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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The little red spark plug has arrived!

First glance into Apifera
This little chap is so much fun and I'm so pleased we could adopt him from Horses With Hope Equine Rescue here in Maine. They took him in last fall and he was really in bad shape. He had untreated Cushings and laminitis and was in serious pain. Since the Cushings wasn't being treated it aggravated the laminitis, or caused it, and since his feet weren't being cared for either...well it added up to pain, he could hardly walk. He also was unkept and just looked plain sad [see the photo of his 'before' condition when he arrived at the rescue.] The rescue worked so diligently with him through farrier work every four weeks, vet care, x-rays, handling and improved feeding.

So when I saw that he was ready for adopting, I jumped. Of course you know by now I love chestnut horses, and have always wanted a Mini Me for Boone! But it was really the look on his face, both before and after, that I responded too. When I went to meet him, I knew I loved him. He has a spark for sure, and is no push over. His issues mean he will be on daily meds for his life, and he wears little padded booties to help with his laminitis issues.

So yesterday I drove up to get him. They had him all clean and sparkly after a bath, and he smelled delicious! My animals wondered if he was some kind of movie star. When he arrived here, he walked into a different world-he stood for a moment to assess the scene he was about to walk towards-a goose, goats everywhere, white dogs, llamas, ducks...goodness, that is a lot to take in and he did just great. And then...he met The Teapot. She did exactly what I thought she would, she checked him out, ran around with him, and then told him,

"Look, just so you know, I'm in charge of most of this area."

He of course could sense this from a mile away.

But all is well. I let him run around and let Teapot get some kicks out, no harm done, and then I stalled him for the night so he'd get rest. He could nose everyone all night and this morning, he was full of vim and vinegar and ready to put his boots on.

He seems very intrigued with the equines on the other side of the fence. His buddy at the barn was a Thoroughbred, so I wondered if he wanted to be with Boone. But since he can't eat grass, nor can The Teapot, he will stay put. I might put him over there in time to run around, but while he can run, he isn't as swift escaping from rough play as the others.

I have to say, when I brushed him this morning, he still smelled like his bath, and it made me want to get hot water to the barn for baths [not going to happen].

The rescue had put down the name Spartan...but I kept slipping and referring to him as Sparkle. I have no idea what his name is...yet, but I do know I am glad I was able to bring him here. I think in time he will be a good little therapy pony. He tends to use his lips a bit to communicate "Listen to me, or stop that" but not in a bad way, the rescue worked daily with him so he is pretty well mannered but I will need to test him out a bit.

He is going to be fun.

On arrival at the rescue last year
During recovery, he got lots of mail at the rescue
After months of rehab by the rescue
Seeing The Teapot for the first time

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dreams of my mother as a pie which has nothing to do with this piece, sort of

I did some art today, quick sketches with watercolor sticks on paper. I really liked this one and I am entering my 'back to studio days' as fall approaches. I cleaned the studio and office this week, what a barnyard it was, and it is like buying new pencils for school, getting ready.

Last night I dreamt I was with my mother, and brother, somewhere in NYC. We were walking through a large department store and they got ahead of me, and then I lost them and it was impossible to find them. I started screaming my brother's name but to no avail. We were supposed to go see a friend I had who lived there years ago when I did. Finally I heard my mother, and she was lying down and not feeling well. In fact, she decided she should go to the hospital, so they were putting a blanket on her, and all of sudden, she became a peach pie. I leaned down to the pie, and I told her not to worry, and I could hear my mother inside the pie blowing me kisses. And then I said I was sorry I had brought her out as it was too much for her, and she blew me more kisses.

Dreams are like paintings in so many ways, a way to explore the insides of the caverns that make up our souls and interior world. I am learning not to really analyze my dreams as much, just like I don't analyze my art much. Why I opted to put black mittens on this piece, I don't know and I don't care. I just know I did just as I was meant to dream about my mother as a peach pie [I distinctly remember it was a peach pie].

I have worked hard all summer with the animals and the senior visits. September and October will be busy too with the weather cooling and it will be a good time for bringing elders here. But I'm readying for my semi hibernation from people. From November through March I will be more reclusive and selfish, I need it. I feel a bit spent. I love everything I'm doing and we are making progress in so many ways, but winter will be my season and nobody else's except the animals, and my regular elder friends too who I truly love being with. In fact this summer was so busy with new elder homes coming, I wasn't able to make private visits as much to my regulars.

Monday, August 26, 2019

I am no saint! And I don't whisper!

I get really uncomfortable on social media when followers refer to me as a "saint" due to my taking on needy animals. For the record, I have never, ever met a saint. And I am not close to being one, nor do I aspire to be. I just try to keep dancing, as fast as I can.

I also get cranky when I see other people referring to animal people as 'whisperers'. This is such an overused term and means little or nothing to an animal. Firstly, communicating with the animals needs no words, it is about intentions and responses to a given moment or encounter. In fact, Martyn sometimes calls me an Animal Yeller, when he hears me out in the barn screaming,

"Georgeeeee!" at the goat who is always in trouble somehow.

My lack of saintness was never more apparent this past Thursday night when I found old Matilda lying, alone, in a far corner of the field, away from the herd. I had wrapped her legs entirely to protect against flies, with vet wrap. The sprays just weren't working as well this year. I figured she had an abscess because she was tender on one hind foot. But I could not for the life of me find one, or even detect heat. I brought her into the stall for the night, worried she might not be able to get up in a far part of the field. And then it dawned on me that the vet wrap might be too tight. I had also been adding layers of it as the wrap slowly slid down over the day. When I took the wrap off, I was appalled to see raw ulcerated areas. I had caught it in time, but she was swollen at the hock on the sore leg. I had certain meds but the next morning I called my vet and she was able to send another equine vet out that day. I was so glad they could come. We dosed her with stronger antibiotics and did intravenous anti inflammatories. I do not do any of my own intra-vein work, always leave that to a vet.

The vet was very helpful and reassuring I was not the year's worst equine owner. But I did learn I made a mistake with the vet wrap. We shaved her legs and I am doing 3x a day topical with a silver mixture. She is eating well, and the swelling is gone. Plus I can just tell she feels so much better. We also did some blood work as she lost some weight since spring when she had come out of winter looking so good. She is going to be 26 so there could be many reasons for this. My vet returns Tuesday to give non equine rabies shots, and we'll reassess her.

But anyway, I did not whisper anything to her. In fact, I just apologized. I know that animals do not hold grudges nor did she judge me for my error. She has always liked it when I work on her, so our routine now to get her over this - and the sores are already looking good- is just one more way to seal our bond.

Seeing her in the field that way gave me pause. I am not one to do heroics to keep an old animal alive. But, I am here to try to make what life they have left a good one and a comfortable one, within reason. Matilda is going to be 26, and I am of course very fond of her. Seeing her alone in the field, I wondered if she was beginning her transition, as an animal will often separate from the herd in their waning days, I've seen this over and over in my work. I think she was just horribly uncomfortable from the swelling. I hope that is the case. I don't want that goodbye right now, even though it will happen. Hopefully her blood work is fine.

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.