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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Art! Yea, it has a llama in it.

Available as original and a print [on shop soon]
In my quest to get art back into the mix of my other role as caretaker/therapy nurse/mire slinger, I actually whipped up a piece yesterday. A miracle!

It's okay. I love my life, I love working with the animals even in trying times. Sometimes things come in waves...wait, they always come in waves, like weather. Snap out of it is my motto.

So I got the Birdie Wall of Hope painted [we put some sheet rock up in her suite so I can draw on it on one side and also there is space for words of encouragement and letters, pictures, etc]. Now the weather is starting to warm we have Biride's music there too, the barn doors can be opened, she can look out at part of her old world when life was normal, feel the sun and breeze. But I guess this is what is normal, for now.

So rather than going against the tide, I am incorporating my daily activities into my art. Haven't I always? I am past the stage of where I used to look at the number of paintings I did for a month and feel I better add more. Been there, done that. I am much more interested in doing what I need to do not what my former illustrator or higher paced art life of the past made me do to keep in the eye of the commercial world.

I am now in the eye of old goats, donkeys, pigs and blind chickens...

Anyway...stay tuned. There is lots percolating around here-new goats are arriving. The chickens are laying including The Holy Child [the unexpected hen from the secret liaison between Little Big Man and Mother Mary]. Opie has three therapy gigs coming up at at three different places. And the tulips are vibrating under the earth as we speak.

And I have an exciting venture with a textile company to share...soon.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What it is really like...and I will be the hope other llama owners might need...and by the way, this is one hell of a llama

The warm sun was let not Birdie's barn, finally some spring weather
I have to say it is an honor working together with Birdie, and having Martyn here helping is also very rewarding. I could not have gotten this far without his help in constructing the lift. Let's remember 5 weeks ago we were using a hand pulley system and Martyn would hold the pulley while I worked with Birdie.

But here is the reality of it all...it's hard.

My followers and Apifera friends have been generous and kind and pulling us forward with positive messages. When we first started this regime, the message from the internet and my research was bleak at best. There was very little out there I could find from people that had actually pulled a camelid through this. Much of what I was reading, and being told by a few llama people, was 20% chance of recovery...or if she isn't up in two weeks you should put her down. But I did find stories of people who were doing what we are doing now and their llama lived to tell the story-one was down for over a year and stood up one day, he lived another seven years to 15. That is the story I keep in my heart. Not everyone has the time to do what we are doing or the person in that story.

I read another person's story of how she went through what we did-people telling her to put her llama down if it wasn't up in two weeks. Her llama was up in six weeks and she wrote about it on a llama forum, simply because while there is a lot of info out there on what medical treatment to give a llama with brain worm, and how to deworm to help prevent it, there is nowhere for llama owners to go and see encouraging stories. Even on that forum, people that commented wanted to focus on the negative, and the woman finally had enough and said she was there to provide encouragement to others.

The thing is, this is incredibly intensive work, both physically and emotionally. But that doesn't mean I hate it. I am blessed that I can be with her and help her. If I had a full time off the farm job, I don't think I could do it, or it would be very hard. If Martyn had not been here in the beginning to help it would have been really tough, and it was also really cold out. It took us a while to figure out a lift system since there was no place to go to find out how to make a lift for a llama. We had to dig around to find some videos, and then make ours work. We started with a strong cloth and hand pulley, and graduated to an electric lift and engine lifter and balance, and then added in the butt straps. We researched acupressure and had help with that, we had help from healers we trust, we talked to my physical therapist and adapted techniques from that, adding massage, light therapy, heat therapy, music therapy. When this settles, I will provide a resource page on the blog for people who might have to deal with this dreaded worm, in the hope it will help them and their animal.

We feel we are doing the right thing and that Birdie is still with us 100%. I know this animal. She is working with us. She has had a couple days out of the 5 weeks where I felt she was down. We have worked with our vet to adjust the anti inflammatories and we have the back up of a stronger one when needed. She is eating well, and is getting some supplements like Turmeric and oxygenated water. While nobody can say if any of it will help, we are doing it and we are going forward with the mindset that it is helping.

I don't know what will happen in a week or months. We are seeing improvements in her strength when she is up in the sling. She took some steps, she is applying more weight to her feet, she is stretching on her own more. But she still can't walk or stand without us. Her legs are still bent. She eats like a hungry lioness and drinks well.

A big challenge is to keep the bed sores away. We pad her with hay, and we are wrapping her legs which is working. In the beginning we weren't, and a couple of sores started but we caught them early. that is why I put a call out for a different kind of wrap, which I had on hand from a long time ago. The vet wrap works great for certain areas, but this other wrap is wider and important for certain part of her body-like the upper thigh. When she is down, she can squiggle around at night and the smaller vet wrap seems to loosen and move. I'm terrified of the bed sores. It is a daily double check of all her body areas to make sure we aren't missing any.

