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

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Misfits have spoken- "No Fireworks!"

The Head Troll has already begun her attempt to keep the barnyard safe this July 4th. Buckets are being gathered for head armour and ear plugs are being handed out. I'm always amazed of her ingenuity–collecting the sheared llama fiber, twisting them into little Q-tip like wads and adding string or sticks to make them into functioning ear plugs. Raggedy Man is usually first in line and Professor, always the quiet one, is right behind him.

Every year since we've moved here, the property up in the hills from us sets off real fireworks. The first years I was actually terrified. There seemed to be no law of the land out here in renegade-ville, and to a point, there still isn't. Part of this comes from,

We've lived here forever and have always done this, so did our parents and their parents.

This combined with nobody complaining, except behind closed doors, doesn't help.

The other fact is there is a real shortage of patrol cars and deputies in most cities, let alone rural areas. I feel for the fire departments this time of year, especially this summer. An over dry winter, warm temps all spring with no rain, then with June setting record high heat wave temps–we are on our second full week of upper 90's-the land is a timber box.

I can not imagine any reasonable person setting off anything this year, even sparklers-which we also frown on. I don't care if I sound like an old fart-matches plus explosions-hey, what a great idea when the ground is parched!

The Misfits and I rarely make political statements, but this year, we are here to say we don't want fireworks and think they should be banned. We will be sitting on our deck as usual, after a picnic here with friends, waiting for the explosions to begin. Sure they can be pretty, but novices with explosions in forests, and a wind that can carry it all to my farm or a near by one, cringe worthy. But rest assured dear people of the hills above, if you do choose to set them off, we will be here for you, calling the fire department, hoping they can get to you before your century old barn burns, or before the wind might pick up and take ours too.

The Head Troll has one final thought,

Just be reasonable.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Three beauties in a summer sale

Limited quantities of these three images are now ready to buy in a summer sale. I work with a great archive printer to pull my prints, they are not sold anywhere but through me. All are printed on archival fine art paper with archive inks, and a 1" border around an approximate 12" print.

Visit the sale section now to secure your print.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Women in shade growing wings

Above: words from one of the attendees scratched on the back of her painting


Amazing the impact five women have coming together in 100 degree heat, surrounded by Misfits who love, lady llamas who kiss, and one red horse who shares of himself to prove my lesson plan. It all happened here, Saturday, and the day was genuinely inspirational, for teacher and attendees.

The morning started with me happy to see overcast skies. The temperature would soar to 100 that day, and that fact had some Oregonians back out of the workshop. I understand, of course. But my remaining attendees were all coming from out of state-Omaha, Indiana, Georgia and Connecticut. I vowed to myself that I would not let the heat brings us down-and you know how I hate heat. I had a back-up plan too, an air conditioned studio. And the fact that the once eight students would be four made my studio space a perfect fit if needed.

We started the day with the donkeys, communing, to settle everyone in. We visited the sleeping but as usual very grumpy pig, Rosie. Then we headed to the new barn to do the first official workshop under her roof since we finished her this spring. I had Boone ready to partake, and some of The Misfits would be nearby for breaks.

The purpose of the class was not necessarily to finish a painting, or learn to paint better, or draw realistically–it was to explore something I have been learning and doing for twenty years as a professional, to explore and learn our individual inner languages. That inner language is abstract, and can not be learned overnight, or even in a lifetime it is so vast. It can not be expressed in words, but it is there. That language is like metaphor, and it is the gatekeeper to our stories. Stories we can write, paint or create tangibly and bring back to the outer world to share. Sharing story is a universal gift we all have, a universal gift we all need.

I had Boone handy for two reasons. One, he's a horse and he smells great and is majestic and beautiful and having him sticking his big old head into our workshop would make everyone happy. Just a given. Two, horses are capable of awakening intuition in us, mirroring our authentic feelings that we people are taught to hide - and it dawned on me of late that that is what painting does for me. By teaching people to open up to their inner worlds where an alphabet is not present, they can begin to recognize repetitive shapes, colors and textures that are our own internal guides-metaphors, really, to our feelings, fears, joys,...and our souls. It's love really. To share that in art is a gift.

