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Archive for the ‘Farm Animals’ Category


Our in-town neighbors. These two fine-looking llamas live in a pasture along a country-like lane a few blocks from our new home. We have a new address is in a small, but still-rural, town. Our  house may be suburban in style, but all around looks and feels like country. So we feel right at home.

For awhile, our cats went into hiding, because we moved their cheese. Well, actually, their food bowls — and their address. Ours, too.

We’ve spent the last month moving from the country into town. I worried a lot about how the stress of moving our household would impact our two felines, especially old, black Shadow, who’s 19.

As expected, the cats crept out of their crates into the new garage with great anxiety, then hid in plain sight in the maze of boxes. I expected them to be covert for days.

After only a day of coaxing with tuna, Shadow sullied forth. I made a trail of treats to help him find his food and water bowls.

When I peeked into the garage later that day, the younger, gray-striped cat, Mama, was there at the food bowl alongside the old gent. His presence had reassured her.

Now, a few weeks later, the cats are allowed into the backyard where they look and sniff around with timid curiosity.

Mama scrambles the fence, peeks over, then crawl-jumps back down and heads for the new back door. She’s sporting a pink collar with a bell and a name tag, so if she does wander, we have a good chance of tracking her down.

Mama cat has turned playful since we’ve begun to settle in – something we didn’t see a lot of when we lived in the sticks. Perhaps she feels safer here without all that forest — and coyotes — around.

Shadow simply curls up on the soft rug in the new living room and sleeps, or finds a windowsill and worships the rays when he can find them. (This June the sun is so rare that when it does poke through the clouds, it seems rather guilty, like a finger drawn though frosting on a just-made cake.)

Our two Labradors are enjoying the new backyard, too. The sturdy fence means we no longer have to supervise their outdoor time. Out in the country there was always the worry they’d take off chasing a deer or a duck. The hens are laying again, so all is well in their world, too.

The pets have been the leaders and teachers in our new living situation. At first, we pined for the countryside with its far-reaching views and woodland hush.

But we’re loving our new digs in this small rural town of 1,750. It’s four minutes from things instead of 40.

It turns out the country is actually only two blocks away. We hear nearby geese, a rooster and cows. And deer wander into the grassy lot next door.

Each time I walk, I try a new path in order to get to know the neighborhood. This morning Kobe and I discovered a path where pavement gives way to dirt and gravel. Around a turn in the lane is a lush and lovely spot called Half-Ass Ranch. There, we stopped to watch two llamas as they watched us back with curiosity and caution. It felt like coming home.

For my family, the recent weeks have been filled with a recurring animal lesson: Adapt and thrive. And we are.

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A typical winter dawn at stunning Running Mountain Ranch, site of the Open Barn affair on New Years Eve day. Photo by Tish Pollock

Now, this is the way to spend New Year’s Eve: On horseback with animal-loving womenfolk!

Good friends Tish and Stacy began musing about having a ring-in-the-new-year party shortly before Christmas. An open house affair was discussed. That quickly morphed  into the idea of an Open Barn  to be held  at Tish’s on New Year’s Eve day. Party central would be the covered arena at the hub of her sprawling working ranch. Running Mountain Ranch is a rural sanctuary in the coastal hills of Western Oregon.

Looking down on the Running Mountain Ranch barns and arena from a trail in the hills above the Open Barn party site. Photo by Tish Pollock

Tish’s barn stretches on forever and is full of her Arabians and the strapping  warm-blood show horses of boarders. What a treat to watch these big-boned steeds being ridden by Tish’s resident dressage trainer, Lynne Salewski. She makes these guys move with grace and glory.

Dressage trainer Lynne is silhouetted as she mounts Cobus, the Friesian that starred in the 2009 movie, "The Dark Horse." Poor guy, he's big and brave, except for the poinsettia you see in the background. It must have looked like a weird predator to him: It scared the easy-going horse to trembling. Photo by James Sherman

One of them, a  giant black Friesian named Cobus, is even a movie star. He and Lynne were in the 2009 movie, “The Dark Horse,” acclaimed at several international film festivals. And yes, Cobus was  the leading man.

