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.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Old Matilda has a request

We are still raising money to defray the cost of the yearly hay that will get us through spring. We have raised about $1000 of the $3,000 needed to add back into our piggy bank.

Anyone donating through this week will get their name in Pino's bucket and one person will take home an archival print -either art or a photo-their choice. I hope to have some other incentives in the next couple weeks.

Anyone who donated initially in the last couple of weeks, your name will be added into the bucket too!

You can go to the Hay Fund page and donate, or donate on the donation page on the blog. I will add your donation onto the hay fund page so we can all keep track of what we are bringing in.

It takes a village of Misfits to keep this place running! Thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Go out and play, now"

This is like when you were ten and all your cousins come over and your parents tell you all to go outside and play while they have cocktails.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Calling all crows

I've always loved crows, believing them to be messengers. Anytime a crow showed up in my life, I believed it was a message of good, to me. As I've aged, I see it a bit differently, a little bit less about the message being about me, but about situations that need answers.

I used to have lots of crows in my art, and still do, but...of late, crows have been visiting Apifera. And I was moved to paint them again. About a month ago, we had many crows hovering around, landing in fields in flocks [a murder, I guess] and screeching in a way I had never heard. I began to see them making a journey from our farm out to The Wood, where I would hear them screeching. I assumed they were mating, and saw a nest up in one of the trees behind the goat paddock. But I began to research, and am learning as much as I can about their behavior.

I've put shelf stand on one of the pasture posts, where I hung a shiny spoon, and I place dog food kernels there, hoping to entice them to land and start communing with me. I know crows respond to consistent reward. So when they fly above, I call to them. Sometimes it feels like they return when I call, but...I think that is my optimism.

A crow can't be forced.

And we have the White Dogs, who ever since an eagle took a duck in Oregon, bark at birds of prey, even seagulls. The dogs are getting more complacent though...but I wonder if the crows won't befriend me because of the dogs.

I just love crows. And I love hearing about their intelligence-like that they make tools to help gather insects, like that they recognize faces and will remember a face that trapped them or threatened them. Some of the screeching could ave been parents teaching the young when a predator was near. The young often help with the rearing of the next fledglings. They mate for life. A crow in the wild normally lives a couple years, but can live up to forty.

A senior crow...wouldn't that be something to help? I will put my intention out there. But I won't force it. Like I said, you can't force a crow.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

We lose a Tiny Apiferian...but it leaves an epiphany

I found one of the Little Apiferians dead this morning. And now we are four. But what was most interesting to me, is that as I cradled his tiny body in my hands, I had an epiphany about my work with animals but also with elder people of late.

First I want to share how much joy these little birds have brought into our home. He and his Zebra Finch mates came to us when we first arrived in Maine, and they were already pretty old. The owner of them was losing his home, and somehow one of his connections thought of us. I had never had birds-and never really thought to. But I somehow thought immediately this was a good thing to do, and it was. The six finches, five males and one female, had their own custom cage hand built by someone. The female died about six months after coming to Apifera, but the males have thrived. I used to count them every night after the female died, worried they were so old and one by one they'd die. There are little bird houses in their house, and some tuck themselves in there and are hard to see. This morning I did a count and had to really look for the fifth bird, and finally found him at the bottom of the cage. Every morning when I get up, the morning routine is to let the dogs out first, but I greet the birds,

"Good morning, boys!"

"Chirp, chirp, chirp!"they greet me back.

If I speak to them, they chirp back. When we watch movies- their house is centrally located in the living room-they react to certain music. If we are angry at the news, a regular thing these days, we ask the boys how they feel, and they start chirping like mad! They are joyful little creatures and enjoy flying around and I give them sticks and natural objects in which they prep nests. One person-of course a complete stranger-scolded me for keeping them telling me they should be set free. Sorry, dumb idea. These were bred and born in captivity. I took them on to help them. If you want to boycott bird breeding, go somewhere else and shame them, not here.

The epiphany

So as I held the little bird in my hands this morning, I apologized for just having found him. He had clearly died at least a day or two before. I'd been swept up in life and had not counted the birds. I told him how joyful he made our home, how his size did not compare to the music and happiness he brought into our world. I prepared his burial setting, and gave him a beautiful cloak to warm him on his journey. He of course did not need it, but the ritual of showing him I cared was important to me. I let the other birds see his body one more time, and then I buried him in the garden. I marked the grave and will bury them all there when their time comes.

The thought came to me immediately, as I held him and talked to him-this is what I was not able to do with White Cloud. And of course, I was not family, or staff, or a nurse, or hired to do that, or legally able to do that. And that is why I can't put myself in those situations any more. I am not wired to work with any creature, be it human or animal, for weeks or years, care for them, do my best, commune on a two way road, and then not be allowed to even say goodbye.