This week we finally could open the front of her barn to give her sun. I know she liked this. The music is so nice too. When I arrive in the morning I present myself with optimism. It is one day at a time. It is really hard. And yes, at times, it is just so damn sad. I have a hard time seeing photos of her just 5 weeks ago standing. What is perplexing to both us and our vet is we began treatment for the Meningeal Worm in November, she was only down for two days, and could stand if I helped her up those two days. She rebounded quickly. Two weeks later she was down again and we retreated her to make sure. She rebounded again, and then out of the blue, two months later, she was down. This time, she could only get up about three days with my help, then she was completely down. Three days before that she slipped in mire and got stuck/down and I had trouble getting her up, but she was walking and seemed okay. We wonder if she tore something or slipped a disk. We don't know. The vet thought it so odd she went down suddenly after responding to the past treatments. [And our vet and us have ruled out other things like lames, tick paralysis and a couple other things because her symptoms didn't match those] That is another reason I'm not giving up. If it is something related to the fall, it will take time to heal.Or it could be a combination of things.

It takes time. This takes time. My time, Martyn's time, the llama's time. Today I'm finally going to get her Birdie Wall of Hope painted so I can start some drawing out there and post encouragement on the wall for her, and me. I ned to bring art back for my own heart and life, and I figure there is a project in this somehow, and I can still be there with her.

I thank so many of you who have sent love and other things, donations, support of materials to us. It takes a village to help a llama.

This is one hell of a llama.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When women merge with cats

This is the current sale piece at the shop. It is called "Woman Merging with Cat". I know many of my readers have merged with cats and are perfectly accepting of the situation.

I also caught these photos a couple days ago from the Elder Cat Suite.

Sir Tigger sits as Noritsu's shadow lurks


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Okay, we will miss snow covered Teapots

Spring is upon us...really, it is. It has been sunny and 40's for two entire days and the ice is dropping and birds are singing, the pussy willows are popping...and just two days ago this was the scene. It has been a long, icy winter [for so many] and as difficult as that can make farm life [or any simple tasks for all of you reading] I have to say I loved seeing the The Teapot and donkeys in their snowflake suits. So I guess just as we yearn for the tulips and spring blooms this time of year, come November we will look forward to seeing our little short and stout masterpiece in the snow. The donkeys and her are getting along well, although Old Matilda still thinks she is a bit forthright in her attitude. The Teapot comes into a separate stall at night to prevent overeating. Earnest, the poor chap, has given up on being friends, I think. He moved his bed to be near Boone's area. I thought it was sort of sweet, he has always liked Boone and can commune through the fence.

Sun on an Oscar

He never fails to slay me, in his tiny little 5# body, sitting on the muslin of cloud color, soaking up the sun.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

When you are given a lemon make it into a project-my time with the llama is ripe

Today is my birthday. I would have liked nothing better to walk into the barn and see Birdie standing. But of course that is not how this is going to work, I do not have the magic wand, nor does Birdie. We only have each other and our inner strength to plod through this. How it evolves nobody really can predict. I am finding beautiful moments with her, like after our sessions I put a heat blanket on her and do massage, and we listen to the music. It's beautiful work to be able to do this.It is hard, but I am so lucky I can help her. If I had a job off the farm it might be very different-and many people have had to face that with their llamas when they are stricken with brain worm.

It makes me feel vulnerable I guess. A life can change in an instant.

But, this is the relationship I have at this moment in time with this particular animal, and I will take it and make the most of it. Yesterday, we put up some sheet rock in Birdies' barn and I will be turning it into a Birdie Wall-full of hope, messages, quotes, poems, art, inspiration and humor. I realized that I was looking at something wrong too. I've been a bit torn because my focus has been on Birdie, as it needs to be, but it has made my studio time somewhat fall to the wayside. While I've made lots of headway on my White Dog book, I've felt scattered and unfocused in the studio, or I haven't even made it there too much this month. So by putting up the Birdie Wall of Hope, I realized I can turn a lemon into a project. This is the project I am meant to flow through right now, a three dimensional project with my llama. I am going to do some drawing out there in the coming days now that the temperatures are finally going to get more normal. I don't know what will come of it, but I feel the need to be out there and draw.

The other wonderful gift that came this week was an old boom box so we can have music for Birdie in her recovery. Someone gifted it to Apifera. Another one is coming for the front barn so the elder cats and goats can have music too. Birdie and the goose seem to really like it. Right now they are listening to classical but we will mix it up for them too. Opera had the goose really jiving, see the video posted here.

This is probably the biggest challenge I've faced with a creature, and an ongoing one at that. I've ordered some more things to help with out our therapy sessions. I want to have straps that will help lift her hind end better, just ordered some I hope will work. I also invested in some minerals and therapies to maybe help with nerve regeneration. My vet is helping as much as she can, and I have been working with my wonderful healer/guide back in Minneapolis on healing things–I've known and worked with her for 30 years and trust her sense immeasurably. When I enter the barn, I am upbeat, and so is Birdie. If I feel myself getting non upbeat in my heart, I step away and snap out of it. She needs me strong.

