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

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Do you remember a place up high in the sky?


I've noticed since the head injury I've had wandering thoughts of youth, and places I've lived. Perhaps my brain is putting things back into proper order, kind of like sweeping up after a light wind storm {I'm doing just fine, by the way}. A couple weeks after the accident, when I was okay to drive again, I had this intense hankering for salami sandwiches with toasted bread and Durkee sauce-this was a family favorite as I grew up. I also had a craving for liverwurst. So I bought both and relished it.

We rarely if ever buy any processed meats, but I enjoyed each sandwich. I decided, besides my body asking for it, it was also my mom stopping in after my accident-lending a comforting nod my way-

"Make yourself a sandwich, with Durkees," she'd say.

I found this photo stuck in some papers yesterday. It was taken in 1963 on Goodrich Avenue in St. Paul in the Crocus Hill area. I loved that house, and neighborhood. It was my second all time favorite place that we lived. It was a big old house, in a diverse neighborhood made up of middle class working people-professors, families, doctors and others. Today we could never afford that neighborhood but I'm so glad we got to live there. I could roam the sidewalks and although I wasn't supposed to, I often ended up at the bakery or hardware store on Grand Avenue. Back when everyone knew everyone-my father would take me to the bakery each Sunday and I'd always get extras since I was so stinking cute with my curly, fire red hair. There were lots of Catholic schools around and nuns were always walking on the streets. I was fascinated with nuns, and i clearly remember meeting one on the street, with my mom. My mom was horrified because I asked the nun if she was a dinosaur [I was four or five]. For years I tried to explain to my mother that when I first got my Madeline books, Miss Clavel the nun reminded me of a dinosaur, but in a good way-I also had a dinosaur doll and thought it looked like a nun in a habit.

We had this simple treehouse in the backyard, an old door with steps up the tree trunk made of simple boards. There was a rope too to climb down. We spent lots of time there. I remember it being way high up in the tree and am glad I can't see it today, I prefer to remember it as the palatial palace I thought it was.

I wanted to bring my little poodle up in it. So I tried all these ways to get her up there–carrying her up, nope, that didn't work; putting her in a basket and trying to hoist it up with a rope-nope, that didn't work; and finally, I tied a rope around her collar and started pulling. My brother knew this was wrong [I was only five] and he got my mom who put an end to that. That poor little dog, she followed me everywhere and was so forgiving. My motives were pure.

Those seemed like simpler times. But in reality, my little heart was often scared or broken back then-like watching my mother sob in front of the black and white television screen when JFK died. I didn't understand the event, but I understood my mother was sad.

The glory days are wonderful to think of, but if you transplanted yourself to such a place, you would still be a human-a flawed, sometimes terrified human in a big world of chaos as well as beauty. I was lucky to have a loving home and family, an education and parents that sacrificed so I could go to good schools.

But often, it's the simplest things that make us put something in our past on a pedestal. I guess that treehouse is like that-it was a place we could be free, be kids, and we were't afraid of falling, and we didn't need cushions or tv's, or helmets. We had no idea what is store as the years went on, and it didn't matter. We pretty much lived for the day for a short period of time.

Rabies shots for all Apiferians

There was a reporting of a rabid skunk not far from here, that attacked two dogs-who were up to date on rabies so are being watched but will be fine. In Oregon, there were not many rabies incidences and we were not required to give shots to the farm animals. When we moved to Maine, we had to make sure all the dogs and cats were up to date, which they were.

I've talked to a lot of farm people here and it is obviously a big expense to have a farm vaccinated for rabies. I was told about a sad incidence where a woman had to relinquish her entire small fiber flock. A vet has to come to the farm and give rabies shots, you can not administer it yourself. So last year, I opted to do all the dogs again, of course, but also we did the donkeys and Boone, and Birdie.

This year I think it is proper to get everyone vaccinated due to the incident just a mile or so away. It will be expensive, but if we can show that we have a history of consistently staying on top of the rabies shots, we should be safe in case anything happens.

So donations are greatly appreciated. We also just brought in 10 tons of hay and our coffers are bare! Help out of if you can, and we thank you very much.

Apifera Farm is a registered non-profit in Maine with pending 501c status.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Don't get attached to..hair

I heard that a long time ago, when I was maybe a teenager-I can't remember where or when or who said it, but the gist was that too many girls and women get attached to outward appearances - such as long hair. It made an impression on me. The hair becomes an entity of its own. I remember some young actress, I forget her name but can see her, a pretty redhead with hair a lot like mine-curls, thick and long. One day, she cut it off in a pixie. Her producer went nuts, and many fans of the show became downright incensed she had the nerve to cut her beautiful hair off. But she said it had become too much of a drain, it had overcome her as a person. She felt like her 'hair' was front and center and everything behind it was invisible to others.

When I was little, my mom made me keep my hair cropped. Eventually at about sixth grade, she allowed me to grow my hair. I mean, she wasn't a tyrant about it, she told me that if I kept my hair short it would grow thicker, and since she had thin hair I suppose she believed this. I really didn't care, I thought my hair was horrid no matter short or long-I was teased on the bus and called "curly fungus, "rusty" and "carrot head".

In my twenties, it was the first time I remember realizing my hair was kind of nice. And I kept it long, then chopped it off and grew it back each time.

It's just hair.

When I moved the farm, it was easier to just always have it in my braid clumps. I never wore real braids, just banded clumps. My hair has gone from a true ginger red, to strawberry blond-mouse brown on the top and reddish blond on the bottom. I'm tired of dabbing color on the top , it's beginning to look...like it's trying to hard at something.

Hair becomes such an anchor for women, much more than men I think. There was a time when women were shamed for cutting it off. Imagine that.

Anyway, I chopped my hair clumps off today. It's the beginning of something I think. It is different than cutting it in my younger years. I've been giving myself haircuts for years now since it's too expensive for me to get it cut, and since I wear it in clumps what difference does it make. Every now and then I went in to have it leveled up, or have some color added to it but ti always felt like a decadence and waste of money once i moved to the farm.

I just suddenly -in the past couple months- I felt tired by it all, weighted down, like it was out of step with my head and heart. I think this entire journey of the late 50's has started to settle, and I'm coming more into the understanding of what the reality is in front of me–I look older, or I look like I'm going on 60 not fifty, my neck and face have lost that perk and wrinkles are there, and puffy skin comes and goes with the weather. But for some reason my long braid clumps needed to get chopped off today. I'm taking the 5" braid clumps and I'm going to make a wig for the puppet-he'll like that.

I took this first chop and  realized it was quite daring of me, but I didn't even hesitate. I'd never chopped this much off without a real hair stylist. But I just thought,

What can go wrong? It's just hair.

I had an image all week of my long hair clumps becoming little shorties. And now I have that.

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.