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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


We are all caregivers in our own ways, but many take on much more than others, and maggie davis[maggie does not capitilze her name, just an fyi] is one. She is a writer in Maine and has written a wonderful book,"Caring in Remembered Ways" and I encourage anyone who is acting as a caregiver to read it. I found the book very helpful while my father was in hospice - I couldn't be with him, but somehow reading the many stories in this book helped me. This is the kind of book that will resonate with mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, seniors, grandchildren, teachers, nurses, or hospice workers - in other words, everyone. I do not use any of my blogs as vehicles for standard advertising, but I do like to pass on gems like this book. And the price is right.

Recently, I had this lovely note from maggie: :
"i've been wanting to tell you what a huge effect i know you are having on the world. these influences cannot be measured. i can barely explain how i feel when i'm at your site. not only is it beautiful and welcoming. when i'm there i've feel i've come home--home with a capital H, the kind of place most people long for.
let me search for words: a true fairyland, and within reach--a noble place--sanctuary--Light--color--real--haven--colors of life. i have been shown again and again that anything we do with love and mindfulness wings it effects throughout the planet and into the galaxies. it's only logical. if only "big footprints" were important than a hero one day would be "nothing" the next were s/he in an accident and confined to bed, unable to "perform." if only "big footprints" were important, a child alone and abused, bereft of kindness, but mustering heart to pat his dog, lovingly and mindfully, would be nothing. this can't be! from our first to last breath we are a gift; we are potential for good, however we choose to manifest that power and the good we are has effect we will never know completely."

From barnyard to page

Here's a sneak peek at some children's illustrations I'm working on - these are crops from two pieces. I hesitate to show the entire images right now, as I want to pitch them as a series. But I'm having fun with them, and really enjoy creating these little personalities.

I was really interested in yesterday's NPR interview of Neil Gaiman who just won the John Newberry Medal for his children's book 'The Graveyard Book'. Not only did I love the idea of his story, but hearing him talk about how he wrote it as a book, not necessarily as a children's or adult book, resonated with my style of writing. Now that I'm working on my first novel, I glean whatever I can from wherever I can. I am taking the bold position of "I am a writer", and just writing. I used the same approach in 1996 when I declared [to myself, and maybe the dog] "I am an illustrator". When I moved from Minneapolis to Portland in '02, I told myself I felt like writing. It wasn't until '06 when we had settled a bit at the farm, and someone suggested I start a blog [Thank you Stephanie, see what you've done?], that I started writing little stories and realized how much I liked it.

Since I have no formal training in writing a novel, I am stumbling through it in my raggedy fashion, I percolate the same way I do my paintings or art, usually before I go to sleep, and when I first awake. I have had the first sentence of the book written for a very long time, and have a glimpse of an ending. I have no concerns the middle will fill itself in as I go.

Of course I'm not writing it alone. When I'm working on those characters, I swear, they come to life. Or they are living - I walk to the barnyard, and I see a donkey skirt by. It looks just like the stance and posture of the donkey in my book. It's as if I live in two planes that are on level fields. Stepping in and out, from one plane to the other - at some points is not necessary. It all meshes together. Let me make one thing clear, I know my animals are animals. But by making them 2 dimensional in a book, and then adding stories and words and thoughts, they are 3 dimensional to a whole new set of readers - just like they are to me. Not only can I amuse readers with their stories, I can perhaps share their essence and subtle compassions, fears and imperfections that we as humans face every day. It's just something I want to do.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dreaming briefly

I had a short but powerful dream last night. I dreamt I went to the barn, and there in the corner were two pygmies nursing over 10 baby goats. I went back to the house and told Martyn. That was the whole dream, but it reminded me of the excitement of lambing season. Each season, we get to start all over, be surprised, amazed. Later in the day, I did some garden work, and marveled at the buds on the fruit trees. The little seeds always working out of site making flower children, even on bleak winter days, remind us hope is always within if we choose to see it. The little naked plum tree will once again bear fruit, and my wisteria will once again feed the bees. It's good the universe figured this all out, as these hopeful glimpses of pre-spring are helpful to our human souls.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mark your calenders

Guinnias hung out today while I did the semi annual burn pile. He talks sometimes,as you can see here, but I have decided to keep some of his conversations private. I don't want to exploit him, or the other animals, if I can help it.

