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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Garish plug - more prints in between pig belly rubs

I am on my usual mission to make a living in between carrying water buckets and securing fences so Ernest doesn't greet me at the front door as he did today. But sweet little [yes, still little] Ernest is so charming and well mannered, and follows me like a pup - so it is rather enjoyable. How many people reading out there get to take breaks during the work day to give pig belly rubs and run to the barnyard for fresh eggs to hand off to said pig? I must never complain about such moments- they are to be held and cherished so when I am old and perhaps unable to bend over to give belly rubs, I will remember my little Ernest.

Anyway, I added some old favorites of print buyers to the art section on Etsy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Grumpy Pig Chats

Love a pig, love a man but don't confuse the two

It's easy to look at the photos of the animals on my blog and project human dimensions on to them. I do it in my stories and art. I see them daily, over and over, and writing stories about them is my way to share my feelings, fears, joys, humor, and anger - or memorialize a moment I had for a future read. My new book, "Misfits of Love" does just that, demonstrating how our time with animals can help open up spaces for us to ponder, heal, grieve, express, cry, laugh or share intimacy to others - or ourselves.

Animals are a huge art of my life - and many of yours - and we are better because of it. They comfort, do silly things, break our hearts when they leave. They are workers, companions and muses.

But living with animals here is entirely different than some people might think. I think many people see animals as superior in consciousness than humans, and I often hear people saying humans are idiots, and "if only we were more like animals". I certainly don't consider humans superior to animals, but I don't consider animals superior to any living part of nature, including humans. I don't think any one species should be on a pedestal.

Observing and interacting with creatures, especially in a herd, flock or group, gives one a clearer understanding of a species. If you think all animals are kind and generous, come to feeding hour. If you think that a cute little lamb is so soft and cuddly, come watch them head bang for a position in the flock. No, they are not being mean, they are behaving in a way that will help them survive. They don't think like us. We are the ones who try to explain them through our human expressions. They sense fear and act accordingly, they smell a scent and are programmed to mount another and procreate. They do not give up their food for a buddy, and they come running to me because I am the hand that feeds them. Fear, flight and survival at any cost drives a creature, and it helps me understand how to be a better shepherdess, rider and goat wrangler.

I have a covenant with each animal on this farm - including the ones I slaughter and eat and that covenant is privy only to me and them. Many don't understand how I can eat certain animals, but I'm very clear on how and why I do.

I get uncomfortable when people call my animals "darlings", or "sweet babies". They are neither and much more multi dimensional than that projection. They can do many endearing things - snuggle together for warmth, act gently around an elder or youngster - but they will ram another for food or position in the eating line. I have seen hens suddenly go after older hens, to the death. The weak are a liability in flock society. So I intervene, because my job here is to provide humane treatment for all, while still letting nature rule. If a rooster becomes aggressive, he is butchered, quickly - such was the case of Bad Ass, and after watching him tear apart other chickens, and come after me at some point, I didn't have an ounce of regret for my decision.

I don't feel animals have agendas like humans. They don't have ego. But they have motives that are pretty clear. When the goat climbs in the chicken coop, he wants one thing - chicken scratch.

And when Ernest comes a running to my name - he knows me, he knows I might have food, but when I don't, he flops over for belly rubs. And that is a wonderful human-animal interaction. And there are many wonderful interactions like that with all the animals.

It can be hard to be intimate with human beings. We are often selfish, passive aggressive, moody, ignorant but loud mouthed, or just plain obnoxious. But mostly, I think humans have personal morals and agendas that can make intimacy difficult. And let's face it, I don't know about you, but I'm constantly thinking if people really knew me - all of me - they'd turn around, quit reading, quit buying, quit sharing, just plain quit me. Intimacy is scary. But animals don't judge us or at least I have never felt one creature judge me - and it is easy to slip into a sense that that relationship can be as good - or better - than a truly intimate human one.

I love Ernest the pig, I love my flock, I feed them, doctor them, hospice them, sing to them - but it is different than the way I love and interact with my husband.

My husband knows my flaws. I know his. He chooses to be intimate with me day in and day out, flaws or not. I can't say that about a lot of people, but I'm lucky to have some good friends who do the same. He does not come to me for food, he comes to me because there is conversation, stimulation as ideas are exchanged, tenderness while we talk about sad things, joy when we remember a wedding or birth.

