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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Raise a hoof to the Dirt Farmer

The place would fall down without him - or at least fall down much faster. He was born 54 years ago yesterday. I was almost one, living far away from him. I'm glad he learned how to use a hammer early on and had the genetic make-up to live with a sensitive artist type. He's my best friend and ally.

This is a man that never wanted a cat in the house and now lives with several on his pillow at night. He cooks up the best meal on any night from his curry cauliflower, Moroccan lamb stew, yogurt dilled eggplant...and the best egg dishes ever. He indulges me by bringing me my wine at night and listening to my woes, dreams and more. He makes me laugh - all the time.

I like all these pics, but the last one is what I see when I look around the farm - a humble man that works hard, is happy and lets me follow my dreams too, in ways I couldn't do as well without him. He has a style of his own which is demonstrated in these photos. When I say, "Hey, can you put this apron on so I can take a picture of it for the maker?" [fabric designer Amy Schimler gifted it to me and Pino for our Pie Day] this is a man that does it with a smile...he was holding a carrot for some reason, which always makes me laugh.

We are watching his parents age, not so gracefully but they do their best, and my mother is 87 living alone after my father died 5 years ago. I often look at him when we are out working and think of all our hard work here and how much we've done to an old dilapidated farm, all our laughs over broken fencing, goat escapes, cow intrusions,flooding, ladder mishaps, rooster wars, first births and slaughters, digging graves - and how could I forget - planting 4,000 lavender plants and weeding them. I hope when I'm old I never forget the nuances of our life together.

And I still like the way he fills out those jeans, ladies!

We had a simple meal of fresh carrot soup and homemade bread, so hearty and simple just like our life here. Raise a toast, hoof or tip your hat - to The Dirt Farmer!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Painting inside out

Putting my energy and heart into my solo show in May at Adamson Gallery in Sacramento. This canvas is called "Stage Hidden".

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Old goose graces

Beautiful old Priscilla, leader of the Bottomtums her adopted flock of ducks, creature with the most fragile but strong neck - it is hard not to admire her. Holding Priscilla is also something I enjoy. When she first arrived it wasn't easy to hold her, but now, I think she actually likes it. She loves to be stroked for short periods and her neck is made up of much softer feathers than her body. Her feet are a beautiful shade of orange and do remind me in texture to a tangerine skin at times.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I'd like to thank Jason Mihalko for writing this post today on his blog. It is in response to what some call an attack on me and Apifera with the original title of ""Animal Lover, Animal Killer: Katherine Dunn's Sanctuary/Slaughterhouse."

Jason is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Cambridge, MA. He works with adolescents and adults both individually and in groups. We met virtually over the past years because he has a wonderful, hard working therapy dog at his side, and he had discovered the healing heart of our donkey Pino.

Jason's post came in response to my posting about a vegan attacking me and my farm [she appears to not be letting people post comments, but there are many being written on Facebook]. I have questioned how to respond to this, as this person has obviously been trying to get comments through on this blog letting me know how inappropriate my eating meat is in her mind. She feels I'm a hypocrite for helping animals, and eating some of our sheep. For the record, Martyn was a vegan for years, I was a vegetarian. We both chose to eat meat for our own reasons later in life, but when I did, we were moving to the farm and I decided to only eat meat I raised, help live at birth and helped die quickly in the sun with me at their side. We also eat some meat from local farmers who are raised and slaughtered on their farms.

I think Jason's article today says it very elegantly, without any hate. Jason also happens to be a vegetarian.

That's all I will say about this. I don't need to expend energy for someone who is not willing to come to me in peace, advocating peace amongst all creatures, but she is not walking the walk. I am.

Postscript. Ms. Tyler has been politely informed that her post, and all her comments, screen shots of the various edits she makes, have all been sent to an attorney. It is good to have his expertise to deal with this.

