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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Birthday of Huck love

I've gathered some of my favorite photos of Huck for his birthday. These are the expressions and stances I will always remember of him - and hope we have many more years ahead to experience this gentle soul.

It is the day of his birth. Eight years ago before this day he did not walk the Earth, nor did I know he would come to us. Each day he respects me with his eyes - eyes that tell more than any long memoir could about him. He is kind and hesitates at doors to be asked in. He sits to my right but if my feet fidget, he moves ever so slightly to the left - just for me.

On a daily basis he greets trees with nose and then bodily function. He asks little of me -

"What will she do with me today? A car ride to town and into the feed store? I wait. I shall watch her all day and wait to hear her voice."

"Go!" she just said to me.

And I run out the door and my ears flap out loud in freedom, but I can always sense she is nearby waiting for me to return to her side.

Happy Birthday, my dear Huckleberry Pie, the most luscious chocolate eared loyal companion in the world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Graves of the molecular helpers

When a fellow companion in the barnyard dies - be it cat, duck, sheep or old goat, I bury them in the barnyard pumpkin patch. Some of our original herd mothers are buried on Sheep Hill which will also include our other flock matriarchs some day.

I am not content with the white wood markers. I was inspired by my memories of the beautiful simplicity of Arlington where some of my relatives are buried and was trying to recreate that feeling. But it's not working for me. While it matters not to the creatures below, as caretaker I want to do my best by them. I feel a need to honor each with a marker of some kind and also let certain visitors visit the grave site of an old friend if needed. Each Spring I painstakingly repaint the stones in the small bird and rodent cemetery and I have wanted a new way to do my gravestones. There are other stones about the farm - the rooster and cat under the lilac, the sheep on Sheep Hill, chickens in the chicken yard - all will go on to their duties now of the underworld - their molecules melting into the fruit we choose to grow and eat.

So I have started finding lovely twigs and branches to put on the graves. So simple. But I still need a way to mark a stone with a name and some word. Perhaps a retired gent with time on his hands and a heart of gold will step forth and offer to engrave stones for me. I could keep him busy that's for sure.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Boone

I love my horse more with each ride. Each lesson we take together, we learn not as two separate units but a team - it feels like that now. We have our bad days but I always just look at him in the end and turn to one thought - how much I love him and how glad I am to have him helping me along in life. Boone isn't flashy but he's perfect for me and I think our personalities are sort of similar.

How graced I am to have a body that lets me climb up on top of his strong red back and ride, with the coast range as my backdrop. I don't take it lightly - or if I get cranky or am sunk into a dark day I can always look outside and see him at a distance and remember there was a time I didn't yet have a horse. It took so long - I was well into my late forties. When the front studio door opens in the morning, Boone cries out to me [and the sheer glee that hay is soon to be at his feet]. I love that. Not every horse talks, and it is so nice to have a talker.

I have things to write about - but I'm in a good painting zone right now and I've learned to stay in the zone when I'm fortunate enough to have it come along. The show is in May so I must focus and I'll share a thing or two as I can.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Smile of the moment

Raggedy Man reminds me of a Muppet because he has these adorable fluffy feet, and he always has this impish little expression. He arrive at Apifera with Lofa back in June after New Moon Goat Rescue took them in. They are both dear fellows and wonderful additions to the Misfits.

Can't have a sanctuary but want to help? You can donate to the care of the Misfits here at Apifera. All is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Official announcement from The Head Troll

You know the routine...a rap, rap, rap at my studio door followed by scurrying two toed feet. I read the notice and sighed. It's good to be reminded of birthday's by The Head Troll - I do have a list but life gets busy and sooner or later feelings are hurt. We pay special attention to little Paco as he arrived at Apifera with low self esteem and Pino has so many fans and such that I always pay extra notice of Paco's birthday.

So I went to examine the donkey's special cookie stash - cookies sent by loyal followers over the months. It's been so cold I haven't been handing out cookies. There was a pack of Fig Newtons - phew!

But what's this??! The package has been opened, and more than half of the Newtons are gone. The Dirt Farmer was standing there at the time and put his head down in shame. He apologized profusely.

The Dirt Farmer does so many good things around here - for me and the Paco and everyone - that I can't hold it against him. So I will somehow make Paco's birthday cake a hit like last year.