Quite fittingly, Stacy affectionately refers to Cobus as the  Antonio Banderas  horse — after the famous dark-eyed movie star.

I think we all felt a little starlet-like riding our horses around such a grand facility.  Something was happening in every corner. Some riders were giving cutting horses a  “play-date” experience completely devoid of competition and cows. Others were having easy rides on tried-and-true trail horses. Some rode English, others Western.

My Gal Gallop pals astride on New Years Eve day.From left to right, Katherine, whose horse is named Boone; Stacy on Sparky; Kelsey on Tucker; Diane on Bobby; and me on Callie. Photo by Jim Sherman

Stacy was astride her prancing senior-citizen black Morgan, Sparky. He seemed to have the most spark of any horse that day; hence his name, we presume. There was a long-legged paint, Tucker, ridden by Stacy’s daughter, Kelsey; another paint called Velvet; and of course, my Callie, who was quite excited to be out of her usual environs.

Tish also raises bearded collies and is active in herding dog circles; hence, several dog handler friends  and their fast and focused dogs were on-hand, busily urging sheep and ducks here and there. It’s always a treat to watch these savvy dogs at work.

Tish raises bearded collies at Running Mountain Ranch. This photo was taken the day the herding switch flipped for young Rock. It was like he awoke from a nap and suddenly knew what he'd been born to do. Then off he went, sweeping and dodging behind the wooly trio as Tish (upper left) helped direct the ewes for him.

I think it’s safe to say my hands, gloved and all, were colder than they’d ever been after some of us struck out to make a few loops around the wooded hillsides and slopes.

When we got our chilly selves back to the barn, I dismounted, pulled off my gloves, held my hands under Callie’s muzzle, and let her warm breath defrost them.

Once the horses were groomed and blanketed, we headed for the party room – the office in the barn.  Fudge, cookies, ham, biscuits and other delicious traditional holiday snacks and good cheer were waiting. The riding now done (Drinking and riding are not a good combo when it comes to staying safe in your saddle and atop your horse.), Tish had  chilled champagne waiting as well as mulled cider.

Tish is known for attention to detail, and her touch was quickly evident at the Open Barn. She had red, white and pink poinsettias placed along the edge of the arena with the sky as background. And she’d made the cutest little cheese-ball snowman complete with scarf and a carrot nose –a mini horse treat perhaps?

Actually, it became a dog treat later that day when Tish was transporting the  too-cute-to-eat snowman from barn to home post-party. She left a car door open when she went to get something else to return to her  kitchen. A visitor hurriedly jumped into the car. It was  Maverick, one of her bearded collies. “Mav” had his way with the cheese ball until Tish returned moments later . Then he abruptly exited the car with a leap, telltale pieces of nuts and cheese flying off his silky, hairy lower lip.

IT WAS  THE PERFECT TIME TO SHOW OFF MY NEW SLEIGH BELLS

These World War I - era sleigh bells were a Christmas gift from a friend who has known my animal-loving ways since childhood. Sleigh bells were commonly referred to as horse bells in Europe and rural America. Photo by Adam Sherman

The 30-bell strand was a  Christmas present from my oldest and dearest friend, Karen. I’ve been animal crazy since birth, I think. Karen, not so much. But she ALWAYS honors that about me. She and I do share a love of antiques and the history they carry forward. When she came across these World War I-era sleigh bells, she said she knew they were destined for me.

The bells were found in an old barn in Vermont. They’re extra-special and pretty hard-to-find, because they are circa World War I. Before the war, bells were created from brass. During the war, all brass was sucked into the making of shell casings, creating a brass shortage. Other available metals, especially tin and nickel, were used  as a brass substitute.

That’s how Karen knew these hushed-sounding  jingle bells were authentic — and antique: They have a gentler, more muffled sound than brass bells. Much lovelier to the ear in my book. I wonder what the horses would say about the bells’ differing sounds?

