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

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Prayer Flag Tree

I've had a secret little prayer flag tree on Donkey Hill for some time, where I put raggedy flags to send prayers to people who might need them, or situations that are scary or sad for me. It has largely been anonymous, I don't usually tell the person I'm hanging a flag for, or write about it here except on one occasion.

But I got to thinking it would be really sweet to have a special Prayer Flag Tree at our last Pino Pie Day. I did think about it-prayers should come for free and quietly as I've been doing all along. But I put it to the Dirt Farmer, who is usually stoic and fair minded in these matters. He thought it was a nice idea and a way for followers and friends to help Apifera's fundraiser, but also have some Apifera wind floating a prayer for them or a loved one/pet.

Today I hung the first flags. I have to say it felt really nice. It's such a simple expression but what makes it even more special is the little tree they hang on, directly in front of my studio where the gardens begin. That little tree struggled for years in a landscaper container to survive. You see, Martyn has his own Misfits of Plants. Ever since I met him, he can't bare to throw out trees and plants that are dug up on his many job sites. This plum tree was about two feet tall when I met her, and was a perfect candidate to be Charlie Brown tree. She lived in a pot until we got to Apifera, where she lingered another couple years in the same pot before our gardens became more established. Finally, her roots were set free into the soil. It was still small and crooked, and after a couple years, it gave us one sweet little plum. Last year it really put on a beautiful show of color and gave us buckets of plums.

But this spring, we could tell that half of it did not survive the winter. It could have been a myriad of things-insects, blight, disease....or the fact that Stella and Iris got to the bark at some point in their illustrious careers. While the bark was not destroyed, coupled with other things, it might have killed part of the sweet tree. We sawed those branches off, and of late, the other leaves are shrinking. There is one tiny plum on her! What a precious thing, to struggle so and give us one plum!

We don't know if the tree will make it, so I told Martyn I thought she was the perfect place to hang the prayer flags for Pino's Pie Day. In that way, we are honoring her life too.

If you'd like to have a prayer flag hung in someones honor, be it pet, friend or loved one [or you!], just visit the Pino funding page and look for the Prayer Flag level.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From this will come huge things

Some animals that die leave bigger markings. They all leave some dent in the landscape, and all are to be remembered, but some leave much bigger heart prints.

Stella was one of the latter.

I see her grave as I drive up the road. She is buried in the lavender field, and I don't see it as depressing at all to see the fresh dirt mound knowing what lies beneath. I just think,

"There's Stella."

She had such a good life. Someone noted that there are many changes rumbling through the farm. It is true. We have been here 11+ years now, and there are bound to be shifts in Apifera's life. I'm okay with all that, excited too, now that I've announced this will be the last Pino Pie Day. Losing one event will free me up to create another, another that will be more in tune with the current Misfits, my writing/books and art, and my new hopes and ideas-and new muses I haven't met.

Stella's death, the passing of the farm's matriarch cat, the new barn, the shifting of the lavender fields, the opening of upper pastures, all of it signals change which means new stories, adventures, art and dreams. I remember when my mother died, as drastic as it felt, a voice came inside me and said,

From this will come huge things.

I've lived within one part of a dream for many years now-the dream of finding a mate, a sense of place, a horse and farm-and I will continue to admire where I've landed, and not take it for granted. But unlike some people I see who get stuck in their dream, hoping it continues to bring them glory, comfort, more book deals or continued public adoration, I'm going to stretch and allow myself to jump off some tall trees knowing I might scuff up my knees at times.

I have loved being within this current dream, but my wings aren't clipped.

Several months ago, maybe even last year, I began titling paintings with "Calling All Wings". My titles come to be subconsciously after a piece is done and I knew these had a many layered muse behind it, and that muse is now coming to the forefront.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy pug, happy tail

Hughie once known as Hewie and otherwise now referred to as The One Eyed Pug II not to be confused with the original never to be replaced One Eyed Pug is doing just wonderfully.

