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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Could you scooch down, please?"

Just a tip to help provide the best environment possible for the feline in your life.

Get into your bed. Fluff up your pillows, in my case, I use 3 pillows. Layer the pillows, one on top of the other, then lie on your back, pushing the back of your head into the pillows. Lie there for at least 15 to 20 minutes [this is a key step in winter months].

Once the pillow area has reached a warm temperature, invite the cat up onto the bed, or if the cat's already on the bed, invite him to the pillow area. Be polite. Saying, "I'm all ready for you, my King," in a sweet motherly tone works well.

Let cat find his comfortable position on the arranged pillows. If necessary,scooch down, leaving more room for the cat. Let cat kneed your scalp, even if it hurts, this will relax him to sleep, and invigorate your hair follicles. Once you hear the cat purring excessively, DO NOT MOVE! Lie still, even if you have an itch. It's important to let cat rest comfortably. Keep your eyes closed - this will prevent retinal damage if your cat chooses to stretch his paws out over your eyes.

If you follow this procedure, your cat will dream peacefully through the night.

Art sales helped more old animals

If you follow my blog, you know I donate proceeds to places helping senior animals. While art sales are a bit down in this economy, I was happy to donate a little to our friends up at New Moon Farm in Arlington, WA. Hopefully we can do more soon. This is also the place where Guinnias was placed before we brought him home to Apifera. Ellen does a wonderful job caring for many goats and sheep she rescues. She is down to earth and a wonderful photographer too. She has the Apifera stamp of approval, which we stuck to her forhead after we picked Guinnias up. Really, she has helped so many, and does it all out of her own pocket and donations.

Molly [on the left] is a 12 year old, black-belly Barbados sheep. She came to the rescue about 2 years ago, when her whole herd got picked off, one by one, by coyotes. Finally, when only Molly was left, her owner contacted New Moon Farm. Since she is such a sweetheart, Ellen made her one of the permanent residents at New Moon.

Nestle is a 10 year old Oberhasli doe. After spending her whole life in a dairy herd, she was no longer producing enough volume, and was no longer "useful" to the breeder. After a kind soul saved her from going to auction last fall, Nestle came to New Moon, all the way from Oregon. Bravo to that kind soul! Nestle is looking for a new home, with her friend Ellie.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Big baby crib awaits

I sat with my camera on the orchard bench, sipped coffee, and let Martyn do all the hardest work on the new gate we put into the orchard area today. Guinnias enjoys being around when we're working, it's pretty sweet. Frankie was napping in the barn, and donks and sheep were in the field, so it was quality time with the old man, and the mate.

As usual, we marathoned it all weekend. I wanted to get this new gate up for better acces into the orchard area, as it's handy for pre-lambing, and I can keep a shepherdly watch for labor signs from my studio window.

I was convinced one of the ewes was going to lamb Friday nite and separated her out. But it would have been only 20 weeks, and we always lamb at 21 or 22 weeks. I was wrong, and she put up with my hovering about, checking her udder, giving her back rubs. I won't say which ewe, and you can still the lambing guessing game. I could be all wrong on which one I think is going to blow first. We gave shots this morning, and I got all my other stall prepping done, so I'm ready for those babies.

It was nice working outside all weekend with my handy man. He wore his farmer stubble, and I my trademark green hat. I tried to take some arty shots of me and Guin, but my hat just kept taking over.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stella and Iris

The sun rose like it did everyday, but today being Wednesday, it was just a teeny bit earlier than yesterday. So noted Stella, the largest of the two Boer goats sitting on a wooden pallet, surrounded in mud with the heads of new grasses peaking out.

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pick a sheep

The anticipation of lambing is palpable on the farm. It's been heightened by all the new borns spotted in various nearby farms as I commute to town for errands - lambs, calves, all wobbly and new and fresh. Pink noses. Teeny hooves. Wiggly tails as they drink from the natural milk bar. Some will grow and provide other creatures of earth with food, some will continue on and nourish their own creatures for seasons to come. Some are named, some are numbered, but all are perfect in this first month of life. It's only the creatures that walk on two pads that have learned to discern their imperfections, culling some out of the herd. I like Spring because even as two pad walker, I can see things freshly. The word 'hope' is being bantered about quite a lot these days, but it is in and of itself the best word to sum up spring. And if any activity best encompasses spring, it's lambing.

So, we're getting close. Like any doting mother, or I guess I'm a grandmother, I just want everyone to be healthy, especially my ewes, who I've come to admire more each season. They make it through breeding season with nary a complaint, and then wallow through winter rains, their bellies full. They put up with shots and wormer and feet trims, and then each spring they lay down on a wooden floor, all alone, and birth a pair of beauties. I taught them nothing about the procedure, they instead taught me, and continue to teach me each year as new circumstances are presented.