After my experience with White Cloud, I have felt adrift in some ways, floating about wondering why I felt so...awkward. It is because I do not want to work in a system that shuts me out when I feel my work is needed most-at the end of a creature's life. I do not want to walk into one more place and find out someone I cared about and visited for over a year is gone, but nobody can talk about it.

I can't do it, it is opposite of what my soul wants me to do. I have a covenant with my animals, and I have a covenant with people I visit. My job, in my mind and heart, with he elder people is simple-listen tot hem, share story, share animal, do not detract, don't treat them like invalids or babies.

People are so afraid of death, or most people are afraid of it I think. I do not think necessarily that all older people are afraid of it. I am not afraid of it. I don't want to linger in a cement building without nature or things that give my life meaning, being dependent on strangers, or on a bureaucracy that might be keeping people from seeing me, or talking to me. When I'm old, I don't want to be told what to do, I want to be heard. I had a recent conversation with an elderly woman who I used to work with, she is in her 80's-still sharp and interested in life-and the care residence she was in was, in her words, treating her like a baby, not letting her go out on her own after she had fallen once. She did not want to use a walker, because it was hard to get in and out of bookstores, and most importantly, she volunteered at the animal shelter twice a month and it was cumbersome there. She wanted to use her cane, and she said to me, "I don't feel like they want to listen to me, they just tell me what I need. They care more about me falling, than me going out and living."

So, when I held this little creature, I took comfort in the extra years I could give him. I took comfort in preparing his little grave site. I took comfort knowing this is the work I want to do. I don't want to partake in detracting from others. I want to listen, not talk at, other people.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It's a Cat with a Hat, of course

A cat with a hat

sits on a shelf.

A cat with a hat is

all by himself.

Or he is?

No, because 

he is a cat

with a hat.

Paco the Poet wants you to know he did not write this poem, I did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My intention has been sent out

Our private garden is protected from the outside world, but is open to the fields and pastures and The Wood. We had to do a bit of work to make it so private and I have to say I felt so exposed when we first arrived. I had a hard time with it.

I'm basically an introvert that likes to share. It makes things challenging to live in a world like this.

I still have had no elders from the homes Opie visits come yet. I have extended the offer many times. I know the residents want to come but it is a transportation issue, and/or a staff issue, logistics...etc. I understand. I have done all I can do to make it happen. They all have an open invitation.

So, I'm looking into reaching out to elder people that are still living in their homes, but might have caregivers or attendants coming to help them with basic things-groceries, rides, companionship. I have found a couple of networks that provide home caregivers this way, and I'm just beginning to reach out. I much prefer an intimate setting versus large groups, so this is a good fit for me.

I think of all the elders that I have met  over the years that made such an impact on me either because they were neighbors and I became friends, or I visited them in their home or facility and we developed a relationship. I really loved those relationships, they impacted me and I know I impacted them.

So stay tuned on the evolving Garden of Respite. I know there is someone who will come into my life who will someday be sitting there with me, looking out at the goats and other animals in the fields, enjoying the bluebirds and butterflies, and just getting out of their house for something different and uplifting. I've put that intention out there. It will come when it is meant to come.
In the meantime, Apifera Angels sent the two garden benches, and seat cushions! So we are ready to make our guests comfortable. I have thought of a pop up tent for shade too, that I could take down easily after visits. I'm looking into that.

Monday, July 09, 2018

In which we must acknowledge Stanley and Janet Jane Josephine are gone

I had hoped it wasn't so, but I really feel it is, the barn cats have been taken by Nature, most likely, the red fox.

Stanley had not been seen for about three weeks, but JoJo was coming and going, even getting to the comfort level of sitting near me without fleeing. I remember I saw her most mornings right before the barn project started. Because the hay was gone, we were waiting for the harvest, I knew the barn project might make her leave the barn during the noisiest parts of the day. But the food was going on uneaten, and I have not seen her since, which is about three weeks. I thought when the hay arrived she might return, but I have not seen her.

At the same time, we had been noticing a red fox outside the lower pasture. We saw him three times around dusk. He was leaping at rodents or rabbits near the marshy area, and this was a place the cats would go when they first ventured out.

