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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Women in shade growing wings

Above: words from one of the attendees scratched on the back of her painting


Amazing the impact five women have coming together in 100 degree heat, surrounded by Misfits who love, lady llamas who kiss, and one red horse who shares of himself to prove my lesson plan. It all happened here, Saturday, and the day was genuinely inspirational, for teacher and attendees.

The morning started with me happy to see overcast skies. The temperature would soar to 100 that day, and that fact had some Oregonians back out of the workshop. I understand, of course. But my remaining attendees were all coming from out of state-Omaha, Indiana, Georgia and Connecticut. I vowed to myself that I would not let the heat brings us down-and you know how I hate heat. I had a back-up plan too, an air conditioned studio. And the fact that the once eight students would be four made my studio space a perfect fit if needed.

We started the day with the donkeys, communing, to settle everyone in. We visited the sleeping but as usual very grumpy pig, Rosie. Then we headed to the new barn to do the first official workshop under her roof since we finished her this spring. I had Boone ready to partake, and some of The Misfits would be nearby for breaks.

The purpose of the class was not necessarily to finish a painting, or learn to paint better, or draw realistically–it was to explore something I have been learning and doing for twenty years as a professional, to explore and learn our individual inner languages. That inner language is abstract, and can not be learned overnight, or even in a lifetime it is so vast. It can not be expressed in words, but it is there. That language is like metaphor, and it is the gatekeeper to our stories. Stories we can write, paint or create tangibly and bring back to the outer world to share. Sharing story is a universal gift we all have, a universal gift we all need.

I had Boone handy for two reasons. One, he's a horse and he smells great and is majestic and beautiful and having him sticking his big old head into our workshop would make everyone happy. Just a given. Two, horses are capable of awakening intuition in us, mirroring our authentic feelings that we people are taught to hide - and it dawned on me of late that that is what painting does for me. By teaching people to open up to their inner worlds where an alphabet is not present, they can begin to recognize repetitive shapes, colors and textures that are our own internal guides-metaphors, really, to our feelings, fears, joys,...and our souls. It's love really. To share that in art is a gift.

Let me try to express what it was like working with these four people. The artist and mother from Nebraska, who had lost her mother recently, was beginning her journey back to life and joy and her painting reflected that. She shared many wisdoms from many shamanic and spiritual quests she had been on in the past year.  Another woman, a photographer,  had expressed her joy in my work and lives with some goats; she wanted to expand into mixed media but wasn't sure how–her painting showed this dreamy, blurry landscape, perhaps waiting for some definition but was beautiful and vibrant on its own, just like her enthusiasm [and wonderful skirt]. The woman from Connecticut was quiet, but when she spoke there were short bouts of wisdom for us. Her painting was so naively expressive [she had just begun to paint and I think was in her sixties] reminding me of Emil Nolde and it really moved me. She painted very deliberately, then stopped for long moments to look-her strokes were tender, but her colors bold. The psychologist from Indiana and once painted and had lived on a farm as a child and would love a farm again. She now works with war vets for the VA and her knowledge of psychology was so fitting for this workshop. I almost should pay her it was so valuable! I had no idea that she was a psychologist, but when she saw the lesson plan as she walked in the barn, she said she internally knew she was in the right place. Her painting was expressive, bold colors and shapes like a sky of odd shaped stars we might see if we ventured to other realms.

We worked past lunch in the barn, the skies still overcast [thankfully] and were comfortable. Boone shared thoughts from time to time, when he realized we were focused on our boards and paint, not him. We had a great lunch in the air conditioned studio with fresh fruit and cold water. The conversation was just wonderful. Everyone had insights that were helpful, inspirational, and encouraging. I too was lifted out of some "stuck" thoughts I had been having. I was encouraged to begin that new book idea I had.

We talked about how the serendipity of the hot weather actually made it a different workshop than it would have been if everyone had showed up in cooler weather. This is NOT to make those who chose not to come feel unwanted-but the dynamic of a group can be shifted so easily, so who knows how different the day would have been with 8 versus 4 [it would have been great, but different].

One huge epiphany I had: when I announced I would no longer do a Pino Pie Day, I said it would open doors for other things, but I didn't know what. What I walked away from after this workshop can be summed up in one word–intimacy. This workshop was intimate, for the attendees, and me. I want to keep it that way. I want meaning as much as those I share it with, and I got it. I was really pleased with my lesson too and had prepared well. After working with animals and paintings for so long, I could get it into words that made sense. The subconscious is not easy to talk about, but it is such a beautiful and rewarding place to venture and return from with a golden gem to share with the village. Joseph Campbell would have been a great addition to this class [oh, would that be a dream come to life for me].

