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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Blue skies predicted

New year, new ideas, new art, new experiences. I love the new year. The week between Christmas and New Year's usually finds me cleaning the studio, reorganizing desks and sock drawers and shuffling things about. Preparing....it is a time of hope, always, for me. I am always relieved to see the actual holiday season over, as I would rather be working , and I would rather know other people are out there doing their prospective lives work. Life's to short to flutter around. If you are doing your life's work, the work is always full of flutter, I feel. We had a nice quiet Christmas, with a donkey walk to deliver lavender to neighbors. A nice day alone together. Quiet. Good meal, good wine.

While tonite is New Year's Eve, my favorite night to stay inside, last night we went to a lovely little get together at the nearby home of the people that bred Pino and still raise donkeys. It was good food, good conversation and just a nice time. It was really fun meeting some other couple, like minded in many ways, who live around here. Perhaps the best part of the night was reminiscing with the host and others about old concerts we had all been to in the late 60's and early 70's. I was only 10 in '68, but our friends were 17-20, and they had seen Jimi Hendrix live. I felt like bowing down on my knees. One woman had seen the Beatles, and she said they were tiny dots on the stage, and all around little girls were screaming and fainting, and the music could not be heard. We laughed about drugs and rock and roll. I am so glad I got to live in those times at the age I was.

We talked about generators, pump issues, difficulties of fencing for buffalo, the difference between goats and sheep, and how to get rid of mange and what to apply to a goats teats when they had been abrased by milking. There were cats looking in from the wrap around porch, sneaking in from time to time, a couple toddlers plodding around, laughter, twinkling lites, good smells, and intelligent, educated young adults who are just beginning their journeys in their lives. One young woman was studying acting in NYC and lived near my old Brooklyn neighborhood. She relayed how wonderful it is too live in NYC, and told me about her acting teacher and classes. She was full of spirit and optimism that made her beautiful. Some day she will attend a party and stand in slightly older mid life shoes. She will listen and look intently at the beautiful skin of the younger person who is talking, and be energized by her spirit, and she will think of herself many years earlier. She won't feel regretful, she will just make a mental note of it, "My, life is grand, but how did I get here so fast?"

It was one of those homes that when you are there, it invites you to come in, and invites you to stay a bit longer. Warm spirits reside there. I slept so peacefully last night.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The dog knows

All week I had intended to write some kind of Christmas story with heartfelt messages of peace and kindness, but was busy with many things. Today I was able to free myself of the lavender orders, computer work and holiday details to give myself the freedom to just draw. I started out with the simple exercise of drawing a profile, and ended up with this , after covering the paper at least 5 times with black gesso. I like this drawing, and I am not sure why. I had a standard poodle when growing up, and my brother had a wonderful black standard for many years who I adored, but I certainly didn't sit down and think about them consciously today. After a couple hours, I rested with this one, and knew I was done covering it up once more with black gesso. I added the small piece of paper that says 'the dog knows', and hand sewed it onto the watercolor paper. What does the dog know? I don't know what it means. But I decided after looking at it over time today, that this piece was meant to be my Christmas story to you. I guess some time down the road I might know what the words to this story are, but for now, all you that read this blog can look at it and write your own Christmas meaning into the drawing.

On Christmas day, Martyn and I will take time to deliver some lavender bundles to nearby houses, via donkey. We walked them on Thanksgiving Day as a new tradition, and I thought Christmas is a wonderful day to take your donkey out to bring gifts to a few people. I have some bells I'll add to Pino's halter and red ribbon for Paco. We are going to prepare a leg of lamb from our own sheep, and serve it with vegetables and...something. My mother is sending me some of her home baked cookies so a little bit of my parents will be with me. I miss them.

Enjoy the story you tell yourself when you look at this drawing, and share it with others if you care to. And from all of us at Apifera, we hope you, your families and your animals can find peace in your own hearts so you can share it with all you encounter.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'd like to thank the electricity

I feel almost torn about putting up a post, showing I have electricity again, while many in our area do not. The wind storm that came through last Thursday night was powerful, beautiful in ways, but deadly and serious. Most of Oregon and Washington were without power - and the national news is not reporting it, but many of the rural areas are still without it.

So, you get the candles out, and the storm is almost exciting at that point. The candles are pretty and it's a good excuse to sit and sip wine - which is what we did. Martyn cooked pasta by candlelight. But the wind gusts were scary. I feared for the barn roof and our windows getting broken. Going out the next day showed tree tops snapped at the top, signs bent in two and electric fencing strewn about pastures.

I had an appointment with the dogs at the vet, and they too were without power. Without lights, we got the dogs out by the window light and did all their shots and Huck was thrilled with the party like atmosphere. I decided I better get bags of ice for the freezer - I was not going to lose 2 lambs worth of meat. Every where I went I heard of trees in houses, near death escapes from falling trees and cars ruined. Barn roofs ripped off. I knew we would be without for some time, and once you resign yourself to that, you get on with it.

My laptop is a lemon and I've never replaced it, so I started panicking about not being able to pick up email and answer any online sales. But at some point, you just give up the struggle. At the same time we were without power, there were three climbers fighting for their lives on Mt. Hood, and my predicament seemed silly compared to theirs. We could still cook, the animals had ample water in their troughs from heavy rains, and we had the stove for heat. Martyn decided we should be relieving ourselves outside since our well doesn't work without power. I thought it was sort of silly, but agreed, and when I made my first trip out, Little Orange and Plum rushed to greet me as I did my business. I must say, doing your business under stars and crisp air, amongst a group of cats did make me feel like part of the group. By morning it was about 45 in the house. A tad nippy. The power came on about 10 am - we rushed around doing all the things you desperately missed, and now so appreciated. Warm water, the electric toothbrush, washing the dishes, coffee. I kept saying over and over, a little thank you. When we sat down to relax come nitefall, ready for some movies and wine, a nice dinner, out went the lights again. Crueler the second time! At that point, I allowed myself to actually believe I was the center of the universe and started whining, pretty much for the rest of the nite. I blamed it all on over population and deemed I would take the donkeys and go live somewhere else. I announced the power was gone forever, really forever, and decided I was better off in bed.

Without power, life does slow down to some extent. But it also makes one remember just how hard basic survival is in the world. Getting water, making it drinkable, staying warm, feeding yourself, family and pets. That's about it. But without power, that can often consume the day. As I was cleaning the barn in the dimness, I thought how the animals go on with the day and night like they always do, with or without power. Their day is clocked by sun and moon. Their day is always about being themselves without man made things - without whining. Like the baby owl near the barn at dusk.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A fond farewell to Ragweed

Yesterday we all gathered to bid a fond farewell to Mr. Ragweed [the brown ram on the right]. Ragweed will be living about 10 miles from here with a very nice young shepherdess and her young flock. It always helps when the buyer shows up and you like them. I had gathered the young rams in the morning, and explained to them for about the 10th time that Ragweed would be leaving us to live with his new flock of girlie sheep. But they never listen. When the the time came to take Ragweed, he was very cooperative, until his feet made it outside the paddock gate, and he did a four-feet stop - "Wait a minute, missy, this doesn't seem right." Daisy, Ragweed's mother, was in a nearby pasture and bleeted to him- instant recognition of her son- and he recognized her bleet and returned a farewell. The donkeys stood by with that Eyore look - "Here we go again, we're losing another one - 'Be brave, young ram! See ya! Nice to have spent the first 7 months of your life together!"

You can say all you want about not putting human emotions on to animals or livestock, but when you separate them from their own, it's gut wrenching. We got almost to the transport van without much trouble, until he got near the car and he went down on his side. He'd had enough. "No thank you, I don't know these people, I'm not getting in that van...I'll just rest here while you people work it out". With that I let him rest calmly for awhile - first time I've ever had a sheep just lie down and rest - even a foot prod didn't budge him. We eventually just picked him up and put him in the van. His little face was pressed against the window as I stood and chatted with the new owners. "You'll do great Rag," I said through the van window, "You get to make babies now! "...."Babies? I am a baby," his facial expression said back to me.

