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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hey, hey we're monkeys

If there was a contest at Apifera to name the 'biggest monkey of the farm", it would go hands down to Iris. Coming in second would be her counterpart Stella. Thanks to them, we have been honored to watch a million different ways for an electric fence to be climbed without pain, or if there was pain involved, you wouldn't know. Hey, you try it. Young trees have fallen due to their sharp teeth, and perhaps over one million daisies have been devoured even though the sign says, "Iris, please don't eat the daisies" {Iris can read, she knows exactly what she's doing when she eats those daisies.}

Of all the animals on Apifera, Iris still has that face that suggests the minute you turn around, she will be in your favorite lawn chair, sipping tea and eating your favorite perennial, or something she has retrieved from the refrigerator while Stella keeps guard. Perhaps the only other twosome I can think of that can surpass them in capers is Lucy and Viv. These two lady goats are close to seven now, their capers have somewhat settled to about one a month. In some ways, it saddens me; all those episodes brought great laughs over wine with the dirt farmer- hours after I was yelling "Stella! Iris" like I was trying out for a remake of Streetcar. {I think I've used that before, but it bears repeating}.

So, with all the commotion over Cracker Jack, and Muddy, and lambs and chicken underpants, I felt I needed to remind you, and myself, of the beautiful monkeys of Apifera, Stella and Iris.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


All is well. It was such a smooth introduction. The old donkey spent the afternoon looking, and smelling, a little eating, a bit of roaming. But he hasn't even discovered Donkey Hill yet, or been in the private clubhouse. He hasn't met the Old Goats of Apifera, nor does he know their is a big red horse out back. He does understand there are still ginger snaps at this new place. Perhaps the most amusing thing for human two footers watching, was how funny the three minis looked with him. More stories will follow. For now, rest assured this is one special donkey, and now he just needs to understand he's here, and is safe.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I thought it was fitting, for both Cracker Jack, and his temporary rescue parents, to be welcomed to Apifera on Sunday in a proper manner. I don't know why, but when I nailed the sign to the fence, I got all teary eyed.

I know this donkey has much meaning on many levels. Just wait. I know he is going to teach us all a lot of things. But most importantly, he will learn, in time, that Apifera means home, home forever.

Stay tuned. Many pictures will follow after the wise old donk arrives Sunday. Sleep well, Cracker J., everything will be just fine.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Essence of Donkey

A person once asked me, "But what do the donkeys do all day?". I pointed at my three donkeys, in repose, a slight ear twitch here or there, a lip quiver, a tail swag to shake a fly off, and said,
"Most of the day, this is about it."

They seemed amazed I found it so enthralling.

It might appear a donkey is just standing there, doing nothing, but not so fast. Each second can be filled with a tiny movement that can rearrange the viewer's whole composition. I aim to do an entire study on ear movement of a 5 minute time range. I shall be one of a few who will rush to see the results. Perhaps large abstracts will follow, or a book of ears. I'll leave it to agents, gallery owners and commercial sales reps to tell me it won't appeal to a broad consumer market, but it will give me something to hold onto in years to come. Looking at them, I will remember this evening, the sun setting, the sound of my donkeys breathing slowly, a hoof on a stone.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The look

"Shall I move now? Is this what I should be doing for you? I will do what you encourage me to do, just let me know, I will move my eyes a centimeter if necessary. I love you. What else can I do for you? I feel safe. But is it time to go to that other room? Food. I smell food in your pocket. Oh, sorry, my eyebrow moved."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Queens of the coop

While the hens often act like royalty, it is really the annual visit of the golden queens that cause the biggest stir. Standing a huddle, striking poses in individual style, these ladies are not afraid to cause a stir. They are striking, stunning, one-of-a-kind and they know it.

I like my sunflowers planted all raggedy. It makes the raggedy barn and raggedy fences seem like a plan, which gives me a false sense of order.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bring an old donkey to Apifera!

This is Cracker Jack, a donkey of about 20 years. He was rescued in Texas where he was neglected and being abused as a roping prop. His leg wounds were open and raw from rope burns [you can see the scars below, which are treated with a topical oil to keep from cracking], a chunk of his ear was chewed off, his feet had blown out abscesses. And his teeth- the vet felt he'd been tied for long lengths and he tried to chew threw chains or cords so his teeth are worn down to points in areas. The police were brought into help, and eventually, he was released to a donkey rescue and hauled to their California facility where he was doctored, and then he made another journey to Oregon to be placed in a temporary foster home hoping to find adoption.