Which is perhaps why this birthday had me in a funk. It's grey, snowing, and I could not even manage to decide what special meal I wanted. I didn't make a cake or anything. I felt like Eoreye when I awoke. I did go and buy myself tulips. I used to buy flowers a lot in Minnesota during the winter, and in Oregon never did because to me it was always spring during winter. But today, I bought tulips and thanked them and talked to them. I know when the temps rise this week and when we have sun, I will feel more like myself. I kind of miss my parents today, more than normal.

But the pussy willows are popping. This brought me great peace.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Look for sale pieces at the shop

I'll be posting items randomly at the shop for the next few weeks or more. It's easier than setting up an entire sale section. So visit there or follow Instagram feed to see what goes up. Right now there is this beautiful print of Cat and Pussywillows.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The innate painting-what did I know?

I did this painting in late October last year, after Birdie initially had succumbed to the Meningeal Worm, and we began treating her immediately. She was never down like she is now, we could get her up and she was fine. Even though she improved and responded to treatment, I was scared.

I took to paint. I have always let my art do what it is meant to do for me. I don't plan paintings. I didn't sit down and decide what shapes and such would be on this piece. I just knew I wanted to focus on what I could do for Birdie, or what was happening. Of course I knew that the worm even when killed can float around her spine, and I knew this was a time when we wanted her spine and nerves to recover and heal [which they seemed to be doing until early February when she relapsed for some reason].

When I looked at this piece last night, it amazed me. What the symbols are of the floating figures I am not sure...her guides? My guides? Me? But what took my breath away was the floating white cloud coming from her spine. It is the exact place on her body that seems to be causing issues. Her wings are off to the side, she is not needing her wings right now, she is of Earth and she intends to stay for now. I know she can change her mind...but it did not appear that way this morning, and we had a very good therapy session.

I just was reminded after looking at this, art is my conduit to pure prayer-prayer not asking for what I want, but what is needed now and can be accomplished, and what is truly before me, not what I I may want. A long time ago I learned that spirit or God or Universe gives us not so much what we think we need [ie, I need a mate to love, NOW] but instead gives us the wisdom and strength to learn, persevere and move forward to a place that will let us be on higher ground. I think this painting and art is like that.

And of course, sometimes, usually, it isn't that clear what is before us. It takes human steps of days or months, years even, to see clearly.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Birdie Update: New things, positivity renewal

It has been an incredible journey so far for me and Birdie. I began to doubt myself this past week. But I was reminded in a very concrete way doubting myself is not what Birdie needs, nor do I. I have been researching a lot, consulting with my physical therapist too which has helped a lot in my therapy with Birdie. But in the past day I reached out to someone I've known and worked with on healing encounters for 30 years [eegads!] and something clicked with me. I won't share the intimate parts of the conversation but Birdie but it was another piece to the puzzle and learning curve. Birdie's front legs suddenly became locked and rigid about a week or so ago. Her front had never been weak and I felt good about our progress in the sling and her therapy. I knew the locking up could be a condition of other things, but I was puzzled for days as to the true source. But it began to make sense. While I'm doing a lot right, Birdie needs more help to release contracted muscle and I was educated on Myofascial Release. I also am getting a heat pad for certain areas. I also asked followers if they had an old boom box for music for Birdie.

I read until midnight and found some stretches too that I can apply to her. The more I read last night the more I was inspired. I will also look for someone who has experience in this [a reader has someone she is going to talk to]. I also shared all of my progress with my vet, who has been very supportive and my vet and I are working on different combination and types of anti inflammatory drugs for Birdie's comfort and healing including both traditional meds and herb [which i would only do with her consult].

Last night after My talk with my healer, around 9 pm, I felt compelled to go to the barn and talk to Birdie. I told her I had been a bit down which of course she knew [by the way, if you are rolling your eyes, best move on from this page]...she was very calm. The past two days were hard on her and me because she was trying to get release from something, and I kept thinking it was something else. We sat for a long time in the dark of the barn, just my headlamp to light the room. Going to the barn in the dark at night is a spiritual experience-it is 'their' world at that point of the day cycle. I had visceral seconds of feeling the anticipation and sometimes dread of going to check on pregnant ewes or dying goats in the night back west. But Birdie was sitting contently, calmly. Her expression was lighter than the morning. I sat with her and told her it was another beginning. I was back on track. It was still going to be a long haul, but let's get on with it.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Cover me up under the white

We had another snow fall of about six inches. It covers the ice so it helps somewhat. To be honest, I'm feeling a bit numb these days. Working Birdie through this horrible ordeal is hard emotionally, for her too. I will report later on how that is all going. I could feel the weight of the new snow as I lay in bed this morning, it is a fact that the sound changes all around. The sound of the snow sounds different depending on how much snow there is. I didn't care if we had one inch or ten.

