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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Is that a word, frivolity? It just seems to describe this recent piece I did for the Bark magazine, a great dog zine. It's a gift card for subscribers to send to friends. They wanted an every day, non-breed specific dog, festive without screaming 'Christmas'. I had much fun doing it, and the curtains and colors pleased me. There's definitely a little of my old friend Louie in that little fellow. Now go subscribe to the Bark, it's a fun read and they are avid buyers of good illustration.

I have to run, we are dragging extension cords out to the barnyard and rigging up an old b/w television. Pino wants to watch The Big Ear One Who Speaks Calmly debate the Grey Back Who Lacks Wrinkles. Apples, figs and crostinis will be served.

For him

I painted this yesterday in homage to our fallen friend. I felt peaceful and intent painting it, and more peaceful afterwards.

I was thinking how the land has seen many fall on it, blood runs deep under the ground on any farm. I am unclear as to the symbolism of the saddle like pattern I felt compelled to place on the deer. But it was necessary.

It was nice of many to comment, and email thoughts. Thank you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trauma at Apifera

In which a deer suffers greatly, as does a woman.

I walked back from the barn last night after feedings and noticed a white car by the river road. Our property sits on a hill, making road activities noticeable. I didn't think much of it, but took notice of three unknown men in the neighbor field. It seemed odd. When Martyn arrived home 30 minutes later, I asked if the white car was still on the road, as I was wondering what they were doing. He changed the subject, and, as our conversation is often jumbled at night, I again didn't pay much attention.

Little did I know they were tracking a wounded animal, a yearling 2 point buck that they had hit a mile and half away, across the river. It's bow season. They had approached Martyn as he was entering the drive, telling him they were following a blood trail.Knowing me as he does, Martyn kept this information from me when he entered the house, but when the white car suddenly appeared at our front drive, and three unknown men got out, I said, "What is going on?". Martyn rushed out, ' I'll take care of this."

They spoke some words, and the men got back in his car, and Martyn followed them back down . At this point, I looked out, and saw a young buck leap the fence and enter our front ram field, about 200 feet from me. He was clearly bleeding at the mouth, but had managed to jump the fence, and was headed towards the old barn, the normal path the deer take up into the woods of our property. The rams and sheep stood still, watching. The buck made it another 300 feet and was near the old barn. He was clearly dying, slowly. And this is the point where I can see his face so clearly, and his expression, his stance. He was about 50 feet from me. He was still standing, but wobbly. I stood still watching, but physically upset. He looked at me so intensely, and then collapsed. But he was not dead. Martyn had returned, and had left the hunters at the road, wanting to assess the situation before letting them come on our property and enter our fields. He gathered the rams in, and I went to assess the buck. He was struggling to breath, blood was pumping out his mouth. I was only 15 feet away. I could hear the gurgling in his lungs, he was drowning in blood. The blood was so thick and the color of movie blood. He finally let his neck collapse, and I told him to let go. But he couldn't, yet.

Martyn came and forced me away, and said we had to let them come finish the job of a badly placed arrow. I was livid. I returned to the house, and Martyn went to tell the hunters to come up and finish the job. By the time they returned, he was dead. What really gripes me is one of the hunters had said to Martyn, 'Once they go down, they're basically dead." Not true. That animal was shot around 5 pm, or earlier. He crossed a river and found his way to the deer path he had taken many times. He came on our property at 7pm. He suffered a long time. He suffocated slowly. He died completely in stress.

What upsets me most is I did not have the skills, or tools, to help him on his way. He came to our refuge, and I could have made it easier for him. I failed miserably as a steward. Not only that, but I was not calm. I was crying as I sat near him, asking him to let go. I added more stress to his death. I never want to be in a position where I can't help an animal out of it's misery again, quickly. I will consult my vets, and some hunter friends, and I will learn to shoot a gun. If this seems shocking for those that know my sensitive side, I can only tell you, my sensitive side is what propels me to learn this skill. It's the responsible thing to do.

