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

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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Fly, oh why?" asks Paco the Poet

{A conversation and poetry reading amongst donkeys and flies}

“I like to let them sit in the sun so the wings get a bit crispy before I eat one,” said Lucia, the smallest of the donkeys.

“You eat them?” asked Paco.

“Yes, but I don’t chew, just swallow them whole, they are less bitter,” she answered.

Just then, a bunch of flies came swooping in, landing on the ears of the donkeys, and their legs, backs, necks and noses.

“Good morning!” said the flies. “It is a wonderful sunny day, perfect for being a fly on a donkey.”

All the donkeys collapsed in the dusty earth and begn to roll and dust.

“I hate it when they do that,” said the lead fly. “It squashed my aunt last week.”

Paco brought out a small piece of crumpled paper. You see, Paco is a poet. He has been writing poetry since he was a young donkey. You might not have ever met a donkey poet most likely because donkeys are very humble about their skills. Paco hid his talent for years fearing the herd might think him odd. But they heard him reciting a poem once to a bird in a tree and they really liked it, so from that day on, they encouraged him to share his poems.

“Do you have a poem to read, Paco” asked old Matilda.

“I do, it is called, “Flies, Oh Why?” and then he cleared his throat and began to recite his poem.

“Flies, oh why?
Why do you bite me? Why do you hover?
It is hard for a little donkey to find cover.

We wait all winter for the warm air
We want to lay about without a care.
But you come along and picnic on our backs
This is very rude, we are not snacks.

Yesterday I was listening to the song of a bird
It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.
But then there came a buzzing to the left and the right
You ruined my bird’s aria and made him take flight.

Can’t you find another skill that wouldn’t ruin our day?
Perhaps you could learn to fly a kite or make love in the hay.
I know it’s your life and you will do as you please
But I will have to squash you if you chew on my knees.
I’m sorry.”

The flies all stopped for a second, their buzzing was hushed to silence.

“How would we go about learning to fly a kite?” a young fly asked.

“Now listen, you are a fly, you are not a kite flier!” a big manly fly said.

“Let’s go make love in the hay,” a lady fly said to the manly fly.

And with that, the flies all swarmed to the hay barn.

“Paco, don’t let anyone ever tell you that your poetry has no power,” said Pino.

And with that, the donkeys took one last roll in the dust to scratch their fly bites, and headed down to their field of grass.

Monday, August 19, 2019

"What am I doing?" I asked Birdie.

Please meet Harry. He is coming to live with Arlo soon. Harry has a fabulous hairdresser, for sure.

But it took a winding path to get to Harry. I was a bit....well, read on....

So, as you know if you follow along, it has been a whirlwind llama year for us. We struggled and tried to save Birdie for months, but lost her in April. I vowed to Birdie On, and we have. The plan was to bring home Arlo along with old Luna, and then from the same person there was old Lucy who had been bred even at this older age and we were to take on Lucy with her baby cria. The baby, Button, died at one month right before we were to pick them both up. But we agreed to help out and take on Lucy so Luna would have a friend, which was always the plan. The two old girls could live month or a couple years, but they are old.

SO then, since Button died, I had picked out a young female, and a young male for Arlo. These would have been costs out of my pocket, since they were not animals in need but I wanted to Birdie On.

My stomach told me, as did my heart, and my wallet, that perhaps this was all too much, and it was unecessary. After all, I was working well with Arlo, the old girls were settled, and if I brought home two more youngsters especially another male, well that was a lot of training to do.

"What am I doing?" I asked Birdie.

And then I remembered Harry. I had seen Harry back in spring when I found Arlo and liked him but decided I should get a young male to train. But now, I think Harry and his disposition will be not only a good friend and herd teacher for Arlo, but he might rise to the therapy llama category.

I guess this might all sound nuts. I had told Birdie last spring to help me find the right llamas [not easy in Maine, there are no llama breeders here] and I believed the original youngsters I picked out were the right choices. How could I go against Birdie, I thought. But then I realized Birdie has been helping all along, she just knew I needed to walk through this or fumble through it, in my way and that in some way I was trying to actually FIND HER.

Birdie was gone. I had to try to find her again, somewhere, but I couldn't, of course, but I had to try. And my gut told me to stop, my heart told me to embrace Arlo, and now Harry. And that will be plenty of llama love to go around, with Birdie popping in on clouds when I need her.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Our Mother Ship is a creature who needs support too

One thing I have found with raising money for the non profit is people are much more excited to donate when a plea goes out with drama in it,

"Old blind pony without ears needs help" gets attention and action, whereas,

"Final Barn Addition Funding needed!" gets yawns.

