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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The blessing of daily faces

It's a blessing to live amongst such a diversity of souls with faces that express their own peace each day, because they just get to be.

Monday, August 13, 2018

White Dog: the new book keeps unfolding

I have been working on the upcoming book about the story of White Dog, the creature that mysteriously appeared in our field one day...the same large livestock guardian breed [Maremma] as our Marcella who at the time was about 8 months old as I recall. Many scenarios were tossed around by readers, and me, and while we did seek answers to where he came from for a return, I'm grateful he is with us. He was thin, long toed and his collar had what looked like an old rope knotted and torn, indicating he might have been tied ups at some point. He was not a chaser of sheep or animals, was calm around all the various Misfits walking around...and he was intact. He also had a fear on arrival if anyone picked up a broom or rake and he would cower.

The mystery of where he came from was juxtaposed by his demeanor, which had a knowing and calm exterior, his inner thoughts seemed to ooze mystical qualities-for me any away. He was a magnet for anyone who arrived at the farm, or anyone that got to know him online too. His eyes are deep wells of story...and I have been trying to start this book for a few years. I realize now that coming to Maine was part of what had to happen, for both me and White Dog, to figure the book out.

One of the beauties of self publishing [a curse too at times] is I am my own boss, and I can share what I want with you when I want. I will be posting snippets as I go along, of art and prose. This book is going to be something substantial to hold in your hands-I am estimating over 250 pages, at about 6.5" square. There will be lots of prose-I have not written a wordy book for while and am ready for that and enjoying it. There will be art and photos. Another nice thing about being independent is when 'experts' tell me you should only have art in the book, no photos, I can just think,


But I have some tricks up my idea hat for this one. It will not be a cheap book to produce, none of them are. And I am not going to worry about that right now, I want the book to be complete by late year, or early spring and then the thought is to do a Kickstarter for it. I know when I get it done, the book itself is going to get people excited, as I know some already are. It's hard to know what will resonate with people, but this is a book I feel compelled to write, and as soon as I can, I don't know why I am feeling compelled this way.

The book shares White Dog's journey, but it also reminds us we can never really go back 'home'- that home no longer exists, only in our memory and it probably wasn't exactly as the memory is in our current brain anyway. The book also will not be for pragmatists, I don't think. I truly believe humans have the ability to hone their innate abilities, to recognize that 'sixth sense's all possess, but most people don't bother, can't see it, or are too busy being human. I have always recognized certain creatures that come to Apifera seem more intuitive than others, and while they all think instinctively, in order to survive in the herd or pack, some animals are just able to tap into people's inner worlds more readily. I think we all can work on our intuition, I know I am always questioning my abilities-and sometimes I stop and think,

Just listen, to your inside.

Friday, August 10, 2018

I refuse to make the bed for good reason

My routine is to get up, do my morning stuff in the bathroom, then make the bed before I have breakfast and do barn chores. Around this place, one of the few vestiges of order is that the bed gets made. But of late, I can't bring myself to disturb these two. I mean, they are still in their we've been through a lot and need extra attention in order to fully relax in our new surrounding.

And so, the bed didn't get made. And life went on just as it does each day.

Omar and Oscar, I am glad life is nor hard for you.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

In which we survive a lightening strike

Taken the early evening, right before the storm hit
I thought it was odd that yesterday morning when I went to the front barn to start feedings, the stall where Earnest and the White Dogs sleep was...sort of in disarray. I couldn't put my finger on it, but Marcella was also muddy and wet which was suspect. But I went about my chores, and then returned to the studio to work.

The night before, we had one heck of a lightening storm about 7 PM. I was really scared. The strikes were very close, it felt like it was right in the back yard. We have 30 acres of woods behind us, and there are many properties with the same. We are near the coast, not on the water ourselves but the properties across the front road are, and we see the cove. The humidity and heat coupled with our setting by the sea made for a perfect lightening storm.

Martyn was cooking dinner and I was on couch [as it should be] with Muddy when it all began. Now I love a good storm, but ever since I lived through a straight line wind storm in Minneapolis in my then little house, and went outside to see the devastation after 20 minutes, I have been very anxious in storms. And I grew up with tornadoes. So when the strikes started hitting all around the area, and they were close, I was really...well, squealing. Poor Muddy knew something was a foul and he started shaking since his fearless leader, me, was not so fearless.

The strikes just kept hitting nearby, and then, POPPOPOPOP! and it sounded like it was in the house, and we saw a flash. I lifted my feet off the ground [like that would have helped] and was terrified. Nothing turned off, no circuits had popped, we could not figure out where it had hit, but it hit somewhere on the house or close.

Within about 15 minutes the storm passed after torrential down pours and we heard the thunder leaving. But the mystery of what happened had us perplexed.

Now let's make it clear that we have grounding rods. We also have one out by the new barn. We thought maybe it struck at the copper top chimney. But we couldn't figure it out, which was unsettling.