A week later: And to the threatening email senders even a week after this post - the attorney has those too and two were traced to be from commentors of the original post that started all this. It should be noted that putting defaming words about my farm out there - and then editing the title does little to take away the original defamation, that is the internet. The original tweets and FB links that were sent by this person, with the original title calling us a 'slaughterhouse" are all out there, and consul has been working on that behind the scenes with those service providers and online platforms. What's so sad is this person could make her point by rewriting this post link to take my name and farm out, but she has to be right. The edits she has made do not take away the original defamation, especially in her original title.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Giant Day of an Itty

I kept getting images for a little illustrated story about Itty Bitty that I finally decided to start putting on paper. Right now I'm just working on capturing her spirit in roughs. As some of you know, I found Itty on a rainy day on a busy county highway. She was 1# and her first days were a bit shakysnd we were unsure if we could turn her condition around. We named her Itty Bitty Etta, but she is only Etta when she steps outside, inside she remains Itty. It is a true story for sure.

So stay tuned.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Great Pig Beer Festival

I've trimmed a lot of feet in my time - goats, sheep, unruly rams, mini donkeys, dogs and one eyed pugs - and often one encounters resistance on the other end. Of all the animals at Apifera, the animal I like trimming the least is probably Huck, the gentle chocolate love cupcake of a Lab who has the toughest, darkest nails making it hard to not bleed him.

But nothing compares to trimming the Pig.

Ah, my little pig, my 60 pounds of grumpopolous framed into a tidy, compact hippopotamus body. Now in the summer, Pig naps in the sun up against the concrete walls or on the added heat of the compost pile. She goes into a deep sleep and dreams, her little squishy eyes all mashed together so you know she is really in slumber land. That is often when I can trim her little piggie toes.

But in the rainy months, she naps under her bed of straw, so her toes were in real need of a trim. I had tried in vain to create devices to hold my dear pig so I could trim her with steady hand. I tried soft ropes to contain her but she scoffed and ran off with me falling in the hay dust. I tried to lay her flat like a sheep, resting my knee on her belly - but the sounds that emerged from her porcine body were so loud, so vulgar that the entire county might have thought a murder was occurring. Pigs can sound a lot like screaming humans when they are really upset.

I consulted our friends down at Sanctuary One where we adopted Rosie from and they suggested we give her a couple beers to relax her, something they do with their big pigs for feet trims. My vet had mentioned this about another animal years ago too.

So I brought home a six pack. I bought IPA, I figure if it is good enough for me, it is good enough for Pig. No Bud or Lite watered down brew for my Pig. I set the beer aside in my studio, waiting for the first warm day, thinking that the beer and warm air would surely provoke a long pig nap. But a few days later, the Pig's beer seemed to be disappearing. The Dirt Farmer was running low on brew himself, and thought he could get a beer heist by me, but no such luck. The next day, The Pig's beer was replenished, ready for the Great Pig Beer Festival at the drop of a hat.

Yesterday the day came - the first sixty degree day with sun. I fed Rosie an extra good breakfast with mashed cooked squash, and waited a couple hours for her to digest. And then, I set out tot he barnyard with two bottle of beer.

But what's this? Pig does not like the beer?? This is unheard of. I did pour it in a rubber dish so perhaps Pig wanted a chilled stein.

The beer was not wasted - it appears that Rudy, the old goat, finds beer thirst quenching! He snorked it up in seconds!

It was such a beautiful day, I had all the patience in the world. I waited and waited and finally Pig went down for a nap, and I snuck over and got one tip of one toe snipped. She was completely on to me now.

So I went to Plan B - beer infused grain. Now she loved that! I sat down on an old upside down bucket and I waited, and waited, and waited. And then it happened...she yawned. It was so amusing that I had to contain a snort. I'd never seen her yawn. She went down for a nap. I knew some Pig Whispering techniques with her and knew that if her eyes were closed I would have the best luck with my mission. With each snip of a toenail I took, she'd awake, but at this point she was so sleepy, she didn't get up. I rubbed that little belly and sang her pig songs and within time, all her feet were trimmed. Perhaps not the best trim job in the world, but her little piggie toes are much better.

