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

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

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, August 31, 2018

"Rosie! Rosie, where are you?!"

I had one of those heart stopping animal moments last night in the outer barn. I had done my nighttime feedings and chores with the sheep and equines and made my way over to Rosie's private suite. I always check on her even though she doesn't get any feed at night.

But there was no Rosie.

No problem, I ventured out to the new barn addition, which Rosie often meanders to for sun naps.

But still, I did not see Rosie.

This pig can not just vanish. While my other pigs could easily break out of this barn, Rosie is a delicate wildflower incapable of such normal pig behavior.

I looked under hay that had been left on the floor. No Rosie.

I turned, and there she was, a Sleeping Beauty like no other. She had ventured to another part of the barn, an area that had recently been filled with hay, but last weekend we created a semi loft to get more hay off the pallets, and better moving room for woman and animal.

It was the sweetest image-I took these photos. She did not even wake up, she slept through my three minutes of bewilderment. I sat with her for a spell, she hardly let out a grumpf.

Oh! Rosie!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

White Dog the book...continues

{The book is now available on the shop}

I am making progress on the book about White Dog. I think one thing that I am recognizing is how much I have learned since my first book in 2010. One of the best things I did on one of my first set written books was to invest in the services of a really respected and experienced freelance editor who helped me shape the story, and focus the voice of the story–that one became became "Donkey Dream", and although I added the pie recipes and back end story later on my own, years later, the main story was very tight and good. I still feel that way.

"White Dog" is meant to happen and my plan is to finish the writing and art by year's end, then work at editing and shaping it thoroughly, and then have a fundraiser in spring. The other thing I'm realizing as I work on the book, I'm not thinking about the darn money that has to be raised. I am just writing and absorbed with the story. This is a maturation on my part, and also, I think, a sign this book just comes from a very special place. It matters not about money right now, what matters are the words and thoughts coming from White Dog through me. In some ways, I guess it is a co-memoir, but everything comes from his voice.

I aim to do him justice.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Evolving days of Apifera...the dream expands

For years, I tried to get elder residences to come to the farm, back when we were in Oregon. I even talked to some elder consultants, and both of them told me due to laws and insurance issues in Oregon, it would be hard to make it work. This coupled with the fact we were very remote, much more so than we are in Maine.

Like any dream, one looks back and realizes that it wasn't so much doors closing, it was just the dream had to be held onto, percolating, until the right set of circumstances aligned.

And we have aligned, I believe. We have had lift off.

Friday we had our first official elder residents farm visit. I guess I need a catchier name for that. It was so, so, fun. It meant so much to me, and I know how much they all loved it. I had been trying to get this to happen with the folks I visit frequently in Wiscasset, but due to staffing and driver issues, it took awhile to make it come true. This was a test run, and like anything, one learns a lot after a 'first'. I was really pleased with how everyone, staff and residents, were willing and able to go with the flow. I had put the two benches [donated by Apifera Angels] on the outside of the orchard where the animals would be. I wasn't sure who was coming, so decided we would play it by ear to see if some people wanted to be on the inside with the animals, or on the outside just enjoying the animals from five feet away.

It just all worked. Ollie came out at one point-and visited. I knew he would be great and think I might have to take him in for visits now. I kind of always had that in the back of my head. They got to meet some of the animals they've been hearing about, or seeing in pictures, when Opie and I write letters.

And of course, the llama love was spilling out of Birdie.

One of the residents came from a nearby place, and I knew she was a real animal lover. She had met Opie in the past year, and got right down on the floor with him to commune. She arrived eager to be with all the creatures. I am really going to make an effort to go visit her with animals, she needs and wants them in her life. I know I will be the same way.

I also supplied some hats for everyone, and I love that in these photos, they all have on hats that once belonged to my father. In my heart, I said hello to him, and felt him there, getting a chuckle out of that.

I also now feel confident where I want to build the small shade hut so guests can sit in the shade. I'm not sure if we can start that this fall, it would be nice too. I'm also excited that the event manager of this residence is excited to do more of these visits. And next week we have another local elder facility coming. So we are on the road...to love and sharing.

