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

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Apifera lands and all is well

A photo posted by Katherine Dunn / Apifera Farm (@katherinedunnapiferafarm) on

We have landed. We are intact and safe and happy. And there is much to tell you about the trip and our new place here in Maine. Despite a major surprise goodbye on the day we left-I will write about it this week-we had no trouble on the road with the trailer or The Misfits. All the horrible things that could and can happen hauling animals, did not. We nearly ran out of gas in the middle of Wyoming, but chugged into a one tank stop and survived.Other than that, we did just fine. All the worry about The White Dogs barking all night did not happen, the piglets thrived and grew, and Birdie bonded with little Tripod who now shares a space with her in the new barn. No flat tires, no run tickets, no drama. Just lots of road in front of us for five days. I can honestly tell you, I was happy to get past the West, and into the Midwest which felt like home. As we headed into eastern Ohio and then New England, I felt like I was coming home. I hadn't been to Vermont or NY since the eighties when I went to college. The houses and architecture just made me blissful.

In a way, it seems like years ago we set out from the old farm in Yamhill, just one week ago. {Visit Instagram to see photos of the trip} So much has happened, so many sites have been seen, feelings felt-goodbyes, hellos and the wonder of America as we drove for five very long days. Every night we landed at a different barn where I had pre-arranged lodging for us and the Misfits. The Misfits stayed in the trailer and we slept on an air mattress with Huck, Mud, and Hughie on their pads- always in a barn stall. It worked out great as I could throw the dogs in another stall to feed them while I attended The Misfits, and Martyn set up camp. It was a lot of work and by day two our routine was pretty streamlined. We drove about 12 hours a day and the final day we landed in Maine around seven, with a three hour drive to the new place. That final three hours nearly killed us! As we got to the house at ten, we made a wrong turn and in turning around, got the trailer stuck briefly, and a very nice man helped guide us out of what could have been a serious pickle.

When we arrived it was dark, but all the lights were on in the empty house. We found sunflowers at our door step and inside a food basket with goodies to eat, soaps, coffee, breakfast rolls and a bottle of wine. We were dead tired, so tired, but we took time to look around the house and loved it even more than we thought we would. I could hardly keep my eyes open, but we opened the wine and shared it in the empty old house.

We decided it was like right out of a fairy tale, the scene we found ourselves in. It was as if we had wandered a long time in the dark woods, looking for a place to rest, and we found a little elf house inviting us in by the light. That's what it truly felt like.

So for now, I will share some photos, and I have many things to write about.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Diary of a Pig: May19

In which Earnest the pig conitnues to write in his musings in his journal.

May 19, on the road to Maine, somewhere in eastern Oregon

I was able to see my children for the first time today, briefly. I am too big for them they say, emboldened, and might step on one. This is true. As I might have the intention of sniffing one as a greeting or acknowledgement of being their father, I too often am overwhelmed by my need to constantly eat and can be distracted easily by even a grain of feed nearby.

My riding quarters are separate from the others. My tusks can be problematic. I mean no harm with them, but recognize their ability to slice and dice. I am rather pleased with myself that I have this suite all on my own, although I heard talk one of the small goats might come in with me at the first layover.

The air vents allow me to feel the air move above me. The sound of the road is mesmerizing and makes me sleepy. It's like a long nap on a boat I must assume. I've never been on a boat, but we saw some on the National Geographic special last summer when we heisted that old TV out of the barn for a night, until someone ate the cord. One of The White Dogs no doubt, although I was blamed. I prefer to eat natural items.

So far, America feels the same to me as it did on the farm. But I sense change coming. All the same, I am still me, Earnest. It is good to be grounded in myself and not swathed by the dissenting voices I hear coming from the radio up front.

Logistics-our next few weeks

We will be travelling across America to Maine and hope to arrive May 16. At that point, I am unsure when I will have access to my main computer and internet. So the blog might be inactive for a couple weeks or more.

The best way to watch our travels is to follow along in Instagram which is the easiest way for me to post on a phone. I'll share those images on my Facebook profile page too.