I really think he got them. Yes, it is possible they went of to another place...it is possible. But Jojo was talking more those last days. Perhaps she was ill, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

I feel quite badly about this. And I do not think I will bring adult ferels on anymore-UNLESS- they show up on their own, then they will be welcome to stay and I will care for them and attend to them spaying and neutering. I have nothing against the feral society that trapped these cats, spayed/neutered/vetted them-they are doing a worthy job for so many cats out there, especially with high incidence of rabies in Maine. But I have no idea where these cats came from-perhaps they were city cats, and I wonder if they had any instinct to be in Nature. Yes, there is an instinct in an animal to survive, but...after rearing 25 ferels out West, with most of them living very long lives, I just wonder if I did a disservice to these two.

I know my intentions were right. I also believe animals pick up on our true intentions pretty quickly-if not immediately. I had many talks with them. I did my best...but from now on, unless it is a mama feral with kittens, or wandering ferels who see the light in the barn and decide to stop in to test the waters, I don't think I'd bring two adults here unless I really knew their background. I suppose if someone had a true barn cat that had lived in a real barn, with indoor outdoor life, it might be one thing.

So we raise a glass to them. If they died, I hope it was a quick kill. I hope they didn't suffer.

If they come back..you will be the first to know. The universe around me knows my intentions with animals, the invisible gate is open to them.

Ollie learns the dangers of being like Pooh Bear

"This happened to Pooh once," Opie said to Ollie through the fence.

"Did he get out?" asked Ollie.

"Yes!" Earnest the pig called from another paddock. "Honey was his downfall, as is grass on the other side of the fence for you," and he went about his way.

Ollie looked a bit perplexed, "I have no idea what honey has to do with this."

"It means your eyes were bigger than your head," said White Dog, who came by the gate to assess the situation.

"I think if we push, all together from this side," said Opie.

So Opie, Else and White Dog pushed. Sir Tripod encouraged everyone, "He's almost through!"

But the rescue effort came to a halt.

"I'm hopelessly stuck," said Ollie. "Oh well, she'll come and get me, she always does. And I have the grasses to eat."

"That's how your belly got so expanded in the first place," said Opie.

So I found him just like this, stuck, his hip bones were the culprit. With everyone still gathered, I held his belly in with my hands and pushed with my knees, forcing his string bean body backwards.


"Thank you ever so much," said Ollie.

"The fence is for you to stay on one side, and those grasses over there are not for you," I told him.

He leapt off in joy, jumped up on his rock, flapped his Nubian ears, and looked happy as can be. A mix of danger, good grass and freedom is a good way to start the day...when you're a 2 month old goat with nothing but time on your hands.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Oh, Crow, I am glad you are back

This painting available through Sundance
I have always loved crows. In my younger years I always saw them as messengers bringing me specific good messages. I still see them as messengers, but in a more realistic way-it is not always about me or bringing me something that I want to hear.

Of late, we have had two to three crows, going from about a 1/2 mile radius in and out of The Wood, and at first I thought they had were using a nest in a tree by the new barn. I learned that crows use sticks, squirrels tend to use anything. Well, these crows have been screaming for days, I assumed it was a pair, then I wondered if a fledgling had fallen from the nest.

But now they have flown off, but reappear sporadically, such as last night, only to leave and fly off to The Wood, and I can hear them screaming. It is not a normal crow 'caw', they are screaming, like that viral goat that was going around. When I first hear it I went outside thinking maybe somebody was in distress, or had corned a baby in the barnyard or something.

I think they didn't like the presence of The White Dogs, who rush under and follow them when any large bird flies above. This started after an eagle took a duck back in Oregon. I noticed one of the crows came sweeping down into a paddock and left. Maybe they were testing the waters to see how safe The White Dogs are? I don't know.

I've been researching crows since, and oh my I love them more and more and think they need to come back into my art and life again...maybe that was their message. They mate for life, and the young help raise the next year fledglings. I also read the screaming I'm hearing could also be the parents telling the youngster to fly, and the parents could also be screaming at predators and is trying to teach the young who the predators are.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Sitting in a bucket thinking about freedom

That's about what we'll be doing in this heat. I'll be making mud pools for the pigs, hosing down Boone, and hosing off the llama's legs. I had aspired to write about freedom and what it means, but...my head is mush from heat and it's only 9am. I am a heat wimp as many of you know.

The heat will lift in a couple of days. And my brain will return in all it's...glory.

I am pleased so many on the media and radio are taking time to disect the actual meaning of the 4th. We are still a country with American values, although we are shaken by the underbelly of America that also been ignited to wake up and tromp on those values. And we are still capable of living up to those values, and voting for people that will protect our freedoms, not lie to us, or keep information from us. We are being tested as this democracy has been tested over and over, and it will always be tested. We are lucky to still be in a situation where we are being tested as a people, versus living in a country where there is no free press and there is oppression of any kind of free thinking.

