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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To you

I am wishing all of you new opportunities for growth, peace in the heart that might spread, warmth of another's hand, and that you follow the beauty of the moon...

"Will you get any bigger?"

Paco has been asking Guinnias so many questions that I am giving the old goat some time to adjust before barraging him with a photo session.

We drove up on Monday to pick the old man up. The forecast was horribly inaccurate and we left at 7 am in a cold downpour, in the dark, with Huck and Billy crammed in the back of the car, along with a large crate for Guinnias. The roads were clear, thankfully, and we saw sun for about 10 minutes in Seattle. It actually hailed at Ellen's.

Firstly, it was so wonderful meeting Ellen and all her animals. I wish we'd had a longer, leisurely visit, but an hour was better than nothing. Ellen was as kind in person as she came across on the phone, and she is really helping a lot of animals. We met a bevy of goats, one of her rescue horses [it's actually good we live so far away] and a smattering of rescued sheep, like Dolly here, who came to Ellen's farm with so much unkept wool on her that they had to cut and shave it away from her face.

It was a long haul to get up there and turn around and drive back - but, I am so glad we did it. It felt so good to take this old guy home. He is adjusting well, eating and drinking which I'm pleased about. He came to Ellen's very thin, and she got some weight on him, but I hope I can get more on him. He has a really weak rear, favors one leg, has some missing teeth, but he eats whatever I give him which is good.

I have him in the Ward Room at night, just so I know he can eat all his food without a Paco-Pino-Lucia-Frankie smorgasbord. He likes to be with me when I do chores in the barn, but is very independent of the other animals, which was Ellen's experience too. He's submissive to Frankie, who is not at all interested in sharing her special hay barn. However, they get along, but the hierarchy in the herd is set fast, and it appears Guinnias is at the bottom. He adores Teddy Bear Graham Cookies.

I hated putting him in the car when we picked him up. I thought of what he might be sensing as we drove back to our farm. How do you explain to an animal they are going to their forever home? I guess by going out each day and feeding them and showing them care, over and over.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Old man a comin'

Apifera is not the only place where pygmies have had to trudge through deep snow - so too did Guinnias up at New Moon Farm .[It's official, I have slightly altered Guiness' name to "Guinnias" in honor of our love for Phinias T. Barnum. Ellen thought this was a nice tribute. We laughed though, that these creatures must think, "Have they ever just thought of asking me my real name?"]

Ellen sent me these pictures yesterday to let me know that the old man is just fine, and has not let the winter storm keep him from his morning routine - meeting her at the gate, and leading her to his favorite pastime - breakfast. It is now a sure thing that he and Frankie will have one huge thing in common, Breakfast Infatuation. Breakfast Infatuation is an incurable disease, common in many animals, but very prevalent in pygmies. One must be careful to secure all gates to feed areas- as the pygmy belly can pop like the blueberry girl. In all seriousness, this is an important part of goat raising - gate and fence security. I have known of some tragic cases, as I'm sure Ellen has.

I am so excited to get the old man home. We had hoped to go Monday, and probably could, but are waiting for a bit more road clearing. Our plan is too have him by next Sunday. Just enough time to sew matching outfits for him and Frankie....that was just a joke, but now I can see it in mind, the two of them waddling down the road in his and hers...hmmmm....

And I want to once again thank all of you who donated to help me in my senior goat journey. Like I said to all of you, your Apifera gift will arrive in January. I'll also be giving a little extra to Ellen for feed. She is bringing on 35 more goats next week - I hope to help her through art sales and any way I can throughout the next months. She is one of the many out there helping animals, and all on her own time. Bravo. If you love goats, pass her website on to friends. She is the real thing.

I did tell Pino about Guinnias. He was relieved Frankie will have Another. I did warn him he seems to have captured people's hearts already, and that he might also be getting mail in the future. Pino was not alarmed by this, and calmly explained without ego, "I suspect due to his short stature, many have looked down on him in his life, and that stimulates one's heart to overly project love, as it did mine."

The french fairy sends greetings

If you've been following along my adventures, you know my heart has been strunk not only by cats, donkeys,old goats, one eyed pugs and one handy farm man, but also by my childlike counterpart, Thelma , who lives with her paints and her family in France.

My chartreuse is now three, and it dawned on me, she will posess the power to communicate in letters and maybe a blog of her own someday...Well, in good time, but for now, I am kept in touch with her life by her gracious mother who recently sent me pictures of Mlle. Thelma preparing for Christmas. She began her preparations way back in early November, and these pictures were good timing with my recent post about Father Christmas.

Look at that face, so much hope in it for the many important grandiose things in her head.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec. 27th/Storm update

Power appears to me on for us full time now [ahhhhh] since Xmas, but the phones remain out in early morning while they refill the generator attached to the phone line pole, and then the phones go on at about noon and appear to remain on through the day and early evening. So until PGE gets power up the road 2 miles, the phones will most likely be out in mornings. I want to just kiss my Versizon tech who got really did a great job in this storm. We ran into him during storm and I just wanted to hug him.

We hope to keep power, but it has been known out here in rural areas to go in and out with downed trees. We now have roofs all cleared of 24+ inches of snow - thankfully, no roofs have collapes. We fretted about the one side of old barn where rams and goats live. Thank you universe. We saw some barns down in past days. Haven't had mail in 7 days! Which is sort of ridiculous since side roads are pretty good now. We ventured into town and the post office and there were many people there in same boat, and one old guy spoke up loudly, "Where is she???"...SO that 'the mail must go on" doesn't happen here.

However, we could have it much worse, and are so thankful for getting power on, and have the paths clearing to water buckets. Water hauling is lessoned now.

