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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sir Tripod Goat asks me to help in his own way

Sir Tripod Goat told me something loud and clear a couple nights ago, and I told him I would help achieve his wish. Tripod was born with a condition that makes him only able to use three legs. It takes him forever to lay down and he spends most of the time lying down, but is mobile. In fact, when this guy wants to run away for any reason, we call him Roadrunner. However, although at this stage of his life he is strong, he can get off balance in the herd, and has learned to stay off on his own. He was like this when he arrived, and I even put him in the hay barn where he lived solo for a year, with the cats, and any other extreme cases that came in. He told me back then that is what he wanted-he told me by avoiding any animal, and actually finding ways to get away from the herd to sleep on his own where no one could knock him around.

In time, Tripod learned that I was a worthy ally, and I helped him out of jams. I rub stuff on his dry skin too that makes him feel better, and I always watch out for him when the herd leaves the barn in the morning, and returns at night.

He has his own little cubby, and finds his place at night right away, probably to make sure he is safe and secure and won't fall. He sleeps with Opie, Else, some chickens, and now Friede has been sleeping there too. She decided a few weeks ago she wanted to sleep there rather than out with Sophie and Rosie the pig. Friede is also somewhat crippled and old, but has horns, her horns curve backwards so they aren't much of a problem. But she is more pushy around food and I suspect that she might have clocked Tripod recently, because a couple nights ago, he refused to go to his usual barn with the gang. In fact, he went for a skedaddle all the way to the pasture and outer barn.

I told him he was welcome to stay out in the barn, but I was not leaving him in the out shed for the night. While I doubt a coyote or critter would come into that well protected paddock, I am not taking the chance.

"No, I think I want to stay out tonight, alone, under the cooler night air," he told me.

The barn can get stuffy in these humid, hot days. I really was tempted to oblige.

"You can't, I can't let you, I want you to be safe," I told him, and I held his head as I often do. But I could just tell he wanted to be alone.

In the end, I did take him to the front barn, but made sure he was lying down before I shut out the lights.

This weekend, I will get him out to the outer barn, he will be content there I think, but we will see. Once he's there, if he returns there on his own, he will have spoken.

My experience with the animals is, just like humans, they want security and a soft place to land at night, with as little interruption as possible. They are so tolerant of so many things, but I have seen over and over an animal will decide to change bedrooms, out of the blue. it looks like it is out of the blue, but if one pays attention, one often will understand why they made that choice.

Monday, July 30, 2018

In which Old Man Guinnias the old goat returns to me

It has been sometime since I heard from Old Man Guinnias. If you have followed along here, you know Guinnias was the first elder goat I took on at our old farm in Oregon. To say he became a crucial companion, and precursor for things to come, is an understatement. He was a muse, but caring for him also allowed me to navigate through my elder father's death, who was in home hospice in Minneapolis, and I was not able to be there with him as he took his final journey off of Earth.

In my dream, I was helping someone pick up some rescue animals, and there was a huge goat, who looked like Stevie, but this goat was the size of a bull and he had huge testicles, and I thought an intact animal that size would be problematic for our farm. There was a small kitten. And then, there was Guinnias. I was so happy to see him, and I thought to myself,

Well, he is coming home with me.

It was a clear message to me, that he is there, and here, and he never really left. The reason this dream was important, at this moment, is I have been pondering my role in how I work with elder people, and I began doubting myself this past couple of weeks. Doubting oneself leads to more doubt, I find, and the hot weather with humidity also makes me go into less optimistic frame of mind. I began to wonder if I was doing enough for the animals, and was I able to keep a healthy boundary when I work with some elders who I get to know as people. I began to look back on all the animals I had taken on, with open heart, but also a realistic understanding that they might not last long. But working with animals that I know are not long for this world, is different than working with people that are not long for this world-for many reasons. For one, I am the sole caregiver of the animals, I call the shots, along with Mother Nature of course. I know what happens to them, I bury them, I get to have that immediate and important ritual. In my work with visiting elder people, I can walk into a place and not know where someone went, they just disappear one day, and privacy laws don't allow me to know. Even though I've reached out to some staff about my feelings, they have not addressed them at this point. So I am grappling with how to create healthy boundaries for myself, and I'm searching for role models to help me.

And then Guinnias came to me in the dream, and he walked right over to me, without doubting me, like he knew I was safe and he was safe with me. And I had no doubts in the dream of what to do.

Guinnias came to us at age 15, horribly thin, crippled, and we knew that 15 is already a very old goat. I thought he might last a year. He lived until 21 or more. He had been sent off to a goat rescue at 15 because the boy had gone off to college and the parents were tired of the goat showing up on the porch and pooping. Too much trouble to put up a fence I guess. As sad as it is when elder animals are abandoned, and often the ones that end up at shelters, in my mind, are abandoned [and some come from caring people who have tried to find good homes, or have had a sudden life change-a death of a spouse, or illness], I am glad they sent him to the rescue, because he came to me, and he was a conduit for my current life's work, and I also loved him, and yes, I believe he loved me in his goat way.

When I worked with Guinnias, many things seemed to relate to what my father was going through in his final days. And everything also took me back to conversations and memories of my father–Guinnias was crippled and his falling increased over time, and it made me care for him ever more tenderly because I knew from my father, how scary it for an elder to start falling. Once that happens, all sorts of restrictions can be put on them, and often they become home bound. In some ways, Guinnias was my conduit for letting go of my father. I knew he was dying, he had had a good life and was almost 84. He didn't want to die, and after many heart issues, and other things related to the failing heart, there was nothing left for the doctors to do. He had tried to get into a last ditch effort for some experimental program with Mayo Clinic, something that would put oxygen back into him to help his heart. But the heart was too weak, and they had to turn him down. My mother told me about that day, and she could feel his resignation in his silence as they drove home together. His number was up, and he knew it.

