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

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Light on Pig and Pup, squeals and understanding

Back when Marcella first arrived as an eight week old pup, she took a shine to the newly arrived piglet, Earnest. Many of you enjoyed those early months of Pig and Pup, going everywhere together, whether the pig wanted the pup by his side or not. He put up with so much from that pup. It was charming and funny, over and over.

Their relationship remains strong but has evolved like all relationships do. Right now they are both going on four and I would say they are in their early 'let's get our boundaries rehearsed' stage as far as behavior. Earnest could kill Marcella if he really wanted to with his tusks and strength. She could also do some damage on him if she felt she needed to. When I feed Marcella in the morning, I also feed some of the goats, and Earnest, away from Marcella. The game for Marcella is to eat her dog food as fast as she can so she can then go to Earnest's food, and Earnest's game is to eat as fast as he can so he can steal goat food. The three goats in that paddock-Moose, Goose and Wilbur eat as fast as they can so they can go out to the grazing area and leave the grown Pig and Pup sideshow. By the time I've left that barn to go out and feed equines, Benedetto, grumpy pig and sheep, I usually hear the screams of Earnest and barks of Marcella. To the passing stranger, this might sound scary and severe-but it is not. People need to live with animals to understand their language. Pigs scream, often, they have a very big vocabulary of screams that can mean anything from

"I'm scared, or I'm dying, to I have my head stuck in a fence. They also have various levels of grunts and squeals to equate joy, happiness, or 'get out of my way that's my food dish". When Earnest screams in the morning, I know he is telling Marcella to bud out, and he is usually saying it as he runs from her–for Marcella is still and will always be, I suspect, the alpha.

But then later in the day I go to visit, and there they are, together, bathed in afternoon light, quiet and content. I sit down to give Earnest belly rubs, and over comes Marcella, she always comes to me in the barns and paddocks. There is a bit of,

"Pet me first," from her, but not in an aggressive way. Since she came to me as a pup, we have a strong relationship and understanding of accepted and non accepted behavior. She challenged me a lot in the first couple years but has matured, and I have to say, as a caretaker of a Maremma, so have I. I respect that dog like no other I've had-for her ability to cause me harm, but also her ability to sense danger and when something isn't 'quite right.'

I love seeing them in light from the heavens.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's another episode of The Very Bad Haircut!

I'm notorious in the barnyard for my raggedy haircut skills. Not only have I taken to whacking off my own hair clumps when needed [soon to happen], I also am in charge of giving haircuts to Martyn and anyone else that needs one...like the llama.

I could pay $35 and have a guy come do it, but I actually like doing it. I will use the fiber for Birdie Bird Balls so a non sheered hair cut is just fine with me. However, it takes me a couple days because I use scissors, and I do her body first then her neck, and then rest couple days and do her legs, which she hates. So right now the llama is walking around with a poodle cut on her neck and body and goofy untrimmed legs and belly.

I figured there was no point in a tight sheer since it is almost August.

I apologized to her for the non Ms. Universe styling job but she didn't care. And it's fun to see her spots come out again. She left the barn and Benedetto greeted her immediately, he was very enamored with her new look, and walked with her side by side for some time.

"That's a pretty bad haircut, but you are still beautiful," I heard him say.

And they trotted off to a dusting spot together for a good roll.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A miracle at Apifera! Rosie the pig explores the countryside!

Rosie venturing out of her comfort zone
No matter your religious beliefs, it is nice to experience a miracle or two in one's lifetime.

And a miracle has occurred here at Apifera.

I went out to do morning feedings and did a double take in the sheep field. Rosie was grazing with them. Now this might not seem like such a big deal to many of you, but it is, it really is.

You see, her royal highness has not left her private suite and paddock for over a year, and back in Oregon she had not left her Old Barn suite to even go out and get some sunbaths. If you've been following along, you know that The World's Grumpiest But I'm Fine As I Am Pig has very particular needs-sunscreen for her tender skin, just the right bedding so as to help her dream state, and privacy. But in the last months we are seeing her blossom in her older age, to flirting through the fence with Earnest, and to venturing outside more and more in her private paddock.

In the last few days, I've left the gate into Her Most Tender One's paddock open, because there is so much long grass and I wanted the sheep to eat it down-her pigness just doesn't graze fast any more and sleeps most of the time. I left the gate open in the past days since Rosie just doesn't venture out and that way the sheep could come and go.

But there she was, enjoying her grass this morning far from her comfort zone.

We think Rosie is pretty much blind. I think she still has her hearing, and her hind end is arthritic or appears to be so she doesn't move very fast. She's always had an odd walk for a pig. It was so nice to see her out and I decided to let her be, but checked on her mid day to see if she was okay, since she can't see. I found her in the sheep barn with the flock, looking like she really wanted to find her sleeping spot. So I went and guided her to her suite.