Belated love letter

Dear Father Christmas,

It has been many years since I wrote you directly, but I was reminded of you this whole week - it's the snow drifts, reminding me of long ago Christmases in Minnesota, where I wrote you often with hope and anticipation. I remember the year we actually met, or at least I saw your back as you left the darkened area where our Christmas tree stood. The adults and my brother did not believe I had seen you - but to this day, I knew it was you. After all, your boots left huge imprints in the thick rug in our house, and the next day I had what I felt was perfect proof- after laying out everyone's shoes in the imprints,all were meek compared to your large feet.

I remember I wrote you every year and always asked for a horse. Each year, you always came through with many of the things on my list. I knew that the gifts I requested had to go through a thorough review and many gifts were deemed redundant, unnecessary or simply weren't available.

But every year I asked for a horse, and you never brought me one. Oh, you did bring china horses, wood horses, horse dolls, horse books, horse boots and riding lessons, and horse sketch books. I began to feel your magic had waned, that perhaps you were overworked, or even bored with your position as chief gift giver. I even wrote a letter telling you that my third grade friend said you were a fake, but I told her you were not a fake, and I would prove it to her when you brought me a horse that year. Fortunately, she moved away before Christmas, and I did not have to face her at the Christmas parade on two feet, versus in my saddle. It was then I quit writing to you.

But I never stopped thinking of you. And when Martyn and I [yes, I did finally marry even though I wrote you once I would never marry] walked down the 1/4 mile drive yesterday in the 20" of snow, we heard not a truck, human, or even af farm animal, only the faint droppings of large snowflakes on our clothes. But off in the distance, I heard bells, like jingle bells. As we walked in giant high steps closer to the main road, the bells came closer, until out of the cloudy distance came a sleigh, pulled by two horses. It was a nearby farmer, delivering hay to his cows in the only way he could, by Percheron pulled sleigh.

We stopped and chatted and they went on their way, bells slowly becoming more distant as they sled down the road. As we made our way back to the house, with smoke coming out the chimney, and the barns all buried in snow cocoons, sleeping cats waiting by a fire, and I knew I had to write you a long overdo letter.

I never quit loving you, Father Christmas, even though my letters stopped long ago. I read once that the magic deposited by Father Christmas never leaves a child even as they turn into an adult. Some have forgotten just how powerful Father Christmas magic is, and have buried it deep inside, covering it with cynicism, or material quests that defeat the real purpose of giving and receiving. And as I stood with my horse during his morning feeding, I leaned into his massive body and took in his equine smells. While physically it was heat rising from his body into the cool air, I knew without a doubt it was really you, Father Christmas. I could hear the voice I used to hear in childhood slumber, "My child, I did get you that horse, it just took awhile."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Alert: possible storm down time

We're getting hit with round 2 of the winter storm along with the whole Pacific Northwest. We did lose phone/internet service last night but it's back [thank you to the fairies responsible for this]...

So, if you should try to email me, or post comments, or call, and you don't hear back, you know I'm either adrift somewhere, with a bucket of grain trying valiantly to ice skate to the barn - or that the phones and /or power is down.

Buyers: if you do buy anything, rest assured your money is safe in the Paypal account and I will notify you ASAP. I always respond within a few hours of getting a payment/order, so if you have a delayed response, it means email is down.

Stay safe, warm and I hope the winter storms aren't causing you, where ever you are, too much trouble. It's just the way it is.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Huckleberry extends snow day

In which nature throws us another beautiful inconvenience...

We received another 6" or so over the night and into the early morning. I lay in bed and listened. I thought about what a perfect little life a snowflake lives. It's born of water and comes together with all sorts of other snowflakes, each one different but each sharing a common heritage. Once born from water, do they huddle together in anticipation of their first and final journey through the clouds? As they float through wind and sky, getting closer and closer to the arms of the trees and the lap of the earth, do they sense whimsy, or perhaps melancholy of the quickness of life? They come to their respective resting spot, settle in a group, huddled together, waiting for the warmth of the sun to take them, just as they came, in water.

Getting water to the animals is the main challenge right now, but it's fine. We are supposed to get another cold blast on Saturday and Sunday. Our trip to pick up Guinniess might be delayed to mid week or next Monday. AS disappointed as I am not to have him on Monday, I guess there is no point getting stuck on an iced free way with a 90# lab with gas, a one-eyed senior pug with gas, a senior pygmy goat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Huckleberry declares snow day

In which the chocolate lab named after a pie reminds us that snow makes one feel like a pup again...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow sewing

The blanket of snow keeps getting deeper, and rather than taking the week to paint, it just felt right to sew. I am kind of going crazy, sewing any loose piece of fabric I can find into something. I'm threatening to make Christmas pageant outfits for all the animals, but Martyn has suggested I focus on one outfit which we will present to Guinness on his arrival.

I made this doll and pillow for my mother. When my father died in March, I took all his neckties and socks and hankies. He loved fine fabrics and always had beautiful ties from Italy. I saved the one he wore to my wedding, and one other that he bought while in my company which had a horse on it. This little pillow is made of the ties I took home with me after the funeral, and the little doll is made of his socks, and her dress is a beautiful silk tie.

I had a nice day making these, and felt him as I sewed. The solid color knit ties were his every ties he wore to work. As I sewed, the snow fell, just like it did in a memory of a Minnesota day...my father smoking his pipe in his big chair, my mother cooking with wonderful spices, a distant TV from my brother's room, and a little black dog long gone.

He loved wrapping Christmas gifts in artistic fashion, to the point that our wrapping each year became a tradition. As I sewed, I often took time to just hold those ties, as if he was right here with me, like the memory in my head and heart.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shared language

A friend and Donkey Dream supporter [Thanks, Cathy!] sent me a link to a wonderful story about an autistic boy who after years of frustration of trying to communicate, found comfort and companionship with cats. The child's father had tried a lot of things, and one day read about an autistic girl who had been brought out of her inner world by her relationships with therapy horses. He decided to begin taking his son to as many places as he could with animals, to see what the reaction might be, and he started with the local animal shelter.

