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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pino pulls a name out of his bucket and suffers anxiety

Poor little fellow, maybe I should raise his allowance.

I am like Pino though, I wish I could send all of the people who played a long a print. But, the important thing, is many of you did play along and we raised another $275 for the barn fund! It is so needed, and we are close but it feels far away. [We have another $3,300 to go to secure our matching grant].

So, we congratulate the winner of the print - it is going off to live in Montana with Lise R.! And we love all the rest of you for playing along-madly, truly, deeply!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Awakening to quiet beauty

Awaking to morning after there has been considerable snow at night is always a magical experience for me, perhaps it takes me back to childhood, when a new snow meant no school, sledding and baking cookies.

It was a heavy snow of about six inches, caking the branches of every tree. And the sky color this early morning was very intense blue. It will be gone soon as its warm, and fifties are forecast for next week, so I will relish in it today.

There is a sound to the snow. But it also leaves a blanket on the interference of the noises of the human world going by the front of the farm. As much as spring and gardening and all the joys that come with warmer seasons, I do love winter for giving me quiet and less intrusion.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


I never tire of M'Lady Apple, never. She seems to grow more distinctive every day. In fog, sun, full moon or snow she stands strong, gracefully reaching out, like a mother seeking the child.

We welcome another old girl into the club

I was alerted about an elder cat that had recently come into the shelter...which led to...well, bringing her home to Apifera.

Her name is Laci and she is going on 14, and is also on thyroid meds. She hates taking the pills, so fortunately there is a cream I can put on her ear twice daily. She is very accepting of that.

Laci settled in really quickly. I was pleased because at the shelter she was curled in a lump in her cage. I was happy to see how content she seemed right off the bat. Noritsu was the first to greet her-which seems to be his new role in the Cat Suite. So far everyone is getting along just fine.

I guess that somewhat surprises me, how everyone has acclimated so quickly. Maybe because our cats out West were more feel, these guys just seem like they were meant to all come together.

I'm going to go out later today and knit with them. The Old Kitty Knitty Club will be having another knitting day in March. We are making wrist warmers and then will share them with our elder friends next winter. People have asked if they can partake in the Old Kitty Knitty Club from afar, and you can knit some wrist warmers and send them to me and next fall I'll hand them out to our elder friends.

[If you like the work we're doing with animals and elders, please consider a donation. Thank you!]

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Opie watches Gene Kelly...and we lose Richard

Opie and I had a therapy visit with our elder friends in Wiscasset this morning. We were a little early and when we walked in their was a Bingo game going on in the kitchen.

"Hello, Opie!" I heard some of them yell out.

Opie and I meandered to the parlor where we hold court and Sylvia and Ruth were watching an old Gene Kelly movie. They have a pretty big screen and Opie was immediately mesmerized by it. We all got a chuckle out of it, and while he commenced with sharing his love with his friends, he kept stopping, and turning to the screen to watch. I am quite pleased his first film experience was one of class-Gene Kelly dancing is a good introduction for little Opie into entertainment.

Soon the other elders arrived. Joe was all gussied up to go out to lunch with his son, and a movie. He explained his purple coat was from his war time in Korea. He was in good spirits as always, he always makes everyone's day...such a fun man, such a good spirit and attitude.

A young girl was also there, of special needs. She comes to play Bingo with her friends and she was so excited when they told her a goat was coming. She asked me if Opie could be her friend, and of course I said, "Yes," then she hugged him. I asked if I could take her photo and she obliged and I said I'd find a way to get her the photo. She asked,

"Can you be my friend?"

"Yes, I can, and I am," I said. She beamed, and shook my hand in such earnestness. So meeting her and watching her interact was really wonderful and I think it was one little root being exposed as we evolve our work with elders. I want to do more with special needs, and today was a reminder that these things -if I let them-evolve at a graceful pace, depending on the outward branches from the tree I'm sitting in.

I think Bingo and the Opie visit might be a lot for them. Mary started falling asleep.

Last visit, I knew Richard had gone off somewhere. We are never told where, nor are the residents. It's the way it is in any elder facility, no matter how small. We didn't know if we would return, be sent to another place where there would be more nurse care...or...other things.

These people don't really fear death, I don't believe. They've seen it over and over, just as I have, and you reading have too. By the age these people are, they know what is coming. But I do think, speaking only to some of them in casual manner over the last year, that they all want one thing- a good death. We all do. I want that for them too.

I have grown attached.

When I arrived, I always do a quick scan and check in my head as to what faces I see, and what faces aren't there. There are only 8 residents there. Since I know them now, and we have a comfortable relationship, I asked if they had heard anything about Richard.

"He died," Evelyn told me quietly.

"Oh no, I'm so sorry," and I held her hand.

"But he isn't suffering now, he was such a nice man."

I'm so glad I got to spend as much time as we did with Richard. He was wheelchair bound and when we first visited, he didn't stay long, he didn't smile. Next visit, a bit more of a smile. And then...he was calling Opie over each visit. Richard was the one who got to hold Opie's first birthday cake while we sung to him.

I know that many of the people I get to know, and grow fond of, will die. It's going to be..tough sometimes. But I will look at it in one way-they go out loved, and feeling like someone cares, be it helping them get dressed, or taking time to bring over a cunning' little goat, as Evelyn says. I'm just glad I can do this.

I really love these guys.

