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

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

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New year, new tail, new pup

This photograph from one of my morning romps with Huck inspired a new short story over on the Tails blog.

It's also somewhat of a bittersweet photo, for it marks a passage for me and Huck. This weekend we will pick up his new brother, an 8 week old chocolate lab out of the same breeding. Now, we are excited and Huck will be thrilled to have a live playmate, since the One Eyed Pug is in his senior twilight years and prefers his 12 hour naps.

But I've so loved my daily existence with Huck at my side. It will now change. But change always brings new experience and challenges and growth. New ways to solve a problem, new ways to look at things. New lambs. New work. New love. New hope. New ways to look at old memories. New moments of bliss that become memories.

I hope you all relish in the remaining moments of this year, and see hope in the coming one. I promise to keep sharing things that inspire me, and the things I learn as I somtimes fumble along this road.

Thanks to everyone who read my meanderings.

The Tail of Huck

Each morning, before the man and woman of the house rose, his velvet brown ears pricked up as he heard the first birds sing, or perhaps it was a far off rooster.

"It's here." he thought, still laying on the couch, but now stretching.

He rose quietly, and reached under the couch to pick up his long brown tail. Unbeknowdst to anyone in the house, he had been taking his tail off each night, and placing it under the couch. This allowed him greater freedom in his sleeping positions, but more importantly, it allowed his tail the chance to recharge it's energy supply needed for the new day.

He found that he somewhat missed the feeling of having his tail on at night. But after a couple of nights of being tailless, he like the freedom of sleeping unencumbered from it, and he also found that his tail was able to keep up much better the following day, giving off signs of joy that so many seemed to have come to expect of him.

For his gift to the world was simple: spread happiness every second.He shared this happiness in many ways, through smiles, and scooter dances around the table, or funny sounds. But it was his tail that had an entire dictionary of happy words. Fast happy, sort of happy, tired happy, I'm sleeping but you are petting me happy, food happy, play happy. His tail was truly an entity of it's own. He wasn't sure, but he felt it was possible that his entire soul resided in his tail, if it was housed in some way. He'd heard the brain gave the body commands, but he was quite positive that the first commands went directly to his tail, before sending out messages to various organs, nerves and receptor cells.

Once his tail was on in the morning, there was no turning back. The day had to go forward and it always did, but only after his tail was back on. He took the responsibility of sharing his happiness very seriously. "If I don't put my tail on, the day won't start, and then I can't make them happy."

But it was his morning romp with the woman that allowed him to wear his tail, and share happiness, but somehow feel free from it all. The daily responsibility of making sure he was smiling and working his tail were put aside for 20 minutes or so. It had dawned on him one day that she did this for him, she took him out on his morning romp so he could revel in his own happiness and not worry about hers.

On those morning romps, he was just a dog with a tail.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rest in peace, Hewitt

Print sales helped me sponsor Hewitt, and now Paloma, both were helped by Old Dog Haven.

I received notice today that of the senior dogs I sponsored at Old Dog Haven has passed away. Hewitt was well loved in his final days, after being found abandoned on the streets. I'm so glad he wasn't alone when he died.

As is their custom, when a sponsored dog dies, the sponsor money is transferred to another senior dog in need. So our little donation will go to help Paloma, seen here. What a sad case of greed and neglect. Paloma, Chihuahua, is definitely a senior, but was being used as a breeder in a puppy mill, and came to be rescued with a litter of puppies. She is nearly blind, and very fearful of humans at this point. Old Dog Haven helped to have her hernia repaired and she now is safe in a final refuge home where the owners have taken on a number of small breeds.

If you want to help senior dogs, please consider donating to Old Dog Haven, where senior animals are brought out of shelters, or bad situations to be placed in loving forever homes for their final days, where they can live, and die, with dignity.

The Great Rooster Roundup

It began snowing around 2pm yesterday, not that unusual for the Northwest. I gave it no mind as I worked, thinking it would pass with less than an inch. We Minnesotans tend to be casual with Oregon snowstorms, a rather annoying trait to natives, I'm sure.

Around 3:30, it was still snowing heavily, a wet, heavy snow. Yes, yes, pretty and all. But with pregnant sheep in a field, it adds one more chore to the nightly routine. When I went to the barn, there were hens everywhere. They had obviously been out free ranging when the snow came, and heaven forbid, chose not to waddle back to the coop in snow. If you've ever seen a chicken in wet, sticky snow, you'll understand they made the right decision. They often just stop, and get stuck. But rather than all congregating in one area, there were some in the hay area, some in the old barn and some were hunkered in with the old goats.

After getting the barn animals settled and fed, it was close to 4pm. I knew I could catch my younger hens three at a time. Most simply squat down when I approach, and I scoop them up in threes. A handy technique, let me tell you. But the older hens - Vivienne, Chicken Named Dog, Henny Jenny, Henny Penny, and Henny Henny are much more rascally. I scooped up my young hens in 3 trips and carried them into their coop, warm with the heat lamp on. Some tucked their heads into my coat to avoid contact of snowflakes in their eyes.

"I guess you won't be making snow angels with me then?" I asked the Three Janes.

"Very funny, " they said.

At this stage of the evening, all was light and fun. A nice snow with warm weather predicted a day later is a nice break from mud. However, the evening was about to take a turn to the dark side.

I managed to get all the older hens caught except Chicken Named Dog. I knew she'd be a pain. But I finally trapped her with the aid of Guinnias the old goat. He managed to stand still long enough to block her so I could grab her. Way to go, Old Man!

And now their was Papa Roo, a chicken I'd never held. Or even caught, as there had never been a need too. Besides, he knew perfectly well my rooster love was totally devoted to the late Ward and Lyndon Baines. He was a real rooster, one that did not get all gooey with the chicken herder. I really thought he'd just waddle to the hens, snow or no snow, if I just forced him out of the barn. It was only about 100 feet to the coop.