He helps me build things that help my animals, and we laugh as we watch Ernest run around. He is so adorable, that Ernest. But Ernest is a pig, and my husband is a person.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to make hats out of squash...yep

Not to be taken lightly

After living on the farm for ten years now, I could easily, I suppose, fall into the trap of being jaded. I can honestly tell you - while I have moments of self doubt, frustration, exhaustion, feeling not up to a task, afraid I said something wrong or not well enough for those who create their own persona of me, grieving, feeling puffy and fat - I always have moments strung through each day that bring me back to the Earth ship, down to where I am meant to be, right now.

I worked with an energy healer years ago, back in Minneapolis when I was yearning for a mate, had lost the mate I thought I was supposed to have and my stubborn conscious just would not let go [note to all reading who are hanging on to someone who left - let go, it will simply get you to the next shore sooner]. So in working with this healer I learned to recognize how I often float away, just drift up and out and all over the place. It is something I remember doing very early on, when I was no more than four. I would especially float off if I was in the back seat of a car, or in the bath tub. And I loved it. I could make myself do it. I never told anyone about it, until I met this healer later in my life.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I was not abused or living in a bad place or anything. I just liked it - it was much safer there - safer from me and all my little fears and flaws. It was also felt intense.

In working with the healer I was given techniques to keep me grounded. Not that there was anything wrong with floating - I can still do it on a whim, anywhere, any time, alone or in company - but I learned that I am here for the living, for this realm and this earthly place. If I do float, I was encouraged to do something helpful with it, something courageous and perhaps something that brought light on a problem or another's situation. I believe when i paint i am floating - usually. I need to stay connected here - there will be plenty of time later to float. One of the simple things I learned was to touch the Earth, to touch my skin, the ground, anything here on Earth if I needed to come back.

It was pointed out that gardening was good for us floaters. And then I got my farm. And animals. So much of my day is spent in tactile connection with Earth and creature. Be it helping a lamb be born, or burying the dead or cleaning the blood off the cement from harvest day...it keeps me here. This is where I need to be now.

When I see the faces you see here in the photos - I often just stop, look, and move on. But it is visceral connection.

Monday, September 23, 2013

To sip tea with pig and donkey

I received an anticipated package recently. Inside was an object, inanimate, but one capable of moving emotional energy - For when one sips tea from this mug a sensation of comfort and delight merges into another sensation that has no human word, but it leaves one's mind calmer, and one's heart more accepting of harsh weather or human chatter.

Such is the magic of Julie Whitmore's pottery. I have eyed it for some time via her delightful blog. I am not a very big shopper for many reasons. One, the money comes and goes slow and leaves fast here [in your world too, I imagine] but there is always something to fix or improve; Two, I want for little since I live my dream; and three, I'm just scattered and busy and a horrible shopper because it feels like a waste of time and then I make poor choices because I'd rather be working, or sitting in a field. Maybe if I was rich I could spend one day a month shopping - that might be a nice compromise!I remember my old life where I'd take time out of the studio to book shop, or buy new shoes, spruce up my day with a new shirt or dress, it was fun. But I guess I'm graced to have created a life where I don't even think twice about that as a desire.

But, a new mug seemed simple and so inviting. I am so glad to have it now that the rains are coming back and mornings are foggy. I felt a bit blue this morning, but my mug really did make me smile.

If you haven't yet, please visit Julie's blog and see her other delights. I might have to take a barnyard collection and see if we can get one of every animal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The hat floats on

I saw my first color samples from the new book, "Misfits of Love" and am very happy, and excited. I will be uploading all files this week and then...I wait. I can't wait to see the full color proofs.

Books are funny - you get them partially written, then you rewrite them in chunks which leads to more ideas and ways to reshape the book. Art formulates as I go, then changes. It's like a painting in that regard, you think you might be done, but then it evolves, or gets one slight little tweak - and you can't believe you almost finished the project without that special revision.

