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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Let's play 'Scare the Farmer'

Frankie has mastered this game to perfection, so I'll use her technique as an example.

The game is quite simple:

Get up early in the morning, way before the farmer. Find a place in the barnyard where you are clearly visible from the barnyard gate. This will make the game more suspenseful for the farmer. Pretend you have passed out and lay still on your side for full impact. When you hear the gate open, hold your breath so it looks like you aren't breathing. When the farmer gets near you, be still! Let her reach down and call out your name longingly, then casually raise your head and and say, "Do you mind, I was just napping."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A barnyard meeting is brewing

There's a meeting brewing in the barnyard....find out more at Tails & Tales.

Another barnyard meeting

The three senior goats were all contently napping, when a gathering of some kind was heard in the nearby. Old Georgie did not open her eyes, but listened, as best she could. She let the more nimble Gertie do the observing and talking.

"What now? I was just off in slumber. Those lambs! I'll be relieved when they are older."

"Then you'll just be annoyed at their flock bleats," Old Guinnias chimed in.

"The meeting time has been set! 10 am, Friday. Take note!" said an out of breath little, but very rotund pygmy goat, as she barreled through the barnyard, barely missing resting hens and sleeping felines.

"Another meeting?" said Guinnias rather irritated. "The seating arrangements for us old timers are always so worrisome."

"Boone has declared it an official barnyard meeting, so you must attend!" said Frankie.
"and Pino has been declared Chairman of the Seating for Old Timers Committee, " and she hurried off.

"Well at least we know we'll get a proper sitting spot," said Georgie, who finally opened her eyes.

"What's the meeting about?" asked Gertie. "I hope it isn't about rabbit outfits again. I refuse to partake in one more Easter fiasco put on by the hens."

Stay tuned to see what happens after Friday's meeting...

Monday, March 22, 2010

My new book- ready for pre-sales!

Note: I'm so honorred many of you are pre-ordering this book! I would love to have you go to the Amazon page, scroll down, and add you comment in the forum I started- write a note about why you are excited for this book, to help inspire other possible buyers.

You can now go to Amazon and pre-order my new book "Creative Illustration Workshop" which I wrote and illustrated. All of the 200+ images in the book are my illustrations and sketches, and other surprises. Published by Quarry Books, you'll have 144 pages of my inspirations, tips for fighting creative block, and places to find subjects for a story...like your refrigerator. Yes, you read that right. I was so please with the cover - I designed the image, and the designer selected the type. I've been able to be quite hands on with many aspects of the book, which is nice.

My hope is that when you finish the book, you'll look at your home and surroundings as a huge library of material - always there to give you fresh stories and things to draw and paint. I also have a section with a sequence exercise that helps express feelings and emotions - art as a cathartic guide, in other words.

Who will like this book? Anyone that appreciates my blog and my compassion for animals and nature that comes through in my art. Anyone that loves Pino. Anyone that loves the incredible array of texture in the natural world. People with whim in their hearts. People that need a little whim in their hearts. Anyone that's lossed a loved one or had a broken heart. Anyone that needs to tweak their perspective on making art. If you want to draw like Leonardo da Vinci, this book is not for you. If you get mad when someone draws outside the lines, this book probably isn't for you.

When more of the design work is completed by the publisher, I'll upload some spreads on Amazon. Rest assured that each page is full of my art and personality. But you can pre-order now if you like [and Amazon guarantees you the best price if the price has dropped by the actual publication date.]

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sense of place

These pictures were taken a couple weeks ago, when I was checking on ewes during lambing. The barn at night is a kingdom of it's own, with an internal hierarchy and sense of order. I have nothing to do with a lot of that - it is a world unknown to me on many levels but one I am always intrigued by. Like a voyeur sitting in the back of a darkly lit party room, I like the chance to sneak a peek at what really goes on in there when no one can see me lurking.

There's a spookiness about night visits to the barn. For me, any barn visit in the dark reminds me of trauma- for that is usually the only time one need to go to a barn at night. The door is opened and forms scurry upon seeing the two footed mass holding a flashlight. The horse knickers, always, when I enter the barn. This is comforting on so many levels. Some of that I believe is primordial, or perhaps I'm intertwined on a sensory level to a time when I lived a life on a horse or as a horse. I don't really know - I just know I believe what my Uncle Clayton said, "You're either born 'horse', or you're not. You were born 'horse'." I took this as an honor, coming from him, a horse whisperer before it became hip to be one.

When we first moved tot he farm, the barn smells reminded me of many childhood memories from Uncle Clayton's or other places I'd grown up. And memories of my past come still come into each day - this is not a bad thing- it is like a book: there's a cover, a table of contents, and many chapters. Some of the pages are earmarked- it's nice to go back and visit passages from time to time. You read those old passages years later, and a different perspective brings different lessons, or 'wow" moments.