At four, we broke for the final hour to visit The Misfits.  We had painted since two. The sun returned and it was very hot, but we had done our work well. I was really proud everyone worked -and chatted and enjoyed-but they didn't slough of and treat this like a picnic. We were on a mission.

The star of the day in the Misfit Village was lady Birdie the Llama. I think she is a llama version of the resident kitty slut, Peaches [the latter who also shared unselfish attention on guests].

So, thank you,  my Secret Sister Four, as I call them, for coming so far to get to the Workshop. I'm very excited for the future. You re-inspired me in so many ways. I hope I've expressed that.

There will be more workshops coming up. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Old Rudy passes on with grace

Old Rudy has died. It was sudden but graceful death. There was no indication in the past days that his time was coming. He did have trouble keeping weight on all winter and into summer, despite medications and vitamins, so who knows what was going on inside his thin body. But he spent his last days like any other, napping wit some casual grazing after breakfast, more napping and evenings in his favorite spot-the duck hut.

When it feels right, I capture these pre-death scenes in images, as I did last night. I like to share them as an homage to the life passing, but also to the death entering. Death is the balance of life. I think we humans are so out of touch with much of real life-that is, Nature–that of course we can't imagine death. I always am struck by the beauty of the animals around death, they simply acknowledge the situation, and continue with their normal habits–if they feel safe, of course. In the background, Marcella slept, confidant all was well. It was only when I carried the body out this morning that she became agitated. There are so many touching moments in a death scene like this-Stevie coming over, gently bending forward to smell the passing; or Raggedy Man looking up over the body–did he sense something there I as a human am not able too after thousands of years of my species closing out our once innate senses?

Last night I went to do chores and heard Rudy cry to me. He had cast himself in the duck hut. That was the first and last struggle he'd have. I got him out of the hut, upright and standing, but he could not hold his front end up. I was able to guide him to the main shade shelter, but he collapsed as we got there. He drank a bit of water and he sat upright for about twenty minutes, but his head was hanging low, his eyes were closing. Giving him the water reminded me of my mother, who died in 2013. The nurse had just helped her sip some water, and she died, with a smile on her face. Each death here revives my inner acknowledgment of my parents' deaths, making me feel more comfortable that they were in good hands and had everything they needed, just as this old goat did.

I sang him a short song and told him he would do fine in this next journey.

I don't know if I will, but I hope we do meet again, somehow, I told him.

There was that human desire to continue on somehow with all of the things we love about this realm-but we can't quite grasp what it will look like-because maybe it won't look like anything we know. Maybe there are sensations after death we can't grasp. It's those "spaces
in between" again, the reasons abstract painters paint.

When I returned with hay for the herd, Rudy was lying down, almost unconscious. His breathing was slow and calm, there was no leg twitching or straining of the neck, signs of death taking the body. I opened his eyes and I could tell he was close to the final breaths. I said my final goodbyes, covered his eyes with a light cloth to keep the flies off, and went back to be with Martyn. I shed some tears; I told Martyn it was a good death and he would be gone very soon, but that one of the things about my work here is to be open to walking away from a dying creature to give it space and peace. Each death is different, and each hospice has different needs. Rudy was really gone when I walked away, he had let go, and by me letting go and walking away, it was now up to his body to finally shut down. The animals around him had acknowledged him. They understood the situation and were okay with it.

As sad as I was, and surprised, I was also happy for him. To go so quickly is such a gift to any creature, including a human. We can all hope for this death, surrounded by our home comforts be it hay or bed, conscious until the last moments of our time here doing whatever it was we liked doing-in Rudy's case that was eating, napping and grazing.

Old Rudy came to us with his long time mate Tasha Teats. Their original owner sent them to New Moon Farm Goat Rescue after her husband had died, as she felt she could not care for them properly. They were very arthritic, and Tasha was worse; she died shortly after arriving here. Rudy reminded me a lot of Old Man Guinnias, hard hooves to fill, but Rudy had a personality of his own. He was a gentleman and liked people. He was not a loner but preferred to be alone in his beloved duck hut. For some reasons, he was a chicken magnet, right up until the moment he died as you can see in these photos. He had a long beard and despite his very crippled legs, continued to roam the fields every day. I will miss him, he was a greeter, always bleating to me when he knew I was around.