I have decided to declare February 6th "Guinnias Day" here at the farm. He was most likely born sometime in February or March. That together with the fact that lambing season gets busy, and then of course there's Martyn's 50th in February, and, eh hem, my birthday in March, and Huck's birthday January 31st, and all the donks and sheep and Boone have birthdays in March...so...I thought, why not give the old man a special day In February.

Rather than serving pie, I will be serving only little graham cookies - you know, the ones that look like teddy bears or animal crackers. He adores them. If you'd like to send him some teddy graham cookies or animal crackers, you may do so at "Guinnias c/o Apifera Farm, 14710 NW Tupper RD, Yamhill, OR 97148".

Cat guarding young tree

As the picture shows, Miss Prarie Pussytoes takes one of her many farm jobs seriously. I swear she has saved this tree from many a goat bite.

I was thinking today as I did barn chores, and watched Tomentosa roll around in the compost area, entertaining himself and honing his prehistoric hunting skills, how nice it is all these cats are able to live without the confines of a shelter, aren't living near a road, and are free from having the burden of litters. I've loved each and every one as the unique individuals they are. Their personalities have come out over the years, as they grow to accept their place in the pecking order, and understand they are safe, and have food and shelter.

I am revving myself up to neuter Samuelle Noel, the newest stray, such a beauty, so gentle, so appreciative of touch and being held. I think it will be pretty easy to get him in a crate. I do have this anxiety that once neutered, he will disappear, as Phinias T. Barnum did. This is somewhat irrational, but I have bonded now with Samuelle, and don't want to see him go. I took this blurry picture of him, I'm thinking he might be of Big Tony's line.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cultural restrictions

I was inspired by an article I read recently on women in Muslim cultures trying to break out of the restrictions put on them by their cultures. I have empathy and respect for them. And I give thanks for being free from any one man or church or country.

To those who have asked if Paco has more stories to tell me, he did, but he is slowly transcribing them. I hope to illustrate some for later posts. He said it was a very personal journey for him, and he does not want to be rushed, so I will respect that. In the meantime, he inspired some of the animals to write letters to the new President, and I have been asked to retype them and edit them, so I'll be busy doing that. Frankie is wondering if perhaps she is more suited to have the name Sasha, but I encouraged her that her current name is much more fitting for her unique personality.

Wrapped in age

I think turning fifty or there abouts is a marker, a place to stop, briefly, and look back, but then forward. One can not escape too many days in your fifties when a person who used to be fifty is, suddenly, ninety.

Life is just a flash. For me, it gets flashier, with each year zipping by. I'm with Neil Young who recently said, at the age of 60+, "I don't feel old when I play my guitar, I just look old". I don't feel old as I paint, or walk the dog, or brush my horse, but I know I look older than I did even a year ago. One looks in a mirror and says, "Is that what I 'really" look like?" I have come to a point in my life where I really don't like to see pictures of myself. It's not that I hate the way I look, but the photo can often confuse me, and leaves me wasting a good couple minutes pondering physical changes that have nothing to do with my energy or ability to contribute to my life and yours.

I think the concept of one's own body, one's own 'look' is very hard to grasp from the inside looking out. I had to go through some old photos to find one of my grandfather. I saw a movie in paper play out before me as I saw pictures from my youth, teens, college, 30's and on. I analyzed the year my more youthful skin and looks made a tiny turn to looking like the mid 40's I was. And now, I see it pretty clearly, I look every day of 50 & 10 months. It's ok, but it can leave a melancholy. The melancholy is not for sadness of lost youth, it's for the realization of the things that were there in your youth. I awoke in the morning from a dream, a dream where I was with my good friend from high school, and we dined with my parents. I lie in bed, thinking how good they looked, what were they in the dream, sixty or so? I read that in our dreams, the dead come to us in the age that we perceived them to be at their optimum in our lives. And I guess, my parents in their 60's was a good time. Still healthy, able to travel and fix houses, still working, still buying dogs and rose bushes. While my mother still lives, she is tied to activities that make her feel safe from falling. She recently told me she didn't like flying alone anymore, because "If I die, who would be there with me, strangers."

I read a blog recently where a 35 year old woman announced boldly that she "was no longer young". Wow, I thought, she needs some perspective, but I guess that's what life gives you, perspective.

