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

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Do not deduct from my life, she said

I finally got to have a long ride with Boone yesterday. We have not ridden together since October and in Oregon I rode all winter usually 2x a week since I had easy access to a barn and trails, and no icy winters. So it was a long time coming. I wondered if even at 19 if my noble steed might be frisky but he was just fine, and I can tell enjoyed himself. Before anything else, Boone is a trail horse.

The wind was consistently blowing which was perfect for an 80 degree day and heat-hating rider, and fly-hating horse. Boone is really sensitive to bugs so the wind was a pleasant addition to our ride. And we found some new paths to take thanks to a nearby property with horses that made some suggestions. I felt like we were on an adventure and I thought how far we had come since landing in Maine. I felt sturdy and confidant on the ride yesterday, mainly because I am reforming my identity here with new people and terrain, and that takes time.

I was thinking of my old friend Joanne, who died this year at age 85. She was my riding mentor and buddy and we rode right up until we left for Maine. She was the first person I thought of when I knew we were moving, and how I did not want to leave her, or our rides together. When she died I just was so sad even though she had a long life but a car accident took her in the end, a guy ran into her as she crossed a walkway at the hospital and she went into coma at some point, dying at home.

Joanne and I use to talk about aging, and how she did not like how her body was putting limitations on her, but her mind was clear. But she rode 2-3 times a week. She also talked about how others would try to put limitations on her as she aged. I saw this happen to my parents, especially my father who had many physical issues, and one by one he had to give up things like driving, smoking his pipe, walking the dog...things he loved. I had a recent conversation with a woman in her late eighties who wants to get another dog because her beloved pug died, but some think she should not because they think it would be unfair to the dog since she might not be around long. This woman said something that really stuck me: she said she did not like it when others wanted to take things away from her, to deduct things from her life.

I think this is the biggest challenge we face as we age-being deducted, being told we must conform and shrink with age, rather than to keep evolving into things we can handle physically.

I guess there are situations where an 85+ year old should not ride a horse, or buy another dog-but that is up to that person assuming they are of sound mind.
I thought of Joanne so many times on my ride, and felt she had prodded me to get back in the saddle yesterday even though it is a super busy week. I talked to her a lot. And I thought of how glad I was that she had not been forced or felt pressure to deduct riding from her life.

So to all the merging elders, and current elders, I say we must strive to add things into life, not shrink away. When we shrink back, and deduct, then it will be our time. I know at some point, the body and mind deduct on their own, but to be forced to give up things because someone deems it necessary is an unfair stance to put on an elder. Perhaps limitations mean you can't have a dog, or a horse, but perhaps there are solutions that could bring joy to the elder, an addition in their life.

That's why I want to work with the animals and elders in get togethers-it is an addition to their day, not a deduction.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Photobombed by a piglet and Earnest gets an edible fort

I was admiring the already growing pig pool, noticing that Eleanor had started her pool and then the piglets were creating another above it, almost creating a waterfall effect from upper to lower. In time, that pool will hold all nine piglets. I won't let you down and will get a picture of it as summer heats come on. If you don't have pigs, I will tell you that if you give them even drippings of water, by a faucet for example, they will make a wallow in no time. They use their strong snouts to dig the dirt. It is really fun to watch, and also makes you understand quickly the challenges of containing pigs due to those strong noses. They can also lift gates, or bend them if they are securely intact.

I was taking a photo of it and a flying bat came across my lens. They are like little bats right now, flying around the paddock at ease, stopping to sniff, then flying the other direction. When they get going all it once it's like a swarm of polk-a-dot flies.

There was great excitement in the barnyard yesterday morning, or was it Sunday? I came out to hear quite a bit of conversation,

"I don't know, maybe she planned it this way?" asked Goose.

"It's a fabulous gift, a tree fort over my water hole, and edible too," said Earnest.

I looked out to see a large limb had cracked off the nearby maple. Thankfully nobody was hurt. Unfortunately there is another larger limb that is dead, still upright and we will have to get help taking it down, sooner than later. I'm afraid it could easily pierce the barn, or take down the coop roof.

It's always something.

But for now, I imagine Earnest lying under his edible tree fort, sitting in his pig pool, nibbling on maple leaves as he cools his body in the heat.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rosie the pig continues to blossom, grumpily

I came upon Rosie this morning outside her sleeping suite visiting the grasses and  Ranunculus flowers nearby. When Rosie arrived at the old Apifera, she would roam a bit more, biting off grass blades and napping in the sun. But over time, her grumpiness grew and she preferred her own company, especially after Eleanor arrived. Even Stevie the Kissing Goat didn't seem to be able to entice her out of Old Barn, where she retreated to at one point, living for the last two years of our time there in  a private suite. Visiting chickens were allowed to roost near her, and the sounds and faces of passing sheep and donkeys on the other side of the fence did not bother her.