Yesterday I spent a lot of quiet time with Marcella and Benne, aka White Dog. I guess they are my healer animals, my spirit animals. The white animals that have come into my life...they all have very strong spirits–the goose, Noritsu, White Dog, Marcella, and Birdie. Every animal is special and unique and has lessons, just like people, but some of us are born to be teachers, or artists, writers, thinkers, do-ers or doctors. I don't put myself on the same level as my my healer and spiritual guide I've known for about 30 years and still consult when I need too, but I know I have certain innate abilities others might not have nurtured in themselves. I think we all had it before birth. Maybe some of us are meant not to hone it in this life, and some of us are. Maybe its just that some people are enchanted by it and others aren't. I come from a family of scientists, artists and farmers...I think that combination is pretty much at play in my life since moving to the farm.

I do know that I needed to especially be with Marcella yesterday. I sat with her when night chores were done. The pigs kept coming over and wanted to be scratched, but Marcella pushed them away to be closer to me. She understood immediately what I needed from her, to just be acknowledged for what I was feeling at that moment. I thanked her, and went inside.

White Dog by M'Lady Apple

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Sometimes woman and llama, and goose, just need to "be"

It’s been two harder days of therapy for Birdie. I took this photo after our session this morning and was pleased at her expression. She has been a bit off in the past couple days, just not as happy. Certain areas that used to be warm to the touch, or give her a definite 'zing' have subsided [for now] so that is positive. But her front leg is giving her trouble and I think she might have strained it, although there is no heat to it.

I know she understands my intention. I seek out hers everyday. I hope my eyes are clear.

I have worked on hard cases before with animals, but never one like this. Usually in the past, I was trying to revive an elder goat back to some normalcy after a life of neglect. Aunt Bea comes to mind, I fought hard on that one, and so did she-what a trooper she was. Three weeks of vet help and nursing her, making a sling out of seed bags, carting her out to the sun in a wheelbarrow of straw...and we couldn't save her.

I don't know what is going to happen. I have had days where I felt dejected, but as my physical therapist friend said, look for the recovery to be a net gain of days-it's like the stock market, things can go down but over time you want an upward trend. So far I have felt there is a net gain in recovery.

But one has to remain clear eyed, and it is a slippery slope when one is bonded with an animal, and one works with an animal in a certain way that is slightly more intimate than with other animals. I can count White Dog, Marcella, and Birdie in this mix, Pino too, as well as my old departed friends of Stevie and Guinnias. All the Misfits are special, but these are the healers. Boone is on some levels too, in fact I think our time has not yet come.

So things felt positive, and then two days ago she had swelling again which we got down with anti inflammatory meds. Oddly, it was the opposite leg this time. We can only assume things when this happens. There were positive things but her front leg [her front has been very strong the entire time] is troubling her. We wonder if is strained although it is not hot- sometimes she scoots around in a circle [lying down]and uses her front end mostly. I have been working on the leg and got some release from her this morning [ie she was freezing her leg stiff, and I got her to relax it], but I’m not sure why it is happening. I also wonder about neuropathy. I worked points on her feet and hocks which are associated some with spinal issues. Because the dead worm is not passed out of the body [they call this being a 'dead end host' unlike stomach worms that are passed out in the feces]it is absorbed by the body but bits of it can float around and cause issues. We can only surmise. Her neck had also really curved all of a sudden but I really worked on it for past few days -which she liked- and this morning it was straight. I think she is compensating for the front leg. My Grace has not been massaging her or pointing out spots and I am taking that as a positive thing-but there are no answers on this journey. I've begun rubbing her feet pads with a topical I like, and her elbows-so far we have prevented any kind of bed sores. I think the last two days she had discomfort in her front leg. But not her spine and other areas that used to be sensitive to the touch.

Many of you are following along and we appreciate that. I know that part of my life here is sharing these stories. Sometimes though, I have to keep parts of my time with the animals all to myself. I am getting lots of emails and messages-99% with good intentions and kindness, and that is very kind-but sometimes I feel I want to retreat with Birdie, and just be private. If a day or two–or more-goes by without an update, don't read good or bad into that, don't assume I am depressed or overwhelmed-I just might want to be. And just wanting to be does not require social media.

When I arrived at the barn this morning, Birdie was sitting straight which was good. And when I left, she gave me her classic look, and I took this photo. It made me feel good to see that, after a couple days where she seemed a bit down, or just a bit uncomfortable with her leg.

A beautiful moment of quiet this morning

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Yelling at frozen poop and the universe gets an earful

{Before reading this post understand there is humor in this, and that all is well.}

This morning I think I finally hit a wall.

This winter has been not as pleasant as I usually find winter. Part of it is there is ice everywhere-everywhere- and it has been here most of the winter, making walking difficult, and just simple chores. Cold temps have hung around and it makes manure management in the equine area difficult, some mornings impossible to get it off the ground. Then they have to walk on the hrad stuff and they can get bruised-which heals, but...I hate not being able to get the frozen lumps off the ground. If it is around 20 and sunny I usually can.