It was fun hearing the “oohs” and “awes” when I  showed them off during the ride after-party.

Tish, consider this as a tip of riding helmets and snow caps from us to you. Thanks for a blue-ribbon day. You throw a swell out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new party:  Dogs and horses concur.

The patina of the table contrasted with the deep, dark brown of the leather, reminds me of sunlight drifting into a barn through a hayloft window. Sun rays set the same mood in barns today. Oh the stories theses bells could tell about farming America in wartime. Photo by Adam Sherman


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Couartesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/My critters  are at the top of my Christmas list. (Sorry friends and family, but they are both to me.)

And they’re so easy to gift – at little or no cost. Here are a few ideas for homemade cat, hound, horse, herd and  hen offerings.

Please use your own good judgment about the safety of offering these items to your particular pet(s).

  • EASY, COST-FREE, CATCH-IT-IF-YOU-CAN CAT TOY:  Cut a wire clothes hangar, and bend it straight into one longish piece.

Push one end of the wire into the middle of a cork – made of actual cork — from a wine bottle. Be sure the wire pushes tightly into the cork.

Tie some yarn or found feathers on the wire and around the cork. Voila: A lightweight, bouncy cat toy rises from recycled or repurposed items. Oh yes, you, the gifter, are part of the toy. You must make it swing and bob. This nifty little toy should entice even an “I’m too proud to play” feline to paw and pounce.

  • EASY, COST-FREE, TUG- OR CHASE-IT DOG TOY:  Find an old piece of fabric or a worn T-shirt. Be sure to choose fabric that won’t fray: If you don’t, the dislodged fibers may get lodged in your dog’s throat or belly.

Cut three strips about three feet long.

The width of the strips is somewhat dependent on the size and pull-power of your pooch. I make them about 4 inches wide for my Labs’ toys.

Bunch one end of the strips together, and tie a knot. Braid the three strips, making the weave super tight at every twist and turn. This makes the braid tighter and stronger and more apt to withstand dog-dog or dog-owner tugs of war. Tie off the other end with a square knot.

This is my Labs’ inside toy of choice. They tease each other into games of push-me-pull-me and keep-away that sometimes last for 20 minutes or more. We get to enjoy their sly gamesmanship.

  • LOW-COST, SWEET HORSE TREAT: What’s as sweet as a sugar cube and red and white all over? A friend of mine boards her horse at a stable where candy canes with horses’ names appear in tack rooms and on stall doors this time of year.

Break a cane into small, crumbly pieces and spread in the palm of your hand. Offer your flat, sweetened palm to your horse. Wait for the delicious slurping sounds made as the  candy is licked away. You’re apt to be rewarded with soft knickers and  nuzzles  as you’re searched for more.  Our steeds enjoy the sweet, mint flavor of candy canes as much as Santa does cookies and milk along about midnight Christmas Eve. Be sure you limit how much sugar you offer your pony.

  • LIGHT READING FOR PIGS:  If you happen to be a keeper of pigs, consider giving them a pick-me-up: Toss them a newspaper, minus Christmas and other ads on slick paper. A coverless phone book works, t00.

The papers aren’t for eating but for playing. A friend who raises pigs says they enjoy rooting through the news and tossing headlines every which way. It appears to be perfect pig play.

After the pigs have had their way with the pages, the newsprint is prey for hog hooves to return it to the soil. The pigs’ weight and walking-about start the newspapers on a journey to become part of the pasture.

  • FLOCK FULL OF FUN:  Safely hang a head of lettuce or cabbage from a chicken coop, fence post, or low-hanging tree. Place it at a height barely reachable by your feathered friends.

Be sure to secure it with something your chickens won’t want to  consume. Then sit back and watch them chicken-dance,  jump up and peck at it. You’ll find a resemblance to children (and adults) swinging comically at a birthday pinata.

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December is the perfect time to share some animal-related posts I’ve landed on here and there on the Web.

