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

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©Katherine Dunn.





Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Catfish...a gift from Walter? Yes.


Last week I wrote about the two new elder cats that arrived-thier owner had died-and I mentioned there was one more cat coming. I named him Catfish and he is a big beautiful boy of 15.

I have to tell you I am in love Catfish and it dawned on me that way back in 1980 when I was in NYC and I adopted a cat, I wanted a Morris like orange tabby but the shelter only hand a one year old female orange tabby and I took her home. Gracie lived with me until her death at 18. And then all the oranges that came to me were a gift and that included Walter, and Lemon, and now Jonathan and Catfish. 

Catfish says one word when I come in. He is like the Marlon Brando of cats lying about in his kimono not worried about his girth. Catfish likes me and gets up when I arrive in the morning, as does Inky. Jonathan and Nuffy are shier, but loving. And Nuffy has finally started talking too.

This week I felt I was ready to take out the hand stitching I had been doing with Walter before and as he was dying. I looked over and there were orange paws on my table. I did not think I would have orange cats so soon, I figured if it happened it would. But here I am with two male orange cats...and it propelled me to stitch again. 

I know Walter sent them.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Taking care of old and needy animals takes time, money, insight...and of course desire

Old Matida, age 30, walks to the barn.

A couple days ago, a friend sent me a link about a neglect case in southern Maine where many horses and other animals were taken from a property where a woman was taking in needy animals. Neighbors said that the number of horses seemed to be multiplying fast and while there had been complaints, many of the nearby neighbors weren't totally alarmed. When I saw news footage, many of the horses looked in good body shape - I could not see their feet and I guess that was another issue. Some looked thin, but I knew that it takes months to put weight on a horse and maybe they had just arrived. One neighbor said the horses got out a lot.

But maybe she was just in over her head.

I thought of the woman all day, and what she must be feeling. I don't know her nor is she being identified, and because she was cooperating with animal control and police, I thought it was perhaps an all too often case of someone with a good heart but misguided expectations. The woman did not own the large barn and farmhouse, she rented. This to me is an immediate red flag for trouble ahead for anyone wanting to take on as many animals as she was. While the barn looked large, it supposedly did not have adequate shelter for 30 horses.

We have built just about everything here for the animals, over time. It took money  but it also took Martyn and his skills since he did all the finishing and prep work. I could not have done it alone, I have little to no building skills even though I am handy and capable of many jobs here. Each animal that comes along it seems a new fence or paddock has to be built...fencing goes up but you have to maintain it. If you have pigs -and I guess this place had pigs taken too-well, pigs are tough on everything and require an entire different fence than a horse or sheep or goat. And even then, they have strong noses and get out-trust me, I speak from experience, Earnest the pig will concur. ANimals get out, but if they are getting out all the time, something is missing in the managment.

I thought of the weight of caring for that many equines, not only the feed cost, but the hay storage, the farrier work, teeth floatings for any of the needy ones...my vet bills are huge and that is with mainly healthy animals. Just the manure management...and fly control.

I do know that those of us who choose to help animals are always asking ourselves if we can accommodate one more, or one comes along and you just want to help it. When I took the old horse Honey on, I knew she was on her last legs and just wanted to give her a good year in a better situation. And I did. But I thought about it long and hard. If she had been younger, I don't think I would have. Once I had euthenized her, I knew I could handle one more equine and Biggs was presented to us and I'm so happy he was. But I have to think about many things-do I have room for that much hay since I buy my hay all at once for the year which is the safest and best way if one can afford it, and has room for it. We have putrid fields but we supplement with feed and hay so we do not put money into our fields-they are wet much of the year and are not great grass fields. But again, since I supplement I have to be realistic about feed costs and storage.

And how many can I work with at a time? I guess these horses had very little interaction with people, and it showed right away to the people taking them. I work with my equines-not necessarily in the round pen, but in boundary work and manners and such. I am with them a lot.

I feel for this person, without knowing all the details. I think her heart was in the right place, she just did not have the means to make it work.

Just caring for old Matilda is a big commitment. For example, she has Cushings so is on a daily pill. Every year we do blood work to see how her levels are [it's kind of like having diabetes]. She came out of winter thinner than I had hoped-after multiple teeth floatings- but still looking OK for her age. But her levels had really jumped so now she is on a whole tab instead of a half of tab. I think it is $1.50 a day for the tab. It adds up. Multiply that by other horses that might need pills [like Captain Sparkle] and it can get very costly very quickly. I spend lots of time grooming her since Cushings horses often don't shed well [another sign her meds needed to change, we thought]. She's now on other pain meds too, and will have to be regularly floated the rest of her life [some horses, like Boone, went for long stretches without needing a float].

I think one needs to start small if they are taking animals in–and learn how to work with them, and build relationships with their vets. Farming out west and rearing animals taught me so much. I learn something all the time working with my vets and farrier.

It takes time, money, insight, and desire–desire to keep doing it day in and day out. There aren't any vacations and I don't care. I don't need a vacation. Working with animals is a vacation for me.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Pickles to attend Earnest the Pig's Charm School


My latest story from Tails & Tales for the Lincoln County News

“I don’t want to,” said Pickles defiantly.