So I got him to the doorway.

"What, no shoveled path for me? Nope, ain't going, not me, no way, no how." and he fled back to the hay bales.

"Alright, alright, I realize you're barefoot, so I shall shovel you a path, Papa Roo. " And I did.

Upon examining 5 inches into the neatly shoveled path, he explained, "But there's still way too much snow on the path. This won't do. Nope, still not going out there."
And he fled again.

I don't believe I'd begun swearing yet. There was plenty of time for that to come.

I got an old sheet draped on a hay bale, and tried to catch him by throwing it over him. Nope, he won that contest too. I did my 'woman-crouching-arms out- to-catch- chicken' technique [really good for developing thigh and buttocks, ladies] but he beat at those attempts fair and square.

It was now time for Rooster Round-Up Technique 15, to be used only at dusk, when you are really tired of rooster hunting and just want to go inside and continue your human life, with wine.

I ran around after that damn rooster all over, insisting in no uncertain terms, "Leave this barn at once!!"

Oh he left alright, but when he hit that snow outside he went into a panic and retreated to the other older barn. Well, at least he was now 20 feet to the coop. Surely he'll go inside, I thought, and since he's sitting near his coop, he can hear his ladies cooing for him. But I guess the thought of 20 feet of snow was so overwhelming that that darn rooster decided he had no recourse but to go upwards.

"If I stay here, " he must have thought, "that lunatic will get me. If I try to walk in the snow, it's sure to kill me. The roof is my only option."

So there he was, 30 feet up, on a slippery metal barn roof. I calculated how many minutes it would take for me to fall once I got on the roof. Fortunately, right then, Martyn came home.

That's when we started throwing snowballs. As I stood at the next to the top rung of my ladder perch, I was a dictionary picture of an accident waiting to happen. Even though the snowballs were flying, and many hit that darn rooster, he stood his ground.

At this point, it was really getting dark. I had visions of him getting so stuck in the wet snow, that I'd find him there frozen the next day, like a vintage rooster weather vane. I realized we needed to retreat. After all, the idea of approaching to maniacs with snowballs probably was not an option a rooster instinctively would pick. I knew if he came down, and landed somewhere, I could snatch him in the dark, since chickens go comatose in the dark and you can pick them right up.

Martyn left me to my madness, saying, "I'll go inside, he only listens to you anyway." Um, yea, right.

Finally, he started to inch around his roof perch, examining his options. And with one loud rooster squawking, Papa Roo finally came flying down to land in his best National Geographic rooster-looking-like eagle imitation ever.

"Great!" I thought, "We're home free now."

Oh, so naive we humans can be.

Papa Roo had once again fled back to the hay barn, and was wet and unsettled. I considered leaving him in the barn, but knew the temps were dropping. And with a bobcat sighting, I never would have forgiven myself had he died in the night.

So, I waited for the real dark to come, and within about 15 minutes, with the barn light off, I began more rooster snatching techniques. Since he refused to really land anywhere- why would he with a nut like me running around- I had to try the often used "Just go for it" technique - you know that one, you throw your entire body towards the rooster. Unfortunately I fell twice on hand and hips.

Now I was really getting mad.

This is the part of the story I'll edit. I'm never proud of myself when I lose my temper around the animals, and there were pregnant mothers in my presence. There's really nothing sadder than a grown 51 year old woman swearing at a rooster. And I used all my favorite terms in colorful combinations.

Well, finally, Papa Roo landed on a gate, and due to the darkness, I was able to grab him from behind. You would have thought I was killing him from his screams, which of course is exactly how he felt, poor fellow. Once I caught him, I returned to my loving Apifera goddess personality I attempt to embody each day, and I consoled him as we walked back tot he coop.

"I'm really so sorry, Roo. It was for your own good. I apologize for calling you an ass, really, I do. Please forgive all the feathers I ripped out of you too, I'll use them for something special, I promise."

I put him in the coop, and the ladies did their greetings. Papa Roo strutted in there like the man he was,
"Ladies, I've just been checking out the snow, making sure it's safe for all of us, everything is under control, no worries."

Men...can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Wait a minute...that's not a cat"

On Christmas morning, I got to the barn late, around 10 am. The day was cool, but very sunny. I was sweeping out stalls when I thought I saw Samuelle Noel walking about 20 feet from me at the old barn's edge.
But Samuelle Noel meowed, and was right at my feet.

"Hmmm, must be a new stray," I thought, somewhat excited at another cat saving. I waited, and the cat began moving slowly, parallel to me. As I slowly walked to get a better look, I meowed my signal of acceptance,
and it looked right at me as it walked. It was then I saw the beauty of this cat. I assumed it to be a tomcat, due to it's massive 20# body. It had the most beautiful markings of any cat I'd ever seen, and appeared to be the color of Big Tony, a gray Tabby, but much more striped, and very well built.

I was now about fifteen feet from the cat, and it moved past me, slowly, void of any panic in it's gestures or face. It was then I saw it's short stubby tail, and while I still meowed for it, it was then I thought, "Hmm, must be a mixed breed, or maybe it had a raccoon run in."

But as it's walk turned into a casual lope up into the woods, I realized it loped like a big cat, as in...you know, movies from National Geographic.

I'd never seen a bobcat, and there slightly-taller-than-a-house-cat size can throw off the first time viewer. It went up into the wooded hills behind the old barn, still easily in sight due to lack of leaf cover. It turned around, sat down and proceeded to watch me. I approached the forest line as close as I could, still about 15 feet from him. His head was beautiful, and much larger in proportion than a house cat, with ear tufts of white. He must have been amused and perplexed, having a two footer meowing at him like a cat. Finally realizing this was not a Mr. Schmookins house kitty, but a bobcat, I conversed with him.

"Stay away from my animals. You're beautiful, but you can't stay here. "

He waited about 10 seconds, and calmly trotted off.