The barn is a Mother Ship, that is how I look at her. She is crucial to the well being of our animals, and our hay. She holds us in times of grief, as when I worked so hard to help Birdie. She keeps the wind, rain and snow out on cold Maine winter nights. It gives us space to get out of the sun, and flies. On cool fall days, if you leave her front doors open, she plays music with wind tunnels and dancing dried leaves. In rain, her roof is a symphony.

If you've ever built a farm, you know that the first thing on your mind is the barn. It has taken us three years to get the barn built. We started with the main center structure in 2016, then added the Llama Love Room last year. I had not planned on doing this addition this year, but I am so glad we did. It will allow a shifting of animals and paddocks that will be better over time for feet and feeding. And it will provide additional hay loft space meaning now ALL the hay can be stored there, freeing up a large part of the bottom barn.

We still have so much to do. The barn crew is done. Now Martyn will add the exterior walls and loft. We will have to build a sand ramp out of the door due to elevation change. We opted to do that versus raising the floor. And, fencing will be slightly rearranged to make different paddocks. We also will be getting our crushed granite this fall for the paddock and stalls. We could not get it in spring because the weather was so wet we could not get the large trucks up the road [another job to due-drainage for the barn road].

We have had a lot of needs this year to raise money for besides the usual feed/hay. I opted to take a loan out for the barn which I wasn't thrilled about but it leaves our fund healthy. But, we need to pay that off as quickly as we can, I hope in two years, to avoid spending on interest when that money could be spent on feed and vet care.

In another week the rabies shots will be given, another good chunk will be spent for that. We already gave equine rabies shots. Summer especially July and August are hard times to raise money. If you follow along you know I always feel torn about the balance of asking for donations. Some say I don't do it enough on the business social media page, but others, I assume, think I do it too much.

So please give support to our Mother Ship. She is a fabulous creature and as she evolves...well, who knows what journeys she will be part of–she has already experienced so much.

Oh, Ollie! I love how you love life!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Don't put a fear of death on my old goat

If there is one thing I have come to understand about people, or many of them, is they see death as this giant black curtain, the end, the thing to avoid, the thing to prevent at all costs. Nowhere is it more apparent than in how you see people talking about animals on social media [often other people's animals they have no clue of what they speak]. If you have a personal relationship with an animal, that is your relationship, and any covenant you have with them is yours, not mine. The decisions you make about your animals are, I assume and hope, based on experience, your knowledge of the actual animal and your feedback from your vet if needed. And such is the case with my relationships with all my animals. Just because their might be certain things you can do to keep an animal alive for another...3 months...doesn't mean you should, nor does the animal necessarily benefit from it as an animal.

An animal that's growing old, that is clearly coming to the final season, is not asking for pity, prayers or healing. He or she just wants their space and to be able to find a quiet spot if needed, or maybe change their spot if it doesn't feel right anymore. That's my job - to watch that animal as I go about my business and make sure I can accommodate it's needs as it transitions-and it is a transition. Rarely, in my experience anyway, does an animal get old, and boom, die. Just like with people there are shifts in the body and conditioning and all sorts of things before an animal dies. It can take months or years even.

I have written a bit about old Else in the past summer months. I sense it is her final summer. But we are not there yet. Since I am with her daily, sometimes I am immune to seeing some things, that my vet might see when she comes next time. So I always am open to a discussion. She has gotten thinner. I think her body just isn't absorbing the nutrients, which happens in age. She has never been a voracious eater but gets supplements and all the hay she wants. Her front leg is weakening more, her muscle what little she had when she arrived, is lessening.

What is a good life for a goat? Well, just being–A plot of grass, or sand, or shade mixed with sun, fresh water, a place that they know is theirs to go to-anytime-when they need, a human counterpart that is consistent in bringing food and water and is there for them.

Else has more and more chosen to stay in the barn, especially with the heat. Rather than always helping her out, I test her, and if she is pulling back, she seems very content in her barn with the door open to the outside world. A couple days ago, I was really pleased that while I was busy doing chores, she went out on her own to her orchard, and lay down. I've noticed though that rather than waiting all afternoon to let me know it is getting to be time to return to barn [I bring goats back in each night around 5], she might call out to me sooner. It might just be the flies, but she is sprayed well and they seem to leave her alone. At night, I put Opie with her, and The Goose, and Henneth the blind chicken.

