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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Some of the Prayer Flags

I wanted to show just a few of the prayer flags that people created for the Hospice Day. All the prayer flags will now be sent back to the Volunteer Coordinator at Kaiser's Hospice group. I think the idea was to encourage this as a tradition for families and hospice workers - to add to the collection through out the years, and maybe hang them as a long banner somewhere at Kaiser...I also hope to donate an illustration usage to them, and I'll be getting in touch with them on that soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Patiently awaiting

Tomentosa sits atop his favorite vantage point, patiently waiting for his nightly cue to run to the barn for dinner. If one must wait, doing it patiently, with such regal posture as this seems a worthy goal.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Introducing Mabel Dodge, the chicken, named after Mabel Dodge the woman. I thought a fitting name for this very lively, non conforming hen. She's a bohemian in nature with her Araucanian egg color different than the other girls, and her stunning feathered attire. Mabel the hen is a bit flighty, not one to sit still too long, just like her name sake. You can read more about Mabel the woman here, and if you are lucky, visit her Taos residence which is now a museum. I was lucky enough to go there years ago. I like flawed women, who create some stir. Wealthy, married a million times, dabbler in certain social sets, she was a sort of a pain in the butt too, but she lived a colorful life.

I almost called her Clara Barton, but in the end, her independent behavior seemed more Mabel Dodge like, than a Civil War nurse. She looks a lot like her Aracauna flock mate who you will meet shortly, and except for the puffy cheeks of Mabel, they are hard to tell alike, but their personalities are different once you spend time with them. Aracuana have beautiful blue-grey legs, and of course lay the green eggs [or blue, and someone also told me pink..].

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Introducing Edmonia Lewis, the chicken

I struggled to find the proper name for her. Her black mop reminded me of a wig, something that Liza would wear in a Vegas show. But she is more dignified than that, quieter, but very secure in her place in the flock. She is one of the first three hens out in the morning, and hangs out in the Jane-Golda group [who you will meet later this month.]

I called her Eliza for a few days, sort of like Liza, but more reverential. Thought of Tina Turner, but, no, just not right. Ella, Lena, Pearl...the name and face that kept returning was one of the Three Stooges, Mo - you know, the one with the black mop haircut.

Geeze, I can't name her after a Stooge. So I set out to create a name around the name Mo. As flock caretaker, this was my duty to her. And so I came upon Edmonia Lewis, a black woman born in the States in the 1800's who is noted as the first Black woman sculptor. Her story was inspiring in that she recreated her life in a daring way for the times, and she also recreated her name to be Edmonia Lewis, having been given the name Wildfire by her Chippewa mother. She moved to Italy in her early career and became famous and sought after as an artist. I liked that she "...created many of the myths that amazed, tantalized, and generated interest in her work."

So Mo is a myth maker too, as we all are. Joseph Campbell would approve too, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Hospice Day pics

Some of our guests from Hospice Celebration Day were nice enough to send these pics.
Thank you! And sorry I look so grumpy in the group shot. And apologies to Pino too, I grabbed Lucia to be in the group shot...which she liked.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Attempted pie heist at Apifera!

"I heard the door."

"Relax, they won't even notice."

"If we work our way upward, we have a shot at the pie table."

"She made blackberry this time."

"I know, I know, it's worth the risk of getting busted."

"Let's go for it - you head for the right, I'll divert them on the left. They always act calmer when they have guests so as not to look frazzled. I'll entice the guests, that's your chance to grab the pie. Ready?"

"I'm ready, Big Bear, on three." Note: I've discovered with each mission, the goats have code names.

"One, two, three..."

And they were off. As the hospice guests enjoying a reprieve at our Pie Party we had this month, Stella and Iris had plans of their own. Our friend and guest, Emma, caught the daring twosome in the act, having just broken out of their pasture, making their way up to the pie table.

Alas, the covert operation was diverted at Walnut Hill by the dirt farmer, and they were banished to the back 5.

But let's hear it for the old girls, they sure know how to entertain at a party. And one can't blame them for trying to sneak a pie or two. Later that night, I brought them fresh berries for a supper side dish.

