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

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I like making the Itties–the raggedy, one-of-a-kind tiny dolls that come with the new book if you so desire. The book is only 4 x 6" high, so you see the dolls are...well...itty. Here is one I just completed for a customer who already has one Itty and needs another as a gift.

I thought of Itty today. I wondered how she was. I am not in touch with the owners of our old farm for a variety of reasons. But it doesn't mean I don't think of Itty, and the old flock, Hazel the barn cat, Peach and all the souls buried there. But there are so many walking sounds here and that is my charge now-to care for them, and revel in their beauty.

I have some exciting news coming up soon that will make you all very happy I think.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Her Royal Highness

Let me translate:

"Hrumpf! Mmmmmmmm! The morning came too soon for me! How can I sleep amidst the sheep chewing cud? Hrumpf Grrr Rump! I need my beauty rest."

Friday, February 17, 2017

The snow of yesteryears

We had another 6 inches of beautiful snow a night ago. I awoke to the entire Wood covered in beautiful white clothing, every wood pile, every poop pile covered delicately in fluffy snow.

It was a night snow, katakana in Eskimo. Night snows are especially joyful I think, because you get up and open the door just as Dorothy did when she landed on Oz, and swoon.

To say White Dog is in his element is an understatement. This dog is so happy here. Not only with the snow, but his new solo job of guarding the small flock, rather than sharing that duty with Marcella.  I can tell he is very content here. I bring him into another paddock a few times a week during the day, depending on where the sheep are, and let him have wolf play with Marcella.

I never tire of seeing him at the gate, and even though I have taken the same photo of him there many times, each snow fall makes it different. The barn roof snow finally slid off, making him his own mountain which he proudly sits on for a perfect view all around his terrain.

As the Eskimos would say: there are ontlas all over {snow covering objects}, dinliltla cover the hind end pantaloons of the White Dogs {little balls of snow on dog fur}, and now quinyaya is appearing {snow covered in animal poop}. And there is the beautiful kriplyana {blue snow} that is so mysterious and makes me imagine an entire universe living under the snow.

Someone asked me if I liked having a wintery winter, versus what I considered sort of a cold spring in Oregon. There is so much I love about this kind of winter, but it is also problematic on a farm, I can not deny that. In a way, I'm glad we got the epic storm we did, where 24" fell in 12 hours on top of the foot we already had, and then another 6" a day later-it showed us what we need to think about next pre-winter, and it showed us what improvements we can make in the barnyards to help with clean out. It is no different than the learning curve we faced our first year in Oregon with floods in our fields. Oregon got fog and ice, we get snow and sun [usually]...winters go on here, I get it, and that was a sobering fact I had to face as i was digging out a small path, again, and again, this past storm.

Here's the thing, I've lived my life with one rule: Live in way, in place that makes you happy; if that changes, you can find another place. I've never left a home because I hated it, I left NYC, Mpls and then my beloved first farm in Oregon because changes had occurred, earthly plates had shifted, I had shifted, Martyn had shifted. I am not afraid to move with changes. I guess the biggest fear I have is getting to a stage I have to go where I don't want to go because of inability to care for myself, or not being able to live with animals.

I try to show my positive thoughts right now about winter. There is so much gloom out there right now for so many. I grew up in snow, so it just isn't an issue. I love that Maine has sunny days-light becomes very important as we age, and I do know that the grey in Oregon was really getting to me-and once you are wet, you never really get warm again. I have had thoughts of spring, it would be spring to me in Oregon, and I loved that tulips pop up there in February and the minute leaves fall in autumn the buds were there. There is never has that will winter ever end feel in Oregon [to me, a Midwesterner].

But it's beautiful. It's so beautiful. The Eskimos have a word for "the idea of snow, penstla. I was excited for snow when we were moving here, and I could feel the same excitement of the first snow here that I felt as a kid in Minnesota, my family all there, the idea of sledding on my mind or skating. Snow was a gift! Digging tunnels in the barnyard reminded me of the ice -snow forts we'd make, and the quiet they gave us when we crawled inside.

The snow of yesteryears, nylaipin, is still in my heart. The rains of Oregon never did that.

