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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's another, "I was minding my own business" story

You know the routine, I was minding my own business last week, mulling over which wormer to buy at the feed store. Content with my choice, I meandered up to the check out counter at my small local feed store where every knows your name, or at least what route number you live on.

A very nicely attired - at least for the feed store - gentleman of about sixty came in with a box in his hands, the kind of box you would buy a large quantity of Xerox paper in, say 16" x 14" or so.

The two regulars behind the counter, and I, all looked at him as he shyly said he had a chicken and that so and so who worked there had agreed to take it off his hands. But she wasn't working this particular day.

Now everyone at this store has plenty of chickens, as do I, so it's not like we all jumped at the chance to perhaps intervene and take the chicken.

"Is it a rooster?" I asked, usually the case when someone wants to rehome a chicken.

"No, it's a hen..." he said rather sheepishly.

"Why are you giving her away?" I asked.

"She keeps getting out into the neighbor's yard and into my vegetables and I just can't put fencing up. She's free range," he said. "She gets into everything."

Now, this is where I wanted to say, "You're free ranging a chicken in your yard, without fencing anywhere, and you now realize she will go in your garden, and your neighbors?" Just one of many reasons animal sanctuaries all over are overrun with chickens.

Anyway, he seemed to be a very nice man, at least in the five minutes I knew him, and I sensed his city neighbor was the main issue in this matter. He wasn't a farmer type and didn't have a network of chicken homes to reach out to, so he came to the feed store. He claimed she might have to become a picnic if he didn't give her to someone. We all knew this guy was not capaable of the deed or he would have done it already.

The girls behind the counter asked me if I wanted the chicken.

The entire time, I was thinking, "I do not need to take this chicken, step away from the chicken, someone has already said they'd take this chicken, you do not need to help every chicken that crosses the road..."

But then I went and asked him just what kind of chicken was in that closed box of his.

"An Astrolup," he said.

My heart raced.

"I'll take her," I said, without even looking at her.

"I don't know if she still lays, but she's nice," he said.

He seemed almost sad about giving up the chicken, but also resigned to not leaving with her, or the box.

"I've always wanted an Astrolup," I said, and we peeked in the box. She was a beautiful coco color.

I clucked to her all the way home, leaving people at stop signs bemused.

Now, if I had been to the feed store one minute earlier, or later, I would have missed the chance. Surely it was destiny, for both hen and woman.

And can I tell you, she is a fabulous hen. Very tame, which makes me think the man really did care for her and like her. I told him how good she'd have it here, and that she would die a natural death here by nature, not by anyone's hand.

I never asked him if she had a name. But I call her Henrietta.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Elder gentleman in transition

Perhaps one of the most memorable visits I had at Sanctuary One was with an old ram, well into his senior years. It was a hot day, and he had taken refuge in a barn, with another senior fellow. I met him in the morning and vowed to return later in the day to try to capture him in photos. He had a gentle, beautiful essence, one that seemed resigned to his stage of life without regret.

When I returned hours later, he was lying in basically the same spot, but his head was turned and I couldn't really do well with the light or the specific camera lens I had on. But I found these images very telling and spiritual.

He never opened his eyes during his long nap, but I did speak at length to him and rubbed his ears and forehead. Communing with him was very nice and I know he is transitioning into his next big journey.

I swear, I didn't take a cow in

The Dirt Farmer and I snuck away from the farm, for - Heaven forbid - three whole days.

Collective gasp from the barnyard!

It was much needed and well deserved. Leaving the farm is one of the most stressful things about living here for me. The details of first finding a reliable farm sitter [and I'm hoping this one sticks because she had fun and seemed to really like it,and we love her too] and then creating the lists and details for that farm sitter is enough to create a need for a vacation from the pre-vacation.

We wanted to take a trip to one of our favorite spots in Oregon - the Jacksonville area near Ashland near the California border. Not only is the energy suited for me, the rivers are full of fish for Martyn and it also is where Sanctuary One is located, Rosie and Stevie's old home.

I spent a day visiting with Robert Casserly at the Sanctuary, meeting all the animals, like Cream, a beautiful cow who had spent her life donating blood and is now retired at the Sanctuary. I met the three "little" pigs [this is Sanctuary One humor, as the pigs are huge boats - maybe 500-800#?] and we gave one a dirt/mud bath and massage. Now that's a vacation! I also got to see all the wonderful new things they've accomplished in one year since we picked up Rosie and Stevie. A new Cat Cottage to help house 15 cats - most are the least likely to be adopted from large shelters due to their handicaps or color. They have a wonderful chicken coop made out of straw bales. The gardens were ripe with produce and herbs. And the place was buzzing with smiling volunteers and happy visitors [and animals]. Imagine if more farms could create one cat cottage, or one goat area and take on 5 of each to help animals reside in more natural settings until homes are found for them.