Having grown up around dogs, the father showed the young boy the area with all the shelter dogs. No reaction. But when they walked by the cat area awhile later, his four year old autistic son yelled out , "Cat!". They took a cat home, and from day one, they could hear the son in the other room, with his cat, having conversations.

I was so touched how the father pointed out that at that moment, talking to that cat, that child finally had language. He had only needed, he went onto say,
someone with the patience to listen and not ask him to repeat himself or explain what he meant.

The article "Cats and Autism" had many comments from readers, dealing with various conditions like autism who have also been helped by animal therapy.
You can read the full article here

Snow never lies

I read that somewhere recently, in a poem. The snow tells us so much about all the natural activities that took place while we are tucked in the house at night. A bird party near some dropped corn feed, a three some of deer wandering through to higher ground, a lone cat heading for the barn through the vegetable garden. Under the car, I see where Mama, Plum and Orange sat huddled, mingling so their feet all became one. The large, clumsy imprints of my muck boots seemed to ruin the beauty of the other natural foot dances. I pondered how much lovlier it would be if I were barefoot,or in natural skinned shoes.

We're getting through the winter storm with a few bumps, but feel blessed to have power, heat and water. Our main house pump broke a part in the cold, but Martyn spent all day and fixed it. Get 'em handy, ladies. The main stress of the cold weather is on the animals. I fretted a lot but so far everyone is ok. The first storm day was very blustery and Boone was shivering by 4pm feeding time. He has access to his indoor stall all day, but the wind kept it miserable. I fed 4x the normal hay, and put him in an inner stall that night and he was fine. I even put the hardy donkeys in, with Frankie, and it helped Lucia too,who arrived at dinner with the shakes. I worried most about the chickens, but so far they are ok. The barn cats seem uneffected, but the porch cats have taken to their underground den. I rigged up some hay areas for them and it helped. HAuling water 2x a day to 2 barns is a drag, but at the same time, it makes me feel very crispy and alive, and useful and loving. Martyn has stayed home too and it's nice to have him in the barns, even though the animals always address him with, "Is everything OK? Why are you here today? Are you sick? Is it shot day?"

Being from Minnesota, I usually scoff at the weather tv people here. 25 degrees usually garners a giant news title like "STORM WATCH!!!" But 15 degrees makes for havoc in the barnyward, and it reminds me of the long, long winters in my former life and land. It's nice to have a week of snow - but like the crew I feed, we'll be happy to feel the balmy 40-50 degree winter rains drops.

But snow on the tippy tops of everything, it's lovely while it lasts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bring him home

12.16.08 UPDATE: Wow, my heart is full and warm even in cold weather from the support of so many. We are planning to drive up next week, so stay tuned. The weather is a factor, but for sure we'll get up before New Years. I can't wait to bring the old boy home, and to meet Ellen and her farm. Pictures will be posted, and an interview with Guinness too.we'll be driving up with the One Eyed Pug and Huckelberry, so add a goat in there and it should be fun. It is quite a juggling act arranging farm care, and the trip was too long for a one day journey, especially in the winter, so we had to arrange overnight arrangements. All donators will recieve their APifera gift in a month or so. I just can't express my gratitiude.

I came upon this senior fellow needing a home. Guinness started his life like many little pygmy goats, in 4H with a little child who supposedly loved him. At that time he had another name, though it is unknown. The little girl grew up and lost interest him and eventually the parents tired of caring for him, so they gave him away. I wonder if she ever thinks of him? He ended up in a place with some goats, and was renamed Guinness [after the beer], but they had trouble with keeping him out of the garden, or sleeping on their porch, so they surrendered him last summer to the New Moon Goat Sanctuary up in Washington. New Moon is a wonderful place, operated by Ellen Felsenthal [who takes wonderful animal photos!]. Guinness is now about 15, an older age for a goat [though some live longer].

So, in keeping with my promise to my ever loyal and supportive husband, I need to find sponsors so I can adopt Guinness and bring him to his forever haven here at Apifera. The sponsor funds will help me make the 12 hour round trip and help pay for the adoption fee. As a senior animal, he might need some special care too, although feeding a pygmy is not that difficult.

I have donated a lot of money and art this year to other wonderful animal causes, and I was happy to do it. But I need a helping hand at times too. I want to make it clear that this money is to help me break even on bringing home this animal. In these economic times, there are so many more animals in need - people are abandoning their horses, and pets on roadsides all over the nation. Senior animals whose owners pass on are also being passed on - right into the shelter system where they surely face death when they should be facing a warm lap and fireplace.

I know I can't save them all, or even 1% of them, but if I can help senior animals come here to live, they can have a senior life they deserve - resting old bones in the sun, having a good rub down, sharing a stroll with a buddy, getting a good look at the full moon. [We're still working on finding the right senior dog to bring home for final hospice care - stay tuned.]

Thank you, everyone!!!!! Apifera's gift and a Guinnias message will arrive in January!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Smile program

"Most smiles are started by another smile." ~Author Unknown

So let's see how many smiles we can get today. So far, I have gotten everyone in the barnyard to smile, except Paco, but he did wink at me. The hens are already sleeping so I will smile at them tomorrow. Huck never stops smiling. I also smiled at many people today when I went to the feed store, the fabric store and the food co-op. All smiled back. Even the grumpy guy who helped me with my order. One woman was already smiling so when I started smiling it was pretty powerful smile energy going on. I don't usually do big cheesy teeth smiles, I do little Lucia smiles like the photo. That way if you have hay or toast in your teeth, no one sees it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The unpicked

I've always been touched by apple trees that I come upon whose bounty has been left unpicked. Their beautiful little gifts to the earth, and the creatures, left on a roadside like a forgotten coffee cup. At least the worms and dirt, and birds, benefit. As I go for my walk with Huck up country roads, there are many apple trees, and this year I started picking the fallen fruit, carrying it home from walks in my giant coat pockets. I feed some to Rudy, the lonely horse in a nearby field, who sees us coming and knows it means apples. It is perhaps his only interaction that day with a human.