So this morning I just went a bit bezerk with the frozen poop, and started beating it with my rake. The donkeys, sheep and Boone, and teapot, just ate their hay contently and let me vent, like they always do.

Then I had a good cry and told the universe I was mad at it. I continued on and told the universe I was also mad at the worms in deer that got into the slugs that passed it to Birdie. And I was mad at Maine. In fact, I was mad at a lot of things and just poured my heart out to the universe, with many expletives. And I was especially mad at the frozen poop. It was a good release. The donkeys understood completely and I hung out with them. The sun is out today, more cold temps tonight, more snow sometime soon. I can hear my mother, "It will be hot before you know it."...and then I'll be mad about flies. So, we forge on, on ice, and poop.

Birdie has had two days of not great therapy sessions. She had swelling for a day, so I put her back on anti inflammatory which made it go away. She was not cooperating this morning, I felt she needed a morning off. It is an up and down journey we are on.

The blues, and the light on the cat

It's been a long winter. Harder than the last two for some reasons. Not as much snow but the ice this year is really causing problems in the barnyard. There has hardly been a day I go to barn where it isn't an ice rink. Everyone is feeling cooped up, animal and humans alike. I yearn for warmth again. The winter is a wonderful time for me, usually, but this year has been different. I guess we lost a lot of old friends, that is part of it. But not being able to get out as much due to ice is a drag. It is hard on old Else and Tripod, as they can't move around as much and it is affecting there limbs. I am massaging them but can't wait to have them out in the sun again.

But the light comes. I look for light. What else can you do, cry in the soup?

I also want warmth for Birdie. Especially since I can't open the barn doors for her, and she is still unable to rise. I have her in straw and her body is warm...but I felt yesterday she had the blues too.

We all do I think.

Spring will come.

We look for light and greet it, like when it falls on the back of little Oscar.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The new book continues to come to light

I am making great head way in the new book about White Dog, a memoir told through his eyes. The initial 100 pages is the memoir and is illustrated. It then merges into White Dog's world and is 200 pages of beautiful photographs.

One of the beauties of self publishing is no place on earth would be interested in a part art-part photo- part realistic-part magical book told by a dog. The relief of not caring about that [and I did care about not getting an agent in my early writing career, I am the first to admit it] is in and of itself...a relief.

The book will be about 9" we think. I'm working with a designer I've known for years and this is good as type is not my strong suit [ignore the type in this mockup I just picked one for presentation purposes].

I feel good about the book. It will be beefy, a thing to sit with on rainy days and hopefully be swept into the beautiful world of White Dog. A fundraiser will be held sometime this year if all goes according to plan.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

We're tired

The days are too short, or maybe too long, but they are full, rewarding and I am learning at record speed. Margaret Stewart drove up from out of state to help me with some acupressure work on Birdie. I feel like I was in an incredible workshop for the past two days. I am exhausted, but I believe this is the exact lesson I am to be learning at this exact time with this exact animal.

One can drive themselves crazy with, "WHY?"

I just choose during this llama love project to say..."It is for us to do now."

I will write more soon. I just have not had a minute to really think of anything else. I think things will settle for a while now. We have the electric lift operating and I have a new lift sheet that is well balanced and I am able to hook it all up on my own. This is a God send. We can feel her spots of blockage, or resistance, and now I will continue the therapy and acupressure. It is sort of a roller coaster ride, but I aim to remain positive and do all I can for this incredible creature. Goose has been in sync with the entire process...stories to come.

Right now, I'm with Pino. Cat nap, donkey nap, llama nap...just a nap.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Birdie wonders if this is what Peter Pan went through

Not to make light of the situation, but when we rigged up our new electric lift for Birdie yesterday, it was a bit like watching Mary Martin fly on Broadway for the first time [I date myself and I don't care.]

The new lift can hold up to 1500#, so I might get up there with her too.

This labor of love is a real...labor of love, hope, determination and continual effort to remain positive, and still watch the animal in my charge and read her intentions and feelings.

With the new lift, the rising of Birdie is much smoother, less jerky than when we did it by hand, and it is very quick, allowing her more motivation and help to rise quicker. It also allows us to raise and lower her in our exercise regime, making her use her hind and hips. I am doing various massage and movement techniques I learned in massage school, and through my own physical therapist back in Minneapolis [the best one in the entire world, fyi] who helped me so much then on my own needs, and now has consulted with me on the phone to give advise. A generous person who works with animals and acupressure [acupuncture without needles] has given me guidance on certain points, and is even hoping to come up from out of state to guide me.

I'm relying a lot on intuition, feel [looking for hot spots] and on Birdie herself to help me understand when her expression means, "That hurts," versus, "I'm sick of this leave me alone".

