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

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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Opie and Ollie and the balloon

Today is Ollie's first birthday. There was an earnest discussion going on when I got outside this morning to do chores. I try to stay out of their personal conversations, but...it appears that Opie gave Ollie a balloon. By the time I wandered in, this was what I heard:

"I saved it for you, from my first birthday last year," said Opie.

"What do I do with a balloon?" asked Ollie.

"Not much," said Opie.

"Can I fly away on it?" asked Ollie.

"I don't know, maybe," said Opie.

Ollie sat on the balloon. It popped, and let out air and squirted and flitted around before there eyes.

"That was delightful," said Ollie, and he ran off.

Opie sat down, holding the remnants of his balloon.

"I have to ask, Opie, where did you keep your balloon safe this entire year?" I asked.

"In the hayloft, under the third beam by the north window where I play sometimes," he said.

"Hmmm, what do you play?" I asked.

"I make card houses," he said. He let out a long sigh. "My balloon is dead," he said.

"But Opie, it made you happy when I gave it to you, and it made Ollie happy when you gave it to him, and it went out flying-that's a good life for a balloon," I assured him.

Opie ran back to the barn. The goose followed him, saying, "All things must pass."
No photo description available.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Teapot collects trash, Opie's beard is growing and mud season is here

The Teapot did her first Earth Day walk.

Opie is very proud about his little goatee

Mud season is upon us and you can see who loves that

Monday, April 22, 2019

Well, I think My Grace the goose is Goose the Guy

We have been waiting to see if the goose would lay an egg. We are beginning to realize that My Grace is most likely a My Lord, or a guy. I think she-he would have laid by now. When the goose arrived, the former owner thought it was a girl, but said she was no expert in vent checking geese...who is? I did attempt to research it and spent a short bit of time examining the vent but didn't see anything or feel anything that supposedly made she a he.

But, I am no goose vent expert...again who is?

I also began to think she was a he when she-he gravitated to females–Birdie, Marcella, Rosie. She-he seemed uninterested in the new male llama, and even got a cow kick out of him.

I don't care what sex she-he is, I love the goose. We have worked out the current arrangement in a way that suits many. Goose spends nighttime in the barn, safe, and sleeps with Henneth the blind chicken, Sir Tripod Goat and Else. Sometimes Opie is in the mix, but of late, she-he has gone after Opie at breakfast. During the day, the goose goes outside, but stays on the opposite side of the fence where Marcella is. This allows she-he to be safe from hawks and eagles-I hope-but also hang out with the three goats, and also have Marcella access through the fence. Marcella and she-he were getting along, but Marcella can be really aggressive around food which his a Maremma trait, and even though I separated her at feeding, if there was one kernel of food left she would snap at the goose. I just didn't want any trouble. Sometimes I put she-he in there so she can play in the puddles. She-he also doesn't get along with the male ducks.

In fact she-he is an independent mover and shaker. I suppose I will have to get him a wading pool for the warmer months. She-he seems very content, and when the goats come in at night, there she-he is, I don't have any trouble out of him.

I admit I still look for the golden egg...Earnest would love them.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Our Easter wish for all

All of us are wishing you a joyful Easter, a time of renewal and rebirth in so many ways. No matter what is going on in the world, or your life, I hope you can find things that bring you that sense of renewal that Easter is all about.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Her name is Luna

I am naming the older lady "Luna". I think the boy might be Arlo, but not sure.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Inspired by floating llama and grounded ones

"Upside Down World" {available through studio, contact me}
Yesterday this came out of me. I found it so tender, and sat back and felt comfort from it. I still hurt from the loss of Birdie but the life around me carries me on. The new llamas are so very different than Birdie, in every way, color, personality...everything. There are moments that is a sad thing, then I snap out of it, that is most likely Birdie above, or my guides reminding me how lucky I am to be working with all these beautiful creatures everyday!

I was pleased with this too because I captured, if you look closely, the teeth of the old girl [some are suggesting I name her Kukla, which I thought of too, but it doesn't suit her, she is like a gargoyle on a skyscraper and needs something to fit that]. I also caught the tiny wisp of white on the boy's top notch, and his sweet legs with puffy hair and how he stands. It's amazing how they get in you if you have an open door.

I have worked him on the halter daily since his Sunday arrival. Today he showed more 'I am me' attitude but is learning the right distance to stay from me. We also worked on him just standing calmly while I sat a couple feet from him. I worked today on dragging a tarp around with him, to help him be used to odd sounds and sensations. I also took him into the orchard to meet the crippled Misfits, and the goose. The goose came over, the boy put his nose down, the goose got a bit nosey, and bam, he got a cow kick. No harm done. But the goose shows no signs of interest in him which does not surprise me. He has been very happy in the front barn with Tripod and Else, and then can be near Marcella outside during the day.

