poof. All day after I heard, literally everything I did from making a piece of toast to working in the garden, I thought of my friend. I thought of her lying in bed the first morning after he'd died...the shock must have come back in starkness that first morning. Sleep might have given her a reprieve, but upon waking...

Oh yea, he's gone. What? No!. Yes, he's gone.

Later that day or the next day I forget, I was planting my sunflower seeds. I always plant sunflowers, such joyous, magnificent creatures, I call them Goddesses. My friend's husband loved to garden and be in Nature, and he had a garden he considered his sanctuary. He had been working on it for 14 years or more. It is where the family and friends will gather to celebrate his life, honor his next journey, and sit amongst his energy enmeshed in every living thing he nurtured there. I was on my hands and knees, using my bare hands to till the already prepared bed of dirt. It was quiet, even on the front road. I could smell the salt air of the cove. An occasion animal sound wafted from the barnyard.

My husband is alive...

I thought. And then I saw my friend's husband's face, smiling. He had what I would call a gentle smile, like Martyn's, a smile that had no ego, no slyness to it. His face stayed in my mind like that for some time.

I wrote to my friend later, by email, wondering all day-what words would be best for her right now? I knew she had many details to deal with, I knew her family was with her. I only wanted to tell her her when she was ready if she needed, I was there with open ears and heart, to listen. I told her about her husband appearing to me as I gardened. They were very connected to the Earth and Nature, and were spiritual too, as I am. I knew it would have meaning to her. We are both of the frame of mind that energy does not disappear. His energy is just not in his body anymore, so magnificent is it now that it can zap around all over the place. She wrote back, and liked the story.

It will be okay, is the prayer I send her. It will be okay. He is okay.

It might not be okay as she has known, but it will be okay in a different, at-the-moment-unimaginable-way. For me, this is what I can tell people in grief. I was told this by a friend when I lost my mother, the day or the day after when I was still hardly breathing, when I was not of this realm, I was so ungrounded from her death that first few days. And my friend who had lost her parents called me and immediately said,

"Your mother is okay."

It was simple, and direct. I believed it. And I needed to hear it, and wanted to hear it. It was not a lie, it was not sugarcoating the truth. You can either walk into grief thinking it is not okay, or having a compassionate source that tells you it is going to be okay. I prefer to be that source for someone. It might not be okay today, but it will be, in a different way.

My mother would say, "It will be okay," when I was in dire straights. It was always okay, she was right, but I always needed to hear it. Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones who had that grounding of a mother that instilled that in me, perhaps there are people out there that truly do not believe in bad times, challenging times, that saying "it will be okay" is realistic, or fair.

I disagree.

It will be okay. I will share that again with my friend, after I listen to her, in time, when she is ready.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Always learning, and doubting, then not doubting..me and Opie carry on

Joe always has a smile no matter what 
Opie and I went to Wiscasset today to visit our friends. It was the first day we could all be outside which was welcome...and a lot easier since Opie didn't need his indoor attire. He did a little weeding while he was there too.

Opie needed this as much as we all did. I think he has been confused by Ollie's arrival, he has not been acting his usual vim and vigor self but he is starting to play with Ollie. So today, he was back in his natural form, just sharing himself with the elders.

I sensed today that Jeanne was tired. I wondered if it was a shift in her journey. Best not to play universal detective, but I am always so relieved to see all their faces. Jeanne is 97 and such a nice woman, always dressed with colors and accessories. Opie is totally into buttons and beads, so today Jeanne thought she had outsmarted him by not wearing her usual necklace of beads...but she had delicious, enticing leather buttons on her self-hand-knitted sweater. What is a goat to think when he sees a line up of leather buttons?

When I look around their little garden area, I so want to go buy a bunch of stuff and come landscape it with Martyn. One of the assistants was planting some annuals in pots, and we were talking about the worn out grass, needing lime and seed, but lack of sun makes it hard. She mentioned they'd like to extend the patio area. I just immediately thought,

Oh I have to make this happen. How can I make this happen?