I was both exhilarated at seeing this wild predator, but my heart also sank. Images flashed in my head of hens and cats and pugs. My charges. I hadn't let the hens out for free ranging yet, so fortunately my timing was good. If I'd done chores 15 minutes earlier, who knows. All day long, I had an uncanny feeling he was watching, waiting. The wood line of the property is also partially guarded by the donkeys, and all animals are tucked away at night, except the barn cats. A bobcat will eat about 2# of kill, then leave it and come back to it when hungry. A cat could feed him for days. I had images of sitting in the barn with rocks. I tortured myself later in the day by listening to audio clips of bobcats online. Now I know why some people think there's a Bigfoot in the northwest hills.

And back at the barn, I did my morning feedings. The cats were all there but one. Mr. Bradshaw was absent.

I spent much of the day doing chores, working on fence projects with Martyn. We kept our eyes open. But as we live on the land, we're not the hosts to the daily party, we're the guests. He had every right to come look for food when he smelled chickens and cats. There is a mother hen instinct that took over me that morning. I wanted to gather everyone in a big room, and close the door. But that's not how it works. I spent time with the donkeys, and whispered to Pino, "Please tell the bobcat to stay away." Go ahead and laugh, but I'm quite convinced he listened. And I've also convinced myself that walking up within 15 feet of that creature and calmly telling him I'm the boundary line, it made a point.

We will hope for peace within the barnyard in coming days.

And that night, Mr. Bradshaw returned.

Gifts of the donkey clan

One of the many wonderful things of donkey ownership is people
from all over send donkeys, literally.

We cherish each one, and amuse ourselves with a vision of me as an old woman, surrounded in donkey knick knacks. Thank you for the sweet gifts, and cards.

Pino and Old Guinnias were also relieved to get more Teddy Grahms and Animal Crackers from a loyal supporter. The giant jar had literally just become empty. What timing!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Out of the corner of my eye

I've always loved the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. It's full of energy of the holiday, but there's a sense of hope and excitement for the coming year. The many wonderful things that came my way this holiday - mail from old friends, little surprise donkeys wrapped in boxes from blog readers arriving at my doorstep, brownies for the dirt farmers all the way from NYC, little gifts of phone calls from people that were out of touch - are now soaking in my head, leaving me grateful, and full of more butter than I normally eat all year.

But now I can return to the life I've chosen. We spent much of the last four days working on the fencing to plug up the many escape routes that Stella and Iris had perfected in their pasture. They looked perplexed, after all they've been escaping multiple times each day, daring Huck to be let out of the house to escort them back to the pasture.

"Why are they bothering with all this. Our daily escapes have been beneficial to all - we've done a lot of pruning for them," you can heart he goats thinking, as we worked securing the fence. Oh they were pruning alright, but pruning trees, bark, shrubs, and potted pines. This was followed by a day of reworking the ram pasture fence, since Mr. T recently decided last week to go for it, leaping over a fence electric wire and all to get to his ladies. "Testosterone!" I grumbled to the ewes, "the world would be safer without it." I'm hoping his escapade doesn't produce unplanned lambs in some of my young ewes, but we'll know in 155 days. I have one ewe who has liver disease, and she would never survive pregnancy. Fingers crossed.

So, I took time away from the computer, and Facebook, and Twitter, and online store updates and all the ongoing marketing conversations that go on now in this socially connected universe. I needed to step out of it for a few days. I had become much to concerned about why someone unfanned me, or why that person has so many Fans. Silliness that needed a to have itself tweaked out of me.

That's why I love the farm, it allows me to work hands, body and heart all at the same time. We also busied ourselves with making new lambing jugs, the small area where you put a pregnant ewe a couple days before she lambs. I've been very creative in how we've done our lambing pens, and it's always worked. But Martyn is building portable walls so I can put up pens, and then take them down after lambing. It's like the Sydell system, but on a dirt farmer's income. Besides, I like Martyn's handiwork better.

As I worked, I thought of the last five years and the many animals who were born in these stalls, or or died in them, some young. I feel Rosie so much, more than any other animal that has died here. She is so missed. And while I'm nervous for this year's lambing after the tragedies of last year, I also can feel the anticipation and excitement of March's birthing season. Rosie's daughters and now granddaughters will once again give birth on the same floor she died on. It makes sense to die that way, where your flock was born. I see her many times in the barn, or fields, some times just a shadow or blur out of the corner of my eye, but she's there.

Underpants of the moment

Today's winner of the Underpants of the Moment is Clara Barton, a lovely Buff Orpington who likes her underpants fluffy and creamy orange in color.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas spirit

I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas, or life for that matter, than by sharing of yourself to make others feel better. Peace.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The second smallest cat of Apifera, the ever lovely but ever shy, Hazel Nut, aka Hazel. And what better way to spend a day, I ask, but sitting in a compost pile?

Hazel was from the first feral litter when we moved in. She has calico hints, reminding us of her mother, Mama Kitty. Ever shy, she is going on 5 now, and has taken a real shining to Samuelle Noel. She allows me to pet her, and is very sweet. But if you come to Apifera, it is doubtful you will see her. She prefers her mates, and me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Donation to our goat friends

Thanks to this months print sales, I was able to make a small donation to our friends up at New Moon Farm Goat Rescue. That is where our senior goats, Guinnias, Gertie and Georgie, were adopted from.

We love Ellen and all she does for so many creatures!

Donation sent to Spanish donkeys

Thanks to print sales this month, I'll be making some small donations to our selected organizations that help senior animals. I've been wanting to send money to this Spanish donkey rescue for awhile, and only sent a small amount this time. But I'm hoping maybe I can do some kind of fund raiser with a donkey print or something in the near future.

Please visit their website. They have helped so many donkeys and mules out of horrible situations. They also use some of the rescued donkeys to for therapy with children. And they are raising money to help in a horrible brutality case I mention last month.