No matter what, Else is not afraid of death. She is not thinking about that. Nor does she sit and wish for another summer, because she lives completely in the moment. Animals are often very stoic about pain,so Try to balance that in my perception of her everyday. But I do feel she is very content to separate out a little but more, which to me is a sign she is on her journey of transitioning.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Oh, Teapot, we are sassy walking together

The heat is subsiding. I have a new scale and am pumped up to lose the ten pounds I've put on in the past few years. I told The Teapot we were in this together. I had taken weight off her, but think it came back in the form of hay belly [My hay net was ruined and I have to get a new one].

So we are back at it together, two slightly chubby around the middle young elders.

I also told her we weren't doing anything obsessive. No diets. Just tweeks. And our walk the other day, I can tell you she had me bursting with love and admiration. When I first started walking her back when she arrived, she would squeal and head toss for some time, try rolling, all sorts of little tricks. Today, not a squeal, not a pause. She even would come and stand by my side at spots, she truly was engaged with me and the walk. I loved every second of it.

And look at that sassy walk.

When we got to the main road, a car slowed and a woman said, "Are you Apifera? Is that the Teapot?" She follows us on Instagram.

I guess we need disguises.

What I love about my journey with The Teapot, and it is similar to other animal connections of the past 20 years doing this, is that...we evolve together through working together. There are days where you think you aren't connecting, but you are.

I was telling someone the other day that most people that show up here at some point say to me,

"Your animals are so people friendly,"

and I always reply it is not that I'm doing anything remarkable, I am simply spending time with them, and I try to find a project or job for them that fits their personality and abilities. I can't give them each a daily job, but, just working with them and giving them confidence is in and of itself a beautiful gift to a creature-and one day you stand back and you realize your rowdy little pony is walking politely beside you and enjoying it, a lot. That is so powerful for both human and animal.

Even if opening a gate with an animal is a teaching experience. Standing with an animal is a teaching experience of boundaries and patience. It is also a moment to mix energies and commune.

Thank you to The Teapot for just being her.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

I fell into a hole

Misty mornings of old llamas

Autumn and winter are my seasons. And there is change in the air. The heat we've been having is subsiding with cooler nights and even morning mists, the air has a different scent to it of late, and there is more crispness in many of the flowers. Certain trees have brown or yellow spots popping out. And I love it. It always gives me hope when I get through August. I just am reborn both creatively and soul wise. I can get really off kilter in August, it has been this way my entire life. I can actually find myself in a hole, without even knowing I slid into it, it's like a slight depression or worry or...feelings of I'm not doing it right...I'm not doing enough...is anybody listening....and other useless thoughts. So the first signs of autumn...I lighten up.

It will also mean that fly season will end...at some point. It has been a tough year as far as bugs go. But soon enough they will leave. Not soon enough for old Matilda who has had her legs wrapped and sprayed daily. After she became infected from bites our first year here I had a vet come to help-never had the issue out west. So I take fly issues very seriously. The last thing she or I need or want is a case of proud flesh. So the wraps this year are helping. Last year the spray worked well, but not this year. Everybody and their mother has given me their two cents on fly control, so I've heard it all, and have tried it all. Yes, we tried predators for two years...meh. Yes, I tried mesh leg wraps...meh. Yep, used Swat and it worked until it don't. Yes, tried all sorts of natural fly products which don' cut it with biting flies. Might help house flies or other things, but not the sharks of the fly world. I had a fan in the barn for the farrier days to help and it did [but leaving a fan on is too dangerous so I don't.]

So, we roll in dust, find shade, and today after a morning of down pouring rain...I can again feel Autumn talking to me,

"We come back every year to you, taking away the bugs and the heat and humidity and we give you your head and heart back. We're coming, soon. Love, Autumnal friends."

Girl George wears breakfast, why not/

The final barn addition has begun-consider a donation

Old Matilda's leg wraps

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Fly Camp!

Welcome to Fly Camp! This morning Paco is teaching all campers about the importance of dusting! This once a season camp is only open to very resilient campers, for example, I was sent home on day one. Campers must know how to get through August without complaint and by using their bodies to communicate their displeasure with biting flies. Communal dust baths are an imperative part of Fly Camp.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Poco the Poet inspired again by summer people

As you might know, Paco is the resident poet. He was inspired to write another poem about summer people, this one after I took him to our local grocery store.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Announcing! New shop!

I have a new online shop and am not only selling my art, prints, books and dolls, but I'm venturing into some product like pillows and papers and house items. Who doesn't love pillows. I am having fun with this and it will allow me to create some new whimsical style work...and maybe work on some private commissions too.

