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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thank you from the Misfits {& me}

If you just donated at with a reward of a book:
The Misfits and I thank you for buying the new book, "Misfits of Love" Healing Conversations in the Barnyard. Your book will ship withing a week.

Please note: if you are buying from anywhere besides the USA, I will let you know what additional shipping you will need to pay before getting your book[s]. Thank you!

If you just donated to help the barnyard of Misfits:
While no animal will ever go without care here, donations from readers and followers is so very much appreciated! And even when you give small donations- it is so useful. If you donated at a gift level of either a book or lavender, you can expect it to be shipped within a week.

If you just signed up for a recurring monthly donationIf you are donating with a subscription over 12 months, I will send a book to you also [once your donation hits $50, I send one out to you-if for any reason you don't get one, PLEASE email me and remind my old head to do it!].

And if you bought art or other items, or helped the Pig Sunscreen Fund or Emergency vet needs-thank you!
I will be emailing you once I get the payment and letting you know when I will ship.

INTERNATIONAL donations: I can't send out gift levels unless you pay for int'l shipping-which is usually always at least $25.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Annual Pig Suncreen Fund!

It's that time of year - the sun is getting warmer and toasting up the little pig. She is once again having her annual sunscreen dive to help keep her little piggie body form toasting to a red pepper.

Visit this link to see photos of Rosie the pig when she loses her hair [an annual occurrence] which causes sunburn and chafing, and you can see how you can help.

Rosie the pig is one of Apifera's many barnyard "Misfits" - needy creatures adopted out of neglectful situations or from rescues. Read more about the Misfits here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Today's grief counselor - Boone!

I felt the need to take the winding forest road up to the top of the clearing - to see the vantage point from there.

It was a clear view and brought wonderful perspective. What a gift to have this countryside at the bottom of my hoof steps, with a red mane to watch blow and the smell of horse all around me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stick creatures now appearing

While working in the sheep pasture, I found a stick that looked like a woman reaching out to me. I brought her to my studio and took her picture. I put her with some other stick creatures, two came from a friend many months ago.

Now I see there is something there in them, I realize now that one is a little child. They had been waiting to show me their true personas all these months.

I'm sure there are other stick creatures out there that I will come across in the days and weeks ahead.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jane to Jane to Jane

I did this painting a month ago for the upcoming May show, "Ode to Jane", thinking at the time it was yet another ode to an Apifera creature that had passed, in this case one the three Barred Rock hens who were all named Jane.

"The Three Janes" eventually became the "The Two Janes" and now we have just "Jane", the last remaining Barred Rock.

My mother's given name is Jane and after her passing two weeks ago I looked back at this piece. I have many times experienced my art being way ahead of my consciousness - the art is entwined in the subconscious and it is already accepting what will happen. It was a nudge to me, the human, from me the spiritually awakened.

That's my experience anyway.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The One Eyed Pug is gone

Over fourteen years ago, I placed a six week old, one pound Pug into a small basket and put him in my car. I'd bought him from a farm in Delano, Minnesota and on that cold winter day the first thing I did before I even brought him home was to drive to the hospital to show my mother - she was recovering from hip surgery.
I tucked him in well thinking the nurses might not let me into the room with a puppy, but one saw his huge eyeballs on his little face and they all came running in delight.

Today I laid his fourteen year old body in the same basket, and wrapped his red night blanket around him. I had driven him to the vet this morning to help him on his way. His time had come. But it still took strength to face the fact that I was driving him to his final breath. I know I did the right thing - his coughing was no longer helped by steroids, his back end was weaker each day from his compressed spine and he couldn't settle. I felt he had reached a point where sleep was his only form of comfort, but it was harder for him to settle into sleep. He could no longer make it outside on time, and had little eyesight and hearing left.

I kept believing he still had quality of life, since his favorite things had always been napping, snorting around for crumbs and sleeping on my lap. While he still was excited for breakfast, I knew I was keeping him around for selfish reasons at this point. He could have had a stroke or heart attack with the constant coughing and breathing issues.

But oh, he is missed already. To say the house is quieter is an understatement. Anyone who knows a pug understands - his snoring and pug sounds were a constant - as were the continual gas emissions. When he was gone, he let out a little bit of gas, and we did get a smile out of that.

I have always cremated my dogs, but I wanted to hold his body and bury him at Apifera. Maybe it was helpful after losing my mother and not being able to see her body in the end, to have this little pug to hold and cry over. I buried him under the lilacs in the front gardens and I'll scatter some of my mother's ashes there when I get them. My mother loved Billy and she also loved lilacs - each Mother's Day I had a ritual in Minneapolis of finding lilacs on park land and cutting some for my mother. It was a great game, risking getting caught to find the best lilacs for her - she used to joke that some day I'd get arrested over it. So it is fitting to lay Billy under the lilacs. As a child in Minnesota we often lived near lilac groves and I would sit under them and pretend I was in a vast empire of my own, cradled under the scent of their boughs, creating stories and future farms in my little head.

I don't know why death can come in groupings. It is the end of an era for me in so many ways.

