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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Crazy 'Buttercup' Days

Become a Fan at my Facebook page. and take another $100 off of the current sale price for our beloved "Buttercup" painting. That would make the price a smashing milky price of $495 [includes USA s/h, and that's a framed painting].

You have to email me though so I can send you an electronic email [or you can pay other ways, just ask]...note that the store lists the price at the regular sale price of $595.

Buttercup would love a home in the Midwest where cows have lush grass all summer. Or the East where she might catch some Atlantic storm breezes. She's up for anything though.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apifera hits 106

And what is an old farm boy like Boone to do, but hope that the Two Footer With Dirty Nails comes out and gives him some hose therapy.

When it's this hot, I allow a certain amount of whining. Normally, whining on Apifera requires immediate 'go-in-and-wrestle-a-ram-and trim-his-feet' duty...but the mind loses all ability to retain rules, computer passwords or form sentences in this kind of heat. We eat our food raw out of the garden, fearing any cooking inside or out will release even minute quantities of heat.

I have been staying in and doing office duties all week, crammed in my studio with a raggedy AC window unit, dressed in the most raggedy heat wave wear I have. I'm so lucky to have the AC unit, even though it's a piece of crap. I am also allowed to use words like 'crap' in heat waves. My normal Apifera kind and generous tone gets to be a bit roughened. Survival of the fittest requires some frayed edges.

Hose therapy with Boone is quite fun, even in a heat wave. He loves to hold the hose. He also loves to have the water stream shot directly into his mouth. While this might seem like a form of water boarding to some, Boone knickers if you stop. He is the funniest fellow.

The chickens are also getting hose therapy, and they are not as enamored with it. But a chicken panting is a hot chicken. While panting is normal in hot weather, I always fret most about the chickens. So far, no one has died. I must do a chicken post soon and get you up to speed on the many new ladies of Apifera and their lovely underpants.

The animals are so stoic in this heat. Guinnias actually sits out in it late into the day. I think it feels good on his arthritic body. But I make him go in at some point. The goats stay in a lot, and the donks do fine. The ewes are the most stoic of all, nobly doing their job, taking long grazing times in full sun, then retreating, but always going back out. They do not like hose therapy and are conditioned not to need it. The One Eyed Pug is not allowed out until after sun down to protect him from disastor, and even Huck lays around in Labrador daze. Big Tony sleeps on his back in front of a fan, and the other cats are nowhere to be seen most of the day, as they retreat to their many private forested enclaves, known only to a small clan of cats, snakes and unfortunate mice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pino admirer comes for a visit

We were thrilled to meet yet another one of Pino's admirers,who stopped to visit while driving up from California. Tai has been reading my blog, and following along with Pino for a couple years now. It is one of the most rewarding things, to meet people from all over the States who stop by in their travels.

Alas, I did not serve pie.

"What, no pie?!"

It was 100 degrees, so a warm apple pie just didn't seem fitting. Tai enjoyed meeting some of the many characters she has grown to know from my short stories, and we hung out with the donks for some time. As usual, Lucia stole yet another visitor's heart.

The visit was too short though. Tai and her mate were on their way to the next pit stop and were already late. It was just cool they drove out to see us, on a very hot day. Of course neither of us had our cameras. I guess we document our days so much, that sometimes it's just nice to visit.

I've been reading Tai's blog awhile now, and you must go over and give it some time. Her witty insights constantly amuse, and make me think. And of course, you can meet the superstar, Puck.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Heat wave mash

Ninety five yesterday. One hundred today. One hundred and five tomorrow. And next day. Unable to form. Sentences. Words mashed. Taking dirt farmer. To ocean. Fresh lemon cucumbers...took them. Put in a sushi. Water. Blanket. Back later. Swim in river.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reciprocal gifts

The blog-facebook-twitter explosion has much to be disturbed about, but there is also much to celebrate about it. It can allow people to share in ways that truly do move the heart. It can provide a platform to inspire people, and it can generate an energy around a subject that helps propel a movement of some kind.

