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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Envision Peace

With peaceful conditions all over the world deteriorating daily, the farm animals have pumped up their peace efforts.What started with the goats, has grown now to include the donkey, Big Tony, pugsand a lab, fawns running towards peace, and more. If a conversation about peace and peaceful resolutions can begin between people simply because one person notices your 'goats for peace' button, well, that's a start. One of my customers and friend in Japan was wearing her Goats for Peace button, and when someone asked her what it meant, she proudly told them it was 'her friend in America who lives on a farm and is an artist and has a peace movement with her animals". I thought that was so cool. The goats are in Japan spreading their message.

What happens to the gardens in war? Or the bees, flowers, fields of hay, pets, birds, sheep? People and children are hurt, killed, but so is nature and the animals. Just last week I heard about a shepherd tending his flock in Iraq who went to check on a dead person in his field, and the body was booby trapped with a bomb, and the shepherd died. Killed tending your flock....

So, if you believe in peaceful resolutions, no matter how diverse the flock or herd, no matter what color the lab, no matter how different the language or religion or culture, show it in your actions and words. Keep peace in your heart and wear a button with a peaceful donkey or goat. [BUMPER STICKERS COMING NEXT WEEK]

And may all animals, farmers, children, crops, fields, flowers, trees and people suffering in heat waves find relief soon.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Never taken lightly

I have set the date for the 3 meat lambs to be butchered in November. They will die on the same patch of pasture they spent their first days on. Somehow, it makes sense. I would much rather they go this way then be sent off to a butcher - even if it was a humane operation, as it is so stressful for the animals, especially sheep, to be transported. The butcher we have coming is well known and respected, and I am confidant he will do a quick and humane job, or we wouldn't be hiring him. Part of me wants to watch, perhaps hoping if I see the process enacted, it will help me somehow be more at ease with raising an animal and then, by choice, slaughtering it for meat. Being 'at ease' with it is unlikely, but perhaps I can reach a place where it doesn't feel like an impending trauma. Most seasoned farmers will say the animals have no idea of their role of becoming food, but I disagree. I feel that they do know their purpose, but unlike me, are at peace with it. I am with those animals and handle them much of the day, I know the slight differences in each of our small flock, and I can tell you those three weathers are calmer than the others, move with a slower pace, they just have an air about them. Perhaps, you might say, I just choose to fool myself with that idea to make it easier - but while in their presence, I sense it to be true. This is why I now call them 'chosen ones'.

I am not painting this month, but I am doing some new drawings. I quickly named this one 'dying woman', perhaps because a relative is dying of cancer, or perhaps because the shepherd artist is recognizing she too is slowly dying, as we all are, and this too might help her resolve her ongoing conflict with the upcoming butchering.

The cloth of heat that came on Thursday has now added a small bucket of humidity to it's fabric, so just walking to the barn has one wet and sticky. Having spent most of my former life on the east and Midwest, I am well aware of what high humidity does to a 100+ degree day. This Oregon "humidity" is nothing, but, it still makes me slur my words and step.

Last nite the heat was overwhelming, and nearby farm friends who have river front next to ours called to tell us to come down to the river and barbecue and go swimming. We shuffled like drunks to the car, and it was a relief the instant my feet went in the river. What a treat to have river front. Thank you. Thank you.

I am planning to paint the small little hooves of Pino Blangiforti next week. I know how happy it makes me to look down at my red toenails, so why not pass this joy on to a little donkey by daisy-izing his little feet.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

He sleeps under stars

I awoke on Saturday morning with the same feeling I remember as a child when I knew it was Christmas morning. It is nice to know that through one's life, the same feeling of anticipation can make one get out of bed with a hop and skip. Only this time the present would come to me slowly, as he walked down the gravel road from about 2 miles from our farm up Mt. Richmond. I knew the great package would arrive sometime in the afternoon, which was perfect, as it allowed us to get field work done do barn chores. But as the afternoon wore on, and 2 turned to 3 turned to 4, I had another feeling I remember as a child - fear that Christmas would really never come, or that somehow I would not get what I wanted. I went up to the house at 4 and checked messages - there were non indicating the package deliverers had changed their plans. I was tired from the field work and sun, so lay down to rest in the fan's breeze - but every few minutes I would jump, sure that I heard unusual sounds coming up the driveway. At about 5, Martyn and I sat in the shade and it was then we heard a clip, then a clop, in a slow rhythmic pattern coming up our gravel drive. It was at this precise moment that Pino Blangeforti entered my life, and both our lives are destined to change. For from this day forward, I will have yet another wonderful thing to do with freshly picked daisies - for what face is not just slightly more lovely than when framed in some daisies?

Pino Blangeforti's ancestors hail from Sicily, and his Mediterranean tastes are apparent. He relishes thorny weeds and is not jaded by hot and dry conditions. On his first full night with us, he calmly walked his pasture, and ran the fence line just as he should when he heard strange dogs barking. He had a sky of stars that he chose to sleep under, and he brayed at 2 am, and 4 am, and then again at dawn - and each time I heard it, I couldn't wait for morning to see him again. When I greeted him around 7, he smelled a bit skunky, and I praised him for keeping the skunk form entering the barn. Today after working with Sky all morning, I took Pino Blangiforti for a long walk down the road where we stopped often to admire the wind in weeds, and he tasted his new surroundings. We returned to watch Martyn working on the old barn, and sat in shade where Pino leaned on me and fell asleep standing as I brushed him.