When I see what these people are doing, I want to take Pino and just go over there for a month and help. But...donkey fare is expensive, and I can help from here, in teeny tiny ways.

So they are on our list of places to help. Please visit their site and consider a donation, or adopting a donkey for as little as $20 a year to help their donkeys, many of whom help children with therapeutic outings.

The picture posted here is Alberto, who they explain is....our blind donkey, came to us from Naples Zoo with a group of 20 donkeys who were in a desperate situation. He has now teamed up with Farruquito, who became Alberto's eyes when he first got here. They both enjoy their daily life in their paddock, where Alberto, thanks to Farruquito's help is now perfectly at ease. He has even become an expert in finding the right spot to be stroked by visitors.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Morning of Huck

It's another morning. Trees, hello. I feel you too, grasses. What will she do with me today? Car ride? I shall watch her all day. She has a cookie for me in that left pocket. I can tell where she is behind me. Settled.

"Go!" she just said.

And I run free.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I am overwhelmed by the many emails and comments I've been receiving from so many people about the new Apifera Farm site. I wish I could post all of them, some just made me so...humbled. There seems to be a recurring theme in comments of "Your art or writing makes me cry." I don't take this as an insult. To be honest, I can cry when I look or read at some of my work. I like to think I balance out the intensity with humor - through my many muses, and my own inner muse that can be a rascal.

I live like the hairs on my arms - when I sense anything, something innate in me stands at attention. I guess it's nice to be able to stimulate other's through words, or art. Anyway, thank you to my readers, followers and friends, some who remain cloaked, but that's okay.

"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, December 12, 2009

He brought me cherries, I made him pie

I've been working on finalizing the new Apifera Farm website. After 5 years, the farm has evolved, as has my work. It's time to have a site that not only is better designed, but also is closer to what Apifera is - a farm, but also a place born from the love story of two people. And there's pie involved.

The love story is still evolving, and as I worked on the new site, I thought about how my soul is exercised when I bake for Martyn, and how my heart is caressed when he cooks my meals. As I type, he's in the kitchen, stuffing a farm raised chicken, with our land's herbs and spices. My senses are delighted. I feel loved on many levels, but when he brings me a plate of his cooking, I'm nourished, which is one of the many benefits of real love. Putting the farm site together, I realize this is a side of Apifera I want to write more about.

So visit the new site, and get a tiny glimpse into our beginnings. I'm being beckoned now, it is time to sit by the fire with the dirt farmer.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Life in an ornament

We haven't had a tree at the farm since we moved here in 2004. I had become somewhat lazy about Christmas in the past 10 years or so. I felt if you can't keep in touch with people during the year, that cramming gifts and parties and cards into one week, with people you don't have a daily relationship seemed very contrived. Christmas is all year or it isn't in my mind. And I had started the ritual of sharing my message on New Year's or January, when the whole year sits waiting, breathing, anticipating all my steps and missteps.

But this year, Martyn really wanted a tree, and I went right along with it. And since Huck is now a well mannered gent, we thought there was little chance of his tail taking the tree down in one wag. The fire was made, the music was cued to Louis Armstrong's Christmas songs, and Martyn was cooking something with butter and garlic in the kitchen. Perfect tree decorating ambiance. I conquered the lights with ease, which was shocking, but I was quite please with myself. I brought out all the jeweled fruit that I'd invested in for my first Christmas in Oregon - grapes, lemons, apples, pears and kiwis. They look wonderful in the lights and I liked the natural theme of ornaments mimicking earth's bounty. I added the white birds to remind me of freedom, and hope.

I thought the tree looked just right, but there was one more box of ornaments I hadn't opened. It was the box of ornaments passed on to me from my parents, most of them vintage pieces from before I was born. A few years back when they moved, they had stopped doing a holiday tree, so felt I'd enjoy them in my new life in Oregon. I looked at the box and hesitated to open it - so many connections to the little silver fishes and stars inside. Even the hooks were as old as me. They were so carefully wrapped, and I began opening them just to look at them. But as I opened one after another, I had vintage movies playing in my head, that made me happy in a melancholy way. Images of the many house we lived in and my brother and I decorating the tree, the various dogs we had that would be at our feet as we decorated. We'd have a plate of cookies near by, no doubt.

But there were four ornaments I really hesitated to open. I knew them by their larger round shape, still wrapped in tissue for protection. The year my parents were married, my father's mother had two ornaments made, one for my dad and one for my mom. Their names were hand painted on the creamy glazed porcelain balls, and the year, 1956. Each ornament had little hand painted items, symbolizing each person's hobbies or life. When my brother was born the following year, my grandmother made him an ornament too. Sadly the following March, my grandmother died, only hours before I was born. But that following Christmas of 1958, my mother had an ornament made for me with a little pink dinosaur painted on it, with braids, my favorite toy.

But it was my father's ornament I happened to reopen first this nite of tree decorating. "Bob", "1956" was painted on the round ball along with an image of his Siamese cat named Anna. And of course, a pipe. He always smoked a pipe. I looked at that ornament for seconds, held it, and thought of all the trees it had hung on in it's 53 years. We always treated those four ornaments with respect, and even though they didn't cost that much, they were invaluable in memory and how they were given. I got a little sad, then emotional for a few seconds as I looked at my dad's ornament, but that's okay. It was just love pinching me a little. I didn't put those ornaments on the tree this year. Just looking at them again brought me many happy memories, but the tree I decorated was a tree that held ornaments soaking up new memories, with my husband, and Huck at my feet.