  • Dog lovers, get your Kleenex or hankies: These photos, about a dog’s guide dog, will touch you to tears

“Within the heart of every stray lies the singular desire to be loved. Lily is a great Dane who has been blind since a bizarre medical condition required that she have both eyes removed. For the last five years, Maddison, another great Dane, has been her sight. The two are, of course, inseparable. ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ” Substitute the word “people” with the word “dog,” and that works, too. http://rossparry.co.uk/. Photos by Ross Parry , United Kingdom

  • Cat lovers: An alluring cat named Usyaka,caught in the act  in photos taken by her devoted human, Alexandra. I enjoy how creatively Alexandra uses light to make ordinary shots into fashion statements and art. See more of Usyaka at usyaka.wordpress.com. Photos by Alexandra.

  • Tis the Season to Bee-lieve. Click the link below and read a poignant tale that connects Pearl Harbor Day and the life of a b http://honeybeesandme.com/.

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The Apifera Farm greeting committee includes a variety of hens and a rooster or two. Gesture drawing by Janet Herring-Sherman

Autumn’s eve was approaching the weekend I tried my hand at art. I attended a workshop with a barnyard as studio and farm animals as models. The subjects, rescued donkeys, goats, sheep and a pot-belly pig, plus chickens, ducks and a horse named Boone, were quite willing subjects. Well, all but Rosie, the somewhat grouchy little pig.

I figured since animals were at the heart of the exercise, I might stand a chance at drawing something that looked at least a little life-like. Several of the six women who attended the workshop are quite gifted and well-established artists.  A few, like me, are “nouveau art.”

Our instructor and host, artist and author Katherine Dunn, insisted artistic talent wasn’t a requirement to attend. All we needed, she’d said on registration, was curiosity and a soft spot for animals. So there we were on a drippy, chilly Oregon morning gathered in a weathered barn at Katherine’s  Apifera Farm in Yamhill, an hour south of Portland. The workshop, “Gestural Drawings to Capture the Essence,”  began with instructions to sit silently and commune with the critters.

Being in Apifera’s old hay barn, as regal as an old growth redwood, seemed déjà vu. I felt much as I had the time I walked into the majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Each of these places has a well-preserved  awe, a particular quiet and a distinct smell of must and earth – from hay and manure traces in the barn and from incense and burning candles in the church. That old barn felt a lot like a place of worship. I mean that as praise not blasphemy: The times I’ve felt nearest to God have been in the company of animals.

Inside that barn, with three pair of donkey eyes watching, our group seemed to breathe a collective sigh – as if shedding the hustle-bustle world. It proved impossible to worry about jobs, school,  bills or families while under donkey scrutiny.

My very-novice gesture drawing of a member of the trio of rescued mini-donkeys now enjoying life at Apifera. By Janet Herring-Sherman

Katherine describes Apifera as a place where animals and art collide. I see it more as comfortable collusion than collision. I’m convinced, for instance, that, the Pygmy goat, Old Man Guinnias, and the piebald donkey, Matilda, conspired as to when one would stand and pose, and the other sidle up and nibble at our tablets.

The Apifera herd members really were most accommodating as we attempted to capture them in gesture drawings: These are quick, fluid drawings, often completed in short spurts, that capture the essence of a movement, a line, a shape or a feeling.

When I was young and yearning for a horse of my own, I drew hundreds of horses to keep me company. I learned to draw them pretty well. But getting the essence of these donkeys onto paper eluded me much of the day. As my sketchbook filled with my attempts, I reminded myself that my only “formal” art training was an elementary drawing class I took with my son when he was young.

In her art and writing, Katherine pays great homage to donkey ears. Now I know why. They are, well, captivating in a warm, fuzzy way. The donkeys have a secret language of ear play. I found it hard to turn away.

The real Matilda at rest in the Apifera barn, donkey ears and all. Photo by Katherine Dunn.

