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Archive for July, 2011


Fresh and fragrant bundles of lavender harvested at Apifera Farm. Photo by Katherine Dunn.

It doesn’t get much better than riding horseback through fields of lavender.  That’s the delightful way I spent some time on a recent morning when I trailered my horse, Callie, to Apifera Farm a few valleys east of our own.

Donkeys may be telepathic. It doesn't seem to matter whether a thought is spoken or kept silent, donkeys seem to know what's on your mind. You can tell by the manner in which they twitch their ears--delicate ears that mimic the pointed tops of pickets in a fenceline. Photo by Katherine Dunn.

Apifera Farm is a magical place where “art and animals collide,” according to the description on the farm’s website. It’s the kind of place that takes caring for critters and crops seriously while fostering a sense of humor and lightheartedness about life in general. On the lane up to the cozy homestead, there’s an indicator of what’s ahead. A rough-edged, hand-painted wooden sign reads, “Watch for cats falling from trees.”

Mind you, I’ve seen no cascading cats on my visits to Apifera, but I’ve seen many other things that engage my heart, including the art of farm owner Katherine Dunn, which she describes as a combination of melancholy and hope.

Photos and poster by Apifera artist, Katherine Dunn, provide a hint of what's in store at the farm's annual fund-raising event.

My first visit to Apifera was during a small fundraiser for neglected donkeys. Billed as Pino Pie Day, Katherine and her husband, Martyn Dunn, have made this an annual summer affair with a country picnic feel. Basically, you share in a feast of delectable pies baked on-site the day prior by Katherine and a group of devoted pals.

In exchange for a few slices of pie, it’s hoped visitors will leave behind a donation to help fund the Dunns’ efforts to care for senior and/or physically challenged animals that come to Apifera for sanctuary. While the farm raises Katahdin sheep, it adopts old and crippled goats. Just this month, the Dunns brought home a senior goose and donkey plus a pot-bellied pig. Rosie, the pig, came from an 80-year-old woman a six-hour drive from Apifera.

Donkey-inspired aprons are treasured by cooks young and old at Apifera Farms' Pino Pie Day. Photos by Katherine Dunn.

Pie Day guests sit and savor pie slices between clotheslines hung with an apron array. The aprons, some handmade by Katherine and others from far-away spots on the map, are sold to benefit animal charities. Blowing slightly in the June breeze, the eclectic apron collection creates an artful back drop as well as an effective “for sale” display.

Fragrant outposts with armfuls of farm-grown lavender to purchase abound, too. Still, the donkeys are the main attraction, especially the event’s namesake, Pino. I found especially endearing the donkeys’ party dress — daisy-chain necklaces and artful messages carefully painted on their small hooves: “Hug Me,” and  “Love Me.”

Endearing messages painted on donkey hooves created a fashion statement at Apifera Farm's 2011 Pino Pie Day fund-raising event. Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman

Katherine claims there’s something healing about the combination of fresh pie, forest-scented air and hugs from donkeys with no hidden agendas. I agree: It’s impossible to look at a pair of donkey ears and not smile all the way to your heart. When you touch those soft, fuzzy ears, troubles disband and disappear for awhile.

Boone and Callie (right) tacked up and ready to tour the lavender fields at Apifera Farm in Yamhill, Oregon. Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman

Pino and his slender-eared partners, as well as chickens and livestock, wander through Katherine’s colorful contemporary folk art. Her horse, Boone, is another that shows up in Apifera art and blog posts. He’s a paprika-colored fellow that matched nicely alongside my red dun Callie.

As we rode the field’s perimeter and wove through the rows of lavender plants, Katherine explained that soon, hungry honey bees will gather on the purple-flowered stalks. That means harvest time for the lavender has arrived. Probably best we don’t wade into the lavender on horseback when bees are about: Katherine says the bees don’t mind, but I’m thinking the horses might!

You can see Katherine’s art at http://www.katherinedunn.com; and meet Apifera residents at http://apiferafarm.blogspot.com.

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Growing-up Will at play. Size-wise, the twice-orphaned kitten has some catching up to do, but he’s 100 percent healthy, at peace when purring and a most enthusiastic play pouncer.

You may recall the orphaned black kitten that barn cat Lilly mothered for a short while along with her own three babies. (Included in May 15 post on this blog.) The nurturing that Lilly gave that kitten, found mewling in a nearby ditch, probably saved its life. His name came to be Will, because of his strong will to live.

After a few days as nursemaid, Lilly moved Will to a spot in the tack room far away from the rest of the litter. One of my riding pals, Ella Mae, found Will cold to the touch and barely breathing. She worked hard that afternoon and barn owner, Teresa, through the night, keeping  the little guy warm and trying to convince him to nurse from tiny bottles of special mother-cat-like milk.

Cat caregiver, Betty, holds tiny Will, the four-ounce kitten she nursed to health after he was abandoned by his mother, then his proxy mom.

