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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

We did it...and then some

Many of you have already heard on other sites, but we made the barn goal and we are funded! But what is even more wonderful is The J&J Stanley Foundation is matching that $10,000 we raised.

And it still gets better.

Yesterday we were $1000 from making our goal. The Foundation informed me that if we reached our goal by the end of March they would 'sweeten the pot"and add tot hat $10,000. While The Puppet was hoping that meant cookies, I knew it meant money. So I put out the word. And many people came through yesterday, and even still today, and we reached our goal by late afternoon!

And then...I got the word that The Foundation would be adding another $5,000 to the already $10,000 they are matching.

Pretty darn sweet, I'd say!

I have thanked everyone a million times. But it is so gratifying to have made this accomplishment. And it is also a relief [probably for many of you too]. Now we can go to the next step of getting the barn started-which should begin in June-if the snow is gone! Hah!

What a wonderful way to end the week. Thank you one and all, no donation was too small, and all donations and shares did not go unnoticed. I am leaving the Go Fund up for a couple weeks to make sure all money is cleared into the account. You can always make donations here at the blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned-there is lots percolating here!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"How many times can she photograph my snowness?"

I can't resist it, every snow day presents photo opportunities galore with White Dog. I've become like those people on Instagram that can't simply live and enjoy moments with their child, they have to IG everything.

No, I really haven't.

But I am glad to photograph him. There will be days ahead I will want these photos to hold onto. I know, because I have photos from the old from I hold onto of the animals I've had to say goodbye to over the years. I never want to Benedetto to die, without me. But of course he will, or I will. Until that time, he is a loved subject of my lens.

How much snow can a donkey shovel

It snowed a wee bit. Just a tish. Then it snowed a tish more.

Or as we say in the barn when it's just us Misfits,

"That's a ##$%^##@ lot of snow."

I must follow my own code of ethics–no weather whining [unless it involves biting flies, then I can whine because I am usually bleeding from wounds]. But, even us winter lovers do get worn out this time of year when these storms keep coming back to back...to back.

But, oh it is beautiful.

This morning I stopped midway to outer barn, just to look. Imagine, I thought, if you had never seen snow and you woke up to this?

Imagine, if they told you today is the last day you will see...or hear the way the snow sounds as it lands...

I had planned to be in the studio which has sorely missed my presence, as has my bunny studio mate, but the time I got done shoveling in the front barn, I was already sort of pooped [for the record Martyn was good enough to shovel all the way to barn for me, since it was well past my knees, usually I just trudge on]. I arrived at the outer barn, and I let out an expletive-in amazement. Then I counted heads to make sure all Misfits were accounted for.

The way we positioned the barn means the exits are under the metal roof, and sliding snow creates mini avalanches. I will say last nights snow off the roof created a great wind barrier for the donkey stalls. And it was pretty cool, it reminded me of when we had so much snow in Minnesota as kids and we would carve out forts from the huge snowbanks.

I am getting a bit worn out, but it is better than ice storms, or earthquakes. Or...you know...biting flies.

Being the eternal optimist and lover of all things Nature has to teach us, I took today as a sign to slow down, enjoy time with my flock and Misfits after all the shoveling. I was rewarded in many ways...including with llama love. Birdie followed right behind me as I shoveled out the avalanche on the sheep side of the barn. She was very concerned I think.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Art meshed with land and life

Guarding the Pussy Willow and Rat
The brush piles all over the farm at this time of year are like evolving sculptures to me, and in winter snows they become even more pronounced. In certain month the sheep are in the fields before we have picked up wind fall branches or pruning from the trees and they move the wood around with their heads, creating a living sculpture area. I hat thinking we will burn these pile, but many will be burned. We try to use as much as kindling as possible, and leave some fro woodland critters, but many must go or they create trouble when the grass begins to grow.

I did a painting a few days ago, with Marcella guarding the home of a little rat. The photo was taken at dusk after last week's storm [another on the way tomorrow night]. All around me life is going on and it ends up often in the art, especially my brush piles.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

That's me-can you see her?

{Thank you for all the well wishes, everyone. And thank you to those of you who recently donated to the birthday fundraiser to try to get the barn funded. Only need a bit more.}

So I turned sixty.

I like to think of myself as this creature, in these photos, the soul of this youngster is still with me. There I am pointing out to something that enthralls me, makes me happy, makes me look out in wonder as I stand in my little hand made sweater.