The shop is on hiatus. If you were to put an order in from one of the book sites, I won't be able to ship for a few weeks, maybe sooner. Please feel free to email me though, I will try to answer any questions for you about art or book orders you want. Sundance still has lots of originals, as does RiverSea Gallery.

Once settled in mid-late May, the blog will be back!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to stuff a trailer with Misfits

I would lie in bed these past mornings deciding the best method of getting all The Misfits into the trailer on move day-in a way that doesn't traumatize anyone, or break my back. The plan is to get the World's Grumpiest But I Like Myself The Way I Am Pig, aka Rosie, into her private traveling suite the night before with plenty of bedding and feed. She will scream and be horrible the entire time but once settled will fall off to sleep. She did this when we got her years ago.

Then Eleanor and her piglets will be put into their semi private suite and then we'll bring Cornelia and Birdie the llama in and shut the door.

Oh wait, I forgot that Itty Bitty and Big Tony will ride there too, in a private hanging bird cage type set up. In time, they will forgive me...I hope.

Then in goes Earnest who will ride in the front of the back trailer, maybe with Scooby Keith. In the bigger part of the back trailer will be The White Dogs, Raggedy Man, Sophie, Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat, and Moose and Goose. Sir Tripod will enter last, I will carry him in and decide the best place for him.

Huck and Mud will be in the backseat. Hughie will sleep soundly on his cushion on the floor. With any luck, they won't be farting the entire way. But we will roll with the punches.

I my goodness, The Head Troll. I am undecided as to which area she will be in. She will let me know. Like I've said before, she might be the third driver.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Walk on

So, as Neil Young said in song, sooner or later it all gets real, walk on.

And it is real. The van with all our belongings is on the way to Maine. We will be loading up all The Misfits, dogs and cats, and hopefully have room for ourselves, and leaving on Thursday. We plan to take five days to get there. We have layovers planned at various horse barns where we will pitch a tent and get some sleep and then head out each morning to see America.

I can tell you the excitement, as well as emotion, is building. In the next days, I don't plan any unusual send offs-I simply want to be on my land, alone with Martyn and my animals and remember it as our time as stewards, as we built it. The next owner will have wonderful adventures here and their own lessons. I feel like the energy we put into it will ooze for awhile, and then their energy will mesh with the land, and on and on.

I placed a White Dog, and old goat and a sheep in some branches, as a gesture for the farm that we will always remember it here, and our energy together is strong-we will watch over our memory with our hearts.

To be honest, I don't know what will happen the minute we drive off, with the sheep in the upper field, knowing my horse and donkeys are East, and my flock, Doris and June, Peaches, Otis, the chickens and Hazel the barn cat stay behind with the new owner. I suppose it will feel unsettling. I haven't decided if I will look up in the field one last time at my flock. I will just be there in the moment, but, once we hit the road, it's Maine bound.

We will be off to see America, and reunite with the equines-a glorious hello to look forward to!

Monday, May 09, 2016

From cat to cat-a divine circle

After the van was all packed, I realized I had neglected to take this large canvas that hangs up high in my studio. It was of my first cat, Gracie, who I got in NYC in the '80's and she lived to 18.

At the end of her days, I knew my time to put her down was coming and I told myself when I finished this portrait of her maybe I'd have the courage. I eventually did, she was my first real pet as an adult so it was hard. It was 1997.

When I saw I'd forgotten to pack the painting, I thought I'd just ship it to Maine. But then I realized - it is meant to stay here, I think. For the other red tabby in my life, Peaches, will stay here on the farm with the new owners. I think it was fitting- this painting's meaning has now shifted-to my goodbye to sweet Peach.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

A hard good bye- we help Daisy and Iris float away

In all the excitement of the move and packing, there is a double good bye I am preparing for on Monday afternoon. It will not be an easy one. With much thought, on my own and with my vets, I have decided what is best for the elder matriarch, Daisy, is to help her move on, and we will euthenize her on Monday. Iris is also failing and it is not right to let her carry on and take the chance she will go south fast, which happened to Stella. She is very thin and weakening.

