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, January 16, 2020

New art

I was in the studio this week and have some new prints available...you might recognize The Teapot, and Captain Sparkle.

Available from the online shop.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A farewell to old Else, miscalculations and a window opens

Opie views the body. Right after, he came to my side.
Yesterday I got to the front barn and Else would not eat or take water. I always give her a bucket of water so she doesn't have to walk to water bucket....at least for the past month or so, a clear sign she was getting tired. But yesterday, I chose to lift her and move her into a more draft free corner. She cried, in a pain cry. Else never talks. It was clear what she was saying. I went to house to get pain meds, and the injection made her cry out in a distress cry, not a 'hey that hurt cry'. I tried to adjust her body for her, more terrible pain cries.

I told her I would make it right.

Watching an animal suffer is a horrible position to be in, and I was so lucky that one of my vets was very close by, and she came to put her down. She went out like a bulb. She was more than ready.

I had talked to my vet last fall about putting Else down before winter, and I had that in my head as the right thing to do. But then I started really getting good weight on her [for her, she is very thin] and she seemed to be going outside and enjoying life, even though her crippling condition was getting worse, as we knew it would when we adopted her from a state neglect case. For the past months of winter, it has been okay, she was eating, and had a good demeanor. It was about a week ago though that I could tell she had more trouble getting a position that was comfortable. And then yesterday. There was no question we needed to let go.

I am relieved for her.

I told my vet that I had perhaps done her a disservice not acting sooner, but she just didn't seem ready...vets hear this all the time, knowing it is usually the person that isn't ready. But I really didn't think it was time.

So it was a misjudgment on my part. After all the years of doing this, I guess I'm entitled to some miscalculations.

I feel badly though, because she clearly had a morning of pain. But then a big beautiful sleep, and no pain.

This morning she is still in the barn, covered in blankets, with the chickens sleeping on her-it is a process to bury an animal in winter, but we will in the next day or so. It is never a feeling of closure until they are in the ground. I had Wilbur cremated last winter because it was so impossible to bury him with the heavy snow, and I wasn't going to put him out for Nature [I am not opposed to this option, it just doesn't work well in our setting]. I felt really bad about having to take his body into the clinic, put in a freezer to wait for the next cremation pickup. That is how it works. They do the same thing with dogs. And people. I was so relieved to pick his ashes up.

But I want to bury them if I can, return them to the earth in body, feed the worms and tulips.

This morning I did my chores, and I realized how tired I was. I was moving slowly. I have actually given myself permission to move more slowly during chores, and take moments to look and feel and smell it all in. I don't make morning appointments anymore if I don't have to, I just don't want to rush. I've rushed enough. As I did chores I realized how much care taking fills a space, and when the creature or person is gone there is a big space left. I do not have one moment where I think "I wish I didn't have to care for this animal', never, but there is an initial empty space and a feeling of, "now what?" and then, life steps in...another old goat will come along or crippled one...the space Else left will be taken up by another Misfit who fails, or a new comer. A window will open.

So in a way, I guess her death is one more gift-it opens a space, and leaves behind the memory of her sweet self.

The Goose gives Else one last peck...just to make sure.

How I will remember her

Monday, January 13, 2020

The continuing thread of caring for one another

It's my mother's birthday. She died in April, 2013 at 87. I miss her, I miss her as my "go-to shore" to call...but in time, after she died, I realized her death made me more able to understand myself too, and learn and grow in ways I wasn't when she was alive. It's part of the plan. But I miss her. I thought of making her famous dense white cake with fudge frosting...or maybe spaghetti. I remember as a little kid being so excited when I knew she was making her spaghetti.

Over a year ago, a friend I'd known about 7+ years online who was a wonderful, funny, engaged-and helpful-person, died by suicide. Shocking. Sad. From that death, I got to know his mother, who to this day I communicate with online as she continues to grieve, learn, grow, and heal. It is odd how death can bring people together but it happens all the time and I'm grateful for my friend's mother. Seeing her grieve her only son makes me realize how much love my mother had for me, I knew this, but watching my friend's mother grieve makes me realize how many times my mother must have had a broken heart watching me go though hard times as I grew up.

