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

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

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pickles and Earnest's Great Pumpkin Contest

“Can you help me, PLEASE?”

It was Pickles and she was very upset about something. She was telling to me from over in the pumpkin patch.

When I got to the mounds of beautiful orange orbs, all different shapes and sizes, Pickles was standing next to a very petite pumpkin.

“I need to put this prayer flag up over my pumpkin, “ she said.

I somehow managed to attach hay twine-every farmer’s wonder cure- to put up some old rags for Pickles to make her prayer flags.

“The prayers from the wind will help my pumpkin grow strong and big, like Earnest’s pumpkin, “ said little Pickles with confidence.

A few weeks ago, just as autumn was in the air, Earnest sent me a note, slipped under the front door as is the main means of communication from the barnyard. He wanted to tell me that this year he thought he might really have a chance at winning the local pumpkin growing contest. My heart sort of sank. I knew the winning pumpkins were huge and that many farmers devoted lots of energy to grow them.

I wandered out to Earnest’s hut. He was in mid morning repose, reading.

“Earnest, I think maybe it would be better to just grow and enjoy your pumpkin. And besides, the pumpkin festival is cancelled this year because of the virus,” I said.

“They are still having weigh ins, read it in the paper,” Earnest said.

Of course I knew this but I was contemplating lying to him. Instead I tried another tactic.

“Let’s have a barnyard contest! I will post a proper entry form in the barn later today, “ I said.

“What will the winner get?” Earnest asked.

“Well, you get to keep the pumpkin,” I said.

“Well of course. But I would like a cucumber grilled cheese sandwich from Eider’s” Earnest said. If you follow along you know that I turned Earnest on to this after bringing home some leftovers.

Later that day, three pieces of paper slid under the door, all entering the pumpkin contest: Earnest, Pickles and The Teapot.

And not too long after is when I found myself helping Pickles putting up her prayer flags.

“Pickles, you have a lovely pumpkin and not all pumpkins will grow like Earnest’s. I don’t want you to be disappointed,” I said.

“I believe in Pickles Power!” She said.

Just then The Teapot, a bit stout, came over to examine her pumpkin. “Her shape is much like mine,” she said.

And then, Earnest arrived. He had a bucket of items and began placing them around his pumpkin-a few little ceramic creatures, and some peanut butter on sticks.

“These will protect my pumpkin," he said.

“Earnest, I think the peanut butter will attract rodents?” I asked.

“I’ve spoken with the rodents and we made a gentleman’s agreement–they stay away from my pumpkin, and I put out peanut butter sticks for them. That reminds me, can you get me more peanut butter, crunchy, not stirred?” he asked.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Boone and I go the mountain top

Recently I wrote about the idea that after my riding accident 3 years ago, it was not so much about overcoming fear-I wasn't afraid of riding-it was the idea that one must have a string of positive experiences to get back the confidence. And I've been doing that of late with Boone. Not only are we riding more, and longer rides, we went on our first day trip in Maine up the coast a ways.

I found a place in the Camden Hills in Lincolnville that lets you come ride, and I was also able to have her ride with me, which was so great. We went to the Camden State Park and the bridal paths are wonderful...there were walkers of all ages bt it wasn't crowed, and they don't allow motorized anything. I commented that I wanted to go to Acadia with Boone but it is very hard to get off the farm for that amount of time, and my riding companion said, "This is Acadia, and it isn't as busy." 

How blesssed we are to be an hour away from Lincolnville. We can look tot he ride much of the way and see the white caps on the ocean. We want to use it as our go-to destination where Martyn can fish and I will ride. Martyn finally got to fly fish again and this has been my goal since we arrived-short day trips with Martyn, Boone and me so he can fish. I'd like to fish again too.

The weather was perfect. Boone was solid and stoic despite the guide horse being a mare with an attitude at the beginning of the journey. Boone didn't care. Every time I ride Boone like this, I fall in love even more with him.

We made it up to the peak to see the view. What was interesting is on that incline, I saw some ledge ahead, and said out loud,"Um, Oh, ledge..." in an Eeorye tone. It definatly set something off in me, since that is what we think happened in my fall-Boone slipping on ledge as we went from canter to walk.

Lots of cute little girls were swooning over the horses on the trail, wanting to pet Boone and calling him so beautiful. That always amuses me, I think of Boone a bit like me-sturdy, no wall flower but the one in the back of the dance away from all the popular pretty girls. I love the way Boone looks, my favorite kind of horse–chestnut quarter horse. I remember so well how I would swwon too as a little girl when I'd see a horse...and there I was on my own steed.

We rode about 10 miles and I know I was revitalized but also tired but in a good way. Boone was ready for hay and a nap too.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

I just know...the horse found him

I have a beautiful equine friend on Facebook, we've followed each other for many years. Ruella Yates of Spirit Horse Ranch teaches and practices Liberty Foundation Training with people and horses to help them communicate and learn their own innate abilities to have a deeper relationship with their horses. 

