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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

With the full moon, new life begins

A friend sent me a Latin quote reminding me of the full moon's door to new life life...la luna llena, and incipit vita nova. And so into the world, onto our farm, came more life. One girl, one boy, two heartbeats. As a first time mother, Fern is doing wonderfully. Calm, proficient she has shown her brood the way around the udder, which is all you can ask for. I usually wait at least 24 hours to put new lambs out, but it was sunny, and it does them good to have sunshine and to be able to walk.

And now we wait for more. I was sure three more ewes were in full blown pre-labor last night, but alas, nature fooled me. I really think Daisy will go tonight. "One day you don't have lambs, the next day you do." That was some of the best lambing advice I ever received, from an old timer when we first started out. I am so very grateful we are off to a healthy start.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring shall come to you too

"Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today; And give us not to think so far away As the uncertain harvest; keep us here, all simply in the springing of the year." -- Robert Frost

What I've noticed about aging into my fifties is more acceptance for the now, more understanding of the past, and an accute awareness that the future comes so fast that
I'm better off relishing the present.

My mother always said that once Labor Day comes, the 4th of July is here before you know it, and once 4th of July comes, Labor Day is here before you know it. She was in her 50's then, I was 20. She was much wiser than me at the time on the speed of life. But time seems to have sped up so much for me, that I have moments of anxiety and slight depression. People that have been fixtures in my life forever are dying, places I used to go with memories attached are being torn down. I have little conversations in my head, such as,

"...wait, wasn't it just yesterday I was there with my parents? What year was that? Oh my, it was 20 years ago. Could it have been so long ago? I was 32."

So it got me to thinking about spring. I had walked out this morning to go to the barn. It was damp, misty, but warm. It was a 50 degree day that smelled of earth. I analyzed how a 50 degree day in a late Oregon February smells different than a 50 degree day in October.

It always comes, Spring does. It might not come in the same way each year, but it always comes. It never dies, or leaves you, it just evolves into other things, and then returns to you down the road, in its own style. That's why when you see little flowers and buds, it's like seeing old friends again after a long absence. You missed them. You remember how they looked and acted, and smelled so nice of natural perfumes. Oh what a joyous reunion, to greet your old friends!

Where ever you are right now, Spring will get to you too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Grandma to Mother to Pino

Pino received another apron yesterday. I love the functional simplicity of this one, not fussy but perfect for really working in your apron [versus sitting around and looking aprony in your apron...you know what I mean.]

But what makes this one so sweet is the note that came with it:

Dear Pino and family,
I am sending you this apron for your Pie Day in June. This was my Grandma's "working" apron" in the 1960's and '70's. My mother then wore it after my Grandma passed away in 1972. I hope it helps raise money to support the old animals. Sincerely, Linda J. and grandson James.

The stationary had "I love my grandma' in typeface, and there was a smiling picture of James printed on the paper.

I thought how wonderful, and generous to hand off an apron of one's own family history.It made me think that donating aprons not only helps Pino's cause, but I think it helps a lot of people 'touch' their loved ones of long ago and connect them to life in a meaningful way.This apron that once held hankies and had flour dustings on it, can go on and be useful for someone.

Thank you, Linda and James!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scrambled egg convention

If you've never been to a scrambled egg convention, you might try to find one nearby. They are quite entertaining. Let me be quite clear though, the menu is very simple: scrambled eggs without seasoning.

Topics of discussion will vary depending on the season. Today I heard a lot of chatter about bees. I guess one of the chickens saw a bee and that had everyone predicting an early spring. Worms have been beefier this month than last, according to Edmonia Lewis.

Today's convention provided lots of pretty chicken underpants sightings...however, one of the Three Janes was horrified I took a picture of her with slightly soiled pantaloons. I lied and told her I wouldn't post it. I rarely lie to the animals, but sometimes on Sundays I do, because I'm tired. They usually know I'm lying, so don't get all bothered by it.

Note: Scrambled egg conventions are held monthly at Apifera in order to keep our egg supply under control. While chickens shouldn't get egg shells [it can inspire them to peck at their own eggs], they love a good scramble. This was a 32 egg scramble. I taste test them, and let me tell you, best scramble ever.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Free from the 'shoulds'

This piece is now available through the artist at this link. Payment plans available.

I set out to paint yesterday...I set out to paint with a beginning vision in my head. It evolved into this piece, which wasn't in my head. While I enjoyed every second of painting it, at first I was disappointed with the result. I hadn't intended to paint such a child like styled piece.

But it was only seconds that passed before I thought, "So what?"....I have no one standing over me telling me I 'should' do more of this or that to fill my portfolio in a certain way. Been there, done that. This is what I got yesterday. It's very worthy.