So, stay tuned as llama Love grows here. It will be some work but if I brought someone here today and sat them on a bench I know the boy could do the job, but we will keep working together to give him confidence and let him grow to partner with me. I don't want to rush him. He has so much to see and learn here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Two of the new llamas arrive, Birdie On!

First steps into Apifera
We made the long drive on Sunday to bring two of the group of llamas back to Apifera. I will tell you that it was nice to see the Berkshires in the distance, but more than a few times we laughed that we had no idea how we made that 5 day journey three years ago from Oregon and survived! Our older bones were sore!

But it was worth it and the meet up at a designated exit off I 90 went off smoothly.

This is an exciting time for Apifera. After a year and a half of becoming a non profit, I feel so good about how our mission to help animals and elder people is really jelling. We are getting more known, thanks in part to the monthly article I write for the paper, but also because it is a small, vibrant community of people that are interested in what we are doing, and word travels. I feel really good about the coming months and am so excited to get my elders here to meet the new animals.

I have not named them yet. The older female was really loved, and I know the farm thought good and hard about all this. I'm grateful they took so much time to understand my needs. We decided the young male-he is 5 months-would do better with an older llama around, and since she is retired and had her last babies, she became that llama. She is 19. No spring chicken and I really hope she can live another few years at least. Llamas can live well into their 20's but 19 is considered old. Aldo came to us back west at 19 but was not in good shape ad he lived another couple years. This lady is in very good shape, good weight, strong, gentle, good teeth too. Her pastures have fallen, just like with Aldo, but she gets around well. She has this cute front tooth thing going on, like Kukla the puppet.

The little guy is so great! He has hardly been haltered but is doing great with that, and today I did his first bit of lead training. The most crucial part of working with him will also be a challenge-at least initially- and that is not to 'love on him' too much. Obviously, the first thing I wanted to do was hold him like I did Birdie. But because he is an intact male, and can't be gelded until he is at least 1.5 years, he has to be given clear boundaries, for my safety, and his well being. You can find all sorts of stories of people who bring home a cute fluffy camelid, intact, love on it like a puppy and all of a sudden when it gets a bit more mature it begins to act in a dominant way-jumping up, even biting like young males do in a herd. It is a lot like training a young colt, or Maremma. I can pet him, even kiss him every so often, but right now, I am teaching him that I set the boundaries. When we walk, he can not lean into me [like he is in this sweet pic, which he is doing for reassurance]. As much as I'd love him to lean into me, he needs to learn there is a boundary between him and me. It's kind of like a kid that loves to hug, but as he gets older didn't learn that you don't run up and jump into someone's lap without being invited.

At the same time, he needs to be exposed to sounds and situations, and he seems to be a great fit for therapy. I will be challenging him as we go forward, making him go into rooms, across a bridge, over buckets, etc, just to show him I can be trusted and we can go anywhere and be safe.

Having said all that, he has beautiful eyes, and lashes, and adorable legs. His color is like a slate blue. his fiber is gorgeous.

The female is gentle and calm. She is more personable than Aldo was. We did not think she will be a star therapy llama, but you never know. But her role is to relax and retire and be a role model for the little guy.

Then, we are waiting for another of the llamas to have her cria [baby] in late May or June. I hope its a girl! We will be bringing the mother and baby back her a few weeks after she gives birth. As exciting as it was to maybe have a birth here, we all decided it was much better for all concerned, especially the llamas, to have the baby there where she feels safe. Once born, cries and mamas can travel without problems.

When I got to the barn this morning-I had left them inside barn, for safety at this point-I knocked. That amused me-there I was lightly knocking to alert them. All was well and they ate well which is good. It was just so cool seeing llamas in there. I had two sensations-excitement and joy they were there...and the realization Birdie was not. But later, I realized it was meant to be that I found llamas that are dark colored, and so unlike her. Because. That is why, because.

I also had a beautiful moment where I felt Birdie's spirit. After I had walked the young male, I returned to the barn, and decided to turn on some classical music for their first real day at Apifera. They have access to the pasture, but can come into the barn of course. I stood looking out one of the front doors, and could see the two llamas in the distance, and the empty barn in front of me, with the music playing just like it had for Birdie. I felt her spirit, like she was telling me,

"Okay, good first step, keep it up."

Friday, April 12, 2019

Pre-Order "Goose & Llama"

I'm so excited to share this little story book I made in honor of Goose & Llama, and now you can preorder it.

For every 50 I sell, $500 goes into the barn fundraiser. 

The story is told in the voice of the goose. It is 33 pages of story, photographs and a bit of art. I felt that I needed to do more to memorialize their beautiful relationship, and I also felt my followers, after the shock of it all, might also be comforted by this little story.

