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

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©Katherine Dunn.

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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Little turn ons

One of the best parts of upcoming raining season is Martyn pulls out his rubber suit.

When I worked in New York, oh my, I was in my twenties {!} and I remember a co-worker at the ad agency where I worked saying she just loved a man in a well tailored suit. I grew up in a household where quality fabrics and materials mattered, and to this day, I still swoon in fabric shops. So I did understand the concept that a man in a good suit can create a twinkle in a lass's eye. But when it comes to turn ons, there is nothing that makes me swoon more than my husband's rubber suit. Well, I guess I just shared too much.

Fabric experiments

I'm excited to try out a new online company that prints small runs of fabric. If it turns out well, I will definitely share the info. I want to create square swatches that I can use in hand sewn items. And since I can't afford one of those awesome embroidery sewing machines, I thought I'd see how mimicking hand stitching, and including fabric collage pieces, will come out on this fabric.

My mom gave me her old Bernina sewing machine, purchased in 1974. I have it down at the shop for a tune up, but hopefully it will still work just fine. I know some of you cringe thinking about the oddities I will now be able to create in my 'spare' time. Cat suits, donkey swim wear, more rubber suits for my farm man. Endless ideas. Actually, my main goal is to create blankets for the Apifera cats who must reside outside all winter. I've been buying old blankets at the Goodwill, but I want some that are kitty fashionable and have that 'Apifera essence'.

The 1974 Bernina has the original brochure in it, with my mother's handwriting. She was 48 when she bought it, and I was 17. Now I'm older than she was then. It gave me a jolt. Life does go by fast, and faster. That's why I want to learn new things as much as I am able. Do I wish I had been more patient when my mother tried to teach me to sew? Yes. But if I can learn to train a horse, or weed 4000 lavender plants, certainly I can conquer a sewing machine. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And the barnyard mourns

Post Note: Thank you to everyone who wrote such nice comments and emails. It is appreciated and comforting.

As the morning sun came into our bedroom, I opened my eyes and my first thought was, "I know he's dead". I took my time getting to the barn for morning chores, as if procrastinating would change the inevitable.

Arriving at the barn, I heard the usual animal sounds - sheep bleating, a whinny, a little goat knicker, cats of many tones. But there was no sound of a sick rooster. I looked in Ward's stall, hoping, maybe...but he wasn't at the food dish like normal, and I could barely see a feather sticking up out of his bed box. Ward's body was slumped down in his little hay bed, already stiff, his beak slightly open, his neck curled like a swan. But his feathers still so light and breezy, so beautiful even after death.

The night before I had gone to put everyone in for the night. Ward had been under the weather again, limping a lot, his wattle always drooping. But he was eating and drinking. But the night before, he was making gurgling sounds. There was liquid in his lungs. He couldn't make any normal clucking sounds, and when I opened his mouth further, you could hear the fluid. His neck feathers were wet too. When I put him in his Ward Room for the night, he went into the corner, and faced his head down. I knew that was a sure sign he was in distress. I made a fresh, fluffy bed of hay for him in his bed box, and held him for awhile. I hated to leave him alone in his room, and thought about bringing him in the studio in a crate for the night, but the new sounds and lights would have just been more stressful.

So he died alone in the night. I plucked his finest tail feathers, and showed his body to his barnyard compadré Frankie, and then buried him in the front garden next to Mr. Pumpkin Head. He was always an outcast from the flock, and it didn't seem right to bury him in the hen yard. His headstone reads, "Ward 10/19/08. Rooster, friend, gentleman."

Damn, I really liked having him around. He was a fine fellow to have known, and I will miss him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lord Jimmy lives on

...the giant pumpkins were created by a mouse lord from long 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...

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weekly ear meeting

While I'm never officially invited to the Thursday morning ear meetings, I do sometimes over hear the agenda. Today I heard some whispering about 'candy corn protocol' and 'gum remover'.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ode to a cow

I just added this new painting for sale over at Apifera-a-Day.Our farm used to be a 100 acre dairy, years ago. That means there a lot of milk cows that were born and died on our land. I love cows. I really want one, but have resisted as milking is another 2x chore that adds to my diversion schedule. Plus, where you have one cow, you need two cows.

Anyway, I did this in honor of a cow I knew that died. Cow heaven does exist. It floats right above the barn here. I've seen it, but only when the perfect mix of weather conditions come together. Clover floats there too, and milk is served by bluebirds in frosty glasses to the cows.

I'm adding almost daily to Apifera-a-Day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Read a little, eat a little

I had fun doing a series of about 20 b/w spot illustrations for a wonderful little food and literary publication, Alimentum. This food journal, printed 2x annually, is beautifully produced as labor of love, and features fiction and poetry related to food and cooking. If you are a foodie, and a reader, I suggest you visit their site and consider ordering a copy or two. They would make wonderful gifts for the cook in your life. I think my work will be in the Winter issue.

