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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, January 29, 2007

You don't need to know where the butter dish is to be happy

'Chaos' has sort of a negative connotation, yet I can't think of another word, yet, to describe the new set of pieces I am working on and mulling through. Perhaps I will do a few and move on, but right now chaotic lines and colors are being registered by my muse into my hands.

When I lived as a single person, I was able to keep an organized little closet, and kitchen and garage. I wasn't a neat freak, nor did I label my closet drawers like some. But I knew where everything was pretty much, and had control over where something belonged, in order to maintain my sense of order, as I knew it SHOULD be. I had one shovel, one hoe, one rake, and no need for a wheel barrel.

Fast forward ahead....Marry a man. Move to a farm. Organization ceased to exist as I knew it SHOULD be. I now have multiple copies of everything- shovels, spades, hoes, buckets, rakes, ropes, boxes, crates.... I also have 3 wheel barrels: one is blue and is my barn barrel, one is grey and has a flat tire most of the time and is for making cement, one is not worth keeping but Frankie likes to sit in it, as do the cats on a warm day if there is compost in it. I spend a lot of time re-arranging piles of old beams in the barn, piles of fencing, piles of bricks to be used on a someday wall...I rearrange the multitude of buckets, feed bins, recycle cans, nail bins, hoes, axes, electric parts, pieces of metal barn roofing until I have it in somewhat of an orderly arrangement.

Then my husband spends a day on a project in the barn, and re-arranges my arrangements.

As three years have gone by, I have learned that certain chaos on the farm must be accepted. Unless you are Martha Stewart with Martha Stewart's staff, there will always be 'stuff' sitting in the barn. There will always be a burn pile growing, waiting for the right weather to burn it, there will always be old posts and boards around because one always needs old posts and boards here, and there will always be a pile of rocks waiting to be made into something.

At the moment, my husband is in the kitchen demolishing the cupboards. Soon, the windows will need to come out. The flooring is gone. The butter dish is not where it SHOULD be, nor is the silverware, the wine glass or the cat food.

But it's all fine. I did a 48" canvas today, sold a bunch of Etsy stuff, brushed my horse, spent time with my donkeys, and it's only 3:30. I specked windows for the kitchen, did a post office run, and spent a bit of time figuring out new cross fencing for the upcoming lambing season. Many things collide daily here - animals, art, business, life, family - but the trick is to approach this 'chaos' as a treasure hunt. I awake with more anticipation each day than I ever did in my life. There is always something to do here, something new, something challenging, something that will feed me internally like the city couldn't. The trick is to remain calm, but alert, with one's head up, and one's mind open. That way, when you are walking by all the stuff sitting in the barn, you won't really notice it much, rather you will make a mental note of the exceptionally nice blue color in the sky.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Anatomy lessons, and spring fever

I have added 'anatomically correct' rag dolls to my repertoire. I had way to much fun making this raggedy lavender filled creation . Just when I thought I was done, I felt she needed a navel which led to other girlie features. I have memories of beautifully made dolls of my mother's, where the clothes are hand made and even the undergarments are distinctive, so my little farm girl had to have some undies too. Who knows where this will lead. A new Muppet empire, made of farm girls and animals....Anyway, I listed it on the Etsy shop ....Stay posted for more farm friends. I'm pleased that little Goldie the Chicken is off to live in Colorado...

The weather has turned spring like, I'm pleased to say. Just a rise of 15 degrees or so and the animals turn childlike, playing more, the donkeys play tug of war on their dirt mound with their rubber dish, and when I went to feed Sky Flower last nite, her Palomino body was no longer Palomino, but rather a mud caked color which she was quite pleased with. Today I let the 'boys" [Joe Pye Weed, Mr. T, Milkweed,Chickweed, Paco, and Pino] all run out in the area between the two barns. The ram's pasture is helplessly bleak on grass. While the donkeys and goats are quite content with weeds and blackberries, I find the sheep like to eat lower to the ground. Joe Pye Weed has not been looking his best. He has mystery marks on both sides of his body where hair has been 'chewed off', or rubbed off, but excessively. A couple farm friends have seen it, and it is still somewhat of a mystery. Not mange. Not lice. I've tried tea tree oil, and this week I'm putting Destin on him- a diaper rash solution of cod liver oil that does wonders for a variety of skin rashes I find, plus it's smelly so if an animal is chewing him, it might help. I haven't seen any animal chewing on him, and actually, we doubt this is the case, as the mystery shedding started back when he was confined on his own. It might be him nervously chewing himself, but I never see it.

I am getting excited for March lambing. Daisy already looks big, and I really hope she is not carrying triplets. I have started re-reading my sheep books, and it is time for my 'read all the worst case scenarios of lambing incidences and freak the shepherd out' - which is turning into an annual ritual around February.Perhaps this is why I doodled these little odd creatures this week - part lamb/part me/part fairy?...I framed them and put them on Etsy too.

