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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Post pie plethora

The Pie Day was absolutely wonderful! I want to thank everyone who made it so successful, including the people who brought pies, those of you who sent aprons [I'll do a separate post later this week on that], and my friend Annie for being my equine side kick. Thanks also to Deborah for manning the booth, and the effervescent Dandy Dan and Mlle. Loup.

We estimated about 100 or 150 people came. The flow was perfect, never too many, never too few. People were good natured about the heat, and the donkeys were just stars!
I was able to meet some of my loyal blog readers, one coming from Tacoma, others from Portland areas. Some carried in pies, some brought aprons. I tried to take time with each guest, but it was hard - if you were here and didn't introduce yourself to me, please write! Some people came with aprons, and I didn't get to thank them.

So much to say. I wrote a post on the main blog. It's sort of like the day after all the wedding guests leave. I am just full of love right now, really. And pie. I will write more later. For the moment, this photo of the first guests should make you smile.

The day was very hectic! If anyone who attended the event has good pictures, please, please email them to me. I would love to share them. I was only able to take about 15 pictures, it was just too busy.

Pie day energy transference

The farm and Pino thank Annie, equine helper of the day, Ms. Loup for flying all the way from NYC to help, and Dandyland who came all the way from his magical kingdom in Kentucky ["you're alive!"], and Deborah for sitting under a hot tent and not complaining.

My head is spinning, my heart is full, my feet are worn. The Pie Day was so fabulous, despite the 95 degree day. This photo captures the reality of the day. I know it sounds corny, but the event had an energy about it that was pure "Pino" - warm, honest, and kind.

My head is still digesting it all. The whole weekend was magical, thanks to our absolutely wonderful house guests all the way from Kentucky and NYC - but that is a whole entity of it's own that I won't write about...yet.

Our farm is a living, breathing entity, bringing things and people into it. Apifera Farm is a story book that one steps into and plays a role in. I get to have a recurring role, and the characters evolve around me. I am sort of overwhelmed as I'm typing here - perhaps from too much pie, or heat, but I am busting with love for my farm and my life and my husband and friends I am gathering here. It is as if the farm is now my skin. I breathe, it breathes.It breathes, I breathe. A chicken dies, a part of me dies. A seed is planted, and a new creative idea coincides. People are drawn into our farm for a reason, and some of those reasons I don't know. It's not necessarily important for me to know the reason. But after this pie event, I know that Apifera has purpose beyond me.

I can see Pino's face as the older woman's crumpled up hands petted him, and I can here the story of the woman with MS who came and told me she was just 'taking it all in'...I can see my friend Annie, birth mother to Pino and Lucia, in her hat and apron, arriving with a basket of cherry pies...I can see the little girls in a gaggle on their picnic in the shade, making pictures for Pino of the fairy ships...I can hear the voice of the 87 year old woman telling me about her husband who passed away not long ago, and how they had lived down the road for 50 years...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Homage to a rooster

Ward Schumacher the rooster is like a part of the landscape. He can look like a noble tree of some ind, at certain perspectives. He deserves many portraits, but this one came to me this week.

I have become attached. Of all the barn yard animals, I find it most dangerous emotionally to become attached to the chickens, as they seem to die on a regular basis. Although we seem to be in 'chicken death reprieve'. Someone told me if you can get them to about 3 years old they seem to live forever.

So I relish seeing Ward anytime of day. He's independent, brought on by the fact he is bottom in pecking order to Papa Roo. He still sneaks in a quick "fertlie" [my word for chicken sex, as in 'fertilize'] and he has a special place on top of the roost that I feed him in the morning, allowing him to stay clear of Papa Roo. No fights really occur, but Ward really gets run out of town often, and a quiet morning breakfast seems okay to provide. At night, he often is still out, and he generally waddles back in the roost if I walk slowly with him, clucking. He's the first out of the hen house in the morning, and the last one in at night.

Sneak peeks...

Just some of the many sites if you can make it to our Pino Pie Day this Saturday. The garden is looking quite wonderful, if I may say so. The lavender field is lovely, and the purple haze is there in one third of the 3 acres. The third full season is the charm in this draught tolerant perennial bed. The weather appears to cooperating. I might not eat pie for a while after this Saturday, and I might be as big as Boone, but hey, you only live within earthly delights once.