But my barn has become part of my current thumbprint and the events, sensations, creatures, smells and sounds within that barn are very specific to my life now, not my life of memories. While the two are some what intertwined, I am creating, along with Martyn and a cast of characters, my own sense of place. It's what everyone is really striving for - a sense of place. Some seem to search entire lives, and never find it, or they never settle on the book in front of them, they just keep looking. Or they think they want another person's sense of place, and they live vicariously through that person's online persona.

Sense of place does not come without self dialogue, and then a blueprint to get there. It can take a life time, or in my case a half a life time, to get there. And it's not a final destination - for me anyway. My sense of place, within the boundary lines of this farm, is an organic creature of it's own. I get up each day and make things happen that are meaningful to me, I try to be a good person with all the flaws lining my pockets, I work hard, I keep my eyes open for predators on the ground or lurking in a cyber forest. I'm very aware things happen in a life that can muddle a sense of place, or shake it, or destroy it.

So when I'm in the barn, it's about as grounded as I can get. I won't take it for granted, even on my grumpy days, when Frankie has just knocked over a bucket of feed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pie Love: Raggedy lattice tops

I made the Dirt Farmer an apple pie last night, complete with my raggedy lattice top, and onlookers. A 'raggedy lattice top? What's this?" you ask.

Well, I once tried to make a perfect lattice top, like the ones in glossy magazines. After some time trying to master the perfect lattice top technique, I rolled the dough up into a ball, and calmly, but firmly pronounced to all who could hear, the dogs and one cat wandering by the kitchen window, "I do not make perfect lattice tops."

Instead, I mastered what many can't, "raggedy lattice tops". I realized upon making my first lattice top how it looked somewhat like my braids, a bit messy, with little wisps sticking out here and there. But both my braids and lattice work have a nice energy, lacking any bit of arrogance. Martyn loves my lattice tops for their spontaneity, and because they allow the earth's juices to bubble out of the crevices.

So anytime the Dirt Farmer does anything extra heroic, or really grand, like building me a double Dutch door for my Donkey Hug Area, I reciprocate with a raggedy lattice top pie.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dirt farmers retreat to beach

Martyn and I haven't had a real day off in....never. Seriously. Thankfully, we love what we do and after a five day work week, we just keep working, on the farm. It's also fortunate we like each other so our weekends at the farm are 95% enjoyable [besides we consume vast amounts of red wine and Apifera food, why go any where?].

But we are feeling our knees need to slow down, now that we are 50. And we feel a need to, well gosh darn it, leave for a day. Today was 70 degrees. And on that first summer like day, a person is beckoned to 'Go West" even if you live 70 miles from the edge of the west. We tossed abandon aside, made sure all lambies were safe, and loaded up Huck and Mud [The One Eyed Pug does not do well on car trips anymore, but he slept happily on his sunny spot all day].

We took the back route to the ocean, up the through the Nestaka River area...so many steel headers out, poor Dirt Farmer yearned to be with them. I have a fantasy I'll become rich and will let Martyn fish al day, while I bake and paint, and I'll have a handy farm hand that looks something like Paul Newman in his 60's. It's a very curvy road, and everything was going swimmingly, until Mud tossed his breakfast, and all the ...er...natural organic matter he had eaten in the yard before we started our trip.

But, do not despair, kind readers! I just happened to have a roll of toilet paper in the car. Why? I know not, but I sure was feeling fortunate I did. I said, "This has got to be the luckiest day of my life - first, it's 70 degrees, second, I'm on 8 hour holiday, and 3, I have a roll of toilet paper handy when my dog gets sick." It doesn't get any better than this. Windows down, we made it to Pacific City where Muddy was introduced to the ocean.

Upon arriving home, Apifera was basking in 4 pm sunshine. No one died in our absence [make mental note to self - "Things can live without you for small amounts of time...unless a hawk comes and grabs a chicken or a lamb...or the donkey gets their hoof trapped in fencing...or...stop me!"

I felt good. I felt alive. I whipped up an apple pie - with raggedy lattice top- it was definitely a good day that was fit for a raggedy lattice top. And Martyn said, "I've been thinking all day about lamb stew." So he set off to cookin'.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Breakfast meeting

Like all company meetings, some attendees snooze, some daydream, and some take note of each detail.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Little lost one

Post note: Little bunny died about three hours after I brought him in house. I'm sure the stress was just too much for him. He seemed to be picking up some speed at one point. It is all for the better. He was warm and cared for.