He went out as he lived.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A space waiting for a mission

I did this abstract back in the 2004 era, when we had first moved to the farm. I was looking through old images for a project I'm working on and was struck at the simplicity of this piece, and the openness of the landscape. It was more open then, no Misfit Villages or paddocks, hardly a fence standing, just twenty acres that was beginning to emerge into what is now Apifera. I guess you could say this painting shows the optimism of the painter at that time-so many ideas to fulfill, so many plans, and some of those plans were still percolating in me. It will be interesting to look back in another ten years–what will strike my eye when I look at my art of today? You can't lie in abstract painting.

I remember those first months here [before the blog, now I wish I'd had one then] and how I was both in awe of the landscape around me, and also wobbly as I walked it. Some days the wobble was a child's delight,

Wow, I am in partnership with you now.

Other days in the first year to two years, I had moments of momentary panic,

What have we done?

I felt like a fish out of water at times–mostly because I had moved from a good grounding of friends and family from Minneapolis, and then married and moved to the farm-a very rural, conservative area with pockets of open mindedness. In time, I found others who meshed with us-not that one needs exactly the same opinions to get along, but it felt very renegade here-because it was...and is.

But when I look at this painting, I see a calming. My soul had mirrored my feeling of awe and contentment into that painting with the open spaces of green, and hints of shiny accents as the barn emerged in values of red under the big top sky of the newly formed Apifera. There is no sense of worry in this piece, or discombobulation one can feel moving to a rural area. There is no judgement of surrounding gun shots, neighboring farmers with non maintained fencing or ATV's kicking up dust on what was a quiet morning. There had not been one Misfit death as I set paint down that day because there were no Misfts yet. The farm was waiting for us, waiting for a new mission–its all right there in that painting.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lonely Duck lonely no more

I knew her time was coming in days not weeks. Saturday night Lonely Duck had made her way down the long drive again, alone, to find her small pond-the pond that her male companion had perished in by raccoon a few nights before. When I found her, she once again went passive and lay her body down in a submissive fashion, not fighting her capture.

I carried her to the night stall and she settled into a corner, ignoring the other female duck and Priscilla. Her behavior struck me as a creature that had let go. I considered leaving her in the pond, as it just felt she was dying and maybe she wanted to die there, away from the crowds. Animals are like that, they don't want bedside drama of the clan. The next day I had a plan, to revamp an area near the Martyn made pond in the lower Misfit Village. But when I came to the stall I knew that was pointless, Lonely Duck was in a corner, alive, but clearly checking out. I left the two ducks and old goose together there for the day with their cherished water bucket they love to swim in. This morning, I found Lonely Duck beautifully posed in the corner of the stall.

I wanted you to experience the peace and beauty of her body, her head turned and laying on the ground, making an abstract shape of her elegant neck. Her sweet orange feet spread out back just as you see them here. I sat with her sometime in the stall this morning, petting her-ducks are so soft, softer than chickens. I was glad for her. Did she die of a broken heart? I don't think so. But she died ready to move on, her body told her and she sank into the next step.

I was going to bury her with her mother in the pumpkin patch, but decided to return her to Earth in the same spot I left her male companion some days ago. I know she will be eaten but it felt like the place she probably would have waddled too if she had the strength last week.

And so, The Bottomtums, once numbering six, are now one. And the old goose lives on.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The story of the lonely duck

The Bottomtums, as the original six ducks were named [if you know ducks, you'll understand the name] were brought to Apifera by a woman who had to leave her farm when her husband was entering hospice. The 6 ducks came with their very own elderly goose, who you all know as Priscilla. We lost one of the ducks a couple years ago to mysterious circumstances in broad daylight; and this past month we lost one of the two males to an eagle strike, and another female died of natural causes. These ducks are old, they have had very good lives being able to free range and have someone shepherd them inside at night for protection. So that left us with 3 ducks–2 females and a male.

A couple nights ago I had finished my barn chores but was missing a male and female duck. I knew they often squeezed under the barnyard gate to our front yard area seeking the longer, cooler grass where they can nap and snap bugs. But they were nowhere. I quacked for them–yes, they come to my quacks, Martyn is always impressed with this and in some ways so am I, I didn't train them, they just seem to understand my quacks are to guide and help them.

So Martyn had come home around seven and I asked him to search the streamlet that goes alongside our drive. There are still some small pools that haven't dried up for the summer. And sure enough, there was the pair, happily paddling in the six by six foot pond. They looked so content, I hated to bring them back to the barn, but that was Raccoon's private fishing hole and I knew they would be his dinner. I easily grabbed the male. I headed back up the drive, quacking, thinking the female would follow. But the female stayed put in her little pond. I returned to get her, but she waddled under the small footbridge we had built there. She was able to squeeze way under it, so even if I stretched out on the ground [while holding my other duck, no easy task] I could not reach her. Martyn came down and we both tried for a half hour to get her, no luck. With a lot of talk, we decided to leave the male in with her under the bridge, knowing either way, it was a risk. I was not as optimistic as Martyn about their night.