This year I went one step further, and drove to various road side trees and picked the apples in quantities for my donkeys and Boone. An apple a day. I have one yearling ewe, little Olive Oil, the runt triplet of this years crop, who loves her morning apple. None of the other ewes are interested [although they like apple sauce].

And so I had apples on my mind, when a few weeks ago I saw a news bite on a woman in California who was also moved by all the fruit in her neighborhood going unpicked. She started knocking on doors and asking people if she could pick their fruit and donate it to shelters. Soon, she had others helping, and then more people started the same activity in their own neighborhoods. Bravo for her. Bravo! But it reminded me of my apples, and I thought, next year, maybe, I can get people to pick the apples, and donate them to needy equine people, to get them through these difficult economic times. I wait until the wormy ones fall, and the bruised ones get left behind. The unwanteds can still find use in an equine belly.

So I painted this quiet little piece yesterday. For all those apples.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Inner sactum revealed

Someone asked me awhile ago to post pictures of my studio. I ignored the request, politely, but it came back again in my in box. It's not that I'm ashamed of my studio, I love it. I just always feel a bit squeamish showing it to the public domain. It's my inner territory. Nothing fancy. Spiders make their homes in the upper echelons, and donkeys and goats have walked these cement floors. Martyn has learned that I have basically marked the entrance with my scent, and if you cross the threshold without my assistance, you might be guided out, without words. The same person [a dear friend from afar ] who wanted to see pictures of my inner sanctum, likes to see what artists have hanging on their walls. She wondered what image on my wall was the most important

to me...it was strange. I said they're all equal because they all coincide with me and the farm and the studio. It has been noted, after all, that Apifera Farm is where 'art, lavender and animals collide'. I have a box of old clippings and sketches and words and such in a box that I dragged here from my Minnesota studio. I would it out and go through it every few months as the contents brought me comfort, and reminisces of days past that still felt present and important. It grounded me after so many moves and changes from 2002- 2004. But now the box sits mainly idle under a desk and what's important is the art of today and tomorrow, and the guy in the other room, and the hearts beating inside and outside these walls.

And the Neil Young song playing as I type. Blue, blue windows behind the stars, yellow moon on the rise, big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes, leave us helpless, helpless, helpless.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

After the work is done

We spent most of the day in the lavender field putting up pasture fence. We're experimenting with running the ewes in the field to keep weeds and grass down. I'm paranoid of roaming dogs that appear every so often, usually friendly, but they can run a sheep to a frenzied death. If all works as planned, come spring, the lavender field won't be quite as over grown grass wise, making Martyn's tilling easier - we hope. So stay tuned to see how the grand experiment works. I've let the donks run in there too, as they love thistle, and we are slowly weeding it out. But they get a little playful, running up and down the rows as if it's a special maze we created just for them. Amusing as it is, the plants are tender at a certain stage, and it's too risky for comfort.

And before you call us crazy, animals don't eat lavender, including the deer that frequent the field. They might test a plant here and there, but they stay away from it. There is concern that the initial bud growth come spring might be tempting to young ewes, but, I guess we'll find out. Besides, sheep fertilize the pastures as they eat. It was so pleasant working in the field with them as they tagged along near by. I just love my ewes. I'm always so happy when breeding season is over [as are they] so I can be back with 'the girls'.

The weather was perfect, about 50 degree and sunny. We finished the afternoon chopping wood. As I was coming in, the sky was like a Rubens painting. Unbelievable. Within 15 minutes, it was gone. I took this picture seconds before it disappeared. These short theatrical productions are worth the entry fee of working hard all day in the field.

With the showing of Venus and Jupiter on Wednesday night in the south western sky, I could not help but surmise about the year 2052. For Jupiter and Venus will not line up again like this until then. I'll be 94 years old. Many of you reading will be long gone, and some of you 20 somethings who might not blink about aging will be in your 60's. It was interesting and surreal to think of. Martyn and I talked that night how the night skies and all their history makes a human feel very small. I think it's good to feel small. It reminds you you're not the ruler of any one's world, not even your own. If I'm here in 2052, I hope I can remember that moment, but perhaps it's the fact I could take notice of it in the current times that's most important.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Le Collection de Creatures

One of the things I did while my mother was visiting during the holiday was sit with her while she needle pointed, and I needle felted creatures for my ongoing collection.

I started with Grandmére Chat, knit her a sweater dress, which led to all sorts of things. It was a pleasure working on one thing for 4 days, and since my elderly mother could not handle the temperature of my studio, I had to work on things I could carry into the house.

Martyn made me a little wagon for Grandmére and then I needed something to pull her. Well, of course, it had to be a donkey, specifically a donkey with the first initial "P"...I love how these creatures emerge, and one thing leads to another.

The hours I put into these beings and their clothes and details make them difficult to price. I decided to create Le Collection de Creatures for my ongoing birthings of these detailed felt pieces. I have no intention of working hours on these and selling them for $75 on Etsy. They are priced accordingly. What I feel emerging are stories, some that will help me along with my novel, some that will end up in picture books. [And I'll still be doing my other sock creatures in the $125 and under range].

My immediate goal is to create a backdrop series for these creatures, from my illustrations - say a forest scene, or a city scene, and the creatures would be placed in a shadow box /set like a theatrical puppet stage.

There will someday be a whole family of them, a whole novel's worth, probably all tucked away in boxes for now. It's one of those ongoing projects, that years from now, perhaps long after I'm gone, will be seen as the beginning of something.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Baby Pino

My friend Annie sent me these baby pictures of Pino - look at those ears!

