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

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A love story: tall blind lady and a short man

I can't make this stuff up.

There seems to be a new couple in the barnyard. On Thursday, I brought home two cats, as well as, a Bantie rooster who had been left at the shelter. Banties are a small type of chicken, and we had many out West, including Papa Roo, our very first rooster who lived well past ten.

But Seabrights are really small, about 1# each full grown. I decided to give him a home here, as our old rooster, a beautiful Barred Rock, was so aggressive with the hens, and me, that he had to be culled [and many of you know the lengths I went to to try to make it work out]. I felt a Bantie would not be as aggressive, and actually I worried the hens might beat him up because he is so small.

Well, it appears that Misfits find each other. On his first night, I had him secure in a hutch, amongst the hens so they could meet each other, but safe from overzealous introductions. The next morning, I let him out, and when I checked on the hens later that morning, I found him shadowing Henneth, the blind chicken. I thought that was sweet, but each time I check on the hens, there he is with Henneth. They eat together, and spend their days together. I suppose this might change, but for now, I think it is a wonderful love story, and a story of friendship.

"Don't let those other hens bug you, they are a bit full of themselves," Henneth told the new rooster.

"Yes, that one is very sassy," the rooster said. "I think you are beautiful."

"Thank you, are my feathers looking in order?" she asked.

"Very much so," he said.

One of the Buff Orpingtons saw the odd couple conversing.

"You'll need a ladder with her," she laughed.

Henneth walked away from them, and the little roo followed.

"They know not what they speak," she said.

"My intentions are honorable," the rooster said.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I was minding my own business...and this happened

You know the routine...I was minding my own business yesterday morning...really. And then I saw some roosters had been sent to the shelter, the same shelter all the elder cats we have adopted come from. After we had to cull the last rooster for his very aggressive behavior, I told Martyn that my next rooster would be a Bantie. My first rooster, Papa Roo, was a Bantie and I just loved him. The last roo ripped the girl's backs up, they are still recuperating a month later, and he was attacking me, from behind, and despite all my rooster training and whispering–pinning him to the ground, acting like a rooster, not letting him get away with it–he continued to get worse.

So, there were these little Seabright roosters, very different than any roos I'd had, they are really small, about a pound! I figured there would be less possibility for him to mount the girls, or bug them much-if anything I worried the hens would gang up on him.

Well, I got to the shelter, saw the roos, and went into the front office where they know me now-it was very busy-so I waited in one of the cat rooms.

And two blue silver boys came walking over to me immediately. They were super friendly, a 13 year old father and his 1 year old son. Martyn and I haven't had a cat in the house since Big Tony died. I have been keeping my eyes open for the right cat to live in the house. And it was sort of instantaneous. These two just...well, I felt certain they would be a good fit. I didn't even mull it, it just felt very instinctively the right thing to do.

They were relinquished to the vet when their owners, retired, felt they could not afford all the cats, so kept a couple and kept the father and son together and sent them to the shelter. The two are very bonded, which I find sort of unusual for a father cat, but they really are buddies. And even though he is 13, he plays a lot. They are both on special food, for life. I like having a senior and a kid, it is very Apifera.

So I went in for a rooster, and came home with a rooster and two cats. I got out of there before I took home the depressed and sassy white bird.

The little rooster spent the night in a crate near the hens, and this morning I let him out, he is doing just fine so far. And the two cats came into the house and I secured them in the bathroom, thinking they'd spend the night there to settle a bit. I had texted Martyn and told him to be careful if he came home to not open the bathroom door quickly, giving him no further details. When he got home, he went in to the bathroom, and saw a cat, who came instantly to him...and then another cat came to him. He immediately was cooing love words to them.

That went well.

We decided to just let them explore, it had to happen sooner or later. Muddy was fine with them. He knows to just stay out of the way of cats, although he preens them and in time I know that will be the case. Hughie, blind, tends to bark a bit when he needs help or is uncertain about something. So he knows the cats are here, he just hasn't quite figured them out yet, but really doesn't care.