One day you put two sheep in a pasture, 5 months later you get another sheep - that's the story of Ragweed. He's just a ram going off to make sheep of his own now, as it must, and should be. But as I walked to the barn last nite and witnessed the beauty of the ice and fog landscape, it was apparent Ragweed wasn't there. Each animal has a distinctive energy - felt when they are there, and recognized as gone when they leave. The nightly feeding of the donkeys made me glad to be me - have you ever fed hay to a donkey and then leaned down and put your arms around their belly to listen to their tummy rumble and heart beat? It's a nightly event here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Huckleberry Pie declares farm snow day

I awoke feeling like a child again. I knew we were to have rain storms, but when my eyes opened it was to the 100 year old Doug Fir tree out my bedroom window, its arms draped in heavy snow. I sort of had a moment of confusion, as it felt like I was still in my old homeland of Minnesota. Waking up to the 'sound' of snow, it has a silence one can hear, and I just felt like I was back home. Huckleberry Pie and I [we both enjoying saying this over and over] declared it a farm snow day, Billy seconded the motion, and so after a few quick yoga poses, coffee and yogurt [due to the 3 pounds of extra material in my body consisting mainly of pecan pie], I did barn chores and took my camera. As usual, my camera didn't capture what I saw. The sky had this silver tone in the background, with layers of fog on top of it. There was some blue early on, but the silver came back. Beautiful.

Since we rarely get a lot of snow here, I had this naive notion that the donkeys would be out frolicking like dogs in their first snow. I made them, along with the young rams, eat outside, like donkeys must do in Minnesota, so they could experience the joy of snow. The goats were somewhat perplexed, unimpressed really. But Miss Pussytoes the cat was up early, playing with little snow globs. All the fences, all the manure piles, all the posts created new patterns with snow - I will play with some white on white patterns today, I think. The new bamboo screens Martyn just made looked nice too.

Our Thanksgiving was relaxed. We had dinner in town at Martyn's family's but were home by 6pm, allowing us to take naps in front of the TV before going to bed. The next day, we worked in our garden which was so nice, and then took time to take Pino and Paco for a long walk. We made a visit to our favorite winemaker to buy some of his Pinot to enjoy with our first meal made of our own lamb meat. We had lamb chops, and they were wonderful. I was so proud. I wonder if other farmers shed a small tear the first time they cook something they raised - not out of sadness, but pride for both the animal and the farmer. I mean, I was just proud!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giving thanks

Giving thanks takes on a new meaning this year, as we eat our first home grown meat. Martyn and I will prepare a special meal for each other on Friday, of lamb, our own vegetables,and homemade pie, of which Billy Baker the one eyed pug still fancies. I'll use our own walnuts this year instead of pecans. We will go to our favorite local voigneur and buy a bottle or two of his Pinot, and drink it with our paté appetizer.

I had heard a chef on NPR who started growing her own lamb because she couldn't find any in her area that was organic. She said that cooking took on a different feeling for her, that after raising the animal, the cooking prep was still like having a relationship with the animal. Cutting the meat, seasoning it, all were acts of respect, and thanksgiving.

I will be missing my mother's cooking on Thanksgiving Day though. She makes the same menu every year. A couple times we suggested she add this or that - absolutely NOT - why mess with the perfect meal? How many times did I awake in a nearby bedroom, only to smell the stuffing being prepped in the morning? Or how many times did I get to test the pie crust with her pie crust cookies? How many times did I hear her say after the meal was over, "Oh, the gravy wasn't that good this year", when of course, it was perfect. Food and cooking smells can take a person back to other times, and pleasant memories - in that way, food is a thread to all our friends and families.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all beings - little pugs, donkeys near and far, old dogs gone, families gathering, or not -it is a day to come together, and remember where you came from, and where you are now, and hopefully somewhere in the day you will share of yourself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kisses to share

Lest anyone think I have completely loss my sense of humor or whim over the past few entries, I treated myself to the joy of making some new holiday designs for cards, honoring some of my muses.

The last weeks have been full of county politics - a bit too much for my sensitive little heart - and animal passings. While 10 of the latter were cows going to feed people, and two were mice murdered in my kitchen, it still seemed at times a bit heavy around here. And thank you to all the nice messages and emails from so many compassionate farm lovers. Like I Heart Farms, one of my favorite farm blogs, loaded with information and wonderful things.

So, to remind myself of who I am, and where I am, I did two things for myself this morning. I took some white gesso and painted "Neil" on my jeans, to remind myself that if there are answers to be sought, or air guitars to be played, I only need turn on Neil Young music- yes, and you people that follow my little world know that the Neil Young music must be played - LOUDLY. The second thing I did was take Pino Blangiforti for a walk [for those who wonder where his compadré Paco is, he is still in halter training, and sometimes, a girl just wants to be with one donkey]. We walked down to the road to visit with a neighboring horse, Rudy, who stands alone day and night in his field, sore feet and all. The local horse people have been keeping tabs of sort on him for years, and we all give him treats. He is lonely I think. So I took little Pino down there, and he reached cautiously up towards this HUGE head of Rudy's [he is exceptionally big, bigger than Sky even]. The two of them gently sniffed, although Rudy has been known to show his stuff, so I was cautious and ready to step in - one large bite and Pino could have lost a nose. But instead, the sweetest, most gentle demonstration of 'nice to meet you' transpired: Rudy took his lips and just puckered, and gently engulfed Pino's muzzle - not a rough equine play nibble, not a dominance nibble, just a gentle little kiss. A soft little kiss like two little butterflies would give each other upon greeting in spring.

We all need little kisses like this. So, the rest of morning was spent kissing everyone. All because of one old lonely horse and one little donkey. So 'pass it one', and write to me and tell me who you kissed today. I will share it with Rudy when Pino and I walk down to greet him again.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The quest for comfort

I was lucky to attend a very good school as a child, and from that school and those teachers I learned the value of seeking knowledge - get all the facts you can by reading, exploring, researching, asking questions - and then you will have new knowledge, and a new comfort level abut the subject, or task, at hand. Approaching challenges and new things this way through my adult life has helped me work through rough roads.

When we first began raising sheep, I was like many [I am told] novice shepherds. "Oh, we'll just raise breeding stock, and the other sheep will just stay on for pasture maintenance. We won't do meat." Early on, a very seasoned shepherd and farmer said, rather tongue in cheek, "They all say that in the beginning". "I'll show him..." I mused to myself...And so began my quest to seek that comfort level I had always found I could attain simply by asking enough questions, reading enough books, gathering facts. For the past year, I have been preparing for yesterday's slaughter of some of our lambs. Many of my wiser and more experienced shepherd compadrés - from Vermont, to Minnesota and Missouri, and throughout Oregon, have helped megrapplee with my discomfort in taking the lives of these animals. I sometimes yearned to just wake up and be like them - they seemed stronger and more practical about dealing with a basic fact in raising livestock - some of them have to die. I began to doubt my ability to sustain this lifestyle year in and year out. After all, I am the person who saves flies and puts as many outside as possible. In the beginning of my quest for knowledge and facts, I asked generic things of farmers, like, "What age is best to butcher them?" or "Do you have a butcher you prefer."

I mean, they don't have long chapters about your first slaughter in the sheep books, and they should.