The book is a soft cover, on premium paper, and is 8.5 x 11, 33 pages.The $35 price includes USA shipping. INT'L orders will need to pay at least $35 range more for shipping.

Monday, April 08, 2019

New Misfits arrive - introducing Jim Bob and Rosco

Rosco on the left, Jim Bob on the right
They landed yesterday after a long journey from their home they had lived their entire lives. Such sweet boys! They were a bit overwhelmed with all the new sounds and chaos-since the goose immediately started honking because Marcella started barking and when Marcella barks, Goose goes on high alert. The poor chaps had not been around dogs let alone geese.

They were well taken care of. In fact, it is sort of a sad story. The family who loved them so much decided they could not care for them because there was a very difficult ongoing health situation, and they had to downsize, keeping only the oldest goat and an old pony with special needs. They were a really sweet family and I tried to reassure her that she was doing the right thing. I think she was reassured, and grateful. But it is a hard decision and I feel badly for what they are going through.

So they are very friendly and sweet –they just need time to settle in and get used to all the activity. They lived in a more remote and isolated barn. In fact they are a bit chubby which is great! Usually elders arrive to me thin and neglected but these two have been well cared for. I really think Rosco might enjoy elder visits so time will tell.

I've been taking short breaks to sit with them and talk to them. This morning Jim Bob was so startled at the barking dog he ran to me! So sweet. So Jim Bob might look like a monkey - and in time I think his real personality will emerge-but he is a softie.

We are grateful we could help this family, and we get beautiful spotted goats in return...they will be well loved.

{Do you like our work here with elder people and animals? Consider a donation to help us, thank you.}

This morning they met Ollie and gang

Photobombed by the goose!

Friday, April 05, 2019

Children artists inspired by Birdie...Birdie On!

I shed some happy tears on this. An artist and teacher, Suzie Skugstad, shared these with me. Her class was following the journey of Goose & Llama on IG and they were moved by the story and created clay sculptures.

I was once again blown away with another concrete example of the power of Birdie, and her love..but also, I'm realizing too that it was and is the power of the love Martyn and I gave to try to help her and the energy and determination Birdie gave back that also resonated with readers.

It also reminds me of the importance of my stories, and sharing them, that we learn from them, and are inspired by some or helped by some. Stories have power and depth capable of opening minds and hearts.

Thank you Suzie and please tell the children that there is more llama love coming, and that Birdie knows what they did.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

We will Birdie On! Final Barn Addition!

We need to add one final addition to the barn. This addition will house some equines to take pressure off the current equine area. This will not only provide a safer area in the winter [it gets a bit crowded at present in winter, and feeding can be a challenge in winter and rain], it will allow us to manage mud control better in spring, helping equine feet issues which we are experiencing for the first time since having them. And, this addition will provide loft space for 1/2 our hay, meaning the current barn will have freed up space and get hay into lofts versus on the ground/pallets. Martyn and I will be doing a lot of the work on this barn, the ground prep, siding, loft finishing and interior details. We are slated to get going July, and hope to have the frame and trusses up by August. Then Martyn will do the siding before winter.

The addition we did last year became the physical therapy suite for our beloved Birdie the llama, who died after trying so hard for two months to make it. We are so devastated as are many of you that we didn't have a different outcome. But, we learned that that area is necessary to have as an emergency area -now complete with a 500# lift should we ever need it again. I feel Birdie there all the time, and I asked her to find me more llamas [a hard thing in Maine]. I talk to her all the time. I began looking for llamas knowing it would take awhile and that they would be out of state. I didn't want to rush it, but didn't want to wait so long that a whole year went by. Birdie gave me so many things, and one was she taught me what llama love is all about. Well, low and behold, I found a woman through a woman through a woman who is like a mentor to me in my heart and we have brought home an elderly llama, and a young male we have named Arlo who is going to be a wonderful therapy guy-I've been working with him.

When I go into the suite where Birdie and I tried so hard, I feel her smiling, telling me to BIRDIE ON! We are naming that area the Birdie Memorial Llama Love Room. While the llamas will live there, it is also a good gathering spot for events and therapy visits for able bodied people. The wall I put up planning to make it the wall of hope for Birdie, is sitting there blank...but I think that is fitting. It is a clean beautiful white wall, white like Birdie, white like the clouds she floats in, and that wall can be filled with extensions of her-stories that will be coming as we add our next llama family.

It is a whopping $20,000 to get this final addition up. If you are interested in doing a matching donation, let me know.

If you prefer to send a check make it to Apifera Farm Inc.
315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen ME 04551
You will get a receipt immediately after arrival if you send me your email, and a written one too.