Sanctuary One is a 'care farm', a concept that is well known in Europe but is still new to the States. I was attracted to The Sanctuary because of this concept [a blessing, as it brought me to Rosie, and Stevie]. The idea is that people, animal and land are working together in an equal, tandem relationship to heal, teach and thrive - no one entity is put on a pedestal. I also was able to drop off a couple of prints to Robert of Rosie and Stevie which he is donating to the Sanctuary. He was generous in helping fund my "Misfits of Love" Kickstarter project.

I always considered our time here at Apifera as such. I do not consider myself an animal rescuer, but rather, a person that is open to those creatures in need that come my way and see me as a safe spot to live or be hospiced - this includes plants and often people. But I feel I am working in tandem with nature and the laws and forces of the universe to walk with, support, improve, and heal land, people and animals - and that work helps bring healing to me.

It's a wonderful organization - a very positive glow engulfs the place and people.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rides with Boone

It has been the summer of "Me & Boone". I made a firm decision that I would ride more, learn more, and enjoy more Boone time. And I did. I had been duffing around for the first three years I owned him, taking him out on a road ride a week - but the cars, the unknowns started adding up and I became less confidant. He felt it and responded with some lazy or unreliable responses. And when a log truck is rolling down the road, you want to know your horse responds to your leg and gets "Over now".

So, I invested in a small horse trailer - it fits Boone perfectly - and I invested in renting time at a nearby barn and arena where Boone and I can go ride year round under cover, and then ride the beautiful 100 acre homestead that has been groomed for the horse riders in the barn. The owner is eighty and still rides and she has become a wonderful horse companion, teacher, mentor and inspiration to me. She sits and watches me and Boone ride and it has helped my confidence immensely.I never thought I could afford this, but I found this wonderful opportunity in my own backyard. Oddly, when we first moved here, I used to drive by the property and admire the quaint, somewhat raggedy property and old house and wondered who lived there. It spoke to me every time I drove by. I should have acted sooner.

I never thought I'd get into dressage, but here I am taking my first dressage lessons at 54. And I love it. Every two weeks, a teacher arrives for me and Boone. My goals when I started riding there were to get Boone to move forward better, and have a steady trot. That was it. We managed that quickly with riding more. He had other little quirks we worked on - he had been taking advantage of my lack of confidence and week leg. When I look back, he was a horse with me on top. Now I feel we are much more a team, but I am leading. I still have a lot to work on, but it has been the most rewarding experience to come this far with him.

It is like falling in love all over with the same person - working with him allows me to understand him more and more, and I feel I am clearer for him now too. One of my favorite times is to let him loose in the arena, and sit down somewhere on the ground. In seconds, not minutes, he comes and stands with me, in silence.

I took this picture yesterday on top of the homestead property. When I got home, I realized it was the same spot I felt compelled to take a picture in on a previous ride in June. I will have to take another come autumn.

There is nothing better than picking blackberries on top of a horse, and sharing them with him. Thank you, Boone, you carry me so well - long may we ride.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Daisy, oh, Daisy

Rosie arrived at Apifera with her mother, Rosie, in 2004. They were the building matriarchs of our current flock. We lost Rosie much too young in The Spring of Death, and it has meant Daisy as become even more precious to me over the years.

I retired her two seasons ago and she is on to her 10th year. I checked her teeth last night and she is down to only two in front, but has kept her weight on despite some arthritic hips.

Daisy has helped nurture us through her offspring. She has nurtured the land and soil by grazing and spreading her manure - all this without asking. She has earned her place as head of the flock and even though she is not the alpha of the herd, she is respected.

She will spend the rest of her days under Apifera sky, surrounded by generations of her clan. Someday she will return to the under earth to feed the millions of creatures that live their. She'll live on in the worms and insects and soil. Nothing will go to waste.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dirt Farmer and Farmess

Nine years ago I married Martyn. How would we know what lied in store for us?

Every day I ask the sky to bring him home safely. I still love hearing the sound of his car coming up the gravel road. He is truly the most gentle person I know.

I am soaking it all up. All around me I see people that lose their mates, sometimes suddenly. It is not something I dwell on, but I have always lived my recent years with the understanding that nature is Queen, not me, and my time or his is out of my control. Perhaps this is why the world and life touche me so profoundly and I am hyper sensitive to both joy and sadness - because I see death entwined with life.

Living on the farm has meant we spend a lot of time together, working towards goals, learning, laughing, crying over animal graves, watching trees grow from seedlings to fruit bearers, helping an old barn, growing our own food and eating pies of love.

While Apifera has sprung from my internal rumblings, and it truly found me as much as I found her, it would not be the same without The Dirt Farmer. It might simply fall down.