"I train using Native American and Old West traditions in a 'new' way of liberty training that is as old as the time horses and the 'first people' came together in the American West.  My life with horses is profound in every way.  What I learn from them, I bring to my students. My goal is making the world a better place for horses."   -Ruella Yates"

 Ruella lost her husband, Skeetz, a few days ago. I knew he was in home hospice and he'd had a lot of health issues the last year. I was also his FB friend and he seemed like just a sweet guy. Plus I always loved his name and should have named a goat after him or something. 

Ruella and I aren't the kind of friends that talk all the time, but we share love of horse, land, nature, peace, farm and Native American teachings. When I saw that Skeetz died, I took a deep breath in. I mainly thought of Ruella. And to be honest, I thought of me and Martyn. I told Ruella once she and Skeetz were sort of our role models for the coming years-still working together amongst the animals. As time wore on, Skeetz of course lost his ability to do a lot of the work he loved. We watch from our vista of age 62 as our elder friends go through what we will inevitably go through-at some point, one one of us will be without the other here on earth.

The day after Skeetz died, I awoke thinking about him. Ruella had told me she hoped he would be met by her beloved horse Ren who also died not long ago. And that is what I clearly awoke to-Skeetz meeting Ren again.

Now, I am not a religous person. I was not raised in a household that practiced anything. I had to learn over the years what my beliefs are and I always say they are entwined in Nature. I listen to the Native teachings and do believe in "God" but I don't see God as a teacher as much as a part of all of us, of our higher power we all can achieve from within. And Jesus, Buddha, they are all teachers. And I have learned to not ignore, or shame, my instinctive internal conversations with the dead or dying or living-be it animal or human. I'm not perfect in translating them, but I try to always recognize that this for me is Spirit talking.

So I woke up and there it was in my head, an internal movie screen, I see Skeetz with a horse. And I went to my studio and quickly painted it from my heart, for Ruella.

Just as I see the departed Jason as a dragonfly, or my mother as a dove, and often a cardinal pair with my father, or my friend Joanne on my fateful ride as a butterfly....I saw Skeetz with Ren. I just don't question it.

 I know this little heartfelt scribble gave her comfort. No matter what the belief, she knew I felt it and in that way it feels real, I think, that Ren found Skeetz, and he is okay.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

I think many of you need a tree like Paco's

I know where this tree is and often stand behind it myself, often accompanied by the donkeys. 

 You can purchase this print too at the shop.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

With death, it starts as a solo journey, but then....

Sophie on the top with her dear companion, Victor, who died at the old farm
Many of you follow us on social media so you already know that old Sophie died yesterday. I knew the day before she was entering the final days or weeks, as she could hardly walk and she just had a light go out in her eyes. By morning, she was almost in her deep sleep, and only revived once, for a final little talk with me, which I'm grateful for. It was a peaceful death–I've seen the opposite and am so grateful she could go on her own not only for her, but for me.

When we are born, we know we come from a little seed. Spiritually, we all have our own beliefs of where we were as souls [or not] before the seed and egg even came together. It's a mystery. But once human, we come out into the world with others to assist in our beginning journey. A doctor or midwife grasps us as we emerge, our mothers [if we are so blessed] hold us and makes utterances we will learn to follow and respond to. We watch others as role models as we grow and learn, and explore. We might go off on a day trip, or a long trek across the desert alone, but we always come back to share the journey through story. We share our human experiences with other human experienced creatures through all of life.

But with death, we journey alone–at least the first stages after we leave our bodies. Even if you believe that when we die, that's it, you cease to be anything except a carcass, even then you are alone in the instant you cease to be. We can be there for someone or a creature in the throws of death, but we can't accompanying them on the next stages. The great mystery. But I love a mystery, even though sometimes they are a bit scary.

The morning Sophie was dying, I returned to the house at some point and sat with classical music playing. I closed my eyes and imagined her up in the yonder, rolling about in air like an acrobat without a mat-just floating and rolling, with her sweet smile. I pictured Victor coming to be with her and then I watched them float off.

I opened my eyes and was hopeful that might help her fully release. I had told her the night before that maybe it was time to let go of her body, and to look for Victor as he would help her on the next stage of her journey. I asked her to look for me when my time comes.

As someone who likes to share story through words, art and image, I have thought many times that on the moment I die, I won't be able to share it, it will be only known to me. Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe what I experience will be completely unique to me, and each of you will have completely different after death seconds. Our births aren't the same, after all.

And then again, it dawned on me–the fact I do live my life so much out in the open with story and images, the idea that none of you will be privy to what happens the seconds after I'm dead is really rather...a relief. It will be all mine, those first post death seconds.

I think there are seconds of post death that will pack all sorts of things into them, and then...I'll know which way to turn or go and I will see and feel what I need. I desire to see all the animals I've cared for and my parents. I desire to truly feel what pure soul is.

Sophie shortly after she died

Monday, August 31, 2020

{Me and Boone} It-s not overcoming fear, it's about repeating positive experiences

It's been three years since Boone and I had our riding accident which landed me in the hospital for two days with a serious concussion. Many of you know the story-we were riding on a beautiful July day on a trail someone had given me permission to ride on in the woods and we were having a glorious ride, finished off with a canter back...but then something went wrong. I suspect it was the ledge that he slipped on, since the last thing I remember is thinking we need to walk now because I see the ledge coming up.