I feel that way about the blog and Donkey Dreams. I have a long way to go to make Donkey Dreams what I envision, and that vision is evolving bit by bit. When I stop to imagine what I want this little pie and donkey sharing gig to be, I have to remember that there are already so many people that have been touched by it, and many or most of those people are from far away, people I've never met or spoken with.

The internet defiantly allows the crazies to rant without a face, the angry to vent about lovers they never really had and the lonely shut ins to find a cyber family. But it also allows genuine acts of friendship to take place. I have met people through my blogs- some are artists, some are farmers, some are just donkey crazy. Some of those are casual little email friendships, some have turned into genuine friendships developed like any other. Blog readers from all over the country ask to visit when they're coming through Oregon...while I have to screen these requests and sometimes say 'no', so far each visit has been memorable, and I'm in touch with each of them.

I spend so much time trying to blog well, and create ways to sell art, or do Donkey Dreams justice, that sometimes I forget I am making a difference. And last week, a wonderful gift arrived, not for Pino, but for me. It was a handmade bag from a woman that had already sent 4 lovely hand made aprons for the last Pie Day. But this gift was just for me, to 'keep' she told me. Her adult daughter wrote this note with the gift from her 70+ mother whose name is Ruth...

..."as I've told you, she's a pretty special person and a recent cancer survivor [diagnosed in 2007, came through surgery, chemo and radiation with rare aplomb]. She makes her bags for lots of people and her greatest joy is giving them away."

Well, that's what it is. Giving it away. That's what I want to do, give some pie to someone. Share my donkey. I know what it feels like. I do need help with it, to help defray costs. Someday, I hope to have weekend scholarships, where I can bring a cancer child or adult onto the farm. They can stay in a little retreat Airstream [now there's a dream!] and live like a farmer, or an artist, and commune with the animals. That's my dream. Ruth's gift helped me remember though, I do touch people already, and she in turn touched me.

That's the way I want the Internet to work in my life.

Thank you, Ruth. Your tote bag will be used for many things. And since I've already warned you and your daughter I'll be using is as a dirt farmer, I will take some pictures of it in action - like carrying carrots from the garden, hauling special junk, maybe even throw a chicken in it for a walk.

Morning with Pino [and 2 goats]

Just a short peek into life with Pino. This really doesn't do our little magic man justice. But I hope it will be the beginning of a way to share more of Pino, and maybe create more in depth videos of Pino with those he has helped...So if you enjoyed it, give the donk a dollar over on the Donate button, and pass on the link to anyone you want. Or just enjoy it. I hope it makes you smile.

Morning with Pino

I have thought long and hard how much I should put my beloved little donkey in the glare of the media. But my hope is that, if we use these mediums wisely, we can grow our Donkey Dreams, and share with more people. This is just a tiny glimpse of Pino....I hope to make some documentaries of him interacting and sharing with people in need. But for now, this will give his followers a very teeny, tiny, glimpse of him. It really does not do him justice...but it also helps to get my head wheels churning.

If you like this movie, you can donate $1 to Donkey Dreams at http://www.donkey-dreams.blogspot.com and then you can pass it on to as many people as you'd like.Or just enjoy it for what's worth.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Gods of the Garden

With mid summer's heat comes the beauty and perseverance of the one and only Globe Thistle. These magnificent sculptures sit unnoticed in the early spring, surrounded by plants in early bloom. Spring arms and tendrils grow around them, providing a bit of shade with blasts of warm light. Others come and admire the beauty of the Spring bounty, fawning over hues of greens and yellows, blasts of pinks and purples. But no one notices the lurking royalty underneath. They confidently know their place, and they wait patiently for their time of glory. Come late July, when many have faded, the Kings and Queens of endurance rise up, and explode with purple crowns. As others fade around them, shriveling, yearning for water, the Globe Thistles stand strong, inviting hummingbirds and butterflies to their crowns. Their strength and beauty does not entice them to put themselves above any others that fade as they still stand, for they know in due time they too shall drop their beautiful purple crowns and returned unnoticed to the earth.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The process one goes through

I just posted a series of paintings over on my Facebook page that I did back when my father was dying. I feel like I can share them now, again. They needed to be tucked away for awhile.

