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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A dog named Lump

I have been thinking about Picasso a lot for some reason, and was drawn to a book by his good friend, and world renown photographer, David Duncan Douglas. "Picasso and Lump: A Dachshund's Odyssey". Lump the Dachshund belonged to Mr. Douglas, and would accompany him on visits to Picasso's. From the first meeting [documented in the book], Lump and Picasso formed a comfortable union, and Lump basically stayed on there while Mr. Douglas traveled for his assignments. Lump had the run of Picasso's house, also inhabited by a boxer called Yan and a goat, Esmeralda. Picasso owned many dogs in his life, but it is only Lump that he held, often like a baby we are told. While he preferred to work totally alone in his studio, only Lump was allowed in, and the dog appears in 15 of the 44 "Meninas" studies of this era [1957]. Picasso once exclaimed, "Lump is not a dog, he's not a little man, he's somebody else." I responded to that, and it speaks of a couple dogs I've known, and definitely Pino.

At some point, Lump became sick, suffering from a spinal condition prone to his breed, and Picasso put him in a vet clinic in Cannes. When that vet could not help Lump, Mr. Douglas retrieved him and took him to Germany to his old vet for more help. Lump stayed there in the care of this trusted vet for some time, but the dog could not be cured, and eventually, Mr. Douglas took him back to his own home where he lived out his life. Lump was never able to visit Picasso again due to his condition. In April of 1973, Mr. Douglas lost two dear friends. Lump died one week before Picasso.

Butternut Empire

Remember spring, the weather begins to warm, thoughts of vegetables dance in your head, you rush to buy seeds and you set out to create your vegetable empire. Only this year, you will do it all correctly, you will not rush and try to get too much planted at once - that only leads to messy rows, mixed up plant tags and sore backs.

No, this year, you will have a real plan, even if it's in your head, or scribbled on the back of a seed bag.I thought this year I had planted just the right amount of butternut. But like the last three years, I forgot one important thing - I plant them in 'the gold mine' as we call it. A huge hill of compost created from years of the former owner's horse manure, and now mixed with our horse's, and swirled in with the best fertilizer you can get - sheep poop - and the occasional donkey-goat mix. The man who eats at Apifera truly gets a taste of the farm.

And in true Apifera fashion, I first gathered the squash in piles at the gold mine. Days later, hauled them to the house. Days after that, arranged them to create a Big Tony pathway so he can sit outside out of the rain. And now days later, or has it been weeks, I dragged tarps down to cover them at night should we get a frost. Eventually, I will drag them down to the cellar, and try to create order there.

Rome was not built in a day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another man reawakens

Last Wednesday, BW ["Black White"]bravely and calmly allowed me to put him in a cat carrier and take him into his "re-awakening", as I call them, so as not to alarm the kitty he is about to lose his manly gems. I had spent about three weeks slowly tendering up this stray that came upon our farm, a big beauty,and he warmed up pretty fast, obviously starved for attention. Within two weeks I had him accustomed to the front porch tribe versus the barn cats, the latter being a much tougher bunch. He then began sleeping on a comforter I put on the deck for him. I trained him to eat in the crate, and that morning, there was no trauma. After 20 trappings of strays, this was a relief, for both woman and cat. He had a couple bad wounds I'd been trying to doctor, but the vet was able to really clean them well, and treat his ear mites. He really is such a loving cat, he adores being held, much more than many of the tribe. Big Tony has somewhat adjusted to him being on the porch. I have soothed Big Tony's heart and ego by confirming to him that no one takes over his throne and title as king. So thanks to all who participated in the BW raffle - the art was sent to someone in NYC who is going to share a lot of it with people.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Neil messages

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been a Neil Young follower since I was about 12 years old. I was in 8th grade when I bought "After the Goldrush" and it remains a album that resonates insights I always need to hear - even though the insights can be different as I age and evolve. I have never had some kind of rock star crush on Neil Young, rather, it is master guide-pupil relationship. I usually have about 2 dreams a year in which Neil Young appears, rarely speaks, but the lesson I take away from the dream is one that I just wasn't getting on the world plane, so Neil the guide comes in and offers some gem in a metaphorical way, and I have a lite bulb moment. I still paint NEIL on my jeans - to remind me to follow my muse, don't be afraid if you don't fit one genre, or if I get afraid of fitting in [which I do all the time] I just think of Neil, and his steadfastness to dance his own tune, even when the record producers were telling him something different.