About three in the morning the cats were up, playing "Run like crazy all around the bedroom and slide under the bed on the wood floors"...so I guess they were having a grand time, and I took it as a compliment. Things were pretty calm this morning, and as you can see, they now own the house pretty much.

They are of course, enamored with the large floor to ceiling bird cage of the Zebra Finches. I tied all the doors shut and am trying to teach them not to bat at the sides of the cage. That is my only concern–they will stress my Little Apiferians out...but I think it will be okay.

I guess the biggest surprise for me last night was...just how happy it made me to have not one, but two cats roaming in the house again. We have always had multiple house cats coming and going, and I didn't realize just how much I missed it. These two will not be going outside.

So much for minding my own business.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hay Update - halfway there!

We are halfway there to recouping our out of pocket expense to buy the hay that will feed The Misfits through late spring of 2019. We upped our number of bales by 100 in case we have as cold a winter as last year, and feel we will have enough. The barns are filled to the seams!

I want to thank so many of you that give everywhere from $5 and on up to triple digits. It takes a village of Misfits to feed a village of Misfits, so thanks to all you Misfit Lovers out there!

There are many ways to donate, here on the blog, at the Go Fund Hay site, or by check [let me know it's coming]. I also have posts up on FB, and anytime anyone donates ANYWHERE it is being added to the total on the GoFund site. I do this because everyone has their preferred method and location of payment.

Also, as promised, someone will take home the print "The Seeds Percolating Underground During Winter", if you donate at least $20 this week [I'm including anyone who donated all this month to the hay fund], a Misfit might pull your name out of the bucket and you can take this archive print home.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Old Matilda has a request

We are still raising money to defray the cost of the yearly hay that will get us through spring. We have raised about $1000 of the $3,000 needed to add back into our piggy bank.

Anyone donating through this week will get their name in Pino's bucket and one person will take home an archival print -either art or a photo-their choice. I hope to have some other incentives in the next couple weeks.

Anyone who donated initially in the last couple of weeks, your name will be added into the bucket too!

You can go to the Hay Fund page and donate, or donate on the donation page on the blog. I will add your donation onto the hay fund page so we can all keep track of what we are bringing in.

It takes a village of Misfits to keep this place running! Thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Go out and play, now"

This is like when you were ten and all your cousins come over and your parents tell you all to go outside and play while they have cocktails.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Calling all crows

I've always loved crows, believing them to be messengers. Anytime a crow showed up in my life, I believed it was a message of good, to me. As I've aged, I see it a bit differently, a little bit less about the message being about me, but about situations that need answers.

I used to have lots of crows in my art, and still do, but...of late, crows have been visiting Apifera. And I was moved to paint them again. About a month ago, we had many crows hovering around, landing in fields in flocks [a murder, I guess] and screeching in a way I had never heard. I began to see them making a journey from our farm out to The Wood, where I would hear them screeching. I assumed they were mating, and saw a nest up in one of the trees behind the goat paddock. But I began to research, and am learning as much as I can about their behavior.

I've put shelf stand on one of the pasture posts, where I hung a shiny spoon, and I place dog food kernels there, hoping to entice them to land and start communing with me. I know crows respond to consistent reward. So when they fly above, I call to them. Sometimes it feels like they return when I call, but...I think that is my optimism.

A crow can't be forced.

And we have the White Dogs, who ever since an eagle took a duck in Oregon, bark at birds of prey, even seagulls. The dogs are getting more complacent though...but I wonder if the crows won't befriend me because of the dogs.

I just love crows. And I love hearing about their intelligence-like that they make tools to help gather insects, like that they recognize faces and will remember a face that trapped them or threatened them. Some of the screeching could ave been parents teaching the young when a predator was near. The young often help with the rearing of the next fledglings. They mate for life. A crow in the wild normally lives a couple years, but can live up to forty.

