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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pino Pie Ambassador Discovered in Germany!

The beauty of life - if you choose to view it this way- is that each thing that happens in your day can be viewed as a gift from a generous source. If you look at life' s occurances this way, you can accept things that happen in life in a positive manner, and in a loving way. It also makes each day a giant gift basket - and this week, Pino and I have had many gifts.

One is the fact we came upon a little blue sheep named Friederike who lives in Germany with her very generous and talented artist mother. While I have been enjoying the wonderful wonderful toys Sandra makes , Pino and Friederike the sheep have been exchanging emails. And, today, Friederike writes about her visit yesterday to a children's home , complete with a sweet gift, in Pino Pie fashion. Friederike seems to have the same open heart as our little Pino, and already was a sharing sort, but when she read about Pino's Pies, she jumped on board. I expect wonderful things from this sheep and donkey friendship. We send greetings to Germany and our new friends!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Apron reinvention

I have made a bold decision.

I will begin to wear aprons over my pants as a way to create a new wardrobe for myself. I just ordered two vintage aprons - the smock type with vintage red cherries and colored piping. And in these pictures I am modeling an apron graciously sent to me by fellow artist Amy Schimler who designed the cheery farm animal fabric. I told her I would take pictures, artfully shot, holding lavender with Pino and Paco sitting by my side, posed like Martha Stewart props, but alas, this is Apifera, not Martha's [for which Pino and Paco are grateful], hence the photos are...well...sorry, Amy, I will do better.

The brainstorm to wear aprons stemmed from the fact that I am turning an age when, body weight once carried up high now seems to be lower, and those teeny little tanks I wore allowing my lady tummy slightly peaking out now reveals much too much even for my eyes. As healthy as we eat, and as much motion as my body gets, I am done fighting the reality that my 49 year old body just isn't 'cute' anymore. Nor is it ugly. Rather than getting down about it, I will accentuate the positive. I will cloak my body in items that make me happy, and yet react well with my donkey filled pie-bakin' -chicken- scracthin' life, and look good with braids and boots. I want to feel free, like those teeny tops made me feel once, but with slightly better coverage. For some reason, aprons make me feel that way. So when I look in the mirror and see the chin sagging, arms getting a bit pudgy, I will stop, and look at the apron I have on and feel refreshed.

I will also begin riding my horse in my aprons.

I have always re-invented myself every 11 years or so, and I am now in my donkey-apron stage. Although since donkeys live to be over 30, I do not consider it a phase really, but rather consider the donkey's the guides of this phase. My mother gave me her old sewing machine that needs fixing. I yearn to learn to sew better, and I will make aprons. I will name the aprons, like I do the animals,
and I won't care how much paint or dirt gets on them.

You know you married the right person when you can both wear the same apron.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summer Ode

Cups of white
laced with ants
I'd like to weave you
into some pants.

I'd wear you all day
with my best rubber boots
Perhaps I could make
the donkeys some suits

I'd be naked and bare
except for my hair
Underneath your soft
tendrils and lace

The world that goes by
might scoff and ask why
Do you waste your days
in such a silly lacey haze
When you could move mountains perhaps
in stead of taking lacey naps

Well I would reply
and let out a sigh
It is because of my naps
complete with lace caps
That make my eyes shine
and my life just fine

©K.Dunn, Yamhill, OR

Friday, August 17, 2007

It just is

There must be a spiritual meaning when a beautiful pure white chicken dies on one's anniversary. Or do I just seek one because I know in my heart there is no rhyme or reason to it, it just is. Miss Miho was only with us a short time, since March or so, but she was part of farm, she gave us eggs, and she was valued. She was the tiniest hen of our small flock, the only pure white one, and the bottom of the pecking order from day one.

When I went to put the chickens in for the night, I knew right away there was something amiss. Miss Miho was faced towards a corner, like she was setting, not moving. Her head was bent to the side. She was still alive, but all the signs indicated she was on her way. Her eyes were still open, but when I picked her up, her breathing was heavy, and she was pretty much unconscious I believe. I was afraid she might just be pecked by the others, so I placed her in my wire egg basket in a white towel, and she spent her final hours with us on the deck. I stroked her and at some point could feel the heat leave her body. She lived another hour. We do not know why she died, and never will.

It had been a beautiful day, a perfect day in every sense. I had had a wonderful ride on Boone that morning, and spent a rare afternoon off the farm, enjoying a visit to the farmer's market to buy food for our anniversary dinner. I made a peach pie for Martyn, complete with one of my 'raggedy lattice tops".

