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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Online now - journey with me through grief with art, sewing and more

The Quiet Little Sack of Sadness is now ready.

It is my personal journey through grief after losing my mother in April. Through doll making, sewing and moments of silent comfort, I will explore the feelings and revelations of grief.

New sewing projects will be added as I go along - making comfort blankets, mother dolls and more.

I hope you will take comfort in it if you too are going through a loss.

The direct link is http://quiet-little-sack-of-sadness.blogspot.com/

Never drink alone

Little Moose and slightly older compadré, Goose, have become drinking partners, amongst other things.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Quiet little sack of sadness

I am beginning a project blog - a project about the journey of grief which started suddenly on April 4th when my mother died. Of course I am not unaware of what grief is, but this loss is like no other I've experienced.

I am creating a blog "Quiet Little Sack of Sadness" to house and honor the art, dolls and other sewn/fabric projects stemming from this grief, along with a journal, healing quotes and other things I'm grabbing onto to help me swim to the next shore. I should have that up and running next week and will alert you here to all the details.

I am finding a need to really go inward and create - but also share. I find that Facebook feels like a cold and shallow place to post daily about my feelings. I want people to have a place to come and ponder and maybe find comfort in their own journey of loss. It will be an ad-free environment, quiet, beautiful and warm - and safe for all, including me.

And of course I'll still be posting here - always - about the creatures and land that wrap around me, the place called Apifera that I love so much.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Holy Pig! That's a vet bill! And other updates.

The Pig flies by after glimpsing the vet bill, creating a rush hour storm to the barn.

The vet visit left my mouth hanging open when I got the bill. Over $500 and that didn't include Little Moose's ...um, snip.

"Holy PIG!!" I declared.

And The Pig came running. She is speaking to me again after the vet and one assistant, and me, helped snare her and trim her piggie toes, give her shots and examine her skin. I was sure she would ignore me for days if not longer, but the next day I offered to annoint her piggie ears with Destin to sooth the crusty skin - and she calmly agreed with,

"Hrump grunmpolump."

To any one in the pig know, this means, "OK, I guess."

Since then, she has greeted me in quite a pleasant pig state.

Meanwhile, Little Moose spent a couple days avoiding me - or watching me from a good 10 feet. I was after all the person who held him while he was sedated before he had his Big Boy Surgery. He now is back to himself, exploring, romping, and making me swoon with his babyness. He and Goose are a team of rascals! Little Moose is now sleeping out of his baby crate that his former owner graciously lent me - and he now likes to reside in his rubber supper dish - it appears to be a perfect fit for his tator tot body.

And last but not least, the vet also did an assessment on both Stevie and Old Rudy. The latter was anemic and I now have him on a regime to get those blood cells working and he already has pink back in his lower lid. Phew. I caught it in time and I was unerdosing his flee treatments. He had no worms which was good but those sucking lice can really hurt an old goat quickly.

So we are on track in the barnyard!

Except I have informed them they all need a paper route to pay the vet bill. It does not look promising that any will take me up on this offer. So feel free to chip in here or here to help defray the vet bill for Rosie the Pig and Stevie and Rudy. {And remember, no matter what, these animals are cared for - some people like to help me with my out of pocket expenses and anything is appreciated but nobody is obligated or expected to help.}

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Tomorrow I'll give a silent salute to my father and thank him for his 4 years of service in the Japanese islands, one of two Marines to return alive - can you imagine, leaving at age 17 for this. No matter what war, how brave of them. He told me about war over cognac one night when I lived in Brooklyn. We talked into the late night and even smoked a cigar together. He never spoke of it again. So to all the vets, past, present, and future - thank you! The freedoms I have tomorrow - waking up to my farm and grilling Apifera lamb, enjoying friends and good wine, good health, personal choices - thank you to all of those who sacrificed for me and others.

I miss you Robert Dunn, you old rascal.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Oh dear Pig, forgive me

Rosie is not talking to me - at least for now. I'm hoping by day's end she forgets the trauma of the morning. But pigs most likely never forget.

Or maybe if she looks up at the wall where I recently placed her special birdhouse [which was made by a volunteer at her former residence, Sanctuary One] perhaps then she will remember I am on her side, only here to help Her Highness.