But we rode on a month later, but that summer I never went back into the woods alone. I tried a couple times but the horse flies were horrible. I got lazy in my mind too, making excuses for myself about riding-letting other tasks take precident over my riding time with Boone. I missed it, but when I'd think about riding, I would get a sensation, and felt maybe I should listen to it. I knew it could be fear, but when I rode I wasn't afraid, ever. it was just the 'before' of thinking about riding.

I was never afraid to ride or be on Boone-it was the idea of what could happen again, and I didn't want to put Martyn through it, or me, or Boone.

The thing is, in order to get confidant at anything-riding, riding a bike, working with livestock, cooking, playing guitar, teaching, hooking up a trailer–you have to do it, over and over. And over. When you stop, you have to regroup and remember that in order to have become confidant, it took repetitive positive experiences.

Repetitive positive experiences.

So, I made a promise this year, after fly season, to begin a new with Boone. Since I'm hauling the llama all over the place, working with a large trailer is back on my 'confident' status. Trailering too requires lots of repetitive positive experiences to feel safe doing it. I've ridden a few times and bought boots for Boone too, since he is so flat footed but shoes right now are problematic because we don't have a bottom wire in our field and he has gotten his shoe caught in the fence-dangerous and scary for all. Boone and I have a date to go up to Camden Hills to ride with a woman who lives next to the state park, I can't wait. And I'm seeking places -short trips-to go with him.

Riding the last two times, felt great. Boone is his usual stoic self. The main road here is busy and a pain, but Boone is fearless and we only go on it in the culvert for a short stretch to get to our other roads. I still hate being on it. But we are very careful.

Getting back in sync with Boone is not about overcoming fear. I do not fear falling, I don't think about falling. Accidents happen, but it is more about rebuilding inner trust that I'm capable of repetitive positive experiences, simply because I'm working at it agian, over and over.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Now available: Dragonflies over Daisies

I completely neglected to get this little painting up at the shop. I really love it. The dragonflies have been wonderful this year. I love them more than almost any insect. I even have a friend that comes back as one from time to time. The dragonfly I was told is the closet thing we have to the dinosaur. Now that is pretty amazing.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Help feed the Apifera elder cat suite!

Your direct donations from our Apifera Amazon Wish list of canned cat food and dry food for our elder cat suite is essential to keeping everybody fed and as healthy as possible.

When you buy, you also have the option of doing a monthly donation that is automatic. This is also very helpful.

Also, just a tip, when you buy, consider adding a note to me so I know who you are. Otherwise, I simply get a receipt with a link that allows me to send you a thank you via Amazon but I don't always get to see the name.

Friday, August 21, 2020

We are learning the souls are in the eyes

When you work with animals, you learn the language of the eyes, or you learn that your eyes can tell a creature a lot about your intention. So does body language of course.

I have been noticing this as I am out and I am with masked people. We still show our heart through our eyes. If we are angry it shows too, if we are smiling it shows. Harry and I made a visit to our Greenies in Wiscasset yesterday. It was Harry's first time there. Look at the intention in Evelyn's eyes. Beautiful to see the elders engage so focused like this.

Harry did great. Next week with two separate visits will make him a busy boy.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The day a Dunn married a Dunn

We were married in our garden

I think the thing about mid life, or once you pass into that part of your life you view as some kind of internal marker of 'mid', is that time goes very fast. I don't remember life as going fast from age 1-20, or from 20-40. But I find myself saying more and more, "That seems like yesterday."

Such is the case as I write this post. Seventeen years ago I married Martyn, and it seems like moments ago. My name when I woke up that morning was Miss Dunn, and later that day, I became Mrs. Dunn. For those of you who don't know the story, I moved to Portland [Oregon] in 2002, after spending more than a year with my drapes drawn in my old homeland of Minneapolis. I had been suffering from the worst kind of broken heart, the kind that lingers, and leaves a visible dent in one's heart area, and takes your dreams and shifts them around until you start doubting what those dreams were.

I bought a sweet little cottage in Multnomah Village and the very day I moved in, a man knocked on my door. "Hello, I'm Martyn Dunn, and I heard you had the same last name as I did, so I just had to introduce myself."

Yes, we had the same last name, and now instead of having just two Mr. Dunn's in my life, my father and brother, I had many Mr. Dunns - my husband to be and his many brothers and his father. I knew immediately this was a good thing, to have this particular Mr. Dunn right next door, and I did know I'd marry him. I didn't tell anyone, not anyone. And if I had, they all would have rolled their eyes.

Many of you know the rest of the story. He climbed his cherry tree in a heat wave and brought me his harvest, while I sat suffering, my fair Irish skin wilted even in the shade of my bamboo grove. I thought it odd that he'd be up in a tree in a heat wave, but when he brought me his bounty, just like a male cardinal fetching food for his bird, I internally had an epiphany - that this was a worthy mate. The next day I baked him a cherry pie from his harvest and that too led to an epiphany- that if I was baking in a heat wave, this must be love. And it was.

