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.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Double rainbow

My Aunt Alice died. She was married to my father's younger brother, Dick Dunn, a scientist and astronomer, well known in his field and in his specialty of sun spots.

Growing up, they were giants to me, and when we would drive from Minnesota to Las Cruces it was like going to the moon in a way. Uncle Dick would take us up to the observatory and he'd show us photos of the sun he was researching. Back at the house, Alice had a room with a harp, and a loom. She made me fudge. She was not a cuddly person, but I always liked her. She had a wit and wrote funny notes at Christmas.

She was 86 and in seemingly good health. I guess she had had some issues a few weeks ago, was in and out of doctors, and they discovered she had kidney failure. She refused dialysis and chose to enter hospice in her local hospital. She died within days. She told her niece she didn't need to go to her house she'd lived in most of her adult life, that she was content and 'felt like the Pope' in her hospice suite. That was so her.

Uncle Dick died some 6 years ago, when he succumbed to the wrath of Parkinson's. He was only about 79. Too young. They were odd and unique in all the most wonderful ways. Smart, witty, and curious about life. She played cello and harp. She read. She learned braille and Dick then got involved and developed an automated braille translator.

She made really good fudge.

Uncle Dick was always building things - televisions and Monopoly like banks that played music when coins were inserted, and he taught himself to play the Hurdy Gurdy. In their later years, he and Alice would go to the farmer's market and he'd play the Hurdy Gurdy for coins. It was so funny.

While they each had interests of their own, I think of them as "Dick and Alice". And when Dick died, it was sad, for her, and everyone that knew them as an entity of their own.

After my mother died in April, I was the one to call Alice and tell her the news. I was surprised at how emotional she got in the first moments of hearing the news. Alice was a lot like my mom in that regard, stoic, stable, not one for drama. We had a really good talk that day, about death, independence and life. She said somethings that have stuck with me.

"There are worse things than death," she said.

And she told me that some of her relatives brought up her finding a more suitable home with assistance if needed - but she had no intention of it. She was always independent and she said that "once that independence is taken, it's like a death in and of itself. You can't understand that until you reach a certain age."

I concurred, and I whole heartily believe both these things to be true. She watched her brilliant husband suffer for years with Parkinson's eventually losing a leg and ability to speak. Death was a relief for both of them, but it left such a gap. She missed him, I know that. While she didn't complain, I know it was different. I choose to believe that those last hours for her were a relief for her, knowing she wouldn't have to  live in a world anymore with that gaping hole that her best friend and husband left when he died. She went really fast. She was ready.

When I called her that day to tell her about my mother dying, I think the initial gasp and tears were perhaps because it was one more window closing, one more anchor in her life gone. The life she knew had one less soul in it that understood her history and had connections to her and Dick's life.

I had talked to her several times these past months, and she was helping me figure out some family photos I had acquired from my mom's, even hooking me up by letter with a 95 year old that knew my grandmother. All week I kept saying I was going to call her because I had a specific relative I wanted to know more about. Each day, I'd think it, "Have to call Alice." She had already died on Sunday, so maybe that was her letting me know.

When I found out yesterday she died, I emailed my only brother right away. He couldn't get a hold of me, so called Martyn on the cell phone. It was late day and Martyn was driving back to the farm, and as he drove up the driveway and got out of the car, I was sitting on the porch.

"There's a double rainbow over the field, it must be Dick and Alice," he said.

And once again, I am confronted with this fact - death is just another form of life.

Doris hard at work

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Self publishing farmer artist creature

Here you see two more images from my upcoming book, "Misfits of Love". I am so close to getting this book birthed and at times I am anxious, then excited, drained, and sometimes overwhelmed. I have moments of fear -

"Will I lose my shirt on this?"

Then I crunch numbers, breathe, and remember who I am, where I am, and I just feel a sense wash over me that it will be okay.