I like the cleanest of the shop. Etsy was just getting too....Etsy for me. I will leave the Etsy shop up for now until I can get an official announcement out. But I won't be adding anything to Etsy, so be sure to bookmark the new site if you are interested.

For newcomers, I always reimburse any severe overages in shipping after you purchase. It is often hard to have the right shipping when people are ordering multiple items and some have to be shipped in different boxes-so I do it this way to protect myself from severely undercharging. It has never been a problem, but just a head's up if you are new to my shop.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Another elder has landed and my butt is sore

Keeping our commitment, we brought home the old llama, Lucy, who was the mother of little Button the one month cria we were also going to take. But Button died at a month old due to who knows what. The plan was to bring home the baby with Lucy so that Luna would have a suitable buddy, since we had to separate Arlo out until he is geldApifera. I had only seen one photo of her, back when she was pregnant with Button, and she had her winter coat. Even though I would not have chosen to breed her, I thought she looked pretty good in that old pic. When I first saw her at pick up, I felt she was thinner on the backbone and hip than I had imagined she'd be. She could be much worse, but...I hope to get more good weight on her. We will see. At a certain age, llamas can also develop teeth issues making grinding their food harder so they might be eating a lot of hay and grass, but it is not getting digested properly. I have her on supplement too.

ed. When Button died, we felt it was only the right thing to still bring Lucy to

Martyn and I got up at 5am to drive west the six hours to our destination to meet up with the hauler. It was not exactly a relaxed ride. I was not looking forward to another 12 hour round trip to pick up a Misfit, but I decided to make it fun and knew I'd get to see the White Mountains. I was raised to always be prepared on the road and prepare your route beforehand in detail, which I did, including knowing where tolls are and turn offs. I used regular maps and online maps. So about mid way through the trip, Martyn is looking at my maps as I drove and he says,

"This road does not exist."

Even though I had printed out the map and there it was right in front of us, it just was wrong, and our phone maps were showing another route, a very different route taking us further south in order to go north to the destination. So there we are in the middle of nowhere and I just sort of got this mini anxiety attack, imagining we would never get out of the mountains. All of a sudden the forest on both sides of us as we drove felt suffocating. I just wanted to be there and get the llama who was on a 6 hour drive in a cattle truck, complete with cattle. The temperature was lovely in mid coast but by the time we got to our pick up spot it was 90. No humidity thank goodness. We had been slated to meet the same driver two weeks ago, but it was the heatwave, and we just felt it was unfair to Lucy.

Anyway, we stopped to get gas and I went in and saw these two locals and told them about my map. They assured me that the way the phone map was telling us to go was right, not the map I'd pulled off the computer. They concurred that road did not exist.

We got in the car and I sang "We're on the road to nowhere...."

We did better on the way home but were irritable as the road signs were really pathetic and misleading, and we're not even morons. Martyn and I do not fight, but I can say that we were both getting grumpy. How we made it driving 6 days across the country and never getting into a fix I don't know. I was glad to get past all the "I'm-too'sexy-for-my-car-and-I'm-driving-90-to-get-to-my-beach-house crowd" in the Boston interchange. I am no wimp on the road but, Gad Zooks, what is wrong with people. We smirked as we saw the traffic going for miles to Boston and points south, back to back and we were causing along going east to Maine. I realized how I used to live in that sort of chaos. here was only one place I wanted to be, home.

To be honest, every time we stopped for gas, I was almost afraid to open the trailer door to check on Lucy. But she was fine.

We both decided that these 12 hour round trips are too much. We've been doing this since 2004. We used to drive up to the goat rescue and it was a 12 hour round trip too and it nearly killed us every time. I was fortunate to have some loyal followers at some point in the Seattle area and they would help us by meeting half way with old goats or even coming to Apifera. SO the next llama run...I think I will have to raise money for a haul.

Having said all that...if you told me there was a blind three legged pony that needing to be picked up 12 hours away...well....

Lucy is sweet. She is much calmer and more confidant than Luna. Not as herd bound. Luna meanwhile recognized Lucy, I do believe. Why wouldn't she? They lived together for some time and it has only been since April that Luna left the old farm. Arlo in the meantime is full of himself, and his testosterone. I dream of the day I can castrate. Meanwhile, I'm doing everything I can to train him and keep him learning that I'm the boss not him. He is living with Teapot and Teapot is still the boss, but there has been no drama. Eventually Arlo is slated to get a buddy.