I noticed a difference in my perception of myself in the past months leading up to sixty. You hear women say that as they age they may lose youthful looks and pure, alabaster skin but they gain wisdom and peace they never had. I think this is true. I have now become that woman, but I am also the woman that catches a glimpse of herself in a store window and wonder, "That's me?" When I do the latter, I will now think of the little happy face in this picture above.

My optimal years in the looks department are gone, they occurred in my forties and fifties I think-it was when I really came into myself professionally but also as person. Looks are also about how we perceive ourselves, I think. That old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," is true.

I was talking the other day to my old, wiser cousin [our term of endearment for her] and we were talking about our youth driven culture. I made a statement that I think is true-as a species, for survival, we sought out youth, we sought out younger looking creatures-they would be the strongest and most fit to carry on the species. Even I, if I'm being honest, prefer the way I "looked' in my forties and early fifties, to now. I can't lie about that. And I think it's because we are engineered to innately feel that way. But would I give up what I know, feel, and experience now in my personal evolution just to 'look' that younger way....no. And nobody is asking me to either.

I had a nice couple of days of honoring this transition into this new decade. Nice notes, some phone calls, good wishes from many near and far. I missed my parents this time around. But then there they were, the dove couple in the apple tree. Later in the afternoon, we went to get some groceries and..wait for it...buy new socks...and there was a dove couple on the roof of the building. So they were around. We had another wonderful meal by Martyn, I made the family recipe white cake with chocolate frosting-the same recipe I've made probably sixty or more times. As I stirred the batter of the sturdy white cake, and folded in the egg whites-the aroma of ingredients just carried me to my mom. I could hear her telling me to fold them in, not beat them in, just as she had taught me when I was little.

I made a pan cake this time. And when I went to cut a piece, I cut one out of the center. This is sacrilege in our family, but I rarely eat sugar stuff anymore, and knew this was my chance to eat the piece I really wanted. But I could hear my parents laughing.

Martyn presented me with a beautiful black cherry burl, that he had sanded down so we can use it now a cheese board. It was from an old black cherry that fell in one of the storms. It was a perfect gift-something from our new land here in Maine, new to us, but so old and having given so much over the years to her owners, since well before 1760. It was a seat gift from the sweetest man alive.

I should also mention, Moose turned five. Sharing my birthday with a goat is a perfect fit.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

We love it, we lay in it, we walk in it, we do not complain, we live

Today we awoke to another Dorothy-enters-a-winter version-of-OZ, the 12" of snow from last night's Nor'easter blanketed the land and encased the fences and trees. But White Dog was there to simply be what he is every day, White Dog. And Marcella joined in.

A day with snow is a day without flies, that is our motto in Maine. It is a beautiful snow, a bit heavy, but there is no more wind today and it's still coming down.

It is hard to resist taking any photo of something snow covered. So enjoy these photos. I hope you can feel the silence of the earth below the sound of the snow...and the contentment of two White Dogs.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

After the Spring Wind

"After the Spring Wind" now available
I was doing my usual barn chores yesterday, after my morning walk with Muddy, thinking about The Wind here. It was very windy, and about 38 degrees, so chilly, but nice. Spring chill is much different than autumn chill. The temperature of the ground is still cold in spring so it can be biting, but then you also get hints of spring smells, like the ocean. And the sounds of spring are emerging.

I came back inside after chores still thinking about The Wind. I've said before, it is different here than in Oregon because it comes of the coast, and The Wood is situated differently here. I was inspired to paint the feeling I had that day of The Wind...I did all sorts of squiggles and abstract blasts of color, and ended up painting over all of them, ending up at the end of the day with this piece.

In some way, I thought I had failed the initial inspiration-to paint what The Wind felt like that day to me. But, I realized when I titled this piece, "After the Spring Wind" that it accomplished what it was meant to. The calm the in between The Wind gusts, even if for seconds, is what I feel in this piece. The little bits of spring are emerging too.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

"The barn is open to you," I told two cats

Cats with Moon and One Star
Last week, two ferel cats arrived. They had been trapped by a ferel cat organization, spayed, neutered, and vaccinated. They arrived in carriers and the organization lent us a very large crate. We put the small carrier cages inside, with food, and made sure everything was secure.

We had cared for a colony of 25 out in Oregon, and gained experience working with them over the years, including letting them acclimate on their own terms. But these two cats were not born in our barn here, and I was really anxious to do the right thing by them, to get them comfortable with the surroundings. The next day, we created a roomy area, totally enclosed so they could not escape, so we could get them out of the crate. We really were vigilant on securing every little nook and possible escape hatch, even hauling in stone to line the edges. When Martyn finished it, I found couple things I worried about, and he added some more wood to those areas.