I don't believe that there is just one person out there for each of us, but I do believe we are given opportunities to connect with optimal relationships that change our lives. Each day is full of tiny choices, that can change our paths- and while all these paths teach us, engage us, challenge us....some paths help us reach what I call a "place of sense".

And meeting Martyn has helped me get to this place called Apifera, this 'place of sense'.

I will never forgot the wonder of this story, or how so many things had to line up for us to meet. Like the fact there was already a buyer for the house in Portland, but I insisted I had to have that house, and the details were ironed out so it became mine. Or the fact that when I bought the house in Portland, I gave up on ever having a small farm, which had been my life long dream. I figured this little Portland house was perfect, and my dream of owning a farm just wasn't meant to be and wasn't logical. But we all know that dream was just waiting to present itself in a proper manner. Don't forget your dreams, don't let them down by abandoning them.

So, seventeen years have passed. And the pictures here show us before Apifera exisited. How can that be - no Apifera? I can't imagine it now. I can't imagine life without Martyn. When he married me, he had no idea he'd first become a Dirt Farmer, or be surrounded by a semi feral cat colony, and senior short goats....or be helping me take a llama to senior homes. He certainly didn't think in 2016 he'd leave it all and move to Maine, with 33 animals in a trailer behind him and end up living with a distant view of the Atlantic cove.

He allows me to be very independent, and I need that. I need to be the child of wonder, in my barn, communing on my own in nature just as I did as a girl. I need space and time to think, and breathe into the neck of my horse. It fills me up to make art, and write and create.

But we come together at night, we still like to be together. I still anticipate his car coming into the drive.

He is the most patient person I have ever met in my entire life, and I am the most impatient [although as a 62 emerging crone I find that is changing]. He tolerates the gas emmissions of dogs on a couch, and drove in a snowstorm to help me pick up a senior pygmy goat. We have built and recreated three different properties now, and each one is better than the last.

My old Aunt Emily wrote in her wedding note to us that we only needed three things to succeed in a long life together- bread, love and laughter. We have it all, plus fresh eggs, donkey brays, dog and cat hair on everything, and the smell of the ocean in wafts.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Get your daily Pickle!

Over on the Instagram feed [which usually is reposted on Apifera's FB page] people are really loving getting their Pickle leaps and all things Pickles. It is a simple little bit of joy, which I think we all need more than ever this year. Pickles is pure joy, I'm so glad I brought her to Apifera. We need to mix in some youth amongst the elders and crippled special needs animals. I knew that Muddy was dying when I decided to get her, I knew I'd need joy around and youth to remind me of the other side of grief.

So enjoy your Pickle!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Please don't sit by your pool and tell me to embrace the heat

I always wonder if the people that say they thrive in heat are mostly half naked, sitting still in the shade, by the pool. I had a pretty much complete stranger quip at me online when I was sharing my real discomfort with the heat, to just 'embrace it' like I do winter. I did not respond. I hope her bikini fell off as she waded in the shallow end with her iphone in hand.

I would never tell a person who has a hard time with winter to 'embrace it'. I know a few people that live in pretty harsh climates, much harsher than Maine [I do not consider Maine harsh like some people do who simply view Maine from a distance] and these people complain all the time on social media about winter. Many of them can't move, or don't want to for various reasons. And if I am so physically affected by heat, I can empathise with people that are equally affected by cold.

Everybody's body is wired differently. Leave other people's bodies alone [if only the GOP party understood this, alas].

The person that quipped this absurdity to me some years ago, she also had lovely fingernails. If she came here on a 90 degree hot and humid day, I would love to see how many were left after barn chores. My dream would be to first send her up to the hayloft, and have her buck some hay-it would all stick to her arms and legs and she would have no pool to jump into....I could suggest a mud bath though with Earnest....or a dust roll with the llamas. Then we'd move onto mucking stalls and cleaning the scum in water buckets...all while slapping at biting flies.

I am being cynical. Heat brings it out of me. I always felt cynicism is the exterior cover of anger. So I guess I'm angry...at weather. And my mother raised me to say, whenever there was weather we don't like, "It's only weather." But this was before barn chores and hay bales and biting flies entered my life. Or maybe I'm just angry I can't afford to have a pool. I love to swim, but only in pools. I am surrounded by water but I just can't swim in lakes, ponds or the ocean. Tried it all and I am just too much in love with my feet feeling ground I can see. It's one of my many flaws–I'm a Pisces that can't swim in the ocean. I have much too much respect for the power of the ocean to swim in her.

I suppose I have insulted everyone that has a pool. But it's hot and humid for the millionth day [a pig exaggeration] and you will just need to "embrace it".

Monday, August 10, 2020

Harry holds court

In the high heat and humidity, it pleases me to turn around and see Harry's ears in the wind. While I have a window unit I retreat too, just going out in it for chores affects me physically, not to mention mentally. The animals are such pros at weather, they don't judge it, they just deal with it. Score one for the animals. I am the weather loser in summer.

I took Harry over to Lincoln Home. It was the first time the elders could be outside with Harry, but still no touching! I will do anything they tell me, we all agreed it is a tiny step back to something normal. I know the management is being extra cautious, but we all had masks on and stayed 6 feet apart. Harry basically held court in front of them. It seems if they petted him, and then they could have hand spritzer, and when they return inside, wash hands -the latter they would make them do anyway.