Recently, I purchased Neil tickets for the Minneapolis concert in November, as we were going to take a trip to see my family. Plans had to be changed, and I had to sell my beloved Neil tickets. I've seen him so many times it's not the end of the word, but perhaps painting a quick, simple piece of him was my consolation to myself. So first I painted him as about a 30 year old Neil, and then I started to do a portrait of him as 60 year old Neil. As I worked on the latter, it became clear quite quickly that the face was not that of Neil's, it was my father as a much younger man. My father is in his mid eighties, and is not doing well. I knew that Neil had a message for me today. I won't disclose it here. But I did this portrait of my father. He was ana rchitect well into his late 70's, and he he loved good fabrics and wore nice hats and ties. I love his ties. I can still remember some of the ties he wore whhen I was young. It's funny how an object can hold so much memory, it can hold a life and bring it back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

When things go grumpy

Have you ever met a grumpier cow? I spent the day drawing, and everything was grumpy looking. I started with some ideas I wanted to explore with drawing people, they looked horribly horrible. My energy was all messed up and sometimes you can draw or paint your way out of it, but I think today it is just a grumpy day and everything will remain grumpy until tomorrow morning. I feel so badly for this beautiful cow, who really isn't grumpy in real life, I just allowed myself into his sweet persona. Sorry, Cow. I will bake a pie for you and we can share it, when I'm not so grumpy. No body wants grumpy pie. Energy is transferable, you know, so I will cover my head with a bag and hope that my grumpiness does not spread.

In the meantime, my grumpiness was lifted from me for a few seconds when I found out that I sold this painting , one I have always loved.

I hope this post doesn't make you grumpy, but sometimes my faithful readers think I am always sweet and content, like a fairy in the brook. Not so! Even those of us blessed with so much love, companionship get grumpy, even when you live with Pino Blangiforti and your dog does happy dances.

I'll be better tomorrow.

One small victory for the environment

This is the day many are writing on their blogs about the same topic - the environment. As you can see above, I am grumpy today. But I would be remiss not to write something, although I think my work and canvases speak for themselves about the environment.

However, I will announce that we found out this weekend that the sub development plans up the hill have been squashed, as the land use Board of Appeals [otherwise known as LUBA] reversed the County Commissioners absolutely inappropriate, ill thought out and not very well explained approval a year ago. Sadly, it took a lawyer and $9,000 or so to prove it; this is not the place for the legal ramblings of the case, but it is a clear victory for land use advocates, and the neighbors and we are pleased and relieved. Martyn and I had are names on the appeal, and neighbors helped donate money along with a local land use advocate group. There is still much to do [and money to raise], and fight for. I urge all voters in Oregon to vote YES for Measure 49 , if you care about water, air, plants, nurseries, vineyards, farms, and forests - and countryside lacking sprawl and billboards. It is what makes Oregon unique. I came from a state without land use planning and if there is an inch of ground, and given the chance, it will be developed for one reason - money.

Martyn and I also had our application approved and finalized and we are enrolled in the CREPS program. By doing so, we will be planting 400 or more native species of trees on our riverfront within the next year, helping to create shade and improve the health of the river and the fish and wildlife that must survive there.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pie Love: Share a pie

While each day of the year is ripe for the opportunity to share of yourself, the upcoming season can be particularly painful and lonely for many people of all ages. Nor should we assume that just because someone drives a nice car and has a nice income that they do not suffer from loneliness, or pain, or fears. I think some of you have mentioned things like, "I just have never made a crust...' or "I'm not sure I can just show up unannounced with a pie...". Just...take...the...step...

If you feel silly delivering a pie to a neighbor you've never met, try taking one to someone you know. Tell them you are stopping over with something you found you just have to give them. They get a pie made of love, you get to give it and receive the energy beaming back from their face and voice when they say, "You made me a pie?!"

For starters, baking a pie crust really isn't hard, and the messier ones are often the best. If you like the home made pie idea, but feel intimidated by the crust, for heaven's sakes, don't fret. Just buy one of those pre-made ones. No, it's not quite the same, but it might get you over the hump. For all my pie baking friends and gurus, I am not promoting those plastic tasting crusts [I have used them in a rush myself]but if it gets you on your way to being a pie ambassador, great.

And if you have children, teach them early to bake a pie, a skill that really should be required to graduate from grade school. I was lucky to be raised in a home that valued home made food and baked items. I cans till remember the first pie I made. It was pretty horrible. Banana cream pie, very runny, chalky crust...Ah well, I was only 8 or so. But, I still remember it. Do you still remember your first store bought cookie?

Good deed doers certainly do not have to write blogs or announce to the world, "Hey, I baked a pie and gave it to a stranger today, I'm a good deed doer." But Pino and I like to hear from people making pies.

Sometimes Life Begets Nuts

Yes, that really is a tree, our beloved walnut that sits in the front of the house, in view from one of my studio windows. That tiny man is the master steward of Apifera, gracefully gathering our walnut harvest. We now have millions, it seems, walnuts drying everywhere in the house, including the oven dryer. Someday, we keep saying, we will build drying racks for the barn...In the meantime, we have been entertaining ourselves with a plethora of nutty quotes. Upon going to bed, we make squirrel sounds and say, "I'm ready for winter!"... In the morning, after turning the drying nuts on their racks, I say, "Are your nuts dry yet?"..."What are you doing today?...Nut'in honey"...and "I'm livin' in nut house"...It goes on and on.