Floating can be seen as an escape. Escape for the weights we allow to be put on ourselves, shackles we create in our own lives without even realizing it. So called authority figures, or 'bosses", judges, in our lives that become, without us even realizing it, way more powerful than we need to let them be.

But floating is also a way to look at our lives from a new perspective. That is what this piece means to me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Old goat love

It was really sweet to get this surprise in the post yesterday from some repeat supporters.

Lisa and her two daughters sent a note to the Old Goats of Apifera, and it's greatly appreciated! This is the first time Gertie and Georgie have received mail, and while they love to read Guinnias' and Pino's mail, they're feeling pretty special getting some of their own!

Old goat bleats, and shaky foot waves to you all....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Morning Chicken Chat

I always feed the sheep, goats, donks, cats and horse before letting the chickens out to free range. This keeps them from eating their favorite morning power snack- cat food.But today I arrived at the hay barn to find one of the Three Janes....

"Jane, what are you doing in here? You should be in the parlour..." I asked as I tossed hay to Boone.

"Excuse me? Shouldn't I be asking you, "Why am I in the hay barn?" said Jane, rather irritated.

"Well, I assume you didn't go into the chicken parlour last nite with everyone else, " I replied.

"She's been here all nite," said Boone. "And what a princess! She couldn't find the proper roost and kept us all up most of the night."

"Jane, what happened? You should have gone back to the hen parlour when I brought everyone in yesterday."

"I'm just invisible, aren't I? I was in the orchard, I assumed you would do the usual waddle count and come get me... You always come get me."

"Princess..." Boone said under his breath.

"Well, Jane, I apologize, I have a lot of chores, and Sundays I like to do chores early so I can relax sooner than later."

"Relax? I never relax. I'm a scrambled egg maker 24/7. You count on me for breakfast, I count on you for evening waddle check so I don't get eaten."

"Jane, really, I'm so sorry. I overlooked it this one time, it won't happen again."

"One time? Not so fast, missy. We all know what happened to Lyndon...and Inkie.....Chicken Named Dog still likes to spook the younger girls with those stories, and she waits until a quarter moon so it's good and dark in the parlour. Freaks every body out."

"Oh my, well Inkie insisted on laying eggs elsewhere and after making many grand attempts I still couldn't find her. I felt horrible about it too." I said sadly, still trying to win her over.

Jane flew up on my shoulder, as I gathered more hay flakes and headed out to the feed the donkeys, and said, "You just weren't thinking like a chicken."

"Jane, I'm not a chicken, " I said.

"I'm pretty clear on that point!" chuckled Jane, still irritated.

"Look, it was an accident. You know I go to great extremes to keep you girls safe from the night stalkers. Let's not forget I spent over an hour trying to rescue Henny Penny from the roof during a snowstorm." I said rather defensively.

"Ah, yes....you always liked Henny Penny better than any of us!" complained Jane, as she flew down to the ground.

"So not true, Jane," I said as I fed the donkeys.

"Pino, tell her I treat you, Paco and Lucia with the same amount of love. and care."

But Paco chipped in, "Pino is a puppet, and a doll, he has his own Facebook page, and all I have his Paco's Pickles and my Hunting Season Survival Guide."

"I'm very happy with everything," said little Lucia.

And Pino finished a mouthful of hay and said, "I know you do your best. You are a human after all. The confluences of daily life some time muddle your thinking."

Jane flew up on wood pile to get to eye level with me and said, "I forget you're human sometimes. I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Jane. Sometimes I forget you're a chicken."

And another day at Apifera was under way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pino's beauty secrets

Visit the revamped site!

I completely revamped the main art site to reflect the relationship I have as an artist/illustrator/writer with Apifera Farm.

I still have the illustration section for all you art buyers, and the archive section of over 400+ images for re-usage. The print section will be updated as necessary and you can now purchase directly on that site if you want.

Let me know what you think. The puppet section is evolving as I type, and the Books section will be added to as things develop. I'm hoping that the marketing information will be public soon for my first book, coming out later this year. I wrote and illustrated it, and there are over 200 images of my work. I can't wait!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Motherly countdown

Daisy [left] is daughter to Rosie, and is now our oldest ewe at seven. Audrey is daughter to Coral, and it's her first lambing season. Both their mothers died last year due to ketosis.

The anticipation for lambing to begin is thick in the air. As the bellies of my ewes swell to capacity, I can begin to see glimpses of lamb heartbeats in the womb. After last year's tragedies, I am more anxious than usual for this our 6th lambing season.

I have begun my annual techniques that generate eye rolls in both farmers and sheep - scanning each belly to determine if it's triplets again, feeling udders even though we are still 3 weeks off and udders won't swell until a couple days before lambing. A woman must provide herself with as many assurances as possible after loss.