You see, the vet came out for a variety of matters- one of which was to castrate Little Moose, and then assess the old goats for nutrition and pain needs, and finally - to give shots to Rosie and assist with her piggie feet.

It was a three person job, aided with a board and pig snare. If you've never heard a pig scream, well, it is not pleasant. My belly rubs as she stood snared helped a tiny bit, and my vet worked fast to trim and poke, but she was not pleased. But it really helped me out as I can not do it on my own - nobody can. I was somewhat successful in summer warmer days with foot trims - I'd sneak a trim on a toe or two while she slept. But this was helpful and no matter what that vet bill comes to was well worth it! And we had fun too - not Rosie, but humans helping.

So The Pig now naps, and the old goats rest - and Little Moose is a brave fellow recovering from his procedure today. I'll be glad when he has another day under his belt to help with the discomfort. The pain meds help but I'm sure it doesn't feel normal to him.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life with the sheep

I repainted a couple of portraits I had done our first year here - over 9 years ago. We had just brought home our first three sheep - Daisy, Rosemary and Joe Pye Weed the ram. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but at times, it's like I blinked my eyes and a decade is gone. I know this decade has been so jammed pack with wonderful things, hard times too - but always the inner knowledge that I'm living the life I am meant to live, with the person I am meant to be with. This knowledge brings one a lot of strength in sad times - I don't take it lightly, as there were years where I didn't have that inner strength and was struggling to get on my path.

I didn't know my sheep that well when I first painted them, but do now, each of them. As the shepherdess of a small working flock of 35 sheep, I can say I've learned a lot about sheep behavior, and still have much to learn and explore. I'm very grateful I somehow did the research at the right time and ended up buying Katahdins - I just love this breed, and at the time they were a breed that needed help to keep them from going into the endangered category. We were and are pleased to have been part of that - now there are so many more small farms raising them here in the West and that is all good.

It's rewarding to raise your own meat - it is part of what we do here. We do not profit from it as we breed only enough for ourselves and to cover costs. We know what we are eating when we do choose to eat meat, and I know how the animal lived, and am with it the day it dies. It was important from the start for me to know the animals were not hauled anywhere on butcher day - my job is to secure the rams and hold them on that day. Martyn watches all butchering with the mobile butcher who comes here to the farm. We are grateful to have such professionals that can still come to the small farm. One thing I've learned on the farm - there are worse endings than death. Some might not understand that, or think differently, but that is my knowledge, from my experience.

Rosemary is gone now, buried on Sheep Hill with her triplets that we lost in the Spring of Death. But Daisy is still with us, going on ten, retired now and living out her life with her flock helping maintain the fields and fertilizing them at the same time. I miss Rosemary, she was truly my favorite ewe of all them - to this day - but she gave me so many wonderful daughters too, and color which to some isn't a factor but I love the markings and tones.

These paintings are in my living room, along with a portrait of the founding father, Joe Pye Weed, who now works on an Idaho ranch helping the milkers. I like looking at them closely from time to time - and they seem to look back at me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Baby times two

If you read the previous post, you know why I now have this fine young fellow. The barnyard is now full of double the trouble! Two monkeys to tend too. You forget just how slippery, quick, energetic and ambitious they are as kids!!

This is a Nigerian Dwarf and he is slightly larger than Little Moose who is a Pygmy. I thought his markings were nice, and kind of remind me of our old friend Honey Boy Edwards, a former Misfit now residing in heavenly prairies. And the blue eys - dashing!

He kind of came with the name Bean since his herd was named after vegetables - we can get behind that. But I'm not sure if that is his name or not. We shall see. He is very sweet and the fact he lived with a small herd in a semi urban setting shows as he got lots of love and attention from his owner- and also lived in the sweetest little garden and yard with a barn custom made for he and his mates. He was a gentleman all the way to Apifera, and likes to lean into me for scratches- just like Little Moose. It is such a new experience having baby goats that came from healthy situations - with pedigrees for heaven's sake.

It is just what the doctor ordered. My mother would be thrilled. She hated to see me lose the old goats even after working hard to get them healthy - or to take on ones that just couldn't recover from their pasts. I'm very sure she had a hand in this!

