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.





Thursday, November 23, 2017

Evolution of thanks

As I've gone through life, what I'm truly thankful for has evolved as I age–good health-or the lack of any debilitating conditions, as of this writing-is on the top of the I'm thankful for list. A day free of pain becomes more important after you truly suffer pain. We had four days of out of town guests, in and out of the house, but we made meals here, and celebrated our main meal last night.

Today, the house is quiet again, and I'm grateful. I truly love my inward life, it is what I can handle, where I spend the days with nature and animals, my art, my writing, what is in my head and heart. I like people, the ones that understand boundaries anyway, but most of time is spent without people. I love my husband, any time of day. But I love my work-with art and animals. I think that is something that I'm thinking about today. I'd rather be working than almost anything during the day, including being with people. And I don't consider it a flaw.

I'm grateful for my mate, my best friend...one of the few people I have known my entire life that I can be with all the time and not feel...flattened out..or invisible. I'm not writing well about this....it would require sharing way too much about me and other people.

I did yoga as the sunrise came into the living room, creating a shadow of one of the finches on the wall...so simple, how did I not notice that before? Tonight we are making turkey soup. I am so looking forward to a night of quiet by the fire, some wine, and the routine that we love...some might say boring, not us.

To rely on our inner lives, and activities we love to do-work outside, cook, tend to the farm and animals-that is a good life for us. I'm grateful we can do it and hope we can until...we die. A tall order, but one can hope.

And in order to make this life work, I'm grateful for you who still read this blog, show up when I need you for art sales and animal emergencies...or just plain support me through email notes and caring thoughts. Some of you I get to know in real life. I work hard to entertain with art and writing...but I love doing it, so it is no burden on me. The only burden is that sometimes, I feel I'm not doing enough, not entertaining enough. But, that's lessened when I look at my photos, or the actual faces in the photos...it's like the animals look at me, as they are eating, safe out of the wind and say,

"You're doing okay. So are we."

Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mini sized purr factory: Maxine and I bond

Maxine and I have a daily routine. As an elder and perhaps due to her hyperthyroid issue, her coat is severely matted-the shelter began taking out mats but I work on her each day and we are making headway. In fact she seems to really appreciate it. She lets me know with a little "meows" when she's had enough.

Grooming is such a good way to bond and get to know an animal. She has gained half pound this month which is a lot when you only weigh 5 pounds! I think she has such a kitten face for an elder. When I groom her I tell her how she has always been beautiful but each day she gets more beautiful.

Maxine has a very unique purr. It is kind of a combination of a purr and a squeak.

While The Magnificent Maurice Mittens was failing, I spent most of the time doting on him, as was only right. When one animal leaves the group, it never fails to change the dynamic of those remaining. Maxine was always personable, but mainly spent her time sleeping in her first months here. I think some of that might have been depression, since she had been taken to a shelter as an elder. Putting on 1/2 pound for her too might have perked her up. But I always feel like since she arrived here with Mittens, maybe she blossomed a little after he passed-not because she didn't like him, she did, but because there was a space created, and the energy of that space allowed her to take a new position.

Just yesterday, a package arrived [thank you Melanie Reed wherever you are!] of more canned cat food-with a note saying,

A special gift for Maxine.

I told Maxie about it this morning in our grooming session. In the past week, with each grooming, I feel her understanding my intentions more and more, and my loyalty, and I know that is helping her to feel like this is really home, like she is safe and she won't be sent back to the shelter.

Animals like consistency: Consistent love, shelter, water and food, and a consistent sense that they are noticed. I consistently show up each morning and groom her, and she consistently purrs. It's a win-win relationship.

{Apifera is a 501[c][3] and we have been adopting elder/special needs animals since 2004. Maxine is one of the residents of The Elder Cat Suite. If you'd like to participate in helping, visit the funding page. In time, I plan to have open days for the cat suite, and workshops there too.}

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Intertwined with donkey

"First Snow" acrylic on canvas
My work with the animals and nature is intertwined with my internal work that comes out on canvas.