But, it brought them joy, for moments. My experience is elders are just so happy when you show up, and talk, and listen. We will continue to do that.

Harry holds court at Lincoln Home

Friday, August 07, 2020

Opie returns to his healing practice and Pickles comes along

We returned to our old friends at Wiscasset Green and it was so wonderful to see them again. It is the first place we went with Opie, and he made regular visits there. We made friends, lost many of them over that two year period...and now we have made some new friends there and three of the original residents are still there and they were very happy to see Opie. I wondered what Opie would do, since he has not been on a therapy visit for awhile due to Covid. But he just fell right back into place, he visited each resident on his own, and then he gravitated to a couple of them as he always does. When we went to leave, he did not want to go, he stuck to Evelyn's side. I know she was hurting as she told me how hard it is not to be able to touch or hug their families. We got a kick out of Charlie. He was one of those guys that might not have shown interest in seeing a goat, but clearly got a kick out of Pickles. Pickles even fell asleep in Sylvia's lap.

I promised them we'd be returning for regular visits. The new care manager really understands and believes in what we are doing, and like me believes in the power of animals and how they can heal, or help heal a wounded heart. And I think all our hearts a pretty wounded right now.

View more photos on Instagram.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

A dragonfly reminds me to never stop believing

{written last week}

Almost two years ago, my friend Jason died by suicide.

After his death I was blessed to get close with his mother who of course is grieving. We share stories together.

One day after his death, I saw a dragonfly...it was huge and quite blue, bluer than others I’d seen...and I just knew it was him. I told his mom about it. As weeks went on I saw him one more time or maybe two...sometimes I knew it wasn’t him.

Well this year when the dragonflies started returning, I didn’t see Jason. I was telling his mom that he maybe has other forms now, or maybe he knows we don’t need to see him as much...that was about a week or so ago. Last night, we sat outside at dusk and lots of dragonflies came-more than I’ve seen of late and they were zooming in and out. There was one that kept getting really close. I told Martyn it didn’t feel like Jason but I wasn’t sure.

We’ll, this morning I went in the barn and all of a sudden this dragonfly falls out of nowhere at my feet. Never had one in the barn. He hopped right in my hand and I could not see any damage to him but he stayed right there on my hand. I took him outside and placed him on a leaf in the lilac. He sat still for seconds and flew off. I think Jason wanted to tell me to never stop believing he is a dragonfly...and I won’t.

Friday, July 31, 2020

When you lose a dog...explore the spaces that are left-that is where the healing and opportunity lies

Some followers are wondering out loud if Bear needs a new dog friend. Perhaps in time. But right now, it is my time to be with Bear. Bear and I were just beginning to evolve into what ever our partnership was meant to be, back last winter when he arrived as a pup. Then the virus took over everyone's life. I am so grateful Bear and I went out right away when he arrived and did therapy visits at Cove's. Our time their together was so important to us, and of course the memories of Bear and John and all the others is a warm spot for me. I've written before, there were times after the virus arrived when I wondered if Bear's main purpose at the time was to befriend John in his final months.

So, back to getting another dog–I expect someday there will be another dog. But right now, Bear and I are exploring the spaces created by Muddy's departure. After someone or something departs, we survivors have to feel the spaces, spaces that are both physical and emotional. It is often painful. But there comes a time in loss when one can see those spaces as opportunities for new encounters, new adventures, new friends...and yes, new dogs.

Bear had a lot of good training early on. He was a smart and calm pup when he went on therapy visits, everyone commented on that, and even I thought I had truly found a born healer. Once the virus took over, Bear was not out socializing with people, he was home with me and Mud, being a pup, a dog. And then at some point, Mud was diagnosed with terminal cancer with weeks or moths to live, so my focus shifted to Mud. While I didn't neglect Bear, I most certainly was heart pointed to Mud, and Bear knew it. So did Mud. I think Mud wanted me to be focused on Bear, so he could let go. At some point I discussed that with Mud, and told him not to worry, that Bear and I would rise again to do good work together.

If I went out and got a dog now, spaces would be filled for Bear, and me, by another dog. Bear and I need to fill the space first.

I've been doing a fun training game with him. Our old house is unusual in that, despite it being built in 1760, each room has two doors, so you can do a complete circle from room to room. So I make Bear sit and stay in a room, then I walk to the next room where he can't see me, and make him wait for my 'come'. It's sort of more like a game this way and is fun.

Bear still becomes the pup I brought home that day, the pup that clung to me with his front legs for many days if he was scared. Bear will still sometimes come to my side of the couch and try to get in my lap like he did as a pup. I tolerate it so long to show him comfort, then make him stop. He is learning to be outside for longer periods while I do chores inside. Initially after Mud died, he got scared. I mean he is only 6 months old.

Bear is allowed to do night chores in the front barn with me. It is is the barn that Marcella lives in and although she can't see Bear when he is in that barn, she knows he is there. Bear can not go in and out of the barn at free will, only if I am there. This is the first house dog I've allowed in a barn like that. Bear can also nose White Dog on the other side of the fence. He has goats, a goose, a Pickles, and he has me and Martyn. And he loves the house cats and often goes to sleep near them, or lick them.

