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

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thank you, Jack London


Riding at Uncle Clayton's around 1960

I have had three farms in my life that have opened my heart to what my soul requires in this earthen life. One was my Uncle Clayton's farm in North Dakota - with thousands of acres of corn, wheat and soy, and a barn full of creatures. It was there I would travel the ten hours from Minneapolis with my family, anticipating the smell of each horse and the feeling of the saddle under my bones for the entire trip. I journeyed there through my adulthood, and even though my Uncle died much too young, it was his land that stirred the beginning of my farm dream.

During my forties, I began searching for a place to replant my feet. Minneapolis and NYC had been my homes in the past, but I felt a yearning to head West. The sensation would come to me in subtle ways - such as I always found myself facing West whether inside or out. I ventured to Northern California to visit some friends, thinking maybe the small towns that dotted the Sonoma Valley were a good fit for me, my guides and dreams.

It was there I met my second farm - a place called Beauty Ranch, better known as Jack London's farm. I went there out of curiosity, and for a place to ramble around in while I waited for the dinner hour to meet my friends. I arrived around 10 am. I left around 3 pm. As I went from the small cottage that London wrote from each day, saw his barns and read about the many new animal husbandry practices he was doing, I felt his soul in that land but also felt mine speaking loudly to me. He was a true steward there, not just a landowner - which was a new concept back then and often ridiculed by some local farmers. By the time I arrived at London's grave, I was very emotional. I felt like I'd met him, loved him as a person - flaws and all- and then lost him. His ashes were placed under a large rock in an unpretentious spot, tucked away in the forest near the graves of two two young children of the former owners who died from disease years earlier.

That visit to Jack London's home back in the mid 1990's reminded me that my dream was a tenacious one, one that my soul was not going to let go of and in fact was going to keep reminding me of in anyway it could that a farm was where I needed to be. A farm was where I could enact my optimal performance as the creature I was evolved.

I guess you know I finally found my farm. I took a long time and my guides must have been exhausted getting all the pieces to finally fit into place. But I've never stopped loving Clayton's farm. And I knew I wanted to return to Jack London's - not only to feel it and share it with Martyn, but to thank Jack.

So I packed up Lydia, tucked The Dirt Farmer in the front seat, thanked the angel who said she'd care for Apifera's charges, and headed south to California. On the way, I had many meetings with Redwoods, Oaks and Eucalyptus . The beauty of meetings with trees is note taking is never required.

I couldn't wait to get to Jack's. And seeing the horse trails this time reminded me how far I've come in 10 years. The dream of owning my own horse is in the past - now I live that dream out loud by riding my own horse, learning with him under my weight. I'm not much for 'bucket lists' as I tend to enact what I want, but I do dream of riding a horse through London's land someday, just as he did.

After arriving at London's last Sunday, we started our visit at the small cottage where he initially wrote. I felt his love and interest in his life and land everywhere. The small back porch room with simple, single cottage bed where he so often wrote, notes still hanging on the wall, was full of sun, perhaps not unlike the day he lay there and died.

Three miles of walking later, I arrived at his forest grave. I didn't have to say much, I simply said,

"Thank you, Jack."


Jack London riding at Beauty Ranch

You can learn more about Jack London at their site and see how you can visit or volunteer there; and read a good article about his short life.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween of misfits



I try to stay out of the way and let the barnyard do their own thing on Halloween. They do remarkable things even though I have banned the use of scissors and glue guns. The biggest battle is always keeping them away from candy corn.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Loyally waiting for the Dirt Farmer



As his young brother Muddy plays in the background, Huck takes on the stoic duty of waiting for the sound of tires on the long gravel drive. It is a lucky man that can come home to such loyalty.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

98 human years



The Old One Eyed Pug has turned 98. That would be 14 in his years.

He continues to truck on, one eye ball reaching out for any light it can gather. He is quite blind now and his hind end is weakening. He suffers from confusion more and more, but I still see that he enjoys life so his journey is still not over, it's just a bit slower.

He still loves to steal tomatoes from the garden - although I have to go find him since he often gets a bit lost coming back to the house. He was one pound when I brought him home as a pup, lived with me and Louie Louie for all those years in Minneapolis, watched [he had two eyes then] me struggle through tough personal times and was always on my lap by nightfall, snuggled down to watch some television together. He is still on my lap every time I sit by the fire or watch a movie - he just needs a little help getting there.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Pie flying



The farm is good for me - it forces me to watch nature move at a pace I have no control over. I think one must look at publishing, and writing, like this. I have one story that has had so many evolutions I've lost track. It seems every time it feels like it's buried, it raises its voice again - and evolves a step closer to birth.

I am talking about my current love- "Donkey Dream" {A Love Story of Pie & Farm}. This book is a memoir of how I lost at love, but found something even better-my life. A life that was wrapped in my internal dreams, and the mate came with it. And pie. And farm. And a little donkey. I have been working on this in one way or another since 2009.