I worked all weekend in glorious weather on the garden, the sheep stalls, trimming feet, prepping lambing areas, and tending to the graves of Rosie, Coral and their 6 lambs. I'm pleased the wild daisies I transplanted from the river to the graves are coming up again, full of life after being fed from the creatures below. I still miss Rosie. Tending a grave is comforting though. I've assured them this year their daughters will do fine and their lambs will thrive. More assurances.

I will hang simple white cotton prayer flags in the barn, made of my father's hankies...one for each pregnant ewe, and two for Rosie and Coral.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Heavenly: a short story

"Is this Heaven, then?" asked the little donkey, as they reached the place often discussed in the chicken yard.

"We still have our fur and feet," his donkey companion said. "And our ears."

A loud, but kind voice from way up high, rung down to their large ears, "This is the exact spot where Donkey Hill merges with Oak Hill."It was a very old Oak Tree, and the donkey gathered underneath her large arms and fingers and toes.

"What do we look like from up high, Old Oak Tree?" asked one donkey. "Do my ears look big from up there?"

"You look like you are just right, " the old tree said.

And the donkeys spent the day there, under her care.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mud on the hill

Muddy continues to grow, examine, and enjoy....just like his handler. He loves dead Queen Anne's Lace and is amused that I had them all strategically located throughout Huck Hill...just for him. Ah, yes, anything for you, my young fellow. He went on his first outing today, to the feed store, and while Huck patiently waited in the car, Muddy learned that squeeky wood floors would not kill him.

And as we returned down the hill, the fog that had covered the clearcut all morning began to lift, allowing us to stand for a moment and encourage it on.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Therapy for all elderly creatures

The Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys, in the UK, does wonderful work helping children of special needs through their therapeutic riding programs with their donkeys. They are also reaching out to elderly people - Read more here. [note: image is from thier site ©ElizabethSvendsentrust.org]

This is my goal, to somehow not only help elderly creatures with donations and adoptions, but to bring elderly people to our farm for donkey therapy. But I'd really like to have days where I can have a Pino visit at an elder facility.


I had this dream several nights ago, and wrote it down quickly.

I was flying over the ocean, but could clearly see the shoreline in the distance, where about 50 people were going about their business. I was far enough out, and high enough up, that the people looked like people, but were unrecognizable. I remember seeing them as tiny specks of color, and remember too I could somewhat hear their chatter. I was holding Big Tony, one of our many cats, in my arms. I had no fear. There were no ships or boats below. As we were flying, I told Big Tony that we had to go back to the ground now, and began telling myself in my head, "Go down now", and we started descending to the ocean. Tony wiggled a little, and I said, "Don't wiggle now, I don't want you to fall," and he stayed in my arms very calmly. In my head, I was very confidant I would not drop him. We were still flying, getting closer to the water and the shore. The dream ended before we reached shore, but I had no fears in the dream even though the ocean floor was fast approaching, and I'd have to make a 90 degree turn to fly to land.

Signs of Apifera

Pino's farm is like one giant story book, with signs leading people around from chapter to chapter.

Death to life

As the white petals fall

and the brown scorched


beneath my feet turn green


I stop, look towards the hills

and breathe in dead leaves

But the creek can be heard

running once again

from night time drinks of snow

Gusts to the bones

Wind blowing through his mane
up onto my hands which hold two reins loosely.
We ride, or I ride and he carries, down a gravel road
chunks of itself missing
after log trucks rush by with their fallen victims.

All around us, before us and in front of us,
lay fallen leaves, dead on arrival.
He stops to ask me with his ears and a twinge of his neck,
"May I have one?"
"No," I say with tight leg, "we still have a ways to go."

And we move on,
the flies sitting in the corners of his eyes
which he blinks away, only to have them return seconds later.
With each gust of wind I watch his mane's journey,
left, then right, left, right again.
I lose my sense of place as I watch,
waiting for the course strands to settle again.

We near our destination,
a small valley with abandoned house,
nothing left but an old satellite dish,
and a gate falling down, bent in age.
The hay has been cut, bundled and hauled off to old barns
leaving us this empire of grass, and a backdrop of ancient trees.
We hear the true collaboration of trees and wind
with branches and space humming, hissing, and groaning .
It's not a greeting, or a playful song -
It's a resonance.
Ignoring skin, it sinks down into the flesh and then the bone,
while the heart skips beats trying to keep up.

Haunting, it reminds of a past time
that we can not get to.

Bridge to paradise

The hens have been let into the vegetable area, through the 'Chickens only" entrance, to help clean the protein of hard working worms and bugs. The gate is strategically located so as not to allow in any small statured, black furred, half horned creatures- okay,I'm talking about Frankie.