I found a wounded bunny near a hay pile I was moving by the lamb stalls this morning. He had tucked himself into the safest spot he could, and squeaked when I was near by. His hind leg has a puncture wound, through to the bone. He's alive, but I've had my Dr. Quinn episodes with bunnies, wildlife doesn't fare well with human interference even when well intended. I imagine a cat got him. I iodined it after saline bath. He is more alert than when I found him, and I have him at my desk safe from puppies and wandering felines. Not sure if he will make it. He'll die attended though, although the sounds of the dogs playing is probably not helping. He is calm when held.

The wandering array of life continues, as does pending death. These little episodes are not meant to distress, but to remind us of the bigger picture. Life is temporary, and can be snapped away in a bite by man or beast. The conflict of having compassion for but raising livestock to sustain me, the conflict of helping a bunny that eats my food...intertwined.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sheep and woman give a sigh of relief

Lilly had her lambs last night. She finally started labor around six p.m. and we came to the barn a few times to find her still in pre labor. This early morning we arrived to find lambs, two beauties.

The male is very large, and already eating a little grass this usually doesn't happen for a few days or more.] The girl is this wonderful strawberry blonde. Sadly, on my second trip to the barn, she had torn her eyelid on a piece of the lambing pen - I treated with saline and antibiotic and think it will heal fine. Lilly is one of our work horse sheep - always calm, and stoic. She's a big girl who throws strong lambs. I was concerned she had held out this long, as we never have lambs past 3/12...and of course my over active imagination drummed up all sorts of possibilities. I tortured myself by re-reading my sheep books about possible causes, and lay in bed last night with visions of Lilly lying in breach birth trauma...but I guess Mlle. Nature just wasn't ready to pop those two out, and they arrived very mature - with ears already standing by morning.

Normally I wait at least one day to put mom and lambs out, but it's sunny and warm, and Lilly is an old pro. It's less stressful than being separated from the flock. They develop so much faster - I find - when they can go outside.

I want to thank all the nice thoughts people held for us this season- I have to say, I feel like a boulder has been lifted off my chest. The trauma of last year really made a mark on me, and Martyn, and it showed this season. We lost the stillborn girl, and I still fret about the surviving twin's rattle, but all in all, we are pleased.

And relieved.

Friday, March 12, 2010


As the last ewe to lamb, Lilly rests, and waits. And one of Audrey's boys catches some sunny zzzzz's.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rescue donkeys in Spain helping children

One of the three organizations our 2010 Pino Pie Day will raise money for is El Refugio del Burrito. From a recent blog post on their site:

The physical and emotional benefits that the animals offer to the patients have been recently recognised in psychiatric hospitals and residential homes for the elderly. It has been well documented that the animals have a calming effect on the patients.

Furthermore donkeys are the centre of attention for the children, even the most agitated, nervous child becomes calmer when stroking or talking to the donkeys. A secret shared with a donkey will never be revealed, as it may be if it were to be shared with another human.

I'd really like to work this way with our donkeys but I just haven't made the right connections here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mail for Pino

Pino got this letter from someone who has been looking for aprons for his cause. It's so nice to get these....

"Yesterday when I was going through one of my mom's dresser drawers, I found two more aprons to send to you for your Pie Day. They are both half aprons, made on a home singer sewing machine which is still in my mother's basement along with two of my grandma's machines. Anyway, I digress again... One of these aprons is red and black with a little yellow and white and it has four squares of kitchen scenes on it. The other is blue swirls. They both have pockets, and I found a kleenex in each right-hand pocket. Smile. My grandma Ida and my mom Doris always kept hankies or tissues in their pockets. Smile again. I think these aprons are from the early '50s. I will wash, iron, and send them to you."

Thank you, Linda, we can't wait to see them!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A messy entrance

On what most likely was a chilly March 10th in 1958, in a hospital room at St. Mary's in Rochester, Minnesota, I came bolting into the world at precisely 10:18 PM.

And so begins the story which over the years has reached mythical proportions- how I almost killed my mother on my birthday. Perhaps it is one reason I chose to never have children - my own mother terrified the heck out of me with my own birth story. In all seriousness, my mother did almost bleed to death, and I have this scar she likes to point out on my forehead from the momentous occasion. Supposedly my father looked pale and upset when he saw me because I was pink and red and lobster like, where as my brother came out a year earlier looking like JFK - seriously, for years my mother compared my brother's looks to JFK. I was compared to a lobster.

And hours before I barged out of the womb, my father had been called to the morgue, where his 57 year old mother lay dead, of a heart attack, diabetes related. Her untimely death led me to receive her name, Katherine, instead of Bridgette which my mother had picked out. I cant imagine being named Bridgette, although as a child I liked to tell this story, since Bridgette Bardot was all the rage, and as a chubby little redhead, I thought BB was quite the cat's pajamas.