White Dog on his mountain-snow fall off from barn roof
Blue ice

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Under deep it's percolating

Even in winter, deep under the ground the seeds are percolating waiting to be birthed in spring.
{This is available as a print}
Hopper House-out back behind the barns where the wild rabbits winter. I pictured them the other night in the storm, hunkered down, safe and warm out the wind gusts.
{Can be made into a print, just email me}

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Up to our hipbones

The animals take it all in stride. This morning I awoke to the Little Apiferians singing their bird songs in the living room, and I could see the sun reflecting all over, bouncing off the frosty windows created by Monday's nor'easter. It was a relief to see the sun.

It's beautiful out, pure virginal snow without a track on it. Just gorgeous. One can't be awed by the sight, no matter what trouble it brings. We were able to really get a good look at how much we had, and we estimate at least 24" or more, and then the 12" we already had. but I still think we have more, since it is almost up to the top of some 4' fence lines.

I arrived at the barn and opening the stall door was like a goat and pig version of Wizard of Oz. Marcella leapt out into it with out a care. I created a small patio for Earnest and the goats, and cleared a pig tunnel so the pigs could walk out and I could get to the barn. Then set out to task two, at the new barn. I was greeted by the avalanche of snowing coming off the barn roof, missing me but creating even more snow on top of the other snow. I started creating a pathway there after I fed everyone, and I had this moment-a moment, mind you-of remembering a time in Minnesota when I lived alone in a small house and shoveled the drive and then the plow came by and it was a mountain in the exit way, and I just kind of stopped, and cried a little. I remembered how this much snow and having to clear it can create that feeling of hopelessness.

So I just thought, it always melts.

I decided to tackle the donkey and horse area. I was concerned because they have a large 20' interior that is a 24 hour turnout, but right now there is no paddock for them, it is 4 feet deep in snow. I could see someone had attempted to walk out, but turned around after a couple feet. It's soft snow which is good. The roofline back there had not melted off yet and there is another huge amount that is about to come down on the already growing mountain that is beginning to infringe on the interior stall area. So I started digging. I gave up after 30 minutes. I gathered Martyn to come out and assess our next step, since he'd been plowing the drives most of the morning. We need to plow the roads to the barn and already had a lot of it done before the 24". Martyn started on the drives, because we might get another 12" tomorrow night...insert a swoon from barnyard...and I set out to create a mini sized area that gave the equines more space to walk around in the snow area, and create a bare spot for the roof snow to land.

About every 5 minutes, Matilda wandered out on the path I was creating for her pleasure, looked at me as if to say,

"Aren't you going to make it big enough so I can get to he back field I like?"

On her third visit to me, I admitted to her,

"You probably aren't going to see that field for a long time, my friend."

She flattened her ears in airplane style, and returned to her hay.

I called back to her,

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

But nobody ever listens to me.

{You can see more snow pictures at Instagram}

Monday, February 13, 2017

Apifera hunkered down in the nor'easter... a place of deepness

It's winter.

It's really winter.

The storm they predicted to be "epic" did not disappoint. I guess I was glad it was all it was cracked up to be. It gives us a chance to see the improvements we need to make for next year. And it also is a cold, hard reality check that we have left Oregon.

I am no wimp. I ate weather whining, as you might know, at least in public. I have to say though, I was very restless last night and I kept waking up and wondering why I was restless. The worst of the storm hit in the late night/early morning when the winds picked up too. One thing that is different here in a storm compared to Oregon, is the windows get really snowy and crystal speck, so you feel a bit covered in an avalanche. That has cozy moments, and moments where I think I am feeling a bit claustrophobic, which took me by surprise.

This morning Martyn shoveled a path to the front barn for me, and as I did feedings he shoveled another path to the new barn, about 200 feet I guess. It's light and fluffy so not that hard, but the snow was deep enough to go down into my Mucks and create snow packs in my socks. Icy! When I got out to the new barn, there was White Dog, in full winter spirit, ready for his breakfast. Rosie's slider and blown open an inch and the high winds had blown in some snow–she was buried in her usual hay bed, but had snow on top of that. But she was snoring and warm to the touch so all is well.

I did my chores and just wanted to hold all the animals. They are so stoic with weather, and in some ways, I think the cold and snow [it was 25 so not that cold, but very windy] is almost easier on them than constant rain and mud. Once you're wet, it's hard to get dry out West.