I’m especially fond of the splayed-ear look. When donkeys are at rest or feeling content and safe, their ears relax and fall sideways. Catawampus my dad would have called it. My attempt at drawing ears-at-rest ended with what looked like a donkey wearing a floppy hat. It was so out of whack, it made me smile. During show-and-tell, the others chuckled, too. It was all in good fun.

Gesture drawing of Matilda, Apifera's rescued donkey. By Janet Herring-Sherman

Matilda is the two-toned donkey Katherine most recently rescued from a life of neglect. I was struck by the strength of Matilda’s cheeks and jawbones. Since she’s about as tall as my torso, I could reach out and feel the curves, angles and muscles in a way I haven’t with taller horses. I tried to show that solid, rugged part of her donkey physique in profile.

Everyone at the workshop was taken with Matilda’s eyes and ears; as we were with those of the smaller mini donkeys, Pino, Paco, Lucia. Each in the trio was diminutive and demure. It’s easy to see why these barnyard muses so frequently appear in Katherine’s paintings. You might say that Pino has hee-hawed his way to a place beyond the farm: He’s evolved into a puppet, created by Katherine, that stars in her clever Apifera videos.  You can see Pino at http://www.apiferafarm.blogspot.com/.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet hugged a donkey or scratched a pair of donkey ears, I suggest adding “dancing with donkeys” to your bucket list. Apifera proved a place of respite. The donkeys and company made it so.

To see a video of Apifera animals, the workshop and some of the illustrations that resulted, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pdyBbR1ePg&feature=youtu.be.

My attempt at catching a goat on the move during a gesture drawing workshop at Apifera Farm in Yamhill, Oregon. By Janet Herring-Sherman

 Special Note: I just learned that two of the senior-citizen rescued goats at Apifera, Honey Boy and Granny, died last week. Katherine buried the old gent and the old gal in a special place, the pumpkin patch, on her farm. May they rest in peace as they lived at Apifera.

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My young nephews invited me to join them at the picnic table for an adapted version of BananaGrams. Every word we created with our letter tiles had to have something to do with the animal kingdom I was instructed. Photo by Adam Sherman

Everywhere we go, there they are: Animals that is. Even on vacation.

Some dogs, like some people, me incl uded, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

Some dogs, like some people, me included, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

My dad started a wonderful family tradition 50 years ago—a week or two spent in the same place at the same time each year. As the family has grown and moved away from home, this annual August trek has become a mini family reunion while on vacation.

Prince is my sister’s family’s golden retriever. It’s hard to say who enjoys the mountain-air morning runs more, Prince or my sis. Those outings always end with Prince madly splashing into the swimming hole and begging to be sent into the deep on water retrieves. Prince also likes to retrieve the rubber rings used in the game of Muckers, which is much like Horseshoes. Each year, we set up our Muckers pit behind our cabins and have an all-ages guys-versus-gals tournament; however Prince must watch the game from the cabin’s veranda. Otherwise, it would turn into Prince’s own game of “Catch Me and the Rings If You Can.” Give him a bed and a dog chewy something, and he’s content all the same. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Sparky is my brother’s family’s dog. He’s small but mighty in charm and character. Family vacation came as a relief for the little guy: He’d had a hard school year, what with two of the three kids in his family going off to college and all. Here at last, his pack was united. Photo by Adam Sherman

Our stay in cabins on a river in the woods almost always includes a few dogs of our own. Other families have vacationed with cats and ferrets.

When I was young and on vacation here, I spent the largest part of each day at the stable, waiting for my turn to ride one of the for-hire trail horses.  Wilderness pack trips and promises of great fishing in the cold lakes of the back country were then one of the main draws to this rustic 1920’s-era “resort.” Dad and I took a lot of those rides back in the day.

One thing that has remained constant at our family vacation spot for 50 years is blue jays. If the warm sunshine in your face doesn’t wake you when it stretches above the mountains in the early morning, the blue jay conversations just inches from your sleeping bag will. Photo by Adam Sherman

Much-younger, my siblings had their own kind of animal fun watching fat chipmunks and shimmery blue jays  scatter after bread crumbs. The once bustling stables were abandoned long ago, and the tack room and hitching rails have gone to weeds. But a sturdy new corral is home to a couple of overweight donkeys that come hee-hawing to the fence whenever someone with a carrot or sugar cube stops by.