The more I asked the basic questions, the discomfort starteddissipatingg, and I ventured on to asking even grittier details about the actual process. I labored over articles about the pros and cons of taking ones animals to a slaughter house, versus having the mobile slaughter unit come out. I tried to interview the local rendering house, much to their dismay - 'a city nut, a farmer wannabie', I imagined them all whispering. In the end, I decided having a mobile unit come to our farm and kill the animals here was the least stressful for the animals, and that was therefore the best for me too. I had witnessed the shootings of the cows next farm over, and saw how professional, and fast it was. After gathering all my facts, and picking the butcher that would do the task, I rested a bit, convinced I was hard as a rock. After all, we were growing food for others, and ourselves, a good thing. We raised the lambs in sun, on grass, with no hormones or over crowding. They came into a small to medium flock where they were given attention, the comfort of a barn and ample room to romp and grow. Yet, with all my facts in my bag, as I penned the meat lambs up in a stall to have their final night of sleep, I didn't feel bad, but I didn't feel good. I didn't feel comfortable at all. I thanked them for giving us food, and I assured them the next day was going to go quickly and smoothly.

We had planned that the day of theslaughterr, I would stay in the house, and Martyn would show the butcher the barn and answer necessary questions. The butcher arrived 2 hours early and Martyn was off the farm doing errands, so I ended up showing him where he could set up. I am so thankful it happened that way. Highly recommended and used by several of our farm friends, this man did not make me feel like a newbie, or a city farm-girl wannabie. He reassured me it would be fast and no one would suffer. It was helpful to meet him, and know he was in charge. The reality of the soon-to-happen event came home though, when he asked me if I wanted the livers and organ meat. Gee, I hadn't thought about that. I went back to the house, expecting to hear the shots in about 5 minutes, but none were heard. When they kill the cows next farm over, it is loud. I took to pacing around expecting to hear the shots, and finally thought, this is stupid, I have to get on with the day, so went to my studio which looks towards the barn. I hadn't realized he had moved the truck there, and from a distance I could see him sawing. I could see the other lamb bodies.There had been no shots, it was over. Martyn drove up at this point, went out to meet him, and when he returned to the house, he had a baggie with livers in it. It was sort of surreal, but it was a turning point for me - And that was when I realized how special this all was. As I held that liver, I realized I knew exactly where it came from, and what foods did and didn't go into it. I felt very respectful of what I was holding - it is just so different than anything I have ever experienced.

I felt relieved, and workedquietlyy the rest of the day in my own thoughts. All my months of fact gathering had come to a close, and another new experience from living on the farm was under my belt. Next year, I will know more of what to expect, and while the discomfort of the day will probably never completely go away, I think the respect for the farm and our animals and what they bring to our lives will only grow each year.

Look closely at your food tonight. Ask yourselves where it came from, who cared for it. Did it suffer through life in a stockyard, was it treated humanely the day it's life would end so people could eat? Seek out locally grown meats in your area by visiting Local Harvest and ask your grocery stores to support their local farmers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Really, the emperor has NO clothes

Despite the gloomy weather and flooding ravaging some areas, the donkeys are celebrating after I explained to them that donkeys have taken over the House. To honor the new wave of optimism, I plan to read 'The Emperor has No Clothes" to all the animals later on today. It's always difficult getting them settled in one area, but is worth seeing their faces as I read them good literature.

It's been very, very busy here. Working on illustration pieces, improving the portfolio, and working on the appeal that our neighborhood group will bring to the County about the proposed sub development up the road. The latter has taught me a lot about local politics, not all of it pretty. Some of it I knew, but seeing it in your own backyard is always depressing. So the election last night at least made me feel like people got mad enough to vote, and speak up at the emperor . I mean, just vote, people. At least do that. You can bet that if voting rights were stripped form people, there would be an outcry. Many of those voices would be from the ranks of those that find many excuses not to vote, I am sure.

So, since perhaps donkeys will see some resurgence in the marketplace, I am thinking my new little children's book might be good timing. This is not why it came to me last month, but I have had two ideas about a children's book in my head. One is on paper only, no drawings, and the other I am playing around with the art first, with the plot evolving. In a nutshell, it's about a little donkey who lives happily, accompanied by his best friend, a brightly colored beach ball named Ball. Together they play and romp, until one day the little donkey decides his ears are different and odd and he wants new ears.

Pino of course thinks he is the donkey in the book, Paco thinks it is him. I told them not to buy new halters for the Oprah Show just yet.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rain on a barn

The winter rains, thankfully, have come with full gusto. It was a long hot and dry summer, people's wells went dry, we lost a lot of plants and a second hay crop seemed to fade for many. I worked in the rain all morning transplanting and reworking our beds, and the soil is still like dust. Funny how even though summer ended not too long ago, one can still have a flutter in the heart thinking about the plants, and how they will do next season. Gardens are hope.

I had a nice morning. It was raining a lot, but was warm. I did my barn chores and then spent time just hanging out and putzing around the barn. I love that rain on that tin roof. All the animals inside munching on hay, some at your feet. Martyn built Sky Flower the most wonderful new stall. I always say, it is the nicest room on the farm. Now she has access to come in and out of her stall on her own from her pasture, and I can choose to lock her in at night or not. Before, I haltered her and led her in to her other stall. Her new stall has an overhang with a tin roof too, and she can hang out right outside the stall and still be dry. Because the barn sits up on a hill, she can see everyone coming and going on Tupper RD, and she also can join in barn activities by just sticking her head out the stall door or window. The barn cats sleep nearby on the hay and she has them for company. So this morning after chores, I just hung out with her in the stall, grooming her, watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood.

It was hard to pull myself away from her beautiful head. "See you later most beautiful horse ever", I say as I leave.

As I walk back to the house, I hear three shots. The neighbor's cows were being harvested. I just kept walking.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The pleasure of early moring waffles

I awoke about 4 am thinking about homemade waffles with a side of bacon. Actually, I think I first thought about it the night before. The kind of waffles my dad would make me, whipped up really well, with extra butter in them, and on them. Some Saturdays, one must indulge in one's hankering. So as Martyn slept, I indulged, with Huck, Billy, and Big Tony, at my feet. I was up early enough to catch the rising of the sun, coming in over fog clothed forests above the farm. Sky was already up having her pre-breakfast grass hor d'oeuvre. The farm in early morning is special, especially on these fall days. One must savor them, so, with a belly full of waffles I set out to enjoy the morning, simply by doing my routine barn chores.

Mr. Pumpkin Head was once again sleeping with what he thinks are his
brothers. Like I explained in a previous post, Mr. Pumpkin Head does not understand he is actually just named after a pumpkin, he truly believes he is a pumpkin. Why ruin such a harmless belief. As I set out from the house, the barn cats met me at the center gate area, and porch cat posse follows close behind me. Some nose rubbing, some jostling ensues, but mostly the tails are raised high in greeting. We greet all the boys - rams and donkeys - and head to the barn. It is a strict order of giving hay out - set in stone. If I, God forbid, step out of line once and feed out of order, a symphony of displeased goats, sheep, horse and cats rings out. So, all within about 1 minute, I open the stall for Mr. T and his 3 ladies to go out, throw cat food out for cats, give Sky a flake of hay, let goats out, and two young ewes not being bred, carry out hay for Joe Pye Weed, Rosie and Daisy, throw hay precisely in the right spot for goats so they don't try to go over fence for Joe's hay, run hay over to donkeys and other rams. Clock work. Everyone is content.