I am not necessarily opposed to hunting. But I am opposed to bow hunting. I seriously doubt there are too many skilled bow hunters that can place a bow in an animal to cause it to die right away. Elk have been known to walk for days, slowly dying of blood poisoning. While the hunters did follow the law - they were hunting with approval of the landowner, I assume they had a permit, it is bow season, and they did ask Martyn for permission to come on our property, I do wonder if the event had an effect on them. They knew it caused great trauma to me, and when they said to Martyn that next time they would be more careful, Martyn made it clear, "there would be 'no next time on this property". I don't care what they think of me. I care what the animal felt, and what I felt, when suffering was presented to me.

Back at the house, I couldn't get the color of blood out of my head. I cried on and off - watching the economic and McShame news didn't help. We finally turned on "Grumpy Old Men" which made me laugh. But even there, the two old codgers are hunting a giant fish. They put it back after catching it - if only it could be like that in real life.

The idea that the young buck had actually come here to find a safe haven to die in, may seem like wishful thinking. Oddly it is an underlying theme in the first novel I have started writing. Did I create the storyline and it came to be, or did I only see the storyline in real life because I want it so much to be true? I choose to believe there is an understanding of what our land is for creatures near and far. If that means looking like a fool around neighboring hunters, so be it.

I slept poorly. By dawn, I could hear Boone out in the pasture, snorting and eating. I wanted to rush out and put him in a stall, forever away from stray arrows. But just as that unrealistic thought entered my head, Martyn rolled over in his sleep and put his arm around me, and Big Tony pushed his paws into me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simple sightings bring pleasure

Simple pleasures are abundant anywhere, and this season there is so much that feels juicy to the soul. Certain things bring back times of pleasure, or safety. These sunflowers greet me every morning, and lift me up in tiny seconds through out the day. How can one not hear them, "Hello there! I'm here and shining, do you feel me?"

I wish I could take credit for raising these beauties. Martyn and I went to a special event this weekend at the Portland Flower Market, the wholesale floral market for all of Portland. We are now members and have a booth there, which Martyn oversees during the week. One of the growers there, The Sunflower Kid, grows quantities of these giants, along with other fresh cut varieties. So I brought two bundles home, and ever time I look at them I feel ...so...satisfied.

Other bounties are arriving. Our little apple trees have giant fruit on them - their young tiny branches drooping as they are full of their offspring. Boone is relegated to taste the first harvest. Our little Asian pear tree too is full. We have one pear, and already ate the one plum of our other fl edging trees. I know someday I'll be sitting around, and it will dawn on me, 'Wow, I remember years ago when we planted these, they were so small..." Autumn brings out nostalgia of many kinds I find. It is my favorite season, but it is also the season I am at my most sensitive. This is not a negative thing. Channeling sensitivity into my art brings good things.

It's just there aren't enough hours in the day. Another feeling brought on by fall for me is the sense I must do many things, create many things, as my life is a gift, and it will not last forever. It is always a shock, to really grasp I will not live forever.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Paco's Pumpkin

In which you learn about Jimmy the mouse lord, and perhaps feel enticed to enter Paco's art raffle.Enter as many $5 quantites as you'd like. Enter by October 5th.

In case you thought I was just making it all up, I took this picture this morning of Paco guarding his giant pumpkin. For those of you who loyally follow my blog, you know that little Paco is a grumpy creature with a good heart, but with a tendency to over-guard everything that moves - that includes leaves and hoses. I have also been accused of giving too much attention to Pino. This of course is not true. Paco has no desire to be in the spotlight and press. He just wants something important to guard. So this year his wish came true when I planted these giant pumpkins just for him.

As I explained to Paco, and I will explain here for you, the giant pumpkins were created by a mouse lord way back before, well I don't know when. It was a long time ago. The mouse Lord, named Jimmy, bred the giant pumpkins for geodesic home domes for his colony of mice, of which there were thousands. Mice workers would tunnel in and carve out the giant orb, creating a perfect winter home for a large family of rodents. Mice prefer round objects to anything with sharp angles, allowing them to pile together in a natural ball form.

So I told Paco we must guard these giant orange creatures until the descendants of Jimmy [thought to have lived in the Northwest in his final years of life] take over.

Paco did not show any emotion when I declared him Pumpkin Guard - not his fashion to show any kind of joy. He simply asked where I would plant the pumpkins. When I told him the 'black gold' pile - years of horse and sheep manure all composting into rich, black 'gold' - he did seem to show a glint in his eye. For the black gold pile is where the donkeys are often found rolling and sunning in leisure hours.