But when Miss Miho finally died at about 1 am, I cried like a baby. You know, deep sobs, head in hands crying. Somehow the death of that one chicken allowed me to let go of many sadnesses in my heart - sadness that I intuitively know is coming. It's as if I needed to sob for future passings, of both animals, friends, loved ones, and myself. Someone recently told me they found farmers to be a lot more raw and primal than many people. I agreed with her, and on the farm I'm intuitively aware of the uncontrollable daily flow of nature, and unconsciously I am made aware of my own death over and over, and other's deaths too. It's just so matter-of-fact. For me it is best to feel strongly, in the moment. The farm allows me to do this in a different way than when I lived in the city.

We've decided to make a special chicken burial area by the cedar trees we are continually planting on the property line. She'll grow into them then, and my little bird and rodent cemetary is too small for the many future chicken burials. As we went to sleep last night, my husband of four years whispered to me, "You make my heart full."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A donkey comes to life

I have my children's book manuscript ready to show possible editors and am just beginning to prepare it properly. Meanwhile, I've posted some rough spreads on the site.

I must say, I have been having so much fun working on the book, and would so love to see it in print someday. I realize that is a long ways off, and I am researching and keeping a positive outlook. Martyn and I lay in bed the other night and he read it out loud, it was wonderful. We both got teary eyed. "Good grief, she thinks her book is wonderful", say all the editors in a groan...I am going to start some other stories too, as I've really enjoyed this initial process - and I am surrounded by so many stories here on the farm.

Do you know when you do a rough sketch and you just can see it in finished form in your mind? I feel that with all these roughs in my dummy [for those of you who don't know the lingo, a 'dummy' is basically a roughed out book, showing sketches and type and the flow of the book]. I've only shown it to a couple people, and both wondered if the roughs should be the finished art, but I am not sure about that. I love them, but I see most of the main illustrations being in the color version, with possible spots staying in these sketchy monotone pastels.

This is all a learning curve to me, and I'm lucky and grateful to have some artist compadres who can give me some initial insights. When I started in illustration 10+ years ago, I wanted to do children's books, but ended up on a different path, which is fine, it was as it was meant to be. But I want to try again.

The quest continues

I wrote last year about my conflict of raising animals for meat. My quest for comfort is still unresolved, but it has been softened - not because I am any less feeling, but because I am even more aware of the importance of respecting livestock and those small farmers that are doing their best to provide food for themselves and others. Please do not write me and suggest my angst would be gone if I just became a vegetarian. Hogwash. Animal by products are everywhere, and simply ruling out meat is not as simple a solution as one might think. Nor is it my choice. While I applaud vegetarians that don't eat meat because they love animals, I have thought about this over and over and over. While some are quick to say things like, 'But you love animals, it is immersed in your art and life, how can you kill them...", I would respond, "Please come walk in my shoes, live on this farm, watch the interactions and the pecking orders of nature, and you will see that I am part of a food chain begun a universe ago. " My goal as a small farmer and human is to respect the food chain, but never act the pompous king simply because, at this moment in history, I am more or less at the top of the chain.

And so, here we are again, with the impending 'harvest' of the meat lambs on my conscious. On Saturday, the mobile butcher will arrive at the farm, and within seconds, the 4 animals I have cared for will be butchered, shot in the head - quickly. I am writing that bluntly, because I think people need to hear it. I will go through the usual blessing the night before, placing lavender on their nighttime stall, and thanking each one individually. I soften my conscious by referring to this as 'harvesting', as if killing a 5 month old lamb is the same as pulling a zucchini off the vine. Yet, in a big picture, I feel it is.

Many will scoff at me - but I watch the feral cats survive on a baby bird, rodents - am I to judge them? I watch a hen snatch a moth - am I to judge her? Am I to separate out the living beings of the many grass blades that my horse eats as unworthy of my angst? No - so if I am to rule out meat or poultry or fish, so should I rule out all living creatures including vegetables, fruits and eggs.