I really felt so good after the visit. We are only one year into the 501[c][3] and I feel we've come along and done so much-and each accomplishment gives me new ideas and energy.

The important thing is that I always focus on our mission-helping elder/special needs animals, and bringing them together with people for...joy. Keep it simple. From the simple gesture of sharing the animals, it brings so many smiles.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Misfits line up for.....scream, squeal, oh no!!!!!!

Update: Less than an hour after posting our needs online, we had our socks knocked off with support-we made it-THANK YOU and we feel so graced.

It's that time again...rabies shots!

Background: collective screaming from barnyard.

Now in Maine, we are in an area where rabies is a threat. We never did rabies shots for the barnyard Misfits out West, but we have opted to do it here. I have even asked the State Vet about it, and we decided it is worth the extra money should we have an incident.

It is costly, so I am reaching out to all Apifera Angels to see if you'd like to help offset the cost, which helps keep our fund healthy. We already did the donkeys, so now we just have the other Misfits to do.

Ollie is the only one who is excited about this. Being his first rabies shot, he thinks it is special that everyone gets to line up and get something. Opie knows what to do, cover your eyes!

I appreciate your continued love and support to help The Misfits! Anyone donating $50 or more can take home one of my books [your choice].

You can donate on the blog here, and if you prefer you can send a check to 315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen ME 04551 made out to Apifera Farm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Life with the old dog...what is the reward?

I often hear people say how rewarding it is to live with an old dog, but none seem to share specific examples as to why they find it rewarding. This was an article I wrote some time ago for "Life With Dogs" about the first, never to be forgotten Old One Eyed Pug aka Billy. Of course we now have Hughie, The Old One Eyed Blind Pug.

His birth name was Billy Baker, named after my kindergarten friend who had a buzz cut that reminded me of Billy’s soft, round head. But fate gave Billy Baker, the pug not the boy, a name change after one eyeball became wounded and had to be removed. It happened after a complete misunderstanding with a then very young chocolate lab, but the incident did not alter their loving relationship. To this day, Huck licks the little pug’s smooshed in face like a lollypop.

I like to think of his lost eyeball as the full moon watching over my little fellow and shining a light his way to keep him from running into walls. If I’m sitting on the porch with pug in lap, gazing on a full moon, I give him a squeeze and say, “There’s your eyeball, watching over us.”

We thought we were going to lose him a year ago when he appeared to have a mini stroke and lost coordination for a few days. He was off food, tail down, humped back, and we rushed him into the vet. Ex-rays showed deteriorating spinal disks and together with his bad heart, we figured our days together were closing in on us. But he rebounded.

Most of his teeth have been pulled but he still manages to eat like a running back, making one thing the same as in his youth- gas. Ah yes, the gas he doeth pass. Over the year, he sleeps more, and he is so deaf that he doesn’t know if someone is in the room. He goes into deep sleeps and if I try to gently shake him awake, he still lays snoring for minutes until he comes to life. His one remaining eyeball is nearly all fogged up in blindness making stairs or new territories a challenge.

He needs constant guidance now to get around the house. If we are in the kitchen, and I leave for the downstairs studio, I tap him and he knows to follow, but then he needs assistance on the stairs. If I can get him to settle on his fire side bed, he will sleep for most of the day. But it takes him longer to settle, and he often wanders around looking for me, or something that feels right. he often seems a bit delirious, like an old man wandering, looking for the reason why he got up in the first place.

His one sure way to let me know he needs me, or needs something, is to whimper. He whimpers if he needs to go up the stairs, or down. He whimpers if he wants to get off the chair, or if he needs to step the 3 inches over the porch thresh way to come in. He whimpers if I am five feet away but he’s unsure where I am.

Out in the garden, the old pug can still sniff around a few minutes before he starts to cry a bit- “Where are you?” he’s asking. “Do you know where I am? Because I’m not so sure where I am, come find me.”

He used to love spending hours in the garden. But now he’d rather be in my lap, my hand on his worn down spine, his little pug nose snoring in and out with an occasional twitch from his singular eyeball.

And there in lies the answer.

I still provide a shore for him, a respite in his delusion brought on by age. He gives me one more purpose in my day – to give him a safe place to be all that he can be even in his elderly limitations.