Teeny weenie deedle donkey arrives at Apifera

One of the great things about having a donkey so many know and love, is when they see a donkey of any kind, they think of Pino, and sometimes they are propelled forward to send little sweet nothings through the mail.

Actually, this isn't a sweet nothing, it's a sweet something, and hand made by one of our readers/fans/animal supporters - Diana Alexander, otherwise known as Deedle Dumpling. Pino prefers to call her Deedle because it makes his lips twitch and tickle when he says it.

Thank yo, Deedle. You make us smile too.

More pics from Hospice Day '09

More pics are hopefully going to come from our Hospice Day from a few of the guests. Emma sent these. I love how Frankie the pygmy is right in the action as Annette [the Kaiser Hospice Volunteer coordinator] shows her young son the donkeys.
And me and wonderful Miss Emma.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Morning with Boone

Boone and I needed some quality time together, woman and horse. We headed out to the nearby farm that is generous enough to let me use their round pen and riding arena.

Once their, we did some ground work to work out some of Boone's vim and vinegar. He had some of it this morning, for sure!

Then we head over to the arena, where the view is greatly appreciated.

And I can enjoy all the things I love about Boone, like his mane blowing.

After some good cantering and lead changes, we head on back to the farm...
and Pino welcomes us home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The secret exposed

Graphic language of reality is included in this post. If you don't like thinking where food comes from - or should come from- don't read any further. However, I hope if you mindlessly buy meat in a plastic wrap, you might stop for a few minutes and feel the heartbeat of a small farm- and consider finding a small farm to buy meat from if you do choose to eat meat.

The smiles on our faces are genuine, but mask the yearly anxiety I have the night before butcher day.

I witnessed their births, nurtured them, kept them safe and dry in rain, and kept them well hydrated with the river's finest water in heat. I did not baby them with goo-goo talk, but each morning, I touched them enough to promote trust to the human, knowing that come their final day it would be easier on them. I sent them off to work each morning, with the same salutation, "Do good work today. I appreciate it." Their job was clear - eat well, grow well, for your bodies will nourish us through the year.

The mobile slaughter company calls the week they are scheduled to come harvest the lambs, and gives us a firm day and time for the butchering. It is at that moment I usually get the giant uncomfortable feeling that hangs over me until the deed is over. Heartburn ensued this year. It's like I have this giant secret I'm keeping, and we all know keeping secrets has it's consequences on the secret holder.

I got them up this morning, and gave them my little blessing I have honed over the past five years. While I don't sob, I always get a tear in my eye. They look at me like they do every morning, perhaps sensing my anxiety. I try to do everything as normal as the day before. I've learned to stall up the goats and this year the ewes are way on the other side of the farm, so they won't witness anything. But they'll smell it when they return at night. I brought the boys out this morning and put them in another turnout area in the old barn. It's the stall where their mother sleeps. There they will have open air, shade, and a dash of hay to occupy them until the butcher arrives. The butcher will arrive in one hour, usually with an assistant. As I stay hidden in my studio, they will grab each sheep at the same time, and slit their throats, through to the spinal cord. Martyn has witnessed it. I only have experienced it with chickens. An experienced butcher, with a sharp and correct instrument, will allow the animal to feel nothing. They die instantly. [Here is a good source to educate yourself on the process, and to see links of actual scientific studies that have been done on this. The Muslims get a lot of grief for this butcher technique, and it is unfounded and I feel predjudice. 'Stunning' an animal as large meat processors do does not necessarily render it unconscious. My butcher helped me understand, that shooting a sheep can pose problems- they are so small that the bullet can go through their head [also a danger to butcher and other animals] and the animal can remain alive.]

They are gutted and bled out near the compost pile. All is done within 20 minutes or so. Their blood drips into the compost/manure pile that feeds the mangle of giant pumpkins now growing in it. The same compost pile nourishes worms and grubs nourishing hens nourishing internal eggs that we will also eat.

