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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Old Matilda has died

 She was thirty years old. She came to us out west, from a neglect case where she was being bred at age 19 without hay or supplements. Her feed were curled and back swayed, the latter never recovered from being bred year after year.

I'm so grateful we found each other. She had a wonderful life with us, and her little herd of minis. She and Paco were bonded. A week or so ago I noticed matilda had started separating out from her mini herd, which is not normal. I took note of it one night and said to Martyn, "The fact the donkeys aren't braying for her or joining her is telling."

In about four days after noticing that, it was farrier day, and Matilda was lying in the field and I had to try to get her up, She could still sit up like a dog, but my farrier had to push and i pulled. It was not a one person job. That was eighth days ago. Within another few days, she could no longer sit like a dog so we had to use the tractor to get her hind up with a strap, and I pulled and steadied her. I could not do it alone. 

It became clear this was not a temporary thing. What was most upsetting for me was she had just had her annual checkup and bloodwork done for her Cushings, and her blood looked good. And she came out of winter so good, after a bad year last winter-we altered her meds and she improved so well. So we were all excited how good she looked. Within a couple of weeks after her checkup is when she declined.

I had an urgent call for the vet-knowing this was not an emergency since she wasn't in utter pain, but I knew if the vet came it was most likely the end of the road. I couldn't imagine they would have any other solutions, at her age. We talked about altering pain management that might help her get up. But even one day of her not able to get up was a problem. And Martyn can't keep coming home to help me. We also knew there are dangers to hoisting her up with the aid of the tractor. A downed equine is a hurting equine both physically and mentally. They are a flight animal. I could not leave her in the open field in case she went down in sun, and horse flies. She was beginning to get bed sores.

It was a beautiful day. The vet was due at 2:45. I spent the last hour with her grooming her, and just sitting. I cleaned stalls. She had her morning with the donkeys. It was a beautiful, clear, 65 degree day. The daisies were out. Martyn had stayed home and dug the grave. We anesthetized her, then led her to the grave-after a lengthy discussion about options, if any, and the right thing for her. There was the possibility she'd fight it. But she didn't. She was gone before she hit the ground.

I let the all the animals in to see her body and grave when it was over, as is our routine in burials. I was most interested and concerned for Paco. But he came over, sniffed, and ran off into his field. Like I said, I think the fact she had separated out of the herd, and they were not alarmed, showed they knew and had said their good byes. Donkeys are very loyal and protective of each other.

I awoke with relief -for her, and me. It is no fun knowing she would most likely be down, and unable to get up, and I was unable to get her up alone. I had hoped we could have summer together. But we couldn't.

I'm sad. I miss her big ears already. But I spent every day with her for so many years. I helped her and she gave me so much just by being her. She got to see America when we drove from Oregon to Maine. She had her mates and a nice barn. She was never hungry. She was safe. She had people come and visit and fall in love with her and her eyes. They loved her eyes because she wore her soul in them.

She was a very special Apiferian, never to be replaced, or forgotten.

My beautiful, beautiful, Matilda. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Great Porta Potty Scheme

 “It’s here!” Pickles screamed.

All the animals were gathered by the front privacy fence. Hannah, the smallest of the goats, was on her knees, her head positioned under the gate so she could see the driveway.

“What’s it look like, Hannah?” asked Pickles.

“It’s a big ugly box,” Hannah said.

“Why would anyone want to poop in an ugly box?” asked Ollie the goat.

I entered the discussion, “I assume the porta potty arrived?”

“Mrs. Dunn, might I be able to see the inside of it?” asked Earnest the pig.

I sighed, “Alright, Earnest, go investigate, we’ll wait here for you.”

With that, the pig wandered over to the big box. You could have heard a pin drop amongst the animals as they watched from the fence.

“I’m going in,” said Earnest.

The animals’ eyes grew wide with wonder.

Minutes passed, and the pig slowly backed out of the big box. Before he spoke, everyone had gathered tightly around him, as if he was going to tell a really good ghost story.

“There is a seat with a large hole in it,” Earnest said.

They all looked bewildered.

“That is where the people sit down,” I explained. “It’s like a chair, with a hole in it.”

“But how does the poop get out of their pants?” asked Pickles.

“They drop their pants,” I said.

Everyone gasped again.

“Good grief,” said Poetry, one of the elder goats, “Is it too much to squat over some nice grass?”

“Our elder guests that come visit need a safe place to sit and...”

“Poop?” asked Pickles.

“Exactly,” I said.

“How big is the inside of the box, Earnest?” asked Puddles, one of the youngster goats.

“Well I’m not good with mathematical dimensions, but I’d say I could get about ten of me in there,” said the pig.

As I started back to the house, I noticed Pickles and Puddles deep in thought.