We fit together like salt and pepper. I have a nice warm lap that has been reformed over the years to fit his little curled up fawn body just perfectly.

Monday, August 20, 2018

3 days without Martyn...not so sure I would be good at this

I spent the last three days alone, without Martyn. He went to a family outing 4 hours away, and I could not get farm care. That is one of the realities that comes with what I do-the responsibility of care taking never ends. And since we haven't been here that long I have not found farm sitters. I was really glad Martyn got to go, he went fishing at his family's old summer stomping ground, and got to see family too. He needed that. In some ways, I told him, I think maybe I was meant not to go, I would have created a different dynamic, and this way, he could fish all day.

We have not been apart for...I can't even remember the last time, I guess it would have been 2008 when my father died. When he was packing up his truck to leave and I was helping carry stuff to the car, I had this overwhelming sense of...this just doesn't feel good. As I stood by his truck and it was time to say goodbye, my throat started to swell up and I had to hold back my emotions.

Good grief! It wasn't like he was getting on the Titanic.

But it was interesting to be alone again after so many years. Keep in mind before Martyn, I was single until I was 42. I lived alone, except for one year when I hooked up with a moron who happened to be a very good liar, and liars and open-hearted souls often collide, leaving one bruised and battered and leaving the liar to leave, and lie some more. I liked living alone. I really did. I have always been, since a young child, a self entertaining unit. I always had my own room, since it was just me and my brother, and I found multiple ways to amuse and engage myself all day. When I was about ten, I would go to bed really early sometimes, like 8, and my mom wanted to know why I was going to bed so early-it was because I loved lying in bed with the lights out and listening to the stories in my head.

Being alone isn't the same as being lonely, and being lonely can happen even though you are surrounded by people. While I like being alone, I am not lonely. In fact I relish being alone. With Martyn I have found the perfect match, we work well together, but we also work separately-together. We come together at dusk and break bread, share, laugh, yell at the Apple TV, and sleep.

So after he drove away, I went in the house and...I cried, like a little baby. I was sort of caught off guard by that. But they were good tears and then I started on with my day. What was so interesting to me was the energy shift in the house. Everywhere there were marks of Martyn, things he'd built or fixed, his garden, the empty spot out front where his truck should have been, his cap hanging on a chair. That first day, I realized how accustomed living with someone I had become. I knew this, but the physical void was so palpable. By night time I made some pesto and watched a movie and went to bed. When I awoke, I had to remember he was gone. And when I got up to start the day, again, I noticed how the energy was different....it was as if I could feel the energy more.

I thought of my friend, my age, who three months ago lost her way-too-young husband in his fifties, suddenly. He got up to make breakfast, had a seizure which he had experienced his entire life, fell down the stairs, and was dead. She is forging on in her life, not cowering from the pain, but living in it, and she says it is a physical pain right now, it hurts every where. I empathize with her. I often wonder if I could stand this, if Martyn died now. Some people like to shower me with nice comments, based on my good deeds and what they see me doing on the blog, telling me I am 'brave' and 'strong'....hmmm, I am not sure of that. I am not sure I would have the strength to go one, or want to go on without him. I'm not sure I would choose to have the strength..maybe I would just, breathe out, and let go of the earth somehow.

Anyway, it was interesting to be silent for three days and not really have conversation. I sat out in the garden for a cocktail and I do love just sitting...I have always loved just sitting for a spell. But when I got up this morning, I baked a pie for Martyn's homecoming, and some bread so he can have sandwiches for work tomorrow. I'm glad he is coming home. It's the same excitement in my heart as when a new Misfit is arriving!

But I guess it is this decade of the sixties....you do know what you have more clearly, because all around you there is more loss. One can't dwell on 'what if', one must focus on 'the glory of what is here right now'. But then I think of my friend, and what she has right now is a big hole in her life. She doesn't get to have baked pie tonight with her best friend...

Here's to all the brave warriors out there, warriors of love as my friend calls herself, who get up and face the energy shift in the house.