I often talk to Birdie as I do cleanup near her gave in the equine area. I told her things are in flux. I told her I wish she were here. I recognize all this llama wrangling is not going to bring her back, nor are any of them going to be like Birdie. But I stand my mission-to bring old animals here for respite, and to share them with our elder friends. And I also stand by my continuing vision-to replenish our llama love room. The elder people LOVE the llamas, and if it takes some sweat and tears to get out llama love room hopping, so be it.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

When your hair bolts out

Little Lonely is sporting his summer haircut and wears it proudly! And please don't tell him, or me, it reminds you of a certain slob with dyed orange hair. Little's hair is natural and free and you can't pull it off his head, you see. And also, Little doesn't scream and has not a mean bone in his body.

So just to educate anyone wanting to know, pigs bolt their hair each summer, and some lose it in the funniest ways. Some lose their top hair and it looks like a crew cut and some lose most of their body hair and keep this wig like look. How can we not love Little Lonely!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

You might get a Rosie

After a reprieve, it is back at fundraising with the final 80% of our hay due in the next couple weeks. Going to be doing some print and art giveaways in coming weeks. And who wouldn't want a Rosie gracing their wall? I miss her royal grumpiness...sometimes I forget she is gone and will still look over at her last bed of straw expecting her to pop out of it....grumpily. She would have really liked The Grumpiest Old Men, wouldn't she?

Donate here on the blog, or on Facebook, or by check [let me know if you are sending a check so I can count your name in the art give away. We will need about %3000 for the final hay, so if you want to do a matching donation on any of these print give-aways just let me know.

This print is 9 x 12 and has a retail value of $125.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The past beckons...or something

Memory of my mother's turtleneck sweater
I've been waking up in the past weeks, maybe longer, and a memory comes to me from my past....and then I lay there and I try to remember the context of that memory, where I was living at the time, who I was friends with, etc. Sometimes it is a memory from childhood, sometimes from my time in NYC or Mpls in my 30's-40's...I lay there the other morning and tried to create a timeline in my head of this two year period when I had met someone I became involved with, then he walked away from me in a very secretive-lying way, but sort of lingered and it took me awhile to shut the door on him...but I tried to remember the exact sequence of events and it was sort of blurry. That even was such drama and such a huge part of that period of my life...so it was interesting how memory had adjusted itself...and of course we all know how that trauma led to so much like Oregon, Martyn, Apifera and more. The only thing I don't like about saying it that way is knowing the ego and mind of that person he would probably take credit for my life right now.

OK, so anyway, I've been feeling this pull to explore things of the past. I don't know why. I believe in living in the present and trying not to pontificate about the past or future. But I will listen to my muse. It might change course any moment.

My father's blue checked shirt

Friday, July 12, 2019

A loss, questions, a dream

It was a shock.

We had made plans to drive the 10 hour round trip to pick up the baby llama and her elder mom this weekend. On Wednesday I got a text that there was a setback, that Button was not well, and the vet had been there and certain regimes were in place to offset what it might have been. She was making improvements, but there were also odd signs that confounded the vet and farm.

And on Thursday night, she was found dead.

I was so excited to get her here and start learning her personality-which I was told was a little spitfire of love. The plan had been put in motion when we first picked out Arlo, and also old Luna. The baby female, who was being called Button by the farm because she was as cute as one, would be trained for therapy work along with Arlo. And the elder mother would be a companion for old Luna as she aged-Arlo has to be separated very soon from Luna since he can't be gelded for another year.

But back track...on Wednesday night, before I had heard the baby Button had taken ill, I had a dream. Birdie was in it, briefly, and had a baby white llama with her. {Button and her mom were both black]. When I awoke, I thought nothing of the dream except that it was so nice to see Birdie, as she had not come to me in a dream yet. Later that day I got a text that there had been a setback with Button, but it was not a dire thing at that point. The farm felt she was responding and was acting more normal. We all agreed transporting her was out of the question and we would wait a couple weeks to ensure her recovery was complete. I was disappointed, but was grateful it happened on their watch and not while in transport.

But today, when I got a voice message to call, I had a feeling it was not good. The farm is devastated and I feel so badly for them. Not knowing can really play with a farmer's head -I know because I've been there a million times and you can really kick yourself...llamas are also very exotic creatures and most vets really only have a handful of experiences on treating things.

This week at some point, before I even knew that Button was not well, I was cleaning the barn and when I was by Birdie's grave I told her, "I hope I picked the right little llama, Birdie."

I do feel Birdie came to me. Maybe the baby in my dream is out there and I will find her.

I talked to the farmer and we both agreed that little Button had a month of a wonderful life, running, frolicking, greeting the farmer-she said she was very sweet and loved helping with chores. I am grateful she could die there, on the land she knew. As short as her life was, it was spent the entire time with her mum, and she died right by her.