It takes money. I am still learning what works and doesn't, what projects I can pull off at this early stage of our 501[c][3] and which ones I can't, and...which ones I should take on in my heart. I realized I need to let this grow organically. And it will.

Another thing I'm learning is the realities of what the staff can do. We had invited all the Greens residences to a morning visit with Opie, Pino and Birdie, and we are having it at Inn Along the Way next Tuesday. Initially it was a way for me to introduce myself to all seven residences and I thought it was a fun outing for all the people to be together. The residences are spread around midcoast, and there are only two vans, and only one has a lift. Each residence is in charge of their own small staff and the logistics of going out to an outing with support staff, and still having someone at the residence is a challenge. It is also impossible for everyone to get there do to the lack of transport.

This is one of the reasons we have created an area here at our farm for the elders to come visit, in small groups, or even one person at a time when the care managers have the staff to bring them here. My Wiscasset friends are excited about this and we hope to make that happen in June for the first time. I realized too that, and I never asked any of them, but I don't think it is important for them to be together with all the other residences. I think getting out is healthy, but sometimes, or often, just sitting out on their chairs in their own residence on a nice day is plenty for them. And these folks have plenty of activate too, bingo, puzzles, they visit gardens....

My mother loved to sit. She played golf and got out and of course drove right until the end, but more and more as she aged, she was content to sit, chat a bit with a guest, but she really loved to sit and listen to the birds...look around at the flowers. I'm the same way. I think I miscalculated this upcoming get together. I had my heart in the right place, but I think I have always been more inclined to be in small settings, one on one, and the plan to have people come here in small batches, or even one person at a time, is the right path for us, and in the long run, a better thing for the residences.

{If you like the work we are doing with animals, and people, please consider a donation. Thank you!}

Jeanne in her hand made sweater she knit years ago
Mary holding Opie

"I really want to eat her leather buttons"

Ruth got the 'happiest socks" award today

Wisdom of the cat

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, 
than be crowded on a velvet cushion."
- Henry David Thoreau

Well, when not in pumpkin season, we will take a box.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


A week ago I was contacted by a farmer who had lost one of her original herd matriarchs on her goat farm. The goat, named Mabel, was well loved and cared for and was always a good mother and birther, but she had trouble this time, and the vet could not help her in time. Twins were pulled out, and one was dead. The other was alive and put on a bottle. It was also becoming apparent he was blind, or partially blind.

They wondered if I might be able to take him on. I heard "baby', "goat" and 'blind' and I had to stop myself and really think about it. I obviously can't take every animal. We take in elders, but also special needs animals out of needy situations...such as Opie. And how could life be life at this stage without Opie in it? So I thought about it, this chap is part Nubian so he will be bigger than the pygmies. But I remembered when I took on Rosie the pig, and they said, "you have to take the crippled goat too because they are bonded unit" [rescues love to tell you animals are bonded and often I find they are not]...but I'm glad I took Stevie on, he was very big, but what a beautiful, loving creature he was that touched so many lives, including mine.

So, I took on this little chap and went to get him yesterday. The farm was owned by a young couple, complete with adorable 5 month old baby and 4 year old, Arlo, who was in charge of feeding the baby goat and gave me all sorts of tips about him. The hour trip was worthwhile just to meet Arlo. He did a very good job. These were hard working, living off the land and feeding themselves and others couple. Some dairies or cheese makers that I've experienced aren't that great with their stock, but this couple just wanted the right situation for the goat, and their herd was in good shape and cared for well. There were other options, but I'm glad they asked. I felt no pressure to say yes, but I did.

So this is Ollie. He is two weeks old. I can tell you the name I picked for him seems to fit perfectly. He is still on a bottle for a couple more weeks, although he is nibbling hay and grass and once on that, the bottle will be slowly taken away. He is underfoot, he is sweet, vivacious and when I watch him in the orchard with the other animals, I see a little guy that just wants to fit in. This morning when I got to the front barn, I didn't hear him, and bottle babies tend to scream out for feedings. I sighed, hoping he was just quiet. I got to his private little suite, and he was sound asleep still, even amidst the pigs, chickens and goats calling for breakfast. He had a big first day!