[please consider a donation to our non profit effort]

Kayla, a very special, special needs child, our new friend

The always graceful Jeanne

One of my favorite photos of Joe-his look here, grabs me

I wasn't privy to this conversation with Joe and Evelyn

Mary dozed off, a morning of Bingo and then Opie is a lot

Mary and Opie

Sylvia just loves Opie

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I've seen love expand, they said their love was bigger

When my father died in 2008, I was flying home from his burial and as I was up in the clouds I felt like he was with me. He had been with me the entire last night of his life-although he was in Minneapolis in home hospice care and I was on my farm in Oregon. I had made the choice to stay put, until he died, and then I would fly home. It was a hard decision, I went back and forth, but I knew I had already said goodbye to my father on my last trip, some three months earlier. We said goodbye with our eyes, and it was a very personal moment, a moment between him and me that nobody experienced but us. We knew in March, sometime after my fiftieth birthday, he had a matter of days, not weeks. He could no longer talk on the phone nor did he want to. His little dog who slept with him, separated from him days before the final moment. So on the afternoon I got the call that it was probably going to happen that night or by morning, I opted to sleep in the guest room at our farm. That night, I talked to him all night, in whispers, and I told him it was okay to let go, that everyone was going to be okay.

I went in and out of sleep, but would awake from a dream, [or was it a dream?], where I had him there with me. He felt tormented, like he wanted to stay but he couldn't. I don't know if he felt he had not said enough before he left, he was not one for acknowledging certain things which led to difficulties at times, in our relationship. But I always loved him, and he me, that was never in question for me. I just think he wanted to tell me more, and he was saying it all that night as perhaps he was floating in an out of this realm.

I flew home in the coming days and asked to see the ashes- but they had been left in the trunk of the car, in a secure garage, as we would be burying him at Fort Snelling the next day. I was appalled they had left his ashes in the trunk. They had all had many weeks to adjust to this inevitable departure, since they were in the thick of it. I understand. But I waited until they were all in bed and snuck down to the garage and retrieved the ashes, and placed them near my bed that night. His dog slept with me too.

I found out a year later, from my mother, that on his final day, when the door would open and he heard a woman's voice [it was my sister-in-law], he would say, "Is it her, is it Kack [my nickname]?" This pretty much smashed my heart, but my mom was telling me that because she wanted me to know he was thinking of me. She had actually told me I should stay home until he died. But the night I speak of above, it made even more sense.

I cherish this note from him. He was a real letter and card writer-not just to me but to the many of his colleagues he had all over the world since he travelled for his job as the international architect//designer for 3M. I still have his address book. written in his own hand, with people from all over the world. I can't bare to toss it, I just like to look at it periodically. He worked there until he was 75, when they slowly pushed him out. It was painful to watch, and I think it caused many issues for him in his final ten years that he didn't have the tools to address in a healthy way. I remember sitting with him on his couch, months before he would die, and I told him he was such an excellent draftsmen and drawer [he was] and he said in the most humble and genuine way,

"Do you really think so?"

There it was, the wounded heart he had carried around since childhood abandonment, four years in the Pacific as a Marine on the front lines at age 17, and all the other losses he incurred....there was his heart, just pure and open and uncynical, asking me for reassurance.

I miss you, Bob. And you're okay, and I'm okay, we both know this now, for sure.

So when I was on the plane back from his burial, I not only felt him all around me, in the clouds, the air, everything, I remember thinking,

"My God, the love expands."

And it does.

The other night I was watching Letterman interview George Clooney and they both addressed how the love they felt when their first children were born was like no other love they had felt. Letterman said, something to the effect of, you can have strong love for your mother, spouse, friend, etc, but when he had his child he said no other love compared to it...it was bigger than any other love one can have in life.

On the one hand, I can imagine this. As someone who cares for animals -who are not my children nor have I ever looked at them as children, ever-I know my mama bear comes out in me when they are sick, bad, or dying. I often think about how my relationship with Martyn has evolved over time, expanded, into being true love-letting the other be himself, letting me be myself in a place of strength, not fear or rivalry-but also I have an intense desire for him to be safe and happy. I do not question that anyone would feel this way, that the love of a child is a different kind of love. But, I think it leaves out something important, all love expands if it is genuine love. While I don't have a child, I think the sensation of feeling love expands is like that of the parent.

And it doesn't really matter. Because love is love. Love is everything, in the beginning and in the end. Not to mention in between.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When I'm terrified, I look to Matilda's eyes

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." {Georgia O'Keefe}

I pretty much feel this way too. I have moments of deep doubt, or fear, of the future, about what I am doing or not doing, about what will become of me, and Martyn, our earth, my animals, is anyone listening or looking at my art, is any of it enough?

Old Matilda and the animals, along with Nature, reel me back to a more compassionate view of both world and self. It is all about the now to them. Is there food, are they safe, do they have their herd, do I show up-those are their questions.

I think it is human to be terrified the minute you leave the womb, maybe even before. I imagine out little human brains floating around in mother thinking,

Something just doesn't seem right and boom, you are born. No choice, human-wise. It's the soul that must propel us outward into the unknown frontier. Like leaving the warm house every morning to feed the animals, and the cold hits my skin, I could retreat, but there is so much life out there relying on me, and I get so much each morning helping them.

So Matilda's soul is right there for all of us-in her eyes. Can you see it, feel it? She's been through some stuff, like any of us. But she shows up each morning, just like I do, like you do. We are  a team of possible terrified-ness. But we choose to go on, and seek out calm. For me, the calming these days comes from just showing up, and working at what I love be it art, writing, or animal therapy work...or simply relishing my food bite by bite.

Even in her photograph, Matilda's eyes seem to mesmerize her viewers.