When my father died almost two years ago, my mother in law wrote me a lovely note, and said that since her father died some 40 years earlier she had thought of him every day in one way or another. At first I thought that was quite depressing. But it isn't. I do think of my father every day, in so many small ways. Some days the thoughts linger, and some days I just wish I could have a cup of coffee with him. But mostly, I just think of him and go about the day. Materialism doesn't lead to happiness, it never has and never will. But a simple object can hold a lifetime in it, and bring back moments of true love. Or to say it more accurately, true love for another person never fades and can bring any object to life.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Cussin' with a wet foot

Post note: My foot is dry, the soup is on the stove, dirt farmer just came home and poured some wine, the Christmas tree is lit...I haven't yelled or sworn for hours.

I found myself yelling at a bucket tonight. I was yelling at the bucket because it made my foot wet. It made my foot wet because I was gallantly trying to smash my boot heel through 2" of ice so that there would be water for the animals to drink.

Unfortunately, I did not stop at one bucket. I went on to Boone's bucket and yelled at it, then went on to the lower pasture to yell at a sheep bucket. All the while, my wet boot and socket froze to my lady like skin underneath. For the record, I did not yell at the chicken bucket because I'd wisely turned a heat lamp on in the chicken coop. But I did yell at the latch to their coop door that was frozen.

I also the told the water spouts that had frozen that they "were stupid and dumb". I told the barn "I left winter weather in Minnesota 7 years ago and this is stupid weather". And when the I couldn't get the frozen lid off the sheep mineral container, I yelled out to all who would listen - cats, one horse, three rams and a bunch of senior citizen pygmy goats- "Okay, that's it, that's all I can take, pack your hay, we're moving to Spain." No one even blinked.

I then went and found my three little donkeys, and proceeded to yell at their huge water bucket. Actually it's a water barrel, and I had to dig through a dark barn to find something to try to break the ice. "Ah! An ice pick! Eureka!" I trudged back to the iced barrel, my one frozen foot numb, and my cold little donkeys waiting patiently for water. "She can do it, she does everything," they were thinking. I remember thinking my parents could do everything and would save me no matter what happened. So...very...wrong.

I made one smash to the ice with the axe and proceeded to ice up my glasses. The next swing made a teeny dent to the 4" ice slab. And then on that third swing, well..."Hey, wait a minute, where did the ax head go?" Confused looks from donkeys.

The romance of having a 100 year old dilapidated barn with dilapidated stuff becomes less romantic when the dilapidated ax head falls off leaving you standing with a wet foot, and three very sad, cold, thirsty donkeys.

I then stepped it up a notch and switched from yelling to swearing at the water barrel. I told the water barrel it deserved to be all cold and icy, but with expletives. Looking at the faces of the donkeys brought me to my senses. I retrieved water from the house and carted it to the donkeys, just to give them a quick, warm drink.

I grew up in Minnesota and the rule was no whining about weather. "It's just weather," my mother always said. Oddly, I have become sort of a wimp in Oregon, and often even 40 degrees feels colder than it does in Minnesota due to the moisture that soaks into your bones. But when it freezes my water buckets and my pasture pumps, I allow myself to cuss. If you can't rant when when your buckets freeze, when can you?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Coming soon...

It's been difficult writing on my book with these two practicing for their Sing Fest. Then again, it's charming. They have agreed to honor my one stipulation for daily practice time in studio - no Alvin and the Chipmuck renditions.

Holiday Sing Fest

It's been difficult writing on my book with these two practicing for their Sing Fest. Then again, it's charming. They have agreed to honor my one stipulation for daily practice time in studio - no Alvin and the Chipmuck renditions.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Old goat napping

Old Guinnias likes to take naps standing up. I caught him in action yesterday morning. He started leaning a little and woke himself up.

Gertie and Georgie are just the sweetest old goats. They give me no trouble and are adjusting to their new home. I do think Georgie is far worse than Gertie when it comes to discomfort. I have been doing almost daily massages, and have found watery spots on both, and I work those areas gently. They seem to really like it, although Georgie is definitely tender in the hips. She basically sits most of the day and doesn't seem to be able to stand longer than a few minutes. Gertie is doing more exploring on her own, but they definitely like to be together, or in bleating difference.

You can sponsor the three old goats of Apifera at this link. You'll receive one of my Old Goat prints in return.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chicken furniture

I don't know about you, but when I pick out a piece of furniture, I always ask myself, "But will the chickens like it?"

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lesson in the barn and of the cat

“Smoke,” he thought, but he remained calm.

As a very old gentleman cat, he had lived in the old barn since his birth in the catacombs of the stacked hay. Cleaning his paws, one toe at a time, he had been enjoying the warm sun creeping in through the cracks in the ancient tin roof.

Like the multitude of animals that had lived in this old barn, he had found it a haven from wind, water, snow or the jaws of raccoons or coyotes. It had once been home to ponies, a pig, a flock of sheep, donkeys and ducks herded by one old goose. Remnants of a family that once intertwined with these creatures of the past were visible in all the cobwebbed corners, an old bike with a pink basket tied to its rusted handle bars, ski poles of short stature, old halters with bronze name tags and some tin cowboys, elf size.

The smell of smoke had interrupted the old cat's morning bath, both of tongue and sun, and that interruption was made worse with the sounds of two boys. The old cat recognized their sound to be that of the twelve year old range and he knew their smell to reside a mile down the road. With his age he didn’t leave the barn much, but over the years he traveled his five-mile radius daily and knew each individual property’s smell.

While he did not fear the two boys, he sensed casualness mixed with disrespect and mischief. They began swinging from one of the barn beams, rotted at the base and the old cat noticed one was holding matches, and one a bent up cigarette, half smoked.

"Best get down from there, now!" he said in a crusty farmer tone, stern with a hint of a curmudgeon.

The boys witnessed the old cat’s mouth move and speak and one boy began to run, tripping on old barn debris.

"I didn't say you had to leave, “ said the old cat, still sternly.

The other boy crept closer. He reached out a finger and touched the old cat, quickly, and pulled away.

"Yes, I'm a cat. Yes, I speak your language. Are you shocked by this?" asked the old cat.