But I neglected to see one spot that had chicken wire, and it had not been nailed down-Martyn had instead pushed it back into some wall boards in what he felt was secure. If I had known that, I would have nailed it down. But I should have checked, and he should have known better.

The next morning, they were gone. I was crushed. And Martyn felt terrible too. I feared even though they had some time with us, and had food here, they would flee. I put out canned stinky food, and sprinkled flour all around the cans in hopes of seeing their prints. Three days or more went by, no prints, and no food was eaten.

I knew cats could find lots of hiding areas in the barn. In Oregon, we literally had cats living in the hay bales-finding areas they could hide in between the bales. Litters were hid there too.

On the day I found them gone, I went to my studio and painted these two pieces. I wanted to send my intention out to them again-that we are here to give them food and shelter. But I also know I had already done that on their arrival, and I had doubted myself after they fled. I blamed myself and beat myself up. But in my heart, I found a little light burning inside me, that encouraged me to think of my intention I had given them.

And then yesterday, paw prints in the flour! I was so excited.

And all the food was eaten, the cans had been licked clean. So I put out two more cans last night, and more flour. And this morning, more paw prints and both cans were licked clean. If the old barn cats out West are floating around me, seeing these guys getting canned food, they will be rolling their eyes!

I talk to them briefly each morning, and always say goodnight to them too. I am not sure when they will appear, maybe never, but they are there, they have food and I think it will be okay. I hardly even know what they look like except they are black with some white. We don't know how old they are but most likely young, around two. One is male and one is female and they assumed they might be siblings. I was able to touch the nose of the female the first day, but did not try to touch the male, he gave me clear indications he was not ready for that.

I am glad they stayed, and glad I found my inner light. That inner light is always burning, but sometimes I forget that, which leads to doubt. Whenever I doubt my intuition, suffering happens, and I am not the beacon I can be.

Cat Eyes in the Woods

Friday, March 02, 2018

Reinvent yourself...the culling of a life leads to more

Jeanne's 97 year old hands hold Opie
There are so many reciprocal generosities going on in my work with the animals and elders. Just as much as the animal visits to them brings them happiness and comfort, a break in what might be a routine day, their presence also is helping me to evolve into this next reinvention of myself. Just as I am getting to know them, they are learning about me, and since I'm in a new land it is like they are bringing out a clean slate of me. My work with them is grounding me to this place called Maine. Yesterday Opie and I went to see our friends at Wiscasset. I found out Jeanne is 97, and Evelyn just turned 93, Joe is 87 and Sara is 85...We talked about me turning sixty this coming week, and it seemed like a lifetime away for them. We all agreed their is no standard image for 97, or 60. It truly is a number.

We all have 'stages' in our lives. I have had three major reinventions of myself in the times since I became an adult, and am entering my fourth. These reinventions are not eradicating everything from the past, but they are a culling, and an expansion on the things left behind after the culling.

This current reinvention is sort of a surprise for me and as I sat paining the other day, I had this clear sentence pop into my head,

You are reinventing yourself again.

When we got to Maine, I thought, Okay, I am me, painting, living and working with animals and now I'll be adding elder people into the mix. It still felt like I was doing basically the same thing as when I was out West.

But it did feel different. And for awhile now I think I wasn't completely letting myself go with the flow. I guess it looks like I'm moving fast and free here, and in many ways I am. But I think I was still hanging onto the Western Katherine. I think that is one reason I stood up from a chair last summer, walked calmly into the bathroom, and chopped about 5 inches off my hair clumps. It just felt like something I had to free myself of-those hair clumps that were prominent in so many paintings of the last ten years, hair clumps I started wearing at the old farm. I always wore my hair down before moving to the farm.

When I started working on my first illustrated memoir, which would actually become the second, not first book I'd publish [Misfits of Love was the first], I worked with a respected editor that used to work for Chronicle. He was excellent and really helped me with my craft, and helped me shape the book. He also pitched it to about 10 publishing houses; it got good feedback, but nobody felt it was going to be a 'big' book, and passed on it [a 'big' book is one that will become a huge seller]. One even said it was too inspirational. Gee, thanks. I then went on to try to find an agent, which was more painful than finding a publisher. One agent was interested, and she started throwing out ways to appeal to publishers and within six months she had still not taken me on. I began to feel like she was shaping me, or trying to, to fit her client list and her needs to sell to a certain base she knew she had, not an audience that might respond to me-as-me.

