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

©K.Dunn. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Secret Sisters and Francis

I have been meaning to write about the chickens. In June, I was chicken less, having left my flock at the old farm with the new owners. I was sad to do that, but taking them on a six day journey would have been risky in the heat, and each one would have had to have an ID implant-which all the animals had to have for travel. I had names for every one of them, and know they were better off staying there. But...I had my favorites, and think of their faces a lot.

So when we got here and were chickenless, I could hardly stand it. A farm without chickens is not a farm in my book. I had to buy eggs and it nearly killed me-I'd wonder,

Were they happy chickens who laid the eggs? 

I decided to get some adult hens since it was already June and brought home some 5 week old Buff Orpingtons, one of my favorite breeds for their personality. Since we weren't totally settled, I opted to only bring 5 hens home, and a rooster.

Upon arrival, the new flock had to live with Rosie in a stall we had created for her majesty. I learned it is best to keep the chickens in an area for a long time, until they lay, so they know to come back to the roost after a day of free ranging. And since there was no adult mamas to guide them, it was the best way. Eventually, to the delight of both chickens and grumpy pig, Rosie moved out to the new barn, leaving the chickens on their own. Every morning I'd come in and there was not a chicken sound to be heard. They were the least chatty chickens I'd ever had.

"Are you there? Are you dead" I would ask upon arriving. No answer.

At some point, I thought they were dying, or just not right. And then I thought they were depressed. Even though they were not laying yet, I let them out for a day. But it's complicated. The set up made it hard to get them into the front barnyard with the pigs where all the good worms were.

So, I devised my scheme. Feed and slop the pigs, and open their door wide so the chickens could come in. At first, it took forever being the chicken patrol guard, but Francis the rooster and I have it down now. He is turning into a fine roo, protective, but not aggressive with me, even tolerating being held. And he's a real looker too. The two piglets were a bit perturbed with the hens, and went after them. Since they are carnivores, I did spend time to make sure I wouldn't find a headless chicken. But it all calmed down, and now we have our chicken routine down.

I call them  The Secret Sisters because they are not like the Buffs I had in the past, they are quite secretive {I also happen to love the girl band of the same name}. They have not shared a lot with me, and maybe that is okay. There will be more chickens to come next spring. For now, I think it is jut fine they are a clutch, with their own stories held closely to the vest. In this day where everyone seems to share everything manically online, I felt it was nice to have chickens with such tight boundaries.

Chickens with secrets...there must be some good stories there.

Every day now, I wait for the first egg. And yes, the cold is coming, but I would assume there will be a few popping out even in winter. We shall see.

Inside creatures

The house is less full without Huck, but I think of him often, and when I do, his face and that Lady Di look he would give me comes into my head; it is our current way of being together.

Muddy in some odd ways has taken on more of Huck's personality. He doesn't come up the stairs, which is so like Huck who was even concerned if he had to go around a scary door jam. He checks on me more and he worries more about some sounds and comes to my side for reassurance. He sleeps more but he is going on seven. We joked that Mud will go out of this world as a pup, where as Huck came into this world as an old man. I've seen this often in the past years of animal care taking-when one of a pair dies, the other often shifts, sometimes by blossoming, as Sophie did after victor passed, and sometimes by becoming more like the lost buddy. I think Mud is just fine. He actually played with Hughie the other day and it was pretty funny.

Big Tony is aging. He is at least 15 we think but could be older. What we've seen in the past months is his hind end is weakening. We have makeshift steps all over the house for him, to get up to his food dish, to get up on his perch, to get up in the bed. He is not cleaning himself as well either and often comes to bed with poo in his hind paws. I figure it will happen to me, unable someday to tidy myself, so I care for him and place no shame on him. He sleeps by my head at night and we have talks. I told him,

"You are the cat I should have written about. You are here."

He is in the book. The book is struggling to get birthed. I can't deny it. Many have come on board, many who usually do, have not. I'm done analyzing it. We even got named a "Project We Love" by Kickstarter, and I'm appreciative of that. When I first wrote what was then called "Raggedy Love' back in '08 era, I worked with a top notch, well known freelance editor who used to be an in house editor at Chronicle and Workmen. He was very helpful and I learned so much from him about keeping a book focused. He also pitched that book to about 12 houses, and it was well received, but it didn't get picked up. He told me something though that was very true and something for all artists/authors to know:

A book has a life of its own.