It was, and is as I type, white out conditions. I had momentary thoughts about Oregon, and know that the buds are on trees and the grass is green and on and on. I wondered why we were here. What is so important, I thought, that we felt propelled to come here. I went through the long list of the facts of why we chose to move, and that was all fine and good. But I wondered, there must be something that will happen in time that will make a nor'easter just like another rain storm.

I refuse to be a winter wuss. I will go hiking in The Wood tomorrow if the wind dies down, look for tracks. I had moments feeling like I'll never see the grass again. I felt kind of agitated.

And then I realized that the storm is bringing up something in me, memories, or deep down things to be examined in an intimate setting. Someone I really admire that I've sought guidance from over the years, recently said that our time in Maine is for a reason and part of it is to allow me to "go deeper".

I think winter is like that here. It is a place of deepness, it is not a carefree place like a walk in a spring field can be. It can bring out darkness, or help you reach for ways to address darkness that may keep you in touch with light.
White out conditions all day today

Digging a tunnel from the front pig barn

Friday, February 10, 2017

We survived!

The nor'easter came and went and left us with a beautiful 10-12". Last night the winds picked up and rattled the windows and made snow patterns on the outside. It was like being in some kind of fairy book. I have always felt our house looks like a place a fairy would live, a warm place to come to after a long journey.

I've been having some memories of winters passed, from my younger days in Minneapolis-where I can remember shoveling two feet of snow [a law in Minneapolis that you have to keep your sidewalk cleared] and then by the day's end I'd do it all over again. Growing up in Minnesota I remember winters being all snow, lots of snow, enough to build ice forts and sled and make angels. I remember winters in upstate New York when I was in college, and I wore my Wallabe shoes without socks, yes, what can I say? The latter gave me cracked heals for the rest of my life-I was young and glowing then, but not as sharp in the brain.

And in Oregon, we would get a snowstorm a year at the farm, and I can remember thinking,

Man, raising sheep in a winter climate must be horribly hard.

So for now, the winter weather is just fine with me, I like it. But I don't have to get anywhere fast, nor does Martyn. The roads here are plowed constantly-a huge difference than Oregon where the state shut down, once for two weeks, after about 5" of snow. So winter here is simply...winter, another bunch of months on the calendar.

Winter here makes me feel like I can focus more on what is inside of me. I feel it gives me a chance to go back to my root-in an artistic way. It's beautiful, pure, and I can see the bird tracks, and I now know where the bunnies live as I track their toe prints. I can see the squirrel nests high above in the bare trees, and with a dusting of snow they are like beautiful dried floral arrangements. I love our bedroom because it is so old and the wind here off the coast is an entity of its own and I feel safe in my big bed, looking out at the snow at night. You can see white in the dark, I like that.

Nobody is suffering. Last night though I worried a bit about the equines. They have ample shelter, but we are learning where the east winds come round the one side of the barn, and next year we will add one more wall. It means when I arrived this morning for feedings there was a bit more snow in the overhang area, but some good hay got everyone warm again [feeding grain is not the way to warm your horse, it's all about the hay, and the actual process of chewing creates heat in the body-I find that really interesting].

There are certainly inconveniences on a farm to a 12" snow. And I can't use my hoses so I carry the water in buckets, but the barns are closer together. Besides almost being buried in an avalanche of snow sliding off the metal barn roof, I'm surviving. And of course Martyn is here full time, keeping the fire going and plowing our drive.

The White Dogs love it. The pigs go out but mainly hang out in what is an amazingly warm stall even on this ten degree day. Their body heat keeps it tropical in there - well, it feels tropical after you come in out of a brisk wind.

I do remember the longness of winter, how it can get very old, quickly, if you are living to shovel. Then again, I feel that way about humidity and heat. Mid coast Maine is not as severe as Minnesota, we were surprised by that. Certain things grow here that you can't grow there, and while we do have a winter, I don't think it will compare to Minnesota. But, we are suppose to get two more significant storms in the next few days. I will attempt to revel in it, as a White Dog.

{I post photos at Instagram too and you can see some snow images}

I tied hay twine to my cleats hoping it would help keep them from falling off.

Thursday, February 09, 2017


We are all snuggled down and battened in for our first real nor'easter. Martyn is like a kid in a candy store, checking snow depths and watching wind patterns. It's really sweet to watch him. We have our fire, the animals are hunkered in and we'll see how much we get on top of the 6" or so we had in last few days.

