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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Bower of Dreams...part one

It was a Tuesday in May and like many of my days I was mingling with Apifera, surrounded by creatures and land, void of any leader except for the muses in my heart.

I had just conversed with the sun overhead, so knew it was noon by minutes. And that's when I first saw the door.

I was instantly intrigued by its mystery but also rather spooked by its strange location, floating some 15 feet up off the ground with the hayloft sitting off to its side. The old wooden door was accessible only by a tall ladder making the purpose of the room lying behind it even more provocative for my Lucy Ricardo mindset.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The smile of Stella

Years ago, when I was a freshly showered single lass wandering the city for amusement, I always had a farm in my head - where it was I didn't quite know. And I knew that future farm would have goats.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day of shared mud

I continued my work as a warrioress against mud tonight, until I realized there was no point to fight it anymore. Rather, I spent brief moments amongst a mud clad donkey gang, and I focused on small often unnoticed details- like the way a wet back looks covered in mud against a distant tree in a moss coat.

I sang amongst my clan, a verse of a song I love:

"Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight."
[Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Some times your beard gets wet

To combat the dreary weather and take my mind off the fact it is the wettest March in Oregon history, I jumped right into the donkey and goat paddock and crawled in mud to capture the essence of muck.

I'll share those pictures with you later, but Iris caught my eye. When I went to buy Iris and Stella, back in 2004 when we first moved to the farm, they were 3 months old. I picked Stella out immediately as she was a real looker. When I picked out Iris in a mass of rambuncious goats, the farmer said, "Well, she might tender up someday." Iris always has, and always will, remind me of a monkey. She's smart, mischievous and swings from trees.

The picture below captivated me when I got back to my computer. It looked like a staged background. I drew myself into her curled ears, swinging as she moved and I said a prayer,

"Please, don't let me ever forget what her curled ears looked like, no matter how old or demented I get."

Chicken underpants of the moment

It's a challenge to keep one's undergarments clean and fresh in the muddy season, but Clara knows at any moment the paparazzi can be lurking, waiting for the perfect underpants photo opportunity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Horse balances woman

It took a long time to get my balance back after leaving Minnesota and moving to Oregon. Even though the move to the farm was the dream of a child turning into a middle aged woman's reality, it was still an uprooting of many kinds- leaving the single life to marry Martyn and giving up the conveniences of the city.

When I look back at the initial era of paintings created on the farm, the woman is often balancing, or being balanced with the help of the land and creatures she has surrounded herself in. Do not take this as a sad time, it was not. I have rebalanced now, and it is when I'm away from my studio and farm I am out of balance. My women in paintings are upright again, with braids acting as wings.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One and a two and a three

On Saturday, Lilly finally went into labor. I gave her 30 minutes and came back to a huge, beautiful boy who was already standing with ears upright [most lambs are born with floppy ears and then they perk up in a day or two]. Upon my next 30 minute check, she'd had her second, a sweet girl, almost all white which doesn't usually happen around here. I thought she was done, but checked in again to make sure, and there was a tiny coco gray boy.

Triplets. Again.

After last week's losses, I was a bit overly analytical about every move these lambs and mother made. I wanted to tube the little boy, but Martyn felt it was not necessary and might cause more problems than good. So we checked them every 30 minutes for the entire day and each time, they were all getting stronger, and eating well. Lilly had plenty of milk, unlike Daisy who was lacking in that department. These triplets were much stronger, even the runt.

So, they made it through the night, and the next day. And today they saw the earth for the first time. We shall see if the little coco boy catches up. Either way, he made it. And lambing season is done for yet another year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Little ladies

Our line has a lot of color in it, but there is something pretty sweet about white lambs. These twin girls out of Bessie are 2 days old and have the sweetest little Audrey Hepburn like expressions. To see more about this season's lambing, scroll below to earlier posts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Little survivor

Daisy's remaining triplet, a chunky legged beautiful boy, steps out for the first time yesterday, thanks to a couple hours of sun. I buried the other triplets on Sheep Hill near the lilacs. Soon they will sprout wild daisies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hospice of a lamb

To see the slideshow of the all the photos from Hospice for a Lamb, visit this secure link.

She was just 4#. I had secretly named her Little Daisy, which is a mistake. One should never name a lamb before a few days, you learn that. But then again, maybe this one time it was important I named her. Maybe something much bigger than me, or Apifera, knew what was in store for that little creature and knew naming it would mean something to both the dying and the watcher of the dying.