I had said my goodbyes to my father, about three months before he died, when I was back visiting over Thanksgiving. At that point, he was still up and about, could eat and drink and carry on pretty well. He was himself. But I knew this might be the last time I'd see him, since I lived on a farm out West. Getting away was expensive, and difficult. We did a lot of important things those few days, always with the knowledge of his pending death hovering around us. We watched 'Charlotte's Web", and held back tears, as so many conversations of the animals were the things we probably wanted to say to each other. As spiritual and emotional as I am, my family was not. They were loving, but were a pretty stoic bunch, with stock from strong farmers and scientists. When I went to leave, my father was on the couch. I sensed this goodbye could go quickly emotional, so I leaned down to kiss him good bye on his sweet old bald head, and as I neared his face, our eyes were locked on each other for seconds, intense seconds.

"Bye, Bob," I said, and he said, "Bye, Honey." We had wet eyes, but I high tailed it out of there and cried in the elevator instead. It was a moment and a sensation nobody experienced but us. It was our moment as father and daughter. I knew we were saying the goodbye.

When the final days of his life were apparent-hospice had been called in about two weeks before he died-my mother and I talked every day from a distance. She said he had fought the hospital bed, but once it arrived, she felt he gave in. I asked if she had told him it was okay to go, this is something I had learned, and I always told an animal it was okay to go. She had. And she said to me, "It's time for him to go." She had reached the point when a loved one is dying, where she knew having his body in the room was not what was important anymore, it was setting him free. His body had simply worn out, as they always do if you live long enough, and he was attached to a realm he had spiritually already left.

One day she said his little terrier, Sammy, quit going to be on the bed, and I knew that was it. I've seen this over and over, an animal senses when the person is now more spirit than body. A couple days later, he died.

Perhaps Guinnias just wanted me to know he's okay, and that he would welcome coming back to my care if he was on Earth. And maybe my father is okay too, it's just that Guinnias was more able to tell me. Whatever it all means, I was so happy to hear from him.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

"Little Tulip" is here!

Now available at the shop
The new book, "Little Tulip" {It Will Be Okay} is here!

Ocne you birth a book, it leaves your hands for the printer and you pretty much move on. But it begins its real life, kind of like a child going off to college, it goes out into the world and has its own interactions without you the creator. So I had not held it in my hands yet, and when I did, I was touched by the quietness of it, and the simpleness, and that the art moved me as much looking at it with fresh eyes as when I did the drawings.

It's a simple story that happens in the real world over and over. A mate dies, and another elder is left alone. The garden brings companionship. But the elder wants more, a dog perhaps? Oh no, you are too old, too frail, it's too dangerous...too, too, too. I was inspired to make this book after talking to an older woman who wanted to get another dog, but her children were against it. She might fall, she might trip...and she told me she did not like being detracted from as she aged. I understood this, and I see it over and over , younger people detracting from their parents or elders because they think they know what is best.

The 58 page hard copy includes art throughout, with printed end sheets too [inside covers, an added expense but I simply can not do a book without them]. Anyone who pre-ordered [thank you!!] your books go out next week. You can buy the book at the shop.

This is a book for anyone who needs to hear four simple words,

It will be okay.

It always is, it is just often in a manner or form we were not expecting. The book exemplifies the ongoing stream of life to death and back to life again. And of course if you like dachshunds, that is an extra bonus.

Friday, July 27, 2018

And on this day....a pug was born

Today is The Old One Eyed Blind Pug's 12th birthday. I had to wait until he was almost nine to have him in my life, but it was worth the wait. Besides, I had another Old One Eyed Pug I was caring for then. To be able to have had two of these creatures in my daily life is such a gift.

The two pugs are very different from one another. Billy, the first pug, was born to a farm family in Minnesota. He was much needier than Hughie is. Hughie was in a home of a couple and my recollection is they fought quite a bit and Hughie often ended up alone, contained in a room. In some ways, I think this made him even braver than he might have been. At some point, Hughie was run over by accident by a delivery truck, and that is how he lost his one eye, and became blind. Or he was somewhat blind from birth due to a congestive disease that was not cared for properly, so he went blind soon after losing the eye. A kind woman took Hughie on because the couple was not caring for him properly. But she herself was not in good condition and was very limited in bending over and such-and with a small blind dog, you do a lot of bending over to help them. She didn't want to, but she decided she had to rehome him to the right person.

At the time, I had been pugless for about three years. Being pugless after you have been pugged is a sad state. Pugs really get into your heart. I wasn't exactly looking for another pug, but I always said if an elder or needy pug came along, I'd take him. So I was minding my own business, and a friend emailed me about this pug that was on Old Dog Haven, a wonderful place out west that helps rehome elder dogs out of shelters. When I saw his face, and that he was blind, with one eye...well, it was like my old pug was hitting me over the head,

Pick up the phone now!

And I did. I talked to the woman that needed to rehome him, and there had been a person interested, but as I talked to her, she changed her mind and knew she wanted me to have him. I'm so grateful for that. Another of my friends, who I lovingly called my Goat Hauler, as she had driven several goats to me from Seattle area to Apifera, a 12 hour round trip- she met me halfway in Tacoma, and the pug known as Hughie entered my life.