So each time I find her outside in her private paddock, it makes me happy.

"Rosie!" I always say.

"Rrumpf guru aaaa hrumph," she says. Sometimes she is calmed by having the backs of her ears rubbed, as she was today.

Rosie has also been found lying on the fence line that is shared on the other side by Earnest and the goats. I find him lying there too and it's heartening to see she seems to finally understand,

This is a pig, I am a pig. 

I would love to let Earnest in with her, but I just think it could be a disaster. He has tusks, number one, and he is much heavier and stronger than Rosie who has a weak hind end. If Earnest decided, as he probably would, that love making was needed, I'm afraid he could hurt her already weak hind end. So their get-togethers are like those of prison inmates, meeting at a designated dividing fence where they can touch noses. I can not imagine the pig squeals she would emit if their relationship was consummated. Fortunately, she was spayed before we adopted her, so should Earnest someday make a valiant effort to be with his grumpy cougar girlfriend, there would not be little grumpy Rosies in three months.

Martyn and I have laughed at this thought-Rosie with children. Would she eat them? We imagined them running around like gremlins, complete with horns.

There is only one Rosie and there will never be another one....perhaps this is good. But I've become very fond her royal highness, she and I have learned each other's languages and I am enjoying her new 'tender' side that emerge here from time to time.




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Opie the therapy goat has new elders to love

Opie and I made are way into Wiscasset today for our first visit with the residents of Wiscasset Green, a beautiful old house that now is permanent residence for seven elders.

Let me say right off, Opie is a natural healer. He has the Pino gene.

He strutted in there in his I'm a big boy now way and greeted everyone. We sat out in the home's lovely patio and started to get to know our new friends. We really had a wonderful visit and are so looking forward to getting to know the residents on a more personal level. Already, after a one hour visit, I feel inspired and refocused on making my life here in Maine about bringing animal and people-especially elders-together for mutual healing and sharing of story.

Even in one hour, the personalities of the residents began to emerge. I wonder what their life stories are? I hope to work on that over time, and share their stories. So many people look at elders as...being at the end of the line, finished with doing new things, or uninteresting. I see elders as a unique vessel of knowledge and experience, a child that continued on and led a long life, a human on a journey-with so many stories. Imagine if Abe Lincoln had lived to be 90 and was sitting on a park bench and nobody stopped to talk to him-what a waste! Why do we listen to the young, marvel at the child in the room talking, or the thirty something with a brilliant new novel, but we as a society in the whole aren't excited to sit and listen to our elders?

Well, Opie was excited. He does not choose who to share himself with based on their age, looks or physical limitations [just ask Sir Tripod Goat]. I am really excited to begin this new relationship. I plan to visit twice a month on Thursdays. We are also hoping to have a farm visit in the near future.

Opie's presence immediately brought out smiles. We all had something in common, despite our age differences-we all were inspired to touch and pet Opie. That led us to talking, about lots of things. There were a couple of really shy people there, or, maybe shy is not the right term-I need to interact more over the coming visits to get to know each person.

We also talked about bringing Pino and other Apiferians which was met with excitement. As we said our goodbyes, one of the residents made me promise we'd come back. And we will. Over and over. This is a covenant I have made internally with them. I learned way back when I used to take my old blind pug to visit with Rose, a resident of an assisted living facility, that I really thrive when I can have a smaller group to interact with, and it made it special to get to know Rose one on one. Just as Wednesdays became a light for Rose knowing the pug was coming, I hope that the residents of Wiscasset Green will wake up and think,

Oh good, it's Opie Day!

Warning: this is an ongoing fluid project for me and Opie and the other Apiferians. Stay tuned on this new adventure of our animal therapy.

This is Joe, he was so sweet and Opie rested on his shoulder
"You are so cunning'" she told Opie.

He gave and received kisses

This resident was very reserved but hopefully we will get to know her heart.

Saying goodbye to a chicken, hello to the lupine

I lost one of the hens last night. She was only a year or so and one day ago she took to laying about, not eating. I suspected a bound egg, from her appearance and behavior. I tried the usual olive oil drip and lubricating the vent, and I made her a scrambled egg-yes, I give scrambled eggs to my hens on certain occasions for protein, they love it. Ad no, I do not think it is canabalistic.