So, back to yesterday, the day after the storm. When I did night feedings, I noticed it–The electric fence box is attached to the barn wall and it feeds the electric wire that sits atop the pasture fence on the property. We use a top wire to prevent the equines from reaching over the fence for grass on the other side-without it, they destroy the fences, and worse, can get themselves in trouble quickly by getting ensnared in fence. And yes, I've witnessed it many a time, including two weeks ago when Boone got his shoe caught this way because the wire had been turned off while we worked on the new barn. While getting him out of the fence, something happened, I still don't know what, but he reared back -even though he had been standing calmly for me for many minutes while I retrieved a wire clipper–and started cutting the fence around his shoe. I went backwards on my butt but first hit the back of my head very hard, not good after having had a serious concussion a year ago. We both were ok, but not having a hot wire really creates dangerous situations, and it protects your fence.

That electric box was right outside the stall where the dogs and Earnest were taking cover from the storm. The sound must have been really loud, judging by how loud it was in the house. I'm sure now that Marcella was super worried and probably went out in the storm at some point to figure out what was happening. Fortunately, the wire there is wrapped, so there was no fire danger per se, but it did make me very upset, and relieved that nothing worse took place.

We are going to look at getting lightening rods for the barns, but it still could have happened. The lightening came down -we surmise-close to where the box was, hit the top electric wire, went zooming back to the box, and bam, blew it to bits. Electricity is so strong, it is hard to fathom it. I'm so grateful nobody was outside in that paddock.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

We are melting but we carry on..and the bunny gets her own AC unit

Freddy the Dream, aka Little Lonely, cools off in his mud hole
I won't write a post about how hard a month August is, I think I did that on August first. But it is very hot, and worse, humid. Out West the summers grew hotter, longer, drier and full of fires every one of my fourteen years there.. People's wells were and are drying up in Oregon, it happened to many people I knew. We had a horrible well, and were blessed with water rights from the rivers for our animals, gardens and vegetables/plants, otherwise, we could not have made it. And digging a new well is expensive, and does not always bring results. It is the risk you take buying land anywhere, but especially out west.

I'm glad to be out of that aspect of The West. It was brutal and just felt like the entire coast was burning up...and it is.

So here, the beast is humidity. Eighty five to ninety in dry air is hot, but yesterday and today the humidity is something like 80 or more percent. Kill me now. It is not as horrible as I remember the Minneapolis summers. Here we have the sea right by us, we do not own seaside land, but we see the cove, and the entire area of Mid Coast is on the sea. So when it is humid, it blows off usually by night, and we rarely have a horrible night. But when the humidity does come, it's like a slap of a huge wet blanket on my head. I can't think. My routine is simple, get up, do the chores, and get back in the house where we have one AC unit that keeps us sane in the living area. Fortunately our house is small. I finally broke down last week and bought another AC unit for the studio in the upstairs, I had too. Not only could I not get any work done, I could barely function, and...there is the bunny factor. Poor Isabelle Noir, aka Bunny, is not good in heat, no rabbit is. I was wetting down her ears about four times a day, and finally I had to bring her downstairs at night. Martyn got a kick out of this,

"Leave it to you to wait to get another AC unit for two years for the studio, but you finally did it...for a rabbit."

Yep, and Bunny and I are now very content. And I got work done.

So, we carry on. I have nothing of interest to tell you today because that is what the heat does to me, it flattens me out. Physically, I am also finding that humidity-when it is really hot and high humidity-is giving me a pressure feeling in my front head, just like I felt after the concussion. I suppose the heat makes blood different and vessels different, and from what I understand, my brain is different after that severe concussion. So, another reason to lay low inside with Bunny,

The animals are fine, they are more stoic than we humans in heat. They know to lay low. I feel sorry for my sheep, I hate to see the wool sheep in heat. Out West we had hair sheep, and it was hard on them, but these poor guys carrying around a load of wool. They do pant, since sheep don't sweat, and I will hose off their legs-not their backs or bodies because you can actually heat them up that way due to the wool. Same thing with the llama, don't wet the wool, just the legs [and she loves it].

I am working on my new book, about White Dog. I will share more about that soon.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

We lose an elder...the beautiful Assumpta

I had to go work on a downed wire in the field this morning. It was only 70 but ninety percent humidity so I was focused on getting done as soon as possible. I had let the sheep and Birdie out of their paddock where they stay at night, and fed the equines. It was all routine. I wasn't paying too much attention to anyone, and then I realized,

There is a sheep missing...Assumpta...

I figured she was hanging low back at the barn due to the high humidity. In the past year, I've noted she is laying down longer, and more. Sometimes she doesn't get up to eat her hay as quickly as she used too. I knew her life was probably more like months versus years. Sheep are very good at carrying on until one day, they don't. It would be a deadly thing for a sheep in a flock to act sick. They are programmed to stay alive, and stay with the flock for security from predators.