By the time I was done cleaning out a stall or two, Sky was done with her flake of hay, and I took her to the corral for a light workout. A perfect morning. With all the waffles in me, it seemed ironic she was the one running in circles, but
someone has to keep heir figure around here. It is the last weekend for deer season, and as I walked back to the house, I was relieved to see Ethel and her twins. The last weekend and the first weekend of deer season are sort of the same, a lot of the imbeciles come out for one last try. Like the guy who stopped across the private property across from us about a mile, got out of his pickup, shot towards three private properties - all with horses, livestock, children and pets, shot his gun, then jumped in and sped off, dust flying. Yelling was heard right before and after the shot. I was walking with Sky at the time, the rams scattered nearby. One always sort of looks around to count toes, sheep and pets. But the look of the fog lifting over the oaks reminded me - imbeciles with guns are everywhere - better off here with all this to look at.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Country ride for the soul

Our neighboring farmer up the road has 6 Percherons that he employs for all his field work. He also does a lot of educational events where he takes his team to historical events and fairs to demonstrate how our ancestors worked a team. He takes people on overnight wagon rides, following the historical journeys or settlers. So, he thought it would be nice to gather neighboring farms and properties and invite us all on a 14-mile hay ride up to a local lodge on the mountain. The day was perfect. We rose just as the sun was rising to feed all the animals and get to the wagon for the 8AM departure. Frida and Betsy were the chosen Percherons to take us on our journey, and the weather could not have been more perfect. All sun, but crisp, glove and sweater weather. The temp decreased as we rose in elevation, but we were all prepared and it was just wonderful seeing the beauty of the leaves and forests, and hearing the clip-clop of the team. All the people on board were participating in the fighting of the near-by sub development mentioned in the previous post, and we actually drove by the property line at one point, noticing the survey stakes.

But it was a nice way to gather, and being with horses makes one remember, there are still wonderful things to surround oneself with, developers or no developers. They can't take that from a person.

After all the little children had departed, I sat up front with Joe who drove the wagon. We talked about the horses, and how all their tack worked. We both agreed, it's a much nicer view - that of a horse's rear and tail - than the tail lights of a car.

The nearby development possibility had me thinking of the land around us, how it might change. It made me think about how the arial view of the whole area will change over time, and already has, and how the birds and leaves see that before we do. That is where "If I Were a Leaf Falling" came from, a new little painting that is a love letter to the land.

Surround your animals with prayer flags

We are fighting a sub-development up the road, thanks to the sad passing of Measure 37 two years ago. Having come from Minnesota, land of beautiful farm lands and small river towns eaten up by developers, I was pleased when I moved here in 2002 that Oregon set such a good example for land use. Two years later I was shocked and saddened by the passing of Measure 37, an amendment so poorly explained to the voting public, so pushed by a small, wealthy group of opportunists, that it divided Oregon, and still does. I knew it's passing was a road that Oregon would not be able to do a U-turn on. We felt when we moved to Yamhill [at that time, the Measure 37 had not even come up for voting] we were somewhat safe for about 20 years from any hint of large executive type McMansions , or worst yet, sub-developments. Sadly, we are now faced with a forested 50-acre parcel being turned into 12 small lots. This is 1/4 mile up our road. Traffic from the development would go up our road, traffic that would include the usual number of cars, and off-road vehicles the the 'average' family building a 5,000 SF home costing over $700,000 usually require for their chosen lifestyle. A sub-development is completely out of place for this rural/agricultural area, and all we can do is voice our opinions and see it through. I have written 3 letters, we've taken part, as have other neighboring farms and properties, in the local county process. I won't go into details on this specific case, but visit 1000 Friends of Oregon to read about the impact of this Measure 37, and learn about land use issues. And on a national level, this update site is invaluable.

So as I worked in the studio the other day listening to a new Greg Brown CD, the words "feels like the wind, and trees and stars are on trial", caused me to pause and write them down.

The farm felt different. I feel unsettled because of what will happen in the area. It is, I guess, becoming what they said it would, another Napa. It took me over 40 years to find a farm, live a dream, and the dream never had a sub-development in the middle of it. Two nearby properties of long time residents have now sold their places, not wanting to deal with it all. I don't blame them. On the upside, their places sold for very good amounts, and our property's equity will profit down the road.

So, I turn to things that give me joy, and comfort. Pino Blangiforti's face is like a stuffed animal. When you see it, you want to hold it, and squeeze it, cry into if you are feeling blue. He was very patient with me when I sat with him in a pile of hay, and shed some tears into his neck. I came in and drew this portrait of him, and I decided to add little prayer flags for him, and all the animals, and our farm. For we all need prayers these days - all living things - even the wind, the trees and the stars.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

If I were a bird

If I were a bird this is how the farm would look today. One of three new abstracts just completed.

It's grey out, it's comforting. I turned the fireplace on in the studio for the first time yesterday. I worked all day in the studio, then we did a burn outside and had a glass of wine while sitting on the bench watching the fire. The donkeys sat nearby, enjoying it, it appeared.

This morning, I worked with Sky Flower for a change. She was sleepy, but attentive. I asked her if she was feeling blue, her eyes shut as I rubbed her forehead.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


One must notice the yellow in the trees and hills today, seen everywhere against the silver and grey sky. It's jolting. As were the red roses at the nearby nursery's test gardens - all the red roses lined up in rows in the middle of farm fields with the coastal range and grey skies as a backdrop.

I take the time to notice, not stop and notice. I never stop. I have realized, at the age of 48, I am more intense in what needs to get done, what needs to be said, than I ever was. And perhaps less afraid to do it, or say it. Less afraid to be part of a group of anything that I need to feel likes me. One moves to a farm but life really doesn't 'slow down', it just gets played out differently. Where my head and heart are, that is where the intensity and speed are, farm or no farm. I might die tomorrow, there are things to do, now. Life happens in the middle of all that. Donkeys get walked, kind words are expressed, transitions are realized. TV is watched. Pies are baked. People come and go. Trees fall over. And young girls evolve and grow into middle aged women.

And so, perhaps that is why, this painting came out of me yesterday. A red headed woman sitting, arms crossed, mute - not trying to stick out, but how could she not with her black rubber boots and her intense yellow dress against the grey background in which she find herself sitting in front of.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Donkey ears, and the boys are ready

I went out the studio door this morning to a beautiful fall day - crisp, sun, fall color, air, no human noise makers, just the distant
rumbling of Joe Pye Weed letting me know it was time for some breakfast. The donkeys were laying down, facing each other soaking up the sun. If you have never seen a mini donkey laying down, legs all curled in, eyes half shut, well, you must put it on your ' list of things to see in my lifetime'. The sun on their bodies must have been too hard to give up, as they usually greet me at the fence line, but today, the sun beat out my affections.

Yesterday was about 70 degrees, but windy. It reminded me of when I was little, and I loved to go into the many sumac groves we had on our property in Minnesota. I was protected from the wind, but could hear it. The barn is like that. I had my new canvas on the wall ready to start it, and did prep it, but the weather was too perfect. I took a sketch book and a chair and went out and sat with the donkeys. I have a long list of animals to paint, and it takes time to soak in the characteristics of a being, for me anyway, before I can paint them. There are always certain attributes to an animal that catch my eye and heart - and I want to capture them in spirit. I don't consider myself a good draftsperson, but I do feel when I am ready, and have filled up my well properly, I can capture something's essence, even if crudely drawn. I am not a 'take the sketch book out and sketch something' person. I guess it works for me to just be with something over time, and eventually I can capture it - in my style anyway. I'm not quite there with the donkeys. But it was enjoyable to sit with them, and soak up the weather as much as possible before the winter rain comes. I've been running 100 miles a minute, we both have, and taking time to sit and sketch, and just watch them in a sitting position was a luxury. The ears on these beings are so special, and their eyes have a very unique glance, like a being that has had many travels, many lives, and knows what came before them.

Most of the flock is wormed now, and this weekend we will rearrange ewes to be with either Joe Pye or Mr. T [who buy the way is "Turtleweed' because he chortles and that reminds me of a turtle for some reason]. The boys are READY for some female companionship. You shepherds know what I mean. And the ewes have been restless at times as well.