That's where the senior gentleman and I met. His foster mother and I spent the day together today, surrounded by the donkeys they are helping. All were special. But this old guy had a look. It was like an old man who had much in his life, but saw a lot of it fade away, or torn from him. A lot of bad things were done to this noble creature. But he still has this huge, trusting heart. We think this donkey probably had a lot of love in his earlier years, maybe even with children, but like many donkeys, he was let go for one reason or another. The stories in him, they are there. I hope to hear them when we are reunited here at Apifera.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crippled old lady speaks

Gertie, one of the three senior pygmies of Apifera, is crippled from neglected feet in her earlier days. I am pleased though that in the past year, due to consistent feet trimming, I really feel her walking is better. In fact, she runs to the barn for dinner.

Gertie is a real talker, and I can't remember exactly what she was chattering about when I took this.

Visit New Moon Farm Goat Sanctuary if you have room for a goat in your life. But remember, they live a long time, and should not be a whimsical purchase. If you want the latter, I suggest a nice new hat, or or apron .

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where he is

I just finished this piece, "Where he is" and it will be part of the upcoming show at Guardino Gallery in Portland [September 30-October 25th].

Inspired by many things, some of this earth, but part of the painting just kept forming in my head over the week. I kept seeing a rabbit in my head. Finally painted it. Later I looked up the symbolism of rabbit, and here is what I found: "Rabbit's medicine includes moving through fear, living by one's own wits, receiving hidden teachings and intuitive messages, quick thinking, strengthening intuition, and paradox. Rabbit also represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self-asserting. Rabbit reminds us not to be afraid. Fearful thoughts reproduce (like rabbits) and bring the very thing we fear. Rabbit people are so afraid of tragedy, illness, and disaster, that they call those very fears to them to teach them lessons. If you see Rabbit or in any way feel attracted to him, it may be telling you to wait for the forces of the universe to start moving again, to stop worrying and to get rid of your fears. It always indicates a need to re-evaluate the process you are undergoing, to rid yourself of any negative feelings or barriers, and to be more humble."

Fear be gone.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Muddy! Could you please just lie down!"

"What? Who me? Sit down? Again? But it's cocktail hour, it's when I run and flop and run and flop and run. And run. Don't you want me to run some more, so I can pant, and pant, and pant? Oh, alright."

Trudge, trudge, trudge. Flop.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Love note to the Dirt Farmer

I think the thing about mid life, or once you pass into that part of your life you view as some kind of internal marker of 'mid', is that time goes very fast. I don't remember life as going fast from age 1-20, or from 20-40. But I find myself saying more and more, "That seems like yesterday."

Such is the case as I write this post. Seven years ago I married Martyn, and it seems like moments ago. My name when I woke up that morning was Miss Dunn, and later that day, I became Mrs. Dunn. For those of you who don't know the story, I moved to Portland in 2003, after spending more than a year with my drapes drawn in my old homeland of Minneapolis. I had been suffering from the worst kind of broken heart, the kind that lingers, and leaves a visible dent in one's heart area, and sort of takes your dreams and shifts them around until you start doubting what those dreams were.

I bought a sweet little cottage in Portland, and the very day I moved in, a man knocked on my door. "Hello, I'm Martyn Dunn, and I heard you had the same last name as I did, so I just had to introduce myself."

Yes, we had the same last name, and now instead of having just two Mr. Dunn's in my life, my father and brother, I had many Mr. Dunns - my husband to be and his many brothers and his father. I knew immediately this was a good thing, to have this particular Mr. Dunn right next door, and I did know I'd marry him. I didn't tell anyone, not anyone. And if I had, they all would have rolled their eyes.

Many of you know the rest of the story. He climbed his cherry tree in a heat wave and brought me his harvest, while I sat suffering, my fair Irish skin wilted even in the shade of my bamboo grove. I thought it odd that he'd be up in a tree in a heat wave, but when he brought me his bounty, just like a male cardinal fetching food for his bird, I internally had an epiphany - that this was a worthy mate. The next day I baked him a cherry pie from his harvest and that too led to an epiphany- that if I was baking in a heat wave, this must be love. And it was.

I don't believe that there is just one person out there for each of us, but I do believe we are given opportunities to connect with optimal relationships that change our lives. Each day is full of tiny choices, that can change our paths- and while all these paths teach us, engage us, challenge us....some paths help us reach what I call a "place of sense".

And meeting Martyn has helped me get to this place called Apifera, this 'place of sense'.