He went on to share stories of an author's book not getting picked up, and the author went on to make another book, or more, and years down the road, the first book gets picked up. That was true with what would become "Donkey Dream", I had to birth it myself years later, but it sat in a pile for years. So, this Itty book has its own life and I don't have a magic ball to predict its future, or demise.

I do have a really exciting project I'm creating and I can't wait to share it, but it will be after the Kickstarter campaign is over, no matter what the outcome.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The survivor...Scooby Keith

In 2014, Scooby Keith entered my life. He was not the healthiest old goat I had taken on-but healthy old goats weren't my goal. He was prone to coming down with pneumonia type symptoms, and each time, he and I would beat it, together.

He of course came with his very own personal elderly llama, Aldo the Elder, who I miss greatly. When he arrived with Aldo, Scooby was very independent of the herd of Misfits, preferring to roam on his own, or hang out with me or Aldo. I always listen and watch a newcomer and try to see what their comfort level is.

So we continue the routine we have had for some time. Scooby currently sleeps with Eleanor and the piglets, and Sir Tripod Goat-the latter is also very much a loner. But when I feed the pigs and Tripod, I let Scooby out to be with me as I prepare all the other breakfasts. Scooby visits his own food dish, checks out the chicken coop and then lets me know when he is ready to return to the pasture-usually just about when I get back from feeding the sheep and equines.

Scooby is going on 16 years old and it shows. His coat is thinning as is the weight on his backbone. But he is still a strong little character. He hasn't had a cold situation for over a year. I am going to put a jacket on him for winter. I did that in Oregon too, but here of course it will be colder, but it will be drier which is a blessing.Cold is one thing, wet and cold is another.

Scooby is not the handsomest bloak, and as far as looks attracting visitors, he is at the bottom of the list. But I am so fond of him, he reminds me a lot of Lofa, and Old Man Guinnias who was also bonded to me not the herd, and did chores with me day and night.

I hope he can be with me into his twenties like Guin, that would be special, if he can do it.

Scooby's current bedroom mates

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

His name is Rat

He still gets up and walks, with crippled bent legs, as he is very old, a survivor as many rats are. He likes to wear his boxer shorts and shirt, and has one nice suit vest he still wears. He doesn't walk far, but always tries to look up at the stars, slowly, as his neck gives him problems now. He prefers night to day.

He also is made of part love, a bit of stoic pessimism for living so long, and rat like ingenuity. One of kind.

His name is Rat.

{Available now at the shop}

Monday, October 24, 2016

Six years ago this week, a one pound sensation came into my life

Six years ago this week, this coming Saturday to be exact, a one pound cat came into my life, out of the blue, on a rainy rural highway. She leapt out of the bramble as log trucks were coming from both directions. My heart almost stopped. She somehow managed to avoid death, and as I pulled off the road, she sat waiting for me, in the middle of the highway, as if the yellow divider line was made especially for her as a guide.

I was on my way to an appointment and had Huck in the car. I remember thinking,

I do NOT need another cat. I can not bring this cat home.

At that point of Apifera, we had 25 cats. We had arrived in 2004 to the farm, and were immediately greeted by a little orange tabby tumbling out of the hay bales. That was Gus. He was one of five, and Mama Kitty was busy getting pregnant, by none other than Big Tony. By the time I could trap/spay/neuter the kittens, Mama had another litter who I also trapped/spayed/neutered. It took me two years to trap Mama, and she had a third litter but moved them to a neighbor's barn. In between, other cats just seemed to arrive, hearing perhaps that the accommodations were good. And they were. Samuel Noel, Mr. Bradshaw, One Eye, BW, Tomentosa, Miss Prairie Pussytoes and of course, Phinias T. Barnum. Oh, and Miss Peach.

I turned the truck around with this kitten on my lap. I was sure she was going to freak out, and driving with an unknown cat, uncaged, was dangerous. I had had trips to the ER because of working with feel kittens. But she sat on my lap, calmly, occasionally uttering her infamous,


I took her to my vet to see if they could take her but they were full up. She was only 1#, skinny, bad eyes and we weren't sure if she would make it. When Martyn came home that night, I greeted him at the door.

"I was minding my business. But I had to bring her in," I said.

He later told me he assumed I'd brought a raccoon in the studio or baby skunk. But when he saw her that day, he said, like he was looking at a newborn baby,

"Of course you had to bring her home."