I'm looking forward in a way to the gentle winter rains. I paint much more proactively in winter through May. I have many feelings to get out. But I am not worried about timing. My well only has so much energy in it, and I think I've earned the right to slow down a bit. Is 100 paintings or more a year too little or too many? Many experts out there no doubt have answers. But I am merging into myself, in my own time, and the things that occupy on the farm may take time and energy, but they also fed me and keep my days full of wonderful activities and encounters. Life is juicy.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Market lore, and the donkey gets a gig

We had another another fun day at the Farmer's Market in McMinnville. We lucked out with absolutely perfect fall weather, not to mention we had a prime spot this time. Being right next to the cheese booth had its perks too. We had an increase in sales from last week, I think because we made some slight changes to our booth, and we had a better location. Martyn made me a display rack for my greeting cards, which sold well. He took an old levlor door from the barn and we painted it, and voila, instant 6' card holder. Many nice encounters with customers, many seemed excited about our Open Farm Day events for next year, so our mailing list is growing. Perhaps the best thing about a market for the farmer is just getting recognition with local customers, and allowing them to see our personalities and product. I think it takes time for customers to trust you, and know you. If you are genuine, and genuinely believe and love your product and life, it comes through. If you are a copy cat, or don't seem enthused about your life and product, that too comes through.

I'm learning a lot about displays. I've had quite a bit of experience with it over the years, and understand a lot about how the customer thinks, but I have learned even more in the last two markets. I will be constantly learning, I know. I came home with many new ideas about better ways to display and how to make the customer 'get' the product quickly.

Our sculpture pumpkins were a hit, [except to the 4 year old, who declared, "I don't like them"] as were the art cards. But my favorite thing was that many children, and adults, liked my ragdolls. One little girl picked one up and squeezed it for the lavender scent, and just held it tightly, smiling. That just made my day. Another young girl of about 10, who did art herself, just loved our booth and all the lavender and art. She stayed in there for the longest time, just being so enthusiastic about everything, and inspired about the art. She wondered if she could sell her art there someday, and I encouraged her to get a booth and keep making art.

We are also making contacts for our lamb meat sales. It is making the transition to raising some of the sheep for harvesting easier for me. Knowing we are raising a quality product, and raising the animals with care, love and compassion from start to finish, is a satisfying thing. It makes sense to me more and more. A rich land such as America, we could feed all our people if the consumer demanded it.

We ended the day with what might become a tradition. Trading some of our product for some of Oakhill Organics vegetables. I like eating food from people I like, after all, their fingers touch the land and the food, so if I like their energy, it certainly ends up in their vegetables. Who wants to eat vegetables grown by a grumpy farmer? We are hooked on their shallots right now, and tonight I think I will make a stew from some of their produce. It is chilly for the first time, and a glass of red wine with a stew sounds perfect.

And just when I thought the day couldn't get better, I got a donkey gig for Pino Blangiforti who has been invited to be part of the McMinnville Halloween Parade. He insists on going as an apple, which are his absolute favorite thing in the world, but I keep telling him he has to go as a donkey.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stopping for that hot dog

I listened intently to a 2 hour interview with John Prine yesterday [as Billy the pug slept], who I have followed and loved since the early '70's. He said that he is one of the most non-committed song writers he knows and that if he is in the middle of writing a song and someone offers him a hot dog, he'll drop that song to take the hot dog.

I am 'supposed" to be painting. Instead, I am doing all sorts of important things, but painting. So, is this ok? I am also playing the 'artist-kicking" game. It is a game I see all artists play, even really well known ones. Here's how you play. Become a full time artist and make your sole income on art. Sell the art over the years, gain a following. Feel good, make more art. Sell more of the art. Feel even better. On the very first day you do not sell anything, or even get an email or inquiry, say to yourself, "Well, let's see, the fact that no one bought even $5 of art today means that I am done as an artist, and perhaps, even, my art is done, it is no longer something anyone wants to buy. " This will then allow you to NOT want to make art, and the more art you don't make, the more you repeat the above statement, over and over.

Eventually, if you hang in there as an artist for a long time, you will learn to play this game at times, but then kick yourself in the butt and get on with it, and eventually, something does sell, or better yet, you make a great piece of art and just appreciate it for what it is. But it is very easy to fall into a hole of self defeating thoughts when sales are not coming in. I've been doing this 10+ years. Somehow, I always am presented with what I need the most at a given time, it is a fact that I calmly hang onto and remind myself of in lean times.

The hardest part of mixing art with commerce, I feel, is the constant nagging in one's head of - 'what can I do to increase sales, why did that sell and not this one, how do I get more people to the site"....on and on....If I were rich, would I paint in this same rhythm I am in now? Or would I cease all together to care about producing, and simply make a few respectable canvases a year and be content? I don't know. I know I would always be busy, never resting, and creating 'something', like monkey houses, or bad knitting, or pickles.

I also know that making a living on art is a grind. But not the life itself. My daily moments and my life are NOT a grind. I am very lucky. I love being outside, being able to breathe and be surrounded by animals and nature. The grind comes in the constant nagging fact that one MUST make money to live, even if living as simply as we do. The grind is where's the next job, where's the next sale, when, where, how, why not faster, what am I doing wrong? Everyone faces the same feeling of 'grind', no matter the income level, I assume - The surgeon in the ER, the CEO's, the lawyers, the guy that bravely lays tar on the highway, and the millions that loyally go to a little cubicle with their little pencil holders.

I guess, what I mean is, making money to sustain oneself, usually involves a grind in some way. But one's life, if one chooses consciously, does not have to be a grind.

I was interested that the architect Frank Gehry, in the recent PBS documentary on his work, stated that the one thing he always wanted to be was a painter - but that he had never tried. He said that the thought of a flat, blank space terrified him. He also said that each time he started a new project, he would have moments of wondering if this was it, if this was the project he would not be able to find a solution for, that he would 'lose it' and this would be the end of his career as he knew it. That gave me comfort - to know he had those thoughts even at his stage. I look at architects, such as my own father, and am so in awe of their ability to clearly see and think spatially in 3 dimensions. It is a gift, and I will never have it. Physicists and engineers too - very admirable.

I am in some sort of stage where the 'creating' I am doing more of, at this particular moment, is not on a 2D piece of material. Rather it is a of little creations that are bringing me fulfillment, even though they might be considered silly or wasting my true talent by some. I did a wonderful canvas 2 weeks ago, and have another blank piece on the wall. I will do it - I am just slowing down maybe. Today I wanted to make my pumpkin sculptures. Last night I made my donkey doll. They will not sell, and if they did, not for much. But the muse took me there.

I guess, it's like this. Right now, today, if I was working on a painting and someone offered me a hot dog, I'd stop to take that hot dog.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Whimsical little messes

Our first day at the market was fun, a lot of work, but worth the effort. We pulled together a booth that had Apifera's personality, whim and eclectic flavor. Martyn made a bunch of cool wood stands for me, I bought wonderful fabrics to hang and of course, I had plenty of old buckets. I took my camera and then never got around to taking a picture, so next week...Our banner turned out nice - some people just don't get the art/lavender/sheep colliding thing, but that's okay. There are plenty of other vendors there to fill everyone's different personalities and tastes. People were coming around all day saying the lavender was wafting through the market, and that was nice - I, however, could not smell it! Still can't, I guess because I was immersed in it all week prepping bundles. Huck was a huge help during prep time, and was always at my side, helping to chew any droppings on the floor, which were abundant. My current whimsy is anything braided, including my pigtails, so I have been making 'ragdoll bundles'. They are my current favorite thing - I take vintage or old scrap fabrics and create little whimsical messes. They aren't for everyone's taste, but they bring me great pleasure - and if one is going to make about $2 an hour as lavender growers do, then why not have enjoyment in all the long hours. I haven't put them on our store yet, but if you want to buy some, just email me for now.

We have become acquainted with a few of the other vendors at the market, and it is so cool to see other couples growing things and making it a lifestyle together. Like Oakhill Organics, a sweet couple who grow wonderful organic vegetables and also offer CSA's. I'll be happy for Martyn when he gets his greenhouse up and working, so he can bring some of his plants to market. Right now my art and the bundles that I enhance take center stage, and he needs to have his 'gig' in there too so he can sit and pontificate with passers-by. That is one of the enjoyable things of going to market, pontificating with others! And eating stuff you normally don't eat.