"Winter Night" acrylic on pine board

Friday, November 17, 2017

Goodbye to a most magnificent cat

It has been an exhausting 48 hours, and week. The Magnificent Maurice Mittens became out of sorts earlier in the week and I spent a couple days working intensively to keep liquids in him and help him. Because the vet I like is still waiting to open her brick and mortar clinic, I finally opted to take him into the emergency vet clinic which is only open nights and weekends. We went in Friday night in pouring rain and discussed all the possible issues that were making him listless, and off food and water. An obvious suspect is thyroid and kidney issues in an older cat, but there were other things that made me feel there were multiple issues going on. I had felt really upset last night when we got home, and missed the relationships I had built with my Oregon vets over years who I felt always understood my work, and knew the animal's interest was in my heart, but there are also limits to what measures can be taken, or should be taken, on case by case basis. Keeping an animal alive come hell or high water is not-in my opinion-something that is always the go-to goal. Their comfort is, of course, but also-sometimes elders let go, and deciphering that can be hard for the human in us sometimes. I didn't have to explain that with my old vets, and I never felt judged if I had to draw a line on what extent I felt we should go for a dying or sick animal-but it was a discussion with my vets and we made the answer together.

Blood work was done and we kept him in there overnight for 24 hour observation. The blood work really didn't show a definitive answer, so I picked him up at 6 am, since no animal can stay there after 7;00 am-it is strictly for emergency work-and I drove him down to a clinic I've heard good things about and had wanted to try out. If there was a silver lining in all this, it is that I now have a clinic I truly love and the doctor and techs were really wonderful.

I felt no pressure to make a 'right' or 'wrong' decision about Mitten's fate. The doctor took over an hour with me discussing options based on what we knew at that moment, and understanding this was an elder cat, and that I was the one who knew him best.

It was a had choice, but we decided we would do another round of blood work to rule out one more thing, and I would take him home and give him fluids, and we would go from there. But as the hour and then another hour wore on, he was showing more and more signs that there were multiple things going on-including neurological issues, like walking into walls and losing his motor functions. He deteriorated throughout the visit with the vet, and that prompted me to change my mind-I felt it was in his best interest to be put to sleep, we all did at that point.

He went in an instant.

I can't say enough good things about the vet, and like I said, I lost Mittens, but I gained a clinic I felt at home in, and respected in. I did not feel pressure to pull out every dollar and every trick in the book to save an animal that really just was clearly checking out. I admit, I cried this time. I was so exhausted from the last 48 hours-but it was also the unsettling feeling I didn't have a clinic [yet] that morning that would be able to help me. I got a group hug from the vet and the tech, and it was really a good experience.

The thing is, Mittens was a favorite of mine. I love them all, I really do, but Mittens seemed to be the one I had to gravitate to in the last months. While everyone is held on a daily basis, and cared for, Mittens loved attention. I look back on it and think, well, maybe that is the way it was meant to be-he got extra attention in the past few months because he or the universe knew he would be leaving soon.

Mittens was adopted twice at the shelter as a 12 year old, and returned twice. I don't know why. But I do know he was meant to come here. He had a place called home away from barking shelter dogs, and although he was well cared for there by staff, it wasn't the same as having a home.

When he arrived, I altered his name. He was more than just 'Mittens' to me.

He was magnificent.

He was The Magnificent Maurice Mittens.

UPDATE: Due to the love and generosity of followers, the entire vet bill has been collected. It takes a village! Any small donations go into directly feeding and maintaining the Misfits. All donations are tax deductible.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The arrival of White Dog-it's still magic

The first photo ever taken of him, on his arrival, his collar still embedded
Four years ago, a most wonderful introduction was made. White Dog mysteriously appeared in our fields. I can not imagine life without him, our bond and relationship has thickened and what makes the continuing story of White Dog even juicer is...he really was meant to be in Maine. He is so in his element here, adoring the cold and snow. I still have not let go of my book idea about him, it has changed multitude of times. But for now, I am reposting what I wrote days after he arrived at the old Apifera. It still makes my skin tingle.