SO, lots of fun in the barnyard right now!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sometimes we need youth

If you follow along here, you know I am committed to taking in old or challenged animals and that has not changed. But after 10 years of helping a multitude of Misfits, coupled with the deaths of my mother and The Old One Eyed Pug, something in me yearned for new life, young life.

I had always wanted a baby Pygmy goat. And now I have one - thanks to an Apifera supporter up in Washington who happened to have a surprise buckling or two. This little fellow is charming! And a real talker - although at 2 months old he was weaned but not separated from his mom so the chatter will most likely subside a bit as he settles in.

I like mixing the ages - if it works - I felt Old Rudy would be a good stall mate for the little fellow, and it seemed to work just fine last night. This morning, they ate together without any fuss. He is a pistol! I forgot how active and resilient they are to anything - leaping off rocks and up onto walls....curious, active, alive.

When I introduced him to the Misfits, he quickly learned who was in charge - The Head Troll - and he learned Stevie is very gentle [although he also learned boundaries with other's food] and he learned not to sneak up on The Pig! He has figured out that when I come out, good things usually happen, like treats and back scratches.

I haven't named him yet, but this morning I heard two words in my head - Little Moose. We'll see if that is the name that selected him.

But the story gets better.

You see, the day I called Martyn to tell him my mother died back on April 4th, he was at a job site working. As he tried to digest the sad news, a gust of wind blew in and around him, almost blowing him off balance, and he retold it to me later explaining he felt it was Kelly saying good bye. Martyn is not a talker of spirituality, so when he told me this story I was really moved by it. He went on to tell me that the wind led the way as he walked up the hill and then it was gone but the sun broke through. He came upon the owners baby pygmy goats. In the next days, I was reeling from my mother's death, and then had to bury The Old One Eyed Pug. I told Martyn I yearned to bring on a baby animal of some kind. In his mind, he thought of the baby pygmies he had just seen, but he didn't mention it. Unbeknowst to him, I'd also mentioned it to my friend, who said she'd let me buy one of her babies. So Martyn went and agreed to adopt one of his client's pygmies as a gift for me. When he found out I was bringing home a baby pygmy, he confessed, but told me he felt it was meant to be that I should have both babies and that my mother had a hand in it.

So on Sunday, we will drive east a bit to pick up another baby Pygmy. How's that for a continuing love story?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We celebrate the beauty of Matilda!

In all the chaos of the last month - losing my mother and then The One Eyed Pug - and then the show and travel off the farm - I neglected to share the birthday of one of Apifera's finest elders, Matilda.

Matilda came along after our first adopted senior donkey had to be euthanized due to liver and kidney failure after a life of neglect in Texas where he was abused and used as a roping donkey. He arrived urinating blood with a swollen sheath and only had 19 days with us, with multiple vet visits to determine what was going on. No blood panel had been done on him before he was brought here to show us how ill he was. So after we buried him, there was a huge hole in my heart.

And it was helped by the arrival of Matilda.

Everyone who meets her is affected by her soul which she wears outright in her eyes. She is gentle, but also no push over with her mini herd mates. She loves to be held and brushed, she still plays even though she is a bit wobbly on her feet. I love to watch her play with little Paco, her sometimes boyfriend, always friend and son...and poet.

Matilda is one of the first things I see as I drive down the rural road, as she stands in her brown and white spots up on Donkey Hill. Her ears are beacons for many a traveller to Apifera and hold memoirs of her past.

We adopted Matilda after she was rescued by Lavender Dreams Donkey Farm. If you'd like to offer support, find out more at the Misfit page.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mothers, a pug and lilacs in the wind

This past weekend was so hot - Martyn gallantly tilled the veggie bed for me, but I only got the tomatoes in - I'm such a wuss in the heat.

But I was able to work in the shade and plant the three new roses in honor of my mother, each one has some of her ashes. She and my father loved roses and when I was growing up in Minnesota, they bravely planted them wherever we lived, which meant having to tip them into the compost and straw for winter survival.

I also placed some of her ashes with the pug who rests now under the lilacs. I like that I can go there and know his little pug body is just as I left it, I can remember it that way. Someone sent me some little prayer flags and I placed tokens n his grave. I think my mother might be bemused that she is placed in with an elderly one eyed pug but she loved him and used to sing "Where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy" to him.

