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

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©Katherine Dunn.

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.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


There once was a young girl who loved to go to sleep at night because she could be alone with her dreams and thoughts. Sometimes she would go into her bedroom before it was dark, and lie in bed and make up stories about people she would be with. At that time, she was a big fan of the Monkees, so often her dream life included outings with Davy, or Davy would adopt her after she was found wandering alone on the beach. She had puppets and dolls that seemed real, carvings of horses and animals that she would imagine were real. She wanted to be with the Cartrights on Bonanza.

I still love to get in my bed. I like to shut my eyes and just let dreams tell me things, help me with things, or just prod me about things. Someone once told me, let your dreams give you what you need to have them give you at that time. I knew that the wood carved animals and puppets would come to life someday.

I have all the lavender bud processed. I look forward to having our real drying room in the barn next season. Each day, a fine layer of spent lavender flowers would fall from the ceiling in the kitchen where we had the bundles hanging to dry. Our harvest looks really good, and I'm getting our first national accounts going - we're going to make it. Now I can say that.

We spent our 3rd anniversary drinking a good bottle of Pinot in the dark with one candle, watching a PBS show on Willie Nelson, lavender scent wafting around us. Martyn had stopped on the way home off a main highway to pick me rose hips mixed with goldenrod. I spent a few minutes earlier looking at old wedding pictures, which made me yearn for the day again - it was beautiful weather, my family and friends were there, I was so clean and girlie looking, and the cake was really good. It made me miss my family and friends - everyone is scattered, some to the wind. "We ain't got a barrel of money, our clothes may be ragged and funny, but we're rollin' along, singin' our song, side by side."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Painted toes, pickles on the side please

Pino's first venture out as a birthday-party-surprise-guest was a huge hit. He stood patiently while I put the finishing touches on his party toenails, and finally, with pink balloons attached loosely to his neck, Black Eyed Susans tucked in his halter, and his gift tucked under a rope, he eventually made it to the river side where the party was being held. Once at the party, he was greeted by a bevy of squealing little girls - hugs followed, petting, more squealing. He handed over his little gift to the birthday girl, wrapped in pink paper to match his pink balloons. He had brought her a set of fabulous shiny, gaudy gem stone rings set in fluorescent plastic settings - fit for a queen, or a five year old. The food served included a vegetable tray of carrots, which the little party goers quickly discovered were a huge favorite of mini donkeys. Eventually, Pino was also sampling hot dogs and cupcakes. Before anyone writes me letters of reprimand, may I say that Pino is on a strictly donkey diet of natural roughage and hay - but one birthday party and a few cupcake bites washed down with a hot dog end seemed OK. About the only thing I felt bad about was when they brought out the donkey Pinata - everyone apologized, and Pino stood quietly by my side taking it like a man. The head finally flew off, candy flew around, more squealing, and Pino had had enough. He yawned and I took the little party animal home. Not long after, I saw him in the field, laying in the shade.

As if taking a donkey to a party of five year olds wasn't enough excitement, I made my first batch of pickles and pickled beets. Yes, yes, I can hear the pickle snickers now, I did not know how to make pickles or can. So I was quite pleased with the end results, and I must say, I found the whole process really satisfying. I now have wild thoughts in my head of canning everything - or at least making jam this week as the blackberries are at peak.

We were finally getting ready for the evening relaxation time, ie wine drinking, when the fire trucks began roaring down the road heading up a nearby farm's road. There were at least 10 trucks. We ran to our side field where the our ewes and horse are, and could see the smoke in the very close hillside. All the area people were out in their fields. Some trucks had to use our neighbor farm's water well to fill their reserve truck - the trucks were there for about four hours making sure the small forest fire was out, and all was well - but it gave us pause. We had just been talking about improving our water situation this winter in a variety of ways, not only for our nursery, but for a possible fire emergency. Martyn went back to start dinner, and I tucked the horse and goats and ewes in their stalls for the nite. I told Sky not to worry, that I was in charge of protecting her from fires, and Martyn was in charge of protecting me from fires.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Turning the color of horse and field

I think I am revving up to paint before September. My hiatus from August painting might not last, as I am yearning for the companionship of my art. As I drove from town errands today, I was surrounded in 360 degrees with the color of August hay. On the ground, in hay bales stacked, in burnt out trees and weeds, in the dust blowing in huge cloud formations as farmers worked the dry fields. I thought of recent pieces and missed them. I want to honor the square bales I see all over right now, but mostly the color of August. If I wait until September it might pass, and then how will the fields feel? My strawberry blond locks are more blonde than strawberry this month; I am now the color of my horse, and we are both blending into the earth of August. I tried to take a picture of her as she grazed in the burnt out fields, looking so beautiful and glistening in the afternoon sun. But I couldn't capture it. You never can. That's why you have to get out in nature and breathe with it. Art can only do so much.