I headed back to the barn to check on her, Martyn was close behind working on other projects. And then I saw her lifeless body in the distance. I knew she was gone. I cried out to her, and ran, but she was dead. By her appearance, we think she died early evening. There was no sign of distress from her body, and there were no marks on the ground indicating she had been pawing the dirt. I like to think she went to the back corner to be on her own, to sleep after the sun went down, the ground was probably cooler in that area. Maybe she just dozed off, and never woke up.

Just last night when I brought the girls up from the field, they were panting. Sheep can't sweat, so pant. Assumpta was there and I scratched her chin and told her to hang in there, the weather was supposed to be cooler in a day. I'm so glad I had that brief interaction with her. Assumpta was not one of the more personable sheep, she was like a stern but fair matriarch that didn't need a lot of hands on attention. She was a Blue Leicester cross and had the most beautiful wool. I have yarn from last season, and still have to skirt her fleece from this year. I will have to do something really special with it.

I let the sheep wander over before we dug the grave. They of course already knew she was dead, as did Birdie. As Martyn dug the hole, I picked her a bouquet, and White Dog examined the dirt and hole. We laid her body in the grave, covered her eyes, and buried her with earth. And White Dog sat with me the entire time. Martyn placed one large rock on top, and White Dog marked it as we were leaving.

Don't worry, I'll keep my eye on the grave, was his intention.

I was sad, but also relieved for her. I knew this winter would be hard on her, and she picked a good time to die. She won't have to deal with biting flies and heat, and we could bury her quickly so she could be on her way. I always feel the burial is an important part of the spirit's journey, it is the final goodbye of those of us left behind, and until we let go, they can't totally be free for the intensity of their next journey. That is what I believe.

I went back to the house to cool off, and came back out about an hour later. White Dog was in the shaded barn, and I sat with him, we did our eye to eye conversation without words, and I took the photo of him you see below. I started to leave, but he put a paw up to hold me in my position. I took this to be a simple statement from him,

It's all okay, she's gone now, it's all okay.

And of course, it is.

Thank you for your beautiful wool, Assumpta, I am honored we could care for you in your final years.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Opie goes to the sea and meets new friends

Yesterday was a big day for Opie, and me. We drove an hour and a half down to Harpswell, a beautiful area on the sea here in Mid Coast. Our destination was The Vicarage by the Sea, a private home for dementia elders. It is nestled in the woods, with open spaces for their gardens and views of the sea.

I had somehow stumbled on the place somewhere online, and was attracted by their philosophy for person-centered dementia care, and how they believe in allowing residents to explore nature, and animals are also considered a therapeutic entity. There is not a lock down mentality here-locking doors to keep residents 'safe' does not happen here, instead, because of the high staff-to-resident ratio, residents are encouraged to wander if they need to [supervised] and go on short walks out side. They have a trail they call "The Freedom Trail" where residents can explore. One of the residents had just done such a walkabout when I was there, and she came back with a smile and enthusiasm in her face and voice.

I have never worked, per se, with dementia people except for mild cases in my family. So this was a stretch, a good stretch, to put myself in. The care manager and staff were just lovely, enthusiastic not only about their jobs, but the residents, and as importantly, about Opie and what we are trying to do here at Apifera. I want to work with people like this, that truly value animal related therapy, and demonstrate they care by telling me.

There was a gentleman there who I sat next to when I first arrived, and he held some small rocks in his hand. I asked if he collected rocks and he said he did, and he spent a lot of time petting Opie. But what I noticed was how deliberately he stroked Opie's back, not in a over handed way, but in a very intentional way, with each stroke making an impact on him, and the goat. I believe in the power and healing of touch, and I think many people are afraid to be touched, or touch others. Some of us did not grow up being touched much as young people or adults. So I found it very moving to watch him touching Opie. And i think having these animal encounters allow people to touch when they might not do so otherwise.

I also really liked the way the staff spoke to the residents. They did not talk baby speech to them, and I recognized they were letting the people be who they were, people with memory lapses, but there wasn't this need to control them or correct them.

I don't know if they will remember us, I doubt they will when we return, but it doesn't really matter. When you are there, they are with you, they are getting something out the moment.

We are planning to go back in the early fall, hopefully with Martyn in tow, and the llama and some other love ambassadors. The staff was all for it.

And then, I had promised little Opie he could visit the sea. He has seen the cove here from our property across the way, but never the giant sea. He reads about it in Earnest's books. So after our therapy visit, we ventured only about a mile down the road, and there it was, on both sides of the road, vast and full of big and small vessels. But what was even more spontaneous, we noticed a young woman in a wheel chair, with two older women. They were clearly celebrating something. I wondered if I should approach them with Opie, thinking they might get a smile from that. I hesitated not wanting to intrude. But they called out to the little goat. I asked to take a photo and they agreed [I didn't feel right putting her face in this post] but she was all smiles. It was a brief interlude for her, and me, and Opie. Of all the places I could have pulled over I somehow stumbled on that one. It was s gift for all of us.

So that was the day the little love goat went to the sea.