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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Exhibit Opening

I am participating in a group show, “What’s Inside-Exploring the Potential for Change”, at Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem during February. All sales will benefit the Poyama Treatment Center in Independence, Oregon, a non profit that helps children of abuse and neglect.

Participating artists received a wooden box through the mail and were asked to use this as their starting point . Each 8" x 8" box was sent “as is”, and was not packaged, but rather processed directly by the postal service firsthand. Each artist was asked to involve a young child and ask them one of four questions concerning their feelings of what makes them feel safe. The answers for these questions are inside the finished boxes for the viewer to see and read.

The child I collaborated with said that being with her mother made her feel safe. This sounds simplistic, but it is such a universal need and desire for all of us, that I wanted to honor that. The inside of my box [the image here is of the front] is like a keepsake to my mother, but also, can be a keepsake for any mother. Or maybe a keepsake for the mother one never had. Little surprises are inside the box. The children of Poyama, and many others through out the world, aren't as graced with this mother aura as I or my collaborating child are. So I am glad that my art will help a child in some unknown way down the road.

The exhibit will open on Tuesday, February 6th at 10:00 am pacific time. The public will be able to bid on the box art, with beginning bids at $50.00 and $5.00 increments. This year there is a maximum bid of $200. This week, the entire show will be posted online at www.zeekgallery.com. Calls can be made to the gallery to place bids: 503-581-3229. The bidding ends February 29th, 2008 at 6:00 pm pacific time.

Poyama Day Treatment Center works with children who are caught in the crossfire of abusive and neglectful domestic environments, educational settings ill prepared to meet mental health needs and the bewildering bureaucracies of social service agencies. They are a small not-for-profit psychiatric day program dedicated to serving up to 23 emotionally disturbed children between the ages of 3 and 12. They provide individual and group therapy, grief counseling, social skills and self-awareness, anger management and parent support groups. With a staffing ratio of one adult for every 3 children, they have used art therapy, ceramics, drawing, painting and a variety of individually crafted approaches to help children look more deeply into themselves and their lives and to explore the potential for change and healing that lies within.

Thanks to the ever wonderful Mary Lou for inviting me to participate.

Morning Donkey Parade

Pino, being the gentleman of the herd, takes up the rear. Lucia, the little light bearer, is always in front. The ladies are always permitted to goes first. Paco, must be in the middle, so he can watch Lucia, and be better than Pino. And of course, Pino doesn't care - but the expression on his face tells me, "Did I do okay in the parade today?".

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The return of Ethel

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember Ethel, the deer that lives on our land, and returns every year with new family members. All are given the secret handshake in order to enter our fields. Ethel and children are welcome around house, now that the vegetable area and young orchard are protected. How do I know it's the same deer, you ask. Because I gave her a protective moon. You'll have to read the story I wrote to understand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pumpkinhead found dead

I opened the door to the pump house, and gasped. At first I thought he was alive - his body all curled up in a typical cat sleeping
pose, his tail twined tight around his body like a scarf. He was in clear sight, tucked into the corner of the 10 x 10 shed, snuggled down in some fallen insulation mixed with hay. I guess I knew he was dead, but as I got closer, he looked so peaceful...maybe...no. He was dead.

There were no signs of stress or trauma really. His little orange head was tucked in between his paws. I examined his body, and the only sign of distress was right around one side of his nose, which looked liked the skin had rubbed off. His eyes were still there, no other creatures or maggots had started their work on him. I examined his body for wounds or bullets, nothing, except a few drops of red blood exiting his rear end. I thought maybe he had fallen and died of trauma, but, it didn't add up.

Pumpkinhead disappeared on January 4th - there is no way his body would have looked as it did when I found it if he had died that long ago. In fact, I've dealt with enough dead animals now in various stages out here, and we think he might have been dead only a day at most. He just wasn't that stiff, and animals stiffen up very fast. Why didn't he come back to the porch? To add to the mystery, Martyn had entered the pump shed two times last week, and there was no Pumpkinhead in the corner. If he had been alive, and able, he would have fled from Martyn, as he is more acclimated to me. This means he crawled into the pump house shortly before I found his body.

I'm only happy I found him, and then he did actually die in a safe spot. I carried him to the front porch, where Mama and Little Orange were. Orange is the only one of that litter left. He sat with the body like a dutiful brother for a minute or two, then went off to the garden. It was I who was pushing my human emotions onto the scene. The animals had already moved on. I buried him at the side garden, under lilacs and quince, a favorite cat hang out, especially in rain or hot weather. I will paint or engrave his tombstone in spring.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A tail, and more...

