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

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©Katherine Dunn.





Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Good bye to a sweet old girl

 

 

We said good bye to Tommy last night. She was almost gone by nighttime chores and I took time to sing to her, with Inky near by. I knew in the last couple days she was transitioning and by the morning yesterday I knew she was close. It was peaceful. She was 20 years old and her time had come. 

After Walter died in May, I made it my mission to get her mats out of her. They had taken over and I could not keep up. I tried many things but each day I found if I took a tooth pick device and slowly opened the mats it worked over time. She was very tolerant. As I worked on her twice a day I remember thinking that I had to give this one last gift to her - to be mat free. I wanted that for her as she took her journey.

Now Inky is alone. I have been holding him a lot more. He is also 20. He has always been quite independent of the other cats and is still in pretty good shape for 20. I have a call into my shelter contact to see what elders might need a home so Inky won't be alone.

At one time we had about 13 elders at once. I am feeling a strong inclination to keep the elder suite to about three cats, and also use it for healing visits, perhaps via Facetime this winter. I think there will be many more lockdowns at my elder residence as fall approaches. I'm looking into adding a separate router and phone line in the room for wifi.

Tommy had trauma in her home before she came here. The older woman had dementia and was put into a home and the husband died in the house by tragic circumstances. I don't know what Tommy saw of any of it. I do know that Tommy liked to take her head and push it into my forehead while I scratched her. So I continued that tradition with her. She was a sweet old girl for sure.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Everyone is spuddling and the pig swoons over a poet

 


{The latest from my monthly Tails & Tales column for the county paper}

I entered the barn  to do chores and Pickles came running to me.

“Mrs. Dunn, we’ve been spuddling!” she declared, and she ran out to the barnyard.

I had no idea what that meant but figured it had to do with one of the new goat arrivals, who Pickles had named Puddles.

Pickles and Puddles came running in the barn, looking rather exhausted.

“Spuddling is hard,” said Puddles.

“I am not sure that is a word,” I said, as I mucked the stalls.

“Spuddle is a useful verb from the 17th century that means to work feebly and ineffectively, because your mind is elsewhere or you haven't quite woken up yet,” said Earnest the pig.

Well, if Earnest knows the word, it must be a word, I thought.

“Thank you, Earnest, it is most certainly a useful word,” I said.

“Do you spuddle?” asked Puddles.

“Often,” I said.

I fed the animals their hay and then sat a spell on a large boulder in the goat paddock. Puddles had been one of five newcomers to the farm that week. We brought home two more elder lady goats, including Puddle’s mother, and another little baby goat that needed a home that had lost her mother. Puddles called his mother Mrs. Puddles, not mama or mom or mother, but Mrs. Puddles out of respect.

“Mrs. Puddles, how are you today,” I asked.

“Just fine, it’s a nice day,” she said.

“Perfect for spuddling,” said Ollie the goat as he walked by.

“We can’t all spuddle at once or nothing will get done,” I said.

“I guess since my name is Puddles ,I’m a spuddled Puddles!” Puddles said.

Mrs. Puddles rolled her eyes.

“I think they will grow tired of this,” Earnest the pig whispered to me.

Just then one of the older goats, named Poetry, wandered over and took a seat next to me.

“I’m old. I don’t intend to spuddle, but it seems I spuddle more and more. It bothers me. But then, I forget I’m spuddling and it really doesn’t matter,” she said.

She was named Poetry because she came from a family of poets. She often could be heard reciting poems while all the others were falling off to sleep. Earnest the pig was charmed by Poetry.

“An older lady who recites Whitman at sunset is a fine lady indeed,” said Earnest with a sparkle in his eye.

I got up to get back to work.

“My spuddle time is over,” I said. “Spuddle on!”

That night, since it was so hot out, I was sitting in the garden in the dark, catching a light breeze from the cove. The fireflies were out. There was hardly a sound. But then I heard it, the sweet voice of an old goat, reciting the words of Whitman, and the gentle snoring of Earnest the pig.






Thursday, June 17, 2021

Harry goes to town...what an impromptu stroll with a llama is like


Our final destination would be the closing reception of Polly's art show, but Harry and I [and my very wonderful volunteer, Joan] had some time so we decided to take a stroll down through our little village of Damariscotta. I have done this before with Harry and the looks and expressions from people is priceless. It brings sheer joy to so many. Plus I wanted to say hello to the new shopkeepers of The Kingfisher and The Queen, a new beautiful shop on Main St. The owners actually lived in our house and sold it to us. We had a great visit and I will be going back, maybe to get some of my art and books in their store. 