He was so well behaved, so brave and unafraid of his new home. He immediately adapted to navigating the rooms and areas he could not see. He never whined, and you could also tell that if you raised your voice, he cowered a bit. Like I said we had heard he'd come from a fighting home, so it took him awhile to understand when we yelled at the TV, it was not about him. We yell at the TV a lot these days, so we also balance it with lots of soothing talk. When we came across the country from Oregon to Maine, Hughie rode with Huck and Mud in the backseat, and each night we slept in a different barn stall, with the dogs, the barn animals remained in the large trailer. Hughie was just a little champ, content to sleep in his bed that he knew so well, even if it was in a barn that he could not see. He enjoyed french fries on the trip, and now in Maine he gets a banana each morning which he relishes, reminding me to relish my banana too.

Hughie is completely blind but he lives a wonderful little enchanted life. He is carried out to the garden in the morning, does his business and comes in and eats. Then he naps in one of his many day beds. At night he is lifted onto the couch to watch tv with us, and that is after he helps Martyn chop any vegetables for dinner. He has a sweet little call of 'Woo-woo" he does when he excited or happy. He is no pushover.

I would tell anyone who finds a blind dog that needs a home-don't turn away. They do not need your pity, they need you to see them as a possible wonderful addition to your family. They are resilient and have other senses that help them navigate. I have so many blind animals, and not one of them is a burden, each of them brings me joy and also reminds me that physical challenges in man or beast do not close the door to being a contributing member of a household.

I love you Hughie. I am so glad I am not pugless. I am so glad you are here with us.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A new book...White Dog as conduit...and not falling into the trap of the blog writer

White Dog sits alone in the morning
before the animals have been let out to the fields.
Back in 2015, before we decided to relocate the farm from Oregon to Maine, I had a pile of stories I was working on, and I kept going back and forth on working on them, not finishing any of them. When I look back now, it is clear there was a reason for that. All of those stories, as I wrote the words, and the images were in my head as I wrote, had the Oregon farm as backdrops. I couldn't finish them because they were stories that had not formed yet, had no where to go really, because my subconscious knew we weren't going to be there.

But I have kept going back to the story of White Dog, the creature that mysteriously appeared out of thin air, breaching our fences-the first animal to do that. Oddly, he was a Maremma, the same breed as the dog we had brought home six months earlier, Marcella. Maremma's are not a breed you see walking around everywhere, they are expensive if you want good breeding, and they are a dog that requires a job, as they are innately programmed to guard livestock, or whatever is in their domain that needs guarding. The fact he showed up out of nowhere, in bad condition–thin, curled toenails-made us surmise someone might have been following the blog, and dumped him there. The idea he would find our farm in a rural area, out of all the farms he could have gone, but this one also had a White Dog...it was a mystery, and it was magic. Nobody will ever really know, I guess. But the book will explore a them, that I won't share just yet, but it is a theme that I had scribble down some years ago, and when I saw it as I started reworking the White Dog story, I thought,

Man, he knew all along, I think, that this idea was important to me, and he somehow was part of that-a conduit for the story.

For the past couple months, since "Little Tulip" is finished [it will be arriving here Monday, and will be shipped out to all who have pre-ordered by mid month], I immediately began pondering my next book. I had the idea of doing three little books, that would slip inside a case, much like the Nutshell Library stories we had as children, I still have mine-Lyle the Crocodile, Pierre, and others. I got a bid on printing and the slip case is so expensive, and I worked on some ideas, but then White Dog just kept appearing in my head. I like to lay in bed in the morning-Martyn gets up at 5:30 and I usually linger for a good hour and a half-but I get a lot of creative things done in that time. So in the last month, I've been working on the White Dog book in bed, in my head.

And this week, I revisited the story I wrote, the beginning chapters, and I was spellbound. Okay, maybe that is egotistical, but I really felt drawn into it.

One thing I've started realizing-when you write a blog, and you are also sharing art, photos, brief snippets of pondering on social media, your best writing can get...taken over. I've seen this happen to some semi known blog writers with mid sized followings online who also have books-the writing becomes repetitive, and if they do have a book out, it feels more like a poorly edited [or not edited] blog. Don't get me wrong, blog writing is a craft, it is worthy and a wonderful medium for many, including myself, but there is a huge difference in writing a daily blog, and creating a book. A book has a rhythm, a flow from beginning to end. A blog is caught up in the immediate topic at hand, in 500+ words, with a catchy headline. Anyone who writes a regular blog knows, just like CNN or or any online magazine, that people respond to certain headlines and topics. I myself know I can pour my heart out into a well written piece on something that garners few comments online, but if I post about an animal dying the hits go way up. People seem to be attracted to stories of despair, shock, death...and baby donkey pictures. So blog writers can fall into the trap of unconsciously [or not] writing for the reaction, versus honing the writing.

I think I'm also entering a time of my life where, after 10+ years of writing, my goals as an online presence are shifting. My audience that is still following me has shifted too-in age and things they respond to. There is no better time for me to work on this book. A blog is sort of like a cocktail party, a book is much more like an intimate weekend at the sea.

White Dog knows this too. He is my main conduit right now, to the higher ideas in my head and heart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Misfit faces...for you

We are $1138 away from making up for the cost of the hay we brought in that will get us through next spring. Hay is probably our most important thing, besides love...and water...and care...and loyalty....and time....and pasture maintenance....and fence maintenance...and hoof and feet trims....vacinations....did I mention time?

But it is time well spent.