Today my friend happened to send me this FB 'memory' in a message, something I had written on her son's page after he died. How beautiful that it was on my mother's birthday. This thought in this quote became apparent to me as I flew back from my father's funeral, in '08, and I was in the plane in the clouds, and I just felt like he was the sky, the clouds, everything. It physically felt like that.

"I have said before that when a loved one dies, the love they gave, and that I received, somehow expands. I figure that when a person is alive, they have all this love inside them, like energy, and they dole it out over time…but when the body is done, everything is released and the love expands and it explodes out free to be carried all over and merge with everything--the trees and sky, people, flowers…the air…it’s like air, the love expands and we breathe it daily." -- Katherine Dunn

Friday, January 10, 2020

Perhaps the most poignant moment ever

Yesterday I took both Bear and Opie to the elder home for their weekly visit. I wanted to try having both of them there, and I had Polly my assistant volunteer with me and it worked out really well. Opie was in his cart making rounds, and I covered another area of the home with Bear. Again I had his little wagon so when he got tuckered out he could rest.

He did great. I wondered if last week was a fluke but I was so touched by him, and his behavior. He is a bit more puppy like now with another week of living under his belt, but he was calm and focused much of the time. We let him down to walk too and what just slayed me was he would sit on command, watch for me, wait for my next move. We've been working on that in the house-he is rewarded when he is calm with praise and love, when not I ignore him. I've been teaching him tosit, off leash and I couldn't believe it when he was able to be so focused at our visit-everyone ooohed and awed, and I was very proud of him.

But the moment captured in this photo is one of the more poignant moments of my animal therapy career. This is John and last week I told you how he lit up when he met Bear, and that was the first time I'd seen him smile or be animated. He held Bear and just was so happy the entire time. His wife visits him twice a day every day. Well, when we got there yesterday people were excited to see Bear and Opie, and at some point I noticed John and his wife coming down the hall. About 15 feet from us, John saw the puppy and he stretched his arms out, smiling, until he got wheeled up to Bear.

My heart nearly broke into a million pieces.

Opie was treated to a carrot by staff

It's like she was loving him so hard it showed in her face

Se doesn't usually talk a lot

She always had lots of animals in her life

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

When you are hit with disturbing events

The Goose looks to the sky as a plane flies over this morning
My father always used to say to me, "You are such an optimist."

It's true, in general. I always look at a situation as a learning situation...what am I meant to learn here even if it feels uncomfortable? What is my inside crone telling me? What am I hiding from myself?

I feel the heaviness right now...of the entire world, the universe really. Some of you reading might not be upset at all by the current administration, or the global situation, or the immigrant situation, or the global environmental situation...but I am.

And in the last week I have heard disturbing news about animal friends...a horse of a nearby person I get hay from had someone come into his barn, enter a stall and hack off the mane and tail of his horse, with scissors, taking all the hair with them. I guess it is a thing, people stealing horse hair. Someone out west recently had extremists enter their property and let the llamas out. Another friend is shutting down her horse rescue of ten years due to ten years of online harassment from extreme thinkers [they too came to her farm and let the horses out, all were brought back safely].

It all leaves me feeling sort of vulnerable. I write and share so much online. I enjoy sharing my animals and photos and art. Lately, I have not felt so much like sharing my thoughts that much. I have been doing it for, ten or more years I guess since I started the blog and then Facebook took over everyone's life. Lately I've been feeling much more vulnerable on social media, and when I heard about the horse hair incident...it shook me up.

But then there is the positivity of intention. When I first arrived in Portland, Oregon, before I meant Martyn or before Apifera and I was still illustrating, I felt a shift. The illustration world died after 9/11, or died from what it once was. I wanted to get into animal massage, and paint for galleries and make books somehow. So I entered massage school to become a masseuse thinking in time I could segway into animal therapy, while I still did my art. I went through three grueling semesters, did well, but realized this was not for me. Soon after, Martyn and I married and a year later moved to the farm.

So here I am, 15 years later, giving daily animal massages.

When I was in my teens, I wanted to be a vet. Minnesota has an excellent vet school, and eventually I knew the science aspect was not for me, I don't think that way.

And here I am 15 years later, and in some ways, I am a vet.

I wanted to paint for galleries and I did {but after years of that, grew wary of the gallery gig and do not partake in galleries anymore]. I wanted to write, and I did, and make books and I did.