I did a little series about Huck and his tail this week, intended as a promo to a select group of past clients. I've been wanting to write a story about Huck's tail, but it's still just one of a myriad of ideas mushed in my head.

For those of you who haven't met Huck, you can read about his 'Guide to Happiness" here - and it's completely free.

I also want to mention two upcoming shows of artists I love and admire.
One is Dan Dutton, who I am just coming to know. This man has whim, incredible drawing ability, is a musician, a story teller, and he lives in a magical cabin in the woods of Kentucky. He has an upcoming performance "The Faun" in historical Louisville, Kentucky at the 21C Museum [Jan 31-Feb 1].

Then there is the upcoming show of Ward Schumaker's books and drawings at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco [Jan 24 - March 1]. I only wish I could be there. I've loved his work for a long time. Ward is married to my all time favorite Vivienne Flesher. I broke the news to them that I named one of my new hens Vivienne, and it seemed only logical to name the new rooster Ward. They took the news well. Not everyone would, but in our family, having any animal named after you is considered an honor. If I could just teach Ward Schumaker the rooster to draw like Ward Schumaker the artist, I'd be on to something.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Water is a gift

I think I'm much more aware about our resources since moving to the farm. How can I not be? When the well goes dry there are more consequences than not having water for our own use - but a whole barnyard of thirsty beings will suffer.

We have much more work to do before we are the land stewards we want to be. But putting the holding tank in was a big project, and it is a good start. We can water all the animals now, and keep our struggling cedar trees alive we planted [of which 30% died due to lack of water. We can use the river water more efficiently, and though we won't water our field regularly, we can without being wasteful. We can also help the 400 seedlings to be planted this spring on the riverfront - intended to bring the acreage there back to native plants, which will help the river.

We need to do better with our gray water, but have some mickey-mouse systems in play until we get the energy and money to complete those tasks.

So I was inspired to do some portfolio pieces on living green. I just hope it's not one more fad for the masses. It's should be a life commitment, not a Target trend - or I hope it is. The earth hopes too.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Great 2008 Rooster Roundup

NOTE: All the chickens in these photos are alive and well.

Into every chicken owner's life comes a time when one must face facts, protect the flock, and well, take charge of the rooster gangs.

Last summer I brought home a dozen fertilized eggs from another farmer. I wanted to add to our small Bantie flock, but I also wanted to introduce the green egg laying Arancauna. Our original 7 bantie hens got right to the task of setting on the eggs and 20+ weeks later, we had chicks. And of course, 4 of the 7 that lived wereroosters.

I naively played head games with myself, saying boldly to Martyn, "Everyone is getting along just fine, it will be good to have a variety of roosters around to protect the ladies while they free range..." SIlence from the mate.

Weeks later, when the polite boy roosters became real man roosters, things changed. At 6 months, the 'boys' had formed three groups. Group one was Old Papa [our original Bantie rooster] and one of the new, young roosters who I call Crow. These guys were perfect gentlemen to each other, and the ladies. Group 2 consisted of 2 roosters that weren't that bad individually, but together could be like two raptors around the cats and hens. And then there was Group 1, comprised of one rooster who I named Bad Ass. This rooster ruled the hen house, ruled the cat food area, ruled the barnyard of donkeys. He was as far up on the pecking order as he could be. He was the schoolyard bully and he just didn't give a hoot what hen he hurt. He even kept Frankie kept at bay, and nobody kept Frankie at bay.

Bad Ass sealed his fate quicker than he might have, when he pecked a hole in the neck of one of the little bantie hens. I doctored her up, and for 2 days she seemed ok, eating, etc. But one night she simply vanished. I of course to this day blame Bad Ass, as I think maybe the hen was weakened, and perhaps an owl got her or...who knows. No trace was found of her. I immediately confronted the evil doer, "That's it, Bad Ass, you pick on my hens, you're out of here." He was unimpressed.

So, I began frantically reading to try and learn to kill a chicken. While I had no qualms about harvesting Bad Ass, I wanted to do it properly, and poured over books and web sites trying to find the best way. Within a couple weeks, Bad Ass had again been pecking hard on little Inky, another Bantie. These Leghorn crosses were so much bigger than the Banties, and it was a near death experience every time he went at them. That was it. I snapped.

I caught Bad Ass, and the Group 2 posse, and put them in secure barn stall. I would find someone to come help me do the deed properly, but for now, they were safe, plenty to eat, plenty to drink, and my hens were safe. The next morning, a creature raced behind me as I went to the barn. It was Bad Ass, rushing to get to the cat food area, as he knew my morning feeding routine. I swear I heard him taunting me as he raced by. Be darned if that rooster and flown up about 15 + feet and found a tiny escape route, leaving the Group 2 posse in the dust.

