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

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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tractor therapy

It was a perfect day. I started with farm fresh eggs. Had coffee with Phinias T. Barnum in the barn. Brushed Boone. Trimmed some sheep feet. And then, I got down to business...on the tractor in the lavender field. I have been given the field master's blessing to till, and till I did. I got on the Kubota and tilled from noon to 7 pm. Martyn insisted I get the camera and take pictures of my dusted body. I had on my favorite overalls- flattering, heh? I just don't care, they are Dutch, with the words 'rodeo - yippy-i-oh"" printed on the inside bib. They make me happy. I'd like to point out the front pocket is full of stuff, I'm not quite as pie filled as the picture lets on.

Riding on the mower made me think of being young when we lived on a small 5 acre spread and my job was to mow the field with our little John Deere. I loved to mow the field, I was about 10. I would sing, and sing, and sing. My parents were always amused when they looked out and saw me singing. I used to get my brother to give up his lawn mowing duties for the week so I could mow for him. There's a freedom in being on a little tractor. Today I could see nearby farms with their horses, our sheep were in the lower fields, all that I cared for was near by. The lavender is just starting to get stem, and smells nice. I thought of my father, and how he might be visiting me over my shoulder, while I tilled today, and he might also remember how I used to sing out in the fields, way back when.

There are many stories from the week I want to share, but they will have to wait....the most memorable was yesterday, when I held a wild, 3 day old fawn for about 10 seconds...the story needs my attention to be told properly. And then there is Mlle. Thelma - now there is a charming story you will like...Stay tuned. And as for my Billy Baker - he had some issues come up in his surgery. He has an enlarged heart, but there is not anything to do at the moment. We will pay attention to any signs of distress. When I asked how many teeth they took, the doctor said, "A pile"... He is fine though, eating, passing gas, just like normal.

So, I must go drink now. One of the best things about a dusty day in the field is coming back to the house, cleaning up, and breaking out that cold beer and a lime. Then some good Pinot. Then a good nap on the couch before I go to bed. A chocolate chip cookie awaits me too. And Martyn will make us grilled lamb chops, Apifera's finest.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

One eye, a few less teeth, lots of gas

What has one eye, a punched in face and smells...that's right, it's our little gassy one-eyed pug, Billy Baker. One of the many horrors of in-breeding to get the pug breed is they tend to have teeth issues. Billy is now living proof of this.

Our gas producer will be heading into the vet on Friday for major teeth removal [I have suggested they get the fans running]. Due to the fact that Billy likes to chew on tiny pepples like gum - a hobby he acquired as a young pup - one of the rotting teeth fell out. Looks like our one eyed pug will now be a 'one-eyed three-toothed" pug.

I cringe to have the final invoice handed to me...but such is pet ownership. I considered dressing him up as a ferel cat to get donations, but that would be very un-Apifera. So Billy has a special message for you..."If you buy this sale item [done when I had both eyes!] it will help pay for maybe 1/2 of the bill."

Sale ends 6/8

All art that was unsold in the Sale Section has been reduced for one more week. So take a look, sale prices end 6/8. I deleted out all the sold pieces [thank you buyers!] but there are still many nice pieces I really like. Also, if you see a piece on the store site you just have to have, let me know, I can look at the price - but only through 6/8.

Times are tight for everyone I thin. I know many fellow artists seeing a real slow down, myself included. I appreciate the fact that buying art is a commitment, it's not a necessity. SO it is always appreciated when people support my art. Thank you.

We were watching Antique Road SHow the other night and a sketch for a children's book, just a sketch, was valued at $10,000. We mused that, fast forward 100 years, someone will show up at Antique Roadshow with a box of donkey sketches in the form of manuscript/children's book mock-ups. "Do you know anything about the artist?" the host/appraiser will ask. "No, except there is a picture of her in an apron with a donkey." The appraiser will tell her he had to really research to find a woman artist, long dead, who began writing stories about her farm and her donkeys. "She never was published in her lifetime, and she lived out her life continuing to try to get someone to publish her donkey stories." They'll go onto say how charming the stories are, and the woman will share that "my children and grand children have enjoyed them immensely."

Monday, May 26, 2008

The glance of a king

She can not seem to understand my true qualities, my kingliness. For 4 years I have helped in the equation that brings food to her table, to her barbecue. I feed her. I nurture her with my genetic make-up, providing meat to her liking. I give up my prodigy without a fuss, I accept that fate. I do my part willingly - I eat and graze to keep up my strength. I even allow myself to live in a mixed herd of lower gentleman, and two goats for heaven's sake. I am a saint for that. And when the season changes, when I smell a hint of drying leaves in the forest, I know it is once again my duty to service my flock. I go willingly, I do not balk at her. I go to the field of ladies, reintroduce myself quickly - for their is no reason to doddle, they know it too, the job must be done. The grass and foraging I have done all summer to keep me fit for the job pays off, for I spread my seed over and over without tiring, just to make sure the job is thorough. I am a professional that way.