I am proud of our efforts here. It is very small scale. While the final days leading up to the butcher date are uncomfortable for me, it is what I choose to do - to raise a small amount of meat that has no foreign food in it, doesn't get hauled in from New Zealand or even out of state. The only energy I'm using is the air and the sun, and the 6 miles of gas the butcher uses to come to our farm and electricity of small amounts to freeze it. We have become more sustainable than last year, and this year we have more goals - it is an ongoing effort, as it is with many. The night of the harvest, we will eat fresh liver - it is our way of showing the animal that his life was not in vein. I always well up a bit when we eat our first meal of the harvest - not from sadness, but from pride - for both the animal and for the farmer. Chew slowly tonight, and give thanks, no matter if you are eating a tomato or a fillet - they all are bounties of our earth.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Encounter with a lady

The face I love, over and over, even if it is laced in the spicy scent of Mademoiselle Le Pew.

Mademoiselle Le Pew comes each night, when dark, to finish off the fine quality barn cat food that sits in a bowl for the front porch Apifera Cats. Mademoiselle is known to venture to the big barn to graze on other fine edibles of the other Apifera barn cats, but seems to prefer the front porch. Rather than being inside, Martyn and I tend to sit outside on the porch, enjoying the cool summer nites, and of course, where we go, so goes our noble dog Huck, and the one eyed pug, Billy. We have trained Huck to wag his tail from afar at Mademoiselle, but not run towards her, as we have explained to him that one must never startle Mademoiselle. "But she is so cute and quite attractive at nite with her glaring white stripe," Huck says with his eyes....Well, last nite he took matters into his own feet, and introduced himself much too quickly to dear Mademoiselle. One can not blame the lady for being startled.

All I can remember is seeing Mademoiselle walking rapidly up the porch where we sat, as she has no fear of us, and Huck in close proximity, and Big Tony right behind them. As Mademoiselle fled to her private room nestled in the Quince bush, dear Huck began to lick himself all over in alarm, "My God, what has happened to my usual doggy odor??" At this point the one eyed pug sensed something was amiss, and came up from under the quilt as he sat on my lap. Giving a skunked 90# lab a bath of vinegar and dish soap at 10 post meridian after one has had their evening wine is a sobering affair.

In the background, Big Tony sat watching the entire bathing process, as if saying, "Huck, I told you -Always approach her with quite dignity, like a cat would....".

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Morning Has Broken

Every morning when I go out to do barn feedings and chores, the donkeys are usually lying in their morning repose...waiting to hear the gate open, or Huck bark in the backyard. These signals set the barn's occupants into their morning routine - the donkey brays that makes the rooster crow as the chickens get let out that makes the Pygmy rise up and then the goats are out and then the papa rams are out and then the ewes start baa-ing which makes the horse come in as the farm girl walks to the barn while the cats follow along...Each morning I find the donkeys in some form of morning relaxation, in the most charming poses, and I have yet to capture any on film. These pictures from this morning don't do their morning repose justice, but I will try to do better, if only for myself.

I am a hopeless homebody. I love being home, working on projects while the animals are all around, and Martyn is puttering on one of many farm chores. As I write he is in the kitchen making pickles from the plethora of cucs we have in the garden. Pino's Pies brings such joy, that I thought for Paco's sake we can have a label "Paco's Pickles"just for him. So that would be a 'plethora of Paco's pickles'...

So, the air is cool, and I will finally finish boxing up the remaining lavender bundles in the barn; prune back the cat mint, go for a ride perhaps, putz around awhile, taste Martyn's pickles...er...Paco's pickles - all in the magic acreage that two human hearts are intertwined in. There is much to be done, but today I will work at whatever pace I am propelled internally to.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Keep on

As my old homeland of Minneapolis suffers through shock, as two of my close woman friends endure cancer treatments, as bad things just keep happening to nice people - how is a sensing person suppose to respond? By going on with the work that brings inner joy and meaning. Otherwise, it is really an affront to those that are suffering, or dead, for they would give anything to go on with the work they loved, if they had a second chance. Talking with my friend today who has just fought back a health scare, and listening to ongoing news of the bridge disaster, it is impossible not be shocked into both the joy of life, but also the blatant fact that it ends, sometimes abruptly, sometimes alone, and scared. I am turning fifty in March, and I must say, my perspective on life of late has been even more sentimental than it has been in the past. The internal receptors that have been highly sensitive since I can remember, causing me to be a ma gnat for animals, wounded birds and the elderly, have also been sensing great comings of positivity for my immediate world. It won't be without life's boomerangs, but I am meant to write these little stories now, and paint the pictures that go with them in my head, and so that is how I spent the day, drawing a little donkey collecting blackberries in a red bucket so he can bake a pie.

I have never felt more positive that I am being asked to focus on this children's book and see it through.