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

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





Thursday, July 02, 2020

In the flow...new work

"Moth out of fog over the peonies" 48"
Summer is usually not a good creative month for me with painting...there is the garden to tend, vegetables to grow, pastures to maintain...and...well, the flies and heat. Maine is much more tolerable than out West [except for the bugs here] and we usually don't have days in a row of heat or humidity. And I do have an AC unit. So I was asked to get some new canvases going and it inspired me. I haven't worked on big pieces for awhile. My studio is so small making it hard but I'm really enjoying these.

I plan to have 5 more or so done by end of July if all keeps flowing like it has been.

The second piece might go on the shop if you are interested.

"Dragonflies over daisy field" 14" on wood


Work in process 4*" canvas

Monday, June 29, 2020

The gift of the 103 year old...the most meaningful of gifts

The birthday boy shows his pony bells through the window
There was a very special birthday gathering at Chase Point this week. One of the residents, David  turned 103 years old with his daughters and family members gathered outside a large picture window as David sat inside, looking out. Due to the restrictions and CDC guidelines due to the COVID 19 virus even family members can not visit inside.

But the birthday boy had another special guest–Harry the llama.

David loves animals and back when he was 101 he first visited Apifera Farm where he met all the animals including the llamas. He was able to visit again when he was 102. But this year, due to the virus everyone is in lockdown. When I heard David’s birthday was coming up, I immediately wanted to bring Harry to the gathering and contacted David’s daughter  to confirm a Llama Birthday Window Walk with Harry.

I was going to try to do a daisy chain for his neck, but opted to decorate him in bells [these were gifted to us last year by a follower who had collected them during her many travels.] Now I realize picking the bells was one of those divine moments.

When David saw Harry’s bells he was delighted. He started to talk about the pony bells he had hanging in his room. It’s hard to hear through the window,  but the staff translated, and his daughter explained to me how he loved his pony bells. The staff went to his room and brought the pony bells down so everyone could see them through the window. David had found them long ago in his travels to India and where ever he lived he always took his pony bells. Then he asked the staff to take them outside so I could see them closer, and I was thrilled to ring them and show Harry. Through it all, David sat inside smiling through the window watching his favorite pony bells being rung. Minutes later, another staff person came out and said David wanted me and Harry to have the bells.


Verklempt moment.

I just welled up with tears, I looked at him through the window and patted my heart with my hand, and he mimicked me. It was probably the most caring, beautiful and most meaningful gift I have ever received.

As Harry and I  left with our new special bells, the family was able to visit more with David outside, under social distance guidelines. There were no hugs allowed or birthday cake, but there were smiles from David.

My birthday wish for David is he gets to be with his family up close...soon...very soon. And when we all get through this lock down, I want to get David out to the farm, and we will ring those bells.


And a postscript...It had slipped my mind...but this was also Birdie's birthday. I know she was present. She probably helped me find Harry.

Harry looks in at the birthday boy


David meeting Birdie the llama when he was 101
Katherine wearing the pony bells with honor

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

What should we name her? And Opie's special request.

Joliet and Auntie Bea the elders, and the baby
We brought home three more goats. Two are elders and I treated myself to one of the available babies. I like to balance out elders with youth, just like it should be in life [and I wish our elder care system in USA was more like in Europe where nursery's are housed near or within elder homes]. I am expecting some losses this year, hard losses. I don't tell you everything...that is a burdone I don't think you need. But I wanted a youngster to add to my mix....selfishly for me. So there.

But I haven't named her. It takes time sometimes, but I do need a name. She is active, pretty fearless but not a boss mare type [yet]. She is joyful. She is a delight to watch romp and twist and I'm soaking in those moments since they don't last. I hope Opie will play with her. he is surrounded by elders and I also thought a young girl would give him some fun in coming months and years. I picked her because I loved her markings. In show world-something I am not opposed to but never had any feelings towards- I am told that due to the fact her 'belly band' is not what it should be she would get marks against her. But I love it, especially now as we face, as a nation, a crucial time in understanding our black brothers and sisters and all people of color. It should be equal, like her little body of black and white, but it isn't...yet.

And then the elder two. Well, the black one came with the name Joliet and I like that. Joliet is so sweet. She had to be nursed back to health due to rotten teeth and that is why she is quite personable. In fact on arrival, she kept by my side as introduction were made, and still does. She is not a bossy girl at all. I like her already.

The buff elder came with a name I can't even remember but did not resonate [no offense to the past names, I just feel an animal takes on a new life and for me the naming is or can be symbolic of that if needed.] This old girl bred out babies her entire 10 years. That's a lot of work for a little body like that so she gets a nice retirement now. I had picked out the name June, sine it is that month.

But then Opie came to me, quietly, away from the earshot of the others.

"Mrs. Dunn," he said, " I was thinking."