This morning I sat in the barn, a light misty rain falling, sitting with Old Sophie, and the pig nearby covered in hay and snoring. It was so peaceful. I have found I am really settling in with the barns and land here, and I am taking more ten minute moments like this. I am scheduling myself so that, well, I don't have to rush, or rarely have to rush. I've done my rushing and am still capable of it if I have to be, but when you are rushed with animals, it always leads to chaos-because, well, they are not rushed.

I hope these images might bring you a momentary smile, and sense of peace, to help you along in your day.

I'll be giving away another print in the coming week-so anyone donating at least $20 will have their name put in a hat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Puppet pulls a name out of the hat

And the person taking home the art print is....Val King!

The Puppet gets a little long winded! Thank you to all who have helped replenish our fund by donating -we have raised $1812 of the $3000-that means we only need $1188 more-this money was used to bring in hay to get us through next spring-will be doing another print soon-Thank from all of us! You can still donate at the hay fund page, or here on the blog [or by check]. Anyone donating today and through next week might take home an art print, which I will pick soon.

Monday, July 23, 2018

When I'm old put me in the garden...please

I do not take my gardens for granted. I am graced by them, helped and soothed by them, delighted, surprised and never disappointed in them. And they are a requirement for my soul, I believe. What would happen if I could not have Nature and gardens meshed in my day? I don't want to dwell on that. I do think too many have become distracted to the point of not even noticing one flower in their daily life, or a the intricate details of a tree branch.

The elder visits I've been doing make me keenly aware of 'what might come". I also know many, including my parents, who lived their entire lives in their own homes, surrounded by things that gave them comfort, grounding and purpose. I don't have the answers for the aging population, not everyone can do that. It is a depressing thought to me to think of living in a place without Nature, without the ability to bend and touch Earth, and smell rain as the sky turns grey. Next week, weather permitting, Opie and I will travel an hour and a half to visit a small dementia home, on the sea, where Nature is a key point to how the residents live. They understand and value the actual past lives, and thoughts that go on in these people's heads, and they do not 'lock up the house'...rather, residents are allowed to go out when ever they want, and roam, with an attendant. The staff-to-patient ratio is set up so this can happen. They also allow pets, and have kept the pets on after residents die. Children were also raised in the house, mixing with the elders. I do not know the cost of the residence, but I assume it is pricey, and not all of us can afford this if our time comes to this. But it is heartening places like this exist.

If only the masses of elders and special needs could have facilities like this all over, at affordable prices, where they are treated as creatures versus patients put in a holding tank. Does it all come down to money? Or does it come down to the breakdown of the family system where multi-generations lived together and cared for one another. When someone was sick, or dying, the person was in the house. Children learned that grandpa had great stories and knew how to do a lot of cool things. My mother talked of this a lot, and told me many stories of the relative in the back room on their death bed-still listening to the sounds of the youngsters running about the house, smelling the scents wafting from the kitchen, hearing a familiar sound as simple as the screen door, the rooster, the dog, the mail truck.

I have always looked at my farm that way, a multi-generational community, sometimes birth is going on, sometimes death. How many times did I sit quietly with a dying matriarch of the sheep flock, while little lambs milked right near by? Those were spiritual moments, and I wish human death could always be like that–surrounded by the clan, familiar sounds and smells.

Gardens allow those of us prone to floating off [not always a bad thing] to stay grounded, right here on this realm where for now, we are supposed to be until we are not. When I die, I don't know what or where I will go, I think it will be something that meshes all the beauty of garden, animals, acceptance, safety and a feeling of worth into a skin of some kind, and maybe we won't even 'see' things, we will just be them and become of them, of their essence.

That is the privilege of having a garden, and land to work on-it allows you to become of it, without judgement. And when you do become of it, you reach your higher, calmer, less angry, less judgmental self-your higher being so to speak.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A love story: tall blind lady and a short man

I can't make this stuff up.

There seems to be a new couple in the barnyard. On Thursday, I brought home two cats, as well as, a Bantie rooster who had been left at the shelter. Banties are a small type of chicken, and we had many out West, including Papa Roo, our very first rooster who lived well past ten.

But Seabrights are really small, about 1# each full grown. I decided to give him a home here, as our old rooster, a beautiful Barred Rock, was so aggressive with the hens, and me, that he had to be culled [and many of you know the lengths I went to to try to make it work out]. I felt a Bantie would not be as aggressive, and actually I worried the hens might beat him up because he is so small.

Well, it appears that Misfits find each other. On his first night, I had him secure in a hutch, amongst the hens so they could meet each other, but safe from overzealous introductions. The next morning, I let him out, and when I checked on the hens later that morning, I found him shadowing Henneth, the blind chicken. I thought that was sweet, but each time I check on the hens, there he is with Henneth. They eat together, and spend their days together. I suppose this might change, but for now, I think it is a wonderful love story, and a story of friendship.

"Don't let those other hens bug you, they are a bit full of themselves," Henneth told the new rooster.

"Yes, that one is very sassy," the rooster said. "I think you are beautiful."

"Thank you, are my feathers looking in order?" she asked.

"Very much so," he said.

One of the Buff Orpingtons saw the odd couple conversing.

"You'll need a ladder with her," she laughed.

Henneth walked away from them, and the little roo followed.

"They know not what they speak," she said.

"My intentions are honorable," the rooster said.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I was minding my own business...and this happened

You know the routine...I was minding my own business yesterday morning...really. And then I saw some roosters had been sent to the shelter, the same shelter all the elder cats we have adopted come from. After we had to cull the last rooster for his very aggressive behavior, I told Martyn that my next rooster would be a Bantie. My first rooster, Papa Roo, was a Bantie and I just loved him. The last roo ripped the girl's backs up, they are still recuperating a month later, and he was attacking me, from behind, and despite all my rooster training and whispering–pinning him to the ground, acting like a rooster, not letting him get away with it–he continued to get worse.

