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

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©Katherine Dunn.

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."