So, who will lamb first? For all you city dwellers yearning for the farm, live vicariously with me and anticipate the first arrival. Throw in $5 and on your Paypal comment section write down the name of the ewe you think will go first. Your name will be placed in the jar and I'll pick 2 winners - On the day the first lambs are born, I'll pull a name out of the jar, and that person will win [winner's choice] either one of my sepia archival animal photographs, or an archival art print [5x7 image sitting on 8.5 x11" archival paper. View some over at the store site]. Then I'll take all the entries who picked the correct ewe, and draw a winner from that group.

I only bred 5 of our ewes this spring, so when you enter your $5, don't forget to write down one of these names in the Paypal comment section: Rosie, Daisy, Coral Bell, Blue or Lilly. We are predicting 3/1 - 3/7 to be the dates lambs start popping out.I'll take some of the proceeds and send a check up to Guinnias's old home to help out the goat rescue.

Entries are closed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yea, love

Thanks to one of my music fairies, I now have Levon Helm's'"Dirt Farmer'. As an old fan of The Band, Levon's voice always makes my bones twitch. I think this song just sums me and my dirt farmer up. Spread love to the ones you love.

Well I got me a woman she's a pretty good woman at that
We live with a monkey and a Chinese acrobat
She calls me Tex, makes me wear a cowboy hat
But I don't care, she's a pretty good woman at that

Nuthin'in the world could ever make me treat her mean
She shaves my beard and keeps my tractor clean.
She burns my bread and makes me eat turnip greens.
But I don't care, she's the best little woman I've seen.
Some folks move out to California, some stay in Tennessee
I don't care where I'm headed, as long as that woman, she stands by me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Life of Junk

Driving through any rural farm area, one is confronted with a fact of life: Junk. When we first moved to our property back in 2004, there was Junk everywhere, underground, in the old barn, behind the old barn, and some invisible under years of unmaintained blackberry bushes. There was Junk that passed for cabinets in the house and Junk that was left as 'Hey, we didn't have the energy to take this to the dump, and we're cheap too, but we're out of this place so we're leaving it for you." Gee, thanks.

Now, messes and piles of crap have always made me anxious. I am not a neat freak - I'm sure anyone who has visited Apifera can attest to this in the comment section. But I like to think that any of the Junk on our farm has a distinct purpose, even if it's a future purpose, unknown to the present beholder. Reading Annie Lamont's book last night, 'Bird by Bird", I was reminded of the learning power of the messes that come to us in life, or the messes we make. She points out that the child must make a mess of blocks to get to that final structure, and the writer, or painter, also starts with a mess of words or colors and sloths through it to make sense of it. It's that process, of course, that teaches us not only more about ourselves, but might shed light on other mysteries too.

As a lovely, freshly clean, slim single gal, I controlled my Junk. It's much easier to control one's Junk as a single person. I had areas where said Junk resided until I needed it, but I knew that Junk like the back of my hand, and what was there and wasn't. I knew I could go down in the basement and find a series of old wood rods that could be used for all sorts of things. I knew where to find an overflow of tin buckets, in case I needed to paint one for a gift. All my Junk resided in a special Junk Place, pretty much out of site.

But life happens. Whether or not your Junk is hidden or neatly arranged, it does not stop life from happening. In fact, relying on orderly junk to make you feel in control of daily life is just delaying a cold fact - life is hard, even on the best, most glorious days. But so what? Is that so bad?

When we moved to the farm, I boldly told myself we would not keep Junk in our barn, or scattered about like wild flowers. I immediately set out to tackle the Junk. Now, in fairness to myself, some of this Junk had to be dealt with. The former owner felt it was OK to throw anything out to rot, including rugs, cans, and glass. Unbelievably, they ran horses in this area. We spent most of the first year hauling off their Junk, unearthing even more junk. We are still hauling off junk. This is why I use a capital letter "J" for the word Junk - it is an entity of it's own, with a past, present and future life. Junk is like dirt, or snotty kids, or barking dogs - annoying to deal with it when not your own.

I soon learned that when we hauled off one load of Junk, another load is quietly being made, either by me or my husband, who is notorious for bringing home Junk from his landscape projects. He took to throwing some of his Junk up in the upper hay loft, unknown to me, until I spied it one day. That led to some Junk rules. "All Junk must have a future purpose, and Junk finder must have a remote 5 year plan for said Junk." We have created many fine functional things from all this Junk, like garden doors, bird houses, garden sinks, trellis arbors...It's the 20 year supply of white irrigation pipe that gets out of hand.

The longer one lives in a rural area, the more Junk one sees, everywhere. It becomes understood that sometimes, it even makes sense to buy Junk, like this red weather vane. It came to us non working, and hasn't worked for the two years we've had it. In fact, it's in worse shape now than when we brought it home, as it kept falling because Frankie likes to rub on it. That's why it is propped up by the chicken coop - it leans there to remind me we have to fix it. If I hide it away in the barn, I won't remember to fix it.