It was a wonderful day really. I had decided upon waking that morning I would give my day up for the pig for the task at hand. I spent very quiet hours watching the animals, having the chickens come up and fan out in the sun and sit on my lap. I looked over the farm and thought of all the things we'd done in 9 years.

And over by the barn, an old goat napped too, content after his beer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pino and Old Oak

The beautiful little donkey standing at the bottom of Donkey Hill, with the motherly presence of Old Oak looking on from up above.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The writer keeps plugging

I have been working ever so hard on "Misfits of Love" [which I'm beginning to feel might be mistitled, but we shall see as it evolves]. Writing and putting a book together on my own, while also submitting my other book ideas to agents and editors is rather...I don't even know what one word can describe it. I'm learning to let go of the outcome and don't feel panicked about it. The thing about making a book that is so different than a painting is this - when you finish a painting, it's a painting and it can sit for ever in your studio, be shown online and not sell for a long time but it is still a painting. But a book is just a manuscript before it becomes a book either by being published traditionally or digitally.

Once I really grasped that, I realized that making the book can be broken into sections for me, and a Blurb book can be made early on which gives me some closure. This helps me mentally, and also helps me move on and not get stuck or frustrated.

I was struggling to find a way to tie the stories together. I began to realize that the current that runs through each of the animals short memoirs is my internal story and what I was going through in the past years - dealing with the eventual death of my father, and then his demise and the aftermath. These creatures - many of whom were elderly and in ill health themselves when they arrived - were conduits, helping me comprehend and come to a clearer consciousness about the cycle of life itself. It isn't a sad book, but rather insightful and quiet.

I also decided to work more with the emotive photography and use art more sparingly. The initial Blurb book will be about 60 pages - at least 1/2 of what I imagine it to be if a publisher picks it up] and smaller in size. This way I can sell it at a reasonable price and share it with followers. My goal is also to achieve more awareness for the book - with the goal being a larger audience through a standard publisher, ebook or self publishing.

I also hope to have photographs of the Misfits in my May show.

So stay tuned. I have a lot of pokers in the fire and I hope to have this draft edited in coming months so I can get the first Blurb version online.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Puppet's new theater!

I've been meaning to share the Puppet's newest asset - his very own theatrical stage!

A fellow artist who was very involved with making her own wooden marionettes built this stage and has moved on to other projects needing more space in her cramped studio. She wanted it to go to a good home and someone mentioned me and the Puppet! To say I'm thrilled is an understatement.

I've been wanting to build something to help me make sets for the puppets and dolls and tis just came into my life, a gift from the universe. Oddly enough, or not oddly really, within that same time I ckept seeing things about puppets and wood carving, so now I have also dusted off my Uncle's beautiful German carving tools he left me and am just beginning to learn to carve.

I have many ideas. But right now I am focusing on my May show, so it will have to wait a bit. But fear not, you know a lot of something is going to come from this. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Neighborly interactions

The barnyard of Misfits is like any city neighborhood - creatures of all walks of life coming and going, each intent on survival of the day and to hopefully find a soft spot before dark to rest.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Non denominational shepherd

The barn is my church for non organized sermons of light slipping in through holes worn from weather and bird bills. It is here I can retreat from my head. I don't feel half as damaged when I leave.

Ida the very intense chicken

Ida is one of the more feral chickens of the flock. It makes sense though, she was born under the hayloft rafters by a wacky Aracauna who is slightly flighty herself. It was a surprise hatch a few years ago. Certain chickens more than others are excellent brooders and also excellent egg hiders. We had to climb a 10 foot ladder to get to them on the day I heard them chirping.

Ida always has this intent look as if she's staring with darts.

"You looking at me?" she says before running off.

But I do love her little red top knot - sort of like a hat Audrey Hepburn might have worn in the fifties.