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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

In which you meet Una

"I am not as pretty as the others," she said.

"You are fine, and you will grow and your wings will be fine wings," said the elder Henny Penny, her surrogate mother.

Living with Goats 101

I decided after working on fencing in 100 degree heat today to keep Little Moose out of my fledgling sunflowers that it was worth resharing something I wrote year ago. It still makes me laugh. Enjoy.

"Living with Goats 101"

Buy a whole bunch of pasture fence. Make sure it's 5' tall or higher. Spend your whole weekend getting it up. Run electric wire on the top of the fence and the bottom of the fence.

Put goat in the fenced pasture. Explain to her that this is her side, and over there, that is your side. Explain to her that her side has electrical currents.

You are now tired. Get a lawn chair. Make a good sandwich, preferably with home grown tomatoes and good bread.

Refrain from alcohol at this stage. Sit in your lawn chair and enjoy your sandwich.

As you chew, notice the goat roaming in the nicely fenced pasture you made just for her. Call out to her,

"Hello Stella! I see you!"

Enjoy the sweet sounds of the goat calling back to you in goat bleeps. I will translate:

"Hello!" says the goat. " I see you too! What are you eating? You are so close, I can smell the bread! I love bread. Must have bread. I'll be right there! OH! Ouch! electric current, no problem, it's over now. There, here I am, I will join you and your sandwich."

Say nice things to the goat, then lead her back to the pasture with a bit of the bread. Ask her if she learned that touching the electric fence has consequences.

Return to your lawn chair. Notice now there are foot steps behind you. "Hello! I'm right here with you again!"

Try to refrain from yelling. Take your half eaten sandwich, forget about the lawn chair, and walk back to the goat pasture with your goat. Find a good rock to sit on. Sit and share the rest of your sandwich with your goat.

Friday, June 28, 2013


While we anticipate drier weather after winter rains, summer is my least favorite month.

"What?! You are kidding me, right?" you gasp.

It's true, even in Minnesota or out East, summer was my least favorite time. There are glories to it- warm nights outside with Martyn and the garden, trail rides galore, dry feet of the herd, less paddock maintenance to name a few things.

I think part of it is I am intuned with my surroundings and have always been a highly charged creature who had to learn not to totally mesh into another person or being. Just as the spring brings excitement, growth and blossoms, the summer sees those blossoms yearning for shade, and then even the shade can't keep them from withering and dying. A little bit of me, and you, dies each summer. Skin burns and drops off while we sleep, your hair fades, your pants rip from broken wire fencing - it's all a little bit of death.

But then autumn will come along and I am always, always recharged. I suppose if you stuck with my analogy above, I'm a leaf crumbling into dirt. But I feel more like the plant that made it through a hot summer, my upper part is crispified, but my root stock gets to rest in the cool Earth again.

We are changing the lavender field a bit this year. I only want to grow Grosso and I am tired of the backbreaking weeding, which I can't do anymore in the sun due to my skin. And, I don't want to do it. I've done it nine years now and I never really can keep up with the field, even when we bring in a crew one time a year to help harvest. The thistle is a constant issue, and the sheep will now nibble on certain varieties as they love bindweed. We chose not to put down weed barrier - and I'm so glad - but of course it means weeds in the roots are a constant issue even in the old plants. We knew as farmers someday we'd change that crop, and nobody can tell me weed barrier in a 5 acre field of prime grassland is a good idea - although many local lavender growers in these part do it, and I think rolled their eyes at us hand weeding. You can't till up weed barrier!

It's a good-bye of sorts. We worked ourselves to exhaustion in that field when we first arrived, and for many years ahead. But the lower field varieties have had nine years of life - that is a long life for that plant. We'll still have 1000+ plants of Grosso, so don't cry too much if you are lavender lovers.

I once read an article about farming and I always hang onto this quote: Farmers change crops when they aren't productive. And that's what that lower field has become to me. I need my energy for my animals and art and flock.

And now I prepare my mind for the next days of 95 plus degrees. Shriveling up.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This is 'it'

There's a certain pull on this spot of our land, and a certain welcoming. It's up on Donkey Hill, under the old Oak. I love to stroll up there with the donkeys, enjoy the view of our lower fields and barnyard. Early spring brings the silence of the fog, and summer brings the sound of far off tractors. All around me are rose hips.