I was surprised that Opie did not go running up to him and tell him the rules around here. In fact, Opie went and stood in the corner, tail down, staring at me in sort of a perplexed way.

"I thought I was the little one? I thought I would always be the little star?"

I have reassured him he is not being replaced. That could never happen. I did think maybe Ollie might make some visits, but my Wiscasset elders love Opie, they would miss him. And I think my heart would break not taking Opie on a visit. I'm not sure I can handle both monkeys at once. We will see.

But by about an hour after we arrived home, Opie began to realize that maybe Ollie might be fun. After all, the elders or crippled goats can't romp with him. So I saw signs already that Opie will come to his senses, and understand he is OPIE and Ollie will never be Opie. And no Opie is the big guy around town and can show Ollie the ropes [God help us].

Another thing I've noticed is old Elsa takes an interest when I bottle feed Opie. I'm thinking by her build and condition she was a dairy goat once. Those dairy goats work their bodies hard giving milk. And Ollie kind of likes to go up to Elsa, she does resemble his old herd a bit more, although, he does seem pretty blind, definitely in one eye that is discolored. The vet thinks it might have happened in trauma in the birth. Who knows.

I posted a lot of videos over on Instagram, including his bath and blow dry since I neglected to bring bedding for his crate when I brought him home and he got all wet in his urine, poor little guy, I felt terrible. It was the only time he cried on the hour long trip home.

This guy is going to be trouble too, in a fun way. Who knows what Opie and Ollie will be up too. Or Ollie and ? It is always a surprise what 'couples' form when a new animal is brought in. I just hope he doesn't require his own pet chicken. He lives with chickens so I'm hoping that is sufficient.

{Please consider a donation. Ollie will need a vet check and visit next week for castration and discussing]

Birdie gives him the llama test

Ollie passes llama inspection with a Birdie kiss

It's always something...Martyn fails again at making a money tree

There is never not a need financially for non profits. We always keep a teeny nest egg, but it is important to constantly raise money in a non profit. I have had Martyn trying to propagate a money tree for years, but he has had no luck. And we wonder if a money tree might lead to many non positive things...like Paco buying too many cookies or poetry books [I guess one can never have enough of either].

So the push in the coming couple of months is tor add to our nest egg to cover the annual costs coming up:

  • Hay...oh, hay. Last year we did $3,000 worth which got us through a very long winter. I am aiming for that this year, to be safe.
  • Next week's vet call will be about $500 to cover annual shots/checks for equines and to castrate/disbud little Ollie
  • Who is little Ollie?! I will introduce him next.
  • Next week is also a small event for Opie, Pino and Birdie, called Opie Day. We have invited some elders from he Greens elder residences to meet us at Inn Along the Way, so they can sit in the old barn and the animals can run and romp. We do not charge for these elder visits, and don't plan to. We do not take a salary or get reimbursed for travel or time.
  • In the fall, we do annual rabies shots for ALL animals, this has to be done by a vet. Rabies is a real concern in Maine and after talking to the state vet on arrival, we felt it best to vaccinate everyone, even the pigs.

So please donate if you can. Any amount is helpful.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Old cat ballet

The sun comes in the elder cat suite in a vibrant way. They have panoramic views of The Wood. They all love to gather, and sun.

There is something so beautiful about the way a cat can sit, and sit, and sit, and then make a slight adjustment to his stance and it creates another beautiful pose, or gesture of emotion, like ballet.

{If you like our Elder Cat Suite, please consider a donation or visit the Apifera Farm Wish List too. Thank you}.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Last chance!

I'll be selecting -this weekend-two people who will get a free piece of art out of the Little Tulip book, as long as they have pre-ordered by tomorrow. The book is currently in production and slated to be ready for shipment in late July.