This the man that courteously told me-many eons ago-he could not tolerate cats. He and Itty were bonded from day one. She immediately favored Martyn and we used to joke that I saved her, but she would choose him if forced to pick. He loved that cat. I'd catch him cooing to her, or talking to her like an old school chum. Itty was very independent but each night, when she chose to come in from her Big Etta world, she would venture to Martyn's side of the bed.

Meh, I'd hear, in her faintest form of "meh". And he'd put her under his covers.

So the sign you see here had a real meaning when I made it way back when. No other sign at the old Apifera brought more delight to visitors. To me, it has no meaning in the present day at the old farm, it's a novelty item now and I should have taken it down in honor of the beautiful story of 25 cats that all lived there once. I wish I had. It had a function then, to warn the delivery people and other trucks coming up the road, that, yes, there were indeed cats falling from trees.

So, here I am asking you to once again partake in Itty. That darn little cat. I am making one final push, in her honor, to get funding for this book. We have 10 days left.

If you can honor her, and me, with a pledge, I thank you. And I am grateful for the 90 current pledges, and tot he people who have upped their pledge, and shared the story with others.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Starting from scratch is just fine with me

From "Itty Bitty & Big Etta"
I've had a recurring conversation with many people who have lost parents, friends, loved ones and animals. It is something that I learned over time, that is the only way I get though losing someone-it is an acquired skill of being a living human...left behind at the party after another departs.

One must find their own unique language with the departed love one. No matter how strong one's personal belief's of an after world, or lack there of, it is very hard as a human to live with out the physical presence of a loved one. All the trappings we latch onto as humans are gone- the voice we reached out to on the phone for laughs, comfort, and advice; the image of a pet at our feet; the reality that an old friend is not going to suddenly appear at your favorite bookstore-it's a cold reality that comes with staying behind in the living world.

I also find, for myself, that this language I must learn with to communicate with each passed creature evolves over time–Like learning any new language, one has to work at adding to the vocabulary.

Dreams are important for me, a way to visit in a more visual way with loved ones who are gone. My parents are often in dreams. Oddly, before they died, I used to dream about dining with them but we were also always looking at empty houses, and I was always thinking in the dream I needed to get back to the farm, and find Martyn. They weren't frightening dreams, but those dreams seem to have subsided. They went on for years though. I now tend to have encounters with my parents in the woods, through the sounds of the leaves, or in a snowfall, a red cardinal, the full moon is always my parents together, the wind is always my father, and my mother comes to me in voice all the time-usually in encouragement, or motherly advice.

This art is from the "Itty Bitty & Big Etta" book. Itty doesn't come to me as much in dreams now as she did when we first moved, but it was always with the same message, that she is where she needs to be to be her true self.

The Kick campaign is winding down, ten days to go and we are only at 44%. I have analyzed it to death, asked questions of past and present backers, and am at peace whatever the outcome is. I'm done analyzing it. I just want to work again so am focusing on my studio. Marketing these campaigns is not for the shy-one has to keep asking followers to pledge, and as one successful Kickstarter campaigner told me years ago-you will lose some fans because of it, but will gain others. That seems to be true.

My life is shifting. It appears some followers weren't willing to make the shift. And that's okay. But I'm going forward. I have lots of ideas for shuffling the blog around, how I use social media [I failed last month at deleting my Facebook profile, but I have some new ideas on that for the coming weeks] and what work I want to generate in coming months-including my sewn creatures, and the novel idea I keep procrastinating on.

I'm starting from scratch. I finally figured that out.

I'm rebuilding my intentions. It meant letting go of some things, and some followers.

"Soon or later it all gets real, walk on." {Neil Young}

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Little Sylvia Pettini

Little Sylvia Pettini is doing very well. She has not quite caught up in size with her mates, but is gaining weight and eating well. And also I'm pleased her left eye is healing. She definitely has a slight scar on the interior eye from where she lay on it so much as a sickly newborn, but she no longer holds it shut and I am not treating it any more.

She is just the sweetest little imp. When I look out in the field she is the one that most looks like a little woolen doll. She always comes up to visit and welcomes hugs and holding. Actually this flock is so personable, and if I'm kneeling with Sylvia, one by one they all venture over. I wish I could have some pics of me and the flock. For now I take these rather silly selfies, and ponder at how old I am getting, nearing 59 soon.