The point is, intention is a powerful form of energy. I always say my animals understand my intention and you can't hide your intention from an animal. So when faced with fear, or unsettled feelings, I have to remember to ask myself what is my intention...what do I need?

My life has shifted for sure. I still paint, but it is different. It feels like the intention of my painting is different. I said years ago I wanted to work with my animals in therapy for elder people. And here I am doing it on a regular basis.


I am not in my stdio the number of hours I was out West. For the last year I kept thinking, I need to get back to that. But...I haven't. And it is becoming an okay state of affairs for me, and as I was doing barn chores, and taking time to massage old Honey, and some others, I realized, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing, when I want...and I set that intention forth years ago.

Art is my guts or joy or light in paint or in a book. I will always do that. My elder work, my animal work is my intention at this juncture. I'm graced I got here.

Old Sophie this morning, she gets a forehead massage most mornings

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The man who I never saw smile...laughs with Bear

Earnie looking proudly at Bear

I guess the feeling I had when I took him on his visit....he really gets it, I sense he really understood, just like Opie, this is my intention for you, and you have this in you, and he does. Not every animal is prone to this. It instills what I already voiced...Bear was meant to find me and I was meant to find him at the exact time we did. It's called grace.

I took Bear to Cove's Edge on Thursday for his first outing. I had a secure little red wagon for him if he got overwhelmed. I did not want to overdue it, as he is still very young but I want to acclimate him to the wheel chairs and sounds, and he can begin meeting people. He had no fear there of the wheels.

The first person at the front to greet was was...Earnie! Of course, it was Earnie and that was perfect. Earnie held Bear easily, even with one arm, and it was a good start because bear could snuggle and get used to things. Of course he was a magnet for the staff, who need animal therapy as much as the residents. He was calm, steady, and I must say...focused.

I also was pleased that he knew my voice and knew he was safe.

We went around in the cart and then I'd put him on people's beds or laps. There was not an incidence where he squirmed [this might change as he matures!].

One of my most moving encounters was when a gentleman was wheeled over, by his wife who visits twice a day every day, and I have never seen him smile. He is usually slumped in his chair sleeping, and he can't talk. But when we put Bear in his lap he smiled, and smiled, and held him, petted him looking at him with a smile the whole time. His wife told be they had a lab at one time. That was so beautiful. He did not take his hands of that pup, nor did he stop smiling.

Another gentleman came out of his room to see Bear. I was told he usually does not come out much, but he had owned a pet shop for 30 years. He came to see Bear. It was beautiful too.

I was so proud of him. I really wasn't sure how the day would go and again, I knew it might be a short visit. I did not want a bad experience for him, nor did I want him over handled or over stimulated. But none of that happened. He sat on his last lap after about an hour visit there, and I could see he was getting a bit unfocused, so we put him in the cart and he fell off to sleep. We could still visit with people, but it was hard to get out the door with him-people kept wanting to pet him. I allowed that even though he was sound asleep.

He did great in the car too. He is doing really well with house training thanks to my crate and little pen in the living room. I am up and down a lot and he has not pooped once in the house, thank you Bear, or his crate. His worst hours are 5-6 pm, because it is dinner hour making for us, and he wants to be part of the activity, which he is in his pen by the fireplace, but any activity and I have to get him out to pee. He's getting it though.

The man who I never saw smile...with Bear

Focused on his work

Thursday, January 02, 2020

If you don't like puppies look away

Bear at 8.5 weeks

I am in puppy overload, puppy heaven, puppy piddle, puppy joy....so you might want to take a break from all my social media links if for some reason you are adverse to puppies.

Bear has been here 3.5 full days. He is settling wonderfully and his personality is starting to emerge. He is sleeping most of the night, and understands outside is piddle madness area, and inside is piddle oops area. He is doing really well with pooping outside.

I know you wanted to know that.

Anyway, I am a bit distracted, lots of work ahead with him but right now, it is pure joy to wake up to him, to watch him do so many 'firsts' [stairs, vaccuums, television, music, The Goose and much more].

I have told the barnyard that Bear is needing my energy for a bit longer but they are fine, everyone is wel ad we are in a new year of hope...hope...hope for so much.

For now, just enjoy these photos of Bear.

A kind follower sent bear his first snuggly-a Birdie to watch over him

Bear has a crate den to sleep in

Bear explores

I lucked out on this shot of Bear under a watchful moon