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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Old goat's view of death...in honor of Dorphy

I heard the voice of Earnest the pig, talking to me through a cracked window in the living room.

“Mrs. Dunn, you are needed in the barn...now. Dorphy has to talk to you,” said Earnest.

When I got to the barn, I could tell something was off. It was silent, but then I heard a bleat from a goat–it was Dorphy, one of the elders.

“Mrs. Dunn, today is my day,” the old goat said.

Dorphy was lying in one of the smaller rooms of the barn, a normal gathering spot for the animals in the front barn. The Goose was close by. I had noticed The Goose was staying close to Dorphy in the last months and I knew what that usually means–an animal is ill or transitioning. I had seen it over and over-he gravitates to the needy, and watches over them if needed. He did this with Birdie the llama, the old pig, the cancer ridden dogs and many goats. I learned right away that The Goose was a very good  hospice caretaker. The night before, I noticed Dorphy walking very slowly to the barn, with The Goose walking slwoly with her.

“It’s a good die to go,” said the old goat Poetry.

“I think so,” said Dorphy.

Hannah came running over to Dorphy.

“Where are you going?” the little youngster asked.

“I am dying today,” Dorphy said.

“Mrs. Dunn, Dorphy is dying!” Hannah cried.

“Child, do not cry for me, smile for me. I have all I need here, and I will have all I need there,” said the old goat.

“You mean...you’re going to Here There Everywhere?” asked Hannah.

“That’s right,” said Dorphy.

“Well that’s different. That’s were White Dog is,” said Hannah.

“And Birdie the llama! And my mama!” said Ollie the goat.

“Are you scared?” asked Puddles the goat.

“Well, it is the unknown. But it feels more like a trip, an adventure...” said the old goat.

“I think of death thay way too, Dorphy,” I said. “I guess the only thing is I can’t share it with anyone left behind. I can’t wite a story about it, or paint a picture.”

“But isn’t that the beauty of it?” asked Earnest the pig. “It is all yours, and yours alone.”

I spent the morning in the barn, finding little chores to do so I could look in on Dorphy every so often. She was in and out of sleep, and in time, the sleep was taking over. Earnest the pig was nearby, writing in his journal, Pickles and Puddles were chasing flies, the rooster was crowing and Henneth the blind chicken was sitting on her nest attempting to lay an egg. Life was all around us.

Dorphy suddenly perked up out of sleep and said, “It’s like falling asleep while your family and friends are still laughing and talking in the living room. It’s like a lullabye. It’s like leaving the party first, that’s all.” And she lay her head down, and died.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A real honor to hear that quack just for me

Last week one of the Pekin ducks was clearly transitioning. He had been separating out, not eating, falling asleep while the others ate...all signs. It was during the hot days last week and he was getting picked on by the other non Pekin ducks, they can be real bullies. SO I brought him into a private stall, where he could hear the barnyard but he was at peace. The next day I knew he was dying. So I brought him out in the breeze and shade and I laid him on a dog bed and I sat with him while he went through death, about an hour and a half. 

Death is active. It takes time for the organs to shut down. I was touched that close to the end he quacked…caught on video here. At the very end…I knew he was close, I walked away for a minute to check delivery box…and he was gone. I know taking care of him and giving him a safe spot was helpful to him…he wanted peace from the other ducks, and walking away for seconds let him go on the final leap. Death is after all a journey we take alone, at least at that final breath. Imagine if we could all day in the breeze in a garden. It was really beautiful to be with him and have him respond to me, and watch him look out at the garden, and then fade back into his death journey.

Friday, August 05, 2022

A State of Mind

 A State of Mind

The wind still blows, the sea is near–I can feel it on my skin, I smell it.
I can see the cove from my garden.
I had two stable, loving parents that gave me security and an education–not everyone has that.
I am still healthy. Not everyone has that.
I am graced by an imagination that allows me to paint and draw and write.
I have puppets. I am not afraid of puppets, but some people are.
I am not afraid to walk down a street. Not everyone can say that.
My skin has not been a disadvantage. Not everyone can say that.