Shortly after that long, worrisome night, Will fell into the good graces of a very competent and generous cat caregiver, Betty. She was experienced with rescue and near-hopeless situations like Will’s seemed at the time: He only weighed four ounces and had to be fed by tube at first. Betty soon had Will on the mend. After several weeks under her watch, tiny Will became stronger, and his larger-than-life personality began to surface.

Will is now at home with Ella Mae’s son, Alan.  Will is still small for his age, but all health

Will at eight weeks with his new favorite person, Alan, the son of one of his rescuers.

and behavior reports are good: Will follows Alan around like a puppy might, hides under the covers and is a perfect apartment-mate, said Ella Mae.

Ya gotta love a happy ending! Especially when a kitten twice left to die well, defies the odds and, lives. Thank you Betty, Ella Mae, Teresa and Alan for serving much as godparents would to little Will.

Lilly’s own kittens are prospering in their new homes, too.  I have a little egg on my face, however. I jumped to the conclusion that the three were sisters; at least two have turned out to be brothers. Oops!

Photos by Ella Mae Hays

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Bubba the boar is the cornerstone of the Berkshire breeding program at Sky Ranch Boutique Swinery in Oregon. He’s just beginning to wake and stir, following his tusk trimming.

Say the word “tusk.” Elephants, and all manner of inhumane actions by ivory hunters, come to mind. Probably not pigs, which have sizable tusks, too.

Swine tusks are actually two elongated front teeth that stick up on both sides of a male pig, or boar’s, mouth. Tusks are built like other teeth with a pulp cavity and root surrounded by dentine and enamel. Tusks can grow to be an inch thick and several inches long in a breeding-farm pig’s typical 10-to 15-year lifespan. In the wild, tusks provide pigs protection from predators and other sow suitors.

I learned all this when I met a Berkshire pig named Bubba. His tusks make him look downright fearsome!  He is actually 900 solid pounds of well-mannered, docile boar with a tough-skinned black head the size of a very large beach ball. Bubba is head guy at Sky Ranch Boutique Swinery where he and his “girls” receive the best in health care. When his 5-year-old tusks began to look like they might rub on his lips, it was time for some porcine dentistry.

The morning the veterinarian arrived for Bubba’s dental, he had burrowed (at least it looks like burrowing as pigs arrange their beds with their powerful snout.) into layers of straw where he was enjoying some “down” time. Gently, the vet checked the too-long tusks of the sleeping boar. Yep, the ends needed to be clipped off with a  giggly wire, a metal material with little saw-like teeth. It wouldn’t hurt, the vet explained.

Bubba’s so gentle, he’ll lay his head in your lap. But he didn’t much like the vibration and rocking pressure created by the wire sawing back and forth alongside his snout. After a small dose of fast-acting anesthetic, Bubba was again asleep. The vet removed about three inches of tusk on each side. No easy task: It took two people to lift his massive head a few inches off the ground, so that the vet could achieve the proper angle with the wire. The procedure took about 20 minutes. Bubba was awake again in no time.

Wild boar tusks have played a significant role in some indigenous cultures where they were used to trade and to make ceremonial helmets, masks and jewelry. Tusks are still used as a form of currency on Vanuatu‘s remote Pentecost Island northeast of Australia. Not Bubba’s tusk tips. They’ve joined the ranch’s collection of farm and nature finds – bird nests, egg shells, interesting rocks and unusual twigs. And Bubba is back with his Berkshire sows, Lucy, Moxy and Jetsy.

The vet clipped off a few inches of Bubba’s too-long tusks. In the wild, tusks can reach several inches in length and an inch in diameter. They offer boars protection from predators and other boars that covet their sows. Photo by Adam Sherman.

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We’ve launched a series of seasonal greeting cards for animal lovers.

The inaugural set of four represents “summer,” because it is such an extra-special time in the country. It’s a blessing to see so many quickly growing newborn farm and wild animals — as well as crops — at every turn in the road. We thought you might enjoy sharing some of our memorable warm-weather moments with the animals.

Click on the “Free Offers for Animal Lovers”  link to the right, https://animalsoureverything.wordpress.com/greeting-cards/. Download and print a card(s), then send it to a friend.

We tend to think that in the swirl of email news and greetings we’ve grown accustomed to, finding a greeting card in the actual mailbox might just be a welcome surprise.

Thanks! And remember, all four cards are yours at no cost and without obligation.

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A few weeks back, I shared five autobiographical vignettes and asked you to guess which tale was true.

An element of truth exists in each of the five; however, #3 is the correct choice. That’s the one about my traveling to a remote horse sale in a Tinker-toy size plane that landed — quite abruptly — in a field with its nose butting up against the foot of a very large mountain.  Two blog readers made the right choice: The winners are M. Shultz and C. Bryant.

Here’s a recap of the ones not 100 percent true.

#1. I did stand alongside a former college beau when he threw his wedding ring from the Golden Gate Bridge. But he was with the military and stationed in Germany, not Australia.