Friday, August 17, 2018

As summer fades...we smile

It has been a humid August this year, and humidity is not my friend, or too many other's either. Since we never had humid summers in Oregon, I've never had to deal with certain things rotting in the garden. On the other hand certain things seemed to thrive this summer-the Queen Anne's Lace for example. But the rains we had, with humid days after, did seem to do some things to certain roots.

I could have an entire yard of The Queens, perhaps with sunflowers too, and pumpkins. Martyn has been patient with my Queen love, letting me keep large plantings of it in both the front garden and back private garden. We kind of have this unspoken rule that the front garden is more his, except for my hollyhock patch-step away from my hollyhock patch-and the back garden is more my garden. It's one of those couple speak things. We obviously are very united on how we take care of Earth.

And the cone flowers this year are phenomenal too.

I talk to all my flowers, how can I not? They are so full of personality.

But, as you can tell by this lackluster post, it is still August, and I am really no different than the plants, or leaves that are crumbling. I really feel this is what happens to me in August, I am no different than every other piece of Earth, I am ready to shed parts of myself, decaying skin and bits of dirt and hair, and start afresh in September. Fall for me is a revitalization, even though it is a time when Nature is prepping for winter. Winter for me is a long, caccoon of creativity and silence.

Fall always has a melancholy too. I think for me it is because it reminds me of days gone by-memories of being a kid and sitting in my leaf huts back in Minnesota, my mom in the house making a good dinner, my dog at my side. Back to school has that same revitalization for me-new pencils, the smell of the new books, who was my homeroom teacher going to be.

But for now, I do try to look at each flower head, marvel, and revel in it all-this setting, how we got here, and what will happen next. If I think of people now gone, or animals, it is not really in a depressed way, it is an acknowledgement that without them I would not be here in this exact spot and time...and that they live in my head.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The blessing of daily faces

It's a blessing to live amongst such a diversity of souls with faces that express their own peace each day, because they just get to be.

Monday, August 13, 2018

White Dog: the new book keeps unfolding

{The book is now available at the shop]


I have been working on the upcoming book about the story of White Dog, the creature that mysteriously appeared in our field one day...the same large livestock guardian breed [Maremma] as our Marcella who at the time was about 8 months old as I recall. Many scenarios were tossed around by readers, and me, and while we did seek answers to where he came from for a return, I'm grateful he is with us. He was thin, long toed and his collar had what looked like an old rope knotted and torn, indicating he might have been tied ups at some point. He was not a chaser of sheep or animals, was calm around all the various Misfits walking around...and he was intact. He also had a fear on arrival if anyone picked up a broom or rake and he would cower.

The mystery of where he came from was juxtaposed by his demeanor, which had a knowing and calm exterior, his inner thoughts seemed to ooze mystical qualities-for me any away. He was a magnet for anyone who arrived at the farm, or anyone that got to know him online too. His eyes are deep wells of story...and I have been trying to start this book for a few years. I realize now that coming to Maine was part of what had to happen, for both me and White Dog, to figure the book out.

One of the beauties of self publishing [a curse too at times] is I am my own boss, and I can share what I want with you when I want. I will be posting snippets as I go along, of art and prose. This book is going to be something substantial to hold in your hands-I am estimating over 250 pages, at about 6.5" square. There will be lots of prose-I have not written a wordy book for while and am ready for that and enjoying it. There will be art and photos. Another nice thing about being independent is when 'experts' tell me you should only have art in the book, no photos, I can just think,


But I have some tricks up my idea hat for this one. It will not be a cheap book to produce, none of them are. And I am not going to worry about that right now, I want the book to be complete by late year, or early spring and then the thought is to do a Kickstarter for it. I know when I get it done, the book itself is going to get people excited, as I know some already are. It's hard to know what will resonate with people, but this is a book I feel compelled to write, and as soon as I can, I don't know why I am feeling compelled this way.

The book shares White Dog's journey, but it also reminds us we can never really go back 'home'- that home no longer exists, only in our memory and it probably wasn't exactly as the memory is in our current brain anyway. The book also will not be for pragmatists, I don't think. I truly believe humans have the ability to hone their innate abilities, to recognize that 'sixth sense's all possess, but most people don't bother, can't see it, or are too busy being human. I have always recognized certain creatures that come to Apifera seem more intuitive than others, and while they all think instinctively, in order to survive in the herd or pack, some animals are just able to tap into people's inner worlds more readily. I think we all can work on our intuition, I know I am always questioning my abilities-and sometimes I stop and think,

Just listen, to your inside.