Fable from afar

One of my art patrons, and avid supporters of my animal efforts is Deborah Weber. She recently posted a beautiful fable and asked permission to use a piece of art [which she just bought a print of, so $25 will go to a senior animal soon!]. It's a wonderful little fable, and I hope you all can take time to read it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Boone & Angelo at your service

Today we were called as a nation of people to reach out and serve. Hopefully, the people that served today will be inspired to do more service, in their own style, within their own individual communities throught out the year.

So I called my friend Annie and said, "Boone and I are doing litter pick-up on the bridge", and she met me there with Angelo [Pino's father] at her side. Angelo and Annie picked up litter for the 1 mile walk to the bridge, and Boone and I picked up litter for the mile from our farm. We met in the middle, and shared graham crackers and soaked up sun.

We did this last season with Angelo and Lucia, but I think Boone did great. He needs a job, and since he used to be a cow horse, I think he felt good carrying his sack of litter, and having a purpose. And I'm glad when I can use those old feed sacks for something.

We are all glowing in the aftermath of the wonderful DC concert on Sunday, and I don't know about you, but I always tear up when I sing 'This Land is Your Land". We spent the early morning listening to the full Martin Luther King speech of 1965 and the juxtaposition of that with Tuesday's events, it's just a good feeling.

Paco is safely home, and I have promised the barnyard that I will get a TV rigged up out there for them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Paco sighted on the Big Ear train!

I had written in yesterday's post that Paco had not attended the Big Ear Dress Rehearsal, being led to believe he was in the barn quietly and grumpily preparing lights for Tuesday's real Big Ear Ball. But after doing barn chores this morning, I found a note tacked to the water bucket: "On the Big Ear train to DC. Will email. Home on Sunday. Love,Paco."

Well, at first I was upset, worried, and angry he had gone without my consent. I never would have let him go. He is not worldly, and to be honest, I'm worried to death. But with all the secret service agents, I have hope he will remain safe. I can't imagine them letting a little donkey on that train, but, it appears he is there now and is part of history.

Near the same note he left, I found a pad of paper. At the top it said, "In case I am called upon to speak to the herds." Their were many crossed out words, and it clearly stated it was a draft. As I read it, I yearned to be there with him, to applaud him for his thoughts. For Paco, the one member of the farm who is so misunderstood by so many, seemed to capture a real spirit of optimism we are all capable of. His grumpiness covers a heart and soul that just need some encouragement and a safe place to fail.

So I will share his speech with you, as I really doubt it would ever be covered by the media, if he were to be called on to speak. "It is time to put down our sticks, which can only serve as a symbol of our cynicism masked in grumpiness and fear. And while we must defend our own herds, we must not lose sight that we are also here to teach our herds, help our herds, bring them food and adequate medical attention. We must strive to stick together, and understand that when the water buckets are empty, there will always be a rainfall at some point. We must care for our lands, and poop on them, but spread it around to help all the little grasses, and yes, even the weeds. We must remember, two footers, four footers, winged ones and those that crawl on your bellies - that we are all here together, and we all have something to learn, and teach, and share. One must understand the fences we have around us are to protect us from the night lurkers, but we must never frown or kick at the aged cat that might wander in our fields. We must not judge the species that are weaker, or smaller, or come from far away places simply to eat our wheats and grasses. For they bring with them the same thing we possess - hearts, souls, the capacity to serve in the herd for the betterment of all. And in closing, I urge all of us to love one another, no matter what kind of ass appears before you. God Bless my farm, and my herd, and God Bless President Obama, and also I'd like to bless all the apples and pie too."

I can't wait for him to return on Sunday night.

--The End--

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Big Eared Dress Rehearsal

In which the stunning event mentioned in the last post is revealed to my readers. Proceed with an open mind, or don't go in at all....I had no idea Angustifolia played guitar, and certainly not at this level. We could hear the variety of hooves and feet stomping to the beat, and amazingly, even little chicken feet resonated.

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

What in the world?

Last night I was about to shut the studio down, around 8 pm, so darkness had set. We leave no lights on at the two barns, so when I looked out that way I was shocked at the sight. I stood still for some time. I yelled for Martyn, and he came running after he heard the surprise in my voice. After we composed ourselves, we headed out to the barn.