Yet, she seems to put herself in the herd master role, when it is really I that am in charge of this herd. That is why, from time to time, I must come to the fence line and stare out at her. Surely my expression will explain clearly, "Excuse me, you! You the woman with the bucket, I am the greatest! I am Joe Pye Weed. And this herd is mine."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good evening

One of the nicest things I get to do here on the farm is sit at the end of a hot day and look out at this. One hand is petting a cat in my lap, the other is holding a glass of wine. I can hear the snorkels of the one eyed pug behind me on the deck, and the panting of Huck.

The lord of the manor house sits beside me, dressed in Apifera Farm attire. This time of year we watch the mating couples who have flown in, like the Western Tanager - spectacular! We revel at the cedar siding we just put on the pump house, and discuss the many ideas for other little projects. We share our day with each other, and 95% of the time are at peace. Each day, something happens in the garden bed in front of us, and we enjoy pointing them out to each other.

These simple things happen every day in my life and marriage.

I do not have to go
To sacred places in far off lands.
The ground I stand on is holy.

Here in this little garden I tend
My pilgrimage ends.
The wild honeybees
The hummingbird moths
Are a microcosm of the earth.
Each seed that grows is full of miracles.

And I toil and sweat and watch and wonder
And am full of love
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty dwell here.
[Mary de La Valette]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another apron from afar!

Friederike!, Pino's true blue friend in Germany is sending us this FABULOUS apron for Pino Pie day. If you haven't gone to her blog, you must. Her master artist, Sandra Monat, makes wonderful softie dolls and magical creations. We are lucky to have one of her charming Viking dolls on our guest bed to protect visitors that sleep there [and me when I sneak in their to have a 'girl alone night'].

I am so excited, Pino can't wait to show it to Rosemary the head ewe. We told Sandra the ewes will be so envious. Don't you love the greens in the photo? We adore blue sheep! and the goodies she surprises us with - like the donkey cookie cutters she sent. I use the cookie cutter all the time to cut out donkeys in the pie crust.

Thank you, Sandra and Friederike. The Pino Pie Day is going to be so fun. We only wish our German friends could be there - but they will be in our hearts!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The cat that became an elephant

The transformation of any creation is the fuel for keeping magic in one's day. Like all my rag dolls, I can't seem to work from any set plan, but this is the signature of all my work really.

So, I set out to make a cat, but it turned into this little elephant. Ella Elephant likes to wear short dresses but no pants. This helps her go swimming like elephants like. She wears a pink ribbon to attract boy elephants. Her little tail is the sweetest little tail imaginable!

Ella Elephant is a one of a kind creatures, full of personality, and like any creature, can not be duplicated. I am working on other felted creatures, and want to do some 3D sets to place them in, like mini theater stories. It's still in my head.
It will most likely be a gigantic 3D mess, much like my monkey houses of past, but I will forge ahead with hammer, saw and nails. Martyn will cringe and step in. Soon perhaps he will build me a stage of some kind for theatrical performances with felt puppets and guest appearances from Phinias T. Barnum and others. [I have convinced him to make a special magic door to the "Pino's Pie Place" where the donkeys will be for the June 28th Pie Day].

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Backwards or not...

I am working on a new children's story. This time I am trying something a bit different. I worked on the illustrations as a whole before I even began writing the copy.

When I was working on my new felted dolls [to appear later] the feeling of the character started coming out of the doll. And as I felted away, I was telling stories in my head about the doll. So it gave me the notion that perhaps I should try creating a visual storyline first, and create the words around that. In my last stories I wrote all the copy first.

So far, I've done all the first draft b/w visual spreads. I had the story idea in my head before starting, but really let the art help me develop the details of the story/plot. I'm finding it is helping me not rush as much, and I feel like I am taking more time to try and develop the characters.

The main character is an artist donkey that leaves the city life for country life, and the challenge she faces as an outsider, and as being seen as a bit 'strange' to the country folk. The other main character is an old mouse who acts as her friend and mentor.

It's a completely true story.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Natural tendencies

The May madness of planting the vegetable garden and prepping the perennial beds for summer have been in full swing. Basically I am 5 inches shorter, from bending over so much. But at least I can still bend. I do often require two hands to get back up. Not too pretty from the rear, I guess. I definitely notice my body reacting differently to manual labor, no matter how enjoyable. I just can't handle intense manual labor like we did our first couple years here. I actually was so stiff last week that I convinced myself I had some strange joint disease. When we were really little, my brother used to warn me I'd get worms someday from giving dogs kisses on the mouth. I scoffed. Perhaps that scoffing has come back to haunt my joints.

I did this piece a couple years ago, and many of the pieces from then had a kneeling woman, all bent up. I was tired - hanging on to a plant to try and get back up on my two feet.

I don't read blogs daily, but lately many I visit are taking hiatus for one reason or another, some really seeming in angst over it.To me, it seems the bodies natural tendency is to want to be outside in the days of warm weather. The desire to switch from creating on a canvas, versus creating with mud and dirt and seed seems perfectly acceptable and logical. Our ancestors probably busted out of caves on a spring day - perhaps the cave paintings were only done in the winter.