I always say that eggs are really a perfect food. What food when left in the roost can actually turn into an animal, but if taken from the roost can become a fritatta, or mixed into batter to make a cake. Eggs come with their own suitcase too.

Coming soon: Paco learns to say good bye to the giant pumpkins he's helped raise.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Keeping calm

It's really easy to be scared right now, isn't it? Uneasy, unsure. Wary. Weighted down with thoughts, of "what if?".

Oddly, I am pretty calm. I've weathered enough since going freelance in 1996 that I know it will be ok. It's always darkest before the dawn. This is a correction of greed. Sadly, many innocents are hurt.

So there is only one thing I can do. Look up. Keep making art. Focus on the now, the moment, and see hope in a new kind of future. I'm not a religious person but I have a firm belief in myself, and the higher strengths that comfort and guide me. I believe that working in the land and with my animals, as well as painting,is an open ended prayer to a higher entity. But lately, I have awoken around 3 am, somewhat restless, and I have taken to saying prayers in my head: wisdom for the masses to vote, wisdom to the world leaders, safety for Obama from the cynical machines, and prayers for new opportunities and projects for my art. Yesterday I took sometime at lunch to enjoy the warm day, beautiful day, to make a small prayer flag. It sounds so simple, but even in scary times, it is a choice to look up and sing a song. The song might not last all day, but it will keep coming back, if you bring it back.

I've always been an optimist, my father once said. No reason to stop now.
I painted this piece a few days ago. Called "And then the wind blew in", it is full of many things. You can make your own symbols, but it pleases me when I look at it. a few days ago. Called "And then the wind blew in", it is full of many things. You can make your own symbols, but it pleases me when I look at it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New ideas and inspiration!

A quick update - I'm pretty excited. Emma has followed Donkey Dreams, our farm and my art and is also a hospice worker here in a large, well known, health care organization in Oregon. She came to our summer Pie Day, and we promised to re-connect and brainstorm about ways to develop Donkey Dreams.

My initial idea of bringing the sick and dying to the farm, via their hospice workers, was well intentioned, but not very practical. And the families caring for dying or sick are not going to put a donkey therapy session on their list of things that might help them or their loved ones. In fact, it might be an insult to someone to be invited to a donkey pie day for a day of relaxation. Seeing my mom go through hospice while my father died at home brought this home to me.

But, honoring the hospice workers is a wonderful, wonderful idea! Emma shared some of her thoughts and experiences as a hospice worker, and how one is so busy care taking, there is little room for debriefing, re-energizing the heart and grieving for their own clients. Their grief and stress builds up. We thought a day to celebrate the care they give to others, as well as recognizing their former and current clients, would help them on many levels.

So, I will begin to write an outline for a 'support and healing event' here at Apifera with our Donkey Dreams. I'm thinking it will be in summer or early fall '09. I have many ideas brimming in my head! This event might also benefit children and adults that are going through post-death grieving of a loved one, as Emma's hospice group often works with the Dougy Center, a national organization that provides grief support for children and teens.

I hadn't thought about giving donkey and farm therapy to the caregivers, and now, it seems so wonderful, and right, and obvious. Thank you, Emma!! This is a first step for me to build trust and a working relationship with these hospice caregivers at this organization. Stay tuned. It will take some time, but I must remember, donkeys do everything very s...l...o...w...l...y.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sexual healing

In which Chickweed finally gets the girl, but the barnyard is in chaos....

After three years of building giant amounts of testosterone, Chickweed now has relief...I think. When we had our first lamb crop in '05, we had 90% rams. I saved most of them, thinking I could sell them as breeding stock. This of course was my way of not killing them, and I learned a valuable lesson on proper culling. One does not need three rams -that's 3 pairs of testicles the size of eggplants [no exaggeration for you non sheep people. ] We do keep two unrelated rams, as I choose to breed them in on-off years to keep the line fresh. Many breeders keep one ram, and sell him after two years and get a ram that is not related. Otherwise, "you'll end up with five headed sheep without teeth"as one breeder told me.

So, after selling more than 5 rams, Chickweed was and is left behind. I never understood why - he is charming fellow, and mellow which is nice for the shepherd. He wasn't any smaller than some of the other rams. So, I decided to prove him this season, ie show the ladies what he's got. While this is good news for Chickweed, it meant I had to provide three separate areas for three separate rams to hang with their girls. And provide another area where the young yearlings run who are not ready for breeding.

In other words, chaos in the barnyard. I hate breaking up the ewe flock. It creates 2 or 3 days of constant sheep bleating. And they have to live with their prospective rammers 24/7 for 30 days. On top of it, I put Rosie and Daisy in with Joe Pye, who shares his quarters with the Boer goats, Stella and Iris. Stella is the herd boss, so she spent a good day defending the hay area. Meanwhile the rams run around curling their lips in sexual anticipation and peeing all over - another sexual turn on for sheep. It's right out of a Barry White song.