I'm going to keep the Facebook page very much about art, art process, illustration jobs and creative issues. This blog is really about me, my farm stories and my animal muses, with my artist's viewpoint of it.

So if you are a follower of my art, you'll enjoy the Facebook Page and when you become a fan you'll also hear about Fan Appreciation Sales and discounts.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Miss Prairie Pussytoes has gone

I had hoped she'd return, but it appears Pussytoes is truly gone. She disappeared once about a month ago, along with Bradshaw, but since they came to the farm as adult ferels, they were more prone to roam. But that time they came back after about 3 days.

This time they went missing over 10 days ago now, but Bradshaw came back after a day or so. The reality is she probably is not coming back this time.

Appearing in the hay barn one day back in'05, she was sweet from the start. I wonder if she and Bradshaw were siblings, as he sort of appeared soon after. She had a wonderful fluffy coat. She loved the simple things in life, like sitting in the sun. Martyn always said, "She's a real beauty". While she hung with the barn gang, Pussytoes was one of the few cats who would 'crossover' into the Big House area. She never came to the porch, but would meet up with me near the gardens. I will miss her in the vegetable garden, as she always came to share company while I weeded.

I hope if you died, it was quickly and that your body rests somewhere under bramble to feed the earth. The cats of Apifera are dispersing into other realms. Bittersweet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To all apron donators

Pino has most of his thank you gifts ready to send out. Watch that post box in the next couple weeks.

Chaos of a shepherdess

The death of a mouse inspires this post...

It's been a bit chaotic of late. One of my least favorite times on the farm is weaning the ram lambs from the ewes. This happens anywhere from 3-4 months of age, and it's a day or more of heart breaking lamb bleats..."What are you doing over there? I need some milk! There's something wrong, the flock is there, I am here!", the little men cry.

By pulling these lambs from their mothers and flock, it is the first step in the reality of harvesting an animal for one's own sustenance. After five years of doing this, I can't say it's any easier, but the cycle makes more sense to me. I can't speak for anyone else that raises animals, but for me, the sheep are very different than pets. They have an important role to play, they have a job. The first year, I hung onto as many of the ram lambs as I could, selling them for breeding. The idea of butchering them all was just too much to take for my new farmer head.

But as I watched these animals from season to season, as I interact with them on a twice daily or more basis, as I sit in the field and really watch them interact, I see them as they are - as a sheep. And sheep have a very clear daily mission that is bred into them over centuries - to eat, and to stay in a protective flock. I interact enough with my small flock of 20+, so I do relate to them as individuals. I respect the job they do keeping the lavender field weeded, and fertilized, and I respect the stoic nature of them getting up each day and doing their job without complaint. Their feet are kept trimmed, they are wormed, vaccinated, and often massaged on their backs.
They are never left in torrents of rain, and have food and water and warmth. And a routine.

The job of these young rams is to eat, and be sheep like. The day I separate them out is a stoic day for me. I hate it. But my job as shepherdess is to create a system to wean them that is as least stressful on them as possible. I have a system this year of putting them in a side stall next to the flock, so they can still smell them, and hear them. They run with the big rams now. I have come to accept this weaning as part of their job here, and that job is to feed us. My job now as shepherdess is to keep their daily routine just as normal as it always was, to greet them each morning with some touching, so that come butcher day, there will be no struggle. With the small flock, this has always worked out, and the butcher who comes to slaughter the animals as told me this.

Yesterday the two boys broke through a poorly rigged up fence and got back with the flock. I had to re-separate them, which was stressful for all three of us. The mother dam has all but weaned them and was more concerned when she could sense I was stressed. By busting out of their pasture, the ewes had to be run into the barn through Boone's pasture. I was concerned Boone might see the flock running toward his turnout stall and take after them, but good old Boone, I said, "Stay", and he did. But he looked at him as if to say, "What the heck is going on here?" at which point Frankie ran into his pasture and announced, "Chaos! Chaos! We have total chaos!"

