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Posts Tagged ‘small farms’


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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Spotted Tussock moth caterpillar. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Some of God’s creatures are just born dressed and ready for holidays.

This caterpillar fellow appeared on my son’s windowsill last week — already costumed in orange and black for Halloween.

I’d forgotten how soft and fuzzy caterpillars are and how they curl up into a ball when you touch them.

I know, I know, it’s going to spin a cocoon and emerge as a much less colorful moth (a spotted Tussock moth if we’ve correctly identified it).

Trust me, from now on, every time I try to wish and dish-towel-swish away a moth in our house, I will think of his little furry self.

Still, this is the ultimate in caterpillar cuteness, don’t you think? It’s just about the only creepy-crawly thing I’d ever call cute.

There is: the turkey trot, the pigeon walk, the snail’s pace, and now:  the caterpillar crawl.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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“In the October issue of ‘America’s Horse,’ read along as Janet Herring-Sherman writes about her journey – 50 years in the making – toward owning an American Quarter Horse.”

A picture worth a thousand words; and in this case worth a fifty-year wait. The photo captures the essence of a story I have published in the October issue of "America's Horse" magazine. My article, "Horse of a Lifetime," is a short chronicle of wanting and waiting for a particular breed of horse for most of my life. I have that dream now and love her so. "America's Horse" is a publication for members of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA): I will post the article on my blog down the road when the contractual time restrictions have passed. Meanwhile, if you know someone who is a member of AQHA, snag their copy of the October issue and read a lot about my horse, Callie, and a little about how she 's changed my life. Photo by Adam Sherman.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON (in 12-step terms):

Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Be patient, God’s not done yet.

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This picture seems to be all that remains of the young black-tailed buck that traveled our woods -- and helped himself to my rose buds -- for two years. I forgave his harvesting my roses when he turned and looked right into my eyes as this photo was snapped. It was taken earlier this year when his new antlers were still fresh in velvet. I imagined that rack being a yard across in years ahead. My guess is he seldom left our place. It is rather a perfect bachelor pad as bucks go: meadows for browsing; ponds and creeks for drinking; woods for hiding; and does for courting. It was his turf until poachers ended his young life the first day of the Fall 2011 hunting season. Photo by James Sherman.

I try not to use the word “hate.” I did my best to raise my son in the art of not using this four-letter word or others  like it. But I’m using that word now: I “hate” deer and elk hunting seasons. More specifically, I hate the people who cheat at it: poachers.

Where’s the sport in raising your rifle as you sit in your truck on a public road at sundown and shoot a deer on private property where faded, but readable, “No Hunting or Trespassing” signs are posted?

Yes, we live in a hillside clearing surrounded by private forests and BLM land; so we expect hunters’ rifle shots to boom through our silence. The first weekend of the fall deer season they seem especially loud. I remind myself it’s a seasonal sport and tell my husband how glad I am it’s not his thing anymore.

I admit hypocrisy here: I don’t often voice my view in our rural social circles. Intellectually, I get the pros of ethical hunting as necessary for wildlife and wildland management. It’s my heart that isn’t convinced.

I’m the mom who read “Bambi” to her son and every time skipped the part about Bambi’s mother dying. My son’s 20 now. But whenever he starts a sentence, “Remember when you…,” I know he’s about to remind me how my revisionist bedtime reading got him blindsided on the playground when friends happened on the “Bambi” storyline. Adam insisted it didn’t go the way his pals said.

That afternoon, Bambi was with us in the car on the ride home from school. As soon as Adam had clicked his seat-belt around his six-year-old waist, it was game-on. “Mom, there’s only one ‘Bambi’ story right? So how come other kids say his mother got killed? And what exactly are hunters? ”

Adam’s words were like a shot to my mom heart. I’d tried to protect him from what I considered a harsh reality. And I’d put him at a disadvantage. It wasn’t the first time I apologized to my son for something I’d said or done. It was the first, and last, time I lied to Adam by omitting pieces of the truth.