This final week of August is always a relief for me as the summer heat is waning, the Earth is cooling, and the flies begin to die off. It also has a sense of anticipation for what's to come - I remember having the same sense as a little girl, anticipating autumn, a new school year, new pencils and text books. I loved bringing out my favorite winter sweaters to wear and got my boots ready for action. It was exciting with a hint of wonder,

"What will my new home room teacher be like?"

On the farm, it is a week that has me planning for many things - the flock will need their vaccinations and feet trims, breeding season is upon us so cross fencing must be checked, the new shelter for the adopted ponies is being built, the firewood needs to be finished, and I begin thinking about mud containment and erosion that will happen with the winter rains.

And it feels like the right time to promote the book and get people excited to pre-order it. Part of self publishing is finding that right mix of promoting one's wares without feeling like a used car salesman. It's a fine line. The buck stops with me and I'm the one in charge of signing a contract with a pretty big old number with a dollar sign after it. Gulp.

If you love this blog - ad free for eight years now - please consider pre-ordering or donating to the "Misfits of Love" page. You will be helping one of a new wave of authors/artists opting to self publish their books and get them out into the world, no easy task, but as I've found even in the days of angst- so much more gratifying than knowing a good book sit in a slush pile.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Movie trailer for my new book!

The movie gives you an overview of how this book came to be, and shares some images from the book. It's an intimate 6x9" hard cover format, full color and has over 60 art images. This book is for animal and farm lovers, people who have lost someone, or are afraid of losing an elder. It is a book about living, and accepting death as another form of life. It is quiet, but it is not sad. It is full of the hope that life goes on. It is not a book about animal rescue, rather it is a book about the interconnectedness of woman and animal and how they heal each other.

You can pre-order the book and also help me defray the printing cost of this beautiful project. The off-set printing company I'll be working with publishes art books of a very high caliber and I felt it deserved to be done in the best way possible. By ordering now, you are helping me, an indie author/publisher, forge on and get this book to more people without the help of a large publishing arm backing me up with resources. I really appreciate everyone's support. I love this book!

Pigs, a Pearl and a Doris

I'd like you to meet Pearl and Doris. These two ladies are three months old and will live long and happy lives here, even after retirement. I will breed them in the spring so they will be working gals here at the farm - Working gals with fields to roam, a mini swimming pool, mud holes to lie in and plenty of belly rubs.

They are guinea hogs, a heritage breed that is becoming more popular due to their smaller size and wonderful temperament. When full grown they top out at around 150# for females, about the size of 2.5 Rosies.

They are so different than Rosie, who will always remain our little Grumpolopogus, a princess in her own realm. These two gals follow you around and wherever you stop, they stop, and flop. Pig people know the "flop"! I was working on some fencing for them and it was all I could do to keep them out of the way so I could hammer nails in the fence posts.

You can not resist sitting with them and rubbing their bellies and ears. I'm very happy to have them here, they have already brought me such delight. Rosie has met them through the fence, but Rosie is a non pig gal, I think. These pigs will get along with anyone, but at this point I am keeping them separate.

Pearl [the one with white feet] acts more like the little sister [they are litter mates], and Doris is slightly bigger and bossier. I hope to get a good photo of them in their make shift pool, it is very amusing.

I think these two will end up in a lot of future art and story!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Help get this book into the world!

It's official. I have decided to print "Misfits of Love" with a really great off set printer, versus POD [print on demand]. This means a huge chink of change out of pocket to pay for all the books upfront. This is the official fist view of the actual cover design!

But in return, I will get quality, quality, quality. I am very excited about this printer - who I'll divulge after the project is complete - because they work with some of the pickiest art book publishers around.

Please pre-order a book, or donate more if you can. This 120 page book has over 60 art/photographs, many full page bleed [no margins] and will be a wonderful gift or quiet read for animal lovers, farmers, art enthusiasts or people who have lost a loved one. It chronicles the internal conversations I have with various barnyard animals - these conversations helped me grapple not only with the past and present of the animals I had chosen to adopt and help, but it gave me an internal space to work through the loss of my elderly father in hospice. It is not a sad book, it is not a book about animal rescue. It is a book about a group of Misfits who manage to all nurture one woman as she nurtures them.