Everything seemed fine at seven AM, roughly 19 hours after Daisy's triplets were born. While it is always exciting to see triplets, it is entwined with an element of dread. Many issues can arise with them - weak lambs, not enough milk, a weak ewe or milk fever. We've had a healthy set of triplets in the past from Rosie, but lost all six triplets in '09.

So with the triplets looked good in the morning, all milking a bit, tails wiggling, I felt okay. Daisy is an excellent mother too. Maybe that was one of my mistakes, not taking charge right away and tube feeding the tiny little ewe, only 4#. I check my lambs every two hours the first day for their tongue temperature, and if it's warm, I'm happy.

What happened from 7 AM to 9 AM is a secret of the universe, something no one will truly know. But I found her listless. The big boy was eating, the middle brown boy was sleeping. Sleeping day old lambs can look dead, believe me. So at first when I saw her, I didn't think anything was wrong. But I decided to give her another squirt of vitamin drench since she's so small, and her little body was like a slightly alive rag doll. I rushed her into the house, encouraging her to stay with me. I tube fed her and was careful not to get it into her lungs. I had initial hopes, but I knew she wasn't going to make it. And she didn't. She died surrounded by hospice team of an old one eyed pug, a concerned lab and a kitten that knew only too well what it meant to be saved.

After she died, I decided to tube feed both boys as a precaution, thinking it might be a milk issue. Arriving at the barn, the brown boy was now looking dopey, but better than his sister had. I thought I could save him. After tubing him, I knew he wasn't going to make it, so returned him to Daisy. He died soon after.

This is part of shepherding. I'm proud to say that I was calm and remembered how to tube a lamb without panic. I also told them to "go on now", which I think is a gift to the dying. I had tried and I knew they both tried as much as their bodies could.

The vet felt it was not a milk issue, said I did everything in my power and that triplet births can be stressful and create things you can't control. We played the 'If I had done this sooner" game, maybe they would have lived. Or maybe they would have lived and died a week later.

As the little lamb ewe lay near the fire, with her hospice team nearby, I went for my camera. I wondered if it was ghoulish to photograph the scene of near death. But I wanted to and wondered why I wanted to. I've been thinking of that all day- why did I need and want to document the moment, and was it worthy of her short life.

A creature of any kind, any kind, can touch a human life and reach deep into their best parts and say, "I know I'm little, and dying, but you cared to take pictures of my beautiful ears. You let me be warm. I could hear you too."

Her ears were so beautiful, much like the hair of one of my felted creatures.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The nap will let me dream

Update at 3:26pm: "Oh, I'll just check the ewes one more time and then take my nap," I said. Twin girls about an hour old out of Bessie. Looks like Lilly is in labor, and maybe Daisy. Now I'll take my nap.

In the dreary late winter rains, with no hope for sun...really, there is no hope. That is how I feel at this exact moment. It is partially due to the fact I've been sick, and I'm a very bad sick person and tend to get all frustrated with just about anything in my path. I am one of those people that pretends I'm not sick, but clearly by looking and listening to me, I am.

I'm also doing a lot of waiting. Waiting not to be sick. Waiting to hear about a particular project. Waiting to get paid b an overdue client. Waiting for the ewes to lamb as they now enter the over ripe pregnancy state.

So I shall follow Papa Roo's lead. I shall give in to it all, enter my chamber, and take a nap.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Make pie not war

Pino's Pie Day is fast approaching - Sunday June 19 - and I have officially begun floating in my Pre Pie Day Head. This allows me to imagine the new things I want to bring to Pie Day. I sit by the fire at night and share a multitude of ideas with The Dirt Farmer and he patiently listens. I withhold some ideas knowing it's a fine line between sharing ideas and overloading him into a panic. Apifera would be lost if the Dirt Farmer just went into a zombie state of Katherine Idea Overload, or worse, ran down the road to live by his beloved river front only to communicate with fish.

But this month, he'll build a new shade area within the Donkey Hug Area, so we can sit and commune with Pino and friends in any kind of weather. It will be handy year round as shade and shelter for the sheep, and any donkeys I might have a hankering to sit with. I'll lolly gag over to the raspberry bramble, pick fruit and enjoy the juices of the earth at leisure, donkey on the side.