Youngsters in ours and other families pester parents to take them on walks “up to where the donkeys live.” For me, the little long-eared fellows evoke Dad-and-me memories of following along behind a string of mules packed with supplies for forest rangers at lookout stations and Boy Scouts at high country camps.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too.  Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too. Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

My nieces and nephews appear not to have my horse-crazy genes, but they do smile sweetly when the donkeys’ soft lips and bristly chin hairs sweep across their small palms as they offer treats. Family dogs aren’t always so enthused by the donkeys: Sometimes they growl a grumble or hide behind the person nearest at hand.

Watching the kids and donkeys interact again had me thinking about how entwined animals are in our lives, even when we’re away from home.

Butterflies float through our mountain forest vacation spot but infrequently. This beauty took a breather on a corner of the riverside beach. Back home, my mom’s husband’s family has a renowned butterfly garden; hence he gave this visitor a hearty welcome. Photo by Dennis Forer

My cousin’s husband had his camera slung over his shoulder while walking near the river the morning this bird of prey passed overhead. There’s an eagle’s nest not far from where the photo was taken, so we assumed this was an eagle. Once we had the photos in hand and could enlarge them to look at details, it looked to be an osprey – probably out fishing for breakfast. No matter the type of bird, it doesn’t get much better than snapping a photo as it soars against a cloudless blue sky before the heat of the day sets in. Photo by Dennis Forer

Most years, while we’re on our family vacation, there’s some kind of bear activity in camp. Generally that involves midnight raids with bears climbing on top of chain-locked dumpsters and straining to get the lids off. The noise they make is the worst of it.

However, last year, on the bittersweet final night of our vacation, a bear ripped out a screen and climbed into a nearby cabin. The bear had its way with the refrigerator and most things in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the woman sleeping at the back of the cabin jumped over the veranda and ran to safety. The bear was later trapped and moved to a distant section of forest.

Here’s how my youngest niece, Sara, who was age eight at the time, told the tale, which appeared in her school’s newspaper.

A BEAR STORY

“I went on an adventure to Trinity Alps Resort with my family. It is an adventure because you are in the wilderness. When we went on walks in the wilderness I found chipmunks. We had three cabins in a row this year: We had Sierra, Santa Barbara and Sacramento. My family was in the one Sacramento. Everybody in the family comes to Trinity Alps Resort.

“Our last night at Trinity Alps Resort the bear was out! My mother woke me up to show me that the bear was out in the garbage can. I was so scared I had to go in the room with the roof. I was sleeping out on the veranda which has a roof on it. But there are other openings all around you.

“Guess what? The black bear actually got into a cabin. It tried to open the door. But instead he broke apart the window. The lady’s name was Sharon. So she heard a noise in the kitchen and then she went into the kitchen and she saw this black thing on its two hind legs and then she realized that it was the black bear! So she ran to the veranda and she jumped over the veranda.

“Then she ran over to my cousin Mikayla’s cabin and she told Mikayla’s dad all about it. Then Dennis, Mikayla’s dad, drove Sharon to Jim’s house. Jim is the kind of person who keeps everybody safe and keeps things straight. So Sharon slept the rest of the night. The bear got into the cabin at 3:00 in the morning before the bear got into the garbage can about 4:15 in the morning. My dad was in the bathroom about 4:45 shining a flashlight in the bear’s eyes.

“There is a cabin called Napa and the person who is staying in Napa which is Mrs. Jansen. She gets freaked out because there is like a little path where the bear comes and goes. I was selling jewelry there, too. In the morning we went to go look at the cabin. At Mikayla’s cabin I got a Hershey Bar. You might not want to read this at night but the chocolate part won’t scare  you as much as Mrs. Schuler [Sara’s teacher].”

Her teacher commented: “Good suspense. Now that’s a scary bear story!“

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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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