With off-set printing, the art in this book will get the quality it deserves, and it will be a hard cover with illustrated end-sheets [a must for me although it adds to the price]. It also means I have to raise about $9,000 to get this pup printed. And I intend to to do this.

Please pre-order a book, or donate at a level you can handle. Next week, I will be making a movie with spreads and interviewing some Misfits along the way. I can't tell you much every donation helps. This is a good thing to put out into the world. Thank you to everyone who helped the first stage of this project a couple years ago, and to any of you who can help now. You can also send me a private donation if you prefer. Stay tuned!

Golda amongst the wicker

Golda demonstrates that the juxtaposition of buff hen and the white wicker with a dappling of lavender and green is a pleasant mixture.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Elder ponies arrive!

They are here and what sweet beings they are! Today is very hot too and still they are well mannered and very calm, considering the last months of upheaval.

Now, I just don't think "Willow" is going to be "Willow". So I've discussed it with her and I will wait for the right name to present itself. I often do this - I feel it's my responsibility to follow my inner muse that is asking to rename them - and it's a new start for them here, their final home. She is the tubby bottom pony, the one that had 6" long curled feet, turned over, which has crippled her slightly. I will take a movie sometime soon. She needs to lose weight - don't we all? She has already figured out I am the one who brushes her. Her coat was a matted and needs lots of brushing at this point.

Her mother, on the other hand, Sugee, needs to gain weight. Old Mama Sugee is blind and has no ears. One ear hole is completely closed up, the other is a barely seen stub. When she wants to know where she is, she sort of whinnies in a quiet voice and if you go over to her she presses her head into you and then goes on about her way. I've created a special eating area within the orchard for Sugee so her daughter can be near by but it will allow Sugee to eat all her grain without tubby bottom getting her dinner. We will be feeding her 3x day to get more weight on. Since her rescue in February she has gained some. We will get those teeth floated within the month as she is dropping feed.

I have them in the Donkey Hug area for now and as we speak Martyn is getting the new stall/paddock ready. Should be at least 2 more weeks. They will have a separate paddock/ hut next to Boone and near all The Misfits. They can eventually have goat and pig guests during the day, and chickens and ducks. They lived with a duck and when they heard 'quacks' they perked up. We had meant to start that paddock last spring but life got in the way, and I'm glad we didn't build it, as I didn't know about the ponies then - so this hut will be bigger.

All in all, they are settling in wonderfully. I am really glad I can help these old gals! Feel free to chip in to help with the extra requirements these two old gals will take.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Elder neglected ponies coming to Apifera

Apifera will be taking on two very old ponies [actually they are mini horses, but we all seem to keep calling them ponies including the rescuers, so it has stuck].

It is a mother and daughter, the mother is estimated to be close to 40 according to the vet. The daughter is in her early 30's.

Before I go any further- PLEASE - I won't tolerate any bullying/bashing of others on this page, take it elsewhere please. The owners of these two had life events take over both financially and in health ways that caused a slow but mounting environment of neglect. Not only was there living shelter dirty, the elder mother pony was bone thin and blind. Both were matted so bad they had to be clipped and manes/tails were cut. The daughter was, and is, overweight and her feet were curled as you can see from the blurry photo taken by the vet. This causes some crippling in her legs - she now walks oddly, but this may change with more time and feet trims.

The elder mother also had - WARNING this is GRAPHIC - her ears chewed off, supposedly by a coyote but none of us, including the vet who rescued her, believe this. We think it was most likely the family dog that was rather wild according to a neighbor, and he might have been playing tug of war on her. I have the photos of the day they found her, freshly eaten off, it's horrible and I contemplated showing it here, but felt it would incite people. These are not bad people, they just got lost. And they did call the vet when her ears were chewed off, which is when the neglect was discovered.