This is one smart pug. And, incredibly solid in his demeanor. Everyone who works with him seems to fall in love with him. He is very different than the first One Eyed Pug, in that he is less needy for starters. I think due to Hughies' first home where I think he was left a lot alone in a room due to his blindness, he had two choices-get needy or be calm. He seems to have gone the calm route. He has learned to navigate the house-which is mainly one floor so works out great for a blind fellow. I was amazed how fast he has adjusted. He has a bed in the main kitchen/living area so he is always with the gang. Like most pugs, he likes to be with his people-but what is great is he is very adjustable so if I go to the barnyard for long spells, I have crated trained him [he actually was fine with the crate when he arrived so already was crate oriented-I'm strong believer in crate training].

He is pure love and acceptance. He knows my voice and now that he knows the layout I don't have to always have him on his lead, for safety. I created a Hughie Garden-basically a puppy pen in the grass where he can lay about in the shade if I need to work in the garden, but he can still hear me. He sits on the chair with me and the heating pad at night for our glass of wine, by the fire, and then moves into the living room at night for television watching, on the couch of course, with old Huck in his spot. Martyn still gets to squeeze in with his girl, no worries.

I don't know how it happened, that the stars were aligned just right to bring him here, but they were. To all who helped make it happen, thank you again.

On Tuesday, Hughie and his eyeball will be going to the vet to have a back tooth removed. I had noticed bad breath when he arrived and checked his teeth. My last pug had horrible teeth from a young age, Hughie is from better breeding for sure. His teeth are really good, except he has a split tooth which is half rot, so we will take it out on Tuesday, and he will be able to return home that afternoon. We did a senior blood panel on him Thursday and he was a gentleman with the vet. She is hooked, just like the last vet who saw him.

Hughie, Hugh Pugh, Pug, Hey Mister- all these names are known to him now around here. He is very happy, and feels secure now evidenced in his happy pug tail.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Four hours with Boone and God

I did today exactly what was needed. I went for a four hour ride up in the mountain foothills with Boone and some friends. It's a wonderful place that is maintained by the local Muleskinners and the trails are just wonderful-challenging but never overly so. Boone did great and we went through our first streams together and waded in pools too. Many of the trails were steep and rocky, combined with wet footing and logs to cross so it was just a wonderful challenging day and so much fun. Every time Boone and I do any ride it is enjoyable, but these longer ones are so meaningful as they build us up as a team, and I'm always so proud of him just for being his calm stoic self.

Part of the trails are through private forest land and this is the only photo I took today. I am not religious and did not go to church as a child or young adult but the power of the best things of faith are embodied in Nature for me, and if there was ever an outdoor cathedral it is the forest. The old barn is a cathedral for me too, but old forests bring me onto hallowed ground. Looking up into the light bouncing off Doug Fir limbs, a statement popped into my head,

There must be God.

I do believe in God, but that statement came to me, strongly. Boone noticed things I did not, smelled and sensed what I could not. Perhaps that is God too, for him, but he needs not label it. I remember Joseph Campbell saying that we need the word "God" because we have to put a short description onto the entity that we can not describe in human words.

I needed this ride today and sometimes the beauty of the world is so overwhelming. Through certain parts of the forest, I could see coastal range foothills, and I wondered how many eyes were watching us as we rode though those paths. The horses themselves bring me great contentment. The sounds of feet hitting ancient rock and the sweat of the neck perfuming the cool air was worth thousands of dollars of psychotherapy. It was like it washed me, it didn't wash over me, it literally cleansed me and all the heavy thoughts I've had of late. Last night Martyn and I sat and talked a lot about giving up Pino Pie Day, and I was surprised how much it felt like a loss. I am very confidant it is the right thing to do, but it is a loss. The ride today reminded me of my small size in this universe, and another idea came to me,

If we had to walk in this cathedral before speaking how would it change our words?