Our EIN # 82-2236486

A mother died, a horse was born

Mother memory doll, with a quilt share she made as a child with her mother
Six years ago, my mother died suddenly. It was a beautiful day in Oregon, where we lived at the time, and I had planned to go for a long ride with Boone. It also happened to be his birthday. I remember going to feed him and thinking that now his birthday will always be tinged with my mother's death.

But being the optimist, and student of Nature that I am, I realized that was not how I wanted to look at it. It was almost like it was a message from my mother,

"I'm gone, I know you are sad, but you have that horse that took you so long to get, go ride him, child."

That was a surreal day. It was a very hard loss. I was close to my mother, sometimes too close, but she was truly my advocate. I was really ticked off she died. She was eighty seven, and lived independently, still playing golf and driving her little ancient VW convertible with her golf hat adorned by her sunflower. It's how I often think of her. She was having trouble breathing, so my brother who lived near by took her to the hospital. She called me on the way there, and left a message. Her voice was a bit shaky. She had always told me that old people don't like going to the hospital because they know they often don't come out. That night she had a mild heart attack. We were told her lungs were calcifying. I talked to her the next day, and said all the things I don't say when my animals are dying. I told her not to die, I told her I wasn't ready to lose her. I cried. She said she wasn't ready to go. I told her we loved her, and that I was driving down to California in two days. She knew how impossible getting off the farm was for me.

"Really? You're coming down?" she asked.

I told her Martyn would stay and I would come to help. Now, my mother knows I hate hospitals, I can get physically and emotionally stunted when I enter one. It has always been like that. She also hates having visitors at hospitals. I mean she would welcome seeing me, but...the next day, she died.

A friend who knew us since childhood said that my mother made it easy on me. I guess she was right. A nurse went to give her a sip of water, and then asked my mother [whose last name was Dunn]if she was done, and my mother said, in true form,

"I'm done, Dunn, and DONE!" and she died with a smile on her face.

But there out in the barn was my living, breathing horse, Boone. And he turns twenty-one today. We've been together eleven years. I tell this story because I almost forgot the date today, and looked at my calendar and realized it was April 4th, the day that holds so much history for me. I tell it because for all of you who are missing people, and you see a day on a calendar every month, and the grief sticks you hard and you think,

"Another month without them,"

I'm here to tell you that time will soften the date. You get to do it at your pace. But keep taking steps in the living. One day, you will realize the date has less power over you, because that person filled you with so much love that you are out sharing it with other creatures be it human or animal.

Monday, April 01, 2019

I am now a Maine Apifera...so some reconfigurations are going to happen in the barnyard

Little Sylvia Petinni is still the sweet little thing she was on arrival. She was a bottle baby, and started out life a little on the rough side due to her troubled birth. I took her on with her retired mother, Calla, who is still with us. Calla had some issues so was retired after giving birth to Sylvia. Sylvia is still very personable due to her upbringing. She comes to me, usually, looking for some attention. She has overcome all her eye issues she had after birth and is healthy.

When we first arrived here in Maine, I missed my old flock back West terribly. I mourned the old farm, and my old role as shepherdess. I underestimated how much sadness t would bring. I had to leave them behind, it was just unfair to move them out here, and we didn't know our pastures well since we had never visited. I knew they would begetter staying on their land they'd known since birth. I'm so glad I made that decision. I put down some of my oldest girls that were on their last days, and sold some young ewes before leaving, but about half the flock stayed on the farm.

So when we arrived here in Maine, I kind of had my feet on both sides of the river. I was still a mourning shepherdess, and we had not become a non profit. I was still evolving as an Apiferian in Maine. So I went out and found a small flock of five wool sheep [we had raised hair sheep out West]. They were CVM sheep, a rare breed in danger, and I liked the fact I was helping-just like when we got into Katahdins they were endangered and we helped bring them back along with many others out West. I was torn about breeding, my gut was telling me not to breed, but it was what we had done for 15 years. But my gut won out, and I did not get a ram. Raising sheep from birth to death is so much different than just owning them. I care for each of the five, but except for Sylvia and Calla, I am not as attached to them as I had been to my original flock. It's just...different.

In time, and now that we are going on our 4th spring here, I know I am no longer a shepherdess, nor do I want to be. I have grown into the Maine Apifera. My mission is to help people through my animals. The animals we help are connected to the people we help. So I have decided to rehome three of the sheep who are young, and should be with someone who truly appreciates their rare fiber. I like wool, I really do, but I am not passionate about it. This breed is rare, it is a heritage breed that is being helped through breeding. I want them to go to a home that will breed with care, and it appears I have found that home, thanks to the help of the farm I bought them from. I would not be rehoming them if I felt uncomfortable.

Sylvia and Calla will live out their lives here. And it will also allow me to reconfigure some paddocks for...well, I will tell you all that soon. It is all good, and it all ties into our therapy work. Stay tuned.