So one of my vet clinics operated on the spot on her ears and they are entirely gone now. She is about 90% blind. They got some weight on her but she needs more - her hips are concave still and she is still too thin. The daughter needs ground work - she is not mean, in fact once you start petting her she likes it, and children have hugged on her and there is no aggression. It is amazing that the elder with no ears still trusts dogs and is very sweet. They get along with chickens and goats and should fit in just wonderfully here.

We will need to float the elder mom's teeth and we will need some extra foot trims for awhile, and Cushing's meds, and special equine food. Martyn will help me get that new little out building built soon [a good incentive, as we had a kind donation last spring]. I will take photos on Sunday after their arrival!

If you'd like to donate a little something to honor their arrival, it will be appreciated. Or just send warm thoughts our way if money is tight. I hope I can help them back into shape so they can have months and or years in peace.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Silhouette for me

I love seeing this outline. It always brings me happiness. To recognize what brings you contentment in life, and then to seek it, and bring it into your days, is a gift.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Empty table for two

I've been keeping a grief blog after the death of my mother. It seems to be helpful to some going through the same thing - but basically, it's just sad. But I know there is no way around and it is helping me somehow. Here is today's entry.

Outside the back of my studio is a small bistro chair and table. It is where I used to sit in the morning and have coffee, chatting with my mother - at least three to four times a week. We talked about mundane things like weather, politics or how to fix a spot in a white shirt. We laughed a lot. Sometimes got a bit catty. Sometimes there was nothing going on, we just felt like taking a break from the day and calling one another.

More than anything, I miss those chats. I only got to see my mother twice a year due to logistics of the farm and financial restraint. It was impossible for her to travel those last few years. So our chats were our time together.

The last time I sat in that chair and had a talk with her was the morning she went into the hospital. We had a routine, mundane chat. We thought it was just another little visit to have blood work. No drama. My mother hated drama. But she was dead 48 hours later.

The day after my mother died, I looked out on the beautiful world and saw my little chair and table. I sat down, but cold not stay there. I look out at them now - like abandoned friends of the past. I want to reach out and sit with them and have it be like it was. But it can't be, so I won't sit there. It's been 4 months and I think more than any other place, it is where the rawest sadness still resides.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Hangovers, a book & full bellied goats

I have been in computer software glitch hell for the past two days straight. Any snafu that could happen on creating my book files for "Misfits of Love" have happened. Okay, that's overly dramatic. But I am having enormous headaches creating high resolution PDF's thanks to the fact Adobe changed everything to the point where nothing seems to work anymore.


Big sigh.

On top of it, I have a tad of a hangover - due to the fact that yesterday's computer/production angst inspired me to have one glass too many of red wine last night and not enough dinner since we sat up late under the cool evening sky. I needed it - I guess.

But now the entire day of trying to get the production issues worked out are compounded by a a small hangover.

Enter Raggedy Man. Thank goodness. How can I not stop for seconds at least and smile at this little, er, bulbous fellow. To wonder what items are in his stomachs could fill a day - whole pumpkins perhaps?

Anyway, consider hopping over to the funding page for Apifera Press to be launched with "Misfits", the book. It is such a beautiful book, and such a huge amount of work. This book is also a learning curve for me. It will all be worth it when we can hold it in our hands. I fall in love with it each time I reread sections of it or see the art and photos. I really do. I haven't been pushing the fundraising because it's August and everyone seems to be sleepy and on vacation. But I'm spending lots of cash out of pocket, so, I must start pushing for it.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Multiple birth at Apifera!

I've been watching - and last night it finally happened.

The Charlottes arrived.

They were born with perhaps the most patient and brave mother I've ever known. For Mama Charlotte tucked her little nest of babes in a perfect birthing place - under the wooden handle of the Donkey Hug door - a door I enter daily. Each time I lifted the wood handle I'd check to see how the expectant mother was. She must have had exactly the right amount of space between her body and the wood. She didn't seem to mind my daily intrusion and I didn't mind her presence.