I've been working so hard pulling it all together. I just hope I have one or two moments where I can sit down with a piece of pie, look in Pino's eyes, and remember why we are doing this. I have to run, Pino's toes need daisies on them, and I have to buy the pounds of butter for pie - local of course.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Art moment

I was somewhat shocked, if not pleased, to have the sudden urge to paint a new canvas yesterday. I had given myself a break from painting to focus on the upcoming Pino Pie day and have been madly making folk dolls, lavender items, etc. But I've been missing my art.

I do think being away from it from time to time is good. I paint all year, but summer is a time to fill the well, and I store it all up for outbursts in fall through spring. There was a time when I would feet guilty if I wasn't painting every day. No more. I am a dedicated artist, but I'm not a faucet. If the right project came in, I'd snap it up with zest. But the times are so s..l.o.w...one must work hard at other things, and not bang one's head up against a wall too much. It feels like the whole world is on vacation. Is anyone out there?

So this was enjoyable to make, and see the next day.

The wisdom of sleep

Martyn is a light sleeper. I on the other hand fall into deep dream states pretty quickly the minute I go to bed. I have vivid dreams, and am known to carry on conversations while asleep. Martyn awoke the other night to hear me say this, and he said he actually got up out of bed to write it down. I thought that was so cool, to get to hear something out of my dream state. We have no cows, but have them near by.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Horse confessional

As the Big House still sleeps in the pre-sunrise day, Boone the horse is already being awakened in the barn, and encounters a lump on his gate - which brings pleasure to the horse, and tears to his human...

I awoke to the small grunter near my stall. She awakes me most mornings, just when I am about to have my third deep sleep dream of pre-sun rise. I was driven for some reason to walk to the nearby corral, to which I have free access. This is pleasing, as it is dirt, and I can dust and roll without the nuisance of rock or thistle. But this morning, I noticed She had left her apparel on my gate in the corral. Why? Is it a message, a sign or some kind of command she is teaching me? It is that coat that looks like my old sweat rag she uses to wash off my back and belly after a ride. She always has it on.

The day is just peaking. My favorite time here. No silliness from the chickens. No small equines making noise, the neighbor farm dogs are still asleep. The tractors are in neutral, shut off. I can not hear anything except the nearby river, and birds. And my breathing, which I admire and like.

I take a roll, ahhh, yes, this feels good. My belly itches from where the saddle girth cinched me yesterday on our ride. As I roll, my right eye catches sight of that coat again, hanging in a lump on my gate. I know I mustn't, this is a boundary, I think. People think we equines don't reason. Nonsense, We reason when necessary, but don't need to over reason as humans do. But the coat has presented itself to me, and when I turn around, it is still there.

I must bring the coat into my corral and examine it. Perhaps see what the inside is really like, since I never get to really see the inside when she wears it. And perhaps, just perhaps, she has left some alfalfa treats in the one pocket. Or carrot tips long forgotten.

The coat is amazingly light weight, considering how bulky she looks in it. Oh, dear, my teeth sink right in. Perhaps I can toss it up and back over to the gate, let's see.
No, it didn't make it, I'll try again. Ah, tossing it up and around my head is much like a self fulfilling game, like child tossing a ball all alone. Over and over, as the times ticks away. Ah...well, that was good fun. Thank you, coat, for playing along.

..........My, I wonder how much time has passed. The donkeys are braying, I hear hens. Yes, I hear her front door, sing song voice, barn feedings. What? What is this, she is coming towards me, here, in my corral. This is not right, She always enters the barn first, to feed the smaller beasts first. I am last. This is not right. What can she be so upset about, I see it in her arm movements. I am just standing here. I have not missed a command. She is not urging me forward with a clucking sound...what can possibly....be wrong....Oh, the coat. She is standing over the coat. It does look different, a bit more tattered than when I first found it on the gate. What? "I've ruined it.' she repeats, over and over, louder. She uses the 'hate' word...I feel horribly. It was just there, the coat. If she had been in the coat, I would have known not to play with it. What? No, no, I would NOT eat anything...that's not true. Ah no, she's crying a little. It's a coat! Now look, the goat got my saddle pad, remember, I did not fret....She's coming over to me, and she's...still crying. Much fuss for a coat...What? the coat is your last connection to your life years ago when your old dog Louie was alive, and so many things were young and free. Your skin was pretty then......You've been to both oceans in that coat? You collect shells and eggs better in the coat...You'll never find a coat like it and your life is changed without that coat...

She is walking away, with the coat...or the coats, it's many pieces now.

I have no regrets. I was never taught that eating lumps on my gate is incorrect. I sure had fun with that coat.