I love this book, and I think you will too. It is fully illustrated and takes on a fable-like quality, transporting the reader to a real but enchanted world where a donkey has pie parties, an old barn speaks and one woman floats out of sadness into the place she is meant to be.

It is really time to get it birthed and into the world! Please consider supporting my Kickstarter project going on through 3/23/14. If i don't raise the entire sum, I get nothing, and you aren't charge. I have one successful Kick project, and am so grateful to your support. So we can do this. The money is used 100% for printing the hard cover book at an offset printer-for quality and options.




Saturday, October 20, 2012

Huck of my eye



The soul that shimmers in his eye, the dappled grey his chin now carries, the velvet fabric crafted into ears - never fail to make me swoon. Huck is at one second a goofball, happy, and then he turns back into his soul man stance.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farewells of autumn




"It has been a pleasure all these months," she said.

The wind blew a gust of breath and part of the sunflower's front side fell off, floated, then twirled in spirals like a rain chain down to the weeded earth below her.

"I can say the same," her companion to the left said.

Weeds engulfed their backbones, once bright green but now a dusty tone that blended in with all the autumnal dust gathered in corners and cobwebs. The Queen Anne's Lace, once fit for a young princess, was now weathered, yet wise from a summer of life having not been consumed by goat, donkey or sheep.

The two sunflowers had lived a full life, but had journeyed as far as they could go. It is our time now to retreat back into the original womb of dirt.

They would never see each other again but perhaps their prodigy would stand next to each other in full sun next summer, and when the full sun retreated leaving the autumnal moon, it would be their turn to stand and reminisce of days gone by when they were young and strong and tall.



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Little pumpkin pig, big pumpkin pig



What brings joy to a person is partially a mindset, I suppose. If I counted my joy in dollars in a bank I would no doubt be depressed. But when the pumpkins are harvested and shared amongst pigs, the internal celebration I encounter with myself is worth all the millions of the super rich.











Friday, October 12, 2012

Big Pig Drinking



When one gets a 500 pound pig, one tends to soak it in and a plethora of pig pictures follow.

Grande Dame of Pigginess



With Rosie snuggled into her bed in the barn, I ventured out to visit with Big Pig, aka Lucy. She is settling in very well after her initial "I Am Like A Hurricane" rendition of the Neil Young classic.

While the orchard tree cages still are in shambles, Lucy has managed to behave and is understanding the routines here - that the dogs barking doesn't necessarily mean it's her breakfast time but that it mean it's close to breakfast time, and that the front door shutting always precedes the barnyard gate opening and then it is definitely breakfast time.

She is a huge lover. A 500 pound loaf of attention seeking mass. She loves to be petted. I kiss her snout, now that I feel we both are on a more equal playing field.

I am sure Big Pig has much to share with me, and then I with you.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ride with Boone



I have been soaking up each ride with my loyal mount. This summer has been the best horse year of my life. I made a conscious decision in late spring to make time for me and Boone, and it has paid off in so many ways, for both us.

Boone and I always got along and he's an easy keeper. He came well trained and had lived his early years as a ranch horse so was well versed, but he was also a bit deadened to cues. Never one to be spooky, his main fault was he was a bit lazy. Not willful, he did test me - what horse doesn't [what person doesn't]?. But for the most part I worked through it but I never had total confidence as a leader - especially on the open road. Boone also had some habits in the round pen that were always "I don't want to" moments, nothing I couldn't figure out, but I lacked certain skills - or consistent skills - to improve them.

And I didn't ride enough. I'd work myself out of it by thinking about the cars on the road [even though Boone never had a problem on the road] or other things that "could happen". A lot of this was due to my first horse I had at Apifera, a beautiful Palomino mare that was pure Alpha and had me wrapped around her and was in control of everything, including me. One of the best tips from my teacher - don't bring the problems of your old horse onto your current horse. And that was one thing I was doing.

So I invested in a small, cheap trailer, good enough to pull with my small truck, about 4 miles up the hill to a local barn where I now ride with the owner of the property - a young-eighty-year old woman who still rides and has become a wonderful friend and role model to me and Boone. We take a Dressage lesson with another woman there every 2 weeks. Yes, dressage. If you had told me a few years back me and my little Quarter Horse would be taking dressage lessons now, I never would have believed it.

What a difference all of the riding and time have made. The small issues I had with him are gone [but of course there are always new things to learn or retool]. He just needed a leader that was consistent. He needed to see me do it over and over, and I needed to see him do it over and over. He needed my praise at the right moment and I needed to sense he was happy on a ride. I have my confidence back, and so does he. It's a joy to load him up [he's wonderful in a trailer], walk him to the arena where he can run a bit with his gelding buddy, then saddling up and feeling confidant we have tasks to attend to - together.

I had no fear on a horse as a girl. But you grow up, you see people get hurt in different ways, or you have a scare on the road, or your horse carries a mental scar from sinking in a bog up to his saddle [ this happened to Boone long ago and he is challenged by soft, mushy areas] - all of these things add wrinkles to your confidence. It is a wonderful sense of achievement to work through it - with the right horse and teacher.