Business is slow. I always stress the first of the month if jobs aren't coming in or things aren't selling. But at a certain point, I have to remember I got here from art, I am allowed to stay here through art - so why do I think after 10+ years the universe would kick me out of this place due to a lack of art? So, I continue to work, and each day let the powers to be work behind the scenes... "Hmmm, let's let her work in the fields and play with the horse for a good month, and then let's give her that huge illustration job..." . That might sound egotistical, but I just have to believe in slow times that I am not always the one to be privy as to what the heck is really going on.

It's National Wear Your Apron Day!

I've spent a good part of the morning trying to get Pino's apron on him, but alas, it's spring, there's grass, there's dust to roll in, and he is out doing his thing like a donkey should be.

I don't know where I heard about National Wear Your Apron Day, to be honest, or who started it, so forgive me for lack of details. I just know it's a day to celebrate the apron, by wearing it with glee. All the handy things about an apron - I can attest to here in my own life. I gather eggs in the pockets, I wipe my dirty garden hands all over the front to spare my already dirty pants, why just this week I wiped goop out of cat eye with my apron. Very handy in deed. And, as I've stated many a time, aprons help cover my somewhat expanded waistline. It's a wonderful way to feel like I'm wearing a dress when a dress just isn't always practical. Don't want to bending over in the barnyard in a dress, ladies!

So that I am. I'm attempting to document all the aprons I ham collecting for Pino's Pie Day Apron Clothesline...It's quite an amusing way to spend time. How lucky I am, yes?

We're thrilled with the generosity of people. And we hope all these efforts will help bring awareness to caregivers who want to share donkey therapy, and farm therapy, with their patients and friends in need.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Gallery Event

I'm participating in a group show at Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem. The show promotes biking as an alternative form of transportation, as well as a way to see nature, get out and exercise, and just enjoy the qualities of biking. The opening is Wednesday, May 7th.

My piece is called "Bird Bike" and can be purchased through the gallery. I bought a bike back in Minneapolis and named her Bella, as she was taking me places of beauty I wouldn't have seen without a bike. One is as close to flying while on a bike I think.

Bella has been hanging, dust and cobweb covered, in the barn for 4 years. I'm going to clean her up and take her out again. Maybe get a basket and deliver eggs on occasion. It would do me good, and I think she deserves to full fill her purpose again - to help me fly.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ladies and Gentleman, presenting...

There is a crow that lives near our farm. I see him flying from the place in the sky where the main county road touches the horizon line - if you're standing in the right spot on our land. He seems to canvas the area and then always retreats to the area where he begins his circling maneuvers. I now realize that his purpose is to guide particular cats to our farm. The conversation between crow and cat can not be relayed to my readers here in typed words, as the computer wizards have not found a way to make symbols that represent the animal language - and I doubt they are anxiously trying.

So I can only assume what the human translation might be - "You, cat, who just got thrown from the car - over here. Come this way. Up that hill. Watch the curve, log trucks. Inside dogs. Don't be afraid of the small goat like creature - strange but harmless. Head for red barn in the back. Wait for sing song woman sounds. She's the one you want."

And so, this giant, beautiful, regal creature has walked onto the farm. By the way he presented himself to me, I could tell immediately he had at one time worked in the theater, and not on a small scale. He also had been loved, and within literally 2 minutes, he was in my arms. He looked a bit thin yesterday when I fist saw him. But after 3 meals looks better. His wounds are minimal, a few scratches, a small hole that is healing. He is definitely part Siamese, as he cries out as only one of that kind can.

As theatrical and noble as he is, this cat was humbled from whatever journey he had just been on. The back woods is one riveting sound after another in the night time - and the sensitivity of the feline ear, together with his sense of smell, must be exhausting for this fellow, who probably sat on a pillow most of his life earning lines for his next off-off-Broadway play. Normally, when a new cat arrives, I let it be for some time. They come to me on their terms. I feed them, waiting at least two weeks of feeding them before I attempt a tramping to spay/neuter them. As he clung to my shoulders, humming, I swear I heard him thinking,"Go ahead, take my manly pearls off, I don't need them and I'll do anything, anything if you just don't send me back to the outback." His name is not apparant yet, as we humans must wait to allow the cat's true name to come properly to the surface. This can take weeks, sometimes months.

Excited to get to the barn this morning, I was disappointed the new theater cat was not waiting for me in the hay bales. I was sure I had expressed my intentions properly and clearly. As I was almost done cleaning the sheep stall, I heard him calling from the outback. He was standing at the edge, with just two front paws into the small paddock, in the same spot I found him in yesterday. A friend mused he might have been a gift from above - this morning I remembered my father had a Siamese when he met my mother. He had to give the cat away shortly after that.

All I know is, I've known him one day, and he is a significant part of the farm.