{Originally written on Benedetto's arrival, 2013}

We all want magic.

The world is so chaotic, with the masses iphoning, apping and texting as they rush by one another not making eye contact. So much vitriol fills the airways outside Apifera.

We want happy endings...because there are so many sad endings, or unfair ones.

Sometimes, we want magic, real magic. The kind of magic that sets the hairs on your neck straight up and makes your heart pump faster.

And that is one of the gifts White Dog has brought us...that feeling that magic does exist here. And it can be shared and multiplied through story and images. One could summarize the entire episode of White Dog appearing in our fields in a factual way–he strayed here because in tact male dogs often stray. He smelled something in the air and went a wandering, randomly stopping here and somehow got into the fields.

But the more I suggested that in the past couple days, my readers wanted more-they wanted the magical answer. That he came here for me, he was meant to come here for reasons we might not grasp, or I might not grasp yet. I am leaning in that direction.

After all, this is not the first time an animal has appeared in a magical fashion. There was Lloyd Baines for one, a rooster hiding in the bramble in the middle of nowhere, who refused to get in my car so I could take him home to safety.

"Look, you won't last out here much longer. Apifera is one mile up the road, take a left through the fields and head down 3000 feet."

Two weeks later, there he was in the barnyard.

I can't make this stuff up.

So when a white dog shows up, the same rare breed as my own, out of nowhere-after eleven years of not one dog penetrating our fences-I took note. My initial reaction was a tingling sensation coupled with glee. I was floating through air when I met him.

Some people mentioned that he was a gift from our recently departed, Floyd. I must admit, I did consider this. After any death here, there always seems to be something that hits me over the head with,

"We're sending you this universal gift, take note."

The day after White Dog appeared, I had a phone meeting with an editor I worked with a few years back on a manuscript, and I had hired him again to review some book ideas I was percolating since he is so knowledgeable about the market and industry. He gave me lots of good things to think about, and steered me clear of a few things too. And he gave me a couple ideas that were just spot on and so clear-ideas that helped me visualize right there as he was speaking what my next projects could be, and will be, if I choose to say 'yes' in my heart to them. And as I was thinking that, there was White Dog outside my studio window, looking in at me.

Many out there seem to believe White Dog is here to stay. I am still not sure. He might be passing through. While he seems very happy here-and clearly likes the flock and the set up, and me, I might add-I am trying to not get attached...yet. But I'm failing. This morning when I went to feed, the name, "Benedetto" came into my head. I looked it up later and it means "blessed". I told Martyn and he warned me it is too soon to get attached, and it is. But that name just came to me, so I have it tucked away for a few days. I

want him to stay.

I have done all I can do in the form of ads, calling vets and other online resources to alert that he is here and no one has come forth. I've analyzed it all to death. He arrived very, very thin, a collar was embedded into his neck and some nubs of hay twine were on the collar, like maybe he'd been tied up. His toenails were very long. He clearly knew what sheep were. The fact is, in my mind, he was either placed here by someone that has come to know my farm and blog and felt he'd be safe here, or...

...he was pulled here by invisible hands and energies rooted deep in the pumpkin patch. The most stoic way to look at it would be that he showed up because he smelled Marcella-although she's not in heat–perhaps she perfumes herself each day.

We all want it to be magic. We all need it to be magic. So let's stick with that.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Inspired by wind

I've been able to get some canvases done this week - these were inspired by the wind storm last week. They will be available through Sundance in the coming month.


Monday, November 13, 2017

"I'm going as fast as I can"

The morning chores and feeding actually begins at 5:30 a.m. I'm still in bed but that is when the animals note that the front porch light comes on and Martyn lets Muddy out which makes Marcella bark and then the pigs squeal. But they stop, because they know this is there are other things that must happen in certain sequence before their breakfast. It is not until they hear Martyn's truck leave, and then they hear the front door open again and I let the blind pug-then Marcella barks again and the pigs begin their second squeal session. This second pig squealing lets the entire farm know that breakfast is really close.