There was a time when I thought Rosie had come to a point where life wasn't good for her anymore. I feared the trip to Maine and the winters here might do her in-but no way would I rehome her because I don't think there are many people who delight in grumpy pig needs. And once I commit, I commit. She had lost some weight and her skin was having issues. She was so grumpy for those last couple years in Oregon, no vet could really work on her. I had one though that knew pigs well and always came to my aide and we always got a chuckle out of it all. We had to get a microchip in her for the trip and that was a challenge but we did it. She had a great trip out in her private sleeping chamber, and I think the summers here are better on her since it isn't as dry. Her skin is looking good and her weight is a better. Next spring she will be ten. That is getting up there for a pig.

So Rosie had a good day. I hope she has many more. She is some pig.

Even the sheep greeted her

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Little Garden I love

Martyn and I do something very well together-create gardens. Our fist gardens were in our side by side houses in Portland, Oregon, where we met. I had started my raggedy garden in my own way, and Martyn-an experienced landscaper for some 20 years, became part of that garden after we became friends and then a couple. It was there Martyn learned that sometimes certain weeds-like Queen Anne's Lace-are a welcome addition to the garden, and I learned the beauty of grasses and other plants I'd never known in Minnesota. I learned to see plants as textures as well as colors.

Martyn also showed me the beauty of rock walls with sedums and herbs, something I love to watch him create. He has learned that sometimes a mass planting of one type of plant is a welcome addition to the garden, versus always going for the mix of species.

So in time, we blended our styles.

Our little private garden is more compact than in Oregon, as is our farm even though it is 29 acres versus 22 acres out West. I have grown to cherish it and my misty eyes when thinking of the more ranch setting out West do not come to me that much. This is our home now.

I was also happy to transplant wild daisies, Black Eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace and Feverfew form the outer fields. I just love giving existing plants a new life somewhere-versus getting eaten down by the animals out in the fields.

We are working on the front area too, which will be a place of gardens and an area for visitors to enjoy nature, flowers and animals. All this is happening this year, I hope. We will be putting up a shelter out front for visitors and I want to have a separate holding paddock for Pino, Opie and other animals that will be able to commune with guests and elders or special needs people-which is part of the mission of the forming Apifera 501c.

In the meantime, the garden is lovely, and only a year old. We welcome the summer rains here, and our well water is much better here than out West-for that we are truly blessed. I am glad I had to live for a long time in a drought area, in order to respect water more. So many don't, they turn on a faucet and don't think about it. Even though we have great water, we still treat it like it could be gone tomorrow. But I often think of the West when I work in the garden or water the animals, and I'm glad we are here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Birdie knows

Birdie has been overly attentive to me since I had my accident. There are skeptics out there, I'm sure, that will say it is because she might be in heat. There is some merit to this argument-when I went to the llama farm in Oregon to pick out a llama, Birdie was under 6 months then, and she came right up to me and was overly amorous. At the time, I was looking for a llama to live with the sheep and I knew that old Aldo was most likely not long for the world since he was almost 20 [he did pass on the next year]. The llama breeder was curious too as to Birdie's overly attentive behavior to me, she said it was not really that usual, and suggested if I wanted a guard she might not be the best candidate.

But I fell for her...hard.

And I'm so glad I did. Birdie continued to show overly lovey dovey behavior to me. Sometimes, I did sort of feel like she was in heat, and I had the sense she just might mount me someday! But she never has. She has proven herself to be a love giver to visitors and I truly believe it is just her way-to be amorous.

So when I came back out to the barnyard the first time after I got back from the hospital, she came right up to me. She followed me in an earnest fashion all over the place. This has continued though my recovery and even last night she was still by my side when I showed up to feed the equines.

I do believe she knows I was a bit off, moving a bit slower than usual. But I think animals have senses they have worked since their birth in ways that perhaps humans once did-that helped us survive as a species. And just as some people have more in tuned senses and a gift for reading feelings of other human beings for healing purposes, I think some animals are more intuitive than others. Birdie appears to be one. Of all the animals I have cared for in the past 15 years, there have been some that just are more in the healer category-Stevie the Kissing Goat was on top of that list, Pino is a healer, Opie is what I would call a joyful healer sharing his joy and zest for life to bring good things to others and Benedetto and Marcella have deep instincts that appear to be healing for me. Benedetto seems to draw people to him and his eyes tell a history of feelings I think, and I often share things with him through our eyes when I need a strong dose of...It's going to be okay.

I particularly loved the image I took here of her walking towards me as I entered the field, the barn centered in the background, her eyes were intent on me. Minutes later I did a selfie of woman and llama-I see the face of a 59 year old emerging crone who is getting used to the looks of that age, and the face of a llama that has eyes of Bambie and a smile to make any age swoon.

I'm glad I listened to my ownself when I picked her out.