As Paco's pumpkin has grown, he has taken his duties even more seriously. During day hours when the donkeys are in the lower sheep field, Paco has relegated Ward Schumacher the rooster to guarding the pumpkin. So fitting, what could be prettier, that red comb against the orange body. I sense a real pride in Paco when he sits near his pumpkin. Like many things we raise here, I remind Paco on a regular basis that this pumpkin is not ours to keep, we are just caretakers.
Still, I can see him slowly getting attached not only to the orange creature, but also to the feeling of duty that comes with guarding it.

So, I will buy some wood and such and build a special guard hut for Paco. We will place special items in the hut, and tell Paco they are his forever, to guard. I am not telling him until it is all done. It will only cause him worry. And he needs to focus on his pumpkin duties.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pino's concern for elephants

Pino participated in the new blog which encourages animals to give their feelings, concerns and opinions, if any, on the political turmoil of the season. He is joined by many others, including the pug whose fear of baths brings him concerns about waterboarding techniques. A light hearted way to let some steam off for all creatures, so give your animal friend computer priviledges for a few minutes [risky I know - once they know your passwords it's all over].

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


In which a song is heard, at the same time the sky speaks...

I was watching you, from above, long before life there was love

See those little girls dressed like China dolls, all for one, then one by one they fall
high on a hill where the world passes by
you never came back but I know you tried.

'Cause I was watching you from above, when it all falls apart there is love.

All these years to prove how much I care
I didn't know it but you were always there, until September when you slipped away
in the middle of my life on the longest day
and I hear you say

I'll be watching you from above
'cause long after life there is love...© R.Cash

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The little worrier

What's going on in the little head? How are his thoughts constructed - in shapes and senses strung together like a little movie? Perhaps, just as we ramble on in our heads in full sentences, he rambles on in his own thoughts, only in brays, and snorts, and hoof scratching strung together in a symbolic code of donkey language. I am still learning the symbols, and hope to someday write a dictionary of donkey sign language for human observers.

So while I can't write the donkey symbols in his head, I can try to translate it here into human language. I know Paco quite well. He is a worrier, he is insecure. He can't quite get used to the idea he is safe here. He is the kid in the school yard who is invited on the team at recess, but insists on keeping the ball all to himself, because he just knows he'll never get it again.

So I imagine his conversation to himself in this picture might go like this: "I see them over there. Together. I see them. They have my hay. I ate the hay first. Now they are eating the hay. I need to go over there. They need commands. They don't know how to do it without me. They are always together. I need to make sure everything is properly done, like I do it. I'm worried about the hay. What's that noise now? It's a chicken. The chicken is in the hay. It's my hay. I hate the chicken being in my hay. I have to go there now. I'm worried."

Each night, I spend time hugging and grooming the donkeys. Even then, the chatter in little Paco's head can be felt. He feels he must dominate the herd even in a time of relaxation. I work with him to show him I am the herd boss, hoping someday he will see he doesn't have to be the boss of all. It's a lot of pressure on an animal to feel he needs to be in charge of everything. That is why I gave Paco pumpkin duties this year. I will write about that in the next post.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Magic can now be mailed

I have opened a side arm to this blog called "An Apifera-a-Day" which will offer hand made items and hand picked items from our farm. It might be a collage, a sculpture, a folk doll...a wrench, a wheelbarrow of chickens. I've also been wanting to do something with the many photographs I take, so am selling archival sepia printed photos.

There are a lot of bloggers doing one-a-day art, one-a-day poems, etc, so I thought, I can share things that are bathed in Apifera energy. Many people who visit speak of the energy of our farm being soothing and kind. I feel that way about it. So An Apifera-a-Day will give you a chance to have some of this energy, like a vitamin. Maybe I'm nuts, but it's my response to the new Palin doll that just hit stores, made in China I'm sure.

The online art store will remain up for higher end art pieces [and of course Pino's Apron Gallery]. I will have art on Apifera-a-Day, but I'd like to keep it farm related, and in the $25-$250 range.

