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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The turtle is given land

It was about 30 feet from the front gate, off to the side of the gravel county road - rural but frequented by speeding trucks and ignorants up the dead end.

"Are you lost? This seems out of place for your kind?" I asked the turtle.

"Not sure," the turtle responded, its head barely out of his 6" shell.

"You'll die a bad death out here. There's no water either. Come to Apifera with me," I said and before it could respond I'd picked it up and he tucked his head and appendages in its little home. It was the most polite turtle I'd met and when we entered the Apifera gates I had many good choices where to rehome the fine turtle.

"Are you a girl?" I asked, fearing I might be taking it from eggs. It didn't answer. Perhaps that is a question turtles find offensive. They do after all spend a lot of time in a shell, so announcing what gender they are might feel invasive and dangerous.

"It's so convenient to have a portable house," I said. "I will put you here, near the marsh, far from the main road so if you wander you will still be on Apifera land."

Turtle sat there for some time and finally a head poked out.

"Marsh front, very nice," she said. I say 'she' here because I really sensed a feminine essence about her tone.

I haven't seen her since, but it sure was nice holding a turtle again. I'd had so many nice days as a child amongst the turtles in the Minnesota marshes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pie Love: How to prepare fruit for baking

Visit the apple tree you plan to harvest and let it know you will be making an apple pie soon. This allows the apple tree to prepare itself for the harvesting of its fruit. Wait at least one day and return to the apple tree.

Speak kindly; do not rush yourself, or the tree. The tree will show you which apples you should pick. Trees are forgiving, so if you make a mistake, they will not hold it against you. Thank the apple tree with more kind words — or embrace it, but ask first, for trees are like people, they don't all feel comfortable with hugging.

Return to your kitchen with your apples, stopping to chat with any birds, leaves, cats, dogs, or bugs that you come upon. Do not rush with your chatter, and when you finally get to your kitchen, lovingly say good-bye to the apples. This is not a sad time for the apples, nor should it be for you. The tree mother has well prepared them for this day, and they know all their energy has gone into being the apple they now are. They are confidant and brave, and feel no pain after leaving the mother tree. Before slicing the apples, hum or sing to them. It doesn't matter what song you choose. The slices will appreciate this kind gesture as they go to sleep. Then place them in a bowl of sugar for fifteen minutes before putting your pie together.

Excerpt from "Donkey Dream" { A Love Story of Pie and Farm} an illustrated memoir by Katherine Dunn of Apifera Farm. Please consider pledgin/pre ordering a copy at the current Kickstarter project. I  only receive the money if we make the funding goal. Ends 3/23/14.

Pie Love: How to prepare a 'raggedy' crust

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you have heard the word raggedy often. Raggedy is the way my braids look mixed with snippets of hay, raggedy is how The Dirt Farmer dresses, raggedy is a Apifera love in motion. Many have asked me for specific directions on how to make my infamous raggedy crusts. It's an intuitive process and difficlt to capture in a step-by-step recipe, so I crafted this wording for you.

Before you begin the crust, go outside and run, skip, or walk as fast as you can. Don't wear a hat or hold your hair back by braids or bands.

Don't worry if it is raining or snowing.

Return to your house and look in the mirror. Relish in the sight of your hairs all randomly arranged. Do not brush your hair. If you have long hair you can braid it, but do it fast with your eyes closed.

Prepare your pie crust and fruit filling as usual, leaving dough for the top. Roll out dough for the lattice. Close your eyes, think of your hair and how it felt in the wind. Slice a long 10" piece of dough. Do not partake in internal banter such as, "Oh dear, it is not straight." Cut many pieces like this, quickly, with passion.

Place one strand of dough on top of the filling. Twirl yourself around twice and place the next piece on the pie. Repeat until all the dough strands are on the pie. If you feel dizzy, for heaven's sake, sit down and rest.

Do not weave the strands together, just let the strands be themselves.