The first year we bred Joe Pye Weed, we never saw him 'do it' with the ladies. In 30 days, not one mounting. But we had twins out of everyone. Mr. T on the other hand gets right to business. Now Chickweed, I am a bit worried about him. He is so mellow, and I only have one yearling ewe in with him just to see how he does. I thought he'd rush in there and go right to business, but he barely introduced himself. He was polite, not pushy like the other rams. Perhaps he prefers the comfort of the stall at night, when it's just him and Blue, alone together as virgins, under a tin roof with rain falling. I knew of a ram that had 40 ewes to service and they didn't get one lamb! I joked with them that '"That's what you get when you name a ram 'Lancelot'", he has a confused sexual identity. We name our rams after weeds, and I thought Chickweed, plentiful here, had a funny connotation, but perhaps it tainted his manliness.

I'll be glad when November 3rd is here, and all the girls are back together and rams are all back together. One slight adjustment in the barnyard creates such chaos. I did have a moment where I thought, "I can't wait to see what we get in the spring." Lambing season is always different every year, but the anticipation is palpable every spring, much like the return of the Western Tanagers, or the tulips.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sent by a Pino supporter

One of the generous sewers that made aprons for Pino's big pie day this summer, sent me this fun picture from New Jersey. She saw this food grill and she and her kids were reminded of how much fun they had making aprons for Pino.

How sweet! Pino had heard of pizza pie shops, and thought this might be a sideline someday. Thank you, Scrappy, for remembering us, and for your aprons.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Full week, good things

It's been an intense week mixed with economic crisis and political theatrics and topped off with a case of poison oak. The rains came on Thursday, a relief, but it's amazing how you forget just how wet you get in one outing to the barn in the middle of a soaker. Still, I welcomed the smells of wet donkey and sheep hair and the way Boone smells even more like a horse in the dampness. My braids are clumpier in winter and I get to switch to my fall and winter hats.

I'm fortunate to be working happily on three private commissions this month from repeat collectors. Very fortunate. My newly sheet-rocked studio with white walls and new furniture arrangement is more open, and bright, and has me so happy. I'm just pleased every time I'm in it[Let's all say "Thank you, Martyn"]. I've even been dancing and doing some air guitar shows with Huck. That's a good sign my juices are flowing properly. I feel really 'full' of both self love and respect for my life, but also full of ideas.

The end of the week brought a visit from some artists who were teaching at the Portland Art and Soul event, an annual teaching extravaganza of artists from all over the nation. An artist requested way back in March if she and 2 friends could come meet me and see the studio and the farm. I get many requests from people, and I'm really touched people want to come out and meet me. I have to turn down a lot of requests, or be non-committal,just because one has to make choices of what energies can be diverted from art and farm. So please don't be hurt or insulted if I turn down your requests. But I'm really happy I was able to meet Tracie from Kansas. It was good to meet other artists, talk shop, talk love of lifestyle, laugh, and of course introduce them to the animals. Thank you for coming, Tracie, Marylin, and Jan. Your enthusiasm was so nice, and refreshing as was your apple butter and poetry book. And your generous comments soaked into me. You reminded me that this life I'm in is so.....mine. The One Eyed Pug got a lot of attention, and even passed gas for you,a good sign.

Next post....the sexual tension in Chickweed's 3 years of life comes to an end. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Survival Tip #2

So far, we have survived the first morning of hunting season. We are so grateful for Paco. He is preparing buckets for the flock.

Life with a goat 101

Buy a whole bunch of pasture fence. Make sure it's 5' tall or higher. Spend your whole weekend getting it up. Run electric wire on the top of the fence and the bottom of the fence.

Put goat in the fenced pasture. Explain to her that this is her side, and over there, that is your side. Explain to her that her side has electrical currents.

You are now tired. Get a lawn chair. Make a good sandwich, preferably with home grown tomatoes and good bread.

Refrain from alcohol at this stage. Sit in your lawn chair and enjoy your sandwich.
As you chew, notice the goat roaming in the nicely fenced pasture you made just for her. Call out to her,"Hello Stella! I see you!" Enjoy the sweet sounds of the goat calling back to you in goat bleeps. I will translate: "Hello! I see you too! What are you eating? You are so close, I can smell the bread! I love bread. Must have bread. I'll be right there! OH! Ouch! electric current, no problem, it's over now. There, here I am, I will join you and your sandwich."

Say nice things to the goat, then lead her back to the pasture with a bit of the bread. Ask her if she learned that touching the electric fence has consequences.
Return to your lawn chair. Notice now there are foot steps behind you. "Hello! I'm right here with you again!"

Try to refrain from yelling. Take your half eaten sandwich, forget about the lawn chair, and walk back to the goat pasture with your goat. Find a good rock to sit on. Sit and share the rest of your sandwich with your goat.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Survival Tip #1

Being a little worry wort, Paco not only has to worry about his giant pumpkin, but he now has to worry about hunting season. Fortunately, he didn't witness the bow incident last week, but he has heard the target shooting all over the coast range. Tomorrow being hunting opener, I suggested he try to channel his worries into ideas and drawings to share with others who might fear hunting season.