I feel that way about this hat image. I won't go into too much detail because you will have to see for yourself how it is placed in the book, but I created it this week because after I got the new end sheets completed, my last page of art didn't seem right. But this photo/art piece of my father's hat was just perfect. When I got it all done, and really had time to see it placed in the book layout, it really spoke to me, and moved me physically as well as emotionally. I think you will understand if you choose to buy the book and see how the stories and art proceed and flow into this image.

Please consider pre ordering a book at various gift levels today - to help an indie author/artist/publisher forging on. And thanks to all who have helped!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Why's everyone running away from me?"

A tiny little pig can have a big impression on a bunch of brash goats! Within a day or so, all was well.

Ernest, a fine pig

Please meet...Ernest.

Ernest arrived a week ago after a long 7 hour trip from Eastern Oregon. A kind woman was coming to Portland and offered to meet me at the REI store for the delivery. I don't imagine there are too many pig swaps in front of REI, but little Ernest was sound asleep when we put him in my car.

Ernest is a rare heritage breed called the Kunekune. He will be a worker for us, breeding with Pearl and Doris next year. Fear not, Ernest will reside here with his harem of two into their twilight years. Kunes are a smaller pig and Ernest should top out around 250# which makes them much more manageable than some breeds. They are very mild mannered and docile, and so far, Ernest has proven that. What a genuine sweet fellow he is, greeting me at the gate, following me like a pup.

Ernest currently sleeps with Goose and Moose. He's only 3 months old and still small, so he's safer in there at night. He sits like a dog for his breakfast - a definate pig trait - and seems to like wheelbarrow rides. He has met Doris and Pearl, who are much bigger than he, but he won't see any love makin' until next year.

And yes, Rosie has met Ernest. Rosie reacted to him like she does all new arrivals,

"Hrumpf, passing on your left, if you don't mind."

I told Ernest not to pay her any mind, she had a good heart, except around food. Eventually I will need to separate him out so we don't have any accidental mini Rosies. I told Rosie that perhaps she could learn some normal pig things from Ernest - like manners, pleasantries and standing still for kisses - but she "Hrumpfed" me and that was the end of the discussion.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Our friend the fog returns as does grief

The cooler air has returned to us and our friend the fog blanketed the upper hills yesterday. It is welcome. I love the fog - when I can be home anyway as it is not fun to drive in and I worry about Martyn in it at night.

But when it settles in over the farm I feel I'm being embraced by something much bigger than me.

I need the fog right now. I seem to have taken a dip in sadness. I'm happy, but sad. I am not a person who sinks into long periods of depression, and I feel for those who do. But I would never say never. Perhaps some of life's events could propel me into that, I hope not, but I am human.

I think it is the shuffling of my immediate family - what's left of it. I have lost my mother and two close aunts in less than six months. My father is gone, all my uncles and aunts are dead except one. The elders that made up my daily memories and family gatherings - the core people in my life for years - are all gone except a few. Maybe it was the phone call I had on Sunday - an old family friend now about ninety, who called to say hello. He is in assisted living with his wife. They knew my parents since before I was born. He sounded good, but it was a touching message.

The old family dynamic is gone. A new one made up of only me and my brother must be recreated.

I miss my mother.

I want to sew and as soon as "Misfits" is at the printer, I plan to start making my comfort blankets out of my mother's sweaters. The blanket will be like the fog, a wrap to cover myself in.

Professor sat at the top of the compost heap warming his bones, I worked below, contently, but with a sense of a hole somewhere in my gut.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Putting weight on Sugee, taking it off Wilma

We are working on the pony shelter and have it 90% done as I'm writing here. Hope to have it done tonight. Hooray!! It took much longer than I anticipated [I'm guilty of this way too much] and I guess we've put at least 30 hours of time into it. We decided to repost part of the area too - it is the old corral from way back when so many of the posts and boards were half rotten. When we moved here it was hard to find one fence that was in a straight line, so whenever we can we try to add some straightness to this place, even though it will always be 'raggedy'.