I knew a camera would not record what I saw or heard, so I recorded as much detail as I could and sat down to illustrate it upon returning to the house. I'm finishing it up now and will post it very soon. Lest you are now alarmed, don't be, all is well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sweet Cat Dreams

Oh, I'm quite enamored by these. The cat fabric is my design, and I matched it with a vintage pink Humpty Dumpty pattern, filled it with lavender, and added little pig tails with bells. These happy little sachet pillows are for the nursery, or the whimsical person who likes cat dreamers on the bed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When voices appear

I have had a bad cold, and have had a cloudy head, pumped full of meds. So I was unsure if the story I present below really occurred. However I found these photos in my camera that were dated on the day the said story supposedly happened, so...I will present it here to you.

I had left the house in the late afternoon to get to the barn before dusk. I heard rustling near by, a leaf perhaps, or an old bag of feed blowing against a rock. A shadow came to the attention of the corner of my left eye. I looked, but there was nothing unusual. I kept walking, but had gone less than 10 feet, when a very old voice grumbled something..."too cold..." and some other words I can't recall now. I turned my head, there was nothing, just the cemetery of fallen friends and rodents nearby, and the old coastal sequoias. I had heard of ancient trees talking, so maybe it was the one of them...I continued to walk on, and could see Guinnias and Frankie at the barn door, some 100 feet away, waiting for dinner. But again I heard the voice, the same older voice from minutes ago..."Must go, will return." This time the voice was clearer to me, it sounded very familiar. As I turned again, positive someone would be standing beside me, there was Guinnias. Just as I turned to see him, I saw his mouth stop moving, and he pretended to be eating grass.

I do not know how he got to that spot, since just seconds ago, I had seen him at the barn, some 100 feet away. He moves slowly, and there is a gate between us. My common sense said it had not happened.

Guinnias walked over to me, and we began to walk to the barn. I looked down at him, he looked up at me, probably watching to see if my hand went in my coat pocket for a treat. It did not. But he continued to look up at me. He seem unfazed by what had just happened.

One can through life assuming that unusual occurrences are figments of the imagination. Or one can just try to digest them, and accept that a person needs the comfort of a voice sometimes, and if it comes through an old goat, so be it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Love sometimes exists in a pillow

I'm slowly adding items that would make sweet little Valentines gifts over on the store blog.

One can never send enough love out, even if it's in a pillow, or sachet. Don't forget that lavender is known to keep moths away - oddly I had forgotten this fact in my own drawers, and had moths!!! I had not bothered to put any new sachets in my sweater drawer and had holes in items. And I live on a lavender farm! I'm not sure if lavender will kill exisiting moths, so look at sweaters to make sure you don't see any white-web like thingies before putting sachets in the drawer.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

This came through me

I had been struggling all day to get something to work, anything, with paint today. I was painting tuna cans, pretty flowers, buildings. It was all crap. I was feeling blocked. Went for a walk with Huck. Returned and put on Neil. I haven't had music on as much as NPR lately, and it was definately a jolt. The words and music of Neil Young always touch chords that are just under my surface. This piece came out pretty fast. It really touches me. Old man feeding cardinals, a sight I miss.

Morning commute

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hospice tails

My friend, Emma, is a hospice worker, and continues to be a real support in my Donkey Dreams endeavors, emailed me with a heartbreaking, but sweet, story.

She was providing hospice care for a man who had an older dog. The dog had taken to crawling under the bed, and howling or letting out sad moans. The family memebers were too the point they wanted to remove the dog, but Emma fortunatly recognized this sensitive creature was simply vocalizing his human's pain, or sadness, or fear, or love.

The sister of the dying man brought a shirt to the old dog, so he had the scent and comfort of his human. About a week later, the old dog died, his head laying on the man's shirt.

WHo was comforting whom here? The dying dog, perhaps calling out to his friend, "I'm leaving, I'm sorry I must go and leave you dying"...or perhaps, "Hold me, I can't get up on the bed, I know you there, I smell you"...

There are so many senior dogs and animals that end up abandonned after the owner dies. Family members can't take them on, or won't, or try too...it is one of my biggest fears, my animals after I'm gone. But until then, we must hope people will continue to be like the Emma's of the world, and that hospice workers can work with animal rescue people too in some way in these situations....