So...that is the update. There are spaces to feel, and we are feeling them. So there will be no new dog for now. Unless, like I said, there comes a knock on the door and a blind one eyed pug with a suitcase shows up.

Monday, July 27, 2020

When animals leave me, total strangers leave too, but I'm still here

Muddy in descent
"Spitting in the wind comes back at you twice as hard"
Lou Reed

I always resonated with that qoute from Lou. It can be applied to many things we do in life, or others do. But it also reminds me of the process of grieving–don't ignore it, don't toss it out because you want to move on to joy again...or it will come back twice as hard.

Whenever I have a wave of animal death, and they always seem to come in threes, I notice I usually lose a smattering of followers on the Apifera FB page. I don't necessarily know who they are [ nor is it a concern for me], and I probably don't even know them in real life, but it seems to be a consistent action some people take. I post pictures of beauty and life, and that includes the curve of life, the depths of life which includes death, and grief. It is not only how I process any moment I feel I need to process, it is a document of my life here. That's all it is.

Years ago, I asked a follower I hardly knew, point blank, why she unfollowed. She was embarrased and I realized it is not a question I have to ask, nor do I anymore. It's her choice and I realized I put her in an uncomfortable place. But at the time, I was surprised, and she told me she just got attached to my animals and then they would die. And she couldn't take it and needed a break from it. She has every reason to caretake herself, and step away from what makes her sad, that is her duty to herself.

A break from the death of my animals...I suspect that is why some unfollow after a string of deaths at Apifera. I never get to step out of the grief part of the work here, and have never expected to. I've never thought to myself, I have to step away from this part of my life, this death part and I'm grateful that somehow I'm wired like this.

Don't take this to mean I never cry, or ask why to the sky. I do. But instead of trying to walk away from it, I just walk through it. I write about it, I take photos to process it.

Do you know one of the beautiful moments with Muddy when he died, was holding his beautiful head in my hands, my face pressed up into his chocolate velvet ears-the ears I kissed evey morning when he walked into the bedroom. I said 'bye'...and he released. I could feel it.

For me, to not participate in the death of my animals, is cheating them and me. I mean, why would I write about the joys of birth, or the joys of the arrival of Pickles, but hide everyone from when one of my old soldiers finally falls? For me the mystery of birth is right up there with the mystery of death. Our society is very good at cutting them right down the middle, which is why we have elder people shut up in buildings right now-nobody wants to deal with it.

It is sad to say goodbye. But my writings and photographs and art are entwined with both life and death. If only our society could be entertwined with both...our elder years would be very different.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Muddy leaves a hole but Bear and I shift

Bear and Mud the night before he died, constant mates
If you follow us on social media, you know of our hard loss yesterday, which we had planned for. Muddy was helped out of pain at one o'clock. I was grateful the vet agreed to come to our farm to do the procedure. We were able to hold him and I lay with him in the garden before and after.

I won't rehash the day. I documented it in earnest on Instagram, something I felt compelled to do, from the night before, to the morning of and then through the burial. I always say, for me, it is important to share the sad with the joy, it is the same balancing act we all face daily in our own lives, it is the human condition, it is Nature's law book. I had not told people what day we were going to put him down, so those that tuned in saw the lead up to the moment, through emotive images of Bear and Muddy. I think some or most had a sense of the buildup I was feeling on the death day. It was not a comfortable feeling and I was emotional much of the day. I tried not to be gushy in front of Muddy, but I shared a lot of things with him in the final week.

I really wasn't sure how Bear would respond once the burial was over and we returned to the house, without his buddy. He definatly knew Mud was gone, in the grave, he saw it and smelled it, he got it. Animals know. But sitting in the garden at night with us, he kept smelling the air. He sat by me most of the evening, in the house too. I know he was a bit aimless.

This morning, he was very quiet, rather than vocalizing at a certain point in his crate to 'Hurry up, I want to get up". He was fine, but he was less puppy-like-squirmy. We've been working on that. He also shifted his position on where he would lay down, and has been laying down nearest to whereever I am.

I told him this is our restart together as a team. We bonded from the moment we met, we really did. And we had our early training at Cove's Edge where he was just a super little therapy guy, calm, smart, fearless, quiet. I've been a bit short with him in the past couple months, since I was overprotecting harm to Mud and his bone. So now, we can work again together, we did some obedience work today and he was fine, he knows the commands, we will get that down quickly. He just needs to know I'm here.

The lead up to the event was worse than the finality of the burial. Yes, I miss him so much. But when I walked out this morning with Bear, I was relieved for Mud that he didn't have to limp out with me, put on his wagging tail face and feel the pain that we knew was only growing. We had two extra months with him and are grateful.

But there is a hole.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Sir Tigger's big journey...sweet passage, old man

Sir Tigger as he begins his solo journey last night
Sir Tigger has died. He was 20+ years old.