We drove to the market in separate cars because we had so much stuff and by the time we loaded up and were on the road back home
it was 8 PM and dark. What a gorgeous night, a quarter moon, and still about 75 degrees. I drove home by the moon, the coastal range on my left the entire way with a deep purple-black sky slightly lit from behind by the already set sun. I had my window all the way down, and I put a Tom Petty on really loud [thank you Heinz!], and danced with my head and sang. I was really tired, like after a gallery opening, but I felt really 'real'. You know, one of those 20 minute spans in one's day where you know you are definitely alive, and everything is going to be okay, somehow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Please wish on the stars for Miss Penny

A friend of mine that I have come to know over the last few years through my art, and our shared love of animals, has a friend that is a bit sick right now. Penny is one of our dignified elders, and her owner used to work at a shelter, where she adopted Penny. She also has many other adoptees, all elderly, all abandoned for elderly issues - misfits. I have much compassion for her stories of her animals and her efforts- and plan to paint some portraits of some in time with the hopes of gathering images for a set of cards that can be published and used to raise money and awareness for animals.

But, back to Penny. It is quite simple. I'd like to ask any of you that live under the sky, to take a few minutes, one will do, and visit with the stars tonite. You see, Penny and her owner would often sit and talk together under the stars, and sort out the days adventures or challenges. I am quite certain if many of us asked the stars to send some strength and compassion on to Penny while she is in the hospital, that Penny will benefit in many ways we humans can't even know.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Misfit amongst us

Every night for the past week the starlings have been gathering in the old Doug Fir in the back of the studio. They begin singing at full strength in a group around 6pm. It goes on for about an hour, then, it abruptly ends all at once. Not one or two birds at a time, just boom over. Martyn thinks it is tied to the exact timing of the sun totally setting. I want to paint it , or the sound of it, but am too caught up in some other things right now. But I will, when I least expect it. I have always had a fondness for crows, and starlings too, blackbirds. Most people hate starlings, but I like them. If you look closely at their feathers, they are quite beautiful. I know they do some bad birdie things, but it is survival of the fittest.

We went into Portland to a birthday party the other night. When we first moved here and we would occasionally go into Portland for some event, I would usually get a few pangs of, 'Gee, I hardly got to live there before moving out here, and it's such a lovely place, so much I didn't discover." Now, I have no real thought like that. For the first time, I felt how attached we have become to our life here, and unattached to the one there. The discussions at the party were somewhat superficial, and no one really understood what we were doing out here. They didn't understand why we bought sheep, so we talked about sustainable living and eating local, which no one had heard of or seemed interested in. [I'm sure there are many people in Portland that understand local eating and such, please note, just not the particular people I talked to this nite]. One person felt that the Oregon farm land should all be vineyards, as it is 'the best use of the land". I told him I disagreed, and that if more people valued eating local, and spoke up to large grocery chains, a shift could begin, even if slowly. I changed the talk back to TV and people's new haircuts. We left about 11pm, and we both noticed how we couldn't see many stars. Back home at the farm around midnite, the air was so fresh smelling, and the sky was just loaded with stars. Neither of us said anything, we just stood looking at the sky for awhile before heading for bed.

It was a nice evening and all, but it felt better here. I've always been a misfit anyway. But I do feel like I 'fit' when I'm on our farm.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pumpkins, and a place to bark

The pumpkins are here. The pumpkins are here. The pumpkins are here.

Pumpkins deserve a parade, so I will gather all our pumpkins in the next two weeks. I will wait until Pino Blangiforti is a week mended from his surgery, for I know he loves pumpkins and will want to participate. We will parade down Tupper Road to our nearby farm friends and deliver a pie - not pumpkin - that would be just too ironic for the pumpkins. I believe pumpkins should be honored for their peaceful cohabitation - all lying all over one another in a heap, getting along in all shapes and sizes. I beg people not to smash the pumpkins, or throw them - rather, let then live out their lives until it is naturally over, then they will gladly give themselves to you for a pie or soup.

SO... I put some new Cafe Press products online to honor our pumpkins.

I have also created Apifera-store.blogspot that highlights new products on the store, price changes, special sales and store related news. I hope it will help buyers take note of certain things, and will allow this blog to stay as farm related as possible. So please visit it, bookmark it, and check back weekly. In between all the fun relationship building with the animals and helping the farm grow, I still need to make a living, and it ain't for sissies, as we all know. I appreciate everyone who buys my art and our products!

Speaking of honoring, I was told about a site this week that I must let all my animal loving readers in on. A Place to Bark is a private shelter where a woman and her family helps different animal shelters by bringing home dogs and cats and helping them back to physical and mental health so that they can be better placed in loving, permanant homes. I was impressed with what I saw and read, and I must admit, felt that 'ping'. A 'ping' for me is when I see a person who's art, or life, or actions or words, make me want to more in my efforts and causes. This woman made me doubt I am doing enough for the animals. It inspired me to do more. I know it is not her intention to make others feel they are not doing enough, but I must do more. And I will do it through my art, as always. Please visit her site and you can see for yourself if you want to help her cause. Or maybe it will inspire you to take action in your own area. She is also having an art auction [she is an artist] and has a call for artists and donations - so visit her site for more information...Hats off from all of us at Apifera to Bernie and her endeavors.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Once, a mother kissed him gently

One archival, framed print is now available for sale on the store. "Joe Pye as a Young Lamb Standing in the Lavender Field" harkens back to simpler times when we had just Joe and two ewes. He was such an angel. Kisses in the morning, kisses at nite. Now I still sneak in a kiss to him, but usually through the fence. I only printed artist proofs of this piece, meaning there are only a few of them out there, and this is the only one left. The frame is a simple 1" maple. Visit the print section to purchase.

On a farm note, Pino Blangiforti put on a brave face and became a real donkey this morning. The vet came out to the farm and performed his castration. With Paco nearby, little Pino took it like a man. I will not go into graphic details - and I stood behind Pino so as not to see the actual surgery - but Martyn watched. I did learn quite a bit about donkey testicles, if anyone has questions. He is recovering well, and has a week or so to be back in true Pino form, but there does not appear to be any problems as of this writing. The worst part are the flies, and the yellow jackets ["terrorists" as we call them] flying near his wound . There is only so much I can about that, but fortunately it is cool today.

Pino loves apples and carrots, and while get well gifts are in order here, he prefers you take your fruits and share them locally with your food shelters or other families, or donkeys, rather than sending them to him as a get well gift. He is always thinking globally - one does not benefit from finding the jewell in the forest until one brings it back to his or her own village. And Miss Apple So Full, the little apple tree up the road, has generously given me bags of fallen apples for our animals, and I will share them with Pino tonite.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Protected somehow

This canvas came to me in my head, over time. This isn't usually how it works for me with canvases. I usually just paint and explore what is underneath my skin at that time. It can change from start to finish, day to day. But this 'idea', for lack of a better word, was a vision that kept coming, the three divisions, the shape in the middle. It kept coming back as I would drive, or as I lay down for the night.

Afterwards, I sat for a long time looking at it. What was it? It is one I think that in a year, or much longer, I'll see the underneath meaning. But the word "Protected" kept coming to me. So that is what I called it. At 48", it has a presence. I sent it down to the Atlanta gallery already, and feel it has a destiny that I won't understand or know.

I just ordered more canvas, and am jazzed, anxious, and needing to do more on this line. I don't know why.

The skies turned silver yesterday, and we had rain - a relief for humans, animals and earth. It has been so dry, the barn well has run dry 3x this month, even though we are very conservative with all our water. I spent yesterday in the studio, but also took time to stew tomatoes and bake more zucchini bread. I felt the need to tidy the nest for fall, and bake. As the night came, I put on my favorite nubby sweater and got under the quilt on the couch with my boys in their nightly order - Billy on my lap, Huck in the middle and Martyn on the end, but within hand holding distance.