We are on day seven. We hoist her twice daily. Our sessions are about 30 minutes now I'd say. She was making steady improvements, and clearly wants to get up, she still has the will. The biggest improvement is when we get her hind end up [her front is strong] she is doing it quickly, and in the therapy we are doing shifting her weight and such she is engaging her hips more, making her feet hold weight without the sling. This does not last but it is a huge step. I also lift her legs to mimic walking, turn her body so she must shift weight and I do reps with her back legs. We also got back braces for ourselves.

Back when I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2002, the illustration market had crashed after 9/11. I was still able to hold on as a freelancer, but knew my jobs were dying too. I decided to enroll in massage school, with the hope of becoming an animal massage/healer. I took a grueling year of muscle/bone/healing study, learning the skeleton and muscles, and I did well, but it was intense. I decided to drop out after that year, I realized I had no desire to be a masseuse for humans [the school had no animal component]. No regrets. But here I am, attempting to be a physical therapist-healer-animal acupressurist. I am doing my best. Birdie knows.

I have shed tears a few times. Partly exhaustion both of my body and heart, it is fine to shed tears. They come at unplanned times. I try not to cry in front of Birdie. But this morning I admit as we were working on this beautiful creature, I just felt the tears come and later when we were done I had a good cry with her. Then I snapped out of it. Martyn is a God. The hope is the new lift will allow me to do it on my own, because this could go one for months.

It is simply part of my life now, my life with Birdie.

I am the caretaker. The one that can't rest. People will say, "You must get help!". I have help, his name is Martyn. While I appreciate the sentiment, this is my responsibility, this is the game without an end in sight and it is what it is. Any of us could be paralyzed at any moment....I know this after my riding accident and concussion. One moment, bang, your life and those around you can change. What do you do. You buck it up, and forge on. You take breaks, you take hot baths, eat good food, hug your friends and mate, lift your face to the sun, kick buckets when you are mad...and you don't stop. And if I need more help, I will ask.

This is something that is going to go on for some time. How it will resolve itself, nobody knows, no vet, no healer, no inner me knows that. I do know that my work with Birdie, while I was not expecting this, this is part of our path together. It is part of my covenant to her.

People have asked how to help. Donate. People were good to donate a week ago and that vet charge of $450 was covered. While our fund remains healthy, these are the types of situations that can drain the well. We spent about $1000 yesterday on the electric lift and a new power tool to help, and other items that went along with the hoist system for safety, so donations are appreciated. Someone donated a lift blanket with straps this week, and I bought one too, and another chipped in. Thank you. Your positive energy sent my way are really needed and appreciated not only for Birdie but for me and Martyn. I also have hung the prayer flags for her, and I intend to take out art I've made to help her-will it help? It is my intention it will. I have been opening the barn doors so she can see her sheep, and sun, and her nurse the Goose can get some sun and puddle-ice walking.

Donations >

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Valentine party, goat on the side

It was so nice to get out and see our friends on Friday for a little Valentine-goat party...you've been to one of those, right?

We also brought our first wrist warmers from The Old Kitty Knitty Club. One of my friends had double knee surgery and had lots of time to knit so I decided we would give these out now instead of waiting until fall. I made a couple too. The ladies liked them a lot. Opie gave out vintage valentines from the '40's and I read them to the residents. The care manager made some cookies.

It was a nice quiet little visit. One of the residents was not there, and I hope he is okay. He is one of our very dear friends and we missed his lively conversation. I am always cautious of asking too many questions due to the privacy laws. I kind of stumble around them hoping I'm doing everything properly.

After two years, some of the more talkative residents now tell me they love me, and Opie, when we leave...and they always wonder when we will be back. I think that is the most important thing for them really-to know they can count on us coming back. And we will.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Birdie and I are fighting this together

I have not written about this on the blog, but if you follow on other social media you know that Birdie and I are in the fight of a lifetime. We are trying to pull her through the dreaded meningeal worm..."brain worm' is another term. Carried by White Tail deer, and then passed in feces to slugs and snails, it enters the llama [goats and sheep are also susceptible but camelids can be infected by way fewer worms] and does nerve damage if not caught immediately.

It started back on October 6, at our farm event, where Birdie sat holding court with her guests. When she went to get up that day, she struggled. I knew it wasn't right, and thought she had just been laying down a long time. Fortunately when it happened, I was standing with a well versed llama person who suggested it might be M worm, and I immediately called my vet, and began the 5 day intensive regime. We caught it at a very early stage-often if a llama is already down and unable to get up, those cases do not have the best chance for recovery. Within days of the first treatment, she was able to rise on her own. A few weeks later, she went down again, and we feared we had not gotten the worm, so we treated for another five days, and she rebounded, again...there was always some staggering, but that is normal due to some nerve damage from the worm. When the worm is killed, it stays in the spinal column, and the hope is the body absorbs it, but sometimes the deworming doesn't get them all, or, the worm is killed but not 'arrested' in other words it moves around.