Annie bred both Pino and Lucia and they are the most wonderful personalities imaginable, thanks to their parents Angelo and Gabriella, and a lot of hands rearing as youngsters.

I wish I could have known Pino as a baby. I was lucky to meet Lucia in her first month, and was able to donkey sit her a couple of times so really bonded with her. I'd love to breed her someday if possible. But...3 donkeys is probably a good number....for now....wink.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these gems.

On your own

Years ago,
I did
a series of
memorial paintings to various animals I'd see dead on the road. It was about all I could and although it wasn't much, I suspect somewhere it made a difference.

I was thinking about one's last moments of life. It is the one event that as an artist I won't be able to document or share in colors or textures through painting, or in emotions and thoughts in writings. You are totally alone, even if someone is sitting with you. In birth, there's something of the experience that is left over, after all, there's a tiny fingerprint many of us have tucked in a drawer. And you cry. You share your first breath with the world. And even if you are experiencing a walk in the woods on your own, there is something of the woods that comes back with you. Even if you say, "I went for a walk today", that's sharing it. When you die, that moment is internal, and the next moment is...not here.

I'm not expressing myself that well. I am behind from the past holiday and guests. Perhaps the one relief of death is that it's one thing I can't document and put out there. The experience will be completely mine. Strangely comforting.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Art Helping Senior Dogs

I will be posting an ongoing list of the senior animals I'm able to help down on the sidebar of this blog. $25 from each animal print I sell will go to sponsoring one of these worthy creatures. I was able to send money to help Malik, Sammy and Hunter. I write a little about them on the sidebar area, so check it out, and pass my link for my prints onto any animal lovers you know.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Discussion with my waddle

After you stuff yourself with food for three days or more, it is best to sit still, with apples, and let others gather around you and eat. In this way, the true meaning of Thanksgiving is once again noticed - giving, sharing, laughing. I much prefer the end of a holiday, versus the beginning. I much prefer the comfort of the privacy of my studio. I like people, I like socializing, I like my family and friends. I'm always reminded though, especially when gatherings and socializing come back to back and head to head, I am at my best when creating. I am less critical, more forgiving, gentler. I even look better in my own mind. And then the rudeness of the picture shows me - "Hey, you really have a throat waddle now...and that hat, what hat do you have on?" But then I must remind myself, do the animals care about my hat? Do they not come to me to commune when they notice my waddle? Do they even notice my waddle? Let's face it, to a chicken, a waddle has a whole attraction thing going on. My husband claims I don't have a waddle, but he is a wise man, I know he sees the waddle. And most importantly, does the fact I now have a neck waddle make my art better or worse? No. So, I am pleased that come Wednesday my studio schedule will resume. Visiting with my mother has been wonderful, but living with the artist out of her studio has perhaps, no it has, been trying for the 82 year old. I am just so imperfect. But, waddle or not, so glad to be me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Living in a gravy boat

The simple ability to be able to walk down a gravel road, without feeling pain in one's heart or body, this is something to give thanks for, not once a year, but daily. I was thinking of all the many things I do and enjoy and have passion for that require walking and movement. How we healthy body people can sometime take that for granted. If I can walk, I can see this road that I love, and watch the young saplings emerge and grow come spring. I can walk behind Huck and enjoy the rhythm of his tail, composing an orchestra of his legs and ears flapping.

Once one figures out the basic things that provide a peaceful mind, everything is gravy. So I'm living in a big bowl of gravy.

I thought of all the things I can write about today, on Thanksgiving, but really my whole blog is about thankfulness on a daily basis. Each day is a good day. Ruffled feathers always lay flat again. I have passions, and I get to intertwine them in my daily work. How good this is. And how good it is to recognize it as a gift, not to be wasted. Life is just so juicy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another healing pie story

I received this email from Caitlin Davidson, a reporter for a student newspaper at University of Waterloo, Ontario. Last year, the school did a project, "Differ/end: The Caledonia Project", a production based on an actual event about land disputes in a town called Caledonia in Northern Ontario. Here's her letter to me, and it's a wonderful example of the healing power of pie.

Throughout the production the students highlighted the sides of the argument that hadn't been seen before - both sides, as well they discussed some lesser known facts of the event. This is a story taken from that project - I was the reporter that covered the production for the paper.

On the day of the largest clash between the police and residents of Caledonia (white) and the protesters and occupiers of the Caledonia land dispute site (native), there was a tire fire set. Across the road one of the residents of Caledonia spent the entire day tirelessly making pies - she could see the tire fire on the land claim across the street through her kitchen window.

With forgiveness and prayer, she walked to the native side of the dispute and gave the natives the pies she had spent the day making. Her and her husband did not support either side, but had been working to maintain good relations with both sides. Some say her pie making was a first step toward a resolution, and while the conflict is still ongoing, she and her family have made their peace with what's been happening - while the rest of the town struggles to do that.

While your work is done for the healing and restorative powers, this is another example of hard work and human kindness that is struggling to heal people - although these are spiritual wounds and not physical issues.

"Differ/end: The Caledonia Project" was a great experience for me to watch and for the students involved to help out, and in the same way that it was for me to watch this - it's good to read about the work you're doing.

Thanks for your time,
Cait Davidson

Monday, November 24, 2008

Faces I love

I went for a walk today in this incredible late fall weather. Walking up the long drive, I still get enjoyment upon first seeing the white specks on the upper hill. Closing in, I let out a 'bleet', and the white specks grow to faces I love.

Simple moments of pure enjoyment. Relishment. Internal gratification. Those faces bring that each time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Love letter to Pino

Pino loves mail. He still gets an apron or two in the mail, keeping the post office in shape. This past week one of our Pie Ambassadors wrote a nice comment to Pino on the blog, and it brought back the fun memory of the '08 Pie Day. It made me smile. Remembering how the donkey door was left open for just a second and little Lucia very politely, and very much in ladylike mode, got out and walked right up to the pie table. It made all the little girls squeal and giggle, and even us old farts got a big laugh.

