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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Harry and I finally go to town and see special friends again...we must find a better way for our elders

This week Harry and I went to see our friend, Polly, who has been a longtime volunteer with us, and is  a lover of animals and all that Apifera does. She has supported us in many ways and we love her. So when we heard she was facing the challenge of lung cancer, we were all pretty sad.

So Harry and I were so happy to finally see her again. And this time, we got to hug!! A momentous occasion. I have not hugged another person except Martyn for a year. I'm sure many of you are in the same boat. Polly chose to leave her house temporarily to reside at a local care facility in a single suite so she can rest and focus on her body and what she is facing now. I thought her attitude was strong, realistic and in true Polly fashion she was looking at the positives of being at her rest home since it was helping her and she didn't have to think about shopping and such.

Cancer. Something is going to get us all in the end. But cancer...and the fight of the chemicals that usually goes with it is daunting. I told Polly we all loved her here and we would visit whenever she wants us too. Polly is also selling her art and sharing all proceeds with Apifera. Harry and I will go to the closing reception on May 26 at Savory Maine in Damariscotta. It's Harry's first gallery show and I'm pleased he will be getting his summer haircut on Saturday so he will look spiffy.

We walked over to Cove's Edge after visiting Polly-they are right across the road. My care manager was expecting me. We were limited on what we could do but we walked outside windows like the old days, and this time, we even could open the windows. Baby steps out of a pandemic. We are looking into puppy meetings soon. One of our lady friends was being picked up that day to go to her grandson's softball game. She had not seen any of them for over a year. She was so excited. I was so happy for her. Baby steps.

What I noticed was how quiet it was. Usually on a nice day the elders can sit in the garden, there are caretakers and spouses coming and going. But when I did look into windows at people-many I've seen for the last couple years-I felt the energy was low. I felt the worn out bodies of worn out souls that got worn out even more emotionally from the lock down.

Something has to be learned from this and perhaps used to reshape how we deal with such pandemics in elder homes. Shutting people away from family...in order to keep the spread of a disease-for a year and a half-is not an answer. I don't have the clear answer. And I certainly know the steps were taken for good reasons. But it should not be applauded as a role model for elder care in the country. I feel we need to have specific people in the various health departments and CDC that specifically deal with elders-maybe we do....but it can't be one size fits all either. Not all homes are the same and they aren't funded or staffed the same. It's complicated, I get it.

Imagine you have a year to live. In fact when you are 80 or older you don't go by years you go by days. And imagine each day, no family, no touch of loved ones, perhaps your spouse is kept from you....imagine  it. Is that living? We help people that are suffering at the end of life. We must find ways to help people in their final days also live a healthy emotional life. It is part of a life-the heart, head and mind. These care managers are stretched to the limit. Staffing is a real issue. At some places, the staff changes 100% every year. Many of the staff are holding down multiple jobs. I care deeply about Cove's Edge because most of the people that wind up their are born and bred Mainers and they are on Medicare and they do not have assets. Some have zero assets. Many end up with about $40 in their pockets after the care is paid for. That $40 is used for haircuts or a sweater or a gift for a child-but we all know $40 does not go far. So Cove's Edge is the top of my list for our animal healing work. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Maine skies

I like Maine. I feel very at home here, with the terrain and feeling of the area. Of course, Maine is big and varied, I might not feel that way farther north I don't know. Maine to me is a mix of my homeland of Minnesota and my memories of New England when I was in college.

But the sky here is very intense. It changes dramatically on an hour by hour basis. We are on the coast so the storms that blow through gives us drama in such a beautiful way-tones of Payne's Gray all over.

I caught this photo the other day and I especially like it.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Swooning over other people's mothers

This is my friend's mother who turned 90 and she secretly asked people to send cards for the affair, and hoped to get 90. She ended up with 140 or more. Her mom was so thrilled. I sent a Harry shirt and she posted this. I guess the package really made her happy since she has been hearing about our animals from her daughter for years.

It's kind of like seeing babies in the grocery store. Sometimes you want to sqoosh them. I'm like that with elder mothers. I want them to come be my mom for an hour or so. I'd hug them, smell
their motherly scent and maybe we could drink coffee and talk about old friends. Or bake something.

So I hope you all have a mother from a distance to swoon over if you are missing your mom like I do.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Harry gets some good press

Harry, and I were very pleased to be showcased by Spirituality & Health Magazine. We were recognized as a Community Champion for our outreach healing work to the elders in our community. I thought they did a wonderful job explaining what we do and why.

It's also a really nice publication. I've written and illustrated for it in the past and it is worth your attention.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Harry gets invited to his first gallery opening


Polly singing to our animals with the Hospice Choir

Polly is on the left, singing with The Hospice Choir that came to Apifera to sing to all the animals. It was such a special day.

Harry will be present at the afternnoon reception for our Apifera friend/volunteer Polly Steadman's art show in Damariscotta in May. He is unsure what to wear to such an event.

Polly was one of my first volunteers here, helping me with the Opie Love Mobile and Harry Window Walks. She has been present to witness the beautiful connections the animals have made at Cove's Edge and elsewhere, has supported our fundraiser and our mission. We were so sad to hear she is facing a huge challenge-lung cancer.