While the butcher cleans up before leaving, it's never thorough enough, and I always return there the second they leave, to wash down the area. The smell of blood is in the air. Boone is the only animal that will witness the gutting, he is stoic about it, like he takes any activity. The donkey will most likely bray, even though he is on the other side of the barnyard, out of site. The first year, Pino stood on that compost pile and brayed and brayed and brayed, a farewell of sorts. While he hadn't witnessed the butchering, he smelled the blood. A kinsman was gone, "Hail" to the kinsman." he brayed over and over.

While the hanging bodies, skinless, are trucked to the butcher facility where they will hang for a few weeks, their skins, heads, and feet are carried off in a truck, full of others that have died that morning. I witnessed the death truck once, as I returned to the barn to clean up the slaughter area, thinking the butcher unit had driven off, but they were just leaving. There on the top of the open backed truck was the little head of my lamb, tongue sticking out, eyes open.

Before the butcher drives off, he'll leave the organ meat in a small cooler, left for him in the barn. Tonight, as has become our tradition, we will eat seared, fresh liver.

So this morning I got the lambs up like usual, and tonight I will eat their livers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Introducing...Madeleine Albright, the chicken

Stay tuned throughout the month to meet the new crop of Apifera hens. Strong gals in their own right, they are each named after strong women I know or admire.

May I introduce you to....cluck, cluck, cluck, scratch, scratch....Madeleine Albright, the chicken, not the woman. This year I am naming the new hens after 'strong women', and there's a very good reason I chose to honor Ms. Albright by naming this chicken after her. I'm sure if she reads this, she'll agree.

At an early age, maybe around one month, this hen showed signs of a crooked beak, where the top beak was crossing over the bottom, also referred to as 'scissor beak". As she matured more, the malformity seemed to get worse. Even at birth, she had a funny looking nostril area. As her beak kept growing, her top bill was unable to close, making her foraging and eating techniques difficult. She must use her beak as a scoop. Fortunately, her tongue [chickens tongues are like snakes, they are very long and come out to catch things on the fly] worked well. At about 2 months, after hours of research, I determined we should snip the top beak, hoping it would allow her mouth to shut better. The research was sort of 50/50 on this, and many chicken breeders opt to butcher any scissor beaked hen, as they will not be good layers. So we clipped her beak, but we made the mistake of taking that final clip a bit too deep. Blood poured out like we'd cut her leg off. I dabbed it in flour and it eventually stopped. She took it in stride.

The clipping of the beak only helped a bit, but her mouth still doesn't close, and if you open her beak wide, she can't shut it.

The only thing I fear is that she will suffocate some day. Because Maddie can't peck properly, she must scoop. Her lower and upper beak are like little shovels, since they are deformed, and can't be worn down through use like a normal beak. Every few days I clean out her beaks, as I assume bacteria will form, or she'll choke. I've actually seen the other hens 'clean out' her beak, gently, so they might take care of it for me. I've spent hours watching her when she does go out to forage, and she'll smash her beak into a raw zucchini, and then use her tongue to lap up what manages to stay in her mouth. She is about 20% smaller than the others. but no one picks on her.

A special needs chicken she is, as I will always have to provide extra crumble for her. While the other hens spend most of the day foraging on the farm, Maddie stays close to home, where her beloved food dish is close by. She is the first up in the morning to get to her dish, and again at night, she waits for e in her dish. She gets enough food for 3 hens, but since she wastes a lot of it, she hasn't grown as rapidly as the others.

So, we have named her after a strong woman who has over come much in her life, including running with the male political wolves. And Ms. Albright the person is a wonderful example of a woman not considered beautiful by Vogue Magazine. Her glamour is her ability to survive and prosper through her own actions. She can feed herself, thank you very much. Nor should a society consider 'culling' the likes of Ms. Albright for her nose size.

A hen is born with a set number of eggs in her body. They can't lay any less than that number, nor can they lay any more. I told Maddie even if the books are right, and her eggs are small or scattered, it makes no difference to me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chicken underwear coming soon

The new Apifera hens will be introduced this week. But it must be done properly, formerly, and I must first get caught up on some projects today.

My desire to introduce you to them was tripled yesterday when I found the first blue egg...sweet and tiny, a pastel robin blue. Who was responsible? I have some tipsters helping me discover the new egg layer...but new hens are tight lipped about their first eggs. Much like getting your first period, I'm sure these girls are somewhat perplexed, somewhat horrified that shelled objects are popping out. You just don't run around the barnyard screaming about your new puberty.

