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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What becomes of the loved face?

I have not painted in earnest since my mother died a year ago this coming week. While I've been creating images for the book, I have not worked on a body of canvases since my last show, which I was painting for when my mother suddenly died. I didn't consciously stop, I just couldn't bring myself to sit in the same spot of a year ago and look at the paints and other views that I remember while I tried to absorb the shock of that moment. I'm the boss of me, as Neil Young once said, and I didn't care if I wasn't painting. Everyday is a painting here, but sometimes my medium is the land, or animals, or sewing, baking, writing or thinking. I quit worrying about 'shoulds' from others a long time ago.

It was Boone's birthday. I told you then how it seemed unfair that she died on his birthday, but I quickly saw it as a little note from her and others, reminding me that life is for the living. After all, I had waited so long to get my horse, there was no need to wallow in the past or death. I had to get in the saddle. So on April 4th, I'll be with Boone.

But I can now say with all honesty I've had depression. Internally. I'll mention it to Martyn when I feel it, then I move on. We have such a good life together with so much laughter, nature, good meals and wine, and our garden and farm, that I can't wallow in any kind of sadness. But it is still there, the quiet little sack of sadness. But then every day I'm happy too. But then I'm depressed...while being happy. I think it is important to remember this about loss–it does not go away. the loss is always a loss and it manifests itself forever, in different ways. Others who have had loss, on any given day, might be struggling even if they appear happy. There is also this pressure online-for me anyway- to not dwell on the negative, to share the positive, the upbeat. I'm not looking for advice from anyone I just think it is helpful that others see that even someone like me, surrounded by donkeys and sweet pigs, and one grumpy one, folds her wings in and takes a sit down.

The mounting pressure of the arrival of April 4th really started around Martyn's birthday. Then mine came and went. All the 'firsts' of the first year after her death-first holiday season, first birthday, first spring, etc- are now almost past. There is something freeing about it being a year. But I still can go into shock, briefly, when I remember she is dead, or remember that day. I have been pondering why it is hitting me hardest right about now and I think it is because spring itself is so raw in so many ways-our senses are ready and open for the aromas of spring flowers and fruit blossoms, the seeds are percolating beneath us-we are vibrating in a spring. Our hearts are eager and open to new life. It's a visceral time.

I have a voice message saved from my mother and in the days after she died, I played it all the time. Now I play it every few weeks or less. But I still talk to that recording. "Hope everything is okay, talk to you later," she ends her message. "Talk to you later," I say out loud.

I was thinking that if one is lucky enough to grow old, there perhaps comes a day when a thought enters your head, "I sure do miss a lot of friends and family, maybe eternal rest isn't so bad after all." I don't know, but that must be what letting go is all about in the end-the end to suffering, whatever your personal suffering is.

After a year of not seeing her, I think the other reality is still-okay, it's been a year, now there are 40 to go.

So today I started some warm ups to paint again. I'm taking back the studio, taking back the paint. I painted a face trying to remember my mother's hair and features in the end and all I could see was her face is lit up like stars. I didn't make much of anything but I started again. The other two faces only remote resemble her. Perhaps I'm not ready to see her from my soul yet.

The gentle and strong

Stevie is one of the most gentle of all the Misfits. He is the largest of the goats and despite his size and ability, he does not push the smaller ones around. He is very tolerant. Despite his crippled and now deformed legs, brought on by severe neglect years ago, he is still very strong. After years of trying to get his one claw like hoof more manageable [at one time it was 6" and curved, I asked my farrier to help me get more hoof off, and wow, was I pleased. At first I worried that taking off the hook would effect his balance negatively, but he is much more upright than he has ever been. We still have a lot of hoof to trim off, but at least now I can keep it more controlled in between trims.