The steady steps of my horse amazed me at times, and I daydreamed how I would most likely be slipping and tripping. Boone trusted me enough not to lead him into danger, carrying me four hours on slippery slope and never missing a step, never faltering or hesitating a turn.

I did not think about plans. I didn't ponder what might be in the future. I was just with Boone, enjoying the sermon of those trees and the light they cast on us and feeling pretty good there was a God.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The matriarch of the Apifera Cats is gone

About four weeks ago, Mama Kitty appeared on the front porch-where she lives with two of her remaining sons, Little Orange and Mr. Plum. Her chin was growing in size and was red. I assumed it was an abscess or a tooth issue. I kept my eye on her for the next couple days, as the area became very large. I have dealt with many abscesses on the semi feral cats and have been able to treat them topically in the past. But there was no way I could do that with the wild Mama.

But as time went on, it was becoming apparent it might be more than a abscess. It was really huge, and her mouth was changing shapes. I took her photo and showed vet, and they concurred it might be cancer for all we knew. So I set out to trap her. It took me two years to originally catch Mama. Back in 2004 when we arrived, there was a new litter in the barn, I was able to catch them all and spay/neuter them, along with Big Tony the patriarch. I could not get Mama, and she had two more litters, one who lived with us, and one litter she carried down to a nearby farm. After catching all the litters and spaying/neutering, I finally caught her. And it wasn't easy [obviously]. She was one smart cat, a survivor on many levels. Of the 25 cats that have roamed onto this farm arriving semi feral and ending up pretty tame [to us anyway], Mama was the only one who never allowed you to be close. Thirty feet was her normal boundary with me. After a couple of years, she suddenly appeared on the front porch to eat with some of her offspring. At some point in Apifera history, the original barn cat litters broke up into two groups, some headed to the front porch where they could live under the house and eat on the deck, some stayed in the hay barn. Mama appeared but never tendered. I touched her nose once, I can't remember how, but that was the only time I touched her. When I trapped her back then, it was with a special net contraption I'd invested in just to catch her.

So, I knew trapping her wasn't going to be easy. But I felt I owed it to her-even if she had cancer, I felt I owed it to her to not have her suffer. And I also knew she was old, probably over 12. Mama has always adored Big Tony, who lives in the house. He is the only creature I have ever seen her show affection to. While she was never mean to her offspring, she basically ate at the porch and left, but when Big Tony came out in the morning, Mama would wrap around him and flirt. It was so endearing.

So for the past three weeks we have been trying to trap her. I had two different traps, invested in lots of medicated smelly canned food from my vet, and also had a crate set up with my net. Several times I had her in the trap! But she got out, never tripping the release. We tried so many different ways to get her, including a box and string method so I could do it from the house, as the front door squeaks.

The only comfort I had was the huge chin mass did erupt, and was draining, I thought. If I could keep her eating, she might make it through. I have seen cats survive open wounds to the bone, so I had hope. But we still kept trying to catch her. In the final three days, I could tell she was changing. She would come to the window pane and make a small meow to me when she saw me. Mama never meowed at us. At the time, I tried not to let my human thoughts take over-I felt she was probably famished and wanted the medicated food which was smelly and easier to eat in her condition. But yesterday, I put Big Tony out and she tried to wrap around him-he sniffed her and walked away. That was heartbreaking, but looking back, he knew.

I knew she was weakening, so I spent an hour hiding in a spot near the porch, with my net, hoping I could get her in her weakened state. But no luck.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to go to the vet and found her lying on the road, alive, but right on the open road outside the pastures. I knew she was getting delirious. I got out and she remained still. Grabbing her was dangerous, even in her state, but I got about a foot away and she moved to the pastures. Her walk was catty wampus and she landed on the fence line, and then fell. I ran the 1000 feet in sandals back to the house to get my net, hoping I could trap her and take her to the vet to be put down. She was clearly dying. But I couldn't get her-she got into such thick bramble, I couldn't get her.