Let me try to express what it was like working with these four people. The artist and mother from Nebraska, who had lost her mother recently, was beginning her journey back to life and joy and her painting reflected that. She shared many wisdoms from many shamanic and spiritual quests she had been on in the past year.  Another woman, a photographer,  had expressed her joy in my work and lives with some goats; she wanted to expand into mixed media but wasn't sure how–her painting showed this dreamy, blurry landscape, perhaps waiting for some definition but was beautiful and vibrant on its own, just like her enthusiasm [and wonderful skirt]. The woman from Connecticut was quiet, but when she spoke there were short bouts of wisdom for us. Her painting was so naively expressive [she had just begun to paint and I think was in her sixties] reminding me of Emil Nolde and it really moved me. She painted very deliberately, then stopped for long moments to look-her strokes were tender, but her colors bold. The psychologist from Indiana and once painted and had lived on a farm as a child and would love a farm again. She now works with war vets for the VA and her knowledge of psychology was so fitting for this workshop. I almost should pay her it was so valuable! I had no idea that she was a psychologist, but when she saw the lesson plan as she walked in the barn, she said she internally knew she was in the right place. Her painting was expressive, bold colors and shapes like a sky of odd shaped stars we might see if we ventured to other realms.

We worked past lunch in the barn, the skies still overcast [thankfully] and were comfortable. Boone shared thoughts from time to time, when he realized we were focused on our boards and paint, not him. We had a great lunch in the air conditioned studio with fresh fruit and cold water. The conversation was just wonderful. Everyone had insights that were helpful, inspirational, and encouraging. I too was lifted out of some "stuck" thoughts I had been having. I was encouraged to begin that new book idea I had.

We talked about how the serendipity of the hot weather actually made it a different workshop than it would have been if everyone had showed up in cooler weather. This is NOT to make those who chose not to come feel unwanted-but the dynamic of a group can be shifted so easily, so who knows how different the day would have been with 8 versus 4 [it would have been great, but different].

One huge epiphany I had: when I announced I would no longer do a Pino Pie Day, I said it would open doors for other things, but I didn't know what. What I walked away from after this workshop can be summed up in one word–intimacy. This workshop was intimate, for the attendees, and me. I want to keep it that way. I want meaning as much as those I share it with, and I got it. I was really pleased with my lesson too and had prepared well. After working with animals and paintings for so long, I could get it into words that made sense. The subconscious is not easy to talk about, but it is such a beautiful and rewarding place to venture and return from with a golden gem to share with the village. Joseph Campbell would have been a great addition to this class [oh, would that be a dream come to life for me].

At four, we broke for the final hour to visit The Misfits.  We had painted since two. The sun returned and it was very hot, but we had done our work well. I was really proud everyone worked -and chatted and enjoyed-but they didn't slough of and treat this like a picnic. We were on a mission.

The star of the day in the Misfit Village was lady Birdie the Llama. I think she is a llama version of the resident kitty slut, Peaches [the latter who also shared unselfish attention on guests].

So, thank you,  my Secret Sister Four, as I call them, for coming so far to get to the Workshop. I'm very excited for the future. You re-inspired me in so many ways. I hope I've expressed that.

There will be more workshops coming up. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Old Rudy passes on with grace

Old Rudy has died. It was sudden but graceful death. There was no indication in the past days that his time was coming. He did have trouble keeping weight on all winter and into summer, despite medications and vitamins, so who knows what was going on inside his thin body. But he spent his last days like any other, napping wit some casual grazing after breakfast, more napping and evenings in his favorite spot-the duck hut.

When it feels right, I capture these pre-death scenes in images, as I did last night. I like to share them as an homage to the life passing, but also to the death entering. Death is the balance of life. I think we humans are so out of touch with much of real life-that is, Nature–that of course we can't imagine death. I always am struck by the beauty of the animals around death, they simply acknowledge the situation, and continue with their normal habits–if they feel safe, of course. In the background, Marcella slept, confidant all was well. It was only when I carried the body out this morning that she became agitated. There are so many touching moments in a death scene like this-Stevie coming over, gently bending forward to smell the passing; or Raggedy Man looking up over the body–did he sense something there I as a human am not able too after thousands of years of my species closing out our once innate senses?

Last night I went to do chores and heard Rudy cry to me. He had cast himself in the duck hut. That was the first and last struggle he'd have. I got him out of the hut, upright and standing, but he could not hold his front end up. I was able to guide him to the main shade shelter, but he collapsed as we got there. He drank a bit of water and he sat upright for about twenty minutes, but his head was hanging low, his eyes were closing. Giving him the water reminded me of my mother, who died in 2013. The nurse had just helped her sip some water, and she died, with a smile on her face. Each death here revives my inner acknowledgment of my parents' deaths, making me feel more comfortable that they were in good hands and had everything they needed, just as this old goat did.

I sang him a short song and told him he would do fine in this next journey.