Notes, cookies and money cards may be sent to:

Paco the Poet
c/o Apifera Farm
14710 NW Tupper RD
Yamhill, OR 97148

White moon over the floating donkey

Update: This art is off to a very good home! Hoof stomps and brays.

The art sale is over but I reshuffled the art a bit at Etsy, including adding this re-touched up piece. A white moon over a floating donkey holding his pie - where is he going, I do not know.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blanket us, dear Fog

It has been the month that Fog has visited us repeatedly, crystallizing the trees and grass tips. Even the sheep hair that is rubbed off on to gates is full of sparkle.

When I first arrived from the Midwest, I was enamoured with Fog as it seemed more like a creature here than in my old prairie homeland. It is an entity of its own and when I'm on the farm it feels warm like a blanket, protective. Out and about on the roads it feels much more vast and almost suffocating at times. But here at Apifera, the sheep poke through the fog in a distant field or cats sit amongst it, a chicken coop looks a bit more like a Monet, all making Fog a lovely treat...in moderation.

Today the sun is out but the buckets are frozen and I eye a beginning bud on the apple trees. I think of Spring.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mr. Bradshaw's final nap

Mr. Bradshaw has died. But do not mourn this fine feline! He lived a long life, a good life here at Apifera - well over eleven years which is a long time for a once semi feral stray.

I knew he was dying last night. When I finished barn duties I saw him curled up outside the barn in the compost area. This in and of itself was not normal for any of the barn cats. I reached down to touch him and he didn't move, I nudged him, no movement - also not normal. So I carefully picked him up and he let out one little meow as I carried him to the barn. I wrapped in hay and put him on top of a hay bale and talked to him at length. I asked him if he could stay in the barn to die so I would know for sure of his end, rather than have him creep off somewhere like most of the cats have done. His purr was very weak.

I reminisced with him at length - reminding him of how he first showed up at Apifera back in our first year, 2004. Back then he was not the same mellow fellow he became. When he arrived he was at least one or more and a bit of a bully. In fact, I wasn't that fond of him as he was always picking fights. But over the next couple years, he softened, perhaps realizing he didn't have to fight for food or higher position. He had a warm barn full of hay and there was ample room to avoid confrontations.

In time, he would be part of the gang and would rush out to greet me at morning and night feedings.

So when I said my goodbyes last night, my only wish was he remain in the barn to die.
The next morning I slept in a bit and got to the barn a bit later than normal. I quietly peered into the hay barn first to see the spot where I had left him, but he was gone. Upon entering the hay area, I saw his body on the floor right below where I'd laid him the night before. His mouth was still warm so he had obviously just died.

That part makes me very sad - if I had gone out earlier, I could have held him in those final moments. But he's an independent thinker and like many cats wanted his space. It is we humans who over dramatize death.

I was happy he had such a long life and relieved I finally had a stray that died in eyesight - not knowing exactly what happens to them is hard, so this was a gift. But when I laid him in his grave, I talked to him some more and cried. I wasn't really crying for his death - I was crying because if Mr. Bradshaw died, that means all the Apifera cats are getting closer to their final barn nap too. The youngest of the cats are gong on nine and the elders are older than Bradshaw. His death felt like a turning point of some kind.

Martyn consoled me - "There will always be cats coming and going from here," he said. Maybe not. Maybe Apifera is a place that appeared for me to learn and grow and then one day it will retreat from sight leaving me to move on too.

I took these photos of him, as homage. His body was still soft and all around him were the sounds he knew so well - chickens cooing and scratching, goats chewing and in the distance the ears of a red horse.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Like silent movie stars

Last night I spent time with the flock around dusk, the fog was thick, comforting and almost warming in the cool air. I had this second where I thought,

"Please don't ever let me forget my sheep, ever. If I'm put away in a room please let me think of them and remember exactly how their hair felt and their eyes looked."

Someone said that the photo above of Lina looks like a silent movie star. I liked this comparison. Her lips made up with a natural mud lipstick and her eyes expressing all she needed to the audience without words.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How to get happy Apifera style

Get a sock, preferably one you have found lying around in someone's shoe or closet that has been worn, preferably worn a lot, perhaps in wet Wellies while mucking stalls so that there is a fair amount of manure smell soaking into the somewhat damp sock.

The sock preparation of this is very important. For one's senses, especially taste and smell, are key factors in obtaining certain free forms of happiness.