But in true Polly form, she is having a series of art sales and all proceeds will be given to Apifera. I am beyond humbled and touched. Her art will be showcased this month at Savory Maine in Damariscotta and on May 26th Harry will attend the final day reception. I also hope to take Harry to visit Polly while she resides at a care facility during her treatments.

Here is the press release for her show written by Grace of Savory Maine who is a long time friend of Polly's:

Savory Maine, dining & provisions will host an exhibit and sale of the paintings of Damariscotta artist Polly Steadman from May 7 until May 26. The public is invited to an closing reception on Wednesday May 26 from 2-4pm. Sweet treats, savory appetizers, wine and refreshing beverages will be served.

Polly was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last year and has been undergoing treatment. The reception will be a wonderful opportunity for her many friends and fellow artists to visit with her & wish her well. 

The paintings can be bought any time during the show for the listed price or a bid can be placed in a silent auction for the paintings. Bids will be accepted through 3:30pm on May 26, the day of the reception. The highest bidder on each painting will be fortunate to go home with a piece of wonderful art. The paintings can be viewed during Savory Maine’s regular business hours which are from 12-7pm Friday through Monday. Savory Maine is located at 11 Water St. in Damariscotta. The entrance is on the lower level facing theDamariscotta River.

 The sale & silent auction is a benefit for Apifera Farm. Polly was a volunteer and is an enthusiastic supporter of the Farm.

Apifera Farm is a non profit in Bremen, Maine. Pronounced App-a-fair’-a , the farm provides forever sanctuary to elder and needy animals, but they also share the animals with the elder community through on site visits and by having elder groups come to the farm. Harry the llama has been making visits to Coves Edge and elsewhere for a couple years and when Covid hit, he began doing window walks to bring cheer. Opie the goat was also one of the farm's ambassadors. Through the winter Covid months, a Facetime Friday was held weekly, and a 'mystery guest' was brought into the farm house to Facetime with Cove's Edge residents in lockdown- sometimes it was Harry the llama, or a donkey, a goose, or a goat.
Recently the farm has been having residents of Lincoln Home come to brush the horses and ponies.

Katherine Dunn is an artist and writer, and along with her husband Martyn, own and operate the farm. Katherine has always had empathy for elders be it animal or human and she feels elders are often invisible to society. She also believes the animal visits provide two important things-the benefits of touch for both animal and human, and that animals help bring out story sharing among the elder people. Polly Steadman has volunteered with Apifera on many visits including the initial Harry the llama window walks to Cove's Edge and she also helped with in person visits with Opie the goat and Bear the pup. Polly has a huge spot in all the hearts past and present at Apifera! You can read more stories about Apifera and support them at apiferafarm.blogspot. com. Apifera Farm is not open to the public but instead focuses on
making visits to elder homes and working with care managers. Harry the llama will be present at the reception.

Polly has been “doing art” for fun as far back as she can remember. For years she tried to draw and paint what she saw as accurately as possible, resulting in stiff, colorless works. Over 30 years ago she learned the wet-on-wet technique for painting in oils and has been exploring, discovering, and honing ever since.The composition is usually unplanned at the outset and takes shape as her brushstrokes - long and strong or short, light and quick - blend blobs of color placed randomly on the canvas,while forms and themes emerge. Then the artist’s eye guides the flow of the design to the finished work that is a unique convergence of intellect and emotion. Polly admits, “To be honest, I never appreciated abstract art much. But when I can, somehow, blend the paint into and over the colors while seas and skies and magic planes
emerge, it excites me. There is a point, after an hour or two, when the oil paint sets itself up to be able to be pulled over the undercolors - and that’s when the excitement begins for me. That’s when the refinement of composition and color begin - as well as the real fun." She finds the process itself exciting and liberating – and each time an exploration into the unknown. Painting for her changed from a pleasing challenge to a passionate adventure. The first exhibit at Savory Maine ten years’s ago was of Polly’s paintings. Every six weeks there after Polly organized all of the art shows at the restaurant. She communicated with the artists, wrote the press releases, made the posters, sent out e-mails & hung & took down the shows. She did all of this with good cheer. Savory Maine will be closing some time this
year. The date is still uncertain. The restaurant open for takeout & outside dining only. This will be the last art exhibit at Savory Maine. Grace Goldberg, who is Savory Maine’s owne says. “It feels so appropriate that the first show and the last show be of Polly’s work. Polly is a dear, dear friend. It will feel great to be surrounded by her vibrant paintings while I am cooking.”

In the coastal Maine art community, Polly has shown frequently at the Boothbay Region Arts Foundation as well as at River Arts in Damariscotta. She is also an active member of a cooperative group known as the Saltwater Artists Gallery in New Harbor. Polly grew up in New Hampshire, received her BA in Psychology at Skidmore College in New York, and has lived in Maine for over 40 years.

For many years Polly volunteered at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and sang and danced with Hearts Ever Young. She was also a member of the Homeward Bound Hospice Choir. For further information please contact Grace Goldberg at Savory Maine 563-2111 or e-mail her at gracehgoldberg@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Working in between realities

In between realities....that seems to be the state of my artist brain. When I'm painting, I am in an inner reality, but then when I look outside at my barnyard it feels like I am in the reality of the painting.