--The End--

If you value my writing and illustration presented on this blog, consider making a small $1-$5 donation to Donkey Dreams to help my animals causes, and to help defer the data transfer fees of this blog. Thank you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


In honor of Flag Day and Father's Day, I share this photograph with you. The little child is my father, circa 1927.

It is my first father's day without a father. He's here, of course, in many other forms. My face, my profile, my artistic heart. But he is gone.'Letting go' is an individual project. Sometimes we are challenged to do it in an instant, like the family of the Boy Scouts whose young sons were recently killed by a tornado. Sometimes we are asked to do it in a manner that just doesn't make sense, like when a mother dies too young. And sometimes we have time to prepare, we think, as when an older person finally leaves the earth. But there is no preparation. No matter how it goes down, death presents the living with a new perspective on their own life.

My life is richer because of the life of my father, but also because of his death. The death of a parent leaves a space, and the grown child -adult must fill it from within. And filling from within without any one's approval is the essence of maturity, and from it comes deep satisfaction, peace and gratitude.

I get comfort in the most unexpected moments. The smell of Old Spice deodorant, which he wore when I was a child, and which I still wear to this day. There are two small flecks of him still left in the front garden. He had a stubborn side, and perhaps he too is not quite ready to 'let go' of earthly delights. The latter musing is something I doubt in my heart. I truly believe he is on to a huge place, where he is working at new things. Earthly delights are just that - earthly.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trying not to freak out the mail carrier

The mail woman asked me today, "Do you have a guest staying with you?" "Guest, no guest, why?" I asked. "Because this 'Pino Blangiforti' is getting so much mail." I explained who Pino was, which was greeted with a scoffing glance - she can be moody. She wondered what so many were sending to a donkey. "Aprons." I responded. Well, let's just say, some people just have to learn to expand a little, imagine, relax...Anyway, she offered to bring me some rhubarb for a pie if she has it.

Today the sky was blue, and it got bluer in a azure sea way as several packages for Pino arrived. I open all items, as Pino is scissor challenged. We have been getting so many wonderful aprons, I just can't tell you! I am behind in my photos of them all - some are handmade, some are relics, some are just so funny. All are loved. One had a $20 bill tucked in it...

And this package arrived to Pino, with original art by Mlle.Thelma. Oh! C'est jolie!. Inside, was like a treasure chest, a selection of vintage and some new aprons, all from France! Each apron had a real story about the apron written by Thelma's mom. I am not doing the package justice, but it made my day, my week. Paris flea market aprons came all the way to Yamhill for a little donkey. One of the aprons is made of Thelma's old pajama bottoms - and we all know by now that Thelma seems to prefer au naturel 'in the belly' attire. So cool. So fabu, so bella. So Thelma.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Upcoming worlds

She loved the morning best. She felt free in her night gown, standing still
in her garden, just a part of the world she had created.

A very rough idea for upcoming 'sets' I want to create to go with my felted animals.
I am going to paint the sets, and maybe add some items. But this is just a very quick and crude form. Maybe she is standing on moss, with leaves nearby. I want the background set to be able to be folded and shipped so a person can easily set it up on a table.

There are not enough hours in the day for my mind's activities.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bird for a bark

I just did this teeny little illustration spot for the Bark magazine. The articles was about a fledging baby that falls from its nest and a dog and its owner watch over it. All ends well. It was fun to do something for the Bark again even it was 1.7" square! Anytime I'm asked to paint a bird, well, I say, "of course". If you don't know the magazine and you love dogs, it's a fun read, and has great artists to. Thank you,Bark!

Morning walk with BW

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Have overalls, can haul anything

Somethings just go together...such as eggs and overalls. We've had chickens now going on two summers, and I still relish getting the fresh eggs out of the roost.
I have some egg baskets strewn all over the farm, and have yet to find a perfect system that will help me remember to take the egg basket with me on barn duties so I can collect the eggs. So I often stuff them in my pockets. Hence, my all time favorite overalls are perfect for my egg duties.

I bought these overalls back in Minneapolis, maybe 12 years ago now, from Oilily, the Dutch clothing company known for the exquisite children's clothes [expensive, but so creative, charming, and incredibly well sewn and long lasting]. I receive a variety of comments on my overalls...some comments barely pass as compliments. But I love these pants. When Billy the one eyed pug was 8 weeks old he weighed 1.2 pounds and fit in my hand. I used to carry put him in my overall pocket and he'd sleep all day while I worked in the studio. Usually, if I reach in to my pocket, I find something in there I have forgotten about - nails, hay twine, horse treats, feathers.