So, there were these little Seabright roosters, very different than any roos I'd had, they are really small, about a pound! I figured there would be less possibility for him to mount the girls, or bug them much-if anything I worried the hens would gang up on him.

Well, I got to the shelter, saw the roos, and went into the front office where they know me now-it was very busy-so I waited in one of the cat rooms.

And two blue silver boys came walking over to me immediately. They were super friendly, a 13 year old father and his 1 year old son. Martyn and I haven't had a cat in the house since Big Tony died. I have been keeping my eyes open for the right cat to live in the house. And it was sort of instantaneous. These two just...well, I felt certain they would be a good fit. I didn't even mull it, it just felt very instinctively the right thing to do.

They were relinquished to the vet when their owners, retired, felt they could not afford all the cats, so kept a couple and kept the father and son together and sent them to the shelter. The two are very bonded, which I find sort of unusual for a father cat, but they really are buddies. And even though he is 13, he plays a lot. They are both on special food, for life. I like having a senior and a kid, it is very Apifera.

So I went in for a rooster, and came home with a rooster and two cats. I got out of there before I took home the depressed and sassy white bird.

The little rooster spent the night in a crate near the hens, and this morning I let him out, he is doing just fine so far. And the two cats came into the house and I secured them in the bathroom, thinking they'd spend the night there to settle a bit. I had texted Martyn and told him to be careful if he came home to not open the bathroom door quickly, giving him no further details. When he got home, he went in to the bathroom, and saw a cat, who came instantly to him...and then another cat came to him. He immediately was cooing love words to them.

That went well.

We decided to just let them explore, it had to happen sooner or later. Muddy was fine with them. He knows to just stay out of the way of cats, although he preens them and in time I know that will be the case. Hughie, blind, tends to bark a bit when he needs help or is uncertain about something. So he knows the cats are here, he just hasn't quite figured them out yet, but really doesn't care.

About three in the morning the cats were up, playing "Run like crazy all around the bedroom and slide under the bed on the wood floors"...so I guess they were having a grand time, and I took it as a compliment. Things were pretty calm this morning, and as you can see, they now own the house pretty much.

They are of course, enamored with the large floor to ceiling bird cage of the Zebra Finches. I tied all the doors shut and am trying to teach them not to bat at the sides of the cage. That is my only concern–they will stress my Little Apiferians out...but I think it will be okay.

I guess the biggest surprise for me last night was...just how happy it made me to have not one, but two cats roaming in the house again. We have always had multiple house cats coming and going, and I didn't realize just how much I missed it. These two will not be going outside.

So much for minding my own business.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hay Update - halfway there!

We are halfway there to recouping our out of pocket expense to buy the hay that will feed The Misfits through late spring of 2019. We upped our number of bales by 100 in case we have as cold a winter as last year, and feel we will have enough. The barns are filled to the seams!

I want to thank so many of you that give everywhere from $5 and on up to triple digits. It takes a village of Misfits to feed a village of Misfits, so thanks to all you Misfit Lovers out there!

There are many ways to donate, here on the blog, at the Go Fund Hay site, or by check [let me know it's coming]. I also have posts up on FB, and anytime anyone donates ANYWHERE it is being added to the total on the GoFund site. I do this because everyone has their preferred method and location of payment.

Also, as promised, someone will take home the print "The Seeds Percolating Underground During Winter", if you donate at least $20 this week [I'm including anyone who donated all this month to the hay fund], a Misfit might pull your name out of the bucket and you can take this archive print home.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Old Matilda has a request

We are still raising money to defray the cost of the yearly hay that will get us through spring. We have raised about $1000 of the $3,000 needed to add back into our piggy bank.

Anyone donating through this week will get their name in Pino's bucket and one person will take home an archival print -either art or a photo-their choice. I hope to have some other incentives in the next couple weeks.

Anyone who donated initially in the last couple of weeks, your name will be added into the bucket too!

You can go to the Hay Fund page and donate, or donate on the donation page on the blog. I will add your donation onto the hay fund page so we can all keep track of what we are bringing in.

It takes a village of Misfits to keep this place running! Thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Go out and play, now"

This is like when you were ten and all your cousins come over and your parents tell you all to go outside and play while they have cocktails.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Calling all crows

I've always loved crows, believing them to be messengers. Anytime a crow showed up in my life, I believed it was a message of good, to me. As I've aged, I see it a bit differently, a little bit less about the message being about me, but about situations that need answers.

I used to have lots of crows in my art, and still do, but...of late, crows have been visiting Apifera. And I was moved to paint them again. About a month ago, we had many crows hovering around, landing in fields in flocks [a murder, I guess] and screeching in a way I had never heard. I began to see them making a journey from our farm out to The Wood, where I would hear them screeching. I assumed they were mating, and saw a nest up in one of the trees behind the goat paddock. But I began to research, and am learning as much as I can about their behavior.

I've put shelf stand on one of the pasture posts, where I hung a shiny spoon, and I place dog food kernels there, hoping to entice them to land and start communing with me. I know crows respond to consistent reward. So when they fly above, I call to them. Sometimes it feels like they return when I call, but...I think that is my optimism.

A crow can't be forced.