It will keep my wheels turning. Like, how can I turn these crushed donkey droppings into something? So bookmark it, you never know what will strike your fancy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Elusive mama

The ever elusive Mama Kitty, mother to 75% of Apifera's cats, is next to impossible to catch on camera. This photo then is fitting. She is such a beauty. But as I have written before, one can not touch her. The closest I came in 4+ years was to touch her nose. Still, she now hangs out at least and doesn't run. She still waits for me to leave the deck before she joins Little Orange, Plum and BW for dinner. The sweetest thing is Mama Kitty and Big Tony, once lovers, still rendez-vous in the morning sun, and again after dark. Mama doesn't play like the other cats, but when she is on a date with Tony, usually in the front driveway where there is plenty of dust to roll in, she flirts with her tail and her squeaks. I try to give them privacy and not watch any further. Fixed or not, lovers deserve their time.

I do feel like the original ferels are starting to lose steam. They are 5 years old now, so Mama must be 7 or more. I'm glad I could give them more than the one year most ferels will live. Still, it saddens me to think of the day when they will be gone. It will be a new era, and I suppose there will always be cats coming and going to the land of Apifera.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Nature's cover

I was thinking while picking vegetables tonight, how nature so wisely protects the bounty of each plant from large predators. I thought there were no zucchini [impossible!], but there hidden cleverly under green leaves, was a green zucchini. And the beans are so deceptive as they hang amongst their green hair, and green legs and arms. Tomatoes stick out wonderfully, like a red bird on a green tree [oh I miss the red cardinals of the Midwest], but then, animals don't eat them - except for Billy, he loves them.

We humans, no cover there. We walk the earth with faces exposed, ears sticking out and all perfumed up with soaps and shampoos attracting every predator in the area. Perhaps our only cover from such predators are hidden thoughts, disingenuous smiles, and eyes looking down as we walk.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

One eye stroll

The veterinarian who recently purchased one of the animal prints, liked this new portfolio piece I just did so she purchased a print for her office. As a vet who specializes in eye issues, she loved the idea of a one eyed pug still having an enjoyable life. I wanted it to be bright and cheery,appealing to both child and adult.

And the little one eyed pug does have an enjoyable life. He has been gorging on fresh hand picked cherry tomatoes. He loves those darn tomatoes. Perhaps anything bulbous and round brings him comfort, like the full moon.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Just say no, Joe

Please visit the Donkey Dream blog to read about a wonderful therapy visit we had with Nuansi, who is challenged by apraxia and aphasia of speech. As you will read in my entry, Nuansi was able to have a reciprocal encounter with this sensitive little creature, without words.

I needed a bit of my own donkey therapy this morning after suffering through a certain speech by a certain governor of a certain state way up north, where, I guess, some people believe Polar Bears are not effected by global warning, and young teens aren't given adequate, oh excuse, aren't given ANY education about sex, but are told to abstain from those longings of the loins. Perhaps I will try this on the farm: "Joe Pye Weed, ignore your testicles brimming with hormones, go not forth to that ewe, for I have not married you together, and you must be brave and noble, and like them, you must simply abstain." And even though we are solidly behind the Democratic ticket we will vote for in November, I just wish I'd known that I could have run - I mean, I was a block leader one or two years in my old neighborhood. Martyn would have been a perfect VP pick for me- shoring up the white male fishing vote. And while I've never skinned a mule, or shot a gun, I've banded a ram testicle.

So all the groaning and shouting I did at the TV had me exhausted, and quite depressed. Obviously the cynicism of last's nights farce has left a bit of cynicism in my hand. I apologize, dear readers, as I do not use my blog for political rants. To cleanse myself, I took time this morning to sit amongst the donks, as they bathed in the fall morning sun. Pino was not concerned. Do you know, I felt so upset about world affairs, that, I confess, I shed a small tear or two on Pino's mane as I held him. I held him hard, and heard his breathing. And then he transmitted a message to me...it wasn't a sound, it was a group of letters that formed in my head as I hugged my donkey......o b a m a

Communicating without words

Pino recently had very special guests. Nuansi and her twin sister Ganjana [and wonderful artist friend Holly who took pictures] were making a long coastal trip down from Seattle. On their way home, they emailed and asked to visit for a Therapy Day. The twin sisters are film makers and artists and Nuansi is challenged by Aphasia & Speech Apraxia, which makes it difficult to speak. She uses short phrases with significant words, making it difficult to understand her, and for her to express herself. In addition, she has limited control of her voice box, making her voice unclear and difficult to hear.