So stay tuned...I think you will appreciate their individual characters.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

And another Pie Day is over...

I posted pictures of Hospice Celebration day over at Donkey Dreams. It was a perfect, wonderful day of pie and converstaion with wonderful, caring individuals who spend their working days helping fellow human beings make the great transition we must all take at one time or another. We were honored to have them at our farm.

And the One Eyed Pug did the clean up.

And we thank the guests...

Hospice Celebration Day was just perfect. We had about 35 people maybe more, just a nice size to contend with since I had no helpers. Emma-the-fabulous-Emma had coordinated the hospice caretakers on her end at Kaiser, so I owe a lot to her for her help [insert brays for Emma here].

I think everyone who was invited had a moment of..."A pie party for us? But she doesn't know us...and there will be donkeys there...to hug?"...I can understand the trepidation of being invited out of the blue to a farm to have pie with a total stranger. But everyone who did come got a lot out of their visit. It was a respite for them.

We had chaplains, hospice volunteers and hospice nurses, plus some family members. The weather was perfect, cool with a dash of sun and then a dash of clouds. I must say, the blackberry pie was quiet perfect, but the peach was a winner too. Some people brought picnics of their own garden fare.

But more than anything, I really enjoyed and appreciated talking to some of the hospice nurses about the process we go through at the end of life. And what a privilege it is to be a witness to it. I want to write more about it later.

When we sat down last night, just me and Martyn, we relived the day and I think Martyn summed it up best with, "They just do such important work, day in and day out, without a respite in between deaths."

But also, we got filled up with their visit too. We put a lot of energy out for our guests, but we always get filled up too. Just like the land reciprocates our hard work and gives us bounties, I know the our hard work gave bounties to the guests, and their presence gave us bounties in return.

So enjoy the few photos I could take. Hoping people will send some more, including the group shot at the end of the day.
Me and the wonderful Emma - hospice nurse,animal lover and friend [wearing one of my aprons she bought some time ago].

I have to scan some of the prayer flags that came to the event. We had people write things to caregivers they know, clients or family. I'll be turning them over to Kaiser Volunteer Hospice person, who has an idea to hang them, and maybe get family members to add to them over the years.

This little guy has blackberry stains all over his face if you look closely. He also spent a lot of time making a path to a blackberry bramble and offered to come each year and clear a path, or even 'bring a lawn mower'.
Carol[left] is a Hospice Chaplain. She was a hoot! Can you tell? She found one of my apron creations in the studio and had to have it, even though the friend she came with had wanted to buy it. So Carol put that apron on and wouldn't take it off. It says "Old hippies make good pie". I love this picture. It makes me happy.

And in the end, all the guests had left, and the One Eye Pug designated himself the cleanup committee.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Good smellin' and sweet

My illustrated fabrics are currently only sold by me at my online store. Fabrics are printed at Spoonflower.

I have some new small pillows and sachets made over on the store. I absolutely love the illustrated fabric I've been getting from Spoonflower. So far the quality is great, and they ship very fast. I'm happy with the colors too.

So if you like the Cats & Bees for Peace pillow [don't you love the 1940's era inspired pink fabric? I do.]head on over.

Or maybe you want a sleeping bunny, or a rise and shine bunny like the little pillows below. All are stuffed with our lavender, and sewn with clumsy fingers and erratic foot pedal control by...moi.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pino gets art

One of Pino's fans sent a sweet notecard with a stamp on it of Pino. Well, when other people besides me draw Pino, it's the highest of compliments. Paula also sent us a great apron this year. Thank you, Paula!

The lonely daisy

In which a little daisy has hope, but then despair.

Once upon a time there was a little daisy.

She lived all alone and was very lonely. "I wish someone would be my friend," she said to herself.

One day, a little donkey stopped by.
"Hello, my name is Lucia. Will you be my friend?"
"Oh yes! I need a friend, Lucia."

A little goat walked by.
"Friend? I was thinking how wonderful you would be for breakfast."
Lucia cried. So did the daisy.

The end.