And we have the White Dogs, who ever since an eagle took a duck in Oregon, bark at birds of prey, even seagulls. The dogs are getting more complacent though...but I wonder if the crows won't befriend me because of the dogs.

I just love crows. And I love hearing about their intelligence-like that they make tools to help gather insects, like that they recognize faces and will remember a face that trapped them or threatened them. Some of the screeching could ave been parents teaching the young when a predator was near. The young often help with the rearing of the next fledglings. They mate for life. A crow in the wild normally lives a couple years, but can live up to forty.

A senior crow...wouldn't that be something to help? I will put my intention out there. But I won't force it. Like I said, you can't force a crow.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

We lose a Tiny Apiferian...but it leaves an epiphany

I found one of the Little Apiferians dead this morning. And now we are four. But what was most interesting to me, is that as I cradled his tiny body in my hands, I had an epiphany about my work with animals but also with elder people of late.

First I want to share how much joy these little birds have brought into our home. He and his Zebra Finch mates came to us when we first arrived in Maine, and they were already pretty old. The owner of them was losing his home, and somehow one of his connections thought of us. I had never had birds-and never really thought to. But I somehow thought immediately this was a good thing to do, and it was. The six finches, five males and one female, had their own custom cage hand built by someone. The female died about six months after coming to Apifera, but the males have thrived. I used to count them every night after the female died, worried they were so old and one by one they'd die. There are little bird houses in their house, and some tuck themselves in there and are hard to see. This morning I did a count and had to really look for the fifth bird, and finally found him at the bottom of the cage. Every morning when I get up, the morning routine is to let the dogs out first, but I greet the birds,

"Good morning, boys!"

"Chirp, chirp, chirp!"they greet me back.

If I speak to them, they chirp back. When we watch movies- their house is centrally located in the living room-they react to certain music. If we are angry at the news, a regular thing these days, we ask the boys how they feel, and they start chirping like mad! They are joyful little creatures and enjoy flying around and I give them sticks and natural objects in which they prep nests. One person-of course a complete stranger-scolded me for keeping them telling me they should be set free. Sorry, dumb idea. These were bred and born in captivity. I took them on to help them. If you want to boycott bird breeding, go somewhere else and shame them, not here.

The epiphany

So as I held the little bird in my hands this morning, I apologized for just having found him. He had clearly died at least a day or two before. I'd been swept up in life and had not counted the birds. I told him how joyful he made our home, how his size did not compare to the music and happiness he brought into our world. I prepared his burial setting, and gave him a beautiful cloak to warm him on his journey. He of course did not need it, but the ritual of showing him I cared was important to me. I let the other birds see his body one more time, and then I buried him in the garden. I marked the grave and will bury them all there when their time comes.

The thought came to me immediately, as I held him and talked to him-this is what I was not able to do with White Cloud. And of course, I was not family, or staff, or a nurse, or hired to do that, or legally able to do that. And that is why I can't put myself in those situations any more. I am not wired to work with any creature, be it human or animal, for weeks or years, care for them, do my best, commune on a two way road, and then not be allowed to even say goodbye.

After my experience with White Cloud, I have felt adrift in some ways, floating about wondering why I felt so...awkward. It is because I do not want to work in a system that shuts me out when I feel my work is needed most-at the end of a creature's life. I do not want to walk into one more place and find out someone I cared about and visited for over a year is gone, but nobody can talk about it.

I can't do it, it is opposite of what my soul wants me to do. I have a covenant with my animals, and I have a covenant with people I visit. My job, in my mind and heart, with he elder people is simple-listen tot hem, share story, share animal, do not detract, don't treat them like invalids or babies.

People are so afraid of death, or most people are afraid of it I think. I do not think necessarily that all older people are afraid of it. I am not afraid of it. I don't want to linger in a cement building without nature or things that give my life meaning, being dependent on strangers, or on a bureaucracy that might be keeping people from seeing me, or talking to me. When I'm old, I don't want to be told what to do, I want to be heard. I had a recent conversation with an elderly woman who I used to work with, she is in her 80's-still sharp and interested in life-and the care residence she was in was, in her words, treating her like a baby, not letting her go out on her own after she had fallen once. She did not want to use a walker, because it was hard to get in and out of bookstores, and most importantly, she volunteered at the animal shelter twice a month and it was cumbersome there. She wanted to use her cane, and she said to me, "I don't feel like they want to listen to me, they just tell me what I need. They care more about me falling, than me going out and living."

So, when I held this little creature, I took comfort in the extra years I could give him. I took comfort in preparing his little grave site. I took comfort knowing this is the work I want to do. I don't want to partake in detracting from others. I want to listen, not talk at, other people.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It's a Cat with a Hat, of course

A cat with a hat

sits on a shelf.

A cat with a hat is

all by himself.

Or he is?

No, because 

he is a cat

with a hat.

Paco the Poet wants you to know he did not write this poem, I did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My intention has been sent out

Our private garden is protected from the outside world, but is open to the fields and pastures and The Wood. We had to do a bit of work to make it so private and I have to say I felt so exposed when we first arrived. I had a hard time with it.

I'm basically an introvert that likes to share. It makes things challenging to live in a world like this.

I still have had no elders from the homes Opie visits come yet. I have extended the offer many times. I know the residents want to come but it is a transportation issue, and/or a staff issue, logistics...etc. I understand. I have done all I can do to make it happen. They all have an open invitation.

So, I'm looking into reaching out to elder people that are still living in their homes, but might have caregivers or attendants coming to help them with basic things-groceries, rides, companionship. I have found a couple of networks that provide home caregivers this way, and I'm just beginning to reach out. I much prefer an intimate setting versus large groups, so this is a good fit for me.