I don't know if I will, but I hope we do meet again, somehow, I told him.

There was that human desire to continue on somehow with all of the things we love about this realm-but we can't quite grasp what it will look like-because maybe it won't look like anything we know. Maybe there are sensations after death we can't grasp. It's those "spaces
in between" again, the reasons abstract painters paint.

When I returned with hay for the herd, Rudy was lying down, almost unconscious. His breathing was slow and calm, there was no leg twitching or straining of the neck, signs of death taking the body. I opened his eyes and I could tell he was close to the final breaths. I said my final goodbyes, covered his eyes with a light cloth to keep the flies off, and went back to be with Martyn. I shed some tears; I told Martyn it was a good death and he would be gone very soon, but that one of the things about my work here is to be open to walking away from a dying creature to give it space and peace. Each death is different, and each hospice has different needs. Rudy was really gone when I walked away, he had let go, and by me letting go and walking away, it was now up to his body to finally shut down. The animals around him had acknowledged him. They understood the situation and were okay with it.

As sad as I was, and surprised, I was also happy for him. To go so quickly is such a gift to any creature, including a human. We can all hope for this death, surrounded by our home comforts be it hay or bed, conscious until the last moments of our time here doing whatever it was we liked doing-in Rudy's case that was eating, napping and grazing.

Old Rudy came to us with his long time mate Tasha Teats. Their original owner sent them to New Moon Farm Goat Rescue after her husband had died, as she felt she could not care for them properly. They were very arthritic, and Tasha was worse; she died shortly after arriving here. Rudy reminded me a lot of Old Man Guinnias, hard hooves to fill, but Rudy had a personality of his own. He was a gentleman and liked people. He was not a loner but preferred to be alone in his beloved duck hut. For some reasons, he was a chicken magnet, right up until the moment he died as you can see in these photos. He had a long beard and despite his very crippled legs, continued to roam the fields every day. I will miss him, he was a greeter, always bleating to me when he knew I was around.

He went out as he lived.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A space waiting for a mission

I did this abstract back in the 2004 era, when we had first moved to the farm. I was looking through old images for a project I'm working on and was struck at the simplicity of this piece, and the openness of the landscape. It was more open then, no Misfit Villages or paddocks, hardly a fence standing, just twenty acres that was beginning to emerge into what is now Apifera. I guess you could say this painting shows the optimism of the painter at that time-so many ideas to fulfill, so many plans, and some of those plans were still percolating in me. It will be interesting to look back in another ten years–what will strike my eye when I look at my art of today? You can't lie in abstract painting.

I remember those first months here [before the blog, now I wish I'd had one then] and how I was both in awe of the landscape around me, and also wobbly as I walked it. Some days the wobble was a child's delight,

Wow, I am in partnership with you now.

Other days in the first year to two years, I had moments of momentary panic,

What have we done?

I felt like a fish out of water at times–mostly because I had moved from a good grounding of friends and family from Minneapolis, and then married and moved to the farm-a very rural, conservative area with pockets of open mindedness. In time, I found others who meshed with us-not that one needs exactly the same opinions to get along, but it felt very renegade here-because it was...and is.

But when I look at this painting, I see a calming. My soul had mirrored my feeling of awe and contentment into that painting with the open spaces of green, and hints of shiny accents as the barn emerged in values of red under the big top sky of the newly formed Apifera. There is no sense of worry in this piece, or discombobulation one can feel moving to a rural area. There is no judgement of surrounding gun shots, neighboring farmers with non maintained fencing or ATV's kicking up dust on what was a quiet morning. There had not been one Misfit death as I set paint down that day because there were no Misfts yet. The farm was waiting for us, waiting for a new mission–its all right there in that painting.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lonely Duck lonely no more

I knew her time was coming in days not weeks. Saturday night Lonely Duck had made her way down the long drive again, alone, to find her small pond-the pond that her male companion had perished in by raccoon a few nights before. When I found her, she once again went passive and lay her body down in a submissive fashion, not fighting her capture.

I carried her to the night stall and she settled into a corner, ignoring the other female duck and Priscilla. Her behavior struck me as a creature that had let go. I considered leaving her in the pond, as it just felt she was dying and maybe she wanted to die there, away from the crowds. Animals are like that, they don't want bedside drama of the clan. The next day I had a plan, to revamp an area near the Martyn made pond in the lower Misfit Village. But when I came to the stall I knew that was pointless, Lonely Duck was in a corner, alive, but clearly checking out. I left the two ducks and old goose together there for the day with their cherished water bucket they love to swim in. This morning, I found Lonely Duck beautifully posed in the corner of the stall.