Thank you, Boone, long may we ride - together.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Pumpkin on our minds



It is all things pumpkins right now.

The large orbs of orange are taking over the squash garden, fueled by the energy of the fallen souls in the goat cemetery. It pleases me that Old Man Guinnias, Honey Boy, Gertie, Georgie, Granny and Aunt Bea are all adding their love and nutrition to the growing of these creatures.

It is one more way that with life there is always death entwined, and here at the farm, death always starts a life in one way or another. A worm dies for a chicken to lay the egg, an apple falls from the mother tree to feed the pig, and now, the bodies of the old goats now past help the pumpkins - the latter will also give their lives for pie, pancakes, muffins, soup and barnyard snacks.

Someone mentioned pumpkin pancakes and it's all I can think of. The crisp fall air [finally] and crunchy leaf sounds take me back to moments of youth, being chilled from outside play, but upon entering the house of my youth the waft of baking cinnamon and the sound of my mother's voice,

"Is that you? It's time for dinner," floats over my head. I feel safe and content to be inside.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Workshop is still open



I'm having such fun looking at all the drawings people have been doing at the Online Workshop. You can still sign up through December - it is all self paced so it doesn't matter when you start [you do need to finish within 10 months of payment however].

The Workshop's goal is to show the true power of really taking time to 'look', and how drawing soaks you into a subject, in this case, the animals of Apifera.

Read more and sign up at this link.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Great Pig Breakout



Anytime a new animal comes on board, there is a certain amount of chaos and the settling in period is usually stressful for everyone, including the farmers.

Yesterday was such a day. If it hadn't been so amusing - I kept imagining it as a Cary Grant movie - I would have sat down and cried. After several break outs, Lucy finally found the apple orchard and once she knew there was an apple orchard, well, that's when the fun really began..

In all fairness to Big Pig, she is at a new home, without her group of pigs, she is in heat, and she is big. Really big. She's smart, really smart. And she's just trying to figure it all out.

She is personable. When she breaks out, I think it is to genuinely see what's on the other side, and check the farm perimeters. She cruised down to the lavender field but came a running when I called. She genuinely likes people, and likes me. I led her back to her paddock but she cruised into the orchard and...well, you can watch the movie. Rather than panic, I decided it was best to just go with the pig flow, and capture it on film. Eventually I put her in a stall which she broke out of but I reenforced it and managed to keep her in all afternoon while I made changes to the fence and added hot wire to the side she kept getting out of.

She went out and made it through the night, but as we lay in bed at 6AM Martyn heard wood breaking, and then I heard grunts outside my window, some 300 feet from the pig paddock.

I lay in bed and called out, "Big Pig?"

"Grunt, snort" Lucy replied.

I must confess that seeing her large mass outside the window was sort of cool, even if I knew in a matter of minute she could wallow into any area and ruin fences.

She's a steam roller.

So back I went to do more fixes to the fence, and then I had to leave the farm for a riding lesson. As I drove back up the drive 2 hours later, I kept looking for a large brown mass - but she was still in her paddock. The wire had held her...and as I write she is still inside her area.

The Dirt Farmer and I will once again work on the fence this weekend, and bring in pig panel and even more hot wire. The thing is, I really like Big Pig. And I always think of Paco and how long it took for him to settle, and I almost gave up. But I'm so glad I didn't.

So Lucy had a bad day, but in some ways it was fun to be part of it. A good glass of red wine at night and I can take anything.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Hippopotomamius has landed



She has landed in all her 500 pound glory. Her arrival was calm and welcome. She hopped out of the trailer like it was no big deal and trotted into her new private pasture with her new house waiting for her big piggie feet.

Now this is a pig. I can assure you of that. The barnyard is still under the belief that a Hippopotomamius is here and I am staying out of it. I can understand the confusion, for the only pig they know is little Rosie. Rosie is about the size of one of Lucy's hind legs.

Yes, her name is Lucy and she is a beautiful girl. She could no longer be bred, but she was the first breeding sow of a local farm and they wanted to find her a forever home of retirement if they could, rather than the alternative. She had served them well and I am so glad I was able to help. At first I was a bit nervous about the issues that might arise with such a large animal, and one that can take out a gate if it really wants to get to an apple on the other side, but after even one hour with her, I am in love.

She is much different personality wise than my little grumpoluposaus Rosie, and it is a nice contrast. Lucy is more like a huge dog who follows me around and comes to sit by me in the hut. She is a thinker, where as Rosie is a dreamer.

There is much to learn about her and many stories to emerge. For now, she is in her private area and barnyard introductions will be made slowly. Boone shares a fence line with her and he was intrigued. Itty Bitty has already taken walks though Lucy's pasture and in time I'm sure she will have many friends. I have already enjoyed watching her take a mud bath, something little Rosie seems uninterested in.

Do not fret about little Rosie, I have already told her she is and will always be, my first little pig.

Lucy will be eating 3-6 pounds of food a day, so feel free to sponsor Lucy or others if you feel so inclined.