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

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nap of the old man

Old Rudy, caught napping. His beard against blue stripes is worth all the gold in the world.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Donkey helps the heart

I had a wave of sadness come over me this week, not sure if it is one thing that triggered it, but the arrival of autumn-and you know of all people I welcome it with open arms-can also bring a certain meloncholy, a wave of nostalgia that can't always be relieved.

I think all the photos online of people sending their kids off to school might have started it. Just took me back to the realm of life that felt so safe-of course, we forget children have anxiety too. We gloss over all that and have a recording in our head and heart of what we want in the picture, not necessarily what was there.

When I was coming home the other day from my ride, I saw the beautiful images of the sheep on the hills, and the foreboding grey clouds above them. A painting, I thought. So yesterday I had that scene on my mind when I sat down to paint. But I couldn't paint what I had seen. I just wanted to bring a donkey and beautiful sunflowers to me. When in need, a donkey seems to come into the picture. There are plenty of little foreboding bits in this piece, if you can see past the pretty colors.

But it is a cheerful piece I think, and I guess it is what I needed to see.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Land of Apifera

I went for a long ride n Boone Friday. It was perfect weather for me. Overcast, a threat of rain even [which would be more than welcome] with a light breeze. Everything is brown and crisp, but there are autumnal signs everywhere–I heard the first geese flocking yesterday morning, and the barn swallows re beginning to gather on overhead power lines.

One of the roads I ride is about 2 miles from here and when you look south you can see the white dots of sheep on our hills, and the roof of our barn. I like that view-as it it could be from 100 years ago when this farm came to be and the barn was young without holes or creaks.

The beautiful browns, umbers and ochres of dead leaves and grasses blend in with the color of our flock.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Eleven years with a Dirt Farmer

It is our anniversary today. We are celebrating in a grand way-working in the pig paddocks putting up better fencing. Actually, Martyn is, I am taking break from the sun.

This continues to be my favorite picture of Martyn. I think the expression on his face is so genuine. It was one of those classic Dirt Farmer moments–I saw him come out of the house in his rubber suit, with red handled clippers, and I said,

"Wait!" Don't move, I have to get my camera!"

No complaining came from his lips. I told him to smile and he did, the same smile I have seen so many times. It's the same gentle smile I saw some 12 years ago, when a knock came upon my door, and their he stood, introducing himself to me after I first moved into my Portland house. Some of you have heard the story over and over, and of course, I celebrated it in the book Donkey Dream, but I never tire of thinking of that day. I didn't put it in the book, as I knew it would sound like I was an unstable desperado, but I knew at first moment I'd marry him. Then I let the thought slip away, as I had just arrived in Portland. But my heart and gut were right that day, and one year later we exchanged vows.

We have had one fight in 11 years. That is due to the fact that Martyn is very patient and I am very forthcoming. That fight lasted two days and I did not speak to him. By day two I could hardly stand it, I missed him so much even though he was right there with me. We worked through the specifics that caused such a blow, and it wasn't pleasant, but we did. There is no passive aggressive stuff going on in this house. It works for us. Except for the issues that often arise when a person first marries-usually boundary issues with extended family, or how to load the dishwasher-we have a wonderful time. We like to work, alone and together. We love our gardens and fields and perhaps the most amazing gift of Martyn, speaking for myself, is he follows along helping me with pigs, crippled goats, needy donkeys and other dreams I keep percolating. There might have been a time when it seemed overwhelming and out of control-all the animals-but I think we've built a life here that not only feeds us physically and emotionally, it brings bounties into our home- through guests we interact with, friends we make due to the farm, and applause we get for our work. The animal work is clearly my baby, but because it fills me, and it is shared with the outside world-it bounces back and enriches Martyn's life.

I married a friend, someone that makes me laugh, someone that works hard, passionately outside of the marriage but comes home with new passion for me and the life here. I remember reading some article for newlyweds guiding that one should let their mate come in the house after work and give them 15 minutes or so before you start unloading any problems of the day. I have a different technique. I wait until Martyn has his beer open, I have my wine, and I list off all the exciting things I'm dying to share:

"Earnest busted down the duck hut door again to get eggs, so we need to fix that, and I saw an elk on my ride today. Did you see they cut that field over by Bansens?"

So tonight we'll celebrate like always. He will cook - grilled chicken with fresh blackberry sauce and our garden delights - we'll drink wine and talk and notice the signs of autumn coming in. I have a lime chess pie made. It's not that much different than any other night here. But that is what I mean–life with the right mate isn't about having fireworks to postmark a birthday or anniversary. The fireworks are internal desires that come to fruition in the work you do together, through the things you share with outsiders and the fact that you make each other laugh as you grow old together.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More plethora of pigs

They are growing and getting chunky and their activity level is increasing.

I'm hoping they can wait two more days to stay out of trouble-which mainly involves squeezing their little heads into pasture fence and getting stuck-it happened once so far. We have to put up the No Climb on Saturday to ensure nobody plops into an adjoining paddock.