I wanted you to experience the peace and beauty of her body, her head turned and laying on the ground, making an abstract shape of her elegant neck. Her sweet orange feet spread out back just as you see them here. I sat with her sometime in the stall this morning, petting her-ducks are so soft, softer than chickens. I was glad for her. Did she die of a broken heart? I don't think so. But she died ready to move on, her body told her and she sank into the next step.

I was going to bury her with her mother in the pumpkin patch, but decided to return her to Earth in the same spot I left her male companion some days ago. I know she will be eaten but it felt like the place she probably would have waddled too if she had the strength last week.

And so, The Bottomtums, once numbering six, are now one. And the old goose lives on.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The story of the lonely duck

The Bottomtums, as the original six ducks were named [if you know ducks, you'll understand the name] were brought to Apifera by a woman who had to leave her farm when her husband was entering hospice. The 6 ducks came with their very own elderly goose, who you all know as Priscilla. We lost one of the ducks a couple years ago to mysterious circumstances in broad daylight; and this past month we lost one of the two males to an eagle strike, and another female died of natural causes. These ducks are old, they have had very good lives being able to free range and have someone shepherd them inside at night for protection. So that left us with 3 ducks–2 females and a male.

A couple nights ago I had finished my barn chores but was missing a male and female duck. I knew they often squeezed under the barnyard gate to our front yard area seeking the longer, cooler grass where they can nap and snap bugs. But they were nowhere. I quacked for them–yes, they come to my quacks, Martyn is always impressed with this and in some ways so am I, I didn't train them, they just seem to understand my quacks are to guide and help them.

So Martyn had come home around seven and I asked him to search the streamlet that goes alongside our drive. There are still some small pools that haven't dried up for the summer. And sure enough, there was the pair, happily paddling in the six by six foot pond. They looked so content, I hated to bring them back to the barn, but that was Raccoon's private fishing hole and I knew they would be his dinner. I easily grabbed the male. I headed back up the drive, quacking, thinking the female would follow. But the female stayed put in her little pond. I returned to get her, but she waddled under the small footbridge we had built there. She was able to squeeze way under it, so even if I stretched out on the ground [while holding my other duck, no easy task] I could not reach her. Martyn came down and we both tried for a half hour to get her, no luck. With a lot of talk, we decided to leave the male in with her under the bridge, knowing either way, it was a risk. I was not as optimistic as Martyn about their night.

The next morning I found the female swimming. When she heard me coming, she flayed herself out on the shore like she was playing dead. This behavior showed me she had experienced something last night, as the ducks never showed that behavior of fear and submission. I saw some down feathers on the bank. I knew the male was gone. I walked up about 30 feet knowing the inevitable had occurred, and there were three mounds of feathers.

His beautiful body, with limp orange feet, lay there, his inner carcass eaten. I buried him in the bramble.

I left the female there for the day but early evening went to get her. She swam into some inner pond under blackberry bramble and I had to crawl on my belly and reach in under the thorns to get her. But what I noticed most was her attitude. As I carried her up the drive, her neck was hanging low, her head down. Usually she carried it upright.

It is not a world of Disney here, but I must say that I firmly felt her sadness. When she entered her nighttime stall, she went to an opposite corner from the remaining female duck and Priscilla.

Just now I had to do some watering in this incredibly dry weather we are having. I was in an area of the gardens the ducks never wander to. But I kept hearing a quacking. Ducks can smell water from long distances and since I was spraying about ten feet from her, she let me know she was there. But I couldn't find her.

And then I saw her, squished under an old fireplace that we use as a sedum garden. I thought she was just hanging out, but she was actually stuck. I managed to free her, carefully, and hosed her down in case she was hot.

Why she picked that odd spot, I don't know. I had always thought the ducks were from the same hatch, but now I feel she was more bonded with that male and perhaps they were more mated as a pair, versus siblings.

Last night I also found Old Mama Sugee having a seizure. I stayed with her but then heard Priscilla in distress, and turning around I saw her with her head stuck in a fence. She had really curved her neck in a way that made it impossible to get free. I managed to free her, but looked at the sky and expressed something to the Universe,

Is it now the time of the Apifera fowl? Have you spoken?

Priscilla used to have control over the flock, and would herd them about, and protect them. As she grew incapable of squeezing under gates, the ducks would wander without her. Now Priscilla is mainly alone, free ranging, and she comes in at night with the others. But the flock of two is in a quiet chaos without her.