Friday, August 10, 2018

I refuse to make the bed for good reason

My routine is to get up, do my morning stuff in the bathroom, then make the bed before I have breakfast and do barn chores. Around this place, one of the few vestiges of order is that the bed gets made. But of late, I can't bring myself to disturb these two. I mean, they are still in their we've been through a lot and need extra attention in order to fully relax in our new surrounding.

And so, the bed didn't get made. And life went on just as it does each day.

Omar and Oscar, I am glad life is nor hard for you.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

In which we survive a lightening strike

Taken the early evening, right before the storm hit
I thought it was odd that yesterday morning when I went to the front barn to start feedings, the stall where Earnest and the White Dogs sleep was...sort of in disarray. I couldn't put my finger on it, but Marcella was also muddy and wet which was suspect. But I went about my chores, and then returned to the studio to work.

The night before, we had one heck of a lightening storm about 7 PM. I was really scared. The strikes were very close, it felt like it was right in the back yard. We have 30 acres of woods behind us, and there are many properties with the same. We are near the coast, not on the water ourselves but the properties across the front road are, and we see the cove. The humidity and heat coupled with our setting by the sea made for a perfect lightening storm.

Martyn was cooking dinner and I was on couch [as it should be] with Muddy when it all began. Now I love a good storm, but ever since I lived through a straight line wind storm in Minneapolis in my then little house, and went outside to see the devastation after 20 minutes, I have been very anxious in storms. And I grew up with tornadoes. So when the strikes started hitting all around the area, and they were close, I was really...well, squealing. Poor Muddy knew something was a foul and he started shaking since his fearless leader, me, was not so fearless.

The strikes just kept hitting nearby, and then, POPPOPOPOP! and it sounded like it was in the house, and we saw a flash. I lifted my feet off the ground [like that would have helped] and was terrified. Nothing turned off, no circuits had popped, we could not figure out where it had hit, but it hit somewhere on the house or close.

Within about 15 minutes the storm passed after torrential down pours and we heard the thunder leaving. But the mystery of what happened had us perplexed.

Now let's make it clear that we have grounding rods. We also have one out by the new barn. We thought maybe it struck at the copper top chimney. But we couldn't figure it out, which was unsettling.

So, back to yesterday, the day after the storm. When I did night feedings, I noticed it–The electric fence box is attached to the barn wall and it feeds the electric wire that sits atop the pasture fence on the property. We use a top wire to prevent the equines from reaching over the fence for grass on the other side-without it, they destroy the fences, and worse, can get themselves in trouble quickly by getting ensnared in fence. And yes, I've witnessed it many a time, including two weeks ago when Boone got his shoe caught this way because the wire had been turned off while we worked on the new barn. While getting him out of the fence, something happened, I still don't know what, but he reared back -even though he had been standing calmly for me for many minutes while I retrieved a wire clipper–and started cutting the fence around his shoe. I went backwards on my butt but first hit the back of my head very hard, not good after having had a serious concussion a year ago. We both were ok, but not having a hot wire really creates dangerous situations, and it protects your fence.

That electric box was right outside the stall where the dogs and Earnest were taking cover from the storm. The sound must have been really loud, judging by how loud it was in the house. I'm sure now that Marcella was super worried and probably went out in the storm at some point to figure out what was happening. Fortunately, the wire there is wrapped, so there was no fire danger per se, but it did make me very upset, and relieved that nothing worse took place.

We are going to look at getting lightening rods for the barns, but it still could have happened. The lightening came down -we surmise-close to where the box was, hit the top electric wire, went zooming back to the box, and bam, blew it to bits. Electricity is so strong, it is hard to fathom it. I'm so grateful nobody was outside in that paddock.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

We are melting but we carry on..and the bunny gets her own AC unit

Freddy the Dream, aka Little Lonely, cools off in his mud hole
I won't write a post about how hard a month August is, I think I did that on August first. But it is very hot, and worse, humid. Out West the summers grew hotter, longer, drier and full of fires every one of my fourteen years there.. People's wells were and are drying up in Oregon, it happened to many people I knew. We had a horrible well, and were blessed with water rights from the rivers for our animals, gardens and vegetables/plants, otherwise, we could not have made it. And digging a new well is expensive, and does not always bring results. It is the risk you take buying land anywhere, but especially out west.