Monday, July 02, 2018

A llama love...I guess we all needed that

Llama love in action[photo courtesy L. Wooten]
I get a lot of requests from people, often strangers, or people I haven't met, to come and see the animals. Sometimes I can accommodate them and sometimes I can't. It's always a fine line between hurting some one's feelings and creating privacy or time for myself when I need it.

I follow my heart and gut when I respond to these requests. Or I ask Earnest what he thinks.

"Perhaps they will rub my belly," he says.

When I had a polite request from Laura Wooten, a painter and artist from Virginia, if she could stop in for a brief visit, with her son, husband and elder dad-they would be driving through after a wedding in Bar Harbor, I immediately said 'sure'. For starters, I often find connections I make with fellow artists are supportive, and second, Laura has been a kind and generous follower and supporter of both my book projects, and my animal efforts. And, well, she is The Bench Fairy, who gifted us a bench this year for our 'trying to make it happen' garden-animal area for elders to come visit.

It was going to be hot, and humid. I forgot these folks are from Virginia, so the wimpy humidity we had this weekend was nothing like they are used to. It is easy to work as a freelancer, or independent goat-donkey-cat-chicken nurse caretaker and have days where you feel isolated or unheard...invisible. Not that I want to be on the street or news or top ten blog list of notoriety, not that I ever have an urge anymore to 'do lunch' or coffee...it takes a real desire to leave my haven, and walls, but when someone shows up and they are just really excited to meet you, and see the many animals they have read about for so long-it makes me feel good about what I'm doing.

When someone notices all this work we do, and gets an emotional connection to it, and genuinely shows that, it feels good. It's validating.

Her family could not have been sweeter. We took lots of photos together, and I've shared some of hers here too. First we went through the orchard Misfit Goat area, where they met-immediately-Ollie. How can you not meet Ollie immediately, as he is the immediate greeter. Off in the paddock, they saw a dog, and said, "We want to meet White Dog."

Of course, everyone wants to meet White Dog. He did not disappoint, and if he wasn't 95# and so loving I would have had him out with us-he likes to jump and 'hug' people around the neck, something that is endearing, but also a bit too much for safety reasons-he's getting better though. Marcella was in her private suite with Earnest, and she is a bit more problematic with guests, unless I take time to bring them in, do introductions and watch her closely in the introductions. She's only doing her job.

Then it was out to meet the grumpy, sleeping pig. Due to the heat, the pig was uncharacteristically somber, while sleeping. I rubbed her belly and got a few snorts, but we didn't want to disturb the royal highness's state of mind. They got to meet one of the many rats too. We went to the back paddocks to see the donkeys. But the first one at the gate was...Lady Birdie. She immediately sniffed them all out, face to face, and agreed they were not black bears, wolves, coyotes or...mean people. Birdie is once again showing us she seems to be the current heart throb, but also, she seems to be the current resident who really thrives in these greet ups. She not only gave light pecks on the cheeks, she gave full kisses this time.

I was also pleased that Matilda wondered out on the hot day. She wasn't getting the attention of Birdie, but she seemed very present to me, and I told everyone her story. Soon after, she lay down and did a good roll in the dust, which is always a hit. Pino was greeted too of course, as were the other donks, and Boone, and scampering, or limping, goats. Back at the front barn, We met the pigs, and the elder cats.

The one thing I regret, is that I didn't get to spend more time with Bob, Laura's father. He was so sweet. I'm a sucker for old men, what can I say. It was hot, and Bob decided to sit in the shade with Martyn, where he could look out at the animals and fields, and garden. I had told Bob that my father's name was Bob, and that we now were trying to help bluebirds and I call the blue birds, "Bob". And while he sat there with Martyn chatting about fishing and other things, he got to see Bob the bluebird fly into the birdhouse. Martyn told me later Bob really liked that because he hadn't seen a blue bird for many, many years.

Laura and I both kicked ourselves for not getting photos of her dad with some animals, but neither of us wanted to force anything, and it was so hot. So she sent me this photo taken at the wedding they attended [in which Bob had surprised his sister who was helping put on the wedding, and she had no idea he was coming and so wanted for him to come up from Virginia, and they pulled it off!]. I think you can see what a good soul he is, as is Laura and her family.

So, sometimes, many times really, it is good to say 'yes'. I think that in the 16+ years I've been doing this, with a public presence on the blog and elsewhere, I've had a couple visits that were not good ones, or felt forced or out of character, where I did not follow my gut to say 'no'. But I'm also learning that even in high humidity, saying 'yes' can really fill a lot of hearts, including mine.

Bob and his daughter, Laura

Real men love llamas