“That is not your decision at this juncture,” I told the little goat. “It is for the good of the barnyard.”

“But I was just using my Pickles Power,” she pleaded.

“When one has been given such power, one must use it with wisdom, and empathy for others,” said Earnest the pig.

Pickles the goat was turning one. And it had become clear to all of us that she had developed a bit of an  attitude. Her Pickles Power was going to her head. And that is why I told her that for the rest of the summer she would be going to charm school here at the farm.

“Charm school is for girly girls. I’m Pickles!” said the little goat.

“Who will teach Pickles all about charm?” asked Ollie.

Everyone turned to look at Earnest the pig. It was a no brainer.

“I will be teaching you about many things, Pickles-languages, music, cursive writing and how to enter a room and be noticed without being arrogant,” said Earnest.

I wonder if I can attend this, I thought.

“I know how to enter a room!” said Pickles. And she leaped and twisted and turned in the air. “Like that!”

“You can still leap and run, Pickles. You just need to learn how to not be so much of a ….” Earnest struggled for the right word.

“A bully,” I said.

This entire time the two baby goats that had recently arrived, Puddles and Hannah, were sitting quitely watching. They were often on the receiving end of too much Pickles Power, as were the elders.

“I like Pickles, but she hurts my feelings sometimes. She called me a squirt. I can’t help it if I’m extra small and nobdy wanted me on their farm,” said little Hannah, a bottle baby.

“We want you, Hannah” said Poetry, one of the elder goats.

“I’m afraid of Pickles sometimes,” said little Puddles, his head lowered.

Pickles suddenly looked very sad, and worried. She started to walk away from the group.

“Where are you going, Pickles, we aren’t done talking,” I said.

“Mrs. Dunn, I’m sad with myself. I thought I was just being me,” Pickles said.

“You were indeed being you, Pickles,” said Earnest the pig. “And with a bit of self awareness, you will use your Pickles Power for the good of others. You are young, that’s your ownly fault, there is much to grasp at your age.”

Puddles walked to Pickles and said, “It’ll be okay.” And Pickles head banged him in true goat fashion.

“I think this is a good place to start, Pickles,” said Earnest.

And he put his arm around the little goat and began to walk her to his hut. As he walked away I could hear him imparting his first wisdoms on her.

“Pickles, one’s physical strength is temporary. But the actions of our hearts is how we will be judged-for it shows how much we love.”

{Stay tuned this summer to see if Earnest’s Charm School can help Pickles and her Power}


 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

I was too ashamed to write about it, but now I will


I've been wanting to write about this for awhile, but if I'm being honest, and I am, I'll tell you I haven't because there are multiple levels of shame involved. But over the past couple months, I seem to keep running into articles or conversations that remind me this thing isn't going away in my head and I want to face it.

You see, I'm 63. And about a year or so ago, I realized that what I was seeing in photos or mirrors just wasn't me. It wasn't the me in my head. Weight gain after menopause, aging, changing skin and mass–it was all going on at once.

This isn't really even about weight. But it is tied up into it. When I was little I was told I was chubby. Looking at photos, I wasn't it, but I felt it and looking at magazines and loving Twiggy and Cher, I felt chubby. When I was about ten my father patted my belly and said, and these were his exact words, "You are too young to have a pot belly." My mother scolded him. But it stuck, I can still remember how I felt, I felt ashamed, and sad. 

But looking back at photos, I didn't have a pot belly. 

So like many young girls I had body issues that followed me around most of my young life into my 20's. It was at about 25 I started to see myself differently. I started to be okay with what I saw. I maintained a good weight, but again, my scale number always felt too big, it wasn't as small as others my age and height. A masseuse at the time told me I had a 'very beefy back". I did, it was muscle. But that term also stuck. {And I found a new masseuse.}

For my 30-50 years, I really liked what I had. I felt good in my body. Somewhere in there, at about 30, I gained some weight and went to WW. I took off the 15 pounds and never put it back on again. I simply was eating too big of portions. When I saw women older than 50 gaining weight, I figured they were doing something wrong, and I naively thought in my 30 year old head, That'll never happen to me, I do yoga, I hardly eat sugar and meat, I walk, etc. I'll age gracefully.

But I did turn fifty and I did start adding weight and it would not come off. It was slow at first. I even had all my blood checked and thyroid-it must be something, I thought.

My naturapath said not to worry about weight. Do more, she said, just move more, don't worry about the scale. So I did. But the wieght kept coming. Even WW did not work this time. I am not a dieter. I am a realist. Calories in, calories out. But I move, and I eat very healthy food.

I lost 14 pounds last year and had wanted to lose 10 more, but nothing was working, and I gained 4 back. But of late, I have started shifting my focus to simply being content with a working body, a body and face that does not look like the one I had 5 years ago let alone 30.

That is part of it. When I think of me in my head, I think of that time of my life when I was content with my body and image-that was when I was 40ish. Well, I'm 63. What sense does it make to compare myself to that. I mean, we don't look back at baby pictures or photos of when we are five and try to regain that. 

I want to reimagine in my head what I look like and be okay with it.