This felt like another Andy of Mayberry moment [he is named after Opie in case you missed that].

"I know this is my herd family here. But I did come from a mom. And she had a sister. Since I'm the littlest one here, and the youngest, sometimes I wish I had my mom and Auntie around," he said.

"I know that feeling, Opie," I said.

"Really? I was wondering if we could call June something else...like Mom, or Auntie?" Opie asked.

I thought for seconds. Years ago we had an old goat that fell ill, I loved her a lot, and we tried in vain to save her over a month long bought,  and she fought so hard. I had named her Aunt Bea.

"How about we name her Auntie Bea?" I asked.

"Okay!" said Opie and he ran off to the barn.

I turned to go back to the house and aw the new arrivals out in the orchard, and Opie was running up to who had once been June and he said,

"Mrs. Dunn says you can be my Auntie Bea!"

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Wrong Side of the Fence {A philosophical discussion between goats}

Cheese on the right side of the fence
“Out of there, right now!” I said as I came out of the barn to find Opie and Cheese, two stout pygmy goats, with their heads squeezed into the garden fence.

“My head is stuck!” said Cheese.

“Like Pooh!” said little Opie.

I pulled Cheese with gentle force and he popped back out.

“You have all that grass and clover out there, you don’t need to eat my garden,” I said.

“I have clover for breakfast, and grass for lunch–I like daisies for an afternoon snack,” Cheese said.

“The daisies are on the wrong side of the fence,” I said as I huffed back into the barn.

I was working for the next hour in the barn loft and I kept my ears open for any suspect behavior below.

“She sure gets grumpy about her daisies,” said Cheese.

Just then Ollie bounded in and said, “DAISIES?! Where?”

“You can’t have any, they are on the wrong side of the fence. We are on this side, and the daisies are on the other side,” said Cheese.

I came down from the loft just in time to partake in this philosophical discussion.

“How do you know what side of the fence is wrong, or right?” asked Opie.

Just then Earnest the pig sauntered into the conversation.

“We are on the right side. Whatever side we are on, is right, or we would not choose to be here,” the pig said. “Therefore, the daises are actually the ones on the wrong side and can be eaten,” and he left to take his usual afternoon nap.

I rolled my eyes and said, “Let me put it another way– you are not allowed to eat anything past the fence, period. That’s my garden and my flowers.”

“You can’t own the flowers,” said Opie. “they are of Earth, they feed the bees too.”

“Which is why you should not eat them,” I said.

“I have many bee friends,” said Opie.

I walked through the garden gate to go back to the house, and cut some of the daisies closest to the fence so the goats wouldn’t eat them.

“My God, you wacked there legs off!” cried Opie.

“I am making myself a bouquet, to enjoy in the house. It brings Nature inside and makes everything better, it makes me happy,” I said. As I shut the door, I heard Cheese say,

“Cutting the flowers makes her happy, but we can’t eat them, makes no sense really.”

A few hours later, I stepped out of the house, and could hear little feet scurrying away, rapidly. It was Opie, running out of the garden. At my feet on the stoop was a haphazard little bouquet of daisies and buttercups.

“I want you to be happy!” said little Opie as he ran for the barn.

How did they get the latch open, I wondered. And then I saw Cheese pushing an old apple crate from the garden gate.

I sniffed my bouquet and was happy.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

If you aren't afraid of where you came from then fear not where you go after death

Muddy yesterday morning
I've written about a friend who was diagnosed with ALS, a very cruel disease. She shared a thought she had read by Parker Palmer about dying, from his book On the Brink of Everything. He didn't fear where he came from before he was born born so he realized he should not have fear where he was going after he died.

I thought this was a very wise statement and made much sense to me. It also resonates with me because it shows the continuum of life-but that life is entwined with a million deaths and rebirths. We are constantly dying–our skin, our hair, teeth and bones....we walk around living but are dying passively. The flowers in the garden are alive now but are on the path of death. If we can see death as a partner in life -for me, it helps.

But goodbyes as a human are hard.

We ran to the vet on Friday for more pain meds for Muddy who has been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer at the age of 10.5. So we have been ruminating on how many more days is the right number of days for him. We are of course hanging on to each day, but it is exhausting carrying the power around of being the one that holds his final number of days in my hands.

I've done this long enough to know that things can seem manageable in pain and pallitive care one day and then the next day they aren't–and that creates a rushed, less peaceful end for both human and animal. There is nothing we are doing that is treating the cancer we are simply hoping for painless days. But on Friday he showed signs of more pain, and we added another pain pill into the mix. It seemed to help a lot.

But we are still left with the duty of asking, and answering how many days? What is one more week for him–is one more week for him as important to him as it is to us?

And so...I thought of this statement that my friend shared. She too is facing an earlier death than she had imagined due to the ALS. But if I don't fear where Muddy was before his birth, I won't fear where he is going.

Muddy and Bear yesterday