When Benedetto sees me walking to the front barn, he wags his tail even though he is quite far from me, and I always wave to him.

And the pigs squeal again but this time they don't stop until they each have grain in front of them. The rooster is crowing and the cats are scratching at their door and Marcella likes to taunt Moose and Goose while getting ready for breakfast. I feed the hens and Opie invariably gets in the coop and I have to tell him,

"You are NOT a chicken," and he scurries out with me.

As I leave for the outer barn, Benedetto is always there at the gate, his giant nose greets me before any other part of his body. The donkeys then bray and the sheep and llama wander out to see if perhaps they will get some grain-but they never do, and they know to return to the barn this time of year where hay is laid out for them.

Meanwhile, Boone is front and center at his station in the barn anticipating his hay and Matilda positions herself at private eating area where she gets a bucket of senior feed away from the others. Old Sophie has entered the barn because she knows she gets her own special breakfast there where she is assured privacy.

And in the background are the grumblings of The World's Grumpiest But I'm Fine As I Am Pig, aka Rosie, who is both delighted it is breakfast but also annoyed she has been awoken, again, and that it is quite chilly.

Between greetings and feedings, I usually calmly tell them,

"I'm going as fast as I can."

I don't think they believe me, except Benedetto who takes everything in stride.

I return to the front barn-I have to let Maxine, one of the elder cats, out of her crate where she is fed to ensure calories, and I usually sit with the cats for a spell. I often look over into Marcella and Earnest's suite and depending on the time of the day, the sunlight can be so beautiful on the straw.

Morning has broken on Apifera Farm.




Saturday, November 11, 2017

The importance of Mud walks

When I lived in Minneapolis, I walked almost every day with my dog, usually at my favorite lake, Lake of the Isles. I'd hop in the car and drive about 5 miles to get there and walk the three mile periphery. Winter did not stop us, and while it required dog boots for Louie Louie the fox terrier due to the salt, we loved our winter walks probably more than the summer ones. When I moved to Portland, Louie was very old and had a heart issue and I was told not to walk him anymore, and sans canine, my walks never tok off at my new home. Once at the farm, I rarely walked, even though I tried, but it felt odd walking the country roads. I realized it was important for me to have a destination to walk to. So I chose the pioneer Pike Cemetery which was about a 2 mile round trip. Mud and Huck and I would go, or I'd ride Boone up there.

But I never got back into my daily walk. And of course, I had lots of manual labor to attend to. But manual labor is not the same as walking.

Once in Maine, I really wanted to set a new precedent with a daily walk and Mud and I started, but the busy main road was such a drag, and I fell of the wagon, again.

But now more settled, I have been getting up early to walk with Mud. I now have a better feeling for the front road and have acquired skills I always had but forgot, to block out negative aspects of the traffic. It is also much quieter once the summer crowd leaves. I also have two properties where I've been given permission to ride and walk on, and I have a little loop I can do that feels like I have a destination to walk to, and keeps me off the road.

I love my walks, and I love getting up early again, and going to bed super early. I also love my bed, and I do a lot of thinking there in the first waking moments. I thought I was wasting time going to bed before nine o'clock many nights, but now, I realize it is simply what my body and mind want and need right now-early to bed, early to rise.

I took this photo of Mud as we sat for a spell down by the cove, the tide was out and on this day there were no clammers, but usually there are right into winter. I am still learning the land here, the tides and all things Atlantic ocean. Yesterday was very chilly, about 25 and really strong gusts. I am still a huge admirer of the wind here from the ocean. It is much different than the wind that blew from the coastal range in Oregon.

I also love that when I wake up, I see the sun rise over the cove, and that seems so...grounding, to know that the sun is rising right there over the Atlantic, right on the edge of the country. It is much different than the sun rising in Minneapolis, or Oregon. The sun is up earlier here than any other placed I've lived-it seems fitting that I too am up earlier than I ever was in my former homes-except when I was very little and I was up at 4 am ready for a new day of adventure.