Excerpt from "Raggedy Love" an illustrated memoir by Katherine Dunn of Apifera Farm. Interested publishers may contact Katherine for a complete manuscript and art samples or to discuss this project in detail.

New art cards for sale

I've taken some of the art from "Misfits of Love" and made sweet little art cards that are now on my Etsy shop. Each one has a mini story about the animal it depicts. I hope to do this with more of the art as I work on this book.

"Misfits of Love" is an illustrated collection of narratives and short stories with both painting and sepia toned photographs. It documents the souls, voices and hearts of a collection of old, neglected, and sometimes abused creatures that make their way to my home, Apifera Farm. Some come by invitation, others after hearing about the haven from the birds or winds.

This is not your average collection of feel good animal stories. An editor recently described my writing as "part Griffin & Sabine and part Sara Midda — with a dash of Alice in Wonderland and a hint of Rumi. Apifera's misfits are crippled goats, a pig, wandering roosters, an old goose and donkey and dying lambs hospiced by a blind senior dog, mice in love and more - each has a voice.

The project's initial stage was helped along with Kickstarter funding. Now my agent Erzsi Deak is also helping pitch the stories with my other book projects [collective applause is heard from the barnyard!]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sometimes they just go off

It is time to admit that Quince is not returning. I will be honest and tell you I don't know exactly when he disappeared from his normal barn routines. I was overwhelmed with lambing duties this year- more than ever because I bred more ewes - and then the rain and other things consumed me. I just noticed one day he was not at breakfast.

I have learned not to panic immediately when a barn cat goes off - they were born wild here and lived on their own terms - with food from me, of course. Most semi ferels don't live a year, so knowing Quince lived eight years - and happily - is a good thing to keep with me.

He was from the first litter of Apifera - days into arriving here, I knew there were several adult semi ferels roaming around - Mama Kitty was one, and Big Tony, the latter who turned out to be a big lush of a cat and now lives in the house with the Dirt Farmer as a pillow.

Mama is still with us after three litters, two of which have been raised here at Apifera, the other litter she deposited at a farm down the road and many still live there. She lives on the porch with remaining sons Orange and Plum, both brothers to Quince. Take note, trapping/spaying/neutering of the 25 'free range' cats took place over a two year period when I first arrived at Apifera. Many good people helped me pay for it all. And of course cats still show up periodically and are invited to stay.

 I feel like Apifera - now eight years old - is on some kind of shift. Some of my old timers are leaving me. Old Man Guinnias' departure was a huge turning point for me and the barnyard feels askew. Now the first litter is waning...Big Tony is showing signs of age too. Even the Head Troll is about 10 and The One Eyed Pug is ancient.

All is well, do not be fooled by my rather overly quiet post. But everyone has shifts in their life. It's good to recognize them as such, and be wide eyed for what is in front of me when it resettles.

I hope you did not suffer, Quince. You were a fine gentleman, never pushy or aggressive, always willing to schooch over in the food pile.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Old donkey

Matilda's patterns collaborated with shadows of the Old Oak making these two long lived creatures a duo worth watching tonight.

A gaggle with goat

The Head Troll reviews the day while the gaggle and flocks make their way home at evening rush hour.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The kiss of the goat

He's the most stoic of all the adopted goats. A complete gentleman, unless he's trying to establish his crippled footing for the food dish. Do not be deceived by his condition, he is strong as an ox.

 In the turmoil of lambing season, through the sadness of losing Old Man Guinnias, there stood Stevie. Beautiful, brown, quiet Stevie. I was told by his former caretakers at Sanctuary One when we picked him up last year,

"He gives kisses." I had no reason not to believe them.

And I can attest that he does give kisses, each morning, each afternoon and evening - on demand. No, not a French kiss, that would be unnecessary for a goat - they can display much trust and compassion through closed lips.

 "Good morning, Stevie," I'll say as I put my face near his. And without prompting, he reaches out with his closed lips, and presses them into mine, really softly, like a butterfly kissing a baby. Yep, say what you will, but it's the sweetest little kiss I've ever had from any creature two foot or four.