As much as I always wanted a book deal, and wider audience, I don't feel that way anymore. It would be constricting to me. I'm a free bird, I don't do well over time being caged.I am proud of my books, and I am also proud of my art, and the way I've shaped a life of the past twenty-six years merging them altogether with my other love-animals.

I don't want to be a persona, and there were years at the old farm where my blog began to feel like one-because I was playing the game of seeking an agent or publisher. Martyn was referred to as The Dirt Farmer in Oregon. It made sense. We labored in the dusty fields of lavender, and arrived at the house covered in dust. We loved a song by Levon Helm that had come out some time around then, called, "The Dirt Farmer" so I started calling him that. At the time, it was genuine, but as we were entering our final years there, it all began to feel...not us but like a tactic to tell someone else's story. In Oregon, Pino had began wearing aprons in my illustrated stories because in real life, in my then-reinvention of myself, I had begun wearing aprons when we moved to the farm–and Pino in effect, was my voice, we were the same creature.

When we moved to Maine, I remember saying to someone, something like, "Pino just wants to be a little donkey again, and Martyn wants to be Martyn."

So when I heard my inner voice say, You are reinventing yourself again I was pleased. it was as if I finally was accepting that I am me, and not a persona. I still have things to do, and share, and write about, but I don't always have to hide behind a girl flying with braid clumps. That girl was and is wonderful, and she is part of me.

But in this reinvention, I am me, Martyn is Martyn, and Pino is his own donkey.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Paco's butt gets the blame

"Ok everybody. Let's try it again, on the count of three, line up!"

Scuffle, tail swishes, sighs...

"Move over, " Lucia said.

"I can't, Paco's butt is in the way," said Pino.

"That's because you're facing the wrong way again, Pino," said Paco.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Man, woman and goats celebrate!

Martyn turns 59 tomorrow. And I turn 60 two weeks later. We have always made the two weeks between our birthdays, since we are the same age for that short time, something special. Well, not in diamonds and pearls or lavish dinners out, we just take extra time to acknowledge our blessings to be together, healthy and still rockin'.

It's a big birthday coming up for me, I guess. I've always had a good relationship with age. It's just a marker on the road. The important thing is I'm still moving and evolving. I'm getting more 'comfortable' with my aging as far as my appearance goes. I think leaving the old place for a new place allowed me somehow to step out of that perceived 'me' in my mind. When I moved to the old Apifera, I was only forty four, still all skin glowing and firm abs and arms. It has taken awhile after about age 57 or so to recognize myself!

I was thinking how, the sixties and onward are much more like the teenage years, in reverse. As a teen, we are anxious about our appearance, our bodies are riddled with hormones that create all sorts of outward and inner effects. Aging is like that for women too. I realized that it took me time as a teenager, and young twenty something to become comfortable with my own skin, inside and out. The last few years have been like that, and I'm beginning to ease into the new evolved me.

So, I'm making Martyn a Hummingbird Cake. We don't have a lot of sweets but when we do, it's homemade. We'll have a good meal like any night, he has said he wants to make mussels which I don't eat but he's the birthday guy.

Martyn shares his birthday with Goose, and I share my birthday with Moose. Having a birthday shared with a goat is fine by me. You might know the story-but I'll share it one more time. My mother had died in 2013, and I told Martyn I wanted to bring home a baby pygmy, because I always was adopting elderly goats, some who didn't live long, and I was sick of death. And without telling him, I found a little pygmy ready for a new home-that was Moose. And without telling me, Martyn found a little goat needing a home from one of his clients, that was Goose. When we found out they each shared one of our birthdays, while I of course said it was written in the stars.

And to honor our birthdays, we want to wrap up the barn fundraiser. We have about $3,500 to collect, and then our matching fund kicks in and we will have the main amount needed to build the third barn. I set up a fundraiser on Facebook and we have collected $400 in a day, so that is a wonderful way to start our birthday celebration! I'm so grateful. This is going to be a building year for Apifera, lots of things percolating here...you just watch!

You can send a birthday donation on Facebook, or here at the blog. Either way, it will be added into the total needed for the barn. It will be nice to have that one under our Misfit belts.

Friday, February 23, 2018

We interrupt your scheduled programming to present The Nose

I will never learn. One can not try to be photographed with The Nose. The Nose always wins. The Nose will pull you in every time leaving any other person or subject in the image completely lost as a sideshow. As it should be-because I can not resist The Nose either. I want to reach into the photo and squeeze it to turn the clown sound come out of it.