I had never heard of this dreaded worm, we did not have white tail deer out west, and when we arrived in Maine, without a vet, we treated Birdie with a dewormer we had always used. I had some initial vets out here that first year but they were all equine vets, and I had no warning from any of them about M. Worm [and I am not saying it is their fault]. I wished somebody had mentioned it to me in the that first year and a half, but why would they? But now I know. Instead of giving one ivermectin shot each fall as we had done out west, we should have been giving Birdie that shot monthly. That shot kills the worm right as it enters the body. By the time symptoms appear, ivermectin is useless to the worms once they are in the spine, and another regime is needed.

So, after her two treatments, and two recoveries, she was doing great. She was up every morning, and even though she could not go out in muddy areas since she could slip, or ice either, she was good.

And out of the blue, overnight, about three weeks ago, she went down again and could not get her hind up on her own. Within days, she was worse in the hind end and even I could not get her up. The vet came again. We are treating her another time. Somehow, the first vet that prescribed the meds, did not give the right dosage, so all those treatments should have been double. It was an honest error, and a communication error between all of us [I believe in my current vet whole heartedly], and it is water under the bridge. Our blood work this week showed that the amount of a certain enzyme in her blood showed 'some' nerve damage, but not huge amounts of nerve damage. This is a positive. There is nothing in the blood work indicating other things going on [of course lots of things could be going on and blood would not show it], and her mineral and other levels were normal.

So, we devised-thanks to Martyn- a sling system, where we hoist her up twice daily, and I give her therapy by moving her hips, and massage her. I have talked to a very dear friend, a physical therapist who is also trained in massage and other healing arts, and he said I'm on the right track. He gave me some suggestions for our therapy sessions. I felt lifted in spirit after talking to him. We have been doing the sling/therapy since Tuesday night, and we do see improvement.

Most of all, her attitude is still good, she is still smiling. I do believe she understands I am helping her. She and I are very close, and now we are even closer. Through it all, her Goose remains vigilant, watches carefully as we load her into the sling, checking out to make sure Birdie is being treated right when I give shots and such. Birdie is probably in the top five healing animals I've ever worked with. She is so loved by so many, and such a component to our work here. I can not tell you how crushed I am that this happened, and I am very much to blame since I did not know the deworming regime for this dreaded worm.

But we continue to pray and work together to help her. I have hung prayer flags for her, and me. Thankfully Martyn is home working in winter, so I have him to help. I can not pull the pully and work on her at he same time. He is continuing to try to improve the pulley so he can leave it secure and leave me to work on her. I'm grateful I took that year of massage too, and have had physical therapy myself, so will be working on her lumbar region. We are seeing small improvements.

As long as she improves, as long as she shows me she wants to try, and does not get bed sores that are impossible to keep clean-we will continue to work. I am not giving up. I don't care if I have to do this for a year. I have read of a couple cases where a llama was down like this for a year, and one day, they arrived at the barn and she was standing.

I've shed a lot of tears over this, especially when I found out we were doing the wrong dosage. But that is then, this is now, I tell her everyday we will get through this. Until she tells me otherwise, we are going on hope, love and determination.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Pig line up

Officer: Do you two realize it is illegal to break into a grocery store and take food?

Grandmother Pig: Why, no, we did not.

This is Eleanor and her grandson, Little Lonely, aka Freddy the Dreamer. I was leaving the barn when I looked over and saw them like this. It cracked me up. I guess we know what a pig line up at the police station would look like.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The queen of the manure heap

You can usually find old Sophie sitting on the manure heap, soaking up it's heat. She is as regal as ever. And look at her beard-it was accidentally sheared off in last spring's sheep sheering. I forget to tell our shearer to leave it...I am surprised at how fast it grew back.

Hail to the Queen of the Manure Pile!

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Opie tries to read...Othello

Poor little Opie. I found him in the barn today, all alone tucked into a quiet corner with a book.

"Opie, what are you doing?" I asked.

"I have to learn to read. I don't know how."

"Well, I think "Othello" might be a hard one to learn on. What brought this on?"

"I'm the Goat on the Side at your book reading this week," he said.

"Oh, Opie, you don't need to read , you just will be there giving Opie love," I told him.

"Oh! Why doesn't anybody explain these things to me."

"I'm sorry, no need for stress.," I said.

"I think I will learn Italian first," he said.

{Book Reading/Goat on the Side is Thursday, February 7, 1pm at Inn Along the Way in Damariscotta. I will be reading from my books, and they will be available for sale. Opie will be there too, giving love. Hours 1pm - 3pm, Inn Along the Way, 741 Main St, Damariscotta, ME 04543}

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Walk with The Teapot

The Teapot and I have similar taste in hair styles
I took The Teapot out for some halter work and then we walked down to the cove. She has the training from years ago, she just needs some consistent ground work, lots of walks. She always starts out like a spitfire, sometimes rearing-don't worry, she is so stout and out of shape she is harmless- but she always wises up out as we walk on. I made her do round pen work today, sans the round pen, we simply worked in the sand drive of a nearby property. She is so fun to watch trot. I don't want to overdue it right away. She just needs time, and walks. Every walk I tell her,

"We'll get there."