As I awoke this morning, Billy the pug came into the bed with me. He likes to get under the covers in the morning, and snuggle his face into my armpit as I hold him. He has done this since he was 8 weeks old, when I use to carry him in my overall pocket [he weighed 1.3 pounds when I got him]. Huck came running in and smashed his 5 pound wet nose in mine, another morning ritual - and it came to me that dogs are so consistent. They are unlike children. Dogs are born and are puppies for about 1-2 years, then they are who they are. They have personalities unique to themselves, but each day, you can count on your dog to be consistently who he/she is. They never let you down on that. Billy will never reach an age [he's 8] where he says, "You know, Mom, I'm thinking it's too girly to snuggle with you in bed, so I better not." And Huck will never cease to run in to the bedroom each morning to greet me and the day with incredible gusto. It is good to have certain beings in one's life who never let you down.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sewing messes and a quiet donkey

To hopefully satisfy my sewing hankerings, I have opened an Etsy shop. I am going to be making lavender items and will be putting them mainly on the Etsy store rather than my own art store. Not to complicate my loyal shoppers, but the traffic on Etsy is growing, and I hope it will work in our farm's favor. There are so many talented knitters, sewers, crafts people at Etsy that I almost cringe to put my messy little monkey house creations on, but it's the love and energy that go into these things that means something. The people on the site are so helpful and encouraging, which is nice. I really encourage you to visit there.

I am working at developing more of the dryer bag/sachets with our lavender bud, in my style, that aren't counter productive to my time, energy and budget. The dryer bag is the best selling bud product, I think because it is easy to understand and is simple and not all fluffy like many of the sachets out there - girly girl isn't usually in my wardrobe. I hand sew them all which I enjoy, but I have lofty goals for our lavender empire, so the possibility of working with some contract sewers is hopefully a future reality. And also increasing my one-of-a-kind lavender stuffed raggedy doll objects...yes, more donkeys are on the horizon.

So visit Etsy, and keep visiting, often, as I will be making new things all the time. I will always maintain my art store site for the majority of my art work, but will post some art at Etsy - I'm just not sure the price point will do well there, we'll see. Feel free to email me and give me your thoughts on my Etsy shop.

Today, the weather is warming, enough to hopefully keep the black ice away that has socked the whole state in. We have had to carry buckets of warm water to all the pastures for the animals, and we are encouraged by the weather. The cold, combined with the state's hay storage, is making for a harder winter. Pino has not brayed since we returned on Monday, and I am somewhat concerned he is not feeling well. I have spent each morning hugging his belly longer than usual, and making sure he is getting his hay ration. Paco has also been buddying up to me a lot, which is not like him, and I think he is finally settling into the herd.

And in honor of the passing of a great writer and man, I am calling all the animals "Art" for one day. Art Buchwald, he was a good one. I'm sure he is bringing laughter wherever he is.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Traveling away from one's daily environment and routine brings a fresh perspective and outlook on things. I am a notorious homebody. I'm happy here surrounded by things and chores and rituals that I have chosen to bring into my life for meaning and happiness. Every now and then, I need to be dragged away, to remind myself there is energy and life all over, not just in my little realm.

So we took 7 days and flew to my old homeland of Minneapolis to visit my parents, celebrate my mother's 81st birthday, and see old friends. Leaving a house with a couple of dogs had a certain amount of preparation, but leaving a farm of pregnant ewes, and other creatures in the middle of winter has unique challenges. We were fortunate to have probably the best and most reliable and loving person take care of our animals while we were away - the birth mother of Pino Blangiforti. As if her huge heart and animal sense weren't good enough, her husband is the founding vet in town where we vet our cats and dogs. I had absolutely no fears about the animals being cared for properly. Still, the days leading up to the trip had me anxious: "Will they think that I have just left them? Will Miss Pussytoes the cat get enough to eat if I'm not there to place her food in a corner of the hay bale away from the more bossy cats?" My over the top imagination imagined the worst of the worst, until finally, we were on the plane. Once on the plane, I was fine, but I did ask God to get everyone on the plane safely to their destinations, and get me and Martyn back home to Huck and Billy and everyone else. The pilot was standing at the cockpit door, and he had this really nice smile, he was about 60, and I thought how if something horrible happened in mid air, I was sure he would get us out of it safely. As I sat and did my crossword puzzle, one of the clues was "donkey" - I was sure it was Pino reaching out to me...

This is why it is better for me to stay in my little realm...Air travel makes my creative energy turn to death and all the things I want to do and make and paint. Eventually, I slap myself in the side of the head and join the masses of living.

However, as I stated initially, travel also brings huge leaps of inspiration. Sitting in the plane, looking down on the land patterns reminded me of my paintings. And some new ideas formed in my head for future pieces. We spent a good deal of time at the Art Institute and I was especially inspired by an exhibit there on abstract drawings by various painters. We had a wonderful meal of catfish and sauerkraut prepared by fellow artist Heinz , sitting on cushions in front of the fire, with his huge and wonderful cat Blue Boy sitting near by- a painting if there ever was one - and we played a lot of great music and shared stories of everything from families, art, and politics. We ate like pigs, and drank well. We were also able to visit at a fellow fellow shepherd's home which was much fun. We caught up with family and old friends and slept late in the morning. I coveted my parent's nice shower and their DSL line.