I thought about how I arrived here as an unknown to the state and the rural county. We knew nobody. But this one section of land just welcomed me that first day we looked at the property. I like to think it was a personal greeting specifically to me. I enjoyed all the houses I'd lived in, fixed up and nested in over the years, but there was always a distant horizon I sought - an innate sense that, once again, the current house I was in just wasn't 'it'.

This small piece of our property reminds me in a very physical way, I am standing on 'it'.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Be more "donkey" and why it matters

I must be more "donkey".

My affliction to donkey ears is a beautiful gift not only to my art, but also to my life and health. Observing them requires me to stop and experience each twitch, which I find completely enjoyable. I see donkey ears as spiritual vessels, entities of their own that fill me up in ways that the man made world can't.

They are the first things I see when I enter the old barn, sticking up over the wood panels, moving to hear my voice or the distant scratching of a chicken. On a windy day, donkey ears can stand the pressure of a strong wind and the small hairs on their tips blow like mini pigtails. They are nothing less than poetry in motion.

While making art, my whole being is in the moment. Time stops -- or goes forward but I am unaware or uncaring of it. But before I paint, there are days - years - of soaking in textures, smells, and colorings stored deep down in the sub world of me, waiting to be pulled out when needed for a painting.

When I paint, my head chatter is gone. And when I sit amongst the donkeys, I am slowed down to their pace, I watch their ears - ears that ear things before I do.

Just the other day I was doing barn chores. As I cleaned stalls, I was rehearsing the many tasks waiting back in my studio -- deadlines, phone calls, and problems waiting for solutions. I was anxious to get back and just get it all over with. In my impatience, I was trying to get one of my donkeys to move faster to get him into another paddock - but if you've been with donkeys, even trained donkeys, you know they do many things very slowly, one hoof at a time. He stopped to stand like a statue, I sighed an impatient sigh, and I impatiently suggested he get going. While his ears pricked backwards to hear my plea, they then returned forward toward the lower pasture. I stood with him in silence to observe the fog blanket comforting the grass and weeds over our lower fields, with the white dots of our sheep peeking out. My donkey looked up, and there was a flock of ducks in formation, flying past, gone in seconds.

I never would have experienced that moment if it hadn't been for those donkey ears showing me the way. We all have the equivalent of donkey ears in our lives, pointing us to profound moments and simple beauties, inspiring painting, poem, or song... or just absorbed for nutrition. While my husband and I live on the farm with wireless internet and cell phones (the latter might work if you stand up near the Old Oak Grove), we are not texters or iPhoners. We work hard but live simply, and even I have to make a choice to stop, and look.

I've looked at paintings I did years earlier and wondered the exact moment that inspired it. I wonder how many inspirations I've missed that might have ended up in a painting, simply because I was going about my day impatiently, not taking time to stop and observe.

As I said, I must be more "donkey".

Monday, June 24, 2013

The end of the day

One of the things about being an artist and writer - for me anyway - is the need to share my feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes. There is an internal quest it seems to capture one moment's essence, or a string of moments, so I can say,

"Look, isn't this beautiful, do you understand me?"

I spend my early evenings on the porch sharing wine with Martyn, talking about plans, or failures, new animals, and now memories of my mother or long ago family vacations. Sometimes there is music on, but more often there is not - instead I just listen to the fields and farm, an occasional truck miles away and sounds of Martyn making dinner. Cats come and go, and always, there is my view of Huck looking out on the front garden. This is one of the ways I'll always remember him and have taken this same photo so many times over the past 9 years.

I read another author's blog post yesterday about his thoughts on losing a good friend and he said there was no need to be sad about his death but instead he was going to spend the day celebrating the person's life - each time he thought of this person that day, he smiled. I am not opposed to that, and I'm sure his friend would want his living companions to carry on with life not mired in sadness about his passing. Everyone gets to grieve in their own way, dance their own beat, but, it kind of made me....irritated. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was being over analytical, it was not as if this person reached out just to me to say,

"Come on, there is nothing to be sad about with your mother's death."