This all happened after a day in the studio, and two hours in the field. I was tired, it was close to 8 pm. I was ready for food and wine, not necessarily in that order. I did not conduct myself well. I lost patience. The sheep immediately picked up on the grumpy shepherd attitude, and 1/2 the flock went one way, and 1/2 went another. Frankie proceeded to block any sheep that tried to head in the barn. Can't blame her, it was not the normal procedure, and God forbid, they were headed into the hay barn where her food was!! Eeegads, call the Sheriff!

While Boone continued to stand stoically, knowing this too would pass, I finally rounded up the flock, and got the two boys separated again. Somewhere in there I tripped on Guinnias, and yelled at him. Yes, I yelled at a senior citizen half deaf goat.

When all was quiet on the western front, I walked out to Boone to cool off. He didn't move an inch. I love kissing Boone's eyelids, and ears. He walked back to barn with me, let out a sigh, and I told him that it was he, not I, that was the better shepherd that day. I spent some time with the sheep, just being still, and then sat with Guinny awhile, apologizing. He seemed very understanding.

On my way into the house, I found a little mouse, still alive, lying on his back in the grass, his little paws contorted. He had a gaping hole in his lower body, innards could be seen. But he was breathing, suffering, eyes open. I stomped by boot on him fast, killed him. It needed to be done. "I'm so sorry," I told him, and returned him to the cool earth under the fennel forest.

I was inspired to try to sketch the face of the mouth, his little mouth open, and breathing. The weaning, the mouse, it was all intertwined for me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

From a German farmgirl of WW1

After Pie Day '09, I recieved a note from one of Pino's followers, Kirsten in New York. She had two aprons she wanted to send for the Apron Gallery.

What is so touching about these is they came from her Grandmother, who was rasied on a farm in the WW1 era, before emmigrating to the US in 1928. Grandmother Erna was a wonderful baker, and she actually made the Christmas apron. She lived to be 98 years old. Kirsten thought it only fitting that the apron spend time on our farm before finding a new home.

I love this! I love that these objects have stories of love behind them. Oh, I'd love to talk to Erna and hear about her life on the farm.

Thank you, Kirsten, for sharing these. They are both special. And greetings to Esme and Doug.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bud bud bud

I have the '08 bud blend on sale over at the store blog. Time to make room for this year's harvest. The '08 blend is a combination of two of our lavender varieties, and is slightly camphor like with a tinge of sweetness. Perfect for all your crafts, sachet makings, soap and more.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pino's final Twitter thoughts

After a day or two to read all the emails and messages about Pino's tweet concerns, Pino and I have decided that there is merit in Twitter as a communication form for certain things: announcements, sales/raffles, animals in need, farm charities and events.

So if you are into Twitter and want to keep in touch with those things in our world, you can follow Pino's tweets at http://twitter.com/pino_ponders.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Barnyard Meeting: Part Two

The barnyard gasp had just sunken into silence when a faint, slow, click-clop was heard in the near distance. A small statured creature from the old barn quietly plodded out to the crowd, it's head bent...

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

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Barnyard meeting mystery: Part One

Cameras are not allowed at these meetings. It's difficult to take notes and sketch too, but I did my best....
When I peered out the door's window, I saw no one. Then I looked downward, and there was the pygmy body of Frankie. She peered up, and very matter of factly announced,"Barnyard meeting. Starts in 5 flies."

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

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ode to a blue egg

This painting is available for purchase here.

Back in the spring, we found a little blue egg, unscathed, in the middle of the drive. It seemed wrong to not pick it up, and place it somewhere more honorable. The unborn bird inside it was surely dead, or ill formed. But it was a miracle an egg survived a drop from a tree, or a bird.

Months later at Pie Day, someone saw the egg, and picked it up and starting goofing off with it. To make a long story short, the egg ended up being destroyed. While it might not seem like a big deal, I took great offense to this. It was disrespectful to us, and our farm, but it was a human being acting casually about nature. I buried the crushed shell and the contents.

It prompted ideas, posted at Raggedy-Sketches, and this painting was a love letter and a promise to that little creature, and the beautiful, perfect, blue egg.