A senior crow...wouldn't that be something to help? I will put my intention out there. But I won't force it. Like I said, you can't force a crow.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

We lose a Tiny Apiferian...but it leaves an epiphany

I found one of the Little Apiferians dead this morning. And now we are four. But what was most interesting to me, is that as I cradled his tiny body in my hands, I had an epiphany about my work with animals but also with elder people of late.

First I want to share how much joy these little birds have brought into our home. He and his Zebra Finch mates came to us when we first arrived in Maine, and they were already pretty old. The owner of them was losing his home, and somehow one of his connections thought of us. I had never had birds-and never really thought to. But I somehow thought immediately this was a good thing to do, and it was. The six finches, five males and one female, had their own custom cage hand built by someone. The female died about six months after coming to Apifera, but the males have thrived. I used to count them every night after the female died, worried they were so old and one by one they'd die. There are little bird houses in their house, and some tuck themselves in there and are hard to see. This morning I did a count and had to really look for the fifth bird, and finally found him at the bottom of the cage. Every morning when I get up, the morning routine is to let the dogs out first, but I greet the birds,

"Good morning, boys!"

"Chirp, chirp, chirp!"they greet me back.

If I speak to them, they chirp back. When we watch movies- their house is centrally located in the living room-they react to certain music. If we are angry at the news, a regular thing these days, we ask the boys how they feel, and they start chirping like mad! They are joyful little creatures and enjoy flying around and I give them sticks and natural objects in which they prep nests. One person-of course a complete stranger-scolded me for keeping them telling me they should be set free. Sorry, dumb idea. These were bred and born in captivity. I took them on to help them. If you want to boycott bird breeding, go somewhere else and shame them, not here.

The epiphany

So as I held the little bird in my hands this morning, I apologized for just having found him. He had clearly died at least a day or two before. I'd been swept up in life and had not counted the birds. I told him how joyful he made our home, how his size did not compare to the music and happiness he brought into our world. I prepared his burial setting, and gave him a beautiful cloak to warm him on his journey. He of course did not need it, but the ritual of showing him I cared was important to me. I let the other birds see his body one more time, and then I buried him in the garden. I marked the grave and will bury them all there when their time comes.

The thought came to me immediately, as I held him and talked to him-this is what I was not able to do with White Cloud. And of course, I was not family, or staff, or a nurse, or hired to do that, or legally able to do that. And that is why I can't put myself in those situations any more. I am not wired to work with any creature, be it human or animal, for weeks or years, care for them, do my best, commune on a two way road, and then not be allowed to even say goodbye.

After my experience with White Cloud, I have felt adrift in some ways, floating about wondering why I felt so...awkward. It is because I do not want to work in a system that shuts me out when I feel my work is needed most-at the end of a creature's life. I do not want to walk into one more place and find out someone I cared about and visited for over a year is gone, but nobody can talk about it.

I can't do it, it is opposite of what my soul wants me to do. I have a covenant with my animals, and I have a covenant with people I visit. My job, in my mind and heart, with he elder people is simple-listen tot hem, share story, share animal, do not detract, don't treat them like invalids or babies.

People are so afraid of death, or most people are afraid of it I think. I do not think necessarily that all older people are afraid of it. I am not afraid of it. I don't want to linger in a cement building without nature or things that give my life meaning, being dependent on strangers, or on a bureaucracy that might be keeping people from seeing me, or talking to me. When I'm old, I don't want to be told what to do, I want to be heard. I had a recent conversation with an elderly woman who I used to work with, she is in her 80's-still sharp and interested in life-and the care residence she was in was, in her words, treating her like a baby, not letting her go out on her own after she had fallen once. She did not want to use a walker, because it was hard to get in and out of bookstores, and most importantly, she volunteered at the animal shelter twice a month and it was cumbersome there. She wanted to use her cane, and she said to me, "I don't feel like they want to listen to me, they just tell me what I need. They care more about me falling, than me going out and living."

So, when I held this little creature, I took comfort in the extra years I could give him. I took comfort in preparing his little grave site. I took comfort knowing this is the work I want to do. I don't want to partake in detracting from others. I want to listen, not talk at, other people.