Oh no, I thought, I know that look.

Sometime that evening as I did dishes, I noticed what I thought was a very large firefly out the window. It was moving about near the porta potty. I cracked the window and heard a little voice say, in a whisper,

“That’s ten, keep going!”

As I arrived at the porta potty, I could hear muffled giggles.

“You’re on my head,” said little Hannah.

As I opened the door, a flashlight shone in my face, and I felt like I’d stepped into an old Hayley Mills movie. There before me were a bunch of little goats stacked into the porta potty, and Pickles was front and center, Puddles at her side.

I thought everyone had made it out and back to the barn, but Puddles was missing. I found him still in the porta potty, dropping rocks into the big hole.

“Mrs. Dunn, it makes a big kerplunk sound!” said Puddles.

“Yes it does, Puddles,” I said.

“Does the poop kerplunk too, Mrs. Dunn?” he asked.

“Yes, yes it does,” I said.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Is this the last house?

Martyn and I have been talking about the major home renovations we want to do in the coming years. A new roof -we are thinking metal-in the next  few years will be needed and new first floor windows in wood for improved energy conservation, and appearance. We have talked a lot about a heat pump but there are problems with one in this old house so we are holding off on that for now. They are all the rage and I understand why.

But the window is closing as we enter our soon to be be mid sixties in the next couple years. What seemed like years to do things now seems shorter, and one really asks, "What do I want to do with my time?" More of the same, since I love what I do...but, what else?

I've always been a homebody, as is Martyn–besides fishing that is, which he hasn't done much of for years. I like a day trip, but I've done a lot of extensive travel in my time, and now I'm content on the farm and in my garden, sitting with Martyn and the dogs–perhaps boring to some, but peace to me.

But I also love the challenge and excitement of moving. I never thought we'd leave the last farm but after 13 years we did, and it was the best decision. So glad we did. I sometimes find myself wondering, is this the last house? I suppose it might be. My parents kept moving, it was in my father's DNA. My mother was a pro at packing and moving on her own, as am I. I was the one who coordinated the move West, not Martyn. I've fixed up about four houses before I met Martyn. But I also came to a point in my life where I realized that if my life had challenges and excitement on a daily basis in my work, I didn't have the urge to move so much, like in my upbringing [we moved a lot, sometimes just down the street].

This home has some issues for someone growing old in it, but one of the first women to live here, a mother of 7, lived in it until she was 100, in the 1800's. Imagine how different her life was than mine. Imagine.

I always loved May Sarton's memoirs. In her later years she moved to Maine, into a rather large house by the sea. I've always got that in the back of my head-a house by the sea. But it would have to be on the sea and I doubt that will happen not only do to money, but do to the challenges and availability of something. 

I love the house. It has some things I wish we could change-like having a bigger, proper mudroom and closets. That would be my dream. But all in all, we are content. And so for now, it is still where we are meant to be, and will be. I have been through this before, where one thinks they will never leave this house, or this place, or this 'thing', but things are fluid in life, including desires and dreams. 

Saturday, May 28, 2022

A saxaphonist meets the donkeys, and I officially have entered the shortest season of my life

Yesterday we had a wonderful visit with a young man named Vincent who came to play the sax for the donkeys and equines. If you follow along you might remember a young man playing for tips on the street in my village and he was to donate the money to a charity. He had just heard about our mission and sent me two $20 bills. I was touched and honored. His little sister is a brave young horse hearted child who has fallen in love with Biggs, she came too and climbed gates like a monkey. She likes to call him Big.

So it was really fun and if you know donkeys you know they are very curious little creatures. I never have to bribe them into a scene with people, they just stumble on up out of curiosity. I really thought they might bray along, as some music makes them do that.

Boone was the show off. He had a ball. And I will give Vincent credit for being a pro and focusing on his music while Boone proceeded to lick him and investigate his hat. I think that could be his first album cover, don't you?

After they left, I wondered if they would remember me twenty years from now, as I remember some of the horse people I knew as a child. I expect to see this young family over the years, they are new to the area and very nice and it is fun for me to have well behaved, interested youth around as a good mix to my elder work. In my head I counted the years for the five year old to be old enough to drive, and I thought of how old I would be. I also thought of an older women who was about 70 when I met her when we first got to Maine-a horse person-and she is now close to 80. She too had a young family nearby that she nurtured as she could and they all grew up, and she grew old. And now I am her. I have taken my place on the great wheel of life.

A thought has meandered through my brain daily and it is not a scary thought, it just seems to keep showing up. I think it started because I've been seeing a lot of people in their early seventies dying. I read the obituaries, always have, even as a child, I don't know why. But now that I'm sixty four, it dawned on me that if I too died at 74 that is only ten years left. Sobering. I have never been one to have a goal of living to a very old age, I prefer not to. I always thought 78-83 seemed a good time to go. My mother lived alone after my father died [he was 83] until she was 87 and died suddenly but was active until then. 