Being a loyal creature by nature, I love my husband and am committed to him and always will be. But I must admit this, both to myself and now you, kind readers - I am also in love with a donkey.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Friday night gala in Atlanta

If you happen to be in or near Atlanta, you can visit Dalton Cowan Gallerie in Tula Art Center on Friday night, July 14th from 6 PM to 10 PM to see some of my large abstract canvases and also view the featured works by Atlanta artist Laura Bowman. Her series of textural landscapes entitled Moments in Nature will accompany new works by Stephanie Dalton, myself, Craig LaRotonda and Kim Maria. Also featuring custom designed boxes and frame samples created by frame designer and gallery director: Robert Cowan. This Friday Gallery Walk at Tula Art Center coincides with the Atlanta Gallery Association Introductions [06]. At Lowe Gallery, (just a few doors down from Dalton Cowan Gallerie), there will be a featured exhibit of Chihuly Glass Sculptures. An artist of this nature draws in an eclectic and serious crowd of Art + Gallery enthusiasts. Every gallery at Tula will be participating in the Open House and a full crowd is expected. Wine, chocolates and specialty drinks will be served throughout the gallery spaces.

I wish I could be there, in a clean dress, sans-manure boots, but I will most likely be lying on the couch, sipping Pinot, trying to get the dirt out of my nails. I'll be there in spirit, as will all the weeds and dirt of my land which grace the paintings currently hanging there. Cheers to Stephanie and Rob for doing so much in such a short time with their space - it is beautiful with an energy that will draw people to them, around them and back again.

Wrapped in a horse

I like this picture. It was taken on our open father's day farm weekend by Anna who came by while vacationing on the beach. I think we look like us, and happy.

The harvest continues. I find that being out in the field after 7pm is a wonderful time. The air and sky are nice, heat is gone, just a nice time. We have to cut a small amount of Grosso, but then are left to let our main bud variety of about 1000 plants sit and dry on the plant more, and then we will cut and hang them, and eventually de-bud and put that bud in bags for storage and selling. One of the old farmers came by and asked us 'is there a market for lavender" in sort of a sarcastic voice. I told him there was and that lavender has a lot of value added potential, meaning it can create many products from one crop. Yet another rather tongue-in-cheek tone came out of him as he asked, "What's value added?" like we were crazy city kids getting in on those crazy trends...I often feel like a fish out of water out here, as we chip away at our weeding without any tractor yet, maintaining our fields by hand on our own without spray. We often joke, wondering what kind of creature Fred Flintstone would have to farm lavender.

My head is full of hay dust, and it feels sort of fogged. The dust of summer is everywhere now, on the country roads, in my car, in the fields. August is looming, always my most challenging month. It took me years to figure out I make really bad decisions in August, usually because I am hot, and I don't like being hot. Things seem dried up and parched. When I still lived in NYC, it was in August that I knew I had to leave the city for good, as a cab nearly ran me over, and I kicked it [it didn't bother stopping] and I knew I had lost my city 'edge' - or did I gain myself and say, 'what am doing here anymore?' - I prefer the latter answer. So, two weeks before August, I am preparing, can feel the heaviness of the month coming - my senses are off, my beat is clumsy. I feel a need to rest and let my roots get water where they can. I want to be with my horse, and I am gravitating to her. We are both 'in training' and working with a local trainer, working on ground basics, starting all over together like two babies in a round pen. She is magnificent, even while misbehaving.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Peace out loud and some bees

I am very pleased that some of my Goats for Peace buttons are on their way to Rhode Island to one of the teachers at the Nonviolvence Institute. This organization continues to teach the methods and traditions of nonviolent communication that spring from the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. By teaching through examples the principles and practices of non-violence, the organization believes they can foster communities that address potentially violent situations with nonviolent solutions. In some small little way, the goats' campaign is working, spreading slowly like dandelion seed. It hasn't reached North Korea yet, unfortunately. Or D.C. for that matter...but we'll keep on, and you can too.

In the meantime, you can buy a 10 pack, or even a 100 pack of the buttons, and pass them out at your picnics and barbecues and block parties. Pay no mind if people laugh and think it's a joke. That's ok. Humor can only help the cause, as it helps people relax. Just a week ago, I was chatting with a local farmer and he saw my 'Goats for Peace' button on the straw hat I was wearing. He read it out loud, and chuckled. Then we went on to talk about hay or something. But it's the fact that he said the word "peace" out loud that is so important. For if you say 'peace' out loud, it sends the energy of that specific word's essence to your heart, and it will grow into something with that essence - because stuff in your heart just doesn't sit there, it grows.
So it was with peace in my heart that I worked in the lavender field, thinking of other peace ambassadors on the farm. And I think the "Bees of Apifera" need to have a button too. They not only do their work peacefully side by side all over the farm, but they work in peace with us as we harvest the lavender. I have also learned that the bees show us when the lavender plants are ready to be harvested for dried bundles. You see, you want to cut that lavender at the optimum moment of nectar so the bundle, once dried, will have a good amount of oil/sweet smell to it. Once the lavender stalks shoot up, their buds sit waiting to open. If you go into the field during the warmer part of morning and there are no bees buzzing, the plants aren't ready. I had been checking our lavender Hidcote variety each day, and the bees weren't buzzing yet - until yesterday. So, "thank you bees" - what magnificent little beings. They make a cool sound, help make honey for heaven's sake, and they help this old, green farm girl know when to cut her crop - all the while not swarming and creating a violent upheaval.

Meanwhile, we continue to harvest our lavender crop. This year we have 1500 plants at almost full maturity. It takes me 1 hour to harvest 2 rows and another hour or more to rubberband them and hang them for drying. There are about 50 more rows to do. Next year, in '07 it'll be 3x that. Are we down hearted? NO! I am so naive in forgetting how intense the harvest is. But seeing how large the yields are compared to last year and working amongst my bee friends, many whom I remember from last year - all in a field we get to steward - this is a good way to spend the 4th.