 I have always massaged my old creatures, and young ones- but obviously can't give a proper lengthy massage to all of them. Caring for the lambs and needy mama ewes, and Old Man, and that very princess little pig, took massage time away from Stevie. So today I started giving him a good back and shoulder massage. He loves it.

Stevie was in a herd of goats in Oregon that were all being neglected. It was a bad case of neglect, and when authorities were able to rescue the whole herd, Stevie was the worse off. His toes and not been trimmed for so long that they were curled badly and he had taken to walking on his knees. But he'd been in this condition for so long his muscles and body had adapted, so he couldn't walk even after his feet were trimmed [and they will never be the same]. The Humane Society stepped in and - amazingly - helped fund a surgery for Stevie to adjust tendons so he could at least get off his knees. [Veterinarian Gene Kang of Oregon's Parkway Hospital performed the surgery]. He will never stand straight, but he can walk now. He is challenged though, he doesn't frolic or play with the other goats. He's very quiet and suns a lot, eats, rests in his hut, and gives kisses.

I imagine because of his size and condition, he might not live as long as a small pygmy, and I decided massages now on his shoulders 3x a week might really help keep him stronger longer. I do encourage him to walk a short distance each day.

Today when I went to the barnyard for morning feedings, there was no Old Man Guinnias. This is still a shocking observation for me which will lessen in time. But there was Stevie near the gate. It was unusual for him to come this far in the morning, especially in a light rain. He can't walk fast, so just as I used to guide Guin back to the barn, I walked slowly with Stevie. He stopped a couple times to look at me - so kiss worthy was his expression, but for his sake I refrained.

 "Notice me, I am Stevie," his eyes said. "I can walk to the gate too."

Doors close and windows open.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Letter from Guinnias

I knew he'd write. I knew it. I know he must be busy, settling, roaming, adjusting and I don't want to tie him down with my human needs. He must fly on and journey. But I do hope he writes me often. It's happysad to feel him come through me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Old Man Guinnias has gone on

It's a very sad day for me. Old Man Guinnias was the first old creature to come to Apifera at age 15, crippled from foot neglect [we adopted him from New Moon Goat Farm]. But he just kept on ticking. Those of you that know me well, understand that this was more than a goat - he was a muse, a friend, an inspiration, a first. Every old man I ever knew or loved was wrapped up into that goat.  He will never be replaced. He will never be forgotten.

One dances through life with various muses, tapping a two step or lingering shoulder to shoulder to a love song. But in the end, one has to take the final dance alone. And so Old Man Guinnias quietly danced off last night without me. He was going into his twentieth year.

As I walked to the barn this morning, the usual sounds greeted me - the donkeys brayed, the horse nickered, the ducks spoke and I could hear the chickens flapping their wings in their coop anticipating the new day. The Head Troll was already up and out, and Professor and Stevie slept near the entrance to Guinnias' sleeping chambers. The pig was still snoring, only a few feet from the Old Man. And there he was, my beautiful old goat, on his side, eyes open but dancing far, far, away.

While I gasped as I saw him, I was prepared. In the last two weeks he had been getting weaker on his legs and falling frequently. He was losing weight and I couldn't keep it on him even with various supplements. On Sunday he couldn't get up without assistance and throughout the day he fell four times. I would hear him crying and I'd find him splayed out on his side, unable to right himself. A goat or ruminant is in trouble if they are on their side too long, especially an old fellow. On one fall, he had somehow turned his neck backwards. His uncrippled left side was simply unable to hold him up anymore. Thankfully I was in the barnyard all day working, so was able to rescue him each time, and with each incident, I held him and spoke with him about...everything.

He was no longer safe, nor could he do simple things he enjoyed - walking to the gate to meet me or standing in the sun. They say one will "just know the right time" to put an animal down. I have found that not always to be true. But yesterday, I knew.