I've been asking myself, if I did only have ten years left, what do I do with it? How many more paintings will I do, or want to do? How many more books is that? How many more animals can I adopt? Is this my last great house adventure? For the latter, I always thought if Martyn died before me–a horrendous thought–I'd move to the sea and get pugs. I probably won't be able to, but maybe there are great adventures left if I only have ten years. We don't know when or how we go [usually], but as you enter a certain decade you see what's coming up and it seems much shorter than what is in the rear view mirror.

I don't have a death wish. It is just a simple thought that keeps running around my head. In a way, it is a good thing because it makes me say everyday, what will I do today of worth?

Monday, May 23, 2022

Why is this so scary?

When I started this blog back in 2009 it was a new platform. There was no Facebook, Instagram, or TicToc. It was a wonderful time to get into blogs because people actually came here and communicated over a post. I became friends in real life with many of those people, and many still follow along in social media. The blog helped me get into writing, daily and consistently. My writing has really improved over the years because I work at it.

But in time, the other social media platforms have really taken over. I've been digging my heals in the ground about my blog for several years. What I like about it, for me, is it is a history all on one page of the farm and animals. It is a quieter place for people to come without ads and videos popping up in their feeds.

But I think the reality is...people who follow me generally don't come here much, and if they do, they don't comment or partake. That's fine. It's the reality of social media. Nothing stays the same, and blogs have faced that. 

I feel like I've been having to try to write on the blog–where as I more enjoy sharing my day and movies and stories on IG and TicToc - which all are shared on the Apifera Facebook page. 

I feel like the blog is....maybe done. But I'm fond of it. And as social media is always changing, having the blog is a safety net in some ways.

If the blog was gone, I don't think I'd notice much difference in donations, or art sales, since the blog seems to have become more of an archive of the farm's history, and my history when Apifera was started.

I don't know. I feel like it would be freeing to say....it'll stay up, but my daily writings and photos, videos, puppet movies and more will happen on my other platforms.

Why is that so scary for me, to let go...

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Tails & Tales column: The Great Bean Fiasco

As I ventured into the barnyard, I noticed all the goats, and Earnest the pig, standing out in a freshly tilled area of the yard. Earnest had dirt encrusted on his snout, so it appears he had been the lead tiller which he is very good at.

“Pickles, you have the string all knotted up in your feet, and it needs to be straight so our rows will be tidy!” said Poetry, one of the old goats.

As Pickles did her best to make a straight string line, little Hannah followed behind her, plopping in
seeds in the dirt, tasting one every so often.

“You can’t taste them yet, they haven’t grown up yet!” said Poetry, clearly trying to be in charge.

“But they especially delicious,” said Hannah.

“What’s going on here?” I asked. “I thought we agreed you would only be growing pumpkins and sunflowers with my supervision this year?”

Everyone suddenly looked very guilty.

“Mrs. Dunn, it’s my fault. I love green beans. I found your seed packets in the feed room and...I took them,” he said.

“How did you get in the secured feed room?” I asked.

“Pickles,” the pig said.

“And how did Pickles get in the secured feed room?” I asked.

“She stood on me!” said Ollie the tallest goat. “Then she banged her head on the door over and over.”

“Works every time,” said Pickles.

My mind raced, remembering all the times I was sure I had put something in the feed room and couldn’t find it.

“Okay, look, what you did was wrong. But since you are planting the seeds for the good of everyone here, I will forgive you. But I’m not going to tend the bean garden, you will all have to do that on your own,” I said as I walked away.

“It’s just a bunch of beans,” said Pickles. “They have so much food in the house and Mrs. Dunn says her pants don’t fit so good anymore so I don’t know why she needs beans.”

“I heard that Pickles!” I said as I closed the door.

A few hours later I returned to the barnyard to do night time chores. It was eerily calm.  Earnest the pig appeared at the barn door.

“Mrs. Dunn, we decided not to  plant your seeds. I’m sorry we took them. I just love green beans, almost as much as grilled cheese sandwiches,” the pig said.

“It’s okay Earnest. I shouldn’t deny you something you love so much. Life is short, we should relish the bounties of earth, including beans,” I said. “Why don’t you and I go get the beans and plant them together?’

“I like that idea,” he said. He led me to his special corner where he often hid special possessions.
“They’re gone!” he said.

“I didn’t do it!” said Pickles.

“Me either!” said Puddles.

“Not I!” said Ollie.

Just then little Hannah wandered in. “Are there any more of those beans? They are especially delicious!”