If you don't know the story, Stevie was part of a big neglect case in Southern Oregon. His herd was eventually confiscated and he was the worst off, having been living on his knees for a long time because his feet were so overgrown. The Humane Society stepped in at some point along with a local vet, and gave Stevie an operation that allowed him to at least hobble on all fours, versus being on his knees all the time. Eventually he was taken in by Sanctuary One and later Apifera became his home with his grumpy pig sidekick, Rosie. He spends most of the day lying down, but he can walk and ventures about in good weather. And he still gives little kisses.

I've been trying to capture the real essence of his expression and have not yet fully succeeded. But these are a start.

Apifera welcomes donations to help us maintain the many Misfits. You can receive a reward, or not, it is up to you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dirt Farmer hand model

I asked Martyn to help me with some of the final images for the new book. He obliged, of course, and the pot was sweetened when he knew the photo shoot consisted of cherry pie.

Many of you know our love was sealed over cherry pie and it is one of The Dirt Farmer's favorites. Any pie with berries is his favorite, I guess I should add. I have witnessed the man almost walk off an incline because he is so immersed in picking berries. I have gone on short hikes with him, turned around to say something to him only to he is way off behind me with his head buried in a berry bush. Berries are to Martyn like honey is to Pooh.

Now me, I love walnut pie. Probably the worst pie for me, I suppose. But I will confess-on Pino Pie Day, I always make an extra and hide it in the kitchen–so I know when Pie Day is over and the hostess gets to put her feet up, she will have not one piece of walnut pie, but an entire pan.

Monday, March 24, 2014

We did it like a herd!

Who is more relieved–me, the donkey, or maybe the Dirt Farmer who doesn't have to watch me agonize over a ticking clock anymore? All patrons of the project will get their books or rewards in late June-early July. The book will go to the printer in mid April. I'm so happy and thankful for all the support-really!

In the coming days and weeks, I'll be creating a separate Page for the new book and ways you can buy the book. For now, I'll relish a bit in all the hard work that paid off in success. I am feeling grateful, excited, proud and thankful all over again.

Spring warms the earth and the naps begin

The first really warm days came to us-and it is really no different than I remember as a child–all one wants is to be outside in it. Nothing else compares to the first days of spring. The earth's ground is still cool making the warmth of the sun like warm slippers and a sweater. No need for a jacket, but no need to strip off layers due to over heating. It's just you and the warm air with beginning wafts of the Indian Plums blooming. The daffodils are up and their is pink fuzz forming on apples and cherry trees. Spring is hope-for a new growing season, new life, new ways of looking at the same old things popping up into one's eyesight.
And it means the barnyard becomes a sleepy, dopey place where nappers abound. Marcella takes to the shade and we see the first hint of how her thick coat will make her a shade lover.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The donkey has lit a candle

I...um...think...we ...are ...funded.

But I am nervous-I have the same worry genetics as Paco the resident worrier.

Right now, I just need to take a breath, have some wine tonight, dream deep. I am so happy. Really!! There were so many who helped in so many ways-sharing, pledging, repledging, telling friends...it all came together. Some sent big donations that helped at very crucial times. But all the pledges-all of them-were met with me smiling and feeling gratified. I mean that.

But there are reasons why people should still consider pre ordering the book for the next 5 days [the Kickstarter campaign goes until 3/24 no matter what]and why going slightly over the fund will give a bit of a buffer in case of mishaps.

- Like I said, I'd like a comfort zone over the goal, in case someone pulls out [please don't do that!]

-Anything over $14,500 will be put to good use- promotion of the book [paid PR releases, mailers, give always, ads] and possible reprints costs

-By pre ordering here, you get a book for $25 [includes USA s/h] and that price will go up after 3/24 for regular buyers. I can't give you the exact retail cost of the finished book yet since I don't know weight and final incidentals, but am assuming it will be $28-$35 [that includes USA shipping]

-I'd also like to take some of what might be pledged in the next 6 days and use it for a private pie party for children and elders. I have a couple of contacts and am hoping I can pull that off.