Emma is the person who is really helping me and motivating me to do the 2009 Hospice Thank You Day at Apifera where donkeys will mingle and love all the wonderful caregivers who provide hospice for the dying....

Monday, January 05, 2009

From a Pino fan

One of our supporters sent us this picture, and mentioned that once something is in your head, it keeps showing up. Last month she sent a picture of a place called Pino's, this month she saw this place. It's good to know donkey fever is rampant on a national basis.

Im working on my hospice event, and also have an idea about contacting organizations that work for the blind. It would be nice to have one-one visits for children and adults who are blind, who would enjoy sitting and petting animals.

Old man walking

There have been some firsts for the old goat this weekend. After 7 days, Guinnias spent time out in the front barnyard eating grass. I was so happy to come upon him when I was in the field doing some cleanup. He waddled right over to me, and in all honesty, the expression on his face looked so...bright. Brighter than the last few transition days. It's as if he said, "I think it's going to be ok here..."

Other firsts...I hadn't heard a peep or ginny or bleat out of him. Unlike Frankie who speaks constantly, usually saying, "Excuse me, I'm down here..." or, "Ah, you with the red bucket, why are you walking in the opposite direction from me?". But this weekend, I was in the barn, and saw that Guinnias was napping, as usual, in the Ward Room. But a few minutes later, he was near by, trying to speak. He has more of a grunt-squeak than a bleet. Each animal has a distinctive bleat. I know all my older ewes voices, and Stella and Iris, the rams, they are all very distinctive.

Guin also will let me hold him around the neck, while I kneel near him, and he rests his head on my shoulder, his eyes half open. Now that's darn nice, for both woman and beast. And if you want to send Guinnias a note, he gladly accepts those little honey graham bears by Nabisco [non cinnamon].

Gift Update: Thanks to all who donated to get me up to Washington and back to pick up Guinnias. His thank you gift is in the mail...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ode to Mose

It was an honor to complete this commission of Mose Augustus, a beautiful chocolate lab who passed away this past year after a good, long life. Mose was very special indeed, and his owners really took his passing hard.

When I'm getting ready to start a private pet portrait, I usually let the owners' stories of the animal swirl around in my head and settle. With this piece, I had been thinking of the right focus for the piece, and as I was out doing barn chores one day, words came into my head with such clarity, that I really knew it was Mose, pushing me on. I really felt compelled to go into my studio that day and do the piece, which I did. I felt him all along. He had a very strong energy. He loved to sneak into the nearby corn fields and snag a few cobs. I think he wanted his grieving owners to understand this, he was right there...After they opened the art, one of the owners left me a message, and with tears laced in her voice, she said, "I just never knew he's been right over there in the corn all this time....".

Sponsors to help me help them

I've added two ways you can participate in helping me with the animal care I'm giving to both cats and the senior animals. You can choose to sponsor the old goat , or be a cat food sponsor . Read more at the links.

Now many of you generously sponsored our long road trip up to get Phinnias, so don't feel you need to donate more [and those Apifera gifts are getting packed this weekend!]. I hope to find a few more senior animals in need of a final hospice home, and will announce it when I do. I want to keep this under control [!] and the goal is to give one-on-one care, without losing focus on my art.

Martyn and I have talked to quite a few people over this year about becoming a 501c, but we keep getting advised not to. Many will tell you how easy it is to be a 501c, but the ramifications of what happens to your farm and personal property if you close down the 501c needs to be measured wisely. If we were a 501c, a designated area of our farm would have to be leased from the 501c, hay and feed would have to be separated, and if the 501c is closed down, back taxes are due, or property can be seized - that includes animals, computers or whatever. Also, 60% of the operating budget must be from donations. It's a full time job.

I've talked to a lot of other people who are doing rescue work without 501c status, and we all seem to agree that a 501c does bring a certain amount of trust from strangers that you are legitamtly using the donated money for the cause. But no one has to give if they don't want to. It takes a lot of time and energy to trap cats [properly], transport animals, feed and care for them, spend time with them, and tender them. I enjoy it, or I wouldn't do it.

So after many discussions over the year, I've decided I'm not going to worry about the people that might not trust my intentions. I will simply continue to be greatful for the kindness of many strangers that do trust me, and also the many clients and art patrons/friends that support my efforts monetarily, but as important, emotionally.