After days and weeks of waiting for the new arrivals, one almost gets jaded about it. But last night at dusk when I went to get the sheep, I lifted the handle and there they were - a little family alive and moving about their new mother ship - a white gauze nest left after their birth. Mama Charlotte sat off to the side.

I am not sure why this birth was so exciting for me. I hadn't really been thinking of it obsessively, but when I saw them, I got very excited, happy and had a proud feeling for the spider as if I was the mid wife.

It is easy to attach human characteristics on our fellow creatures and perhaps that is what was partially going on in my heart. I knew that the mother had done her job well but rather than resting for a day and then packing her children up to join them for the next 80 years, Nature would take her, alone, and move her on to the next realm.

Most of us in our mid fifties have all read the wonderful book of Charlotte and her pig friend. I have my original copy with my young hand writing in the inside cover proudly displaying my ownership of the book I so loved. The author E.B. White is one of my favorites and we have a ram named in his honor. And then there is the memory of sitting with my elderly father one Christmas five years ago, watching the new version of the movie based on the book. We knew he was not long for life, and he did too. When Charlotte died and stoically explained her fate, it was a tear jerk moment for all of us. Just like my father, she would die and leave behind her most valuable creation - life itself in the form of her offspring. It is what it is.

So when I lifted the wooden handle today I saw that two little spiders remained, the rest had gone off, already busy with life and survival. I looked for Charlotte, but she was gone.

Our relationship was set the minute I first met her as there was a clear beginning and an eventual end. Like the leading character in the movie I watched with my father, I knew she would die, but I didn't really want her too.

But you can't rewrite Nature.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

It's August, it's a sale!

It's August, it's time for a sale. It ends August 18th. Art, aprons, prints. If you plan on ordering a lot - please email me so I can get your shipping cost down. I might be adding itmes as we go along - but might not due to work overload.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The final page

Production of "Misfits of Love" is floating along. I thought I'd share the very last page of the book. I love the simplicity of it and it fits perfectly with the stories and other art. Sometimes space and simplicity is needed.

I have been working with the designer on the cover and some elements to make the chapter headers more engaging. It is all really exciting, and the direct contact is so satisfying - rather than having layers of marketing people telling me what the cover can or can't be. With my first book, I had to squeak very loudly to get a copy of the color proofs to see the book before it was printed. The hands on, direct process of self publishing deletes all that and I like it.

It also has moments of fear. I am responsible for signing off on everything. I have a good copy editor and she has been very thorough. It's me I worry about!

So, I hope to be working on the final page layouts for the production person these next two weeks. My goal is still to have the ebook done in early fall, and the actual book to hold and sell in mid-late fall.

It will feel good to hold it!

If you'd like to support my indie publishing venture, visit the funding page. Think of it as pre-ordering the book and helping me with out of pocket cost I'm incurring to launch this venture.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The hills are alive with ducks

I spent time trying to teach The Bottomtums a specific whistle just like the Von Trapp children had to learn. My hope was to teach the fowl to line up composed and tidy for photo opportunities. Eventually, I gave up.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Professor thoughts

Unlike Moose and Goose, the elder or crippled goats can't climb and romp as freely and the chicken hut remains a mystery, a place they only visit in made up stories around the moonlit barn. I can imagine how enticing that little door is, with dark exterior lurking in the background.

"I've always wanted to go in there. Someday, someday," thought Professor Otis Littleberry.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Gods of the Garden return

Each year they arrive, slowly, first by announcing they are gathering in clusters, their height towering above the sages and lavenders. Their color deepens in the days ahead until the hue is so intense at dusk that you must stop and just be with them.

I crouched near the ground last night and gazed up at purple orbs. We were all like little planets floating amongst each other, the sky our backdrop of infinity.