Note to self: next year, have separate table, smaller, for donkey consumption.

Thanks for writing Lisa and Kiran...we hope you can come next year too..."oh my goodness, in our absence you've been discovered Pino! sorry that Kiran and i have not been able to check in since the end of the summer, but we have not forgotten you and your wonderful farm mates. we loved getting to pet and meet you on your pie day and it was so very generous to let the entire birthday crowd come. the best part, that we still reminisce about, was when Lucia snuck out of the gate and went over to check out the pies herself. i know you were probably saying 'tsk tsk' to yourself in donkey language, but we thought it was very funny.we have also spread the lavender from your farm around the world as gifts, and look forward to seeing you again next year on pie day."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm in love with a pillow

I recieved more of my fabric designs back from Spoonflower and they are wonderful. If I can be more explicit....I am now in love with a pillow. Martyn will understand, after all, he knows all about my various love affairs in the barnyard.

I designed one pillow that's sleeping , and another pillow that's wide awake and greets the other pillow in the morning. You will just have to click the link to see it. I think it will make you smile. If it doesn't, you're just a big grump.

The reason I sound nuts is I spent the last week creating the new image archive on my main illustration site and revamping the site . Art directors can now search through 500 images for their re-use needs. It was fun revisiting so many pieces of art...but...I am drained. Computer drained. Dead head. Me no think no more. Is there wine yet?

As I type I am listening to 'Blood on the Tracks'...and singing....really loud. Don't forget to enter the raffle .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gifts for Pino

Pino received a wonderful gift in the mail from Alicia over at Blog Sisters [if you resend your blog in a comment please, I've misplaced it!]. It was a book "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, an inspiring story of a man that was dying, but lived life with an attitude that many never find even in the best of health. Alicia put the book in a beautiful gift box, lined in suede, and added little tea packs and linen water too.

It was a kind gesture, to have someone pass something on to us they found inspiring, simply because they thought Pino and me were trying to pass on good things to people in our humble-slow-donkey way.

When we were named Blog of Note last week, it brought a lot of new readers, and most comments/emails were genuine, people responding to what animal therapy can be. Unfortunately, it also brought out some of the dregs of the internet world. Ignorant, or angry, or confused people in their own hearts, who reacted in such silly ways towards a little donkey just trying to make people feel good.

Pino was sheltered from the moronic emails and comments. And I brushed them off to ignorance. So when the package arrived, it was a nice ending to an interesting week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Standing on the 'it'

After four+ years of living with goats, I truly believe they have Monday morning meetings, complete with note pads coffee, and doughnuts. "Stella, you take down the north side of Pasture A, I'll handle the south side. This should keep the Tailless One busy mending that area of fence, and with the distraction, we can get into the pump house rose pavilion."

But all messes in one's day have a golden lining. Because I had to mend the fences, I also was had a visit to a spot of the property I have loved from the first moment I stood on it. And because it is also part of the Joe Pye field, it is not an area I get to frequent. Joe and I have an understanding - "You stay over there, I'll stay over here. You come in here, I take my head which is thick bone mass and hit your thighs."

Our land used to be 100 acre dairy, mostly on rolling hills that bordered up top to the forest lands and down below to the river. Within time, the farm was cut up and our spot is the original home site and barns. Fortunately, the house was well sited, sitting in a spot where we don't get too much distraction from nearby properties. And the property goes about 10 acres up the hill, so the higher one walks, the more vista one sees. When the fog rolls in, and I stand looking down over the 100+ year old barn, I can't help feel transported back to another time.

There's a certain pull of this spot of the land, and a certain welcoming. Perhaps it is the century old oak that stands there, some of its limbs newly mangled by a wind storm. Those limbs now keep our house warm, and perhaps it recognizes the partnership we have together. I stood up there for awhile, enjoying the view and the silence of the fog, the rose hips scattered behind me. I thought about how I had come here, an unknown to the state, the county, the people, but this one section of land just welcomed me that first day we looked at the property. I like to think it was a personal greeting specifically to me. All the houses I'd lived in and fixed up and nested in over my 30's and 40's, there was still a horizon out there that seemed a bit more enticing. There was always a sense in me the house I was in wasn't quite 'it'.

This small piece of our property always rekindles the small embers in my heart, reminding me in a very physical way, I am standing on 'it'.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Growin' tails, and a big blowout

The rains of the northwest allow us to lull in plants and greenery well into the winter, if not all year. The constant moisture is also perfect for growing cat tails.
We never pick them, or prune them, and we are never sure where they will pop up in the front garden bed.

The rains gave us over 3" last nite. A 'real soaker', as they say. Perhaps the biggest news in the barnyard this week was...

...stop reading if you are a wimp...

the ever anticipated explosion of Mr. T's jaw line abscess occurred. This abscess was from a seed grain lodged in his jaw line, and it began forming over a year ago. When the hair starts falling off of an abscess area, it's time to lance it, so that if it is a contagious sore it won't infect other stock. As I did my usual barn feedings there stood Mr. T at the gate for dinner time, ready for food for his 350# body, and also ready to kick back in a dry stall bed. I noticed the hair was less on the abscess. This abscess was bigger than a golf ball, and hard to miss. I took a rag and gave it a gentle squeeze, just to test it.

Well...'Thar she blows!!!!!!!!'

Man, I won't go into more details than that, but I'm sure Mr. T was relieved. My usual remedy for all gapes, holes, abrasions was applied - iodine. He was not that impressed with the iodine flavor mixed with a fine vintage hay, but he'll be fine.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Art Helping Senior Animals

I'm kind of excited.

Many of you have helped me in my spay/neuter efforts with the cats, along with vet help when needed for those cats. Many big hearts out there! And now, my art will help senior animals needing a final refuge home, where they will be treated with dignity in their final months.