So I secured his escape route, and once again caught him. But within an hour, he had escaped again. Bad Ass was just getting badder.

"OK, Bad Ass, do what you want, sleep outside for all I care. You're on your own." Fortunately, two of our good farm friends [actually three, they brought their adorable new baby, a real charming fellow] came over in the next days to help us with the proper chicken slaughter. We couldn't have had better teachers. Of course, the night before the act, I couldn't for the life of me catch the 3 roosters. All the advice of going to the chickens at night in their roost is fine- for most roosters- but Bad Ass was an escaped con, an expert at protecting himself. He had a million places to flee in the big old barn. I gave up after an hour.

Finally the next morning, D Day, and I somehow casually got the three marked roosters in the hen house, and caught them all. They had a few hours before the deed, so they were calm and collected, as was I. I thanked them all for their sacrifice, even Bad Ass. One never takes the slaughter event lightly.

That night, we ate Bad Ass. I did not have one moment of regret. Or guilt. He lived 6 months in sun, in charge of the barnyard. He died quickly and was treated more humanely than he treated others. And the next day, we had 4 eggs, a sure sign the hens were happy to have the posse gone. Old Papa and Crow both remain gentleman. I'm glad, as Crow [shown here] is just so beautiful. And Old Papa will always have a home here.

A typical morning for Miss Prairie Pussytoes...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aprons are love

I think the reason I love aprons is the same reason I love pie - they are memory triggers for spending time in a warm kitchen with people now past - before I had a mortgage, or health care insurance issues, or falling down fences.

Not only do aprons cover up enough of my midlife middle, they allow me to accessorize any raggedy farm outfit, but still allow me to function as a raggedy farm girl/artist/shepherd. It's sort of like wearing a dress, but I don't have to cross my legs, and I can bend over in the chicken coop without showing 'too much' to the hens.

So if you see any vintage aprons that I might add to my weekly wardrobe, please let me know.

I also got a nice message today from Germany, alerting me to these boots. They would look quite spectacular with an apron while I deliver a pie with Pino.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


The new snow that fell last night is heavy, a late March snow if I were still in Minnesota. As I walked to the barn in slush, the steady rain had already began to fall. The temporary blanket of nature's best neutral covered all the crap one accumulates on a farm and doesn't quite get to the barn: hoses, buckets, pails, tins [one can't have enough 'holders' on the farm]...or the rotting pumpkins in the compost area. No one seemed that pleased with the slush, but the lonely clear cut above Boone's paddock seemed grateful to be covered, so as not to show it's scars.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Pumpkin Head is Gone

I can hardly look at this picture of Pumpkin Head from when he was a kitten. He used to love sitting in the egg basket.

Like his litter mate Blackberry, he just disappeared without a trace. He was one of five kittens born to Mama Kitty, and lived the first months of his life with his litter mates under a wood pile. It was during my 'trapping-neuter-spay' period, when I was capturing the litter that came with our farm, that turned into three litters because I couldn't catch the Mama fast enough. Mama now lives happily on the porch, her children all around the farm, but no longer does she slip off to bring food for her brood. She has grown plump and although she will not let me touch her or pick her up, she does follow me around the farm sometimes, but always at a distance - sitting up on a hay loft to see where I'll go next.

Pumpkin Head lived on the front porch, with Little Orange and Mr. Plum, and at one time Blackberry. His litter mates Fig and Teasel were sent to live on another farm. He was always at dinner and breakfast. When the kitchen lite went on in the morning, it was Pumpkin Head who sat on the outside window ledge, watching me inside. He knew breakfast was coming.

Two nites ago, he wasn't at dinner. I've been through this before. If a cat is gone two full feedings, it is not good. If they aren't there the next morning, it is bad. And by the second nite, it means one thing. Many nice readers wrote me when Blackberry disappeared last month, encouraging me he might come back. "My cat was missing 1 week and came back," they'd write.

But I know he won't come back. I gave him a front porch with blankets and food. He would have died a long time ago without that care. He never created any unwanted kittens, and he had companions You can't take semi ferels and put them in a house. I just hope he didn't suffer.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Someone shared this Neruda poem with me
[thank you, Meg]...

"Let us sit down soon
to eat with all those who
haven't eaten;
let us spread great tablecloths,
put salt in the lakes of the world,
set up planetary bakeries,
tables with strawberries in the snow,
and a plate like the moon itself
from which we can all eat."