Burial of ashes is for the living, I think. It helps us connect one more dot so we begin to reach a place of acceptance that a person we loved in body is now dust, and is physically gone. It is the beginning of our new relationship with that person.

My mom and I had a long standing game on Mother's Day about lilacs. In Minneapolis, there were lilacs everywhere, in parks, roadsides and neighbor's yards. I never had any lilac shrubs in all of the houses I lived in as an adult, so I would start plotting where I'd find my Mother Day lilacs - to steal- and give to her. She always said I'd get arrested some day, but I never did.

So now she has the graceful bows of the old lilacs here at Apifera, dark purple, light lilac, pink and white, all bending over her with the wind blowing wafts of scent around her memory. Looking north, one can see Old Matilda grazing, a mother of many. My mother's middle name was Matilda, something I didn't take lightly when the old donkey arrived here a couple of years ago.

I can hear my mother saying, "The old donkey has my name?" and laughing. She was raised on farm but I don't think naming your animals after loved ones was necessarily of fashion.

She is missed - as I know many mothers are today. But she is remembered for so many things by so many. When she died on April 4th, I did have moments where I thought I'd never be joyful again, I had never had a world without my mother, what could it possibly be like, I thought. It felt unsightly to me.

But here I am one of her two greatest legacies, and I am joyful about many things one month later. One is that I am independent and have an ability to inspire myself into new territories to imagine and grow and enjoy the gifts around me. One of those gifts is life itself, which she gave me.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Meet me at my solo show!

Saturday night I will be there to meet any of you that are able to get tot he Sacramento gallery show. I'm very excited for the excursion and am so grateful for my farm sitters and the Head Troll for watching over Apifera so I can attend.

Here is a PDF of the show which runs though the month and if you are interested in purchasing anything while it is running you can contact the gallery directly.

"Floating Amongst Muses"
Solo exhibit of artist Katherine Dunn
The Adamson Gallery
1021 R Street, Suite 15
Sacramento, CA 95811
Artist in attendance Saturday night May 11th.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Mobile shedding units

It is shedding season. The hair coats of the flock begin to fall in clumps, tufts and white or brown orbs. They seem to have different shedding personalities - some peel off their hair almost in giant pieces early on in the spring, others seem to walk around much longer with their thick coats and rub and roll to rid themselves of the extra heat.

All the fences and trees and any upright piece of furniture suitable for rubbing on are covered in their hair. It is one reason a sheep farmer can always find something to do - fence mending - on any given day. I like to help peel the hair clumbs out - some sheep like it, others don't. I only do it if it is almost pulled off - if one assists too early it can cause sun burn, especially on the white sheep of the flock.

So if you came to the farm this month, you might take pause and wonder - "Why is there so much white stuff floating around?"

It's just the layers of the flock, floating off to their next purpose - perhaps a bird's nest or soft bed for a rabbit.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Beauties in the garden

The Euphorbia are exceptional this year - I suppose I might say that each year. As a former Minnesotan, I still am in awe like a Dorothy landing in OZ at the many plants we can grow here. Each spring these yellow giants emerge and you forget how big they get, how they watch you with their multiple eyes, sway in wind and create theatrical backdrops for the living.

And Huck continues on at age 8.5 to make me melt. His soft buttery ears and soulful gaze - always soaked in to my heart first, and then I feel I must capture it on film. I hope he never leaves, but he will, so each moment like this is relished. Miss Peach has added weight since I rescued her a year ago and she continues to be a one person cat. She tolerates the other cats, and seems to be warming up to BW, who constantly sticks his neck out to befriend her. In time, she has begun to allow him to sit with me while she is on my lap.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Today's ballet lesson

The hens demonstrate their ballet positions each Friday morning, weather permitting.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Message from afar

My father was notorious for writing little notes and mailing them - he had letter friends all over the world that he'd met on his business travels.

I was going through old papers looking for something and came upon a card he'd sent me after I'd moved to the farm. While these
past four weeks I've been open to the messages from my mother, here is one that was clearly from my father.

The barnyard is having some kind of parade today to honor of all working animals. The sheep did not participate, since they are busy working in the field. I have no time to partake, and they understand my head is slightly scattered. But that will settle soon.