We will still bring home her elder mother, Lucy, sometime this month. She will not be a therapy llama, nor will Luna, they will be companions and live out their days-be it months or another few years. They are both 19+.

I have picked out another male llama for Arlo and he will be coming in the autumn. He will also be trained as a therapy llama. I still am going to keep my heart and eyes open for a white female. But Arlo will need a friend and the one I picked out is out of the same father as Arlo, but has a white face and is reddish, he is really sweet.

I don't know why this happened. I don't know why Birdie died. Is it all related, or chance. Is it a learning situation or is it simply the way it went? I do know that llamas are very unique and special, and they are still a part of the master love ambassador plan here at Apifera. But today, I grieve a little bit, for Button, and her farm who lost her.

We will Birdie On.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Earnest the Pig: In Search of E.B. White

{This article first appeared in the June, 2019 Lincoln County Maine News in my monthly "Tails & Tales from Apifera Farm}

Earnest the pig has settled into his new house. White Dog, the llamas, and the sheep often nose him through his fence and he can see the goings-on of the entire farm. As a very manly pig, with all his manly parts still attached, he lives in his private retreat with a stone wall that keeps him from making night visits to his old lady friend, Eleanor, the retired sow. I have explained to him that he has evolved from the career of spreading seed and is now free to eat, nap, and sunbathe.

I have begun to decorate Earnest’s house. I told him I will find the right accessories that fit his unique Earnest personality. So for now, he has his flag and a painting. He suggested a photo of his mother, but I never knew his mother so am afraid that won’t work.

“Then maybe a portrait of E.B. White?” he asked. To this day, Earnest thinks that E.B. White still lives. I tried explaining the facts, but he refuses to believe them and insists someday he will in fact meet Mr. White now that we are in Maine. When Earnest heard we were moving to Maine from Oregon, he wrote Mr. White and was disheartened to have the letter come back.

“Perhaps he is camping,” Earnest said as I showed him the returned envelope.

Earnest first grew enamored with the author when, as a piglet, I read him “Charlotte’s Web.” Earnest knew very well about pigs being eaten, as he was born and raised on a working farm. He didn’t judge meat eaters; in fact, he and his family often ate meat scraps. He just was proud someone chose to make a pig so front-and-center in a book.

“It just doesn’t happen much,” he told me.

I also found Earnest with a road map of the Maine coast and he had circled the town of Brooklin, and it is a well-known fact Mr. White had a beautiful home there. In fact, he had ripped out that page of the map and tacked it to his wall.

Just the other night, as I was closing up the barn for the evening, I could hear Earnest in his hut, snoring away after dusk had hit the land. I opened his gate to take a peek into his house; he is quite endearing to watch sleep. I suppose since I never had children that watching my pig snore brings something out of me. I noticed there was a new addition to the wall –- an old black-and-white framed portrait of Mr. White.

“Now where did that come from?” I muttered quietly. “Hmm.” And I turned to leave.

I closed the gate as a breeze lifted a discarded envelope into the air, fluttering around until it landed at my feet. It was addressed to Earnest, another fine pig. There was no return address, but the postmark was from Brooklin, Maine.

Inside Earnest's private hut

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

A page from the new book...White Dog speaks

From the upcoming memoir "White Dog"

{I have most of the manuscript done for the upcoming White Dog memoir, just need to thoroughly edit which takes time. Here is a page from the book, told in White Dog's words.}

"I was born on the man’s farm. I don’t know where my father was, but my mother reared all seven of us pups. I can remember her smell, and what it felt like to be with my siblings in a pile after she fed us.

I remember running, and falling, and getting up and running.

I have broken visions, images in my head, of my siblings being picked up by people and held in their arms, and then they would drive off in a car and never come back. Until one day there was only me, and my mother. I always stayed with my mother. I was still a pup when the man let my mother take me down to the field with the sheep. She did her job, sitting on a perch watching, waiting for unusual sounds. She was stern with me. If I tried to play with a lamb, I was butted by her head. I learned quickly sheep were not to be chased, my mother told me this, and so did the mother ewes. I remember my mother’s eyes. I remember she seemed in charge. I felt safe.

I also remember the day the man moved me away from my mother. She and I could converse through fences, and we still could smell each other, see each other, hear each other but it was always through a fence. I took to lying against the fence at night if she was there, our fur and backs touching each other. But in time, I became more independent, and soon I became the dog the man took to the sheep field, while my mother stayed near the barn, laying about, but also looking after elder ewes."