Anyway, many things happen when you walk a llama in the village. 90% of the cars going by slow down, roll down windows and take snapshots, and smile. The 10% that are expressionless  must be having very bad days to not smile at a llama [and there are many reasons why people can be having bad days, so Harry and I understand]. We were walking by the bookstore where people hang out and drink coffee, many with dogs, and the dogs just don't know what to do about Harry. I apologize tot he gentleman that had to leave because his very large shepherd became out of control. Harry is not concerned about dogs however. When we got to one corner, a little girl of about 10 was rounding the corner and her mouth just dropped open and she couldn't move. It was so funny. The diners at King Eider's were pleased, and of course I had to walk by Colby & Gale and say hi to our gas guy. We stopped at The Kingfisher and talked for some time to the shopkeepers and then headed to the reception.

As we walked up the busy main street, a guy was driving by with rap on and yelled out to the rap song, "Llama llama". At one of the busiest stop light intersections, where the oncoming traffic had the green light, cars stopped to let us cross. A man yelled out a window in a Maine accent, "Now I've seen everything."

I always say that when I do a village walk I should send a quick notice to the paper so people know we are coming. But I always realize part of the fun of these walks is they are a total surprise to everyone, including me.

The reception was in a shady, breesy spot overlooking the water. Harry did just fine. I did learn though that due to the tight quarters he had the new experience of having people all around his body which he had to adjust to. He did just fine but it was a new experience for him. My volunteer noticed he seemed to take notice of black cars too... interesting!

The art reception raised more than $3,000 for Apifera. Polly is in the throes of living with stage 4 lung cancer. She is having a series of art sales and is giving all of it to Apifera. She volunteered for us and really believes in our animal healing work with elder people. I got to meet her relatives and friends and people said such nice things about us. 

I was also a bit verklempt when I saw David's daughter's there, because I had David's Bells on Harry [ I always do-as I wrote in an earlier post it was one of the most meaningful gifts ever given to me] and they were touched to see the bells. We all said how happy that would have made him.

I don't know how it will play out for Polly. None of us do. She is being practical though, with optimism. I hope to get her to the farm in the coming weeks with help of her friends. She said she would like that a lot. We all have to face death. We have very little choice in how we die. We can make choices while facing impending death, get the house ready so to speak. I know if I was facing death I would have lots of things I would want figured out-like animal care and all that. I suppose though, I feel this, that at some point...we give in, we breathe, we relax to what is coming.

 


 





Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Good news!


Two bits of good news! 

Firstly, the lock down at  Chase Point is over [hopefully it will stay that way - please get vaccinated if you choose to work at an elder home] and so tomorrow Harry and I will be attending the closing reception of Polly Steadman's paintings at Savory Maine. Polly just found at that her stage 4 cancer has not worsened and she will now begin a new drug sometime soon. Polly is donating any sales to Apifera. It is heart warming for us to be loved like that. She is also having a series of art sales and supply sales to benefit us.  People have been asking about seeing and buying Polly's paintings and I'm afraid they are not online. This was out of my jurisdiction and the woman running the restaurant and art show is also helping Polly with her medical and health issues so she is really doing triple duty. If Polly has future sales I will suggest they do a free blog or something. I will post photos after the reception tomorrow.

The other good news I got yesterday was that Harry and I can visit Cove's Edge again and sit in the garden with real living elder friends! I have not been able to do that since March of last year. I am so excited and hope to get there very soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

My one wish if I were to be granted one




We work hard here, but we enjoy it. I get so uncomfortable when people suggest we need to relax more. Um...I do relax, it's called tv time and bedtime.  We really love to be physically active and have projects. If we didn't like it, we'd stop. I find that people often, with good intentions, project on to other people. When I moved to the old farm out west, I was 43, and a woman who had lived on a small farm for 25 years and was starting to transition out of it, suggested that I should hold back on acquiring lots of animals. I said I was just getting started on something I'd always wanted-a farm, to raise sheep and have a horse. I realized though that she had been-there-and-done-that and was just projecting that on to me.

So when people make similar comments of 'you and Martyn deserve to relax more", I just know it is because they either want to relax more in their lives, or they do relax more in their lives and they have their life confused with mine.

I have a wonderful routine here. I get up and take the dogs with me, and they romp around while I do front barn feedings and chores. Then I put them back in, because I won't leave them alone with fowl, and then I go out to horse barn and feed and do chores. I come back at some point and let the dogs out and I sit and have coffee and watch the animals roam around, I smell the sea, I look at the garden...then I either do studio or office time until lunch, and then it kind of starts all over again. I have gotten way better at not over scheduling myself because I like lots of in between time for just percolating. So you see, I really do sit a lot, and think, and feel.

Since I'm 63 now, I know many people who are well into their 70's or older. Many are downsizing, as they say. I think about what will happen to us. I hope we can live our lives independently, here. It's the kind of farm we could maintain on our own with a few adjustments. I can't imagine -at this writing-leaving. But that too is my current state of mind projecting onto my future state of mind. Big changes in life require a process [unless a change is thrust on us through no fault of our own, say, losing a spouse]. I know I never thought I'd leave the old farm when we did, after 15 years, after putting so much love and sweat into it...but we did, but that decision was made in a series of epiphanies, probably over about two years. But once made, it went fast and here we are in Maine. It was such a good decision on so many levels.