So keep pre-ordering until Monday 3/24!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pig & Pup continued!

There's a lot a couple of pals can do during the day-like investigate buckets, and then take naps. What a pair. What a life.

Donkey speaks

So I was informed, by The Heaad Troll delivered note under the door, that in a nutshell, my tone in my last update on Kickstarter felt a wee bit...tired. So the donkey has stepped in. With help I suppose from The Head Troll. Today he just wants to show how he relieves stress from such a fundraiser with Donkey Inspired Frisbee. I mentioned the typo in his movie and he said,

"Typos have no meaning to me".

He will be helping do updates as we tick down the final days of this Kickstarter-so be warned, the donkey will be sharing in earnest.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What else can I say?

Thank you to everyone who pledged, or adjusted their pledge. The offer still stands-any $25 increase gets your name on a slip of paper to be held safely in the donkey's bucket, allowing you to possibly take home original art as shown in previous updates. Plus there are other reward levels for all tastes.

Thank you to many who shared on social media and their blogs - many pledges came in this way-thank you! That really meant a lot to me.

But mostly THANK YOU to everyone who helped get me this far-it's up to the universe now- I've done all I could or think to do. I am hoping a surge of pledges come in this week to push Donkey and me over.

Friday, March 14, 2014

From the light of the barn-more birth

This lambing season I am making a real effort to document the feeling of lambing-not so much the birth process, but the quiet times I spend with the sheep and the lambs. The light is so wonderful and creates rich, but soft images. There is a peace in it, even after a death, the light is warm and comforting.

But there was no death this season, no trauma. The girls did it all without me, and I am grateful for their work. To be honest, this past couple weeks has hit me with a bit of mild depression-the spring smells, sounds and auras simply are taking me back to a year ago when my mother died. i won't hide it. I'm okay, but having a smooth lambing week was such a gift, and I'm happy for the sheep too. It is the first lambing that I didn't even get my hands bloody.

I put Betty in last night and figured she would lamb and she did. Her twins were clean and dry when I did feedings. She is a pro, they all are. Betty had our final twins, both healthy girls. At first I thought they were both white but was delighted to see the pinto girl. What a beauty she is.

I hope to make a book someday akin to Nell Dorr's book, "Mother and Child" from eons ago. That book's beauty and sanctity affected me deeply even as a little girl-how it captured the seasons of both nature and family-old and young. So I'm taking lots of images, hoping to capture this life amongst a barn and sheep, and light.

More from Pig and Pup!

Remember the song, "People Let Me Tell You 'Bout My Best Friend", the theme song to Eddie and His Father television show back in the '70's [yes, I date myself]? That is the song you need playing in your head while you look at these photos.

I am documenting Pig and Pup as often as I can and have more images in the hopper to share. Marcella continues to look to Ernest as one fellow who will tolerate her play. Now, she isn't allowed to overplay with him, as that is detrimental in her purpose here, but she seems to look to Ernest as her go-to guy. She lights up when he enters, and the two are usually found together various times of day. She has definitely figured out to stay away from Rosie. I told her that was a grumpy pig, but she had to figure it out on her own.

{See more Pig and Pup by clicking "Read More" below.}

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And Boone sun naps

The sun. Oh, the sun.

When it returns in earnest this time of year, it turns large creatures into napping monuments. Boone stood nearby as I photographed lambs this morning. He eventually lost interest in my movements and just took a standing nap. Later he was splayed outright on his side, sun sleeping-every farmer's heart has stopped at least once or twice when they look out in the field and see an animal splayed out like death came knocking-but it is just a sun nap.

Everyone was out and about in the morning, and by noon Apifera was a sea of nappers-some on the warm concrete in the barnyard, some near their mothers they barely knew, some in the damp fields where the English Daisies have popped up.

I can hear the grass growing which makes me happy.