To the cove we go

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ollie, the resident goofball

This guy brings me such joy. Ollie is truly the goofiest fellow in the barnyard, and full of love. I have not had him out on a therapy visit yet. He does great here at the farm. I need to have a second set of hands to do that. So I'm working on finding people that are good fits to help me. All in good time. I don't seem to be in a rush anymore. I think I get to choose my speed. I feel like I rushed a lot in the past years, sometimes out of necessity, or because my work was more deadline driven, and I am entering this new slowed down version of myself. It's nice.

So, Ollie, don't worry-we will find ways to share you more on the road of love.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

I birthed a goose

It was a pleasant birth experience. I'm going to live with her for a bit before offering her to the masses on the shop-but feel free to contact me if you are interested in her. I want to make her alma, it is only proper I think. Sebastapol geese are amazing, their feathers are torn and curl, it is very cool. Some of her fallen feathers are in the doll. I had some old scrap that was so perfect, it ripped and seemed almost better than the feathers.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Visiting elders..why it matters-because we are all on this circle

The grace of old hands-how much they have done over the years
Opie and I visited our elder friends at Wiscasset Green this morning. We have been visiting now for two years and have grown to think of them as friends, and even family. We've lost a few people too and it is not easy-you will not be told in advance of a death or a departure for privacy reasons, and it is hard. But it is part of doing this. I have to say it is hard on me.

But, I will continue on because I love them, I love our gatherings...and I care about them. I was thinking recently why these visits are so important-to them, but also me, and Martyn when he comes like he did today.

I think of life as a continuum, a circle. We are born, and cared for by young adults. We in turn become young adults and those parents move to the right on the circle, and grow old. When those elders die, they have passed on their traits and hearts to those on the left on that circle. Circles never end. Circles are prominent in all aspects of Nature-the moon, the earth, the sun... The time and energy we give to our babies and children is later found and felt in elder people who also had time and energy given to them by parents.

By visiting the elders, I am honoring the power that the moon has on the tides. It's really no different. You get, and you give. And you don't stop. You just are, like the moon.

Opie was particularly intent on going to one of the residents today. I have seen Pino gravitate to a person in a group and then I find out later that person was hurting from a trauma or loss. We all chuckled that Opie was intent on this resident, and I casually said that Opie must know she is sad, or grumpy, or hurt...and she told me with teary eyes her 70 year old son had died recently and she was hurt.

She looked at Opie and said, "He can feel my hurt hurts."

Opie is on the circle too.

Opie was gravitation to one elder today...and he knew why before I did

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Papi has an important announcement!

We don't want to let down Papi. As President of The Old Kitty Knitty Club and well, er, the largest member of the elder cat suite, he has a very persuasive look when he needs more cat food, don't you think?

Thanks to the good people who go to our Wish List and send us food directly, we have helped put weight on all the elders, even our latest and oldest arrival, Gilda, who is turning 21 soon and gained a half pound, and when you only weigh five pounds that is a lot!

When you send items for the Wish list directly, it helps keep money in our fund for the other animal needs. Cat food is expensive, especially the special urinary food we must feed, so we all raise our paws to you.

Visit the Wish List, and our greatest need is the canned food, the first three on the list. We also use the dried food daily, so never turn it down. I'm just running low on the wet food.

NOTE: It is helpful to me and Papi when you purchase from the list, to send your name with the order, so Papi can send his special message to you. Otherwise, I don't know who is sending the item.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Don't worry, The Nose has it under control

Weather is such a crucial part of people's lives, especially those of us that live more in the elements in rural areas. Since I don't have to drive to a job, nor does Martyn in the winter, I actually get sort of jazzed up for big winter storms, especially since we have a generator now. I am afraid of lightening storms even though I love them, but a good snow storm is comforting in some way.

And I got everyone midget sized insulated overall bibs. They are pretty content. We are well prepared here with our barns and shelters, electric water buckets in the most crucial stalls and frost free pumps. And now a generator which we haven't had to use, but could have used a million times before we bought it. Why we waited so long I can't say, although money is always an issue but we have the kind you fill with propane and it does what we need.

The beautiful snow, about 8" so far is sadly turning to sleet. I doubt we will venture out tomorrow either. The temps will be very cold for a couple days, and then warm up. My biggest challenge as the sleet takes over will be keeping gates and sliding barn doors free of ice. Having the electric water buckets for the outer barn is such a god-send. it took some doing to make it safe, but I'm so grateful I have that this year.

The happiest camper right now? White Dog, and Marcella too, they love the cold and snow. The Nose wants you to know we are well, and he has it under control.