I'm glad to be out of that aspect of The West. It was brutal and just felt like the entire coast was burning up...and it is.

So here, the beast is humidity. Eighty five to ninety in dry air is hot, but yesterday and today the humidity is something like 80 or more percent. Kill me now. It is not as horrible as I remember the Minneapolis summers. Here we have the sea right by us, we do not own seaside land, but we see the cove, and the entire area of Mid Coast is on the sea. So when it is humid, it blows off usually by night, and we rarely have a horrible night. But when the humidity does come, it's like a slap of a huge wet blanket on my head. I can't think. My routine is simple, get up, do the chores, and get back in the house where we have one AC unit that keeps us sane in the living area. Fortunately our house is small. I finally broke down last week and bought another AC unit for the studio in the upstairs, I had too. Not only could I not get any work done, I could barely function, and...there is the bunny factor. Poor Isabelle Noir, aka Bunny, is not good in heat, no rabbit is. I was wetting down her ears about four times a day, and finally I had to bring her downstairs at night. Martyn got a kick out of this,

"Leave it to you to wait to get another AC unit for two years for the studio, but you finally did it...for a rabbit."

Yep, and Bunny and I are now very content. And I got work done.

So, we carry on. I have nothing of interest to tell you today because that is what the heat does to me, it flattens me out. Physically, I am also finding that humidity-when it is really hot and high humidity-is giving me a pressure feeling in my front head, just like I felt after the concussion. I suppose the heat makes blood different and vessels different, and from what I understand, my brain is different after that severe concussion. So, another reason to lay low inside with Bunny,

The animals are fine, they are more stoic than we humans in heat. They know to lay low. I feel sorry for my sheep, I hate to see the wool sheep in heat. Out West we had hair sheep, and it was hard on them, but these poor guys carrying around a load of wool. They do pant, since sheep don't sweat, and I will hose off their legs-not their backs or bodies because you can actually heat them up that way due to the wool. Same thing with the llama, don't wet the wool, just the legs [and she loves it].

I am working on my new book, about White Dog. I will share more about that soon.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

We lose an elder...the beautiful Assumpta

I had to go work on a downed wire in the field this morning. It was only 70 but ninety percent humidity so I was focused on getting done as soon as possible. I had let the sheep and Birdie out of their paddock where they stay at night, and fed the equines. It was all routine. I wasn't paying too much attention to anyone, and then I realized,

There is a sheep missing...Assumpta...

I figured she was hanging low back at the barn due to the high humidity. In the past year, I've noted she is laying down longer, and more. Sometimes she doesn't get up to eat her hay as quickly as she used too. I knew her life was probably more like months versus years. Sheep are very good at carrying on until one day, they don't. It would be a deadly thing for a sheep in a flock to act sick. They are programmed to stay alive, and stay with the flock for security from predators.

I headed back to the barn to check on her, Martyn was close behind working on other projects. And then I saw her lifeless body in the distance. I knew she was gone. I cried out to her, and ran, but she was dead. By her appearance, we think she died early evening. There was no sign of distress from her body, and there were no marks on the ground indicating she had been pawing the dirt. I like to think she went to the back corner to be on her own, to sleep after the sun went down, the ground was probably cooler in that area. Maybe she just dozed off, and never woke up.

Just last night when I brought the girls up from the field, they were panting. Sheep can't sweat, so pant. Assumpta was there and I scratched her chin and told her to hang in there, the weather was supposed to be cooler in a day. I'm so glad I had that brief interaction with her. Assumpta was not one of the more personable sheep, she was like a stern but fair matriarch that didn't need a lot of hands on attention. She was a Blue Leicester cross and had the most beautiful wool. I have yarn from last season, and still have to skirt her fleece from this year. I will have to do something really special with it.