And that inner knowledge was a gift, because it let me and Guinny have a day of goodbyes. I spent long spells holding him and telling him how special our journey was together.

"You were meant to be here, Guin, there will never be another goat like you, never," I said.

I sat in the stall and sang to him. His body pushed into me, unable to stand on its own, his head was on my shoulder. When I looked in his eyes, I saw dignity and a goat that was tired, and ready. I cried with him, his were invisible tears. Most importantly, I was able to tell him it was okay to go on, and I told him I'd do right by him and wouldn't let him suffer. It was time to let go.

When I put him to bed last night, I secured him in his stall so he would have less chance of falling. He was resting peacefully after his dinner. I had planned to call the vet this morning. But The Old Man did it his way. And I can't help see it as his final gift to me.

"She needs me to help this time," I felt those words from him this morning.

I am so appreciative I was with him so much, and especially yesterday. It was a beautiful, clear day and he had sun in his bones. Martyn offered to dig the grave but I needed to prepare it. It's my last gift to him, my last act of care. He will rest near Aunt Bea and Rosa's lambs and come summer pumpkins will shade him. He's wrapped in my first horse blanket that has kept so many other old goats warm in times of need and a small sheep and donkey will be his companions until he is settled. The animal crackers are from his special lady friend who loved sending him cookie care packages all the way from Connecticut. Their presence in his grave will remind me and him how far his love went, and how he made a difference to other old animals in need. The feather will help him float on days he might feel tired.

No more, "I love you's", no more blog posts tagged with his name, no old face waiting at the gate, no more sun breaks with Guin...but he's everywhere I go on this farm.

And as I documented in "Misfits of Love", I will honor Guinnias's request, when he said one day as we harvested pumpkins,

“Please face me toward the sun, and place my ear tips in a way so I can hear the sing song of the barnyard.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I'm tweaking myself this year. After eight years on the farm, I'm regaining time to just sit, and think. I used to have so much time for this in my single-non farm life...but duties of the old goat-donkey-one-eyed pug caretaker never end. But the caretaker realized she had forgotten a bit of herself in all the care of others. It happens.

All is well, and I'm remembering how essential it is to have minutes to myself...to just be. Big Tony does it so well.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I've been walking more, long walks, now that the weather is at least giving us sun breaks for an hour at a time. The winter rains really wore my spirit down, I must admit. But this week I stood up to the rain and said, "Look, I know you're here for good reasons, but I'm getting on with it - so come as you will." It actually helped. I went for a walk and the smell of new plum blossoms wafted over me. I heard birds, newly returned to the dead thistles and teasel in the side roads. The streams were full of symphonies from both right and left- stereo without electricity.

As I returned from my walk and headed up our gravel drive and first caught sight of the barn with the donkeys lounging nearby, I was jolted back - back to a feeling I had when I first brought little Pino home some 7 years ago. Seeing him in the field brought me such joy and comfort for months on end - it never really goes away, mind you, but one does get more jaded of the joie de vivre of having a little donkey after when one's head is clouded with winter rain debris. Now please, kind readers, don't write and tell me how graced I am here, I know. But I'm human, and yes, even the magic of Apifera can seem invisible at times of doubt, darkness or distress.

I came back to the studio and instead of office work, or writing - which takes me internal so deep inside my own head that it can weight me, I heard something in me, inviting me to paint. I hadn't painted for awhile since I've been immersed in book projects to be pitched.

This is the painting I did in sync with one of my muses. The woman is much more of a child, but that child came to remind the woman of the magic surrounding her.

I thank the smell of the plums and the river's song for bringing my muse to me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yes, really, the donkey sells aprons

If you've just started visiting the blog, you might not know that my little donkey Pino has been quietly selling vintage aprons and the sales help old and needy barn animal rescues. I decided to start putting many of those aprons up on Etsy, just easier for keeping track of things.