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The prodigal son returns in the form of a pig

Uno was born in Oregon at Apifera two weeks before we moved to Maine-one of those Earnest broke the gate events. Once here, he and his brother Wee Willi went to live with a good friend up north on the coast. For three years he had a wonderful life, in his little wood hut with his brother, being loved and adored by his human. But then Willi died this year, suddenly.

My friend felt he was depressed, and she is going through some transitions herself so felt that the best thing was to rehome Uno to the right place, a place with a pig friend and human interaction-her job schedule had also changed so Uno was alone a lot. When she first told me she thought he was depressed, I wasn't sure if that was a human putting human emotions on an animal, but when I drove up to see Uno last week, I had to agree that he seemed down. I really wasn't planning to take on another pig, and we had driven up that day just for a visit. I had not seen Uno for three years, since he was a piglet.

Well, my friend kept telling me he was big. Holy smokes! That is an understatement. He is much bigger than Eleanor and I always considered her to be big for her breed. On top of it, Uno is very overweight-my friend gave him the best of the best including fruits and breads, but fruits have a lot of sugar and he was simply overeating. Since she had never had pigs, she just didn't know, I mean, how would you know. So we will work over time to get some weight off him, I think it is clearly slowing him down and I fear a heart attack. We will work on that.

We drove the two hour trip and it was ninety degrees and humid. When we got him home, I immediately put him in the mud bath paddock and hosed him for 15 minutes. I also notice his skin reddens very easily. This makes me wonder if he has circulation issues, just like a very overweight person would. He is not very agile either. So I was so happy to get him under the hose, he was really hot.

I let Eleanor and Little Lonely come out to greet him. May as well see how it goes. Marcella stayed out of it. I'd like to tell you all, that just like one of my paintings, Uno got up on his hind legs and walked to Eleanor and held her and said, "Oh mother, I have missed you,"...but instead Eleanor, the alpha, bit him and they fought a bit. He clearly is stronger than she is, but she is the boss. I separated them even though it calmed down quickly, only because it was so hot I didn't want him running around. He spent the night with the goats and all was well. This morning, I brought Eleanor and Little, and Marcella out with him. Same thing. But within minutes, Eleanor had backed off.

For now they will stay separate so I know he is getting his naps in without being harassed by his bossy mama.

Do they know each other? I have to imagine they do, by scent. But I can't say for certain. I think every human wants to believe a son returning to his first home, and his mother [and father] would know...but three years for a pig is a long time. By the end of the first day, I watched him as he walked around, sniffing the air, in the same paddock he lived in with his mates. I felt he did sense he had been here.

So Uno who began in Oregon, and drove across America with us, and then moved to the upper mid coast is now back home. I have to tell you, as far as a pig's life goes, he has had a good one. I am grateful my friend cared and loved him, and grateful we can take him on and help both her out, and Uno.

He is full of expressions!

On his arrival on a hot day

Nosing his mother Eleanor through the fence

Friday, July 05, 2019

The Matilda bond

I had to look up the date to see how long Matilda has been with us. It was 2011 when we brought her home. I can't really imagine life without her. Matilda was being used as a brood jenny, the story goes, and fell into some hard times. She was not being fed properly and her feet were neglected and she was very thin. While she still has a sway back from carrying all those babies, she is in good condition and we love her dearly, as does anyone who lays eyes on her.

This was one of the first photos I took of her on her arrival, adorning her with flowers she so deserved.

Matilda has a very clear, and old soul. She wears it in her eyes. Over the last few years, we've grown even closer, since I have to work on her more than I used to-I put fly ointments and sprays on her daily since they bite through her skin-she is more of a magnet for them probably due to her age. We have a routine each morning where she is fed separately to ensure she gets her supplemental feed, and then she stands for her fly spray. When I'm done with that, she continues to stand for a gentle brushing. Working with a creature like this grows any bond and trust that was meant to be.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

More art cards coming

I just added a new art card to the shop. I will be adding some new to designs tot he current roster of 30, so stay tuned as summer progresses.

Visit the shop >

Sunday, June 30, 2019


It is what she does. She suns, she naps, she sits looking out of whatever is in front of her. Her vista becomes what is in front of her. Like an elder woman confined to a front porch, she awaits her meals that are brought to her, and needs some help to get up each day. But all and all, I believe she is still content, for now. One day at a time.

As she fades, she is the first I look for her each morning when I open the barn door.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The choir sings to the animals...was that a dream of sorts?