I've always been attracted to the elderly. I don't know why. The bitter sweet qualities of old age seem to resonate in my heart, and art. Older creatures are like weeds I guess, never displayed prominently in the flower shop window, but they are out their in the back alley still hanging on.

Now there is a section on my main art site called Helping Old Animals . When you purchase one of these prints [I'll be adding more as I do them], $25 will be used to support either Old Dog Haven or a senior dog still residing at Oregon Humane Society [they list dogs on their site and allow donations to specific dogs]. A designer is donating services for a brochure that will go to vet clinics [thank you Kristine!]. I'll post updates here, including animal pictures and bios.

Let me tell you more about Old Dog Haven . After creating the One Eyed Pug print for a vet, she put me in touch with them. She does a lot of vet care for them. Old Dog Haven has a network of foster homes that take in dogs who otherwise might have been left to linger in a shelter, or abandoned on the street. Many of these animals have lost their elderly human companions, some are abandoned because of their medical needs. Some people move and 'don't have room anymore." The goal is find these dogs "final refuge homes" where they can live out their remaining days with dignity, love, comfort and proper medical care if needed.

And, I will be a Final Refuge Home. I will take in one senior at a time. When that creature passes on, I'll bring in another one. Martyn has given me his blessing, on the condition I completely fund the dog through sponsorships or collected money. Old Dog Haven provides vet support but there will be food and certain maintenance medications. I will post a donation button soon for that, once I'm paired with the right animal. If you are interested in being a sponsor for my final refuge dog, let me know.

My husband doesn't read my blog. But I'd like to thank him, for being so open hearted about letting me follow my passion of helping animals. I thought I'd really have to work on him, but when I told him what I wanted to do, he said, "I will build whatever you need for it." I'm very graced to have found him. He still hasn't opened up to bringing home a needy pig to hang out with Frankie. I'll work on that. A little pie, some kissin'...I have my ways, all of which are legal.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Muddy fuzzies

The real rains have come. I welcome them, as it signals me to spend more time in the studio, more time in my head. My morning workouts with Boone are all but gone,and even getting a walk in now must be calculated between showers. When I moved from Minnesota, I was amused at all the different variations of the word 'rain' that the Oregon weather used.'Showers'means rain drops but light density of drops, "rain" means "It's really pouring", to name just two. It's interesting how culturally humans have had to find words to describe things. One word now emits a whole visual experience in one's head. Minnesota has many words to describe various intensities of snow - flurries, a dusting, slush, blanket.

I like the rains even with the drawbacks that continual water can create. But when I first visited Oregon back in '01, it was March, and I had left the cold tundra of my homeland. I remember the sensation of stepping onto ground in mid winter in Portland, and 'feeling' the earth as a soft blanket, versus a frozen solid form I had just left in Minnesota. I was ready to live in a climate where the earth was softer, and I wouldn't require a Lake Wobegon outfit just to go to the car and back. I love Minnesota, in fact, I miss a lot about it - the work ethic is more to my liking, the flatness mixed with lakes, and it's where I first walked, first cried, first ate. My Grandmother died on her city street, of a heart attack, 2 hours before I was born. My father once said that studies show most people return to their homelands to die, out of instinct. I can understand that. But I can't fathom that right now.

One of the drawbacks of rainy season, is my morning and nightly donkey hugs are very messy. In fact, I usually have to just kiss noses, and rub the one area between the donkey's front legs that manage to stay dry. This time of year, the donks are fuzzy with winter coats. They still roll in the compost pile, making full body hugs a dirty business. So, until spring, or a dry spell, nose kisses will have to do. Better than nothing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ring them bells

And so it has come to this. Like Maya Angelou said so graciously this morning, "America has grown up".

I awoke buzzing from the events of last night. Still feeling stunned, relieved, excited, hopeful, I did what I never do - I turned the television on in the morning. I wanted more reassurance that it had really happened, and I wanted to enjoy the taste of the win just a bit longer. People of all colors and heritages, women and men, gays and straights, young and old - they all came together to elect this man. But I hope it doesn't stop here. I hope that the grass roots energies that elected President Elect Obama will continue to grow and evolve. If there was ever a symbol of what happens when you work together from the bottom up, it has to be the Obama campaign.

But one President, no matter how intelligent, can't do it all. The old JFK quote that gets replayed over and over should perhaps be hung in nurseries and imbedded in ipods- "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." One must choose to find their own way to to serve this nation, as well as their own individual community. I'm grateful I can share the greatest gift I have, my art, to help animals in need, and other causes I care about. The election results have reminded the world that America is more than ipods and gadgets and 'things' to consume. America is a giant living organism, with a heart and soul. And I felt it last night. Many sacrifices must be made in the days ahead, but if we work together as Americans, we can reach the sky, someday. I really feel that optimism in many people. There will always be cynics. But I always feel cynicism is just a mask for anger and ignorance.

I'm really proud of Obama. I'm really proud he's our new President.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A time for prayer flags

NOTE: I'm shutting down comments for a few days due to the overwhelming amount of new visitors from being named Blog of Note. While I appreciate all of the legitamate commentors, unfortantely I have also been overwhelmed with opportunists just pushing their wares.

I'm very excited about my new fabric samples that arrived. As I told you a few posts ago, I stumbled on a company that prints small runs of fabric with your own design on it. Now that I see how well my two design printed, I'm happy to pass on the name of the company, Spoonflower. I have two designs right now that are available in my 'prayer flags' , and I'm brimming with ideas for more products.

One of my goals with my art, and our farm products, is to create things that I would have in my home. And in these economic times, like many of you I want simple ways to bring some comfort into my heart. I have always created little signs and poems on fabric and hung them around the farm and studio. Last month I did some hand painted prayer flags and you ate them right up. So I created these two designs intended for prayer flags, and you can purchase them over at Apifera-A-Day .