#2. I did have a girlfriend who had a job as a flight attendant on the private jet of an oil sheik. She did spend a lot of time in a safe compound in Dhahran waiting for the sheikh’s next flight out.

#4. It was my husband’s family who lived in South America and had pet chows. It was my father-in-law, not my uncle, who was with the Peace Corps there.

#5. I did spend many weekends at my childhood friend’s home in Bodega Bay. “The Birds” was filmed there. We never played at the town’s school, she didn’t have a dog and no, we weren’t Hitchcock extras.

Thanks to all of you who played along

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Still regal at nearly 20 years old, Shadow enjoys his windowsill vantage point. Photo by Adam Sherman.

(PLEASE TAKE THE POLL AT THE END OF THIS POST. THANKS.)

I wonder: Does a white-tailed, floppy-eared doe consider a mid-size black house cat to be prey, predator, or a curiosity?

On a morning trip to the chicken coop, I noticed a deer near our woodpile. She was looking intently at the ground. When I left the coop a little later, the hens were complaining as always at being robbed of their nest’s goods. Sometimes, they get so dramatic, they make sounds that are much like a growl.

I thought that‘s what I was hearing as I noticed the doe remaining in exactly the same position as before. I shuffled my feet in the gravel, but even that didn’t startle her.

Now I was curious. Slowly, I approached to see if the deer was perhaps focused on a fawn at her feet. No fawn; instead a shadowy silhouette, shaped like a cat’s head. My near-20-year-old black cat, Shadow, sat frozen just inches from the doe, staring up at her. It was him doing the growling, nearly as deep and loud as a dog’s. The young doe and the sweet, but a tad demented, old-man cat, were staring each other down. Shadow would never be able to avoid a direct hit if she decided to give him a hoof.

I yelled at both of them and made big cartwheel moves with my arms. That diverted the doe. She turned and calmly walked toward the forest. Shadow scurried as best he could into the shop and hid under a big, red toolbox the rest of the day. He wasn’t injured but was suffering a little post-drama trauma.

I’ll always wonder who saw who first that day.

Next day, Lilly the barn cat ran zig-zagging into the arena where my horse, Callie, was loose and cavorting. After a few minutes of zipping around in the sandy footing, Lilly froze and stayed that way. Eventually, Callie caught sight of the gray-and-white cat and sauntered toward her. Callie stretched her neck down to sniff Lilly, then shook her head as if inviting Lilly to play.  I hoped Callie’s next move would not be “playfully” striking out with her front feet.

Lilly stayed stock still. She had a baby vole or gopher under her paw that she was not going to part with come Hell or hooves. Callie gave Lilly another sniff then turned to egg on Sam, the blue heeler sitting outside the arena waiting for a sign the chase-each-other-down-the-fence game was on.

Cats seem to be feeling quite empowered this week.

Folk-art style stick pony, or hobby horse, typical of those recently used as real horse proxies during a rodeo-queen-style contest in Utah.

STICK HORSE STAND-INS

More than 50 horse, burro and mule events in the United States and Canada were canceled in May and June when a highly contagious, often-fatal illness, equine herpes virus (EHV-1), struck in 10 western states. Ninety cases of EHV-1 were confirmed. Of these, 13 became fatalities, according to the USDA.

EHV-1 spreads easily from horse to horse through nose contact, contaminated tack, equipment and clothing. To help prevent the spread of EHV-1, state veterinarians invoked quarantines and instructed owners and trainers not to move their horses away from home stables for any reason.

Still, one show went on minus the horseflesh:  a Utah mounted posse junior queen competition. The contestants rode, well, stick horses, to demonstrate their horsemanship and knowledge of the required routines.

This gambit received national media attention: Some viewers and readers commented that the stick pony substitution set these young women up for ridicule. Others believed it a lesson in creative problem-solving.  I like to think it made people smile — and not at the expense of the queen hopefuls.

The contest judges certainly were able to get  a clear picture of how each contestant adapts to uncomfortable situations. How could you not feel

Pink polka dots add a fancy touch to this stick pony. These toys also became known as hobby horses in 1500s England when keeping horses for recreation, as opposed to draft work, took hold with the royal and wealthy.

self-conscious without your trusty live mount to carry you to victory? Let’s hope the young competitors felt gracious, not graceless, as they moved around the arena demonstrating gait changes, figure-eights and other maneuvers.

Prime time stick ponies got me to thinking about my childhood stick horses, also known as hobby horses since the 1500s. My favorite was the color of a palomino with a creamy mane and tail. Do you remember yours?

Or perhaps this old English nursery rhyme rings a bell:

I had a little hobby horse,
and it was dapple grey;
its head was made of pea-straw,
its tail was made of hay.

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK: What the stick ponies bring to mind is the 12-step phrase, “Take the world as it is, not as it ought to be,” (or “as you would have it”). This valuable insight points to the importance of being able to adapt and take things in stride. There’s a group of young horse women in Utah who know how.

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