Yesterday was perhaps one of the most memorable times at Apifera in our many years of existence. It was one of those days where the glow began from the first moment, spontaneous encounters happened each step of the way, and by the ending it was like...a dream of sorts.

The Homeward Bound Hospice Choir  came to sing to all the animals. I had met them through one of our volunteers, also in the choir. The choir is a group of people from all walks who volunteer their time and heart, and voice, to sing to people in hospice. When I came into touch with this group, I immediately asked if they might come and sing to the animals. They immediately agreed and sent me a date that would work-that date turned out to be yesterday, which was also Birdie's birthday. Hankies!

Now, normally when I have a group coming, I might rearrange animals into paddocks or barns so the people can see them up close. But on this day, I made a conscientious choice to let the animals be...as they are...I let the donkeys and Boone go to their fields, knowing that if the energy was right, they'd come up when they heard singing. And they did. More on that later.

I had old Else and the elder gang, and Opie and The Goose, in the orchard, and that is where we began. In some ways, this was the most touching scene for me. I had packed lots of tissues in my vest, and hoped I'd get through the day without becoming a blubber fest. Else is on her last summer, I am pretty certain of that. She enjoys the sun, and spends most of the time laying down, which she was doing in the clover and grass when the choir entered her area. I was busy doing something and when I looked up, the choir and lined up in front of Else, and that is where they first began to sing. It was as if Else was there just for them, and vice versa. And then The Goose arrived, voicing, or singing, but also checking in on Else, which he does regularly.

We went on to sing to the llamas, Arlo infatuated them all, and then on to sing to Earnest who greeted each singer through the gate, and even did a belly flop [a sign of true pig happiness]. White Dog was next and he of course loved it, The Teapot was as I thought she would be, The Teapot, snorting and chewing her hay. And then into the equine area. The donkeys and Boone were in the lower fields. I suggested the group begin to sing, and I did yell down to the field to get their attention. Old Matilda began her slow walk up about 400 or so feet, and that alerted the donkeys to come up. I knew that Boone would most likely wait, and in Boone fashion canter up in a beautiful Boone way, and he did-and that was a beautiful moment. The donkeys were right close to the singers, and Matilda especially won their hearts.

And then, we sang Happy Birthday to the nearby resting spot of Birdie. I made the entire day without a blubber, till then.

The day hung on even after they left, it was a glow, a glow that comes after certain special encounters, or music concerts or gatherings. I think what I felt the most strongly, after I had time to gather my thoughts, was that...this is truly where we were meant to move to, this exact spot, at this exact time. The scary reality of leaving the old farm, the pit in my stomach when I was the only one who knew we were moving to Maine and I knew it was a calling of some kind and once I expressed it out loud all hell would break loose...all that turmoil ended up landing us in a place that could bring us to this moment.

The other thought I had was, all the animals, and me, we are a bunch of bodies walking around, but we are so connected, like a string of old pearls...I have heard people repeatedly say it is a magical place and I believe it is magical-because the idea of what Apifera started as long ago came from my child's heart, and it has remained true to that essence and intent. One of the reasons I am not interested in having an open farm event every week, nor do I accept people's pleas to visit [or very rarely] is because this is my haven, this is where my heart lives entwined with the trees, fields and creatures-it fuels me to create and write, but I also fuel the creatures with my intentions-and they turn around and act the way they did yesterday. They didn't do any special tricks...but what resonated with the guests, I believe, is the pureness of my intent that is channeled through the animals and is demonstrated by their gentleness, their acceptance and enjoyment of the people. Animals know our intentions. And one of my intentions with my animals, is while I teach them boundaries [ie ground manners that are and aren't acceptable] I allow them to be...just be who and what they are at that moment...a grumpy pig or cat, a sour little spitfire pony, a young llama learning the do's and don'ts.

I also am a firm believer that music is a healer and communicator on so many levels-for all creatures including people. When I worked with Boone, I often sang to keep his canter or trot going. Mothers have been soothing babies for centuries this way, music is a rhythmic cue to our animals. And of course music is a vibration and I believe it connects us with our souls of long ago.

The entire day was 'pure'...of pure intent. It wasn't about propping photos for social media and marketing [although we all did take pic and video, thank goodness], it wasn't yoga for baby goats to gimmick us into the paper, it was pure and raggedy and imperfect. I loved the choir-they are not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they are just sweet people singing, a note or two off, it was so Apifera.
Oh, I should mention the song choices were all spot on....including "Angels Hovering Around".

So there you have it. They came, they sang...and I can guarantee not one of them left here without a buzz.