What is so charming though, is Nuansi got out of the car with a huge smile, and continued smiling the whole time here. Her heart is huge, as is her sister's - this is further exemplified by the fact the two sisters traveled to Cambodia [with Holly] and along with 20 volunteers built 10 houses for a village. They have a made a short film of this effort, and left me a copy. It is a heartwarming, gentle look at a gentle country, torn up by genocide and poverty. I was very moved by it, and encourage anyone to purchase it. I really didn't know much about what the country looked or felt like, and I came away with a sense of that.

Nuansi also uses drawing as a way to communicate. She showed me some little sketches, maps really, of the places they'd been on their Oregon coastal journey. And she sent this one to me today. I am so pleased that she notes her day at our farm as 'best voice day'.All three artists took time to bring their sketchbooks into my studio and we shared as artists, which is always special.

I was also so amused that when they asked to have a Pino Therapy Day, they also requested to meet Ward Shumacher the rooster! Ward was honored! And of course, as you can see, Frankie the pygmy partook.

Pino once again showed his intuition. While Martyn and I gathered our three guests around all three donkeys, it was Pino that leaned into Nuansi. I really felt, I know, he sensed her communicating in unspoken ways. He did not need clear speech from Nuansi. Oddly, the night before their visit, I had watched a PBS show on using dolphins and horses to help a variety of speech challenged people. I had not opened my mind up to reaching out to this group of people, and I felt Nuansi's visit was a gift, and a nudge. Allowing such children and people to hug a donkey allows them to feel as a whole communicator, with or without words. It is the heart these animals sense. Pino senses fear in you, sadness in you, anger in you and calm and joy in you.

These are the kind of visits that make me feel good about Donkey Dreams. Thank you, Nuansi, Ganjana and Holly for writing us and opening your world to us.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Consequences of rooster love

While Papa Roo remains as the head rooster of the hen house, Ward has crossed the line into 'pampered adult cockerel". As one crosses the line from 'owning' a rooster, to 'loving' a rooster, there are consequences. Ever since Ward's battle with Papa Roo, brought on by Ward having blatant chicken sex with one of Papa's hens, I must now separate Ward out at night from the hen house clan. Ward has it pretty good - a 12' stall in the sheep barn, complete with windows. Since Ward really isn't part of the Papa Roo flock, he has developed a flock of his own - consisting of the barn cats, Frankie, and the donkeys. Ward even does the classic rooster dance around Frankie in the morning [roosters do a funny circle dance around their hens, to announce to everyone, "Hey, this is my lady, hands off."].

Nightly feedings have become complicated, as Ward wants to partake in not only the barn cat dinner, but also the sheep and donkey repasts. If getting a two year old to bed is hard, just try a rooster on a nice evening who thinks he's a cat, or sheep, or a donkey. Every night, I prepare strategies to win the game of "Pretend I'm Not Trying to Catch Ward". Now in the dark, or subdued light, catching Ward is easy. But free roaming Ward, enjoying the cool late summer sunset, is a different game entirely. Ward has a variety of moves to put the NFL on watch. Some nights, I confess, I have let him roost with the cats in the hay bales. I don't like to do this, fearing the barn owl will get him, but at a certain point after a long day, catching a rooster, even a loved rooster, loses it's appeal.

Yes, I love the damn rooster. Holding Ward when I do catch him, is very nice. Each sound he makes is an individual code or word. He likes to have his claws supported, and his ear flap rubbed make his eyes shut. I have learned that while sitting holding a rooster, rubbing his head and eyes brings him to a comatose state of relaxation - to the point that he can feel so relaxed that he ...well, let's just say I've learned to strategically locate his rooster rear so as not to promote droppings on my pants. [Another reason aprons come in handy].

I will continue to love Ward, and I will not cull him out of our farm. He will never be a stew. Silly as it is, his charm brightens my day.