When I brought Billy home today I let Huck and Muddy see him before I buried him. Huck licked Billy's face over and over, something he did every morning or night, usually when the pug was sitting on my lap. It was tender and sweet. But the dogs did not weep. They were at my feet with tails a wagging ready for games, food or companionship.

Billy's cushion in the stdio by the fire was covered in an old burlap seed bag. I took it and wrapped it around him in his grave. I placed a small figurine of a fox terrier that looked just like our old friend Louie Louie. I don't have to worry about him now. He is on his way to his eyeball - that is what I told him years ago,

"Someday, you will meet up with your old eyeball. Until then, your eyeball is safe up there in the full moon."

So every full moon, I'll be looking up at him.

Oh Pug! I loved you so!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Matriarch of the field

Daisy turned ten this week. She and her mother Rosie came to Apifera in 2004 and started our flock, with the help of Joe Pye Weed. Rosie died in the Spring of Death in '09, but Daisy continues on as lead ewe, retired, slower, with one remaining tooth. She has always produced beautiful, friendly sheep and usually gives us buff browns and little white caps. Her last ewe was born on my birthday in 2011 and I named her Kappie to honor her white cap, but also to honor my grandmother who died the day I was born in 1958.

All these interconnected elements of one's life, swirl around at a fast pace and one day you look around and you are half way through the journey.

The farm is such a wonderful role model for me. I am so graced to have it, especially in hard times or transitions where one needs to hold on to something, anything. For the farm is always shifting too, the earth underneath grows or wanes from too much water or just the right amount, old trees eventually fall and their limbs provide more homes for rodents and birds or burn into the chimney and out into the night. While we are allowed to keep a field in fallow for a year, that field is really not resting.

And I choose to believe we never really rest either, we shed our skin like a snake and move on to the next stage. Each year more lambs come, their elders die off but I remember each one and can see their traits in their offspring. It's a continuous thread from the farm to steward.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I did this piece a couple years ago and hung onto it for many reasons. I'm sending it off to Sundance this week with some others as they want more and after a time, some pieces just seem ready to be let go and live a new life with someone else.

As often happens, the piece has taken on new meanings for me since the death of my mother. I have often painted things that years later come to fruition, or help me realize my subconscious knew something was coming long before my conscious did.

While this piece was about floating, freedom, belief and more, today when I look at it I see the current state of affairs...a sense I am here, but seeing things from above, on my back, hanging on to the magic in life, one wing to help me fly and see the beauty in a world upside down where the clouds have now become trees.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Mothers amongst me

And the days go on without her. The flock surround me and walk before me and ahead of me as I shepherd them to their field to graze the day away. They are mothers to many and I to them and them to me. It is grounding to have the rhythm of the farm, the chores, the daily tasks that sometimes seem monotonous but in this early stage of grieving are the catalyst to get me up and going.

Thank you to so many who have written me notes and messages and sent letters already. I appreciate each one! I shout that out to you with all my heart!

"She whom we lose
and love
is no longer
where she was before.
She is now
wherever we are."

St. John Chrysostom

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Mother in a tulip

My beautiful 87 year old mother died on Thursday.

My mother loved tulips. Years ago she gifted me a lot of tulip bulbs and I planted them up and down our drive. Each Spring I'd share their arrival with her in one of our morning phone chats. Over the year, the deer and time meant the bulbs became less and less each spring, and last spring there weren't any blooms. But the day after she died, I came upon a single yellow lined tulip amongst the muscari. It was her. The messages are everywhere that she is with me.

It is still a shock although I am finding writing and sharing with the many who knew and loved her has helped me to get to some closer acknowledgement that she is fact...dead.

I was very lucky to have a mother who I was close too, who loved me, shared with me, was fun to be with, had all her marbles and was able to live alone right up until the end. She was my biggest ally and the biggest hole for me will be our morning phone chats, almost daily in the past years. Upon returning to the house the day after she died, I found an old voice message from her. She was calling after a wind storm, and just wanted to "See if things were OK there, I'll talk to you later." Another message from above and beyond.

She went into the hospital on Tuesday to get help for some anemia issues that were taking their toll on her energy and were affecting her breathing and her lungs. I'm so grateful I talked to her that morning. That night she had a heart attack, but was stable soon after. Her lungs and heart had clots which we didn't know about, and she was on oxygen and could not live without it at this point. We hoped to get her to a state where she could live with full time care in her home, even if it meant a day or weeks. The day after her heart attack, I was able to talk to her. She was so adamant that I 'hang tight' and not to rush down, that she was going to be fine, and she kept repeating, "Don't worry, please don't worry, I'm going to be fine." I was emotional, cried, and told her "I love you, Martyn loves you," and she said she loved us too, but went on, "I'm going to be OK, don't worry."

I told her I wasn't ready to lose her, and she said she wasn't ready to go. And she meant it.

Always the mother.

I hung up the phone and cried, but had the hope of a ten year old when they hear their mother say it is going to be OK. I wanted it to be true.

Even the shepherdess needs a mother.