I do not have a ounce of me that feels I might be doing the wrong thing. I am doing what is best for the animal. Daisy is very special to me. She arrived here as a year old with her mother Rosie, also a favorite. The first ones often are. But Daisy is so arthritic now, it is hard for her to get up, and more and more, I just see pain and tiredness in her eyes. Today I watched her raise up in the field and she immediately stumbled. She can not stand anymore and hold her head up. Even if we were staying put, I know her time is coming. In fact in the last few days, she rises less and less.

Daisy has given me so much. Her stoic calm demeaner allowed me to learn shepherding. She allowed me to be the first time shepherd in lambing, and without rolling her eyes she tolerated me checking her udder and vulva almost every half hour. We laugh now, but she let me be the student. She gave us beautiful lambs, including Lilly who has been residing with her in these past months. So has Cornelia, and it breaks my heart these past days to see Cornelia asleep by Daisy. But maybe she knows. Lilly will be allowed to visit with Daisy after she departs as will Cornelia.

And then what can I say about Iris, or Wild Iris as we originally named her? One of my original muses, along with her sidekick Stella. As I was packing up the studio, it was very sad to see all the sketches of Stella and Iris that I was inspired to create for short stories. They were my first goats. Stella and Iris ate a lot of bramble for us...and roses, trees, shrubs and tulips. Iris was never as people oriented as Stella. While Stella was like a big old dog, Iris was coy, always on the lookout for trouble, horrible to work with on her feet, the instigator in any coup or fence escape. To this day, even though she has weakened, she still tries to rise above the herd and make trouble. I had a long talk with her a few weeks ago, and a beautiful moment occurred. I found her away from the crowd, pressed up against the cement wall and the horse trailer. It was an unusual place for her to be. I went to be with her and she did not make an attempt to leave-also unusual for her. I knealt down and asked her if she was checking out on me. She put her head on my shoulder, and sat that way for the longest time. I did not want to move it was so special, especially from a creature that considered that back scratches were for sissies. I told her maybe it was time to join Stella. I told her to think about it.

A couple weeks later, the vet was here and we agreed her condition was not great. She is weakening just like Stella did, and one day Stella simply did not wake up. I think that will happen to Iris shortly, but it is my responsibility to see that her end, after all her glory here, is done properly without pain or drama.

Our kind neighbor up the way came over Friday to dig the graves with his back hoe. With all we have going on, it was such a kind gesture. It took all of 15 minutes what would have taken a couple hours or more to hand dig. It's eerie looking down at the giant mounds of dirt by the graves, standing like pyramids, waiting for the bodies.

In a way, this is the fitting good bye for me to have as we leave our land. I am saying goodbye to two of the original members of Apifera, two of my first muses here. They all helped me gain a voice in my writing. I am also saying goodbye to their energy and presence that is visceral. To this day, Daisy is still talkative and since she is right out the studio, I hear her voice all the time. I think when I lay those two bodies down, I will have a long crying goodbye, something I haven't done yet because I am so busy.

Before we lay them to the rest, the vet will also be here to castrate the male piglets born this week, and microchip them for the trip. Apifera has once again presented us with the bookends we all live–birth to death. There could be no better send off than celebrating the miracle of birth along with the beauty of life that ends in a return to the Earth.

So it will be an emotional Monday.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Mothers in the move

Packing and moving has me thinking of my mother more than the usual-as I think of her daily. We moved all the time as I grew up. Anyone who knew the Dunns knew they moved and did it well. Sometimes we moved right down the street-back in Kenwood when the working man could still live there. My Dad would fix up an old shack, and then we''d move to another one and fix that one up. I loved it. While I did have some houses I bonded with more than others, I looked at moving as an adventure, excitement, a journey. I also learned how to pack, fast and well, and efficiently. I can't tell you how many people say, "Aren't you going to get help packing?". Moving a lot also gave me the courage and freedom in my adult years to not be afraid to move, even far away to a place out West. So I feel my parents with me as we pack. I am confidant they are busy doing other things they need to do, but I have to believe they are popping in, and enjoying the familiar feel of a house in disarray, full of boxes, and packing tape.