I guess you could say deer hunting is a loaded issue for me. And can I just say that I got my Bambi comeuppance this summer. My chocolate Lab, Kobe, loves to find stinky things to carry home from walks in the meadow. This time, he was lagging way behind and pulling something heavy up the hill. He was dragging a skeleton: a head, spine, and partial rib cage. It could only have been a long-dead deer or young elk, taken by coyotes, injury or illness. “OMG” was about all I could say to my quite proud-of-himself dog.

Kobe knew better than to even attempt to bring his find into the house. Reluctantly, he dropped it on our front porch. Where it stayed until Adam got home and moved it out of sight for his mother.  Yes, the whole “Bambi”-on-the-playground incident came up yet again.

As it did recently when we got disturbing news from our other-side-of-the-woods neighbor: He reported seeing hunters taking aim from the road and dropping a forked horn in our woods at dusk. I literally felt as though I’d been smacked by a rifle shot’s recoil.

The young buck was apparently standing alongside the pump house on our private property when they killed it. Did I mention they were shooting toward our house?  The poachers, trespassing, dragged the buck to the county road and heaved it into the bed of their pickup. They sped off before the neighbor could make out the mud-spattered license plate number. I’m no game warden, but I count at least three rules* of the hunting game broken. Not to mention the spirit of the laws. Wonder what great heroic story the cheap-shot hunters told their peers about their illegally taken prize?

Chances are the buck poached was the one you see in the photo. He posed in our front yard earlier this year, perhaps to show off his brand new antlers. Needless to say, he felt pretty safe hereabouts. He probably didn’t stray from our place his entire life. Born here, lived here, died here. RIP.

 *      General Hunting Rules, excerpted from 2011 Oregon Big Game Regulations

Shooting Hours:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■Game mammals may only be hunted from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

No Person Shall:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■ Shoot from or across a public road, road right-of-way or railroad right-of-way….

■■ Hunt any wildlife from a motor-propelled vehicle. Exceptions: 1) A qualified disabled hunter may obtain an “Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit” to hunt from a motor-propelled vehicle except while the vehicle is in motion or on any public road or highway.

To Report Wildlife Violators in Oreogn,  Call 1-800-452-7888 or Email tip@state.or.us


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Sad news posted on the message board at the barn where Buffy lived.

Significant events for animals and people seem to occur more often in the autumn of the year. Some we expect: School starts, and pets are left pining for the kids they had to themselves all summer. Others we never see coming: Towers come down in smoke and flames, and the lives of victims, survivors, rescuers — and search dogs — change in ways unimaginable a moment before.

It was a September long ago when my buckskin colt was born. Two years ago, when I got my horse, Callie, it was October. Twice, I’ve lost golden retrievers to cancer in the fall. My godfather and my grandmother passed away. I got married, and so did my sister. My best friend and sibling were born.

So it seems appropriate that a very special dog crossed over the Rainbow Bridge as fall began this year. Buffy, the barn dog where I stable my horse, died Aug. 31. Her people, Duane and Teresa Smith, were  at her side in the home where she slept many a night. Buffy was 13.

She rests now, under a birch  tree between the Smiths’ farmhouse and the barn. That was a path well-traveled by Buffy the 10 years she lived there — though many wondered how she managed it.

The Smiths’ son named the straw-colored puppy after the heroine in the popular 1997-2003 TV series, “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” Buffy, the Labrador retriever, knew no vampires. But she knew darkness and fought demons of her own. Her eyes turned on her, leaving her blind at age five.

I will always marvel at how Buffy maneuvered around the horses so safely. I think she navigated by the sound and smell of their hooves. I bet she could identify each horse by the rhythm of its hoof beats.

Buffy had her timing down in other ways as well. She knew whenever someone neared the dog-cookie jar kept in the tack room. She’d appear from nowhere, approach with tail high and wagging, and look right at you with her foggy gray-blue eyes. Over the years she got far more treats than were good for her figure.

Buffy seldom let on if she was having a bad day. Even after she fell six feet into a hole dug for a corner column of the arena under construction.  Maybe it was a blessing she couldn’t see that night: She didn’t know to be afraid of the dark while confined in that small space. Duane, Teresa and the neighbors managed to get a harness under Buffy and carefully hoist her out.