I couldn't get her.

I can't tell you how frustrating it has been for three weeks, not being able to help her. I said,

Look, I've helped all your children, now let me help you, please.

When I got back from my errand yesterday, I looked for her in the pastures and the stream she had hid by when I had left an hour earlier. No sight of her and I figured she went off to die somewhere. But last night about nine, there she was curled on the chair on the deck. I couldn't believe she had been able to get there, after what she looked and acted like that afternoon. She was clearly checking out, as she let me get real close to her. I had left my net in the truck, but approached her thinking she was so out of it I could pick her up- but she jumped, fell, and fled under the deck.

I was so mad at myself for blowing my last chance, I figured, and also scaring her to possibly flee for good,into bramble to die.

This morning, I was so humbled and touched to find her in one of the cat baskets on the porch. She was gone, but she had remained on the deck to die. She did not wander off to the bramble. She was not hit by a car on the road. She managed to come up to the deck again and die where I could find her. Somehow in the last 12 years, I had given enough distance and respect that she knew it was safe to lay in that basket right under the window, and die. That was her last gift to me.

I buried her in a spot away from sight, behind the lilacs, not with the other small graves there. She liked being anonymous– that was was my last gift to her. I examined her mouth and whatever it was, it was much more than an abscess as it was a huge hard area that deformed her jawline. It reminded me of what happened to Samuelle, who did have cancer.

It is another end of an era. Stella last week, and now Mama Kitty-the mother of 90 percent of the Apifera cats. She never would have made it so long if we hadn't somehow trapped and spayed her. She was a beautiful lady, a fierce survivor and stoic mother. In the end, she went out as she came in-a survivor on her own.

Pino and I are moving on

I will never stop dreaming. But dreams and ideas evolve and flow. I can't be afraid of not knowing what the next dream is.

I have made the decision. This June 14th will be the final Pino Pie Day.

I've been thinking about this for some time, and if you pay attention to the posts here, you might noticed that I have sharing for months that there is change in the air. This change wasn't planned, it is the way things evolve. I debated a lot if I should even make an announcement, or rather just quietly let it slip away. I suppose there might be some that think it looks like a good gimmick to raise more money at the Virtual Pino Pie Day, but you can't make everyone happy. In the end I talked to Martyn and a couple trusted mentors, and made my decision final in my head and heart. And I am fine with it.

Besides, I hate secrets. I think it took me awhile to even admit to Martyn I thought it was time to pull the plug on Pie Day for several reasons. The event has become wrapped up into my online identity, and Pino's. It is part of the illustrated memoir, Donkey Dream, and I've had magazine articles written about it. It has been an exciting focal point of the year at Apifera and many wonderful memories and friendships were begun over it. But all things hit a wall.

All creative endeavors-and Pie Day is a creative project for me-have an energy of their own, an ebb, a flow, a high point and a decline. I feel like Pie Day is on the decline in energy. The event was not 'created', it was a spontaneous act of the heart-my heart. It began–and I know many know this but I'll nutshell it here-it began because I was walking Pino to nearby farms and delivering homemade pie, as a gift, simply because I had a hankering to do it. It was met with delight and I did it several times. But delivering pie with a donkey at your side is slow going, and Martyn suggested I bring the people to my pie and Pino instead.

Pino Pie Day was never about getting a book deal or making money. It was just me and my donkey sharing pie. I did write "Donkey Dream" later on, which was turned down by multiple publishers for not being commercial enough. It was shaped by a top editor who had worked previously at Chronicle for 20 years, but we couldn't find a home for it and eventually my followers graciously supported the Kickstarter to get it self published. But back on the first Pie Day, The Misfits weren't even The Misfits, there was no old goat even. The first couple events, I can't believe this, but I did it all on my own, with Martyn-served pie,sold aprons, took care of the donkeys and guests-and sold art out of the studio. That first year I made all apple pie because it was easier. I also remember being appalled at the end of the day how messy the pie table was, and now I have a volunteer Pie Queen who helps at the pie table.