This is our third garden we have created together. I never thought I'd have a garden I loved more than the last two, but here it is. The sea is right across the road [we do not have water property, which has its blessings, but we get to see the cove]. I think of my parents a lot when I'm in this garden, so many flowers here they would love, especially the peonies which we had in Minnesota. We have their old teak garden benches they always had in all their many gardens and they gave them to us when they moved for the last time. I cherish them. How many times did I sit with them on those benches in their rose garden, sipping coffee, sharing gossip or crying over some old boyfriend?

I guess that is one wish I would grant us, if I were able to grant wishes–that Martyn and I live together, in a home, until we die. I put that out to the universe all the time. I pray for it.

 {Garden photos and daily life here at Apifera are posted daily on Instagram}





Friday, June 11, 2021

A name is chosen...see what I go through?


If you follow along you know I take naming an animal very seriously, treating it like any other creative project. I guess it is my imagination, but I always feel a huge responsibility for naming or renaming an animal. It can take me weeks sometimes, to get to see the spirit or intent of the creature. Sometimes it comes easily but often it doesn't. The other thing is I often think, if  I give a name that is not matched with the true destiny of the animal am I shifting its path in life. I mean, if Officer Mittens had been named, say, Macbeth, would he still find a way to join the police academy? I was about to be named Mary, but my paternal grandmother died on the day I was born and I was named Katherine. I can not imagine being named Mary [no offense to all the Mary's but I just am not a Mary].

I posted a list of finalist on social media a few days ago. I was immediately alerted to the fact that one of the names had other insinuations-I think you can see which one. I just didn't see it! But when I did, I decided to leave it on the list since I thought it was a funny misstep. The choices were: Franklin Muffinpants; Spencer Catfish, Esq; St. Francis Buttons; The Honorable Puff; Chief Mittens; and Master Bates.

I assume you can see the one that was deleted, everyone else did but me. 

We were feeling the Spencer Catfish Esq. was the choice. But I realized that night he just did not feel like a Spencer or a Catfish. I have always loved the name and it has been on my animal naming lists over the years. But the kitten has this innocence about him, not really that mischievious, not bossy [of course this could change]. I loved the idea of having a Chief but again, maybe he doesn't want to be an officer. Maybe he wants to be a writer, like Earnest the Pig, or a poet like Paco. 

I suppose too, he might just want to be a cat.

See what I go through?

It became clear to me he had to be Franklin. Not Frank, or Frankie [we've had both and I love thaat name] but he is a Franklin. Franklin Muffinpants. 

But I'm going to keep that list for future needs.

Monday, June 07, 2021

New arrivals...lots of them...and i just don't know


It's getting to the point where Instagram has become my go-to announcement site. I started this blog as a journal of the first farm, and a way to share my stories and art and photography-before social media [remember those glorious days?] I still like it for a way to share longer ponderings and thoughtful pieces that might get lost in the manic highway of the internet.

But I do feel a bit frustrated as I find most of my followers now follow on Instagram and Facebook. I'm feeling like maybe I need to revamp or retred or regroup the site. I do like that I have a history here on the blog that I can easily look back on. I always felt too it was a safer place for people to converse and leave comments-but we all know most people post comments mainly on social media. I've experimented a lot and people just hate leaving their social platforms. I know one wise guy who claims he doesn't need FB any more, that people will flock to his blog no matter what, and when he made a grand announcement that his blog now could have comments [this is news?], there were none and he still needs FB whether he likes it or not [some of you know who I speak of...meow.]

So I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I feel so attached to the blog, but all things shift and change and evolve.

So anyway, that long introduction is over, I have to tell you that we brought home two elder lady goats on Friday, and two babies. I had picked out a playmate for Pickles, and she had already named that baby goat Puddles, but there was a runt on a bottle and I decided she should come home with us. And, I brought home a retired buck, now whethered who happens to be the brother of...Opie. I was not sure about that but said I'd meet him and see. I thought I might compare him too much to Opie which would be unfiar to him, and upsetting to me [I truly miss Opie almost every day especially with the therapy work]. But when I met him, I loved him, he was of course a bottle baby too, like Opie, as they lost their mother at birth. He has a post-buck strut but is very sweet and sometimes I see a bit of Opie in him.

 And then when I was picking up the goats, there appeared this beautiful mellow Maine Coon...totally chill and huge, reminded me of Mister Mosely but bigger. I swooned not once but many times. They mentioned they just happened to have kittens needing homes.  

Oh I'll just look, in case, I said.

I think you know what happened. {Kitty madness is being posted in videos on Instagram}