I made this apron today, all raggedy of course. You can buy it over at Pino's Apron Gallery where all sales help donkeys and senior creatures in need. I think making pie instead of war would be good advice these days, any day for that matter.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gift of a goat sunset

The skies were weary and tired. They cried all day mixed with bouts of tantrum winds. I held my head into my coat, whispering to myself, "Please, bring me warm days for my lambs."

A goat walked to me. He smiled the entire way. He's a goat, but he thinks of himself as an acrobat, flying off hay bales like a trapeze artist.

"I will make the sky full of sun and flowers for you," he said as he leapt as high as the barn roof, landing on all fours.

"Are you happy for it?" he then asked, his job finished.

"I am," I told him.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The barnyard speaks! The print goes to....

The winner is...you'll see. The end of the video lists all participants and their states...and they will all get a surprise from Pino later in the year. We again, thank everyone who played along, and over $155 was raised to help Lavender Dreams Farm/Donkey Rescue to help with hay costs while they care for Matilda in the next couple months before her departure to Apifera.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Audrey gives us life

I arrived at the barn this morning and heard the usual suspects, all saying the same thing, "You're kind of late, where's breakfast."

But there was one new voice, and even after 7 lambing seasons, I go into a mini First Lamb of the Season befuddlement. Even though I was already with lambing pens and all was well, the little distinctive bleat of a new lamb makes my heart flip flop.

Entering the pen to see who lambed - I knew it had to be Audrey - is always an exciting but anxious moment, especially after The Spring of Death in '09. If you're tired of that reference, get used to it, it's part of my skin now and will most likely pop up each spring. Lambing is fun, but just as much can go wrong, as right. So you hope for the right, and prepare for the worst.

A boy, a girl, alive, breathing, probably an hour old. The boy was slightly chilled, but nothing major. Gave them both lamb drench and he jumped up. Fortunately, it's a sunny day, no wind, and I have them in a lamb jug in the orchard by the other mama-to-be ewes. I wrapped him in a warm sweater for now. It's warmer there than in the stall. They still don't have the hang of the nipple, but I milked colostrum and gave them some. Will watch every two hours to make sure they are eating something. I fret a bit about the boy. His mouth is warm now, a good sign.

And as I sat watching the newborns, Daisy went down, and her breathing increased. Thing she might lamb today. Will watch and get her moved inside if needed. I like to keep my ewes in the sun and up and about until the day they lamb - if I can. I had one new mom arrive at the barn once with her baby sticking out. All went fine, but it was early in my shepherd life, and I learned a lesson. I guess the lesson is - they can fool you sometime.

Friday, March 04, 2011

It could be yours, and it helps others

March 8,UPDATE: The person who will have the print in their home will be announced today on the blog. Everyone is so wonderful for playing along. All who did will get a surprise in the mail later on in the year. We love surprises.

Pay $5. Pino will decide who gets this 5x7" print [value of $25.50] by throwing all the names up in the air and which ever name floats into or closest to his bucket gets this piece of art.

Then he's going to wrap up some money in burlap and mail it to Matilda's current caregivers to help pay for her hay.

Love note from Matilda

Apifera received a nice note from Matilda's temporary caretakers up at Lavender Dreams Farm and Donkey Rescue with this picture of her, and some of the other Magnificent Nine, as they have been dubbed. The note said "Matilda says to tell you she is waiting for you and has been, all of her life." Some relationships take a long time to develop under the hidden covers of the universe guides.

Pino, or Pino the Puppet, maybe both, have been conspiring in the barn all week...I try to stay out of their business and just let them be donkey and puppet, but if I see smoke coming from the barn, I step in. So I'm not sure what they are up too, but I have heard them practicing to spell "Matilda". I will of course relay, or they will, and necessary messages fit for human ears.

In the meantime, if you or a friend has room and can adopt one of the other Magnificent Nine, please contact Lavender Dreams Farm - they are safe there, but the farm can only accommodate and care for so many donkeys. Taking in a donkey is a commitment as they live to be 25-35+, and need foot care at least 5 times a year. But they are charming, sociable, loving, and intelligent. They add to your life, if you are lucky enough to have the time and inner desire to communicate with them. They will rock your heart.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Special Pre-Spring Goat Dance

Find a wall, cement is best.
Push your big ol' butt right up to that wall.
Rub it, a lot, back and forth.
Groove with it, don't hold back.
Close your eyes and revel in the feeling.
Pay no attention the hair and dander falling off your body.
When an adequate feeling of satisfaction is reached, proceed with your day.