Visit pre-order site now >

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Earnest the pig photobombs dinner

Every night when hay is served, Marcella lies down in it, with the goats gathered around her. Last night, they were photobombed by Earnest.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Opie's blind chicken-the pig names her Henneth but Opie calls her Pickles

Our latest Apiferian is a one eyed blind chicken. Opie immediately seemed to understand the chicken was unique. When she first arrived, I kept her in a bunny hutch on the floor of the barn where Opie, and his other pet chicken, and some Buffs, could get to know said blind chicken. Now Opie is feeling pretty full of himself these days, with Spring air, and the fact that he now seems to have not one, but two pet chickens. He made it clear in this video not to bother his new blind chicken!

He had not even named the first pet chicken, one of the four Buff Orpingtons who I took out of the flock to be away from Father, the Barred Rock rooster who is very rough on the girls. The Buffs don't tolerate him, but this poor hen would cower for hours in a corner, so I took her out. Then the other Buffs began separating out from the Barred Rock girls. The Buffs were here first and were grown when the Barred rock hens arrived as chicks. So be it, the Buffs now live with Opie, Sir Tripod and Else in the front barn, and the Barred Rocks live with Father in the other side of the barn. You gotta go with the flow.

So when my friend asked if I might be able to take her one eyed blind chicken, how could I say 'no'. Blind, one eyed? It's right up the Apifera alley. I had met the chicken formally at my friends home, where she was working hard to get the chicken back in good enough health to return to the flock. We don't know what happened, but she thinks a predator, perhaps a hawk, freaked out the flock and this hen damaged her eye. Whatever happened, she was in my friend's care in her studio for weeks, so she was really personable and used to being handled since her eye was being cleaned daily. But her land is different than ours, and she feared the hen was a sitting...er, duck...to prey, and I suspect she was right.

When I first took her out of the crate on arrival, I thought,

This chicken is not long for this world.

But as you know well, I am often wrong.

I knew she had been in a cage for many weeks, so it was clear she was a bit wobbly. Her beak was long, as were her toes. But she just seemed off. She would lay down and tuck her head down. I know that could have been a defense too, but she was thin and you know once a chicken, in my experience, and I am not a chicken guru, but once a chicken gets really sick it seems to take a lot of them. Her 'good' eye was also goopy, and her wounded eye was like a Marty Feldman eye and really weird looking. After about for days of cleaning it, I noticed a piece of straw stuck there in the ooze, pulled it out, and magic, the eye just exploded with liquid. Sorry for the graphics, but not only did the chicken seemed relieved, so was I. Now that eye is sort of there, but dark. She is definitely blind, as she runs into any objects that are new. but she knows her area now.

In fact she was laying an egg every now and then-a beautiful brown one. I put her in her bunny hut at night but each morning she comes out and free ranges. She knows my voice and comes to me, and I still hold her and clean her eyes. I love that I can do this. I have missed personable chickens, which I had many of out West. For some reasons, my hens here have been less personable. But the Buffs, free from Father, are warming up.

Well, it was time to name that chicken.

"Pickles," said Opie.

"One Blind Mouse," yelled out Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat.

"I've been called her Henneth," said Earnest the pig, as he napped.

Well, the pig is often right, so her name is Henneth. But Opie still calls her Pickles. It is after all, his chicken.

Opie and Henneth, er, Pickles

On arrival, I put a harness on her, thinking the hens might peck her eye
Old else, with Henneth
Her right eye now deflated

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

My waistline has a plan of its own but I can help an old goat

I have tried and finally succeeded in getting a quick video of old Else coming out of the barn in the morning. The elder, crippled goat has seemed to come to life after winter -–who of us hasn't?–and I get such a good feeling when I see how content she looks coming out to go to the orchard pasture where she, Opie and Sir Tripod Goat spend much of the summer.

Else's front leg is getting more and more bent. She reminds me a bit of Stevie, our beloved very crippled goat we had out West, in the way she moves that front leg. She arrived really thin but has put on weight by feeding her twice a day away from other animals, with minerals. For her age and breed though, she's doing okay.