As you can see, Hughie is content. We are amused at how he gets as close to the fire as possible. Perhaps at that distance he gets a glimmer of what light is, since he is now blind. But I'm sure it feels good on his old Pug bones.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Bensohappy snow

We had a nice snow on Tuesday, about four inches, and I would say it was a "slap" snow, which means "powder snow" in the Eskimo language-as you might know I am trying to learn the 100 Eskimo words for the many varieties of snow.

Then last night we must have had another four inches, maybe more, and the temps rose a bit in the night and we could hear some sleet. This morning it was beautiful, pure, virginal landscape and when I walked outside, it was a "slimtla" snow- crusted on top with light fluffy snow underneath.

The White Dogs love the snow. We joke that Benedetto somehow found his way to the old Apifera in Oregon, knowing way before we did that we would move to Maine where he could have snowy winters. He naps in it, plays in it, and rarely is seen inside the barn. I love how they look in the snow...there is no Eskimo word for "White Dog in the snow" but perhaps there should be..."Bensohappy" perhaps?

We are supposed to get another four or six inches tonight so this is our first true feeling of a real winter. I like it. Although I'm getting fat and I have to start hiking more. There is salt on the main road so I will have to get booties for Mud. The Wood is a nice hike but only a mile and my muffin top needs 3 if I am going to stop from becoming a version of Cornelia. Oh well, I have my health, and some more fat, but I am content.

Things are a bit slow this past week as far as income, so don't forget the shop is full of art, prints, books, cards, journals and more...perfect for Valentines Day...or just a treat for yourself. The Itty book is really getting some nice reviews by people. I did not even consider the ways it would effect people. One reader found the book helpful to her current challenge-accepting that her elderly mother was being her "ownself' by insisting she stay at her beloved farm as she ages.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Scooby Keith flies off to live with Aldo

My right hand old man, my independent browser–Scooby Keith–has died.

I knew last night he was not well. I opted to let him sleep in the chicken coop, away from the pigs who can often be so happy to snort out grain on the floor they inadvertently run over old men. When I left him he was alert and standing, but clearly not well. But Scooby and I have been through this so many times together. In fact, on his arrival, he was sick and that first winter I thought I was losing him several times, but we always pulled through together. I had a medication regime I did with him, with my vet's approval, and he was just such a little stoic fighter. Those first couple years, it seemed each winter he'd get some kind of pneumonia like symptoms, but this last year, even though we were in Maine, he didn't have a sign of it all winter. Even last night his symptoms were not that he was sick, they were that he was checking out.

I almost hated to get up. Arriving at the barn, he had made his way to the coop door, and was in an awkward position, but was still strong enough to bleat out to me.

I know this goat, and his language. I know when his bleats me, "I'm ready to eat" versus "Put more in my dish"; I know when he is content to be in the pig paddock for the day, or when he would rather be by himself out in the orchard yard. I know his "Hello," versus his, "Hey, I'm over here, come get me". And this morning, I knew his bleat meant,

"Help me, I need help."

I got him out and he couldn't stand, his head wobbled and he could not right it. I lay him down on hay and got him comfortable, covered him in more blankets and assessed him as the background of pigs, goat and near by donkeys all let me know that breakfast was late. I have done this so many times and I knew he was not coming out of this one, and that he was already in what the vet taught me is 'the death spiral'.

He was not panicked, but I knew what a survivor he was and hoped he didn't try to fight. I did my chores and came back, he seemed pretty near death, but he bleated out a strong bleat, without raising his head. His eyes were losing their feel to my touch, his mouth was getting cold. I opted to take him into the Cat Cottage for warmth even though he was well blanketed. I sat with him for a good half hour and I kept telling him,

"Look for Aldo."

You see, and some might remember, Aldo was a very old llama I took on. He was at the end of his life and his old mate had died. I adopted him from Sanctuary One, but Aldo came with his own sidekick, and that was Scooby Keith. Scooby just really liked Aldo, and on arrival, I tried various arrangements for Aldo and Scooby, so that Scooby could have a goat friend, but Scooby just didn't resonate with the goats. He liked Aldo. Then Aldo died one summer, a real blow to all of us. Scooby carried on, but I decided to move him to an upper barn, where he preferred to hang out with Boone. He slept in the hay barn at times but during the day, he ate with Boone. I guess he liked bigger animals.