I think of all the elders that I have met  over the years that made such an impact on me either because they were neighbors and I became friends, or I visited them in their home or facility and we developed a relationship. I really loved those relationships, they impacted me and I know I impacted them.

So stay tuned on the evolving Garden of Respite. I know there is someone who will come into my life who will someday be sitting there with me, looking out at the goats and other animals in the fields, enjoying the bluebirds and butterflies, and just getting out of their house for something different and uplifting. I've put that intention out there. It will come when it is meant to come.
In the meantime, Apifera Angels sent the two garden benches, and seat cushions! So we are ready to make our guests comfortable. I have thought of a pop up tent for shade too, that I could take down easily after visits. I'm looking into that.

Monday, July 09, 2018

In which we must acknowledge Stanley and Janet Jane Josephine are gone

I had hoped it wasn't so, but I really feel it is, the barn cats have been taken by Nature, most likely, the red fox.

Stanley had not been seen for about three weeks, but JoJo was coming and going, even getting to the comfort level of sitting near me without fleeing. I remember I saw her most mornings right before the barn project started. Because the hay was gone, we were waiting for the harvest, I knew the barn project might make her leave the barn during the noisiest parts of the day. But the food was going on uneaten, and I have not seen her since, which is about three weeks. I thought when the hay arrived she might return, but I have not seen her.

At the same time, we had been noticing a red fox outside the lower pasture. We saw him three times around dusk. He was leaping at rodents or rabbits near the marshy area, and this was a place the cats would go when they first ventured out.

I really think he got them. Yes, it is possible they went of to another place...it is possible. But Jojo was talking more those last days. Perhaps she was ill, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

I feel quite badly about this. And I do not think I will bring adult ferels on anymore-UNLESS- they show up on their own, then they will be welcome to stay and I will care for them and attend to them spaying and neutering. I have nothing against the feral society that trapped these cats, spayed/neutered/vetted them-they are doing a worthy job for so many cats out there, especially with high incidence of rabies in Maine. But I have no idea where these cats came from-perhaps they were city cats, and I wonder if they had any instinct to be in Nature. Yes, there is an instinct in an animal to survive, but...after rearing 25 ferels out West, with most of them living very long lives, I just wonder if I did a disservice to these two.

I know my intentions were right. I also believe animals pick up on our true intentions pretty quickly-if not immediately. I had many talks with them. I did my best...but from now on, unless it is a mama feral with kittens, or wandering ferels who see the light in the barn and decide to stop in to test the waters, I don't think I'd bring two adults here unless I really knew their background. I suppose if someone had a true barn cat that had lived in a real barn, with indoor outdoor life, it might be one thing.

So we raise a glass to them. If they died, I hope it was a quick kill. I hope they didn't suffer.

If they come back..you will be the first to know. The universe around me knows my intentions with animals, the invisible gate is open to them.

Ollie learns the dangers of being like Pooh Bear

"This happened to Pooh once," Opie said to Ollie through the fence.

"Did he get out?" asked Ollie.

"Yes!" Earnest the pig called from another paddock. "Honey was his downfall, as is grass on the other side of the fence for you," and he went about his way.

Ollie looked a bit perplexed, "I have no idea what honey has to do with this."

"It means your eyes were bigger than your head," said White Dog, who came by the gate to assess the situation.

"I think if we push, all together from this side," said Opie.

So Opie, Else and White Dog pushed. Sir Tripod encouraged everyone, "He's almost through!"

But the rescue effort came to a halt.

"I'm hopelessly stuck," said Ollie. "Oh well, she'll come and get me, she always does. And I have the grasses to eat."

"That's how your belly got so expanded in the first place," said Opie.

So I found him just like this, stuck, his hip bones were the culprit. With everyone still gathered, I held his belly in with my hands and pushed with my knees, forcing his string bean body backwards.


"Thank you ever so much," said Ollie.

"The fence is for you to stay on one side, and those grasses over there are not for you," I told him.

He leapt off in joy, jumped up on his rock, flapped his Nubian ears, and looked happy as can be. A mix of danger, good grass and freedom is a good way to start the day...when you're a 2 month old goat with nothing but time on your hands.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Oh, Crow, I am glad you are back

This painting available through Sundance
I have always loved crows. In my younger years I always saw them as messengers bringing me specific good messages. I still see them as messengers, but in a more realistic way-it is not always about me or bringing me something that I want to hear.

Of late, we have had two to three crows, going from about a 1/2 mile radius in and out of The Wood, and at first I thought they had were using a nest in a tree by the new barn. I learned that crows use sticks, squirrels tend to use anything. Well, these crows have been screaming for days, I assumed it was a pair, then I wondered if a fledgling had fallen from the nest.

But now they have flown off, but reappear sporadically, such as last night, only to leave and fly off to The Wood, and I can hear them screaming. It is not a normal crow 'caw', they are screaming, like that viral goat that was going around. When I first hear it I went outside thinking maybe somebody was in distress, or had corned a baby in the barnyard or something.

I think they didn't like the presence of The White Dogs, who rush under and follow them when any large bird flies above. This started after an eagle took a duck back in Oregon. I noticed one of the crows came sweeping down into a paddock and left. Maybe they were testing the waters to see how safe The White Dogs are? I don't know.