"Ahm ....yes, no!" said the larger of the boys, obviously the alpha of the two, the cat thought. The old animal summed him up fast as a twelve-year-old smart ass wrapped in a child’s fear.

"Come over here then, both of you. Come, sit down with me, “ said the cat, patting a hay bale couch.

Leave it to a talking cat to get to two imps like this to do as they're told.

"Do you have time for a story? I assume you do since you have time to swing from barn beams?" asked the old cat, sitting directly across from the two boys.

The initial brashness of the boys had settled a bit, and their real ages began to surface in the bug-eyed, scared out their pants expressions.

They nodded in agreement.

"Oh, good, I do so love to weave a yarn for visitors. Let me tell you about my old friend here, the barn. See the names carved into the wood slats over on those stalls?“ asked the old cat as he pointed to a grouping of carved words on a beam.

“Those are the many names of lambs born in this barn. And ponies, and chickens. This old barn's remained a steady and willing harbor for any creature, be it a wounded raccoon or a feral mother cat about to give birth. It's never judged the activities of any of these souls, nor have I ever seen him play favorites. And today he's welcomed you two strangers in, hasn't he?" the old cat asked.

The boys once again nodded their heads in agreement with the cat sage before them.

The old cat went on. "This barn has served gallantly, without complaint. It asks for nothing in return, no food, and no water. It never sleeps, always protecting those of us that live here. He's weathered more rain, heat, hail, and snow than you two will see in a lifetime. He's stood somberly enduring the sad cries of a child mourning the loss of her kitten, holding her while she leaned into his strong fir boards. The after birth of lambs has soaked his floors and bones are buried here, “ the cat said stoically.

The two boys listened intently as silent as nothing must sound, their eyes still wide, listening to the old cat.

The old cat continued, but in a quieter, calmer tone, "Old barns are like any old creatures, they creak and ache and can sense when passage is approaching. They feel a deadening in their foundation, their haylofts don't breathe as well. They don't fear death, but they do fear the manner in which they might die. Falling down a little bit at a time, becoming food for the worms, that 's an acceptable death, you see, or to be taken apart and reused in another barn, that is the highest of compliments to an old barn."

The old cat repositioned himself slightly, leaning toward the boys with intent eyes, his voice hushed slightly, and he went on,

"But to die from the selfish flame of a cigarette, that is one thing that strikes fear in the heart of any barn! “ said the cat like a troubadour at a county fair talking to a gathering of old vets.

“And it's known as a fact amongst all barn dwellers,” the cat went on, “that any creature that strikes a match in a barn will feel a burning in the chest for days, and that heat will slowly reach down to their toes, and then back up to their nose. No one around them will see anything different so when the guilty party cries out in burning pain, they appear crazy, and will be carted off to a basement where they will most likely live forever with a burning feeling in their skin and bones until they die."

The boys wore mummified expressions of angst.

"And that boys, is why you should never light a cigarette in a barn. Now get along home before it gets too late to see your feet on the road."

And the boys stood up, at first cautiously so as not to upset the old cat, but soon they were running from the barn. The old cat settled back into bathing his feet and the old barn creaked.

Post Note: Years later one of the boys moved far away and was never heard of again. The other boy stayed in the local area becoming a teacher and raising sheep. He never married, preferring the solitude of single life and a flock. He had one cat.

A martini toast with a donkey

It's a tradition in my house, when the dirt farmer goes off to work, I slip into my best, and make a toast to the holidays and the coming year.

Now available as an archival print at the store. Order early if you want it delivered for Holiday/New Year's. Available in two sizes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Visit Tails & Tales to meet her....


I just wanted you to meet Olive...I'm sure she will be sharing more of herself with you in coming weeks and months.

Reciprocal land love

Huck and I have begun a new ritual. Climbing up the side acreage to view our land from the high point. It is one of my favorite parts of our property, and few people have experienced it. Part is covered in Savannah Oak where I dream of building a small writing hut where I could spend a nite in the thicket, perhaps with a small corral to leave my donkeys at nite, who would carry up my wine, bread and water for the evening.

I have lived in many houses I loved, and had gardens too that I felt connected to. But owning land is a love affair like no other. This may sound over dramatic, but it's not. It's one thing to fix an aging house, it's another to help the land, over grazed, or underutilized. We have much to do, and the work will never be finished to our liking, but I do know this land will be left in better condition than when we bought it. I do know that when I'm walking on that upper pasture, looking down at the old barn, the lavender fields, and the moss laden oaks, I feel appreciated by something very internal in this land.

Perhaps the feeling of walking on this expanse of land is very primordial, poking my heart's library of unconscious memories, reminding me of a time I can't photograph, a time when I roamed the earth free as another creature without a land deed.

When I took a walk with Huck and Martyn up to the top point this weekend, I made a promise to myself, and the land, that I will visit each day if possible. Walking straight up, I watch my feet sink into soft soil, I feel my heart pumping, I hear Huck running and the stream clicking on rock. I have much to do, with pleasure.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving message

May you be surrounded by those things you love, and recognize it as so. May you serve the bounties of the earth and relish in its texture and taste. Never take the warmth of a creature for granted, or the smile of a mate. And may the herds of the world somehow find peace.

Thank you to the many readers who share gratitude for this farm and its creatures, and two aching dirt farmers. Your comments, emails, and packages to a little donkey or an old goat of cookies, aprons, and handmade oddities, make life very special.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Small gestures, lasting impacts

I felt a need to write this after a conversation Friday with a young artist who reminded me of the power of invisible gifts.

Back when I was single, young, and clean, living in Minneapolis, I had a heartbreak I thought would never heal. A boy I loved had left me behind and at the time it felt like all doors were shutting out the sun. Such drama, I know. I remember the first Sunday after our break up I was so despondent, I didn't know what to do with myself. I really needed to do something, anything, to take my mind of my patheticness, and with my throat cold all but over, I ventured out. The world seemed really big, and noisy.