But that's what it felt like. Words on the screen can do that. Words have power, or can be given power when one least means to give them power. I suppose my words have affected somebody in an irritable way without meaning to. I smile a lot all day, I laugh a lot, I am not weeping in the bushes. But I miss my mother's human presence and I am saddened by her death. I celebrate her life simply by breathing, but I am saddened by her death. I am not smiling at her memory right now - I miss her.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quiet faces

I've been quiet lately, but enjoying my life immensely. Riding my horse as much as I can, spending more time in the fields than normal - just observing - or walking amongst the flock, without rushing or thinking thoughts of,

"I need to this, that, and then this today."

I am entering this stage of grief that seems like a long, long, flat path. I am not weeping or crying, I am happy and content but my body feels quiet.

Everyday I am asking myself what I need right now, today, for me. I shifted things a bit, remembering I'm an equal priority to the animals and farm.

I've been finishing up "Misfits of Love" so I can show it to some publishers or agents, and I am going to paint - I hope - all summer. Part of me feels a bit weak, like it takes an effort to get to my paints. But I think once I start I will be painting a lot. We shall see.

In the mean time I have my farm and animals to keep me busy and content. I am happy with sadness on the edge. But I am okay.

Whenever I look into their eyes, my sheep just bring such contentment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The story of The Three Janes

In which we see how chicken, mother and daughter get entwined by the muse...

Years ago, I had three wonderful Barred Rock Hens - they looked very similar except for slight variations, and I decided to collectively name them "The Three Janes": One was named for my mother, Jane, another was my husband's long deceased grandmother, the other after a dear friend.

Over the years, "The Three Janes" became "The Two Janes" - but each hen had a long, happy life. And at some point there was only one Jane left, and she is still with us, and she is the hen named after my mother.

I was working on painting for my last show and I was thinking of The One Jane for some reason - the pattern of feathers is so delightful. It was a month or so before my mother would die - but of course I had no idea that would happen. I was just thinking about my chicken, Jane. As I painted her, I felt I had to make her ethereal, and used all white, so her body and feathers looked angelic, floating. I didn't concern myself with why I felt I needed to paint in this gauze like way - I never question the why of it while in the process. It's all a little bit of magic anyway.

I placed wings on Jane's bucket, so no matter where she ventured, her bucket could gather her lovely eggs.

Perhaps 3 weeks later, my mother died. I had already called the painting "Ode to Jane". I did not think it morbid, I just was so touched that somehow Jane the chicken had enticed me and my muse to paint this ethereal homage, but that homage also turned out to be for me - to honor my mother. My mother loved eggs, and I suspect there is a bucket with wings somewhere that she might encounter.

The One Jane is still with us here at Apifera - she is very special and lays almost an egg a day for me. Sometimes, I see a bucket roll by in the wind, and I suspect there are gauze-like wings on it I can't see, trying to help gather her eggs.

Smile of the Moment

In which we smile back at Raggedy Man, on of the Misfits.

I came upon this photo today and felt it was worth reposting - so smile everyone!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Help for Samuelle Noel and surprise yourself with art!

Thank you to every one who played along. Your prints are shipping the week of 7/8 so watch for them late week or first part of next week. Meow!

Five years ago he showed up at the barn, scared, tired and wounded. For a stray, he was pretty tame, but still he was a stray and hard to doctor. But with effort, I trapped him, vetted him and neutered him. I brought him back to Apifera and he never left. He is extremely close to Hazel, one of the original ferals.

I named him Samuelle Noel because it was Christmas time.

A month ago, he looked horrible, almost overnight. He always maintained a good weight. I wormed him, deliced him, but to no avail. Within a week he looked thinner, and had a horrible rasp in his throat - which the clip above documents. I had to vet him, and we put him on a 7 day med course - after testing him for Feline AIDS and leukemia [both were negative, thank goodness].

Well, that regime did not help. And he would not eat anything - or it seemed he wasn't - even tuna, salmon, fish oil did not entice him. Today I had him back at the vet and we X-rayed him, his lungs are clear which is good, so we hope it is a stubborn bacteria. We have him on different meds and he will stay in the vet's care for 2.5 days, getting sustenance since he went from 10# to 8# in 8 days - not good! He will also get a daily nebulizer to try to suck out the fluid in his nasal area.