I get to live with animals and help them and they return the favor by percolating my art and stories.
I'm not rich, but I have a house and firewood, and a best friend in my husband. He makes me laugh, a lot.

I can walk, and move, and lift, and see.
My arms are still strong even though less firm. My hands have age spots but they lift animals and paint and touch.
I am not in a wheelchair. I can get up from a chair. I have a chair, several.
I smell food cooking. I have food.

I am not afraid of old people. This makes my life richer. Not everyone can say that.
I get to work with old people. This makes my life richer. Not everyone can say that.
I get to take my llama to visit old people. It makes our life richer. Not everyone can say that.

I have people I've never met that understand my intentions and support both my work and farm.
I've been my own boss for 26 years and self sustained.
I've bought many houses on my own. Not everyone can say that.
I have friends that lift me up.
I've learned boundaries. I recognize boundary impaired people much more quickly now.
I don't deal with people who specialize in disguises, especially the ones who constantly smile.
I'm self entertaining, a very handy skill I acquired as a child.

When someone makes a suggestion, I am much better at silently asking myself, "Who says?"

I miss my pugs. But I had pugs. Not everyone can say that.
I still have hope to have a pug again, in time. Not everyone can feel that.

I live within my means. I don't feel comfortable with people that don't.

I have donkeys, and horses, and ponies and llamas and pigs and chickens and dogs and cats. I have a bunny.
There are many goats who make me laugh.
I have well made barns and fences.
I have a turkey who is a companion.

My body got larger but it is still able to climb fences and ride horses.
My belly is flabby. Once I realized it was like my child belly, I began to feel empathy for it.
I am not my face. I am not my appearance.

For now, I'm still here. Not everyone can say that.

~Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm~

Saturday, July 30, 2022

For anyone who has lost someone


This was what White Dog wrote about his death, for me. I've seen so many friends lose mates and others in the past summer, guess it happens more and more as we get up to the autumn of life. So maybe this will help someone.
"When you miss my earthly body,
and you need to feel my fur, touch the snow.
When you need to hear me, listen to the wind.
When you crave to see my eyes one more time,
Look at all the other eyes around you.
When you hear a coyote,
it is me guiding them away from the farm.
There is no place I won't be,
so there is no place you can't find me.
I am Here There Everywhere.
In the coming days, rest by the old apple
where my body will be buried in my return to the womb.
It will comfort you,
until you fully embrace my new way of being
in the Here There Everywhere."
~White Dog~

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Baby elephant

I'm working on a new doll, a baby elephant...a crooked baby elephant. She was stepped on by accident at birth and is crooked. The quilt hanging behind her is one she was helping her mother make, but her mother died, and so it sat unfinished–so I told Baby Elephant I'd help finish it somehow. [The quilt part of this story is inspired by my own mother, age 8, who was helping her mother make a quilt but her mother died suddenly...the quilt sat for years in pieces. I remember seeing the squares as a girl tucked into a sewing chest. I have the quilt now.]

At some point Baby E. will go on the online shop. Contact me if you want to be notified of that. It will be a few weeks. I'm moving slowly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Hannah sees an...alien?

{My latest for Tails & Tales column}


 “Mrs. Dunnnnnn! Come now, come now!” Pickles screamed through the window.

I dropped everything and ran out the door, and Pickles was rushing back to the barn.

“Hurry, Mrs. Dunn! It’s Marta!” she screamed.

Marta is one of the hens. She is a very special hen and we refer to her as the Pirate Hen, because even though she is a tiny Bantie breed, she doesn’t let anybody, even the rooster, push her around. She stays to herself, foraging far from the flock.

As I got to the barn, all the goats were huddled in one of the side rooms where the hens lay their eggs. From the look of some of their faces, it appears they had just seen a ghost.