So I can only imagine the yin and yang and surreal quality of that cold March night for my father. I wonder if there were things that brought it all back to him as he aged. Did the sound of heels on a linoleum floor late at night bring back a sensation of the events he dealt with that night? As I get older, 52 years older to be exact, I can understand how this moment is burned into my mother, or father, in some kind of post traumatic stress way. But being true Minnesotans, we carried on, and every year, my mother made me one of my favorite layer cakes- at the time it was white cake with pink butter frosting. In time, my tastes changed to German chocolate, or her white cake with chocolate frosting. I still have the same recipe cards she hand wrote so many years ago, all spotted with vanilla stains.

While I appreciate that I was born, I am not one of the people out there saying that birth is beautiful. In fact, I couldn't disagree more. It's an intimate moment of a mother creature being out of control of her body. Miraculous, yes, but not beautiful. I get just about as much birth as I need on the farm, thank you very much , and all the blood, after birth and vaginal prolapses that come with it. I think birth is traumatic, terrifying, bloody and completely chaotic. It's a mess. In fact, it makes no sense. A creature pushed out of a keyhole - that's not beautiful, it's bizarre. It's a miracle, but it's not beautiful.

But it's the only way to get a foot in the door, isn't it? Staying in a womb all your life would be safe, and warm, and inexpensive - no taxes, no maniacs on the radio shouting at you. But there would be no grand entrance, no kisses, no pie made with the first strawberries, no front row seats to Neil Young. No puppies. No showers on a hot day. No hand to hold when a father dies and no little mouths to feed when a mother dies. No matter what creatures come into your life, mothering is the beautiful part of birth. That some one would go through that trauma to give another creature a way to get their foot in the door of this big, messy place called life.

The winds have come in, it's bone chilling. All day I was carried back to a place I liked to hide when I was little, a grove of sumac bushes out behind our house. Alone, I felt protected, but spooked at the same time. Rushing back to the house, I'd hear the wind blowing buckets and roof tops, and it felt scary like the Wizard of Oz. But home was warm, there was homemade cake even on my non birthday. It wasn't messy.

It's like that today - the sounds of the barn roof rattling in the wind are spooky, but I feel safe in the barn, surrounded by my mothering ewes. Together with my flock, I experienced the trauma of last year's lambing, and just like my mother did after my birth, I carry that trauma with me in a little surface wound, in danger of getting reopened if I bump it just right. I realized it's my very own birth story, and it's required if one expects to find a sense of place in this messy world.

March 10, Post Note: Daisy presented my with two healthy lambs this morning, a perfect way to start my birthday.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The new boys

They've made it 8 hours...we'll hope they do well tonight. They appear okay. I saw some tail wiggling while at the udder [ asign they are getting milk].

When I saw these pictures, I was quite amused at their expressions. Amazing how they adapt.

Amongst mothers

We are grateful for the sun and warmer weather, to help our lambing week along. These are Fern's lambs, now one week old.

We had hoped more of the girls would lamb this weekend - perfect weather. I knew everyone of the 5 ewes was ready to pop, but I like to keep them up and atom until they really go down into labor. The new mothers can surprise you though - I once had a new mom waddling casually back to the barn with her baby half way out.

So last night I was pretty sure Nelly Moser would lamb. And she did. I have been somewhat concerned about what type of mother Nelly would be- of all our sheep she is somewhat flighty.

Arriving at the barn, there she was with two fresh lambs, probably born around 8 am. But she wasn't caring to them very proficiently- she wasn't licking them or chortling much. One was quite dopey looking and chilled, not a good sign. I checked her udder and she had milk, and both ram lambs did suck on my finger, another good sign. I opted not to tube them [a procedure where you insert a stomach tube and force feed], and gave him milk from my finger instead. I decided to take them outside since it is sunny and much warmer outside than the cool barn. Nelly was just a bit clueless, but she's adapting. She is chortling more, and can get them to the udder, but she's not as good as the pros at helping them 'get it". She did not dry them off well either, and I had to step in and help. Within a half hour, I had them warmed up, thanks to the towel and the sun.

We will just have to watch them and see. In the last 3 hours, I think both mother and lambs are adjusting to the newness of everything.

And the other girls wait...here's Lilly, who I'm sure will go soon. In fact, they are all showing signs of pending labor.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Mud Game

The rules of this game are simple: wait...watch...then run with all your heart to where ever the guy in front of you runs.

Monday, March 01, 2010

More pics from Pino's friends

This wonderful picture was sent by Amber Goble of Kentucky of her donkey Freddy with his two mini horses, Sammy and Smokey. We posted it onto to Pino's album on his Pino's Facebook Page. So get on over there and become a Fan and join in.

Amber is also an artist and her blog is full of her scrapbooking work.