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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Donkey Friday

With the air thawing, I found the donkeys examining snow mud, and exploring around Gaicomo's grave. A small pool developed around the rock stones, making it a serene, morning destination. The rains have returned, the water buckets are thawed, even Rogue Chicken returned to her roost.

I suggested to Pino we could be out in a group of Black Friday shoppers. I think his expression in the first picture says what his response was. We considered having a Black Donkey Friday, but the only black donkey we had was Giacomo, and we took the hoof vote and all agreed it was not proper. So, we shall just be here, where it is not Black Friday, it's just Donkey Friday.

And I'm not even going to post links to all the stuff you can buy here. That's my Thanksgving gift to all of us. That was Paco's suggestion.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Here I am

I spent the last days thinking of what I wanted to write for a Thanksgiving post. I realized that this entire blog is a Thanksgiving, and has been since Day One some five years ago when I began it.

I give my thanks internally on a daily basis. When it snows, which it did this past week, I thank the old barn, the mistress of the farm who hides her occupants in her internal corners, free from wind and water from clouds. Each night I do feedings, I am greeted by three sets of ear tips, some quiet brays and rustling of loose hay above me in a loft no longer used. The smell of the barn and her gentle moanings in a light wind are comforting, the same feeling I had as a child hiding in my sumac fort, protected from the wind, but able to feel it in drafts.

I live my life here with the same heart as I had long ago as that young girl in a sumac fort. I'm older now, with more animals, and I can retreat to the barn to stay dry. Even back then as a child, I knew this barn was somewhere, waiting for me. I am rich because of that.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sometimes your beard freezes

Old Man Guinnias sports his new frozen beard, a temporary fashion statement. The chickens are not pleased at all with the weather, nor is the resident farmer, as the water buckets are frozen.

However, I am grateful that Rogue Chicken, aka Henny Jenny, made it through two nights outside the coop. She and I had an altercation during the heavy rainstorm on Monday, because she refused to leave the new barn to go 100 feet to her coop. She also refused to be carried. After many harsh words on my part- I mean, I was extremely wet and cold after trying to catch Rogue Chicken- she fled into the icy and steep blackberry bramble. After attempts to get her, I declared it was her life and she could do what she wanted but I was not going to kill myself trying to help her. She slept in the hay barn, warm, and lived to see another day. So today, one of my tasks is to convince Rogue Chicken to get back to her coop.

More postings later today. Must warm finger tips now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leaves know more than I do

Post Note: About an hour after I wrote this, the little chicken died.

I had plans today. Plans to work on some writing, plans to help Martyn work on some remodeling. Plans for a long walk with Muddy and Huck.

Arriving at the hen house for morning chores, I found a listless chick, one of the Giacomo Gift Hens . The lite bulb for the young chick's roost area had burned out, and the colder weather must have caused the chick to go into hypothermia. At least I surmised this. But one never really knows what's going on with a chicken.

I rushed her to the house, put her in warm blankets and got her near the fire in a crate. I assumed she might be dead when I got back from the barn chores, but she had actually revived somewhat, and still had good strength in her feet and grip. Her eyes were open. But she was gasping. Researching, I decided it might be gape worms and I did some treatments as best I could. As I write this she is still hanging on, eyes closed, wrapped in a blanket. I placed her randomly near me on the counter, and for some reason her pose next to the brussel sprouts seemed very poetic. Perhaps it was wrong to document what might be her last day, but it felt beautiful.

I feel more and more like a leaf. I always looked to leaves as good examples of a good life. You start from a seed, and you grow. You do your best to be a leaf, even though you never asked to be a leaf. You see some sun, some rain, warm and cold weather, and as winter threatens, you feel yourself changing, crumbling, and you fall, and die. Death is just another day. I feel this more than ever.

This past two weeks has seen the old One Eyed Pug failing more, and it is unclear how long he will be with us in body. And Old Guinnias is failing to age. I've had 6 years of life and death on the farm, and while death is not welcomed, it must not be viewed as necessarily bad. It must viewed as a leaf. That is how I feel today.

But leaves have always been more graceful than I have. They don't worry about the fall. They just let go.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Inspired by 1.5# creature

My days are filled with listening to the muse. If you've been following along of late, you know a teeny creature entered my world, by sheer coincidence- or by the magical hands of her guides, or mine- and her mere presence inspired me to create a felted finger puppet.

While I didn't mimic her markings perfectly, I did capture one of her many Itty Bitty looks. She is still getting her voice, and is not quite ready to meet the other puppets. But she will.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sweater weather thoughts

Every time I sit down to focus on my felted creature stories, something else takes priority. Fortunately they have all been good priorities involving writing opportunities and new work. So, here's a sneak peek at my attempts. Okay, I've been giving sneak peaks for awhile now, but like I just said to someone,

"I'm creating as fast as I can."