I've been researching crows since, and oh my I love them more and more and think they need to come back into my art and life again...maybe that was their message. They mate for life, and the young help raise the next year fledglings. I also read the screaming I'm hearing could also be the parents telling the youngster to fly, and the parents could also be screaming at predators and is trying to teach the young who the predators are.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Sitting in a bucket thinking about freedom

That's about what we'll be doing in this heat. I'll be making mud pools for the pigs, hosing down Boone, and hosing off the llama's legs. I had aspired to write about freedom and what it means, but...my head is mush from heat and it's only 9am. I am a heat wimp as many of you know.

The heat will lift in a couple of days. And my brain will return in all it's...glory.

I am pleased so many on the media and radio are taking time to disect the actual meaning of the 4th. We are still a country with American values, although we are shaken by the underbelly of America that also been ignited to wake up and tromp on those values. And we are still capable of living up to those values, and voting for people that will protect our freedoms, not lie to us, or keep information from us. We are being tested as this democracy has been tested over and over, and it will always be tested. We are lucky to still be in a situation where we are being tested as a people, versus living in a country where there is no free press and there is oppression of any kind of free thinking.

Monday, July 02, 2018

A llama love...I guess we all needed that

Llama love in action[photo courtesy L. Wooten]
I get a lot of requests from people, often strangers, or people I haven't met, to come and see the animals. Sometimes I can accommodate them and sometimes I can't. It's always a fine line between hurting some one's feelings and creating privacy or time for myself when I need it.

I follow my heart and gut when I respond to these requests. Or I ask Earnest what he thinks.

"Perhaps they will rub my belly," he says.

When I had a polite request from Laura Wooten, a painter and artist from Virginia, if she could stop in for a brief visit, with her son, husband and elder dad-they would be driving through after a wedding in Bar Harbor, I immediately said 'sure'. For starters, I often find connections I make with fellow artists are supportive, and second, Laura has been a kind and generous follower and supporter of both my book projects, and my animal efforts. And, well, she is The Bench Fairy, who gifted us a bench this year for our 'trying to make it happen' garden-animal area for elders to come visit.

It was going to be hot, and humid. I forgot these folks are from Virginia, so the wimpy humidity we had this weekend was nothing like they are used to. It is easy to work as a freelancer, or independent goat-donkey-cat-chicken nurse caretaker and have days where you feel isolated or unheard...invisible. Not that I want to be on the street or news or top ten blog list of notoriety, not that I ever have an urge anymore to 'do lunch' or coffee...it takes a real desire to leave my haven, and walls, but when someone shows up and they are just really excited to meet you, and see the many animals they have read about for so long-it makes me feel good about what I'm doing.

When someone notices all this work we do, and gets an emotional connection to it, and genuinely shows that, it feels good. It's validating.

Her family could not have been sweeter. We took lots of photos together, and I've shared some of hers here too. First we went through the orchard Misfit Goat area, where they met-immediately-Ollie. How can you not meet Ollie immediately, as he is the immediate greeter. Off in the paddock, they saw a dog, and said, "We want to meet White Dog."

Of course, everyone wants to meet White Dog. He did not disappoint, and if he wasn't 95# and so loving I would have had him out with us-he likes to jump and 'hug' people around the neck, something that is endearing, but also a bit too much for safety reasons-he's getting better though. Marcella was in her private suite with Earnest, and she is a bit more problematic with guests, unless I take time to bring them in, do introductions and watch her closely in the introductions. She's only doing her job.

Then it was out to meet the grumpy, sleeping pig. Due to the heat, the pig was uncharacteristically somber, while sleeping. I rubbed her belly and got a few snorts, but we didn't want to disturb the royal highness's state of mind. They got to meet one of the many rats too. We went to the back paddocks to see the donkeys. But the first one at the gate was...Lady Birdie. She immediately sniffed them all out, face to face, and agreed they were not black bears, wolves, coyotes or...mean people. Birdie is once again showing us she seems to be the current heart throb, but also, she seems to be the current resident who really thrives in these greet ups. She not only gave light pecks on the cheeks, she gave full kisses this time.

I was also pleased that Matilda wondered out on the hot day. She wasn't getting the attention of Birdie, but she seemed very present to me, and I told everyone her story. Soon after, she lay down and did a good roll in the dust, which is always a hit. Pino was greeted too of course, as were the other donks, and Boone, and scampering, or limping, goats. Back at the front barn, We met the pigs, and the elder cats.

The one thing I regret, is that I didn't get to spend more time with Bob, Laura's father. He was so sweet. I'm a sucker for old men, what can I say. It was hot, and Bob decided to sit in the shade with Martyn, where he could look out at the animals and fields, and garden. I had told Bob that my father's name was Bob, and that we now were trying to help bluebirds and I call the blue birds, "Bob". And while he sat there with Martyn chatting about fishing and other things, he got to see Bob the bluebird fly into the birdhouse. Martyn told me later Bob really liked that because he hadn't seen a blue bird for many, many years.

Laura and I both kicked ourselves for not getting photos of her dad with some animals, but neither of us wanted to force anything, and it was so hot. So she sent me this photo taken at the wedding they attended [in which Bob had surprised his sister who was helping put on the wedding, and she had no idea he was coming and so wanted for him to come up from Virginia, and they pulled it off!]. I think you can see what a good soul he is, as is Laura and her family.

So, sometimes, many times really, it is good to say 'yes'. I think that in the 16+ years I've been doing this, with a public presence on the blog and elsewhere, I've had a couple visits that were not good ones, or felt forced or out of character, where I did not follow my gut to say 'no'. But I'm also learning that even in high humidity, saying 'yes' can really fill a lot of hearts, including mine.

Bob and his daughter, Laura

Real men love llamas