First, lie around awhile with the sock firmly in your mouth. Chew it, suck it, toss it up and catch it, chew, and suck again as many times as you feel like. Whatever you do, DO NOT LET ANYONE TAKE THE SOCK AT THIS POINT - you must get the sock to maintain an overall slime quality.

Once you have achieved this state of wet slime all over the sock, run up to the nearest person you can find, and shove the wet sock into their clothes or hands. Taunt them. They want that sock badly, but you have it.

Now, wag your butt around and feel your backbone move, and move back and forth. Feel it. Move it. DO NOT STAND STILL!

Now, when you have done this for some time, give your beloved sock to that other person who you originally were taunting it with. Let them see you are a lover, a giver, not a warrior. You would give up your most beloved of all possessions - your wet slimy sock. For while chewing,sucking and throwing a sock in the air make you happy, it is the sharing of that sock without being asked that brings you true happiness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tasha T. floats off

Tasha Teats Tudor has died.

While I knew a few weeks ago her strength was limited and appeared to be waning, I had hopes she would get to Spring for the warm weather. But it was not to be. When we left the farm on Friday to fly to California to celebrate my mother's 87th, Tasha Teats was no better or worse than days before. She was eating well,was able to get up on all fours and had a good expression. I explained everything to my farm sitter and all appeared
fine that first night when she did feedings. It was a very cold nite. The farm sitter found her on her side in the morning, almost unconscious. She held her but her neck was listless. She said her expression was blank. Over emails and phone calls, I knew Tasha was in the death spiral - something I've seen and know it is not to be altered - especially with an elder who is already weak and thin. I opted to let her go without the vet's assistance - I could tell from the farm sitter's descriptions of her movements or lack of them that she would be gone within an hour or so. And she was in and out of consciousness so to speak. The farm sitter held her all the way through, with Rudy near by. She did everything I would have done and I am so grateful she was there to hospice her. As far as deaths go, she had a peaceful one surrounded by human compassion and her life long mate.

It was very cold all weekend and I wanted to bury her properly - and have my own closure. So upon returning home, I let Rudy see her one last time. He was not interested really - he had said his farewells a couple weeks ago. I remember his expression a couple times as I'd go into check on Tasha T, her head resting on him - he looked at me with a very specific expression, one that told me he really got what was happening. He also began separating himself more from her. So I carried her to the pumpkin patch and we dug the hole he did come to the fence and bleated. It's easy to place human emotions on our animals, but it was not a grieving bleat, he was greeting me. In the past weeks he has become one of the 'followers" - escorting me in the barnyard. This morning, he seemed so light in his step, with a bright, content look. I think he took his role of care taking seriously, but he was ready to move on.

I snipped a lock of his hair and laid it on Tasha's body in the grave. So no more pain from crippled little bent legs.

I don't know why things happen in any given sequence. I wanted to be there and beat myself up for not being there. But it's just part of nature's call. Having a farm sitter that took such care and thoughtfulness with her meant the world.

She was only with us such a short time but left a mark, and a space. The space will be filled with life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Great puppet makers unite

Once upon a time there was a little artist named Emma. She found my blog and she shared some of her art with me. She had the soul of a bird and her color was wonderful.

She liked my Puppet, and she like my donkey. We wrote each other sometimes.

And one day, her mom drove from the Midwest to Oregon to see family and it just so happened that trip coincided with that year's Pino Pie Day.

I had remembered they wrote and said they might come, but you know, people write me all sorts of nice things and they never come to be. So when a woman walked up to me at Pie Day and announced who they were, I was confused....

"Emma, my Emma? From way far away?"

Emma spent almost the entire day at Pie Day that year, dragging around a donkey doll she had found for sale in the studio which her mom bought her. That doll was Juliette. I was informed that Juliette has had many surgeries - a true sign a doll is loved. When Emma entered my studio that day - she was the first person to look up high and see the Puppets looking down from her perch, and she gasped! She knew those puppets!

I was told by her mother that when they left that day, Emma told her, "That was the best day of my life."

I have told that story many times to many people. There is power and grace in it for me - for it is one of the most meaningful artistic relationships I've had and it is about a big circle of puppet love.

But it gets better. Just days ago, I received this photo of Emma, with Juliette the donkey. But now there are other dolls to keep Juliette happy. Emma and her mom and sisters spent a day over the holidays making donkey dolls. I was thrilled.

