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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, May 28, 2007

To be brave

When the war on Iraq started 4 years ago, I started a series of tiny paintings, little 'prayers' to all the beings - people, children, gardens, animals, bugs - that were being destroyed, hurt or displaced by a senseless war. Needless war. I was moved by the story of a shepherd in Iraq who had noticed a sheep limping, went to check on it and was killed by a planted grenade. Killed being a shepherd.It made me think of what war would be like on my farm. How scared, distraught, helpless I would feel trying to keep my animals safe, or keep the old barn from burning, watching a field we'd toiled over blown up in seconds. Neighbors we've known, here one day and gone the next. It is impossible to really experience it in one's mind as it must be. It must never leave you.

So I did these little daily prayers, to pray for the safety of people's gardens they had nurtured, or old trees, livestock, pet horses...This is the last little prayer painting from that series. I naively thought my little prayers would help in some way, but I don't know if they have. Perhaps the people that purchased the prayer paintings will be moved to do something too, I don't know. Perhaps if I did a prayer painting for every single person in the world, it would be a different world. So, I will sell this last one, and start again.

And on this Memorial Day, the bravery and sacrifices of all veterans of the past, including my father as a Marine in the Pacific at the age of 17 to 21, must not be overlooked or taken lightly. Nor shall we forget the bravery of all those in Iraq now - and may they know that being opposed to the war does not mean we have forgotten their bravery or sacrifice.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ears Leading to Somewhere

My compulsiveness for the ears of my donkeys continues.
The compulsion has led me to be distracted and to wander away
from the studio for large chunks of time, away from computer screens,
canvases and daily tasks. I can only have faith that the guides that
are leading me to focus on donkey ears know something I do not - yet.
I'm sure it is important and will open up doors of all kinds.

It also led me out with my camera, which led me by the chicken coop, where I sat with Henny Jenny, while Henny Jenny Penny wandered nearby. I now have 4 of the hens that let me pick them up and then will sit quitely on my lap. It is nice, it allows one to really examine how a chicken is built, how the feathers stick in their skin, like a big whisker on a man. Meanwhile, Miss Miho is now named Miss Crazy Miho, as she insists on picking out a new roost high above the ground where she religiously lays an egg, neatly and properly on a shelf, only to have it slowly roll off and be cracked on the floor each morning. I will build a ledge to keep it from rolling off. I have come to really feel badly when I take the eggs up from a roosting hen, all warm, full of potential. Miss Henny Henie Jenny Jenni is perhpas my most solid hen, calmest, always regimented in her laying, consistant. I always thank them for the eggs,but it as if they say to me sometimes, 'Can't we just keep one?'...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lessons of Donkey Ears

I am on to some deep exploration of donkey ears. I don't know why. I just know when I start a new piece, I want to put donkey ears in them. I want to draw what I see looking directly up in the sky, so birds become flat patterns.

The ears of all equines are very special. ever since I was little I was enamored when sitting on a horse and looking at the ears of my steed. They are touchable, yet sensitive. They tell us all sorts of things - before we humans even know. I discovered if you put your ear up to your donkey's ear, you hear the ocean, or the universe, or something bigger than me anyway.

My post will be short today. I have been a lazy blogger. But life is outside right now, and at the wall where the canvas hangs. I am focusing on the August show pieces now, but also feel much exploration in my work. I have heavy thoughts on my mind and in my heart. Perhaps, the donkey ears are telling me to listen carefully to find solutions and comfort in those answers.

Tomorrow I am going to spend all day in the garden and having one-on-one sessions with chosen animal friends. First on the list - little Frankie. She spends a lot of time
now separated from the goats and rams she is pastured with. She is not being pushed around, no one bosses little Frankie around. She is the Aretha Franklin of that pasture. She just seems extra loner-ish.

I also learned that the eyes of a donkey are placed on its head so that it can see all four feet at once. I didn't know this when I woke up this morning, and it reminds me how much can come into one's day if we just seek knowledge.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Goat Morning

When a goat gets up in the morning, it does not have an agenda. I have learned that when you live with goats, no matter how important your human agenda is, it will not impress a goat. Yesterday, rather than doing barn chores casually, I had an agenda - get the car packed with paintings and drive two hours to the coastal gallery for the Saturday show.