“Are they aliens?” asked Ollie.

“Aliens?!” said little Hannah, and she went running to stand near Earnest the pig for comfort.

“Oh, little Hannah, those aren’t aliens, they are baby chicks,” said Earnest the pig.

“They must have been slimed!” Ollie said.

“They just came out of the egg,” I said. “Marta will get them all dry and fluffy, don’t worry.”

About 3 weeks ago, Marta got broody–she started sitting on any eggs that were laid and she clearly wanted to hatch some babies. I knew Marta would be a fierce mother and protector, so I allowed her to keep 4 eggs, and marked them. Every day, I picked up the fresh, unmarked eggs, and Marta sat and incubated the nest.

“How did they get in the egg?” asked Hannah, still a novice about life and death.

“We’ve been through this, Hannah,” I said. “The rooster fertilizes the eggs while the eggs are still in the hen’s body, and then they turn into chickens.”

Hannah looked confused.

“In other words, Hannah, the rooster–without asking permission–has mad, passionate love with the hen in order to show them he is in charge and wants to continue creating children he won’t care for,” said Henneth the blind hen.

Paulo Steadman, the rooster, strutted by, cackling. “That’s rather harsh,” he said, “but it’s true, I have no interest in rearing them.”

“So the baby is in the egg, inside the hen, and then what happens?” Hannah asked.

“Then the egg comes out her bottom!” said Pickles.

“Well, it’s not her real bottom, it’s just...down there,” said Earnest the pig.

Marta stood up to stretch, and sure enough, the little slimy chicks were now dry and fluffy.
“I would appreciate some quiet, I have three more eggs to keep warm and safe, so please
give us some privacy,” said Marta.

“Why don’t I have eggs?” Hannah asked.

“You do,” said Earnest the pig.

Hannah started crying. “I don’t want any chickens coming out down below!”

“You can’t have chickens, Hannah, you’re a goat,” I said. “And you need a boy goat to make baby goats inside you,” I said.

“Ollie’s a boy!” said Hannah.

“He’s a special boy, he can’t make babies,” I said.

“Can you make baby people, Mrs. Dunn?” Pickles asked.

“Not any more,” I said.

“You’re special too!” said Hannah.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Eleanor has died

Eleanor died last night. 
I knew this was coming and so did Eleanor. Eleanor was nine and this is a long life for a retired sow. a few weeks ago there were physical signs she was ill. When the vet was here this week for rabies shots, we made a pallative care plan for Eleanor and unless there was positive change we would help her on her way. I much prefer my animals go on their own but that is not always what is best for them. Vets are uncomfortable with it too, I find, even though I feel my vet trusts my judgement. In this case, Eleanor was basically sleeping all day and was not showing signs of distress. Last night, I knew she was close to going due to some physical signs. This morning it appeared she went sometime last night. There was no sign of a struggle.
When we lived in Oregon, and first moved to the farm, we decided if we were going to eat meat [I had been a vegetarian for years, Martyn was in his 20's but it wasn't good for his health or body] we would raise what little meat we ate, or supplement from other farms. It was a  big deal for me to raise and then eat animals. It was never comfortable. But I thought a lot about it, and the food chain, and living more in Nature molded my eventual decision. Some have never forgiven me for that [I don't care, although it was painful at the time]. Some don't understand it. It was a process for me. But I'm grateful I got to live that life, and I do not regret it, nor do I need to convince anyone of anything. I'm just so grateful for all the good mothers I had on the farm, and what it taught me. I also am past the point where I feel obligated to tell anyone what it taught me. But it taught me a lot.
Eleanor got to die in her own hut with Little Lonely and Uno with her, on a beautiful summer night. Uno and Little Lonely have moved on and were eager for breakfast. This photo shows Little Lonely with his grandmother, Eleanor. Uno is Eleanor's son.
I'm relieved for her, and me. We will bury her near the pumpkin patch. 
Thank you for all you gave us, Eleanor.