Nuts, I gotta go...

Complex Conflicts

I was attracted to do an illustration of Patricia' Hampl's newly released memoir, "The Florist's Daughter", for it's universal theme of parent-daughter intertwinings and the internal conflict that comes with it. As her brother left home years before to start a life out West, Hampl stays behind in her hometown in Minnesota, always within the reach of her parents, as the dutiful and rooted daughter. Her librarian mother, a secret-wanna- be- writer, 'loved her daughter to distraction", while her artistic father [the florist of the title], held the belief that "order exists within matter itself and is understood as elegance." Her mother was the cheerleader for Hampl's career choice of writer, but her father taught her about beauty. As she longed for faraway lands, it was the opposite forces of her much loved and much loving parents that rooted her to her home town her entire life. She is so intertwined in her parents and they with her that at some times she lacks her own clear vision and voice of what her life can be.

I initially envisioned her as a grown woman in the piece, as the book begins at her mother's death bed, her florist father long past but still felt; but I decided it was appropriate to make her a young girl, as the dynamic they lived [or we all live] begins way before we are able to realize it has begun. As she sits devotedly by her mother waiting for her final hours, we are made to realize that upon her mother's death will also come the death of a daughter. She will be no body's child.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Obsessively Inspired Happy

I've been happily immersed, obsessed really, with doing new illustrations to improve my portfolio. It's wonderful to feel so inspired and wake up in the early morning thinking of ideas I've been gestating, then put them on paper. My new rep group in NYC has helped me focus in many ways, and begin to really ask 'what type of work do I want'.

I want book covers and plays . Pretty wedding planners. Anything to do with wine or landscape. Dark subjects. Light subjects. I want to do a store display at Saks that shows donkeys in Spring's best new aprons.

And of course I want children's work , and children's books . I've been working so hard to improve and learn and grow in my children's writing. It's fun. I'm obsessed. I've had some feedback on the first version of Pino, and am mulling through how to improve it.

It's a process. So for now, you'll have to be patient. But before I die, I will have a book out there about my little donkey. I made that promise to myself, the universe, and Pino. One can not look in Pino's eyes and tell a lie.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Great Egg Caper

For weeks we have been wondering where the eggs are. No one is molting, there are still plenty of daylight hours and yet we have only been getting one or two eggs a day. Not that we need any more than that, but I did wonder out loud, "Where are you ladies hiding those eggs?"..."Hiding eggs? We're not hiding anything, goodness, not us, no not us, Ma'am. Just stayin' busy around the barnyard, peckin' and scratchin', cacklin' and cooin', lots to do, gotta run."

After a day of free ranging, all chickens return to Apifera Farm's highly desirable Chicken House. Perfumed in only the freshest of chicken poop, it has both front, back and side doors, as well as a secret ramp known only to chickens. Complete with ten roosting huts, it also can accommodate the guest that wants to sit up on a top bunk so to speak, in the rafters that is. While this proves wonderful and safe for the chicken, it requires the morning housekeeper to watch for falling bombs from above.

So last night, as usual, I count all the chickens before I lock up their hut. Hmmmmmm, one missing. This is usually one of the new young roosters, but this night, I know it to be one of my favorite hens, Zuchi, a charming Frizzle. She never strays, and I begin to worry when I can't find her in any of the best hiding spots. It is now dark enough that I get my flashlight and make one more search in and around both barns. No Zuchi, but I did find a lot of bats.

I was quite despondent, but decided that since I had seen her an hour earlier, she was most likely hunkered down in a good spot and would return in the morning to the cockle-doodle-crowing of St. Francis of Assisi. Morning came, and no Zuchi. Morning feedings came and went, no Zuchi. While her flock made their morning rounds, no Zuchi. I prepared for the inevitable, and hated myself, tromping back into the house to announce to Martyn what a lousy chicken farmer I was.

About an hour later, Martyn appeared at my desk with a basket of about 25 eggs. He had gone to get some wood and found a nest tucked way under some cedar 2x4's, a cozy spot with some hay, and a little roof from an old board we had put down at some point. And there sitting roosting on those eggs was none other than Zucchi.

Not available at Target

New game:

Get a sheep.

Put her by a wall.

Get a whole bunch of cats.

Line them up on the wall.

When all the cats tap the sheep

at least once with their paw

they win and the game's over.

To be sung to the tune of
"I Have a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts"

I've got a lovely
pair of underpants,
A lovely pair of underpants have I,
When I rush from a sheep,
And land in a heap,
My lovely underpants
you can still spy.