And on a closing note - the book was named one of Amazon Editor's Top Ten List in Photography/Art for 2010. What a thrill for me. And the puppets, well, they can hardly stand it. I'm sure Pino the puppet will be making an announcement soon.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Itty Bitty Etta love

The old and young merge together on the farm, often creating relationships that provide sustenance, or warmth and safety. The dynamic is not unlike what my grandmother's house must have been like in North Dakota. A young one came along needing a mother, and there was no reason that the senior in the house couldn't step in as nursemaid or companion.

Such is the way here at Apifera, with Itty Bitty Etta having taken to the very senior One Eyed Pug. She spends much of her waking hours near him now, searching for a milk spout, only to find rolls of wrinkled skin. Still, it satisfies her, calms her into taking a nap. So well defined are his ancient rolls of skin that her sharp teeth have not bothered him.

Senior animals require diligence and often special care taking. The One Eyed Pug had a lapse last month. We thought we were losing him. X-rays showed parts of his spine are rubbing together, from age. He was miserable, but special pills helped, and even though I was prepared to put him down if necessary, his spirits returned immediately and we could tell he was comfortable again. But this weekend, he had another slight relapse. While the pills provided relief, it appears these relapses are chronic, and there will come a time when the pills won't help.

Many have written comments about Etta, and how that little one pound kitten was meant to come into our lives. I think whether some feline god planned it or not, the experience has been rich for all of us, including Billy, the One Eyed Pug. Just as my humanity to retrieve a kitten from a busy country highway resonated with readers, this old pug's non judgemental heart resonates within me. When I brought Billy home 13+ years ago, he too was only one pound, and fit in my pocket or hand, just like Etta. Perhaps Etta is a gift from the guides of the One Eyed Pug, just to prepare us for his departure.

No matter how many more months he is with us, I find it charming that he can be a nursemaid in this his twilight years. And let it be a lesson to us all. Youth does not trump age in quantities of love it can share. With hearts groomed by years of living, seniors of all species have something to give until they take their last breath- even if it's sitting still and acting like your wrinkles are giving off milk.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Daily, nightly I know

I've never, ever taken this life on the farm for granted. I arrived here late, in my mid forties. It took awhile for everything to line up right to get me here, with the right person at the right time.

I've been writing a memoir about it, and that experience has made my love for the farm even more intense. I am not wealthy, although there seems to be a misperception by some that I am. I guess if you live on a farm, or have acreage, and you are an artist and are your own boss, you speak your mind, that some how equates to "She must have a trust fund or money". But I don't. I'm so rich though. Much richer than anyone I know. That must sound arrogant, but I feel that way.

My work has become more and more and more meaningful to me. Writing and combining it with art, inspired by the animals that come and go, it's just a good life, with or without health care insurance. Each morning, I greet my sheep, I love so many things about them - their individual expressions, the way some still leap even as adults, their eyes, the tight curl of their hair in damp weather. At night, I return to the barn, they are there waiting for me, and the barnyard chores are the way we all catch up with each other, "How was your day? It was a good day to be a sheep I think."

I like the steadiness of my life now. I feel like I get it. I'm not perfect, I haven't arrived - I just mean that I feed my sheep, I protect my rooster and hens, I make some art that shares a story, or inspires someone to do one small thing they've always wanted to do. I can make someone happy with a one minute puppet show.

This morning the predicted rains didn't transpire. Instead, I walked to the barn in a light fog, and walked with the sheep down to their field. The sun was above the fog and made small streaks of light on the damp backs of my flock. It made me beam.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Some non magical stuff

This is a very non magical post, but it must be done.

Don't forget to get your orders in for this year's holiday card- if you like blue, or stars, skies, bunnies, pony-donkeys, you'll be happy. Supplies are limited.

Also, I've added a way to buy autographed copies of my book, "Creative Illustration Workshop" at my site.

I've also added a Flickr group for the book since people wanted to share the things they've been inspired to make. Do not be shy to join the group and post sketches, ideas, sewing, knitting, paintings, collages - Anything inspired after reading the book.

I also am updating the main site continually with new work- including the Art to Help Animals section. So check in there often.

OK, enough non magic for the day!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Barnyard returns

What you can't see in this picture is the big screen television we dragged out to the barnyard for results. Not a lot of smiles, as you can see. However, life is going on here, hope still lingers in the blue sky above Apifera.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Itty Bitty thoughts

I told her I wouldn't share her thoughts right now, but they are all in her teeny head. They are real thoughts, just like yours or mine. I must let her be an itty bitty for awhile and not tarnish her with characterization. She deserves that time.