When I come upon her as I did later this morning after chores, sunning, it just gives me great inner peace. I can't save the world from destructive powers out of my control, I can't win every argument with the angry masses online [and I don't try], I guess I'll never have a book deal and my waistline has a plan of its own, but I can work in inside the fences of Apifera that protect us all from The Noisy But Necessary Road to Everywhere [aka Maine Route 32], trying to make an old goat comfortable, giving her a feeling of safety and permanence. Each day and night her routine is, well, routine. I have always understood the importance to animals, and us humans too, of an understood routine. Sure you go out of the routine sometimes, but a daily knowledge of what is going to happen, and not happen, brings calm to the animal and barnyard. That knowledge has worked well for me all these years. It also means when something goes wrong, the entire barnyard knows.

If you like the work we are doing hoping old/special needs animals, please consider a donation to our non profit. Thank you!

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Stanley leaves, Stanley returns

Last week I noticed that Stanley J. Catfish was not at morning feedings which is the norm. Since they came, the two cats have been a bonded unit, where one is, the other follows.

But I didn't think too much about it, and went on with my feedings. Still, it was not right. After all the ferels and barn cats we had taken on out West, I knew they often disappear, sometimes for many days, a few weeks even, and return unscathed. And sometimes they don't return.

I just knew it was odd that the two were a unit, unlike the cats out west, who were part of a huge clan and separate barns, so they had more interdependence from each other.

I waited a few days, and lost hope, and posted about it on Instagram. I think it was two days later, and there he was at breakfast. I was so happy to see him. He must have thought I was nuts because I sang to him, discussed his where abouts, gave him a lecture [oh yea, cat lectures really work, right?] and sat with him too, looking to see if there were any wounds on him.

The night of his return, he was extra hungry at dinner I thought, and I sat with him while he ate, pushing the bowl with my finger, and then touching his head. I'm trying to tender them both up in time for autumn rabies shots-it would make it much easier for everyone including them.

This morning at feedings, after being back one day, he was not there.

So Stanley J. Catfish must have a double life, a really good reason not to be around for a free and easy meal of stinky cat food, which he devours when he is present. I wondered if he might be onto a female somewhere, since he was only neutered about three months ago and it supposedly takes about 6 months for their wanderlust hormones to dissipate after neutering. Or maybe he is just napping, maybe he is ill and wants to be alone...maybe he has a pickup out in The Wood and he drives away to a cabin once a week. He might even have a passport.

Such is the mystery of the barn cat.

I was thinking though how quickly I had lost my hope when he left. I have been through this so many times, but instead of taking the 'think positive' route, I just accepted pretty quickly an eagle or fox got him, thinking he wasn't that worldly as other ferels I've known. I wondered if I'm losing my touch, my innate gut feeling-something we all have for sure-but I practice at listening to my intuition, and I wondered if I wasn't listening, or what had made me so doubtful this time.

I don't know. Maybe it's that death is everywhere there is life, and sometimes, especially on a small farm, it is best to acknowledge, and move on or one can go crazy worrying, wondering, imagining what happened. Was it a quick kill, was he stuck somewhere, had he been hit...on and on.

I'm not sure what the lesson is in what I just wrote. But I do know, as always,

Nature knows more than I do.

So does the darn cat.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Guarding for dinosaurs and wild bear

White Dog waiting to be set free in the lower pastures, which are not ready for animals yet since they are wet, and some are being reseeded and limed. He's perfectly happy though, as long as he has a job, which he always does-right now it is guarding the paddocks from wild bear and dinosaurs.

Poem for Boone

Boone and I had a great workout this week. We rode over to a nearby corral and worked out together. It felt so good. And he was really in sync with me, which made me feel like we are getting back to each other. I wrote this poem some time ago and came upon it today.

Wind blowing through his mane
up onto my hands which hold two reins loosely.
We ride, or I ride and he carries, down a gravel road
chunks of itself missing
after log trucks rush by with their fallen victims.

All around us, before us and in front of us,
lay fallen leaves, dead on arrival.
He stops to ask me with his ears and a twinge of his neck,
"May I have one?"
"No," I say with tight leg, "we still have a ways to go."

And we move on,
the flies sitting in the corners of his eyes
which he blinks away, only to have them return seconds later.
With each gust of wind I watch his mane's journey,
left, then right, left, right again.
I lose my sense of place as I watch,
waiting for the course strands to settle again.