I am not a church goer, preferring to commune in woods or pastures, enjoying the sermons of birds or wind. But in the spattering of church sermons I had attended, I did occasionally experience epiphanies. Deciding now would be a good time for an ephinany, I found myself sitting down in one of Minneapolis' older churches, known for it's historic building and accomplished choir, not to mention a pipe organ.

I fumbled through the various rituals, not really knowing what I was supposed to do, but I was so morose in my pathetic way that it didn't matter. Any movement on my part was good for me in this state, even if it was mumbling words from a Bible I knew nothing about. Even though my cold was mostly over, there was still a little something lurking in my throat, and of course it decided to rumble right as I sat down in the pew. I clutched a hankie to my mouth, holding in my coughs, when what I really wanted to do was just let it rip. I'm sure I was annoying to be near, but as I held my coughs in as best I could, the elderly woman next to me reached over, and handed me a throat lozenges. She smiled sincerely at me, and patted my hand gently. And then she turned away to listen to the minister. It was the tenderest gesture I had had in a week, and it did not feel the least bit judgmental, just a helping hand and a pat as if to say, "It'll be alright." I wanted to cry. I wanted to sit on her aged lap in a fetal position and tell her how safe she made me feel. She thought she was helping out a person with a cough, little did she know my wounds were much deeper.

That moment comes to me often, even though it happened almost 20 years ago. The elderly woman has most likely passed away, but the effect of her simple gesture lives on.

As I was working last week, a little piece of art sitting near my desk, reminded me of a young artist who had recently visited my studio. She had really liked the particular piece, and wondered if I had a print of it that she could buy. I didn't, and we went about other conversation. The young woman had come from out of town to meet me, and explained I was a role model for her. Remembering all this, something clicked in me and I stopped what I was doing, wrapped that little piece of art up and sent it off to her in the day's mail drop. Yesterday, I had a phone call from her, and as she began to speak, I could hear she was crying a little. She was so overwhelmed with the surprise gift, and she tried to convey what it meant to her.

My phone conversation over, I thought of that elderly woman in the church of many years ago. I did not have the words to tell her what her small gesture meant to me. It made me feel loved, and worthy. The phone call from my younger artist friend made me feel loved, and worthy. I am so grateful she expressed this to me.

I guess we all do little tiny things in daily life, and many of those things make huge, lasting impacts on others. I'm so flawed. I was feeling a bit misunderstood when the day began. But after this call, I remembered that I can make impacts on others. And they on me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Love in a box

One only need look outside the window to catch a glimpse of love. Mr. Plum and Little Orange remind us that one does not need fine Italian sheets to find comfort, nor a bed from a big box store. Cardboard walls, natures finest hay bedding, and a friend keep the chill out, and the heart warm. For the fortunate person taking the picture, these little lessons come throughout the day, and are often expressed by nature's creatures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Overheard in barnyard

"Think of it this way," said the crusty old mouse to the new arrival. "When you're living you're still dying, and when you're dying you're still living. No point in worrying about either on their own."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stella tunes up

New movie: Stella sings

Thanks to all the kind emails congratulating Stella on her first movie. Pino's worried his place in Apifera Farm movie making will be usurped. But I've reassured him his talent and compassion can never be outdone.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pregnant lady reunion

"Daisy! Daisy!" I said as I entered the field tonight. "It's so good to have all you ladies back together! Come over here and see me!" And she did.

During this breeding season, 145 days of separation anxiety for the lady flock, and shepherdess, I think I missed Daisy most of all. I could see her everyday of course, in Concubine Field, but I didn't get my special Daisy time each morning. That would have meant Joe Pye time too, and believe me, you really don't want to have Joe Pye time unless you absolutely have to. So I missed the lady hay clatches.

I separated the three rams out on Saturday, tearing them from their ladies-of-the-season. This in and of itself was quite a task, if I may brag a bit. Hey, you try it. Now all the pregnant ewes are back together again, along with the younger virgins. I love having my flock back.

I think the reason I miss Daisy the most is she was our first ewe, along with her mother Rosie, who as my long time readers know, died tragically last March, along with her triplets. Daisy spent every day with her mother from birth, and when Rosie died, Daisy was 6. I really felt she changed after Rosie's death. A light sort of went out. Some might accuse me of placing my own feelings onto an animal, but I know this animal. She just seems different...rather sad, or...accepting of the situation at hand, but meloncholy. I was going to retire her this year and let her be baby free for the rest of her life, but I changed my mind, knowing that it is her innate urging to breed. When I saw her in heat weeks before breeding began, and she was hovering on Joe's fence line, away from the flock, I had to look at things from a sheep's inner programed desires. She's programed to breed, and lamb.

But she already looks so huge to me. I hope she doesn't have triplets. I am now officially terrified of triplets. I admit, after the ketosis tragedies of spring, losing our two best ewes and 6 lambs [both had triplets] in 2 weeks, I'm nervous this year.

Seeing Daisy pregnant again brought it all back. But it also reminded me that it's a new lambing season, and that's what we must focus on. And I will do my best for her.

Friday, November 13, 2009


The beauty is, I can do what I want, and you, my beloved readers, can believe what you want...

After the creepy energy of yesterday's post, I went out to barn this morning and spent time with the donkeys. I told them their ears and body parts had been briefly pirated, but that all was ok, and we are safe again, at least in the barn, out of sight of any web cams, iphones or apps that might tweet us.

So I took my coat off, and my clothes, and rolled in the dust. I left my boots on, well, just because. It felt really good.

I had donkey hugs while still naked. Now don't be getting all freaked out or starting rumors- but the fuzzie winter coats feel really good on naked skin. It's the beauty of a barn, one can do all sorts of things in it without being egged, or hauled off to jail.

