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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fox Messages

I sat down to finish what was an abstract piece on paper. As is my habit, I sometimes leave a piece for days, work on something else, come back and then turn the piece around or upside down to get a fresh perspective. I'm not trying to sound like a nut, but often an image, or a faint image of some kind, appears in the piece - like I will see a foot or an eye, etc. A day ago, a very strong vision of an animal head came to me on this piece, and it was clearly a fox. I am not sure why it appeared, but I did some research in my mythology books and the obvious symbolism is that fox is sly and cunning. I am not sure why this vision was so strong, and I won't worry too much about it. But Fox appeared, and I painted. Perhaps he is mischievously applauding me at my cleverness in some recent activity or thought, perhaps he is warning me to secure the chickens every night...Whatever his reasons for appearing, I thank him, as I created this piece, and I love it. It's on the online store now.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Crazy Chicken Lovin' Feelin' Groovy

I am hoping that by posting a plethora of chicken pictures, I will settle down from my chicken high and get back to the three paintings on my desk. Then again, why rush my chicken high, I have waited for so long to have them, and now they are here and I must spend quality time with them. I am probably driving them crazy, and I am constantly going out to check their nests for eggs and say 'hi chickens,cluck,cluck'...My clucks are already quite advanced, if I say so myself, and it is fun to sit and listen to the various sounds and tones they make, and notice the individual personalities and clucks. Each feather is unique it seems, and they give me an endless movie of 'feather color', as the light and sun change, so do their feathers. I am sure within a week or two I will have them out doing more free ranging, as they will know me and my clucks.

Martyn has been very patient with my 'It's talk like a chicken week" game...This morning, he ate the first eggs...what a treat. Thank you chickens...

But really, I must post my pictures and get back to work on my paintings for the upcoming spring shows. And I really do need to sell some art and pay some bills. I will need to paint like crazy today through Friday morning, and then I have much to do, as I am having a little family gathering on Sunday at noon for Martyn's birthday. I am having a hot dog party for his family, and we are also going to play "Put the daisy on the donkey" - with a live donkey of course - Pino is thrilled. It's his first birthday gig of the season. He has also asked if he can also add a local egg delivery route to his home baked pie service. I love the way that donkey thinks and cares about others.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Overcome with chickeness

This morning I got up early and shook Martyn and said very loudly, "CHICKENS!"

At 9am, our new laying hens would be delivered from a nearby chicken farmer. And, um, well...yes, that is a rooster in the picture. Yes, I took a rooster too. I had to. He was too magnificant not to.

Farmer and chickens are all doing well - this brief post at the end of a long day does not do my new chickens justice, but
I had to get a picture up to show all my chicken friends across the world, that now I too have entered the magnificant world of chickeness. They were quite nervous and rattled this morning after being delivered, but are settling in. By mid afternoon, the rooster was crowing. With each crow, Pino brayed - I am not sure if this will continue, but I found it charming, and it made me happy. I have them confined in their ample 250 sf coop, complete with roost condos and ramps. Chicken heaven. As soon as Martyn gets the gate finished tomorrow, they can free range in their confined area. I want them to get use to the new coop as 'home' before I let them free range all over. Everyone seems to think the cat tribe will not be a problem...I am hopeful this is true. Another reason to let them get well adjusted before they get free rein. No names until I get to know them. I hope to get some work done this week in between chicken visit and chicken photo shoots.

As I shut up the coop, I checked the nests and found three eggs. I screamed "Eggs!'. An animal that actually makes food and packages it, all for us to consume. Magical. But I must work on the screaming.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lambie Pies go one forever

I would like to talk about one little girl named Sarah, the lambie she loved, and the enduring effect one human being has on
the world.

A couple weeks ago, I received an email that grabbed my heart and has had lasting reverberations on me and others. A woman named Meg emailed me, after stumbling on my work thanks to the Illustration Friday interview I participated in. Visiting my blog led her not only to me and my art, but to the animal products over at my Cafe Press site, specifically, some items that had a little face of lamb with the word "lambie." She diplomatically asked me if it was possible for me to create the same little mini buttons, but change the word to "Lambie Pie" - and her reasons were compelling.

She went on to explain that her little sister, Sarah, had died one year earlier while working and studying abroad at the age of 20. Meg and her brother had been best friends and mentors with Sarah all through life, as they were 10 years old when Sarah was born - she shared the family joke that little baby Sarah really had 2 sets of parents, her real Mom and Dad and her older brother and sister. Meg then went on to tell me that when Sarah was born, her brother and her picked out a little lambie for the baby Sarah - and from that day on, Sarah took that lambie everywhere. As Sarah grew into a young girl, and then young adult, she loved to travel and explore, and she always took her lambie with her - a little bit of home and family was always with her. Meg then told me how on Sarah's final voyage abroad, she was talking to Sarah and saying good bye on the phone, and Sarah had for some reason chosen not to take Lambie, or could not fit her in her only backpack - and one of the last things she said to her older sister Meg was, "Hug Lambie for me!". They both laughed, and two weeks later, Sarah fell ill in Africa. Within days she was dead, and she died far away from her family, and Lambie Pie of course.