I think I can give a sigh of relief now. With the lambs I always wait about 5 days before getting too enthralled with anyone as things can still go wrong. And I'm happy to say the little male runt is catching up and holding his own. Next week the vet comes to...castrate. It's a quick procedure, but I'm told the first one squeals like crazy, and then every starts squealing like crazy, so my pig friend gave me lots of good advice for preparing the stall right to make things happen more smoothly. I think many people who haven't been around pigs might be intimidated at first by their language. It definitely takes time to understand your pigs. They make lots of noise at dinner time, to the point where a newcomer might be afraid of them. They talk with their noses-as you see in the second photo below. I know you really want this to be a piglet kissing her sister, but it is a piglet nibbling on her sister, telling her to move over.

Meanwhile, Doris is still waiting to piglet. I'm now assuming it might be even another 2 weeks since she must have missed the first cycle I had her with Earnest. Amazing, because she was so attentive and helpful to the poor fellow on his first sex adventure, where as Pearly wanted nothing to do with him!

In a few days, the piglets will be out of control, leaping and running! And I will be spending lot more time tendering them and holding them. Lucky me!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Today I loved a cat for one hour and then said good-bye

This story started yesterday, when I saw a post on Facebook alerting people in the Oregon area that there was a semi feral tomcat in need. The woman posting about it had tried the no-kill shelters, but they turned her down. Now normally I don't get pulled into animal neglect drama on Facebook, and I really didn't know this woman at all, she was one of many of my "friends" that come and go in news feeds [as I come and go in theirs too]. But, I told her if she could bring him to the farm, I'd take him in. It turned out she lived 1.5 hours away. But she was willing to do it. I said he'd have to go to the vet first to be tested, and she was going to do that too.

But in some quick exchanges, she opted to bring him up right away, and the vet wouldn't work out for some reason. Well, then I said she could meet me at my vet's and I'd leave him there the night and he could be tested and then neutered.

I have never brought a cat onto this farm-except for Itty who I found on a highway, and Peach who was dumped at my vet's. I certainly haven't gone looking for one on Facebook, an hour and a half away.

But when the final arrangements were made, I felt there was some reason I needed to do this and help both cat and woman. She said it had taken her 2 years to trap him, and that she had dogs that hated cats so it wouldn't work at her house. And her neighbors had dogs that attacked cats. I listened, but it was something internal that just told me not to question anything.

I got to the vet clinic and the thanked the woman for driving him up. We checked in at the front desk and when asked what his name was, I said, "For now, "Cat"". I didn't want to rush into naming him. We got the large dog crate he was in into an exam room, took him out and placed him into another small crate without any trouble. The woman could be on her way. She had a meeting to get back to at 6 and a long drive. It was good of her to trap the cat and bring him up.

I was told he was semi feral. He sure looked the part. Testicals the size of walnuts, which gave him extremely puffy cheeks and jowls. In our exchanges, the woman had thought he was swollen, but it was all testosterone. I was led to believe he was pretty much going to run off out of the cage, but we got him out and he sat quietly on the exam table. The vet and I first did a blood draw to determine if he had feline AIDS or leukemia. Both would not be good.

So while I waited for blood results, I got to know "Cat". He reminded me of Phinnias T. Barnum in personality, and Bradshaw and BW in looks and posture with his beautiful black and white markings and a jet black nose and chin. He was loaded with lice and had scars and cat bites [or other critters, who knows] all over him. He was thin but had been eating for sure and did weigh in at 12 pounds. His upper front teeth were gone and is incisors were broken off-probably meshed into another cat somewhere. His eye was puffy and full of goop and glassy, like he had a wound there. He definatly had been living the life of a Tom.

But he was a lover. He let me hold him, pick him up, caress him with my face-somewhere along the line he had understood love. He didn't balk at the blood draw. We could open his mouth and check all his body over.

I felt an instant bonding pretty soon after being with him -and when the vet went out to do the blood results, it was just the Cat and me in that room. I liked him. It was that quick with him.

And then the vet came back with results.

Positive. Positive.

There was one choice to make and we knew it. I don't know why all this happened the way it did. I guess someone could have taken him to a vet down where he was trapped and he could have left his realm down there. I really believe for some reason it had to work out like this - that someone would take the time to drive him up, and I somehow knew the only way to handle it was to take him immediately into the vet before landing at Apifera [I figured I could have crated him for another night, but my gut said to meet the woman at the vet].

I'm no hero, none of us were-but it was a very spiritual one hour. I went from my car into the vet clinic to help an unknown cat, and within the hour got to know him, understand the gravity of his condition, understood the fate I would seal for him. While the vet prepared the sedative and cocktail, I spent more time with him and told him all sorts of good stories about his next adventure.

"There will be birds to eat, but they will immediately come back to life. You will be able to do anything in spirit there, anything. There will never be another night of fights, or fear of flight. You'll never be hungry and you won't itch. You are a magnificent cat. I'm so glad I got to have this hour with you. Can you look for me later on?"

He would not die alone, wouldn't infect other cats and he wouldn't suffer in illness or half dead on a roadside. Before we gave him the sedative, I told my vet I wanted to name him.

So there on the table, I christened him "Charles III".

He dosed off, and then he was gone.

It was strange. It was only one hour, but I felt we were meant to be together-even for sixty minutes.