Tigger was an important cat to me and I told him this often this week because I knew he was getting ready to go on his journey. He came to us from the shelter in 2016 and along with Anna and Yume were the first cats we adopted out of the shelter. He was important because when we arrived in Maine I was excited but was also mourning my old Oregon farm -having Tigger in the barn felt like home and he truly helped in my transition. He also looked like Big Tony who came with us from Oregon and went onto live another year. So after Big Tony died, Tigger also helped me.

Tig started failing this year and a couple days ago it was clear he was dying. He was in no distress and yesterday morning I held him and knew he was hardly there. I put him in a basket and checked on him all day. When I left him at dinner I said goodbye knowing he would be gone. He died shortly after from all indications.

Tigger came to us after his elder owner went to a home. He lived another 4+ years and had a peaceful passing. He was his own cat, never one for snuggles, but accepting scratches and a hug or two. In the end,, he was so tiny, he was like a wisp of his former self, like little old men you might see walking who barely have a waistline anymore. I am grateful he could die in his own terms-that is so him, to be on his own terms.

Sir Tigger last year

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Twinky Twinkles arrives

The new elder, Twinkles, on top, and Fuzzy on the bottom
We took on another elder into the elder cat suite and she is a dear. She is 18 and I'm told to consider this a hospice case. Twink was living her whole life with a couple, who grew older, but they had taken her to the vet right up to about 6 months from her arrival here. I can't go into detail, but there was some real drama and trauma in those last 6 months or more in her household with her people. The husband died, and the woman had to go into a facility.

It is believed she has stomach or intestine cancer which has been causing diarrhea, and she is on a steroid. I have not witnessed any, so let's hope. But no matter, we will take care of her. She is very lady like to get her pill so that is good.

I spoke to her on arrival and told her I knew there had been traumatic events in the house. Who knows what parts of those events she witnessed. But I wanted to acknowledge them.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Pickles, pickles and more

Here is the current column from my "Tails & Tales" which I write monthly for the Lincoln County News.

I was having a coffee break in the garden near the barn when I heard approaching hoof steps. I saw little Opie the goat peering between the picket fence at me.

“Mrs. Dunn! Mrs. Dunn! It’s Pickles, she’s stuck!” he said.

I took a breath, counted to three and headed to the barn where I found a bunch of small, wide bodied pygmy goats staring into a corner.

“Pickles, what have you done?” I asked as I pulled her stuck head out of an opening into the hay area.

“It’s another pickle for Pickles!” said Henneth the blind hen.

Pickles is a baby pygmy goat that we brought home a couple weeks ago, along with two elder pygmies to add to our herd of elders. I wanted to add some youth into the elder mix. I thought Opie would enjoy a youngster to get old with too.

“I told her not to do it,” said Ollie, “but she never listens to me.”

I pulled her little head out and held her for a bit.

“I’s sorry, Mrs. Dunn, can I go now, I’s busy!?” said Pickles. And she ran off.

“Nothing to see here, everyone, move on,” I said as I returned to my now cold coffee.

Opie followed me to the gate, “I think she gets in more trouble than I did, Mrs. Dunn.”

“I think so, Opie. We might just have to pickle Pickles if it continues,” I said and chuckled. Opie looked at me perplexed, and returned to the barn.

Later that day as I began chores, I heard deep sighs of worry, and chattering in the barn. I looked in a side stall to see Earnest and some others gathered around little Opie, who was doing all the sighing. They had a cook book opened. How do they find these books, I wondered.

As always, I kept my ears wide open while I worked.

“Now, Opie, Pickles is not a pickle, she is a goat. Mrs. Dunn was employing what we call satire when she suggested she would pickle Pickles,” Earnest the pig said.

Henneth the blind chicken chimed in to console Opie in her own blunt manner, “Pickles wouldn’t physically fit in a pickle jar, Opie.”

Just then, Ollie the goat appeared, out of breath, and said, “Pickles is in another pickle, Mrs. Dunn!”

I looked out to see Pickles in the pumpkin patch, on the wrong side of the fence of course, but she could’t squeeze her wide belly through the picket fence to get back in. She was crying out to the herd,
“Help, I’m in a pickle!”

I climbed over the fence and lifted her out.

“I don’t know how I got in there, Mrs. Dunn, it just...happened,” said Pickles.

She is so irresistible so I held her, secretly smiling. She put her head into my shoulder, and whispered in my ear,

“Mrs. Dunn, please don’t pickle me.”

“I won’t,” I said.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Burial: a farewell evolves

Burial is an important ritual to partake in with my animal work. Until the body is in the ground, everything feels unbalanced. Moose was put down on Friday, a hot, humid day. I knew where we'd bury him but had to wait for Martyn to help with the grave. So Moose resided in the feed room. Every morning I'd open the door and there was his little body at rest. It was always sort of a surprise...oh yea, Moose is dead.

So today we were able to put him to rest. I laid a daisy on the dirt. I like to be the one that places the body in if I can, and place their head properly.