On the way home, I saw a dead cat in the middle of a 4 lane highway. It was an orange tabby, like Angustofolia or Little Orange of our farm. I slowed for a second from 55MPH with cars behind me, thinking I could stop and pull it off the highway. But it was way too dangerous for me. Still, the image of its little body was burned in my head all the way home - perhaps some child is searching for it, and will drive the highway with their mother looking for it, only to come upon it on the highway. I felt horrible.

I grabbed the first cat that came to me and held it tight and cried for a second.

Then Pino brayed, and Huck greeted me, Billy awoke from his 5 hour nap - and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window - my hair so blonde with a slight curl, like Sky's mane. It inspired me to go see her.

I live with a donkey and a real Christopher Robin

This is what I saw yesterday morning as I left the house to go to the barn.

Perhaps everyone is tired of my donkey. I am as annoying, I suppose, as people that talk too much about their toddler's first steps, or new couples that put the name of their brand new boyfriend's or girlfriend's name in every sentence as if they were
all mashed together as one entity. Yuck. Sorry, but I'm just not quite done with the initial infatuation with bringing home a new farm animal. It should subside sometime, maybe. Probably not before Saturday, when Pino will attend a birthday party down the road for a five year old friend, who doesn't know he's coming yet. We will have to leave plenty early to get there on time, as Pino walks......v...e..r....y.....slllloooowwwllllllllyyyyy.

As with all my past August's, I am thinking on low drive, in little spurts, writing in chops, not as fluid as usual. I see things and I want to remember them, or honor them but since I'm trying not to paint this month, I write a note, or take photos.

For example, this morning Martyn appeared in front of me in this outfit. Yes, I am married to Christopher Robin. This outfit is almost as good as his rubber suit, but perhaps even more endearing. I complimented him on his attire, and as he walked out the door, he said, "I picked it out my ownself"...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Have donkey, will deliver pies

I have completely revamped my main site. I yearned for whiter pages, and for a site that combined my art and farm muses and life more seamlessly than the last. I also have been wanting to showcase more of my drawing and charcoals such as this image, and plan to keep adding these. Where the idea of this "Girl Yearning for Mother's Red Shoes" came from, I don't know. I just did it one day. Perhaps it is a throwback to a time in my life when I yearned for new red shoes, I don't know, but it pleases me, especially the orange.

I am looking forward to September and to focus on art again - and the weather change - the best time of year in my book. But until then, I amindulging this August with daily rides with my horse and working on the lavender field. And with the donkey's help, I have begun "Pino's Pie Club". As I write, I have a homemade blackberry pie baking and when it is done, I will put it in a little basket and Pino and I will hand deliver it to our nearby farm friends down the road. I love to bake, and I always had a romantic notion that when one moves to the country, one must bake pies and deliver them in little baskets. I never would have dreamed I'd get to do it with a donkey, but that shows you how magical the universe works. Pino has become such a hit on Tupper Road, that I walk him to visit with people. And I just thought baking pies is just about the darn golliest farm friendly thing one can do. I make little cards to go with each pie. I figure I get to test the pie crust cookies, and leave the pie to the neighbors, helping me to keep from looking like Hoss in Bonaza by winter.

I am researching a little wagon for Pino to pull - a mini donkey pulling a wagon with lavender and pies - oh, man, I gotta have it. Perhaps the drawing above is representative for me of a simpler life, a life of just simply wanting new red shoes seems sometimes easier than the life we are now living by choice. My shoes are always dirty, and I never dress up much anymore. I still paint peace signs on my jeans and girl up my riding attire with daisies in the horse bridal and one for my hat. But a young girl with braids yearning for a mother's red shoes - this seems so far away. Maybe that's all it was. A nice memory.