Or I've gone mad.

Anyway, the spring is percolating and the garden is popping and the green is greening. The puppy has a week under his belt and he is the bravest little chap, much braver than Bear was. He is also more independent, not afraid to wonder around on his own, although he loves Bear, and Officer Mittens too. He squeezed through the gate and I caught this photo, but rescued him before Calla could pounce him, which she would of. His little bones are ready for that.

I've been wroking on the Walter book. It is really one of those cathartic projects for me, one that I hope to have ready for you in the coming month. It should flow out of me once I'm fully engaged. I'm trying to be in studio working on it at least 4 days a week. May is always one of the busiest months on the farm. We have the vegetable garden to prep and plant, sheering the sheep and llamas is coming up and all the spring vaccines and feet trims and such. The healing visits to the farm are ramping up too and I hope to be taking Harry out in due time too.

I predict this summer will be crazy with out of towners. People are pent up. The grocery store usually sees what I call the polite old timers return to their summer homes. They are quiet, dress down and are polite at the store. Then in July it heats up with many people passing through to Acadia, often with hundred kids in tow. They are louder and more in their vacation mode shouting into phones and such. I was at the store yesterday and the out of towners are already here, and many were not local summer people, I could tell. I sound like a grumpy old fart but you really do feel like they descend on the town like summer flies. Some are quiet, many aren't. I am happy for the shop keepers though, they rely on these same people to make a living and I'm sure they need all the help they can get this year, although I know many that did fine with smart marketing and loyal national base. I'm grateful we got our house when we did. Like many areas in the country, the real estate market is nuts and there is very little available.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Walter's Last Song

 I wrote a lot about Walter this week. I let everyone who follows us on social media that Walter was transitioning - it became very clear on Tuesday or so that he was starting to let go. There is part of me that wonders if he knew we had the puppy–I told him, of course– and he felt he could leave. I don't know. But I did find the juxtaposition of a new pup so full of life and joy next to the dying old man such a story in and of itself, the story of the bookends of life.

I had placed Lemon in the freezer, wrapped, waiting for a better temperature to bury him. I remember thinking that maybe Walter would die soon too andI could more easily bury them together. But I didn't really envision Walter dying so soon after, a month later. He failed really fast. It's like he just ate up all the love and was relaxed and had made his strides and was ready. Maybe seeing Lemon go too helped him. He had a peaceful death, and I was there to the end. It took him about 48 hours to leave. When I sang this last song, he was still conscious, but barely. That morning he was still able to sit lie with his head up, and when I came in he called to me, a little hello-goodby meow. I knew that he was saying one final hi and bye.

So they are buried now, the important ritual the caregiver  does not only for the animal, but for themselves. Martyn often digs the larger graves but this time of year the soil is easy to move and I dug the grave, placing them near the lilacs and peonies.

There is a space after death, a space for the caregiver–'what do i do now with this time I cared for this creature?' I read some things from different native Americal tribes on their death rituals. It was really interesting. Many of the tribes believe that there is a four day period after death where the body must be left ass is, or with rituals and grieving before the spirit leaves. I do think there is a space like this where the dead have to figure out how to navigate that transition form one realm to the next, or maybe it is the final letting go of worry about what they have left.

"Okay, she got me and Lemon buried nicely, I can officially go, and she's okay," maybe that is what Walter said. "She has her puppy to help her be happy, I can leave," he thought.

I am glad I have the puppy. I was very proud of Walter, and me and how we slowly worked through the layers of fear and came to a beautiful place of trust. I plant to write about it in book form. I had been thinking of doing something about Walter, and Lemon, but when I knew Walter was really leaving, I realized just how attached I'd become to him and writing and art will help me, and maybe it will help others in time. I'm so glad I agreed tot ake them in, and so glad the shelter asked me. They knew they were non adobtable and most would not have the time or patience, or set up, to have let Walter and Lemon go on that long. I'm no hero, others could have done it too, but the shelter made the right decision. I'm glad I gave them stability of two or so years in the end. They lived long lives, almost 20 years. And for the last year or so, Walter understood the feeling of touch, companionship and trust. Carrying around all that fear...must have taken a lot of energy.

The elder cat suite is strange right now, it is just 20 year old Tommy and 19 year old Inky. Today I held Inky and got him to purr. He is a nice guy but not that interested in being held. Tommy likes to put her head into your head, as she sits on her perch. I always thought Tommy would be the next to go-she is 20, but she is still here. 

He was such a great friend...such an honor to have worked with him as a team.  When I took this photo five days ago, it was the day I noted on Instagram that he was extra attentive to me that day, as if he did not want me to put him down, and when I did, he followed me and sat at my feet. I think we both didn't want to say goodbye. I think sometimes we have relationships with certain animals and there is a bond like that. I felt that when Opie died, for one. There were others, and Walter was one.

But when I sang that song, he was ready. I drew this sketch as I sat near him sleeping a day before he died. It felt like the way to honor him, but he with him.