Every year, I learned something new to make the event better, and I added something new to delight my guests-like the Museum of Misfits, or the kissing area for Stevie. I learned new pies like Buttermilk which is a favorite of all ages. My butter crusts were perfected over the years too, if I may say so myself.

But the magic began to shift for me. And it has been harder to put it on every year-both financially and energy wise. There is a lot that goes into it, as you can imagine, but much more than you can imagine too. The volunteers of recent years-many repeat helpers-have been a God send and I thank them all-but it is getting harder to arrange and get people to commit. I understand, Sundays are precious for people, standing around with a donkey might get old after awhile. Costs on everything have gone up every year-and it is becoming situation of not much return on my time or dollar.

Pino and I had hearts of children back then. Somehow that is getting lost in the event now, after almost 9 years. I think I've shared a lot of good pie, made some grumpy people smile, let complete strangers walk around my farm while me and the animals share our energy with them. It's been great.

But I think it's time to listen to the internal shift. There is something out there, waiting for me to grab onto and give it my energy. I don't know what it is, but I have to let go of some things to recognize it, and commune with it. Thinking about over the past couple months was scary-Pie Day is part of me-but now that I've made the decision there was only one more step-release that decision to the universe.

So if you can come to the June 14th Pino Pie Day, wonderful! I aim to make it as happy for my guests as I can no matter if there are 5 or 200 people here. If you can't come, be sure to follow the Virtual Global Pino Pie Day-where people can read stories of past and current pie day, see photos and movies. And of course, you can contribute at gift levels to help this final Pie Day.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sweet horse sweat and maybe it's time

Boone and I did an early morning ride up in the hills. The ranges in the background were Payne's gray and it was unseasonably sticky out–for Oregon. We hope to do a three hour ride up in those hills this holiday. We rarely ride on the weekends because I like to be here with Martyn and work on the many projects that are never ending. It's just a silent agreement I made with myself when I got a horse-I won't let it compete with time with Martyn. Martyn is my best friend so I have no trouble not riding on weekends. We are both a bit compulsive about working, and as freelancers we have to. But as we are getting older, we are slowing down. This summer we hope to take some day road trips with Boone, and Martyn can fish while I ride. He deserves some good fishing days. A fly rod to Martyn is like horse smell to me.

Since Monday is a holiday, Martyn might want to work on a client project on Saturday, since this is the busiest season for him, freeing me up to go on an all day ride with friends. It will definitely test my legs, but my Tucker trail saddle helps with knee soreness. But I'll be sipping the wine that night for sure.

Boone is almost shedded out and he worked up nice sweat this morning. I love that smell. You are either born to love horse sweat, or not. Fortunately, I have the gene.

It will be a nice break from thinking about Pino Pie Day, either virtual, or the real deal coming up June 14. The event is wonderful, but I am considering other options for coming years. I'm desiring more time for projects and I'm wondering if it has run its course. All things have a breath and an energy and it might have reached a place to rest it.  I think perhaps I've become attached to some things, some things that feel like they are molding my identity, and I am preparing to let go of weights I don't feel I want to carry anymore. Pie Day might be one. We shall see after this one is over.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Face of a Moose, and Goose, and Acrobat

Sometimes I happen to be out there taking photos of something and the subject matter absolutely must turn to them, as id did last week. Each time I take Moose's photo, it is like he understands that he has power in that lens-all his joyous monkeyness comes out in that slight smile.

It doesn't take long before more smiles surround me, posers per se. It is a short string of moments in a busy day, but those flecks of light captured on camera might lift another in spirit today-perhaps someone bed bound who will look at these faces and remember a time long ago when they too had goat encounters on a daily basis.

When passing a stranger on a city street I have the choice to look up and smile, or pass by with my head tucked into a coat collar. If I choose the smile, I think maybe it lasts longer on the other person's heartprint.