I keep the goats in a separate stall in the horse/sheep barn, and then walk them to their daily job of eating blackberries [which they take very seriously]. They share their daytime activity with the older rams. Most mornings, they trot right off to their duties, knowing some hay will greet them on the other side of the gate. But when one has an agenda, that is when a goat fairy lands on that goat and says 'You must confound the human this morning - be free! Be a goat!'.

Usually when my 'ladies' are being goat like, I am able to pull one of my many herding tricks out of a bag, and it works. On this morning, I did them all, including the one trick I use when all other tricks have failed - screaming at the top of my lungs "STELLA!!!!!!"...Marlon Brando must have turned over in his realm. The only thing this accomplished was that she stopped and looked at me with the calmest expression, as if to say, 'What in the heaven's name is wrong?' I then proceeded to lecture her, about how busy I was, how good Iris was [shame technique], how good I was to her [more shame technique] - all the while she listened patiently, but still no moving.

Finally, I let out a sigh, sat down on a stump, and she walked - slowly- through the gate. Least resistance pays off in most cases.

I then drove to the gallery, on a beautiful 75 degree sunny day, up through farmland, and then National Forests. At a certain point, one can feel the air change, the terrain becomes more ragged, caused by years of ocean winds and sea air. I treated myself to sushi while sitting looking at the ocean in my car. I hadn't been to the ocean for 6 months or so. That must change. It's like it said to me, 'Where have you been?" On the way home, I listened to John Prine cd's, good road music. I sang the old favorites, remembering how I was about 13 when I bought my first Prine album. As I drove, my head took me back to people I remember in college who I will never see again, and are nearing 50 too, but I see their faces as they were when they were 21. How strange, but nice too, faces caught in time. You can't paint that stuff, but a song can bring it out of your heart.

When I got back home, my ladies were eating, I greeted Stella and told her I was less hurried now, and sat near her while she ate. I then spent an hour grooming the little Small Rodent and Bird Cemetery, which has a nice new layer of fir mulch, and little English Daisies sprinkled throughout the friends buried there.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I've added some new things to the store site. I have been hunting down unique little frames that are wonderful to showcase the smaller archival prints. And some new things in the painting section...like this donkey friend

And I have added new paintings to my main portfolio site - including the first 6 pieces in the painting section, which are going up to the River Sea show in Astoria next week. The opening is May 12th if you are in the Oregon area.

Let's not forget Mother's Day. Make sure you order this weekend to ensure I can get things out on time. Ideas for the giver of your life -
lavender bouquets or sachets over at the Etsy shop , or aprons and more at the Cafe Press site.


I recently gave this painting to an artist friend, a compadré in the qwest of sustainable living who yearns to return to the land and live in a yurt. He will succeed of course, as he has stated his intentions quite clearly to himself
and once that happens, all the powers get set into action. I can see the birds visiting him while traveling over his yurt village. I was very satisified with this piece, the process, and the outcome. Some seem to have the opinion that it is not the outcome of the painting that is important, but the process. If this were entirely true, I would not swoon over the beauty of a home grown strawberry,but rather would be content only partake in it's daily growing patterns. I paint for many reasons, and I have no qualms stating that I enjoy the outcome, as well as the sometimes struggle, sometimes flow of creating it.

I think May is one of the busiest months on the farm. Things must be done to prepare for the upcoming growing season, from vegetables to the lavender to improving the fields for better grazing. Martyn is almost done building another shelter for the lambs that will be 'chosen' to grace us with meat. We chose to not castrate this year, which means to play it safe I will have to separate them out at 3 months. They will have their own lush fields to graze on, sunshine as always, wind, the sound of the river, and a cedar shelter to provide a safe haven from coyotes at night.

Meanwhile, there is a couple tons of bark mulch in the front yard, which I am spreading 3" thick over our garden areas. Even though we planted drought tolerant plants, we still have water issues come July/August, and lost a lot of hearty plants. This will improve the situation greatly. We are also getting ready to put our trench in for our irrigation from the river, which will supply a holding tank up on a hill. It will supply livestock with water, as well as our upcoming greenhouse and newly planted trees. I've planted some more crab apples [the donkeys and horse love them] and Martyn surprised me with a 15 foot tall blooming wisteria for my door opening out from the studio.

So, with all that on our plates, it is no wonder this painting was so satisfying. It is so free and light and casual. Just like the yellow finches that have returned.