Well, I was so touched by the way Meg wrote about her sister Sarah - I am perhaps not doing the story justice, as Meg writes beautifully. She wrote about Sarah at length, to give me an idea of her energy and laughter, and spirit. She sounded a bit like me. She decided to go for it, and she went for it straight on her whole 20 years. She was one of those people that left huge marks in one's impression and heart. She had BIG energy, and still does - I felt it.

So, I made some items for Meg with Lambie Pie on them, and Meg will share them with friends and family. Meg continued to write me for the next day with stories about Sarah - she shared many pictures of Sarah in her last year, in her many travels. While Meg's letters were full of light and humor, and good memories, the ache of missing her sister could be viscerally felt in her words. After many emails in 2 days time, I finally had to ask, "Do you have a picture of the real Lambie Pie?"

When I saw this picture of a little baby, knowing a mother, father, and a 10 year old brother and sister were near by, my heart just sort of broke in many bits. It was as if I had lived Sarah's life in reverse. I wanted her to be alive again. I thought about that idea that in a parent's eyes, a child - no matter if they are 20 or 50-is always a child, it's always that little baby with a lambie pie to that parent. I wept - isn't that odd - a total stranger brought me to tears. But that is an important thing to remember for all of us - one person can move mountains, can effect and reverberate long after they are gone. Call it love, call it soul.

And in the next month, we will begin lambing season. And from one of our mama ewes, will come a little girl lambie, and she shall be named "Lambie Sarah Pie".

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Life is a smorgasboard I guess

The animals had what is comparable to home made waffles for me - they got fresh bamboo clippings today.I could not capture the excitement of the stampede to the bamboo smorgasboard this morning, but made an effort, all the while Joe Pye Weed kept pushing his body into the fence to block my pictures. Martyn brings home choice prunings by the truckload from certain landscape maintenance jobs he does in Portland. Much of the prunings he creates in people's yards are perfectly good eating, so he brings it home for the animals rather than drive it to the recycling center. With the pastures bare of anything on the line of lush grass or new leaf shoots, the animals get especially giddy over bamboo. The grounds are so bleak - I hope we get some warm air to get the grass growing. We've had nice sunny days, but 40 degree kind of temps and cooler nights, so grass is dormant. Hay prices are through the roof, and there is a shortage in the state, all of the west coast actually, so I just paid a bucket load of money to ensure we'd have a couple tons to get through lambing season and keep Sky healthy.

It's been 2 days of minor animal issues. Like the fact that Mr. T is limping badly, and after finding no rocks in his feet, no long toenails, no bumps on his muscles, I can only surmise he had a kick from someone during eating time. Mr. Plum, one of the barn cats, came to dinner last night with a huge patch of hair gone of his back and a scraping to go with it - a large spot, I at first thought it might be mange, but it isn't, thankfully. Rather, it might have been a raccoon or neighboring Tom...Oddly, the same thing appeared 2 weeks ago on Mr. Tomentosa, and his hair is growing back. Big Tony is getting another chronic ear infection and Lewisia Pinkie, one of the pregnant ewes, is acting oddly. A mother just knows - she is eating, but is standing back from the herd a lot, and makes a sort of sucking sound at times. I hesitated to breed her again after she abandoned a twin last year, but wanted to try her again now that she is slightly older. I worry she might be going through some early labor stuff...Lambing for the herd begins in early March...and as usual, I have begun re-reading my lambing books and freaking myself out on all the horrible things that can, but usually don't, happen in the birth process.

I have had a nice week - full of painting for 2 upcoming Spring shows. I finished a 54" canvas that I am so in love with. I am dying to post it, but want to savor it for myself before I push it out into the real world. And I've been making sachets like thesewhich bring me satisfaction. I'm learning which items seem to sell well or make sense to people. We've learned a lot in two years and I'll build on that his season.

Life is making sense to me. This often wasn't always the case in my 30's. I will be 49 in a month, perhaps this is the tradeoff of gaining a few pounds and adding some wrinkles. I wouldn't go back one year. Each day just makes more sense, has more growth for our farm, leaves me and the world with one more item of art. I still have momentary fits of angst about money - it's a struggle - I kick a few buckets and then get on with it. It's always worked in the past. Today when I woke up, the first thing I saw was the old growth Doug Fir out my window, with some birds in it's bough, singing.