Sunshine, lambs and naps

Bessie and Little Lil have given us twin girls, and last night Edith delivered two big boys. All went well and I'm grateful for that. Even Little Lil, who is a first time mom, is handling her lambs like a pro. The instinct is so interesting to watch. This morning the weather was perfect and Bessie and her girls ventured out into the world for the first time. Edith and Bessie are taking it slower and stayed in the interior barn but I'm sure will be out and about by day's end or tomorrow. Lots of napping going on, that's for sure.

Bessie threw an all brown girl-never had a solid colored lamb before. Real pretty. I love the genetics of coloring and am a total novice at it. But each ewe has thrown one dark brown lamb and one white/speckled lamb. Walter is deep red with some white. I was told that if a ewe is all white, she can still throw color-which is defiantly true and our line is full of color. If they have spots on their skin-if you look through their hair onto their body-they can throw lots of spots and color. It's interesting too that Edith-all deep brown-was bred to a brown ram, but this year and last lambing she threw a brown lamb but also a pure white one.

So now we wait on poor Betty- who seems to always be the biggest, and always lambs a few days or more after the others. I thought she was in pre labor last night, but she fooled me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Apifera gets new life

I put Bessie in her lamb stall last night as she didn't eat and I knew she'd lamb. I left the other three pregnant ewes free range in the three stall lambing suite. Arrived at barn this morning to see first time mom Little Lil licking a newly arrived lamb, and she had two feet sticking out of her. I checked on Bessie and she had two girls, all clean and dry so she probably delivered late night. I did my barn chores and kept an eye on Little Lil's progress, then watched as she went down and delivered her twin. All four are girls. Each mom had a brown, and a white. I think Edith will go tonight.

Sometimes things go so smoothly, like this time. Since I took a year off from lambing, I'm grateful our first girls did the job well and all appear healthy. I've found after 10 years of this that it is usually best to be observant, but to stand back and let Nature do most of it. I remember our first lambing season- I wish I had a voice over of it on film! I was a nervous Nellie, in and out, checking the poor ewes every 10 minutes.

We had about four seasons under our belt before we had any problems, so that was lucky too. So I don't take it for granted, and it was just so nice to have this all at my fingertips this morning. I even got my morning ride in without worry.

The light was so beautiful in the barn in the afternoon-it always is, like a cathedral. You're heard me say that before–that the barn is my cathedral. With mothers and their young about it makes it all the more sanctimonious. Life and death are so entwined in the barns. As a new life enters, an older goat is asleep in another stall, and the animals go about their day as usual-no big deal, all this lambing. Just as on a day of death, they do not get rattled-they notice, and record the fallen figure, but move on. Their day centers around food and safety.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How to share a birthday with a goat

If you are lucky enough to know a goat, as I do, and have the same birthday as one, as I also do today, then I give you some suggestions on what might make the day even better-even though let's face it, having a goat with the same birthday as you is pretty special.

Arise on your birthday and breathe deeply. Feel your body from the inside out, for no matter how old or young you are, or feel, it is good to celebrate the body too-we could not have come into this realm without one. As haggard as it might be, your body does the best it can especially with a flawed human at the helm.

Arise even farther, stand up and stretch, yawn, celebrating your skin and bones. Wander to the kitchen-I said wander, take note of at least one delightful thing you pass each day, and greet it,

"Hello chair, you are so sturdy,"

and then get to the kitchen. Eat whatever you want. Scale be damned! Eat slowly though, taste each bite.

Dress haphazardly, put on your boots and head to the barn. Greet everyone and when you see the birthday goat,
express the good luck of being born on the same day. Throw animal crackers in the air, and again, and again. This will delight the goat and engage his or her body and mind.

As you leave the barn, remember with each step you have the honor of living with a goat. No matter what happens as your birthday unfolds, it will all be frosting on the cake.

Stand with me now, and salute Little Moose who turns one years old today. I'm honored to have such a fine co-birthday celebrator.