While waiting for Buffy to surface, her rescuers worried how many of the old dog’s bones would be broken. Not one broken bone. Not one scratch. She was cold and exhausted. After a night by the fire with Teresa, Buffy awoke stiffer and slower than usual, but eager to start another day. Remarkable I say!

Her passing was reason to share Buffy stories like these, so I’ve tried to capture a few. Always, I will remember Buffy picking up her red rubber bowl in the late afternoon to broadcast to those in the barn –“It’s my dinnertime.”

The barn floor has a few levels, the Smith house a few stairs. Buffy new each one: On approach, she’d high-step up or over, so as not to miss and stumble. She looked like she was marching to a drummer in a parade.

Buffy in one of her favorite spots, the lawn in front of the farmhouse porch where she held court.

She loved a good roll on the lawn and barking fests with the dogs on the other side of the driveway fence. It was part of the daily routine for Buffy to woof and wag whenever someone arrived. Her best buddy, Sam, a blue heeler, continues as greeter in her absence. But the silence left without Buffy is telling.

At first, Buffy mothered the shy blue heeler pup, Sam. In time, their roles switched: Sam grew to be blind Buffy's guard and guide.

Sam joined the Smiths five years ago, young and overly shy. He became Buffy’s self-appointed guardian and, in his new role, grew more self-confident. Teresa describes how Sam would lip-bite and softly tug at Buffy’s floppy ears. “The vet told me that ear-thing is a sign of great affection between dogs.” As Buffy was put to rest, Sam watched, but stayed his distance. It was three days before he ate again.

Long before Sam was on the scene, Teresa had a Schnauzer, named Gabby. She, too, watched over and served as canine guide for Buffy. Together they hid Buffy’s blindness well. It wasn’t until Gabby died that Buffy began to bump into things, then lost the ability to jump into the bed of Duane’s pickup.

A trip to a canine ophthalmologist revealed that Buffy had inherited degenerative retina disease. Noting how happy and content Buffy was, the vet encouraged Duane and Teresa to let her be. He did caution that, for her safety, Buffy would need to be kept away from water.

Buffy had 30 acres of pasture to roam, but she seldom left the barnyard. The barn was her hangout – plus the sandy arena when it was empty of horses. She was content there and on the farmhouse front porch where she held court.

In earlier times, Buffy had traveled hundreds of miles of trail alongside the Smiths’ horses. “She never got in the way,” Teresa remembers. “She even had her own little pack and carried her own water.” Only once did hardy Buffy need an assist to get to the end of the trail. It was when the Smiths and friends were riding at the base of the Three Sisters Mountains in Oregon.

The weather had turned out to be much hotter than forecast. Toward the end of the day, Buffy had maneuvered out ahead of the horses and gone prone across the trail: She would not move. Teresa and company managed to pick Buffy up and position her in front of Duane’s saddle, much like cowboys carry weak or lost calves.

Buffy always was more attached to Duane, says Teresa, describing how the butterscotch- colored dog loved going to town and gathering the horses with him. Teresa also remembers how good Buffy was at defense when the family played impromptu games of soccer in the barn aisle. “She was so fast. She could leap straight up and catch barn swallows in flight. And she practically flew when she jumped over the furniture in our family room.”

Stopping to wipe a tear, Teresa says, “When Buffy was napping, her feet often looked like they were running. We liked to think she could see again in her sleep.” Last week, a friend’s grandson placed a rose near Buffy’s headstone and said to his grandma, “I think it’s good Buffy’s in Heaven. That means she can see again.”

I think we all believe we see Buffy in the shadows, sniffing the hay stacks for Lilly, the cat; offering up her bowl for kibble; giving voice at the sound of a familiar car in the drive; listening for riders to return from a jog around the pasture. I especially miss the little front-foot jig she did as she bounced in rhythm to her barks.

Rest in peace brave girl. We miss you.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON: In 12-step programs there’s a slogan that can make all the difference to sustaining recovery: “Take the world as it is, not as you would have it.” It’s all about acceptance. Buffy was the perfect model.

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THE BEAR DID IT! AND OTHER ON-VACATION ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS.

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