Big Tony the cat sat looking out the large living room window, the black cows up on the nearby hills stuck out against the burnt hayfields, and the sky was all silver, with one strip of blue at the top.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pino meet Paco, Paco meet Pino

No, you are not seeing double. Yes, we brought home two more animals. No, we are not crazy, nor have we gone over the deep end. We enjoy each animal and what they bring to our life and farm.

The consensus was, get a buddy of the Equus Asinus species for Pino Blangiforti. I thought the sheep would be companions enough for the little lad, but it appears I was naive in that thought. Would he have survived without a donkey mate? Yes. Would he be more content over the next 30 odd years of his life with a donkey mate? Yes. Donkeys get very lonely without a donkey mate, and cans tart to do some naughty little things out of boredom and depression. So, Paco arrived yesterday, along with the lovely little lady Pygmy goat you see here.

The Pygmy came with the name Tasmania Dirt Devil [all the former owner's goats were named after vacuum cleaners, a wonderful thing!] and they called her Taz. It's not that I don't like her name, but I just can't keep from calling her other things, like Bee Bee, or Meggie as in Nutmeg, or Ruthie [the name of a friend's Pygmy and I have that stuck in my head]. So where her name will fall, I do not know. I just know she is very cute, and when I went to look at Paco, I swooned over her - the owner was willing to trade a small sheep for her, as one of her Shetland sheep had lost its sheep companion. I immediately thought of our Little Rue, our bottle baby of last spring. Little Rue was never fully welcomed into the herd after being bottle fed. She held her own, but no one would snuggle up to her at nite, she was always a few paces behind all in the flock. I felt in a new group of animals Rue would bond with the only sheep, and perhaps it would be better for her in the long run. She can't be bred as she will always be too small, and there was no way I could butcher her for meat. So, we sent her off to her new home, and little Taz-Ruthie-Meggie-whatever now lives with the donkeys and rams. She is a pistol, not afraid of anything. Her little ears had their tips frozen off as the two-owners-ago had neglected to bring her in from their cold climate; they also lopped her horns off instead of taking the entire set off. And, she needs to lose some weight as she was allowed to eat grain from other animals dishes.

Bringing in new animals is always traumatic on farmer and herd. The balanced pecking order must be re-configured. The initial introductions can be ugly to watch, and yesterday's initial introduction of Pino and Paco did not go smoothly. Paco has not been gelded [the deed will occur, thankfully, on Monday] so this added to the unrest. Paco is a bit smaller than Pino, very docile, and gelded. He had been a trio of two other donkeys, and I knew he would bond with Pino fast. Pino on the other hand, saw one thing - another donkey to make love to. I won't go into graphic details, but let's just say yesterday was a bit of a bad John Holmes movie - 'farm porn' as Martyn refers to it. I let the two run in adjoining pastures at first, then put them together - which resulted in non-stop stud activity by Pino, and Paco kicking non-stop. Pino took it like a boxer. Just stayed standing, kept at it. It went on for 20 minutes or so, and I finally separated them for the nite. No scrapes or cuts on either, amazingly. This morning, I had all sorts of back up plans, but decided after a night of sleeping side by side in separate stalls, that Pino might have calmed somewhat. When I put them together, it took a about 10 minutes for the two to settle in more - Pino still has a one track mind, but they have worked it out. There has not been one lonely bray out of little Pino today - a sure sign of good things for him. I spent time with both of them, and our little many named Pygmy, brushing, comforting all with lots of grooming and reassuring songs and words.

So, yes, we let one friend go, and brought home two more. And it's all good.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Oh, my little Buttercup

Buttercup needs a home. I have had this framed painting from old illustration days for a long time and have almost sold it a couple times, but never seem to quite do it for one reason or another. Perhaps now that I am surrounded by my own animals, I feel it is time to really find Buttercup a permanant home to live in, and bring joy for someone else. So, if you are a city dweller with a yearning for a cow, here's your chance. No manure, no annual vaccinations, no flies.

Later, when I have a clear head about it, I will perhaps write about my feelings over my near death encounter on my horse on Sunday. Everyone, including my riding companion and our horses survived, but it was one of those examples of how a situation can go from bad to worse in seconds, and when 1300# animals are involved - well, as my friend said, it is the risk we take as riders to enjoy these magnificant, yet powerful animals.

I am painting and focusing on art as much as possible for 8 hours straight - as it is a big week here on Apifera. The new ram arrives Wednesday, and Tuesday, well, besides the farrier visit, we have a, well....I won't tell you. You will have to wait and see.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Send a message to our dear friend far away!

Today is a special day in Mie-Ken, Japan and Yamhill, Oregon.

For today is the 5th birthday of our comrade Nonoka. Nonoka lives with my art-loving, art-supporting, Japanese friend from a far.

Nonoka loves food. Her main love is food. Her real love is food. She understands the subtle nuances of fresh bananas and tomatoes. If only she were here today, as we have so many tomatoes off the vine to eat, surely we could share some with her - unless Billy Baker was in on the decision. She also loves pastries. So today, she is being treated to such favorites, Japanese style.

So, dear readers, it would be nice, and very United Nations like, if all of you would ask your dogs, or cats, goats, donkeys, horses, guinea fowl, chickens, sheep, whatever, to write a message here to our dear friend Nonoka. I know she would appreciate it, especially as she will get them the day after her birthday - and you know what a let down the day after can be, especially at age five when you got pastries the day before. So write a note, animals! Those of you who don't yet have computer privledges, ask your human mates to help out - Donkey Dan, that means you. Come on, let's see how many species we can get!

Nonoka, eat well, and then rest well and care well for your human companion.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

And the cows got to listen to Neil

Picasso did that painting of his young son, Pablo on a donkey...he must have had a donkey, I mused...I suspect he was the type of person that let his donkey roam free in his studio...

There's something nice about painting with a donkey looking through the studio door.

I broke down and let him in for a few minutes - after all it is a cement floor, and it is MY studio. But, I now have a donkey that wants to come in and STAY in the studio. Hmmm.

Oddly, as I am typing, I am listening to Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou singing "I've been around in donkey town, too long, baby too long..." Hmmm...ironic, yes?

I put up a 48" piece of clean white canvas today. Why not just staple some Queen Anne's Lace on it and call it a day? It's actually lovely, and I sat with donkey on the right, lab on the left, pug in distance, music loud - this is a nice day. I'm percolating with a new canvas and animals and music all around.

Yesterday I had to drive into town, got in the car and put on an old Neil cd. Window down, I started down the gravel drive and all the cows were in our side pasture, laying down, taking a respite from the sun, taking an afternoon chew. It was Neil singing 'Keep on Rockin' in the Free World", and I stopped for a moment to watch the cows, only 10 feet or so from me. Of course, I had Neil playing really LOUDLY, and I thought, I wonder how many cows have heard Neil Young? It seemed so cool, that these cows got to share in that song. I believe animals should have music in their lives.

As we speak, Pino is leaning in, listening to more Knopfler&Emmy..." here's a rabbit foot, take it when you go, so you'll always know you're safe from harm, wear your ruby shoes when you're far away, so you'll always stay home in your heart..."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Muses say "paint' and the donkey gets randy

It's time. The muses have told me. Revvings to get a canvas on the wall again. My motives for getting up in the morning change slightly. Instead of only thinking about farm chores, how to make pickles, ram buying and horse training, I can reclaim my other role, as artist. The break I took from canvases and painting in late July is coming to an end, as I have more and more daily longings to be in my studio solely to paint.

I have also been seeing a certain canvas direction in my head, and it is there for longer each day. Next week, I'll be back at it. The break was necessary. I grudgingly have to admit, I can't do all things at all times. I do things intensely. The intense 2 months working with my horse allowed us to take leaps we wouldn't have. I worked intensely on getting lavender products going, getting the online stores going, finding new sales for the farm. Oh yes, bought a donkey in there and started a started a pie service with him...Then there was and is the farm peace movement. Perhaps it is good that no one from DC has answered Stella and Iris' letters, as I might have to somehow get them out east for public appearances.