He was so good at the vet and I really hope we get get him back in form.

Of course, this all costs money. $150 last week, and $280 minimum coming up. I did get a $50 donation - GRATEFUL! - but I decided to do a print sale to rev up some dollars. I also have an option below for a simple donation without print or gift.

Here's how it works: Scroll below for buying options...

I have piles of wonderful prints. These are all printed by me, with the color image usually in the 5-6" range, sitting on a white piece of paper. They can be framed. I will sign each one.

When you pay $15, you get 2 prints, $4 shipping [USA orders]. You will receive your prints within 2-4 weeks.

For every $15 you pay, you get 2 prints. SO you can enter as many multiples as you'd like.

NOTE: You do not get to choose your prints! Isn't that exciting? They will be a surprise. Each print you get will be different - dare to live!

Thank you to every one who played along. Your prints are shipping the week of 7/8 so watch for them late week or first part of next week. Meow!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Slide Show of Pino Pie Day

I decided that the You Tube video did not do the beautiful photos Jan Harris took any justice - so have created this downloadable slideshow for you.


Pino Pie Day 2013

Post Pie Day Love

I think this photo is the one of so many that got me at my throat this year, and others have concurred. This little guy has such emotion in that face.

What a wonderful day we had yesterday! The weather was perfect, the crowd was well behaved and appreciative, lots of little human creatures this year which always makes it fun.

I had many wonderful encounters. Many people who have read my blog for a long time came and there also were many that had read my "Quiet Little Sack of Sadness" and were so kind in their comments. One person brought me a book on grieving which was so nice.

But, back to the real event.
The donkeys were in perfect form as were the Misfits. this year I did it a bit different and put all The Misfits, including The Pig, into the adjacent paddock next to the Donkey Hug area. This worked out great. And even Boone partook over the fence and I was so glad, as he never gets to partake and he had so much fun getting lots of attention being the only horse.

Goose and Moose were a big hit, I knew they would be. Goose was unphased and I think I have a new superstar on my hands. Little Moose got a bit overwhelmed at times with all the attention and would escape through the gate to rest, but always came back. It was good for him. Old Rudy got a special shaded grassy area by the donkeys and got to nap and eat without bother - as it was a hot day.

The Pig! I was not sure if she would make it through a whole day, but she did. She napped a lot, but was not a problem in the day, which I was glad for. She is grumpy you know! But she took it in stride and the guests seemed to love visiting the hut while she was snoring away in her pig nap.Our volunteer goat handler, Amy, did an excellent job keeping people and ittle ones in line - and safe - and also she took time to explain the stories of the adopted animals. So appreciate that.

Of all the goats, I think Professor Otis Littleberry had the best time. Goose did too - but Professor seemed especially happy getting all the brushing and attention.

And of course of all the cats, Peach, aka Kitty Slut, was everywhere getting love.

And if I may so myself - and it was agreed to by many - my pie, especially the crust, was perfect this year. Perfect.

I want to thank the volunteers so much - Jan Harris for taking wonderful photos, Lisa Kaser and friend for helping in the studio, Cece Hall for being Pie Girl Extraodinaire, Carolyn Holman for again coming out with her fab Girl Bands [I took three, Martyn took one] Stacey Shellington of SkyRanch for giving up a Saturday on a busy farm to come to my farm and help, Amy Mathis for being an exceptional Goat Handler, Annie, Joanne and Cathy for helping in the Donkey Hug area, and all the people who sent aprons or donated. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Full speed ahead for Pino Pie Day

It's full speed ahead now for me and Pino to get all the pies baked and everything all set up nice for our guests. If you can't make it Saturday, June 15th for our big day - with apron and art sales helping me to maintain our Barnyard of Misfits - you can always chip in a couple of ways.

The Pino Pie Day page has all the info of the day - like please don't bring your pets - and directions.

So, the next time I write here I will be full of pie and Pino love. Until next week - with lots of photos!

Little Moose on the loose: First kiss

Who better for a little fellow to have a first kiss with than Peach?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Now that's a sign!