I proceeded onto the newer barn, fully clothed. And hung out with Georgie, Guinnias and Gertie, the senior three. Frankie was busy being Frankie - head butting the ram, positioning herself at the hay bar. But the three old timers amused me. They love to have body rub downs. Man, if I could just explain to them how to do that to me, now there's a viral Youtube waiting to happen.

So, this image amuses me. It will be the print goat sponsors get [really, I am going to send them to all of you who have sponsored, once I get my darn inks loaded again]...I just wanted to share it with you to make you smile.

I'm off to take a shower now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Copyright infringement

UPDATE Friday, 11/13. The blog owner took the images down [although she has now posted the same copyrighted story of Platero and replaced my images with images from the British Museum which appear to be in accordance with their usage on their website. http://ora25.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/magarusul/] She has now added a quote at the bottom of each of her posts "If you are the owner of this art and object please contact me." Her readers seem to think I'm an ungrateful hussie for not looking at this as PR. One of her readers thought they were being quite funny by calling me a 'donkey' -ha ha- 'ass' since most of the work posted was my donkey art.

This was clearly NOT FAIR USE, as described by the copyright laws. Firstly, she took 16 images [not thumbnails, not crops, full size images]. Many of the images included my donkeys as the main theme, including some from my own children's stories about my donkeys. She then placed them as illustration for a copyrighted book/text of Platero, a story about a donkey [and a lovely story]. This last fact made the infringement even more upsetting for me. As an aspiring author, to have my art used to illustrate another book...um, excuse me, to we all see the conflict. She seemed to think she was 'transforming the art', hence 'fair use.".

There is much confusion among bloggers about copyright. Here is a Blogger's Legal Guide. I thought one more person might understand that just because you put a credit on an image, it does not give you the right to post or use an artist's image without consent or negotiation.Just becasue you have a 'share bottun' on a post, doesn't mean you can take images and illustrate another person's book with them. She obviously doesn't understand, as she continues to post daily a copyrighted book or poem, with art from other people. If someone gave her permission to do this, fine, but ask first.

And what about common curteosy? I always ask people or alert them if I want to post a photo. And for lordi sake, if I posted SIXTEEN of them...which I wouldn't think of, but um, think I'd pretty much ask permission.

Also, this idea that I as an artist should just be thrilled to have anyone post my images to gain more recognition is nonsense. I work very hard to create art for a living, and to create beloved characters from my animals to put in my stories. I don't appreciate having anyone placing my images of my donkeys next to the words of a published book, and I'm sure that author would not be too thrilled either. This person also felt she wasn't doing anything wrong becasue she put a link to my site at he bottom of her post. She cropped out my © insignia that was on the images.Now what happens when 100 others copy the images of her blog.

Thank you to so many that wrote her comments on the blog. You came through for me. Lesson: Don't mess with my donkeys.

My images are being used without my consent. Feel free to leave a comment on this person's blog post [as I have done].


Here's someone who thinks it's fine and dandy to copy and post a multitude of my images, and then write a story around them. Gr---rrr--r-r-r-.

This is NOT alright. From what I can tell by the Romanian-English translation, he/she [there appears to be no link to send an email directly to this person so I wrote a comment] is either writing a story up, or not sure. This same blog has tons of other's art, from what I can tell, and then writes story narrative around it.

I really get irritated when this happens. It is not ok to just cut and paste people's art, and using it in such an arrogant way. I often give people the permission to use my art, and welcome certain shout outs on the internet, but taking this many of my images, without asking, is not only against the copyright laws, it's arrogant.

Post a comment to them if you'd like. Perhaps that will get this person to learn something.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Helping a little Bug

Another senior dog I sponsored through Old Dog Haven, was this sweet little thing called "Bug". Well, my sponsorship was up this month, and I just can't resist that face, or name. So again, thanks to recent print sales, another small amount will be sent their way.

Bug was basically abandonned at a large shelter, with a dislocated hip, heart murmer, horrible teeth with oronasal fistulas which are being worked on. Still, Bug has a sunny personality, say the family that took him in for his forever home. We are so glad Bug found you!

Please consider donating to Old Dog Haven or other animal rescue organizations in your area.

Helping Hewitt

NOTE: 12.30.09 ...Hewitt has passed on, but he died with dignity, and in a loving home where he knew he was safe.

Thanks to recent art/print sales, I can donate a small amount to one of the Final Refuge Dogs helped by Old Dog Haven. Old Dog Haven helps senior dogs by placing them in forever homes, or helping adopt them and get medical care. They are located in Washington and have a network of foster homes that help the dogs in need.

This month I will sponsor Hewitt, an old Chihuahua who was found emaciated on the streets, and hairless. He is fighting seizures and has a serious heart murmur. Despite this, his Final Refuge home says he is a snuggler. No matter what time he has left, he will go out with a full heart and caring home.

Please consider making a donation to Old Dog Haven or the animal rescue organization in your area.

Ladies, prepare your undergarments

During one of the few sun breaks [Oregonians know the term], I took the opportunity to visit with the chickens, who were free ranging right outside my stdio door.

Without fail, the minute I bought my camera out, they start showing off their underpants. One bends over, and it begins a contest for "Best Looking Undergarments of the Moment".

"Lookie here, my underpants are a lovely earth tone!" declares Edmonia Lewis.

"Ahem, but mine are a silver fox color!" says Jane Morrison.

"I feel mine have are slightly puffier than yours though," chimes in here near twin, Lady Jane.

It was 10 minutes well spent. So I'm posting these for my chickenless readers, to make you happy. It is a known fact, I read it somewhere, that chicken underpants make people happy. I can attest to this, as I feel even happier than I did when I woke up, and I was pretty happy when I woke up. I thought of having a "Prettiest Underpants of Apifera" contest, but that would only encourage them, and would be slightly non-Apifera in tone.