But now, I am ready. I think art is really the one thing I do best. I do okay in other things. But somewhere in another realm I was given an ability to feel intensly, and translate those intense feelings, happy or sad or whatever, onto a piece of art. It won't translate for everyone, but just enough to make the art a conduit for some. I have no idea what it does for them or perhaps helps them with, but I take it very seriously, that gift. I do not consider making art 'play' as some suggest it should - "be a child again, play, paint, draw..." - Bunk, it's a hard exploration each time, a struggle to start but once in it I can't stop. Play is skipping down the road with Huck at my side. Nothing else matters on the human ground while painting - and that is why the farm is so important as a balance. Because what is on the human ground does matter, and adds value to my life and heart. Before the farm, I floated in my head a lot, I would trance at the drop of a hat. The farm, its dirt, the need for me to always connect my hands to physical things and animals that are rooted on the physical earth - keeps me a spirt having a human experience, not the other way around.

So this week has been full of tying up loose ends, cleaning the studio, preparing my pencils - just like I did before heading off to a new school year. There is something wonderful about the turning of summer to fall. The week has also been full of animal angst. It started with me taking a trip to urgent car to get a tetanus shot after I rescued Mr. Pumpkin Head from something he got stuck in - his sweet little face was capable of latching on to my calf with all teeth sunk in like a boa constrictor. If you've ever had a cat do this, you know the anguish bleats that came out of my medium build body. He was scared, I don't blame him, but he's the biggest trouble maker on the farm, a little bully really. Later in the week I kept finding curved marks on the goat's backs where hair was missing. I suspected Pino might be kicking out at them over feeding time, but the marks were on their backs, not where a kick would occur. The hair was totally gone, but no raw bleeding area. Perhaps being ripped out by blackberry bushes, which can do that. They are after all covered in berry stains at day's end. But I still suspected Pino. Stella was in heat this week, and yesterday I heard heard yelp in pain and saw her running away from a sheepish looking Pino. There on her back was a new mark, no hair, but also a slight gash made by a sharp tooth - he had been biting her, perhaps trying to mount her. Some other hints that our dear Pino needs...well...female companionship: he has taken a real fondness to my mare, Sky, looking longingly at her and trotting with his lips curled up as we ride by; and the little lady killer has become quite fond of...ahem...me - running behind me a bit too, well, let's just say in a 'randy' manner. Not aggressive, just with that 'gotta get me some of that" look. We had thought we'd keep Pino 'intact' in case we wanted to breed him, unless he gave us problems. But with Joe Pye Weed and Mr. T on the way, and 3 breeding rams to sell, there's enough testosterone in the field for now. He is a nice donkey, and a baby would be so precious. But adding more donkeys would mean growing my pie delivery service to new heights, and much too much toe painting....

So, Pino has a date with the doctor for a - you know. They will come to the farm and do it while he is put under. I told him not to worry, that after it's over, we will be much more able to focus on his pie service, and he will still have the same heart. He blinked, and leaned into me. One must be brave in facing changes, even when you are just a little donkey.

Buckets! Buckets! Buckets!

Like I said in an earlier posts, one just can't have enough buckets!
I was so excited to get our Bunny Buckets! They are now available on the store and we thought they make a wonderful, sweet way to welcome a little baby into the world. One should start a baby out with a baby bucket, yes? Filled with our Hidcote lavender and a little gift note attached, any baby would coo-coo I think.

And, I have started Bucket of the Month on the store. I found these old maple syrup collecting buckets from a woman who collects them in the forests out east. Then I embellish them with layered color acrylic washes and varnish. Each bucket has a different image varnished on - this one is a Parisian postcard, also hand scouted by a woman that collects and sells vintage postcards.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Blue Ribbon in My Heart

I awoke with great excitement on Monday, as we were off to the state fair to see Pokeweed compete in the yearling ram class. When I did barn chores, I told everyone I was off to see Pokeweed, and I told Rosemary his mother I would greet him. We sold Pokeweed a year ago to Schulson Ranch at 6 months, and I was so pleased to see how he had filled out. I have to admit, I was so proud! And there in one stall were 4 little Pokers [seen here], all created by Pokeweed, which means they are grandchildren of our Mr. Joe Pye Weed. Pokeweed's personality is still sweet and calm. He came in 3rd out of 5, but in my heart, he has a blue ribbon.

I used to go to the Minnesota State Fair [and, I must admit, the Oregon Fair ranks 1 out of 10 in quality, exhibits, livestock shows, fair site, animal shows, barns, etc]; the Minnesota State fair gets a 10] and I would buy the usual corn dog, mini doughnuts, maybe some lousy little piece of crap that caught my eye, like a bracelet made out of corn seeds [I miss the seed art building!]. But now I know just how much my life has changed, as the only thing I bought was...a sheep. A ram to be exact. This fine 1 year old ram will be coming to Apifera this fall to help keep our line from being too inbred. Some people just get rid of their ram after two years, but I am devoted to Joe. After much hair tearing and consults with my patient sheep crowd sprinkled through out the country, I decided two rams was the way to go. This fine gentleman is gentle and I think we will all be fine. One year he will breed with Rosemary, and Joe can then breed with those lambs a year or so later. He was named Mr. T, and we will adjust it to a weed name, to keep in line with the fact that all our rams are named after weeds. If you have a favorite weed, leave a comment. I just haven't had time to think. It would be nice if it started with a T. Can't do 'teasel'. Thistle is a possibility.

We walked through the horse barn which was disappointing as hardly any horses were in. The next day was mini donkeys,so we did see some mini donkeys that would have ripped Pino's heart out. Saw a few Palominos that had been shown that morning. I was really tempted to buy a floppy eared bunny but one ram seemed like a good day's investment. When we got home, I looked over our flock at feeding time and felt like we are doing pretty good with breeding good stock even though we were total novices in 2004. We are not experts, nor do we have that as a goal. I also was really glad to see all our animals, and I don't know why. It was just really nice to be in the barn. Sky looked especially beautiful to me. Perhaps because she is mine, and walking around the fair, I remember how many fairs I'd been to where I saw the horses and thought "someday, somehow'...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Twists and turns of friendship

Why is braiding my horse's main so soothing? Why does wearing a braid or pigtails feel different than wearing your hair down? I pondered these the other day as I was making little twine braids, playing around with the lavender, trying to come up with a new way to bundle it for higher end sales. I get so tired of organza violet ribbon and it's just not my style. Martyn came home and said, 'Oh, you're making friendship braids." Oh, my dear sweet man, he hit it right on the head. Of course, these were friendship bundles I was making. Now, the braids aren't all girly and perfect, ok, so don't come buying one and returning it because the braids are all crooked and sometimes they stick up and sometimes they stick out. That is just the way I do them, OK? They are each uniquely crafted bundle braid sculptures. By the time I am done with them, I make about negative $50.00 since they are rather time consuming. However, they make me happy, and I hope they make you happy too, and perhaps one of your friend's happy too. Buy them on the online store 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...

Each bundle comes with a little poem that I penned, but I had one of the garden fairies write it for me in his little fairy handwriting. You also get a 5x7" card/envelope for a note if you are giving it as a gift - or leave it blank for your friend to enjoy. [Archival Inks] And of course, I'm happy to write a note in the card for you if you want me to mail it directly as a gift.

I made peanut butter cookies today. I had been yearning for something home baked. The weather turned fall like, the sky had a gray cast over the range. I had some upsetting family news that reminded me that one minute you're perky as you sit making braids, and the next minute you can get some sad news in a phone call. Yin yang. The braid is like that, little twists and turns, just like life. And peanut butter cookies are like a mother's arms sometimes.