To keep our guests all going the right direction on Pino Pie Day, I created another Apifera sign.

What?! Can't come to Pie Day but want to help our Barnyard of Misfits? Visit this page for more information.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Old Rudy ready for guests

Old Rudy is ready for his very first Pino Pie Day.

I think I will have him in one of the front mini paddocks by the donkeys where he can lay around in the shade and partake without having to be in the rush of things. Sometimes I look at Rudy and my heart skips, as he can look and act so much like Old Man Guinnias who died last year at age 20+. He is always missed. But Rudy is so charming and kind. He has similar traits to Guinny but also has his own unique persona. His daily pain meds have been helping as I see him cruising around longer grazing in between old man naps and the vitamin shots have helped get pink back in his lower lid showing us the anemia is lessening. I can tell he is more himself too, so am grateful I had the vet out when I did.

Rudy is not a loner, but I think because he has lost a lot of mates in the past year, including his life long mate Tasha Teats died this January, I think he has become a bit more reclusive. He bonded a bit with Lofa who died suddenly this spring. Rudy comes and goes into the goat barn, often sleeps near The Pig, takes walks with Little Moose and Goose following him like he's the cat's pajamas, and then he likes to retreat to his favorite napping spot - the wood shed. Oddly, this was Old Man Guinnias' favorite nap spot too. Rudy always calls out to me when he hears the gate open, as do many of the animals in the morning. But I always sense Rudy is saying, "Good Morning, I'm over here, can you see me?" versus, "Feed me first!" like some of the goats - I won't mention any names. Rudy is also the best role model for getting injections and meds - he even sucks the syringe after getting doused with wormer.

So if you come to Pino Pie Day, be sure to greet Old Rudy - he's the gentleman with the long beard and sweet smile - you can't miss him.

Read more about all The Misfits adopted by Apifera.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Pino's Porta Potty Movie 2013!

IT"S HERE! Pino's Porta Potty Movie 2013! This year, Stella the goat and Olive Oil the sheep help out and - WARNING - the potty talk abounds. For those of you new to Apifera, every year The Puppet gets very excited for the arrival of the porta potty for his Pie Day. He takes to it like a long lost friend, and each year he makes a special movie to honor its arrival.

Pino Pie Day - the annual event that raises money for Apifera's barnyard of Misfits is Saturday June 15 from 11 to 4. Art and lavender are for sale, as are the many aprons donated by Pino's fans. This year we'll again be lucky to have Carolyn Holman here with her "Girl Bands" head wear too - I personally have about 6 of them!

If you can't make it to Pie Day and want to donate to the Misfits that is just wonderful.

Now sit back and enjoy the puppet potty humor!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Oh Pig!

She roams the barnyard like a small statured hippo from neolithic years, emitting small grunts, a step to the right, a shift of her mass to the left, all the while her tail is swishing. It is the best time of day in the barnyard, when the sun is setting, the flies have lessened, the heat is past and the distant coastal range is lit up.

But it is the tail - the tail! - that brings such delight to me, the pig watcher.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The nose of a healer

I've had Boone now for five years. I can honestly say, there is not one time I am with Boone - be it brushing or feeding him, watching him in a distant field, riding him, working in a lesson, photographing him, smelling him - that I don't thank the universe I am able to live with him, ride him and grow along with him. I had waited so long for a horse, and found him when I was fifty.

We have come so far together. Today in my workout - let the barnyard take note and the bells ring - Boone did a flying change! I have been working for fun on canter lead changes and am certainly not ready to ride at that level in a show, but what a thrill.

When I drive the short 4 miles to get to the rural barn where I lesson at, my favorite view is seeing his nose sticking slightly out of the trailer. Out my side mirrors, I can see him occasionally take a moment from eating hay to stick his nose out a bit and look at the scenery.

That's one thing a horse gives you - the reminder of the beauty all around, the understanding that if you rise yourself up a bit your entire perspective changes.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Cat nap

Miss Peach finds a new use for an old wreath I was going to toss.

Daisy parades

The English Daisies have arrived in full force, surrounded us with their little bodies of cheer. How can one not take time and feel some delight in them?