To all those who haven't found a mate and yearn for one, or who have lost a mate and are lonely, remember the story of a broken heart who had lost her wings, but she grew them back and landed in front of a little house far from her homeland. And then there was a knock at her door.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apifera's own E.B. White

Elwyn Brooks White, aka E.B., is two months old this month. He sprung from the belly of Lilly along with his sister. E.B. was not a planned birth, but who in life walks the Earth as a planned anything?

So much for family planning.

You see, Mr. T. jumped a fence on January 24, and I wisely noted it in my day planner. Then I forgot about it. As mid June neared, my energies were focusing on Pie Day, and the lambing had been over since mid March.

"Hmmmmm," I said one June night over a glass of wine, "Lilly sure looks big."

"I noticed that too," The Dirt Farmer replied.

Then we had another glass of wine.

I had retired Lilly the previous fall. She had lost a couple teeth and she had served us well in 7 years and I wanted her to enjoy her senior years. She is a wonderful ewe and produces beautiful, big lambs who have grown into lovely sheep. Many still reside here and always will, like Betty and Bessie.

Pie Day arrived. I was baking pies the day before the onslaught of hungry pie eaters. The Dirt Farmer came in around noon to let me know there were two newborn lambs by the barn.

"Lilly's?" I asked.

"No, another one," he said, I couldn't imagine what he meant. He tends to get the sheep mixed up.

It was Olive Oil, with two new girls. Olive had shown not a sign of pregnancy, and this had happened once before with her. She is a small ewe and I never wanted to breed her, but, nature with Mr. T as the lead actor, played it's hand - twice.

So now I knew Lilly had to be pregnant. I was not imagining it.

I decided to keep this fine fellow. There is something about him. And he combines the lines of both Joe Pye Weed through Lilly, and Mr. T.

I named him after one of my favorite writers and considering his marking it seems appropriate.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pino's NEW Fan Page!

Pino and I have evolved over the years. He is my muse, no doubt, but he is teacher [to me and many] and healer to broken hearts and torn wings. He is the walking version of The Puppet.

He is so much more than just the host to an annual Pie Party, and I wanted his online presence to make sure the world shared in all of Pino, not just his Pie Day.

So his old Fan Page on Facebook will end, but his NEW Page will begin. And it will still share Pino's Pie Day every year, but it will be full of his ponderings and spirit in many other ways.

I hope you will join him there. It will be a respite from the often too cynical cyber world.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pino speaks

"When someone does something that makes me feel badly, I just close

my eyes and imagine that black hole in their heart where it must be

hurting and I imagine it turning to daisies, because I've never been hurt

by someone without a hole in their heart."


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Capture the essence with us

I am having so much fun communing and drawing with my animals as I get the Online Workshop ready for the mid September launch. I haven't sat and just drawn, in one color, without the need to assess, adjust or tweak the piece for certain results, in so long and I forgot how peaceful drawing is.

Drawing these "gestural" to capture the motion from one pose to another is a calming experience, although it also is an active experience and takes energy. Once you do these drawings of any given creature [that includes all living friends like trees and such] you begin a relationship with them, and you open the door to finding their essence.

I like to think of these as my eye relating to the animal and my hand is relating to my eye. But both parties end up with their heart on the paper.

There are other exercises in the Workshop to bring out your inner child [yes, an overused phrase but many have shut that child out]to tell stories, share feelings and relate to memories.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

A hot pig

We had what Rosie and I call a "Half Tube Day" yesterday. It was 103 degrees in the shade and the pig needed a half tube of sunscreen.

Which brings me to the piggie point of this post - Rosie somehow managed to get up from her nap long enough to help me snort out a name from the people that graciously sent her sun screen or donations for her first annual Suncreen Fund.

Pam Z. of Maryland will be sent a piggie print and we thank everyone who helped Rosie. Oinks and squeels!

Really, I underestimated the price of sunscreen and we have another month to go so all your help is so appreciated. Her little hair bristles are growing back so I do look forward to my hairy Rosie versus my bald Rosie. I really am pleased I've kept her burning to an all time low - she loves to lie in the sun and even though she has many shade options often goes to the sun first. All the moisture of the lotions has also kept her scaling and scabs to a minimum.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Essence of old goose

I've been very busy working on getting the online workshop all put together. It is a lot of work - really like writing my first book in many ways. But this time it involves writing and filming, quite a challenge when the subject matter are moving, living creatures at your feet.

In order to make the movies and lessons, I have to draw! And it has been intense, but so fulfilling. I haven't sat and drawn like this for a long time. I am getting to focus on animals I don't normally draw - Stevie, the pig...and more.

I was taking footage in the barnyard for one of the gestural lessons and came upon the old goose Priscilla. She is so beautiful. I drew a quick gestural and sketch of her later in the day. Sixty seconds of chalk on paper and it brought the elegance of her neck from my eye, to paper, back into my heart.

Read more about the workshop here.