What? A donkey selling aprons? It all It all started with a broken heart, which led to many wonderful things as broken hearts often do. The pain was well worth the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. If you are just too tired to lift your itty bitty finger to 'click' that link above [and if you are tired, you should try to 'click' it because I think it will uplift you in a tiny way] I took a shine to aprons when I moved to the farm - they hold great stuff like eggs and hay twine, and I can wipe the runny nose of an old goat at whim.

I also loves to make pie and share it, and one day I took my little donkey, Pino, to a nearby farm, with pie - of course clad in an old apron. It made quite an impression. I shared the story with friends and little Pino started popping up in my art with an apron too. Before you knew it, the donkey was getting aprons in the mail - lots of them. So I decided to put them to good use.

Every June, the donated aprons are strung along a big clothesline at the farm's annual Pino Pie Day. Apron sales help other goat/donkey/barnyard sanctuaries [this year they will be split between New Moon Goat Rescue, Sanctuary One and Lavender Dreams Donkey Rescue - three places where all our adopted barnyard creatures are from and people we know and love their work. My fresh homemade pie is served as are donkey hugs - all for free, and my art and lavender are sold too.

So help us get a head start and shp for aprons. I'll be adding more this month. If you want to donate an apron, Pino loves mail.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Morning yoga with a Peach

She charges nothing for her lessons. Their are no words exchanged. Nor do we stuff ourselves in a room of high temperature with yoga panted people. Our yoga room is the open big top of Apifera and the instructor always ends the class with her uniquely mastered prayer pose.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Puppet goes to the pig's birthday party

How pies and donkeys came together - the short version

Pino Pie Day is coming up In June. Hoof stomps! Brays! I made brief little something to show you how I came to have a pie party with my donkey. In fact, how the heck did a Minnsotan city girl end up living on a run down farm where the barn speaks? Well, in a nutshell: Shattered heart reborn through a cherry pie...and a donkey. True story - tThe shortie version. Pass it onto pie lovers, please.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

New prints!

The Etsy shop has been updated, with many new prints including images [art and photos] from "Misfits of Love". The sale is gone, but a few strangler prints are in a "closeout" section.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Sigh of the shepherd

Betty had the final lambs of the season. It's always fun when a mainly white ewe throws a little brown and white beauty as this girl on the left, shown here getting a secret tip from her cousin, one of Nellie's red girls.

There was a collective sigh of relief from shepherd, old goats and ewes. The rams didn't care. And now that we are having one full sunny day, they can finally experience the real world of the barnyard. If a word or two sums up lambing this year, it would have to be "Spots" and "Girl". Twelve girls and four boys with lots of deep chocolates, polk a dots and freckles. Everyone seems healthy and the gang of sixteen are now entering the stage of running circles around their Mamas, not to mention the old goats and pig...and me.

This year was the first season I've had to keep the ewes in the barn almost every day for two weeks at a time due to the heavy rains. The ground is still saturated and high traffic areas at gates need at least three days of sun to dry out enough to get lambies through. We're lucky to have this barnyard as it has lots of concrete thanks to it's old purpose as a milking barn. The challenge of the rains made certain tasks more difficult - more water buckets to clean and carry - but I wasn't chasing as many lambs to get them in the barn at night. Still, I bred double the number this year - it seemed like a good idea at the time, I really did have a master plan - but it was too many since I do all the work myself. My energy was really sucked away into the rain too. I have to admit I was depressed from lack of sun and when the rains just keep coming and coming...and coming, mud tripled over night, it made me down right cranky. I must say I enjoyed the spirit of The Bottomtums - leave to ducks and an old goose to remind you their is a silver lining in every puddle.

 I took time each day and night though to just sit in the stall and enjoy the new life. They didn't care about the rain - they were dry and warm in their large suite, running, jumping and suckling. And the sound of rain on the tin roof, with all my animals chomping hay - it was comforting.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sun break

The weather has been abysmal. The grounds are saturated and the paths are mud.

When there is a sun break, no mater how brief, one must takes advantage of it even if it only means a quick cat nap, um, that is a pig nap, or goat nap.