I let the sheep wander over before we dug the grave. They of course already knew she was dead, as did Birdie. As Martyn dug the hole, I picked her a bouquet, and White Dog examined the dirt and hole. We laid her body in the grave, covered her eyes, and buried her with earth. And White Dog sat with me the entire time. Martyn placed one large rock on top, and White Dog marked it as we were leaving.

Don't worry, I'll keep my eye on the grave, was his intention.

I was sad, but also relieved for her. I knew this winter would be hard on her, and she picked a good time to die. She won't have to deal with biting flies and heat, and we could bury her quickly so she could be on her way. I always feel the burial is an important part of the spirit's journey, it is the final goodbye of those of us left behind, and until we let go, they can't totally be free for the intensity of their next journey. That is what I believe.

I went back to the house to cool off, and came back out about an hour later. White Dog was in the shaded barn, and I sat with him, we did our eye to eye conversation without words, and I took the photo of him you see below. I started to leave, but he put a paw up to hold me in my position. I took this to be a simple statement from him,

It's all okay, she's gone now, it's all okay.

And of course, it is.

Thank you for your beautiful wool, Assumpta, I am honored we could care for you in your final years.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Opie goes to the sea and meets new friends

Yesterday was a big day for Opie, and me. We drove an hour and a half down to Harpswell, a beautiful area on the sea here in Mid Coast. Our destination was The Vicarage by the Sea, a private home for dementia elders. It is nestled in the woods, with open spaces for their gardens and views of the sea.

I had somehow stumbled on the place somewhere online, and was attracted by their philosophy for person-centered dementia care, and how they believe in allowing residents to explore nature, and animals are also considered a therapeutic entity. There is not a lock down mentality here-locking doors to keep residents 'safe' does not happen here, instead, because of the high staff-to-resident ratio, residents are encouraged to wander if they need to [supervised] and go on short walks out side. They have a trail they call "The Freedom Trail" where residents can explore. One of the residents had just done such a walkabout when I was there, and she came back with a smile and enthusiasm in her face and voice.

I have never worked, per se, with dementia people except for mild cases in my family. So this was a stretch, a good stretch, to put myself in. The care manager and staff were just lovely, enthusiastic not only about their jobs, but the residents, and as importantly, about Opie and what we are trying to do here at Apifera. I want to work with people like this, that truly value animal related therapy, and demonstrate they care by telling me.

There was a gentleman there who I sat next to when I first arrived, and he held some small rocks in his hand. I asked if he collected rocks and he said he did, and he spent a lot of time petting Opie. But what I noticed was how deliberately he stroked Opie's back, not in a over handed way, but in a very intentional way, with each stroke making an impact on him, and the goat. I believe in the power and healing of touch, and I think many people are afraid to be touched, or touch others. Some of us did not grow up being touched much as young people or adults. So I found it very moving to watch him touching Opie. And i think having these animal encounters allow people to touch when they might not do so otherwise.

I also really liked the way the staff spoke to the residents. They did not talk baby speech to them, and I recognized they were letting the people be who they were, people with memory lapses, but there wasn't this need to control them or correct them.

I don't know if they will remember us, I doubt they will when we return, but it doesn't really matter. When you are there, they are with you, they are getting something out the moment.

We are planning to go back in the early fall, hopefully with Martyn in tow, and the llama and some other love ambassadors. The staff was all for it.

And then, I had promised little Opie he could visit the sea. He has seen the cove here from our property across the way, but never the giant sea. He reads about it in Earnest's books. So after our therapy visit, we ventured only about a mile down the road, and there it was, on both sides of the road, vast and full of big and small vessels. But what was even more spontaneous, we noticed a young woman in a wheel chair, with two older women. They were clearly celebrating something. I wondered if I should approach them with Opie, thinking they might get a smile from that. I hesitated not wanting to intrude. But they called out to the little goat. I asked to take a photo and they agreed [I didn't feel right putting her face in this post] but she was all smiles. It was a brief interlude for her, and me, and Opie. Of all the places I could have pulled over I somehow stumbled on that one. It was s gift for all of us.

So that was the day the little love goat went to the sea.