So last night I decided to put her back in the coop with the girls. She wasn't horribly weak and was walking a little, I thought she might work through it. But I could feel crunches when I gently massaged her sides.

She was gone this morning. The hens had been busy scratching for bugs and had partially covered her body. I became very brave and tried to do an autopsy of sorts, curious if I would find egg shells. But it got messy, and I buried her.

I hate losing chickens. But as an old farmer told me years ago,

"Chickens just...die sometime."

Or another,

"If you want chickens, you will lose chickens."

 I had named her Gracie because she was the only Sexlink of the Buff Orpingtons flock, The Secret Sisters. Gracie was much more personal than the flock of Buffs. My old Buffs were so friendly, this group, stand offish and a bit flighty for Buffs. So I was sad to say goodbye to Gracie.

To juxtapose the death of a friend who gave us beautiful food-the world's most perfect food,eggs-I enjoyed the Lupine on the drive. One must always look for a juxtaposition to a sad event to survive the human condition.




Monday, June 12, 2017

Little shares his mobile milk bar

That's Little on the far right.
Little was born 15 weeks ago on the coldest night of the season, and all his litter mates died of hypothermia. He struggled a bit in his first days, but he made it. I named him Little Lonely because certain situations require a name and he was so small, and alone. Once you see a litter interact, to see only one with nobody showing him the ropes was sad. But he's a chunk now and in the past few days, the new litter of his grandmother, Eleanor, has been allowed to romp and run outside for the first time. I underestimated how happy it was to see Little with his own kind, a litter he never got to have [which is why he is now a super chunk]. This morning as Eleanor took a break in her wallow-it is very hot today-Cornelia snorted around for dropped feed, and Little graciously allowed the litter to snack on his private milk bar. I sat and imagined the conversation.

"Wow, you're a huge piglet," said one of the litter.

"I'm older than you, I think that's the reason," said Little.

"You have your very own milk bar, wow," said the largest piglet.

"It's okay to have some milk, but don't take it all," said Little.

"What are we going to do today?" asked the little red runt girl, politely.

Just then she got bashed by her bigger brothers, and Little touched her nose.

"You took a direct hit, but you're okay," he told her.

"I'm used to it, but I have gilt power," she said.

Just then Cornelia made an about face and the milk bar was once again on the run.

"It's hard eating and running, isn't it?" asked Little as they all ran by the running teats.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Crone and donkeys

Available at shop
As an emerging crone myself, I think often of my life with animals, and how my crone-ness has been helped by our silent communions.

When I'm really old, I hope they are still with me.

This piece is dedicated to all the crones out there who live with animals, or once did, but could not continue. I hope you can still feel them. It will be my wish at that time, my hope, to die with animals still around me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pino and Opie have a gig!


Pino and Opie will accompany me and Martyn...or maybe I should say we will accompany them, to the Summer Social at Inn Along the Way on June 24th, in 741 Main St, Damriscotta.

It might not look like it in this photo, but this small room in the 100 year old barn will be set up in a very Apifera way, with books and art, bird balls, fiber and other goodies for the public. At my side will be Opie. Opie is turning into our pint size ambassador of love and I'm sure will grow his fan base each time he is out with the public. Pino and Martyn will be outside of the room, and Pino will be ready to give hugs and impart silent wisdoms.

There will also be kite flying, wagon rides, Round Top ice cream and the beauty of the farm.

We became familiar with Inn Along the Way last year when Pino made his first visit there. The Inn is located on what was Chapman Farm, in the same family for generations and now it will evolve into a eldercare community  for residents but will also provide respite and encouragement for families and caregivers helping their elders. A non-profit, the Inn will also be turning the old farmhouse into a cafe and place for visitors to rest, gather and stay over and will also be open to the public.

My hopes are to be a regular visitor there, with Pino, Opie and other Apiferians, to share the healing qualities of animals and people coming together. The Inn also reflects values that are important to me and Martyn-working with community to help our elders, but also engage the outside world while still maintaining nature as an integral part to a happy life-no matter your age or condition.

My work with animals is evolving, something I have been writing about as it emerges to take shape. Ever since working one on one with an elderly woman in a facility, weekly for one year with my old pug at my side, I knew I wanted to work more with elders and animals. At the old Apifera, I had open events but here due to our more central location, and my ability now to have a working trailer, I hope to increase therapy visits. I hope to do things on the farm too-but that will shape itself in time.

I hope maybe some of my readers from the Boston area or other states can pop up to Maine!

This room in the 100 year old barn will be transformed into an Apifera shop of books, art and fiber!