I am very busy and intent working on the new photo book, which will be designed by Cheryl Watson who owned Graphiculture in Minneapolis for years. She gave me some of my first illustration jobs back in 1997 [oh my, seems like another life, I guess it was!]. I'm very excited about this book. It will be big and juicy, maybe 200 pages or so, perhaps about 11", with large photos filling the pages. I have just been working on the introduction chapter which highlights the beginnings of Apifera in Oregon. It has been a bittersweet challenge, but I also am realizing this book needs to happen and is something my soul needs to work on NOW. Many people have asked me over the last few years to consider a photo book, and I kept pushing the idea away. They are expensive to produce, and I just wasn't sure it was a good idea.

But Cheryl came along and suggested it again, and wanted to work on it. I am thrilled. This is the first book of my own that I have had design help with and I know it will add to the final book in ways I might not have been able too.

So stay tuned as this new book gets birthed.

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.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat has a party

He requested a hay party, no cake, which was somewhat of a relief since the weekend has been full. He is Wilbur, Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat, who came to us many years ago, when we adopted him along with old Granny the goat. I couldn't resist taking Wilbur home too, he was so lovely and a beautiful brown. It was only after he had lived with us awhile that his true nature and talent as an acrobat came out.

Wilbur is nine today. It took me aback. Time is just...fleeting. Perhaps it is the fact too that in a month I will enter another decade, a decade that is the beginning of the end of the party.

"This isn't about you, it's about me, it is my birthday!" Wilbur just yelled. He also did a flip over Earnest the pig...he still is nimble, although he too, like me, is showing his age.

"EHEM! I said this is all about me today, not you!"

So, raise a glass to a fine goat, a wonderful, happy, pretty well behaved goat, except when he' not. We love you Wilbur!

{Wilbur is one of many Misfits we've taken on here and your donations help us continue our work with elder animals, and people. Thank you.}

Saturday, February 10, 2018

It could be yours

You can help Apifera, and maybe adopt this archive 20" x 20" print [value $195].

All you have to do is donate $10. Every $10 gets your name in Pino's bucket, and at the end of next week, he'll pull a name out of his bucket. You can donate by check too if you wish, or go to the donate page. I will be adding all donations to the Barn GoFund site [if you donate there directly that is fine too].

The print is called "Bird Greets Young Tree".

If you do want to send a check, please email me so I know it is coming and I'll make sure your names gets put in Pino's bucket.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

And so it begins...The Old Kitty Knitty Club

As you know if you've been following me over the years, I get many brilliant ideas, some of which fizzle, and some that go on to have a life of their own, like the time I thought it would be fun if people sent my donkeys aprons-we know how that took on a life of its own.

And I have an inkling that the Old Kitty Knitty Club is not going to fizzle out soon. We had our first small gathering yesterday, just three of us...always good to start small....it makes it more intimate too. And I had never had a group of people in the cat suite so needed to see how that went. The room and table are perfect for 3-4 people so I think that is a good choice right now. We really had fun too.

The idea behind The Old Kitty Knitty Club was that I wanted to find a way to bring people into the cat room to socialize with them, but also bring some good out of the room. And I love knitted wrist warmers. And I want to do more knitting but actually MAKE something. And I wanted something to give back to my elder friends Opie and I visit. See how my mind works? We will be gathering and knitting wrist warmers, and at the end of the year or whenever we have enough, I will gift the wrist warmers to our various elder homes we visit.

I would also love to be using our fiber from our CVM sheep. I have about 8# of washed CVM fiber [uncarded/uncombed] and another 7# of Assumpta's beautiful Blue Leister washed fiber. I am also open to having someone spin the fiber for me and give me yarn back in exchange for keeping some themselves, and then I could make wrist warmers. I'm afraid doing all the spinning and such through a facility is going to be cost prohibitive-but it's so gorgeous, I refuse to waste the wool. If I can't make that work, I might just hand felt it into wrist warmers. We'll see. I also use the wool to make Bird Balls, or bed warmers if needed for the animals-so fear not, it is not wasted.

I was really interested to see how the cats would react. As I suspected, Papi was all about it! And so was Noritsu who I have to tell you is such a wonderful guy they all are-but Noritsu clearly had a home and was loved, and really likes to have people around. He's not a lap sitter, at least not yet, but he approaches newcomers and when I am in the room, he is interested in being loved. So Noritsu and papa thought we had created this party just for them. I guess maybe Papi is now the President of The Old Kitty Knitty Club and Noritsu is Social Secretary. I will have to have some wool ball protectors next time! Yume acted like I knew she would, slinking off to a cubby-BUT! nothing like when she arrived, and what pleased me is she went to be in the cubby with Tig, and she didn't try to bury herself in a blanket like when she arrived. Anna sat up on a ledge observing everything, completely in control of her space.