I felt tied to my land in Oregon. I realized in my last weeks of walks, the land here is waiting for me to make my move. It is letting me figure it out...kind of like how I feel about New England in general. And I am simply trying to connect in my own way. But my walks have reminded me of something I always felt even as a child-I am interconnected with everything, we all are.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Don't rush my melancholy

I've been back in studio this week after last's week power outage put me back a week. I'm always a little rusty when the summer is over since summer is not my best creative time for painting, it's more for creating outside. So I was happy I could still sit down to a blank canvas and get something on it, and let it evolve. I like where these are going. They were inspired by the storm.

We shall see how they end up.

I fell into a bit of a funk this morning after sorting through old files, that led me to find old images from the old farm. I realize I might never be able to look at any of them without falling into some moments of sadness. I am thinking that that times was just a very special time in my life, when so much was evolving in me and so much was coming into my life-dreams were appearing right and left, animals and land worked together in such magical ways to bring surprise everyday. It was not a perfect time, no time is...but I think it will always be difficult to think back to it without longing for certain parts of it-like the gravel driveway, Old Barn, my rides with Joanne...I don't know, it is just part of me now, that empty part that was once my old farm.

And now I have this farm, different in so many ways, and still magical...I think the magic appears here in quietness, it has its own personality of communicating with me here. Perhaps this place is still recognizing I am still healing from what was a loss, even though we chose to leave.

I will take the time I need, perhaps the rest of my life, to work through those memories. And I won't let anyone to tell me to get over it already. One can be happy and content and still have sadness.

I am about to go out to Rag Tree. I've been meaning to and I want to hang some new prayer rags for people, and one for me too, and our farm here. It's a beautiful crisp day and I just keep hearing a voice, 

Go out to The Wood, go out today.


So I will, right now.


Monday, November 06, 2017

We celebrate Muddy

Today is Muddy's 8th birthday. It is hard to fathom it was that long ago a ball of chocolate came into our lives, back when his brother Huck was only five. So many frisbees have been thrown-for if you know Mud you know that frisbee is his passion and he has long standing relationships with his frisbees, Fred and Kevin.

Muddy is his own guy, but he can resemble Huck more and more as he ages. In certain light, or certain stances, I take a double look. I'm so glad we brought Muddy home - the thought was that as Huck aged, and we knew would pass on some day, we would have a younger version to keep us happy, and mindful of his old brother. But the two are very different, which as it should be.

Once you stare into chocolate eyes surrounded by chocolate fur, you can never get over it.

Happy birthday, dear Muddy, there will be extra bowl licking tonight-if we can keep your elderly, blind one-eyed brother pug away for long enough.


Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Puppet picks two winners!



Poor little Puppet. He is so sensitive.

Congrats to the two winners who will each take home one of my small originals. And thank you to everyone who has donated to the barn fund-you will all be getting a special greeting at year's end from the Misfits, as will anyone who helped with the Elder Cat Suite. I'm sure there will be plenty of special art give aways and other enticements as the fundraiser proceeds!

As The Puppet says, nobody is a loser [for the record, I've never won anything in my life either, I think it's a genetic thing].

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Magnificent Maurice Mittens...did he find the hooch?

We do not have any substances on our property...as in weed...nor we do we partake in it, we rely on a little hooch as our adult vice. However, we do know of a nearby property growing some weed. Is it possible The Magnificent Maurice Mittens has figured out a way to leave The Elder Cat Suite to chew on some plants? You might think so looking at him from time to time. Or maybe he has found our hooch stash.

{Please note no cats were given marijuana or hooch or allowed near marijuana plants to write this post. That is actually Mr. Mittens normal look when I say, "Mr. Mittens! Wake up, time for breakfast!"}

And don't forget, you have until midnight tonight to add $10 into the barn fund in order to get your name in The Puppet's hat-he will pick two names out of his hat and they will get an original painting. Every $10 you donate gets your name on a piece of paper in the hat.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Heads up message from The Puppet!