Here's where the shame comes in.

I work with many people who can't walk. They can't bend over. They hurt. Some of them aren't much older than me. Their bodes are fragile. And here I am being upset that I don't have my 40 year old 'looking' body. My jowels have sunk, my neck profile makes me cringe...and some people just wish they could stroll without a wheelchair, or have dinner with their husband again. I want to stop the negative and damaging and hurtful thinking.

So I am taking a new approach. I ask myself, what has my body done for me today that was helpful, that I need it to do-my hands helped my sick chicken, my arms and legs helped me clean the barn, my spine held my neck and head up so I could see the beautiful garden and flowers, my eyes can see my best friend and husband clearly, my ears hear nature and music, my lungs and organs are not sick...none of it has to do with what my body looks like or what it was like at age 40 or 50 or 55. None of it has to do with a mirror, or a scale number.

I was inspired to write this for two reasons. One was because I saw a post that had gone viral from Instagram, posted by the actress, Valerie Bertinelli, who is 61. I am not a follower of her, but I watched her raw and honest video post she made after a stranger, a troll, had come out on one of her posts and bluntly said, "You need to lose weight." Ms. Bertinelli likes to cook and share recipes. She has gone up and down in weight her whole life. She honestly spoke about the shame of having the weight, and of never being able to conquer it in her 61 years. She was pointing out the troll's comment was unhelpful [clearly it was], she was owning the shame and was owning the fact she loved to cook and just wanted to be what she was. When I saw the video, I cried, for her, but for me too. I knew how she felt.

And then another thing came my way today. It was a post I had made years ago, and someone on Facebook had reshared it when it popped up on her memories. It was so amazing to see that post, I've posted it below. The words of wisdom I obviously took when I first saw it were even stronger and clearer to me today. I loved that she says it can take a while to get to know your new-old face, but once you grow into it your perspective on it will be different.

Today I took the photo you see on the top of the post. My first thought is usually, does that look like me? And of course a photo is not always a good representation of what others see. Lighting, for one shifts. but also when we are with others, in real life, we see a string of movements a person makes, not one head-on view that can be unflattering.

My new project is to re-see what I am, who I am, where I'm headed. I do believe as we age there is a turning point where we are more 'in our new-old bodies'. I never had much issue with aging physically until I was about sixty. It's a challenge. But my body is so much more than what it looks like. It's so much more than that stubborn number on a scale. My body is what it does, what it achieves every minute it is alive. And I'm blessed to still have a working body. I do not want to shame her anymore. I think listening to Valerie Bertinelli speak so honestly was a turning point for me-I felt her pain, and I held my body and felt my body saying, 

"Love me, I am your body and I'm working hard for you, don't hate me because I look different than that young woman you once were, hold me, help me."

I felt my body must have felt the same way that little girl did when her father told her she was too young to have a pot belly. I know how that felt, I don't want my body, or any other person, to feel that any more.




Thursday, July 08, 2021

Old Inky gets roomate and more to come


{Photo taken the day I picked them up, they are sweet but scared}

 It's been busy here and I have neglected to write here. I actually have some thoughts on some issues and I will find time to write about them here and maybe hear your input-more on that next week.

After Walter died, and then old Tommy soon after, it left us with only one old cat in the suite, Inky, who is 20. He is doing fine, getting thinner and more worn but still strong. I don't sense he's checking out soon, but I did not want him to be alone in the room, in case he did. He's very stoic and independent. 

At the same time, my heart needed some space after Walter died, and I threw myself into caring for old Tommy and her matted coat. I wanted her to be matt free before taking her journey, that was my goal. Twice a day I carefully worked n her matts with various tools. And weeks later, I got them all out. She looked like a war hero with her skinny old body but we did it. And then soon after she died.

I decided to let the universe bring me more cats, rather than frantically fill the room up. I did touch base with my shelter contact, but there weren't any at that moment suitable for our set up. But then a few days later, she contcted me with two old cats, bonded, whose owner had died. They'd been to two shelters [often shelters help each other out like this] and they thought of me. And one is orange. We thought he was a boy, but until I can really look we aren't sure as the intake paper says he is a she but my contact is sure he is a boy. Sure acts like a boy.

How nice, and orange boy, like Walter, I thought.

And then, that next day, a 15 year old orange male comes into the shelter. I will pick him up this week.

You know what I think, I'm sure. Walter sent them. Time to get back in there and do some stitching, he's saying.

Old Inky


Sunday, July 04, 2021

News! New wool pillows and tea towels!


I have new stock of 20" merino wool pillows and linen tea towels-just another fun way to bring some Apifera into your home.

The pillows are so soft. Franklin Muffinpants approved too. You get tot choose between three designs: Daisy the sheep [our first beloved matriarch from long ago], Blue Fairies Being Born and Pino and baby Earnest in Sitting Together As Friends.

The tea towels are huge. You can use as a tea towel, or a prayer flag or wall hanging. There is also a merino wool throw with my art-perfect to wrap up in on chilly nights.

Once these are gone there will be no more. These were all from the Apifera Collection that Goldfinch Modern Textile had made in Nepal and since they were relocating, I was able to buy out the inventory.