When I work on our Junk, like taking an old door with whole bunch of dairy cow manure on it, probably from the farm's 1960's era, I think all sorts of thing - are the cows buried here, where did this door get used, how old was the farmer when he put it up, did that scratch mark come from a cat wanting some fresh milk? That Junk had a life, and we give it another. Someday, long after I'm dead, that door might still be here, maybe off the hinges again, and being used as a little girl's tree house landing. She'll notice the words I've carved in it, "Apifera, 2009, still here", and she'll let her imagination flow along to another place, all because of my Junk.

Monday, February 09, 2009

When goats get gifts

I suppose now that the post office knows the donkey gets mail, and a lot of it, they won't flinch if they knew that the recipient named "Guinnias" on today's box is a senior citizen goat.

A very thoughtful reader from way out east sent the old man his favorite - animal crackers, and Teddy Grahams. I told her on this gloomy, cloudy, snow sprinkled day, I was tempted to get back into bed with a glass of milk, and dunk my way to oblivian. But that would be stealing, not to mention selfish. She had meant to send them for last Friday's Guinnias Day, but the late arrival is the same fun as getting a birthday present from afar a week later - it just makes the day being celebrated a bit longer.

To my delight, Ms. Elida also enclosed a copy of Anne Lamott's book on writing, and pointed out that Lamott makes the statement "Writing makes you a writer." I am so thrilled to get this book, and will jump into it tonight. It seems like an encouraging message out of the sky, as I just finished Chapter 3 of the my novel, so perhaps my guides are all amused and delighted, and wanted me to know. It's wonderful when people I've never met, [although, my gift giver is a loyal follower of my blog and my art] reach out with morsals like this, encouraging me, and just making the world seem like a pretty darn good place to be, if one has to carry a body around.

A funny part of the story, when Elida went to buy the animal crackers, she was buying a lot of snack stuff for a super bowl gathering. As the cashier checked it all through, she came to the bags of animal crackers and said, "Oh, you're even getting them these fun cookies," and Elida said, "No, those are for an old goat in Oregon."
It's wonderful that some how the whim of Apifera has touched a checkout woman in Conneticut.

So, to my fairy from afar, Guinnias is appreciative, as am I. And to let you all know, last Friday's special Guinnias Day was very special - the weather was warmish, and he and I spent some of it together in the vegetable bed which we are prepping for planting. At the last minute, I decided 'no guests", which allowed him to enjoy some time around me and cookies without getting banged by Frankie. We did enjoy the company of late arriving chickens. I neglected to make a special head piece for him, but one knows, clothes and accesories don't make the goat.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

No gym required

I've been conversing a lot with fellow freelancers about how to combat fear and anxiety in these rather unsettling economic times. I've fortunately got a few things on my side - a sense of humor, the ability to play, and a [usually] optimistic look at life. Plus, let's face it, I live with donkeys. And most imporatnatly, I love what I do, even when I'm not making money, which is key to anyone's longevity in a career, and life.

However, making a self employed household operate has its challenges, and one can fall into habits of coping that in the long run can back fire.Last year in February, my father was in hospice, and the entire election process was in full swing. Listening to cynical rhetoric of talking heads, together with the reality of life and death can lead even a happy-apron wearing- pie baking-shepherd girl to console herself with...well, bounties of the earth, such as apples and grapes. Only you put the apples in a butter crust, and the grapes get squished by toes and put into bottles and then served in a nice bulbous glass.

So after a year of consoling myself, and then a few months of rejoicing after the election, I felt I needed to make some subtle changes in daily existance and sustennace. One is the the little squished red grapes in the bottle has been cut in half. Second is, my walking schedule has been upgraded, which Huck likes. And now I've added a 30 minute a day dance time out in the studio. When I lived in Portland, I took my first Nia class and just loved it. I had always wanted to try modern dance, but never did. And Nia gave me that outlet, together with incorporating healing arts for my body and muscles. The walking is great, but the dancing gets my heart pumping, and it just feel good.

If you are near a Nia class, try it - of course a lot can depend on the teacher, and I lucked out with mine. My second teacher was trained professionally in ballet, and had a much more aggressive and dictorial class. So don't give up if you get a bad fit of a teacher. Nia means "Neuromuscular Integrative Action," and fuses dance movement, the martial arts and healing arts into an invigorating cardiovascular fitness program. In essence, Nia combines elements of tai-chi, yoga and dance. Nia allows you to find joy in moving, and the joy in loving how your body moves. I find when I dance like this, I feel free, vital, and I feel like ME.

This week, I've been dancing to an old favorite, "Little Creatures" by the Talking Heads. When I lived in Brooklyn way back when it came out, I listened to it obsessively on the subway commute from Brooklyn into the city. It's still good.

And as you see from these pictures, you don't need fancy work out clothes-in fact holey ones work, and you don't need a gym to dance. And your pigtails will enjoy it too.