We are back to the living

Around eight post meridian last night we were sitting by the fire, and the power came on. I nearly cried. We knew there were poles down on our road and we watched the workmen all week for any sign of progress after the big storm ripped, literally, up midcoast. We had hoped for power yesterday as they were making progress, but I had given up once again when it wasn't on by nightfall.

What a haul it's been. It's mainly two things for us: water for the animals, and keeping the food and freezer alive. We are lucky to have Mrs. Revere, our old Garland gas stove/oven so we are never without a way to cook or bake. Ironically, the generator is due in next week-finally, so we will have an easier time next storm with the well and other things.

The romance of an outage is palpable that first night- but it becomes old pretty fast-including one's patience and stamina. I was horribly grumpy. I'd message Martyn during the day-something I really never do unless there is a real reason-but I was saying things like, "I put the house on the market" which of course was a joke. I guess I entertained him and the crew for awhile though.

I was able to get drinking water-barely-the first day-but the shelves were depleted quickly until the next day. Ice galore kept the freezer cold and by the next day I was going the 12 miles one way to a local spring where I could get drinking water. Martyn went and filled 50 gallon containers one night for the animals and that got us though a day and a half. As one woman at the grocery store said on day three, "I'm trying to be a good girl scout but am failing."

By Wednesday I had relinquished my anger and just melted into the situation. Funny how we humans fight circumstances-which takes so much energy-but it's the denial turned to reality that allowed me to move on in a healthier way. I should also mention, the storm that caused all this on Sunday night was probably the fiercest one I've lived though. It was not just a 60 MPH gust followed by heavy wind, it was a constant 60MPH gust through the night. We began to hear things falling and breaking and it went on and on. I lay in bed and would grab Martyn's arm every now and then- I thought of my animals, all tucked into the barns hoping a tree didn't fall. We lost one huge tree that needed to come down anyway and we had put it off since it would cost about $600. That tree politely fell in a way to let us cut it for firewood without doing too much damage to the fence.

Each night there was no television or radio, or checking emails or hearing outside news. We sat by the fire and talked, going to bed early one night, and making puppet shadows another-that was so fun. We all know we are too tied to social media and outer sources, living rurally it is imperative for me as an artist/freelancer to have internet, so I admit I don't like being without it, it is where my money comes from and I'm anxious without it. But a power outage of more than a couple days opens up fresh perspectives on what needs to be done on a normal day. Last week I finally got back into my mojo for painting, but this week was all about collecting water, not at making or writing and I missed both. So now I will reboot.

As I was coming from getting water yesterday, I pulled off one of our roads and stopped to visit one of the many historical cemeteries. I love cemeteries and like to read the names and ages, and say hello to them. Those bodies deeply buried were walking around once, probably went through a lot of Maine storms too. I have been wanting to start visiting cemeteries, so not having powered shifted my perspective enough to simply pull over and take a walk in one I drive by all the time and think, I have to stop in there.

This morning I got up before sunrise to get out to the barns, I wanted to fill large containers with water in case we lost power again, which we still could because so many poles are down. The animals were sleeping. I always feed the pigs first because they are so loud before they get fed, and I opened the stall and I started them out of deep pig sleep,

"Hrumpf? What is going on, it's too early!Who the hell are you, it's dark in here!"

I ventured out in the dark to the outer barn and the sheep were out, but looked at me like I was nuts. I called for Benedetto and he came sheepishly out, is body language told me he at first he might have wondered who I was. He came so slowly up to me, I stood and let him make all the moves as I sensed he really wanted to make sure it was me.

The morning was beautiful. I didn't have my camera and wished I had. But again, getting up at dawn is something I've been wanting to do more of, for photos and just the feeling of seeing the sun rise over the ocean. A pain in the neck experience of living without power reminded me of that, forcing me one morning to finally do it. The conflict is, I really love my bed, and do a lot of thinking in the wee hours after Martyn leaves at 5:30 AM.

The Puppet will be pulling names out of his hat soon-sty tuned!