I will never forgot the wonder of this story, or how so many things had to line up for us to meet. Like the fact there was already a buyer for the house in Portland, but I insisted I had to have that house, and the details were ironed out so it became mine. Or the fact that when I bought the house in Portland, I gave up on ever having a small farm, which had been my life long dream. I figured this little Portland house was perfect, and my dream of owning a farm just wasn't meant to be and wasn't logical. But we all know that dream was just waiting to present itself in a proper manner. Don't forgt your dreams, don't let them down by abandonning them.

So, seven years have passed. And the pictures here show us before Apifera exisited. How can that be - no Apifera? I can't imagine it now. I can't imagine life without Martyn. When he married me, he had no idea he'd become a Dirt Farmer, or be surrounded by a semi feral cat colony, and senior short goats....and donkeys who share fresh apple pie.
He allows me to be very independent, and I need that. I need to be the child of wonder, in my barn, communing on my own in nature just as I did as a girl. I need space and time to think, and breathe into the neck of my horse. It fills me up to make art, and write and create.

But we come together at night, we still like to be together. I still anticipate his car coming up the gravel road. There is no seven year itch here, except for the hay stems that have crept into my shirt.

He is the most patient person I have ever met in my entire life, and I am the most impatient. He tolerates the gas emmissions of my little pug, and drove in a snowstorm to help me pick up a senior pygmy goat. He understands that when Neil Young is singing, he is not to interupt with idle chatter. I really do make him pies, and he really does help build me things that I concoct in my head- like double dutch doors that lead to donkey hug area.

My old Aunt Emily wrote in her wedding note to us that we only needed three things to succeed in a long life together- bread, love and laughter. We have it all, plus fresh eggs, donkey brays, dog and cat hair on everything, and a river front to fish in.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dinner line

Each night, they stand at the gate, waiting, patiently. Huddled, squeezed together in any temperature. At this time of year their noses and hair are tarnished from the oils in the fields and weeds. I never tire of their faces.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chicken self absorbtion

"Oh, I feel so...fine...so fine, I am fine, I am beautiful, yes I am, is she looking at me, yes she is looking at me, of course she is, looking at me, what, is that some one over there looking at me too, yes they are, because I am so fine, so fine, and now I will show them my underpants."

I call it, "Old goat and chicken watching beard"

So, I invested in my new Nikon that I've been wanting, coveting really. As a born and bred Minnesotan, I guess I felt I had to reach some level of accepting myself as good enough photographer to take this next step into camera motherhood. And motherhood it is, for I will be working hard to pay for it, keep the battery well nourished and hope it never gets in a car accident or something catastrophic.

It might seem odd to pay a million dollars for a new camera and then take a picture of...a beard. But you see things in such clarity that even chin hairs become entities of their own. So it's not my best shot - and mind you I have a million more of the same subject, because I also am now the mother of a memory card that holds a billion pictures at once - and my biggest challenge will be...not taking 300 pictures at once of a beard, or a tail, or ears.

But I'm just warning, it might happen.

Stay tuned for the next few days or more of letting me get my ya-ya's out with my new camera. In fact, it might even begin later today.

Monday, August 09, 2010

I'm book birthing

It's approaching, the release date of my new book. I am like any mother of creation - ready to birth it and get on with the next step- living with the creation, sharing it, and learning from it.

My publisher just relaunched their website and it looks great. Please visit, and of course if you go to my page , you can always write a note in ALL CAPS saying how you don't sleep at night waiting for the release date. A girl can ask, can't she? Seriously, there are some other books there in many genres you will like.

I also plan to do some videos and a Flickr group to help promote the book. And wouldn't a book signing party be nice, with Pino the puppet and Pino the donkey? I'm working on it. It has it's complications.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Gods of the garden return

Another attempt at what I call 'capturing the essence' of a moment, and my feeling in that moment. I think the top photo succeeded.

The globe thistle have once again put on their annual show. This staging is better than Shakespeare in the Park, as we have a private performance all to ourselves, and the show continues on and on for more than week. We take many intermissions, as the splendor of these magnificent Gods renders one sleepy at times, so much purple and beauty to soak in at each viewing.

The grounds and fields are browned out, the dust feels slightly deader than spring dust. August is a time for me to rest more, stay slightly hidden from the sun. I find my energy flow is much more inward, and it is only in September that I begin to flow again. So if my writing feels somewhat sleepy, somewhat dusty, it's just the August in me.