Dirt farmer photo lesson

After a 90+ degree day, we sat outside under the night time sky, watching the stars...and listening to the hills ringing with every idiot in the county shooting bullets towards the moon. After surviving the celebratory gunfire, we ate our farm raised beef burgers [we rarely eat beef, but it was a nice change], fried potatoes, beet greens, and pecan pie. I asked Martyn to take a picture of me and the One Eyed Pug with our pecan pie, but it turned into more of a belly shot of Billy.

The day was hot, but with help we harvested 1/4 of the lavender field. Watered the 400 CREPS trees. Martyn always jokes, "At Apifera, we wear our clothes until they fall of us."

Took a dip in the river too...our first of the season.

There is much to share this week...like a story about an ear, a barnyard meeting to discuss social networking benefits, and more art....stay tuned.

Friday, July 03, 2009

More help for Hospice Day

Received these charming fabric swatches/prayer flags for the August Hospice event. They came from donkey loving [she owns a donkey named Jubel] Sharon all the way out in Virginia. I thought I smelled donkey on them! Wink.

To find out how you can send prayer flags to Pino, click here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"Oh yea, this was my idea."

The fresh cut season is in full swing. Lavender is like any pregnant creature about to give birth - when it's time, it's time, and you can't stand around looking for the overnight bag. The adage, "Make hay while the sun shines" makes much more sense when you live with any crop that needs to be cut and brought out of the field at a certain time for optimum results. We have learned so much about timing in the past five years. When I look back on that first year 's harvest, oh it is funny! We made so many mistakes and just bumbled along like Jethro and Nellie May in Paris. We've learned when to cut for fresh cut, versus when to cut for dried bundles, bud or oil. We learned that the paper clips you buy at Staples are crap. We learned that the bees tell us when to cut. We learned that each season you think you can do it all on your own, but you can't. We learned that the locals think we're nuts. And most importantly, we learned that you should plant your rows after you measure how wide your tractor is so it will fit through the rows.

Many write me about the romance of my life here, and it's true, there is much romance at Apifera, minute to minute. Much of that romance is for my own personal pleasure, and I don't need or care to share it with anyone - it is just my daily life. Some of the romance is construed by the readers of this blog. Like a glossy magazine, they see the pictures and hear the stories with the gentle endings, and they can edit out what they don't care to deal with. They see me at my best, as I can edit my words, appear calm in any storm, wisely guiding myself through life. But behind the scenes of any good movie, there are a few dirty little secrets - like the fact that a couple nights ago after leaving the field I was tired, grumpy, hungry and I had no patience. I yelled at Frankie because she was being a pain in my butt. And I had no time to discuss the beautiful sunset with Guinnias like I often do. I had no energy to brush Boone, and everything seemed like work.

We get the well intentioned offers, "Hey, we'll come out and work in the field with you for an afternoon and then we'll barbeque."....Ah, okay, but you best bring your own chef and wheelchair. Living on a farm with a crop, and livestock, is constant, hard, manual labor. It is not for sissies. It is not for dwaddlers, or pontificators, or wanna-a-be's. But I like it. I like growing a crop, on our land, and improving the crop over seasons. Watching a 1" seedling grow to a 4" wide beast that produces 10 large bundles is....sort of miraculous. It reminds you of the power of nourishment. It reminds you that a tiny seed turns into something. It reminds you that living is a verb, and that earth is a pretty cool realm to be jiving in.

I am a little spring woodland flower, and in the heat, I wilt. My roots shrink and I can't function. So I have to time my work around mornings and evenings. Together with Martyn's efforts, and field helpers we bring in at optimal times, we get the crop off the field. It's a 6 am rise time for Martyn, and often we work until 9 pm. The first year, I remember I had a horrible case of poison oak on both arms and wrists, and I had my arms wrapped in cotton to protect my open sores. It was 80+ degrees. We had no helpers lined up for field work. I remember sitting in the field on my knees at one point, looking out at a sea of lavender, and crying. My dirt farmer lifted me out of my despair by reminding me he had a fresh lamb rack waiting to grill at the house, with a bottle of wine. When I said we'd never get through this, he said we would. When I asked in despair, "Whose idea was this any way, to grow all this lavender?" He gently reminded me, "Yours."