It just feels better when you know they are safe, in the ground, they are on their way to feed the worms and the spirit is completely free. It must be horrible to not have a body of a loved one that dies in war or other circumstances. I would think it hinders the realization the person is truly dead. I've seen so many dead animals now that it just is part of my moving forward with my work. I also know that not being there for an animal if they are put down is something I never want to do again. With my first cat, Gracie, I chose to let my vet put her down but I was afraid to be there. It was the first animal I owned as an adult and Gracie had been with me for 18 years. I got her at a shelter in NYC and she lived all over with me. I was a different person then, death was much more of an intangible 'thing' that wasn't comfortable to think of. I loved my vet and it is not that what I did was cruel, it just was something that did not help me in my grief, to not have been with her. It did not help me visualize her reality-that she was gone.

Farming out west for 14 years was one of the biggest gifts I have had in my life. It taught me so much about where I stand within the earth, the food chain and it taught me about my own boundaries with animals. There were conflicts I had with raising sheep, I wrote at length about it back then and have no need to rehash it all. But I would never trade any of those experiences, it all brought me to this point, where I continue to learn not only about other spirits and creatures, but about myself.

But I would trade a day to go back and be with Gracie on her final day.

Perhaps she looks down from time to time and acknowledges I just wasn't coded then to handle it.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Goodbye Moose....

Taken last night...the last photo of Moose
I had to say goodbye to a friend today. Moose is gone. On the one hand I’m relieved for him, on the other it is sad it came to this. Once a spitfire of a little goat, he got through goat polio in March but was never quite the same even though he responded to treatment. Then two weeks ago it was like he relapsed and we treated him again but he did not improve. He was neurologically damaged somehow unable to do basic things like eat, backup, drink normal and he was constantly grinding teeth a sign of pain. He gets stuck in corners because he couldn’t figure out how to back up. My vet and I assessed it all and we had run out of realistic options.He might have had a brain tumor that was causing the symptoms. So I let him go. It was sad.

Moose came to me as a baby...my mother had died and I wanted a baby goat in the mix that would grow old with me...so I secretly found one, and at the same time Martyn found one for me. Moose was born on my bday and Goose was born on Martyn’s. Moose was such a personality that his last months were hard to watch. The herd knew he was damaged and he was getting pushed around a bit more. We put him down outside under the lilac. I sat with for awhile after he died...and I noticed that the goats were not that interested in viewing the body as is the ritual here. I really think they knew days ago Moose has already left...he was not the Moose they had known. He is pain free for that I am relieved

Thursday, July 02, 2020

In the flow...new work

"Moth out of fog over the peonies" 48"
Summer is usually not a good creative month for me with painting...there is the garden to tend, vegetables to grow, pastures to maintain...and...well, the flies and heat. Maine is much more tolerable than out West [except for the bugs here] and we usually don't have days in a row of heat or humidity. And I do have an AC unit. So I was asked to get some new canvases going and it inspired me. I haven't worked on big pieces for awhile. My studio is so small making it hard but I'm really enjoying these.

I plan to have 5 more or so done by end of July if all keeps flowing like it has been.

The second piece might go on the shop if you are interested.

"Dragonflies over daisy field" 14" on wood

Work in process 4*" canvas

Monday, June 29, 2020

The gift of the 103 year old...the most meaningful of gifts

The birthday boy shows his pony bells through the window
There was a very special birthday gathering at Chase Point this week. One of the residents, David  turned 103 years old with his daughters and family members gathered outside a large picture window as David sat inside, looking out. Due to the restrictions and CDC guidelines due to the COVID 19 virus even family members can not visit inside.

But the birthday boy had another special guest–Harry the llama.

David loves animals and back when he was 101 he first visited Apifera Farm where he met all the animals including the llamas. He was able to visit again when he was 102. But this year, due to the virus everyone is in lockdown. When I heard David’s birthday was coming up, I immediately wanted to bring Harry to the gathering and contacted David’s daughter  to confirm a Llama Birthday Window Walk with Harry.

I was going to try to do a daisy chain for his neck, but opted to decorate him in bells [these were gifted to us last year by a follower who had collected them during her many travels.] Now I realize picking the bells was one of those divine moments.

When David saw Harry’s bells he was delighted. He started to talk about the pony bells he had hanging in his room. It’s hard to hear through the window,  but the staff translated, and his daughter explained to me how he loved his pony bells. The staff went to his room and brought the pony bells down so everyone could see them through the window. David had found them long ago in his travels to India and where ever he lived he always took his pony bells. Then he asked the staff to take them outside so I could see them closer, and I was thrilled to ring them and show Harry. Through it all, David sat inside smiling through the window watching his favorite pony bells being rung. Minutes later, another staff person came out and said David wanted me and Harry to have the bells.

Verklempt moment.

I just welled up with tears, I looked at him through the window and patted my heart with my hand, and he mimicked me. It was probably the most caring, beautiful and most meaningful gift I have ever received.

As Harry and I  left with our new special bells, the family was able to visit more with David outside, under social distance guidelines. There were no hugs allowed or birthday cake, but there were smiles from David.

My birthday wish for David is he gets to be with his family up close...soon...very soon. And when we all get through this lock down, I want to get David out to the farm, and we will ring those bells.

And a postscript...It had slipped my mind...but this was also Birdie's birthday. I know she was present. She probably helped me find Harry.

Harry looks in at the birthday boy

David meeting Birdie the llama when he was 101
Katherine wearing the pony bells with honor