And what she doesn't know is this inspired me too - to act on something I've been thinking about for awhile - to do Sock Puppet/Doll Online Class[es]. I needed a muse to remind me. Thank you, Emma. More about that soon.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Every day is a good day with chickens

In days of grumpiness, or low hanging clouds that keep the dank air right on the bones, it is easy to feel glum, like Spring will not come.

People like to say, "Spring will come..." but they know as little as you or I.

But when I see a chicken on one of these glum days, my spirits lift. One can not be but amused at their social chatter, their extensive vocabulary, their lovely fluffy undergarments and their hops that can also turn into raptor like rushes to spilled cat food.

While this joy might be temporary, one only has to go out the next day and observe the chickens again.

I do believe Spring will come, and then chicken observing becomes downright delirious.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

More little Mud

In cleaning up and revamping of blogs I kept coming upon older photos. I have become one of those people that keeps resharing old pup, lamb, donkey and kitten photos of the past. Double sigh.

But really, these remind me of Muddy Madness Days that ensued after we first brought this little chocolate chubbers home to Apifera some three years ago. You can go back and see them all for your viewing pleasure. He was a squeeze boy, wasn't he.

I'm turning 55 in a few months. I think I am right smack in the middle. This has a way of making each photograph - even it was taken a week ago - make me stop and analyze each detail of the photos - the light, how old I was when it was taken, and in this photo the fact there is no cross fence on Muddy Hill reminds me of the work that has been done in three years.

Still, the best part of this photo, it is almost edible.

Thank you, Muddy, your face always makes my day, even when it has just eaten cat poop...or sheep poop.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

New beginnings for all

I just added this new art card over at the Etsy shop. The copy is perfect for new babies, new homes or jobs, or anyone that needs a lift of hope. The cop on the interior of the card says:

New beginnings {day into night}
Spend time with the night but let the moon light your way into the new day. The sun will warm your wings until it's time to rest again so your dreams may percolate.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Little old lady morning

If you'd like to help Tasha and the other Misfits of the Apifera barnyard you can visit the funding page.

Tasha Teats Tudor has been struggling of late. When she arrived in November she was just as crippled from arthritis, but was able to walk more without falling. When she did start falling a couple of weeks ago, it was usually on a slight incline, and she often ended up "cast", which can be dire or even deadly for a little pygmy or elderly goat - if they can't right themselves. Fortunately I found her each time, and immediately started leaving in her suite during the day so she had less chance of getting knocked or stumbling.

Then last weak her appetite fell off and she seemed very weak. I dosed her with vitamins and shots of B12 but her eyes still had lots of pink in them making me feel she wasn't totally anemic. She is very thin and I wondered if her time had just come. She will be 13 in April.

I have a theory that an animal that has struggled in life, has been abused or neglected, or is just in a bigger herd where they don't feel they can let their guard down - that these animals fight the circumstance they are in in order to stay alive. But when they are brought to a place they feel safe in, these same animals let their guard down and feel safe enough to let go.

Tasha and Rudy were not neglected. Their owner for life lost her husband and found herself, after a year, in a situation where they couldn't keep the goats and she sent them to New Moon Goat Rescue. There was another goat, a larger goat, that was a bit over zealous with Tasha. Maybe now that he is not bugging her she feels safer and is letting go a bit.

Today I got her out to see how she'd do in the barnyard. She was only out for his brief movie, and did fall going back in the barn - but, she was strong enough to get up. And tonight at dinner time, she got up from her nap and was bleating to eat dinner - a very good sign.

I don't know how long Tasha will hang on. Maybe it was a cold. Maybe spring will come and she will live many years. I know she can't be left alone in certain places because she will fall so she is very special needs at this point. I considered investing in a wheelchair for her but I just don't see how that will alleviate the danger of her casting herself.

I took these photos today of her eating in her suite with Rudy, and additional guests in the form of pig and Lofa. I thought the light and essence was quite spiritual.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

"Bucket & Donkey" peek

This is a peek at "Bucket & Donkey" - 8 spreads to give you a feel. It's rewarding to hear people holding this book in their hands and then hearing how they share it with child or adult. It feels better to share it now while it slushes around in the maze of publishing land. Hopefully someday it will see a wider audience.