There was no trauma that night, I went riding to relax and get away from the phone. Upon returning, I had a call from my brother who had a more dire outlook from the doctor. She wanted no heroics, and her choices were looking like a bleak two: take the oxygen off and die, or leave it on and die in a week maybe three. But he said, "We won't have the conversation with her yet, because there are some good signs too."

When I asked my brother if I could talk to her, she waved her hand as if to say, "Not now, later". I knew she was detaching. But then I went into my child like hope state. Even though a day earlier she seemed able to pull it out, giving me her 'sit tight" command, I decided to drive down on Saturday, the quickest I could line up farm help and vet care.

The same time I was figuring out how to leave the farm, she was dying. As one of my closest childhood friends said,

"She went out being Kelly, she didn't want you stressing about getting there and driving 13 hours and that was her final motherly gift to you."

I take great comfort in the ICU nurse telling of her last moments. She had the attack with the nurse present, and it was not violent. On pain meds, it lessened any intense pain. The nurse gave her water, helping her hold the glass. The nurse asked her,

"Are you done [with the water]?"

and my mother said, impishly, calmly, "Done, Dunn and done."

And she died, with a smile on her face.

Her last three words captured her North Dakotan humor, explaining she was done with the water, her name was Dunn, and she was done - with life. The nurse said she was clear and coherent about what was happening, and not panicked. I believe until that last moment, she tried to beat it, and wanted to beat it. But her body couldn't beat it. That last second, when she knew, she just faced it, and went.

She could have lingered, could have stroked - so many things. So I am grateful. I have no regrets. We lived our love out loud in actions.

I have never known grief to this extent, and I have had grief. And I have lost my father but it was different in many ways - hard, sad, and long to grieve, but it was different. I told someone it is like having the earth being kicked out from under your feet. The sadness comes in waves and is so debilitating I nearly go into a state of shock again. I know I will walk through this in my own way. I know her spirit is always here, but it's going to be raw and sad and hard.

When I did barn chores this morning, I recognized that everything before me was something I had re-built or fixed or made, or nurtured. Apifera is of my heart, I found her, I brought her back to life with my husband. My mother raised me well, and because of that I somehow found Apifera and this life. And she had her life which I was a part of but her time here was over, her tasks on Earth are done, and she did them well.

As I stood with the donkeys this morning, I mourned into their muddy, wet necks, telling them how I felt. I had a good weep, but then a real calm came over me, and a clear thought came into my mind, and passed quickly, but it was a clear sentence:

"Something so magnificent is going to arise from this, you don't know how or what, but it will."

Friday, April 05, 2013

And once The Pig was born

Five years ago The Pig was born. Having a pig is delightful, knowing their actual birthday adds a lot to the responsibility of pig guardianship. I had big plans for Rosie's birthday, but life took over requiring me to take the reins and try to stay on track. Details later. But for now, may I just share this little Pig likeness I did last week. I liked the simplicity of it so much that I am keeping it all for myself.

I do have a special gift I've made Her Royal Pigness and have asked her if it is okay for me to give it to her after life settles down. She was not bothered, as long as she could continue getting her morning egg and any vegetable scraps. This seemed very mature of her, so I thanked her for her understanding.

I will be back soon - I'll be less sneaky about what is going on, but for now, let me just say,

"Happy Birthday, dear Rosie! You are the only Pig for me!"

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Singin' and hummin'

The warm weather we've been having makes us all happy and springy. With an extra kick in their morning steps, the flock sings at intervals, and the old goat naps and quietly hums himself to slumber. We relish these overly warm days, even though the valley is dry and we need rain for summer's eventual heat. But...I'll take it, selfishly.

After this weekend's Super Shepherdess Extravaganza Trimming Feet - Worming - Sulfa Treatments and CDT Shots for 40 Ewes, I'm still feeling like Old Rudy here - like I could take just one more little nap. But no rest for the weary. I'm impressed with myself I did them all, solo, in one morning-afternoon session - if I may gloat a bit. The last couple nearly killed me however. I actually like trimming feet - kind of like vacuuming, it is necessary and when complete, one can look at a new tidy version of the former. And my girls are actually very well behaved and stand for me. The pygmies, that's another story.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Draw a pig...or a goat...or donkey!

Stop over at the Online Workshop site and learn about my Gestural Drawing Classes.

These sessions are for all levels of drawing ability - or for people that want to start drawing but don't know how to begin.

Gestural drawing is a wonderful way to begin a drawing or painting project. It strips you down to an essential element - that essential line that makes up the core of the subject - and urges you to capture a deep natural action on paper in a simple, emotive, fluid, raw way. Sometimes a gestural is so fresh and raw it radiates much more than a preconceived, well drawn piece ever could.

These classes also aim to show you how powerful 'looking' is, and how it is is an active skill that we all need to practice, myself included.

Tiny chicken underpants

Henny Penny is the tiniest member of the barnyard and has been with us about eight years, so she is most likely about ten. Here she is showing off her underpants, and of course they are the smallest underpants in the barnyard, but ever so lovely, don't you think?