This week I did a hunt on ebay for Oilily overalls, alas, there were none, for women anyway. I will continue searching for more though, perhaps even writing Oilily president, explaining to him how my overalls have lasted all these years, are worn in sheep fields, donkey parades and lavender mud, and still, not one hole. And if I show them my egg gathering abilities in these overalls, surely they will find an old sample pair in the vaults and ship them to me.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A story of two Thelmas

As a freelance artist living in a rural area, I can feel isolated, like I am not connecting with anyone. This can feel especially depressing when one is not reaping the rewards of new projects and art sales.But right about when I feel at the peek of disappointment in the universe, something magical happens as a reminder that one is always connecting, it just is not always visible at the moment. And sometimes it's presented in a slightly different package. Such was the situation when I got an email from a young mother in France, who wanted to buy a little painting for her daughter, Thelma. This purchase started a correspondence, and very soon, I realized the universe had introduced me to young Mlle. Thelma as a reminder - my art is here for many reasons, and one is that there are people out there ready to embrace it.

After Mlle. Thelma's mother bought one painting, I showed her another I had done years earlier. A very special piece I created to honor a woman named Thelma, who loved flowers, picnics. pies and life. I took Thelma's picture and collaged it into one of the flowers on the painting. Over the years it almost sold a million times, but always seem to stay here with me. Well, I just thought I had to show it to Mlle. Thelma's mother, just for fun. She wrote back that she simply had to have it for her own Thelma's room, as it reminder her so much of her daughter.

Well, it seems Mlle. Thelma had to have a small garage sale to earn some money to pay for the painting, and she sold off many of her old baby items. Within a month, she had enough money to buy the painting.I packaged it up the art with little images of singing cats and French greetings to Thelma all over the wrapping, and placed other little goodies inside. I knew Thelma had a hankering for cats and knew she would love opening the many layers.

Her mother wrote about the package's arrival: " I wish I had filmed the arrival of your package - it caused us to be a half an hour late to Thelma's playschool ! We were heading out the door when the postman delivered it - we did a quick U turn back inside bubbling with excitement. Thelma knew immediately that it was for her - the cats, I'm sure! She examined each one very, very carefully and we read their greetings to her. She was absolutely over the moon and kept repeating " Regarde daddy , bonjour Thelma, bonjour les chats". She was delighted. We were dying to look inside but she wouldn't let go of the box for us to open it - it was hers and she was keeping it! After many minutes of coaxing and telling her that there might be another cat inside she let it go. There was another cat inside and she claimed it before we could say or do anything. Thelma has spent the past two weeks deciding where to hang it but still hasn't found the "right" spot!(see photo below of her trying a spot).Pino and all the cats from the package are now hanging on her notice board in her room." The other thing I just love is Mlle. Thelma's mother framed the painting surrounded in Thelma's first princess dress, now too small, sprinkled with silver stars and hearts, a ruby and some straw from the Apifera package. She thought it looked heavenly, with magic and theatrics tossed in - very much like Mlle. Thelma.

Mlle. Thelma thinks that the painting "Thelma's Heaven" is really about her, which is fine with me. I wrote a story on the back of the painting, so when she grows, she can read it. I think somehow, the now long gone woman named Thelma, honored in the painting, was meant to be in Mlle. Thelma's magical world.

"Once there was a little girl named Thelma who grew up to be
a woman named Thelma. She loved pie and picnics and all things
that walked on four legs, or many legs, like bugs.

Thelma loved flowers and she liked to pick them while she ate pie.
She would sit with her flowers and think how lucky she was
to sit in such a beautiful garden and have a picnic all to herself.

Thelma lived a long and happy life. She lives on in the flowers, and
when you see a flower at a picnic, you should say,
“Bonjour Thelma! I see you in the flowers today!”

Years after Thelma the woman became a flower, a little girl came
to the earth. Her name was Thelma too! And she lived in France.
She loved bugs and cats and she slept in her belly.

The little girl named Thelma loved to pick flowers, and when she did,
the flowers smiled."

Thelma is an avid artiste and painter in her own right. Her mother sent me a short video of her painting with her little sing-song voice as she works away, "painting in her belly" [this is how Mlle. Thelma states she is naked without pajamas].

So, I have been charmed by a two year old. Not a surprise, really. But I feel really lucky to have met her, and to also meet a mother encouraging her artistic bent, and reveling in it. I hope I will watch her grow, if only from a distance. My art brought joy to a little house in France, and the reverberations have traveled across oceans and mountains to rest in my heart.