So, today, I told Scooby to look for Aldo. It gives me comfort thinking of Aldo, somewhere, in some form be it large, white clouds calling out to his old friend. I sang my go-to song for the dying, "Over the Rainbow" with appropriate words for the hospice patient. I hope someone sings that to me on my big day.

Saying good-bye to Scooby has many other layers of grief for me, of course. I guess each death, in its own way, causes us to snip strings we might not be ready to snip, or are ready to snip, but are taken off guard how much their dissolving stings and resonates. Scooby's death is like all the deaths of the old farm rolled into one somehow. He is the last true elderly-elder goat that came from Oregon-Sophie is 11, Tripod is severely crippled and about 6, The Head Troll is 15+, and Wilbur-Moose-Goose are youngsters by comparison. So, Scooby Keith's death is loaded with reasons to cry today. And I did.

But mainly I told him how fabulous a sideman he was for me, how much I loved hearing his distinctive foot steps coming into the feed room each morning, where he ate by himself, away from the clamour of pigs, dogs, chickens and other Misfits. If it was warm and dry, out he'd go to eat leaves, on his own, content.

But mainly, I told him to look for Aldo.

I was cold and needed a warm me up coffee, so left him for a break. I knew he'd be gone by day's end or sooner. I had done all I could do for him, and he wasn't fighting it, he wasn't in distress. He was close to 17 and was...old. I left to get some coffee and my last words were,

"It's a beautiful day for this once in a life journey. Look for Aldo."

On my return, he was gone. And that instant, I missed him already.

{See all the past stories and photos of Scooby Keith.}

Sunday, February 05, 2017

In the Wood, out in the light

I walked the entire Wood today with Mud. It's only about a mile loop, but I really love The Wood in the winter, especially since it is marsh in much of the center so can't be walked the entire way in spring. It's fun to watch the tracks of deer and coyote, and we suspect a bobcat.

The winter here has not been that hard on us, in fact, Oregon is having a harder time since even 1/4 inch of snows freaks everyone out and the roads come to a standstill pretty easily there. There is a difference here in that nobody complains about the weather that much, it is just weather. Much like Minnesota, or my days in upstate NY. I was taught as a child by a mother that lived in the furtherest north city in North Dakota,

"It's just weather, don't whine about it."

And I rarely do. So many other things to whine about it.

We are beginning to comprehend what we want to do to our acreage, and of course that will evolve too. We have lots of plans and ideas, dreams. Martyn has already begun to push the growth back from the existing pasture. We plan to create more open space on part of The Wood, a place that was obviously pasture at one time. It has some old growth apple trees, and is above the marsh and stream spots. I like it over there, it borders the Quaker cemetery.

Our little farm is very different here than in Oregon. I am adjusting to that. There are still days I have some pangs for 'what was', but...it's not necessarily the farm itself. It is something else and I haven't figured out the words to express that, and maybe I won't have to. We have been here eight months, that is not long at all. I remember how long it took in Oregon to feel rooted. And I'm not sure it has anything to do with being here, versus "there". I think it has more to do with the realization, the fact, that my decades on this earth are coming to an end. I'll be 59 in March. That's not old, but, a decade zips by. There is so much to do here, that we want to do, and it just feels different thinking ahead at 59 then it did at 42.

To be honest, I feel a bit fat, a bit old looking. I was pretty once, that was nice to experience. It means nothing to how you live your life, what kind of heart you have or what art you make. But, I can now say, I've entered that place where 'pretty' is not the word I would use to describe anything about my appearance. In fact I don't like looking at myself much. I think this might pass. I'm sort of in the 'between' stage of aging.

So walking in The Wood helps with anything. Touching old trees, hearing the stream under the ice, and Muddy was so happy to be with me.

In the meantime, while we gave up the Big Sky feel of the West, we have huge clouds that are closer to us here, and lots of days of beautiful sun and blue sky. The snow comes and goes, and it has been an easy winter so far as regards to snow. But of course that can change, but no matter, we are fine. And t was nice to look over to the new barn and see the flock, and the smoke coming from the house chimney.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Itty readers of the world sharing

I am getting photos from people all over the country who have received their Itty Bitty books, and are reading it to their feline friends.

I'm hoping the book will also be read to pigs, llamas, horses, donkeys and goats, and elders in homes and children before naps.

You can see some of Itty's readers at the book page. Keep them coming!