I am pleased I have put some rib fat on Old Sugee. She is eating very well and I added rice bran to her mash. And, I know poor little Wilma is losing weight. I can see it now after three weeks. She spends much of her day off her feet and I hope in time her founder issues will lesson if I can get more weight off. They are very obedient about it all and really no trouble. In the new shelter, Sugee will have a separate isle to eat in. Right now I have a makeshift area to let her eat in, so Wilma can't get in, but it is not under cover.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On any given day

I don't carry my camera at all times - but on any given moment there are photo opportunities all around me. Like the other day when Pearl knew I was in the barnyard and that dinner time was coming but she just had to have a quick nap - strategically located - before supper.

Or sitting the other day amongst the goats and Little Moose and Wilbur side side side, motionless, just cracked me up. They stood that way without moving for about five minutes.

I am surrounded by a bunch of comedians.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Soft spots for Pino

There are certain parts of a donkey that I can't resist - most parts, really. I hung out with Pino yesterday and chatted. I've been busy with pigs and pony shelters and fencing of late. I think Pino has enjoyed his time out of the limelight this summer. He has a lot to keep up with as pie Ambassador, healer, and puppet persona and this week we were asked to contribute an article about hi Pie Day for a national magazine. He sighed, and agreed.

"Are you okay with it?" I asked.

"Oh yes, I just know summer is waning now."

I'll let you know all the details before the press date in January.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Of mice and old men

This is another image from the upcoming book, "Misfits of Love" - which you can now pre order at a variety of gift levels to help support this indie author/artist/self publisher.

Working amongst the many animals in the barnyard, "The Misfits" as I call them, provided me a quiet, safe place to process the hospice and death of my father. I could not be with him, but I could somehow help him, through my hands on work with the animals. I helped him by understanding him more, loving him as he was, and eventually I gave him the final gift on his last day, I verbally told him it was okay to go. I did it in my bedroom, alone, and I knew he was most likely not going to make it through the night. He was far away in Minnesota, I was on my farm. But that night his energy was just coming and going to me. My father liked life, and good cheese and food, laughing over good wine and dinners with family. He had a curmudeonly side too, a stubborn side, a rather snippy side when he drank one too many Scotches. But he was a good father, flawed, but he was always around for me. He sacrificed a lot for us, but had all he ever needed or wanted. If he wanted it, he went out and got it. He didn't live lavishly, but he lived well, slightly over his budget. He didn't leave anyone in debt and provided for my mother all through her final widowed years. He was generous in many, many ways to many people. He liked to flirt a little too.

So I began to see certain recurring themes in my drawings or art. Mice became messengers or creatures that I
felt compelled to include in stories or art. Eventually, I began to see the mice as my father. When a mouse entered my images, I knew I needed to listen, for it was my father with a message, or it was a mouse who seemed to understand my father very well and just wanted to share something with me about him.

I realized at some point that the mice weren't going to bring him back. No matter how many times I drew them, they could not replace him - entirely. But they played an important role in getting me through my grieving.

Please visit the Misfits page to see the movie and consider pre ordering the book. 120 pages of narrative with over 60 full color art and photos.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Foundered Wilma

Wilma had her first trim with my farrier. He got a lot of tow off and found an abscess which will be chronic with her since she foundered at some point in her life. Who knows when, but since she is so overweight it probably has been a while.

The best thing I can do for her is get weigh off her and she is on dry lot per see, and Sugee is fed in a separate area. She is on daily Bute to help her pain and I hope in six months we will see some difference in her weight.

Founder causes the bottom of the foot to become soft, and if the foot bone starts to shift it pushes down and worst case scenario the bone comes through the skin. A foundered horse usually is seen standing in a shifted backwards position, rocking back on their heel to try to relieve the pain.

We worked all weekend, again, on the new pony shelter. I'm hoping next weekend we can get it done for the most part. It was hot this weekend which made me move slower than I'd hoped. It's going to be a great place for the ponies, though and they can rub noses with Boone, and the pigs.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Comin' and goin' of a Goose...and a Moose

Goose is a busy little goat. Although the look in his eye seems to announce,

"Please excuse me, I am about to be a monkey and get into trouble,"

He is actually the sweetest little fellow, even when he is getting into mischief. He loves to climb the chicken ladder and visit the hens in their private house, always causing pandemonium in the chicken hut - but Goose just stands quietly amongst the cackling hens, calmly stating,

"What is all the fuss, I'm just droppin' in before bedtime."