The city had changed, or increased on the same onward and upward path it had been on when I left 4 years ago. It looked good, exciting, vibrant, energized. It was a nice time and I'm glad we could go. But like they say, it was nice to get there, but also nice to come home. We left on a cold, sunny day. A new snow had blanketed the highways, and we got a ride to the airport from two of my dearest friends, who picked us up with their Bloodhound - my friend and I sat cuddled together as the bloodhound took up the back seat, it was fun. It was a nice way to ride to the airport, all cozy with good friends and a 100# animal. Home was close now.

Flying in over the mountains, seeing Mt. Hood, Ranier and St. Helens, being able to recognize the city areas from the plane, seeing the farm land near the city, it felt like home. The airport seemed so quiet compared to the huge Minneapolis airport, and we easily made our way to the tram to take us to our parked car in the Red G lot, which we remembered by saying 'Red Goat' as a reminder. As we drove the hour to get to the vet to pick up Huck, Billy and Big Tony from boarding, I was excited to see them. Huck road in the back seat with his head leaning on my shoulder the whole time. As we drove up the driveway, the house was there, the trees were all standing, and my little realm was just fine. Our animal caretaker had left us a basket of fruit and delicious homemade coffee cake - still warm. That was nice.

I didn't venture out to see the barn animals that nite, as the caretaker had fed them all, and I didn't want to disturb their sleeping. But when I awoke, to a dusting of snow, I jumped out of bed. It was like Christmas. I went to the barn and greeted everyone. They were all safe, and well fed, and happy. So was I.

Monday, January 08, 2007

D is for dust

D is a good strong letter. The last name Dunn sounds good as a last name, especially with the multiple syllable name Katherine. I also like the word 'donkey'. Some words are just great words, sounding wise.

If I am not making sense it is because I have dust in my head, lungs and nose. The dust came from ripping up flooring in our kitchen. For two years we have been planning, re-planning, altering plans, giving up, and starting all over again on our kitchen. Hopelessly outdated, and not in a charming way, our kitchen suffered from 1970's bad country style, and to be blunt, a lot of crappy material. I primed all the cupboards when we moved in, just to lighten up the fake looking oak veneer. That was about it. I mean the place had fluorescent lighting...I look yellow much of the day. The cupboards are rotten in areas from leaking drains, the wiring is outdated and dangerous, the flooring was put in over too many layers of other crap so not to be level, and to top it off, they added the wonderful piece -de- resistance of fake brick siding in places.

We spent all weekend over the holidays planning, determined to make a real stick with it plan. And we did. We thought we'd wait until May to begin. But Martyn awoke Saturday and announced casually, "I'm going to rip the floor out, and that wall. So we did. It was marvelous. Hard work, but there is nothing like getting rid of old crap. This house had virgin fir floor boards under bad carpet and two layers of bad linoleum. Surprises any home owner lives for.

It was also good therapy for me. I have been doing quite a bit of letter writing and work on the sub development that has been tentatively given county "preliminary-approval". It is being appealed to the next level, and I have no doubts it will go to the State Court of Appeals. I can't go into more details right now. I go back and forth about writing in detail about this whole thing here- I started my blog with the purpose of sharing stories about my farm, my animals and my art, and the mix of all three. Writing appeal letters and spending time on this whole thing is so draining. It upsets me, it unbalances me, but it is a fight I feel I must put energy into. But for now, I want my blog to be a haven from it, for my sake, selfishly. With the new state legislature now in session, and Democratic majority, we are hoping to get some changes to the original pro-development Measure 37 law that so many voted for without understanding what they were voting for. I have hope that it will make a difference for many sad cases around the county, and hopefully on our road too. We and the neighborhood are not giving up.

So, a new kitchen is on the horizon. With a new layout, and refurbished cabinets, a pantry I don't have to get down on my creaky knees with a flashlight to discover what food I have, mouse proof drawers, new lighting so we won't look jaundice like - and the laundry will be incorporated into it so I don't have to squeeze myself into the basement to do clothes. It will take months, and in between we'll have some lambs and fix some fences and weed lavender and make some art.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Poodle period continues, and more

Some new things over on the store. My poodle period continues and the final two pieces of that threesome are now available [the first one sold already].

I've also added a section called On Paper. This section will sell pieces that are created traditionally by painting and drawing layers that are then assembled on the scanner as collages - hence the only original is the digital original. This is often how I create my illustrations. They are printed on archival paper with archival inks. I do not intend to pull large quantities of these, but will hand pull and inspect each print as they are ordered. I have decided to only offer work that is created in this way as prints - in other words, I do not intend, at this time, to take an my original paintings on canvas and reproduce them as archives. These pieces in the "On Paper" section will not be offered for sale anywhere else. The colors and quality are like a silkscreen, just fabulous.