People have asked how they can become members of The Old Kitty Knitty Club from afar:

  • Knit some wrist warmers, make a hand tag with your name/location and mail them to Papi, President of the Old Kitty Knitty Club, Apifera Farm, 315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen, ME 04551 and they will be given as a gift to one of our elder friends when Opie and I visit
  • If you harvest your own fiber, you can donate small quantities of wool for wrist warmers
  • Visit the Pinterest board I've started for knitted wrist warmers
So stay tuned, we will be having another get together in the coming weeks. 

Noritsu really likes this idea

The elder cats preparing for guests

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A mystery, inside out

What I love about Maine, the physical part of Maine...it seems to be opening me up to deeper mysteries. I am listening. I'm not sure how much of this mystery is relevant to anyone else, but I sense I'm being further called.

I did this piece a day ago. I painted the background, and let it sit for an hour I came back in and added clouds and the little open gateway.

I sat and stared, as "Tempest" played, a Bob Dylan cd. I just sat and melted into the painting.

Did it need more? I sat some more.

I left it alone. But I felt akin to it, I felt complete satisfaction. Sometimes you feel satisfied with a piece, and it is for reasons that don't lead to the most optimal work you have left inside of you. Sometimes, in rare, intense moments, you feel satisfied with a piece on a much more spiritual level-and sometimes those pieces get sold, or they stay with you for reasons you aren't sure of. I always feel my work is in the process of making the art, I'm the conduit and all that, and then I let it go after birthing it. "Don't get attached to the final result", I always say, or you get stuck, or you start relying on a tried and true formula in a piece over and over.

It seems the pieces are wanting to be sparser of late, even quieter than before, more muted.

I came back to the piece and sat with it. I felt it was telling me something, something I might already know unconsciously....that is usually the way–the inside knows much sooner than the outside.

This is a deeply personal piece, personal in a way I haven't fully comprehended yet. Maybe I don't have to. Maybe I do. It's the mystery of painting and art. But also, I think it is the special place I am in right now-not only the physical location, but the time of my life-sixty is a month away-and also the times our world is in. I've been sharing publicly-so much-since my blog started in 2006, and maybe this is responding to that.

I shall wait. For now, it is like this painting is my soul living on the outside of my physical body, and I'm grateful it came around. I will listen to her.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Dreary day...stuff yourself into a dog bed

It is a dreary day. The beautiful snows we've had this week are now being rained on, and it is grey. I have been in a quiet little funk all day, but...take heart, I say to myself, I will have soup tonight after a hot bath, some tea, and to bed early. I really just want to get in bed today, I don't usually feel like that, but today the relentlessness of the rain and grey is getting to me, plus I'm tired.

I should just follow Muddy's lead and try to squish myself into a pug bed!

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Nose has a special public service announcement

When The Nose speaks, we listen. White Dog greets me everyday, wind, rain, sleet or snow. I guess he could be a mail person, although he might get distracted and do some walkabouts on his delivery route.

I always take time to commune with him, thank him for his service, and we look into each other's eyes in silence, or at least without words. I often tell him my mantra,

"Everything will be okay."

This is what I told all the animals as we prepared to leave the old farm for our long trip to Maine, and I still continue to say it to Benedetto. I think it is more for me than him, of course. I remember those days of reality sinking in, that we were in fact leaving our home for the unknown, and saying my mantra while looking in Ben's eyes soothed me and therefore him. These dogs are so telepathic, more so than any I've worked with.

So this morning The Nose was right there waiting.

I let him into the front paddocks to be with Marcella today. Everyone gets a bit bored, cooped up, in all the snow days. In the photo below, White Dog is standing in the area where the new barn will go. It will butt up against the other barn. I will be trying to come up with more fundraising fun in the coming weeks, as a down payment will be coming due soon. Remember, every dollar of the first $10,000 is being matched by The J&J Stanley Foundation [hoof stomps and pig squeals].

This barn fundraiser is a big undertaking-but will be crucial to our ongoing work. It will be so wonderful to have more stall space, and it will take pressure off the hay barn too. I already have ideas to improve and alter Her Royal Highness's suite. There might even be room for a giraffe, or elephant, who knows.

White Dog stands in the area where the new barn will go.