Goose always comes to greet me, and just as he did when he was very young, he puts his head in between by knees and waits for a back rub. He never runs from me, making him the perfect buddy for Moose - because Moose is very independent and loves to run and hop like a bunny when you get near him. He too is a sweet little lad, but once caught, when I am holding him and smooching on him, his statement is more like,

"Geeze, more kisses?! I am a big boy now! I gotta go!"

That is why Moose isn't in this photo. He was busy being Moose. But Goose was there.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

And we wave to the stars

They have returned in their glory, a small gathering of stars

positioning themselves amongst beets and lettuce

and carefully facing us, greeting us, shouting to us to notice

the changes are here

against the payne's gray sky.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Doodles to inside covers

I'm trying to finish up the last piece of art for the the book - the inside cover "end sheets". I love end sheets and even though they add cost to the final book price, I think they are worth it. They are the first thing you see when you open the book. SO I'm simply pondering right now. I am getting close to having all files prepped for printing. Yikes! But so excited.

And like any book, it has taken over my head and life - so I will be relieved to birth it. But in a good way - any labor of love is a relief when it is out in the world and one can then pause, regroup and get on to the many other ideas in the bottomless creative well.

Please consider pre-ordering "Misfits of Love" to help this indie author get this book published. Read more, order and/or donate at a higher level at the Misfit page. And please share with your animal loving friends or anyone grieving a loss.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Autumnal signs and a game of pig ball

Martyn and I have somehow created a mystery squash. It came up in our vegetable area, not the squash/pumpkin patch. We think some of the compost we carried into the veggie garden this spring must have brought this new creation on. It appears to be a spaghetti squash-pumpkin? They aren't quite ripe but I offered one to Doris and Pearl who vigorously challenged each other to a game of Pig Ball, a favorite autumnal pastime. Within about five minutes they had it opened and eaten.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Pony shelters, pig naps and life as the young elder

Martyn is busy, busy, busy building the pony structure for Old Mama Sugee and Wilma. We should have a roof up today and a structure so next weekend I can put up cedar siding. I have a lot to do in the paddock area too like putting in new gates and posts, making a culvert for winter water flow and improving existing fencing. I think we will also do a rain collection gutter on the hut too. Sugee and Wilma will then have nose neighbors - Boone and the rams, and Doris and Pearl on the other side. Eventually they can mingle with goats I think, as long as Sugee is secure. They get along with everyone it appears.

It's hot, but tomorrow should cool down. Martyn amazes me how he just works in it, without complaint. I'm so fortunate to have a friend and husband like this! The farm is a source of continuing projects, and of course I can't build much on my own which Martyn points out is a blessing! I did manage to secure the back gate on the hay barn so that Boone and the rams can't snack on the hay anymore. Rascals.

I feel quiet, but in a nice way. I told Martyn I feel like I have stepped up a level in age this week. I feel like a young elder now, not only in heart, mind and attitude, but also in appearance. And it's all fine. I've lost my mother and two aunts in the last four months with only one remaining uncle left. I am taking my place on the great mandala I guess. One thing I've noticed is a new and improved distaste for other people's dramas - especially those who always seem to be in one calamity or another. There is enough healthy excitement every time I go to feed the barnyard that I am shunning anyone or anything that brings uneccessary personal stuff into my life. Martyn and I talked about that last night - we don't need it, or want it, or deserve it. We just want to help our farm, do good work in our businesses, and enjoy our days and nights together. As usual, he treated me to a wonderful meal last night with lantern light and stars joining us.

I have to start the autumnal chore of trimming feet and giving shots to the sheep and goats. I get slower every season I think. I'll wander on out after I write this and do the rams and the goats. Maybe I'll do the sheep tomorrow, or next weekend. But first I took time to sit with the pigs for a little bit and watched them nap, and then sat and watched Martyn work on the new hut. He's like a goat on a ladder, up and down with ease. I thought of all the projects my parents worked on together, and Dick and Alice - or so many of our now young farm friends. When you work on a house together, or on land and a farm, you are part of it. It never leaves you, and vice versa. I won't fast forward to a day when we can't be here. But if we do have to leave someday, our blood and that of any creature living here others is here forever.