Each flag is still hand made, and I attach fabric scraps, bells, twine, little 'finds' to each individual flag. The fabric with the illustration on it is 8". A small twig from one of many cherry trees is sewn into the top. So they remain one-of-a-kinds, except the main illustration on the front is printed on a piece of cotton so I am not re-creating each illustration from hand [note: even farm girl-artist-apron fanatics have to get more work done than flag making]. So when you order a flag, you know what the main front illustration is, but you'll just have to be surprised with all the little additional items attached to it. Like sometimes a chicken feather - just roll with it.

The fabric is color fast so you can leave it in the rain. NOTE: © is not printed on the image, like int he photo. But future flags will have a tiny © included, discreetly. I add another piece of natural fabric in the back of the flag, and attach my hand made embroidered name.

So, hang a little flag, and hopefully it will make you happy, or calm, or peaceful, in a really small simple way.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Milk Rain

Tonight, at a little donkey's ass before midnight, the Ghosts of Fallen Cows will put on their annual "Milk Rain" show in the old barn.

Visit Tails & Tales, the short story site of artist/Katherine Dunn to read this story.

Now that's a pumpkin

Let's all give Paco a hoof and hand for helping us to achieve such pumpkin maximusinuss.

I did learn something: one requires a strong farm hand, perferably a landscaper type with a tree mover to decorate with these big boys.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nose nuances

I took advantage yesterday to hang out with Boone, a light workout in the corral, then a leisurely walk down the road - well out in the open during mid day so we didn't get shot. Giant red deer are known to have roamed these roads, according to some hunters.

I like to ride up to some apple trees near our driveway, and while on top of Boone, grab apples for him. Boone is completely left-brained, food driven, so apple picking is a fun thing for him. What was funny on this walk is the dried oak leaves were all over the road, and he was really liking them, almost like he'd never experienced something so delicious with a texture so appealing. As he ate, I closed my eyes, and the sound of him chomping dried leaves sounded just like he was eating potato chips. Lovely.

This fall, the colors of the leaves are intense, more like a Minnesota or Vermont fall. Combined with the deep blue sky today, it was almost overwhelming, blinding. I pondered a sky of Payne's gray versus the intense blue of the day, and how it would combine even more dramatically with the mountain range of oaks and maples. I've been having a really hard time 'settling', and have been anxious this past week. Not really like me, and it's the chaos of the banks and the election. When anxiety cloaks me, I just plod on, and a walk helps. So I took Huck up the road a couple miles to the old Pike Cemetery, one of my favorite destinations. The air was really warm today, 75 or so, and as I walked by a field of alfalfa being cut, it smelled wet, but dry and warm. I surmised how a cut crop smells different in an autumn day of 70 degrees, than it does if it's cut in the first 70 degree days of spring.

These are just reminders that no matter what's going on in the world, there are subtle nuances that living creatures can admire and ponder. Once one figures that out, there is never a boring day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wanted: a national garden

Michael Pollan has written an excellent article in the New York Times, an "open letter tot he next President", and I hope everyone who reads this blog will take time to read it, and pass it on. I also know that this farm will be writing a letter to the next president stating our concern and interest in the food policies of our nation and how they effect the world, the economy, the farmers and the environment, as well as health and obesity issues.

And why not a Victory Garden on the South Lawn? Wouldn't that be fabulous. Imagine, all those pesticides to keep that lawn as perfect as they keep it, and all that water. And for what? Good looks. I hate the concept of a green lawn. I always have. My first little bungalow I owned in '96, I grew vegetables in the front yard. It was not well received. The little 5 year old came over one day and said, "Daddy says you like weeds and beans and he likes grass." Oh, how true. When parents say, "but the kids need grass to play on..." Oh, I must contain myself. Sorry, bring a kid to me and I'll toss him out in a field, or in the woods, or in the hay bale, and they'll be in heaven. It's parent that need grass, so they can delude themselves that their children are 'cleaner and safer" from, heaven forbid, mud, dirt, weeds, thistles and stones.

Anyway, the concept of a victory garden at the White House is not a new concept. As Pollan points out, Mrs. Roosevelt did this in 1943 [and the USDA was afraid it would the American food industry]. But imagine what a role model the new President and his family would be, if they got up each day and puttered in the garden. School children from nearby areas could come and help take care of the garden and learn from their own President how valuable growing our food responsibly is. They would get much needed exercise. Blackberries and ipods would be left at the garden gates. Children and their families could learn about nutrition, and the sheer pleasure and accomplishment of growing, and sharing, food. Picnics between families of all races and classes could be held.

And as Pollan went on: "You should make a point of the fact that every night you’re in town, you join your family for dinner in the Executive Residence — at a table. (Surely you remember the Reagans’ TV trays.) And you should also let it be known that the White House observes one meatless day a week — a step that, if all Americans followed suit, would be the equivalent, in carbon saved, of taking 20 million mid size sedans off the road for a year. Let the White House chef post daily menus on the Web, listing the farmers who supplied the food, as well as recipes."

And sheep.Sheep would demonstrate that the small amount of grass left on the lawn can be naturally mowed, and fertilized. No noisy men in red suits with leaf blowers or mowers. Of course they need a rooster, for ambiance, and ok, I put some donkeys in there too. I am hoping the next family to reside in the White House will be the Obamas, and I think those two little girls need more than a dog, they need donkeys.

Humorous anxiety

I voted today. What a glorious thing. It felt the end was coming, and like many of you out there, I am racked with anxiety over this election. Rather than go one about it, I will share this very humorous dark comedic take on it, by Larry David.

Now, I'm going outside, and take the afternoon to be with Boone.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Definitely sweater weather

Or as we like to say to Billy on cold mornings, "Oh my! chilly, Billy!" Humor is important all times, but most definately in these times.