We near our destination,
a small valley with abandoned house,
nothing left but an old satellite dish,
and a gate falling down, bent in age.
The hay has been cut, bundled and hauled off to old barns
leaving us this empire of grass, and a backdrop of ancient trees.
We hear the true collaboration of trees and wind
with branches and space humming, hissing, and groaning .
It's not a greeting, or a playful song -
It's a resonance.
Ignoring skin, it sinks down into the flesh and then the bone,
while the heart skips beats trying to keep up.

Haunting, it reminds of a past time
that we can not get to.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

I strive to give you the little things

I have been designing, writing, producing and publishing my own illustrated books now for many years. I do all the layout, concepts, art and writing. I have been working with an offset printer for my books with larger print runs, but with "Little Tulip" I am using a well respected printer that does smaller digital runs. People ask me why I didn't use Amazon [Create Space] and my answer is: control of the little things seemed iffy. And I do not want to sell my books on Amazon, I much prefer to do it in my humble one-book-at-a-time way, where I can hand wrap each book and sign them. If you've bought a book from me, you know what I mean.

There are little things about books that I can remember as a child, and I want these surprises in my books. One of the most important and fun things for me to work on, and it is usually the last thing I do, are the 'end sheets'. Remember when you were little and you opened up "Winnie the Pooh" book, and on the inside cover there was a colored map of Pooh's world? Those are end sheets. And when you do print-on-demand books at Blurb, or Amazon, you get blank end sheets for your hard cover books.

Blank end sheets? That's no fun.

So that is a little thing you have to look forward to with all my books-illustrated end sheets. I'm showing you a glimpse of the front end sheet for "Little Tulip". I'll save the back end sheets for your surprise.

We are 1/2 way funded but I will be getting production going soon. There is a limited run of this book, only 151 copies will be made. This is a teeny run compared to my other books in which I usually pre sell 300-500. S0, if you want one, it is best to pre-order today.Why am I doing such a small run this time? It allows me to produce the book without a huge out of pocket for the printing so I don't carry debt. It also is a storage issue. And, as importantly, these smaller run books will allow me to get some ideas off the table and in your hands as a book. I will still do 'bigger' books but these are going to be a great addition to my line.

It's a hard cover book, illustrated and will come sitting inside a linen case.

And if you pre-order, you might take home a piece of art from the book. There is also a reward level if you want a book and you also want to offer some extra money for my indie publishing efforts.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

When I'm with an animal, I check my intentions

Muddy is going on nine later in the year. He is still very athletic and most, including vets, think he looks much younger. But I've noticed in the past six months or so he is getting the old dog look. Sometimes I think I see Huck when I look over at him. They were five years apart in age but out of the same parents. I did that on purpose, knowing someday Huck would leave us, and Muddy could carry on, in his own way of course. The two dogs were very different. Where Muddy could run all day, especially with his frisbee, Huck became a lay-around-and-just-be-me-lab, pretty much when Muddy showed up as a pup. He played, but it was as if he thought,

OK, good, they have reinforcements, I can relax a bit now.

I spent all day and everyday with the Huck, and when Mud came along, Huck sort of became more of my at-your-side-guy. When we moved to Maine, Huck was still healthy, although gimpy, but by the next spring his behavior and changed a bit. I saw deep thoughts in those brown eyes, and he began sleeping away from Mud, by my side at the bed. When I found the large mass on his neck, which came on quickly, I knew something was wrong. It was a wasting cancer, and we helped him on his way. He was 12. It was a horrible goodbye for me and Martyn. "End of an era," as Martyn said.

Muddy is a talker. He talks in a series of lip movements, lip curling, and yawning words. We walk together and he loves that. He seems so very happy when he sees me put on-not my Muck boots-but my hiking shoes.

That is the thing about dogs, they just want to partake in simple, but important, rituals with their owners, like a morning walk to sit by the cove a spell. They could care less about my aging face, but are completely tuned into my intent of the moment. They pick up on that, which is probably the best training lesson I can remind myself of with any animal-check your intentions with an animal, because they sense it.