The next morning I found the female swimming. When she heard me coming, she flayed herself out on the shore like she was playing dead. This behavior showed me she had experienced something last night, as the ducks never showed that behavior of fear and submission. I saw some down feathers on the bank. I knew the male was gone. I walked up about 30 feet knowing the inevitable had occurred, and there were three mounds of feathers.

His beautiful body, with limp orange feet, lay there, his inner carcass eaten. I buried him in the bramble.

I left the female there for the day but early evening went to get her. She swam into some inner pond under blackberry bramble and I had to crawl on my belly and reach in under the thorns to get her. But what I noticed most was her attitude. As I carried her up the drive, her neck was hanging low, her head down. Usually she carried it upright.

It is not a world of Disney here, but I must say that I firmly felt her sadness. When she entered her nighttime stall, she went to an opposite corner from the remaining female duck and Priscilla.

Just now I had to do some watering in this incredibly dry weather we are having. I was in an area of the gardens the ducks never wander to. But I kept hearing a quacking. Ducks can smell water from long distances and since I was spraying about ten feet from her, she let me know she was there. But I couldn't find her.

And then I saw her, squished under an old fireplace that we use as a sedum garden. I thought she was just hanging out, but she was actually stuck. I managed to free her, carefully, and hosed her down in case she was hot.

Why she picked that odd spot, I don't know. I had always thought the ducks were from the same hatch, but now I feel she was more bonded with that male and perhaps they were more mated as a pair, versus siblings.

Last night I also found Old Mama Sugee having a seizure. I stayed with her but then heard Priscilla in distress, and turning around I saw her with her head stuck in a fence. She had really curved her neck in a way that made it impossible to get free. I managed to free her, but looked at the sky and expressed something to the Universe,

Is it now the time of the Apifera fowl? Have you spoken?

Priscilla used to have control over the flock, and would herd them about, and protect them. As she grew incapable of squeezing under gates, the ducks would wander without her. Now Priscilla is mainly alone, free ranging, and she comes in at night with the others. But the flock of two is in a quiet chaos without her.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You never forget a donkey

One of the more touching encounters I had at last Sunday's final Pino Pie Day was meeting a couple who came specifically to be with the donkeys. They explained they once had three donkeys but had to rehome them when they had to leave their small farm due to life's twists and turns. The man pulled out a small worn photo to show me and he proudly explained how the fellow in the middle was the son of the donkey on the right and was born at their farm.

"He doesn't have a photo of me in there," said his wife with a smile, "just the donkeys."

They were both clearly moved to be here, and expressed such sincere gratitude at having the opportunity to share time again with donkeys. They had not gone back to see their donkeys after they rehomed them–I sensed that was a wound. I can understand. To go back and see them would be very painful, even if they were cared for well. To leave them again would open a trauma again.

My worst nightmare would be to have to suddenly leave the farm and to have to rehome the animals. It is always traumatic for me to send a sheep off to a new breeding farm, I always feel better when I know they are out of the trailer and amongst their new flock,

"I guess this is a safe place," I can feel them thinking.

As we grow older, the reality of life is closer to our eyes than ever. We say we might die here at Apifera, but maybe we won't. Maybe circumstances will present themselves and we will have to bravely go. I would feel a horrible betrayal to my animals if I had to do that, I doubt I'd get over it. It would mark me. It is the same reason I never send an elder off to the auction-I can't imagine it.

I think one reason the elderly are so lonely in many places is because for most people it is scary to look in the eyes of the elders sitting in little rooms with their belongings stripped down to the bare minimum. We all know there are good endings and not so good ones. Sometimes, usually, it is out of our control.

I just hope I can honor my animals until the end, and that if I am upheaveled in life, there will be silent guides helping me to find the right places for my creatures...and me.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Aftermath of White Dogs

The White Dogs partook in the event yesterday behind the gate, looking on, smiling with faces and tails. I had wondered if it would have been better to keep them locked in the barn, just to make sure nobody over zealously reached out to them-it is their territory after all. But one of our volunteers was experienced with guard dogs, and it all worked out fine. Each time a donkey brayed, The White Dogs leapt to action, impressing the crowd, even though all they were doing was barking and jumping on the fence with cocked ears, making sure nothing was amiss in the Donkey Hug area.

Benedetto was a huge hit, s you can imagine. Marcella too, and after a long, hot day, she finally felt it was okay to take a nap.

The final pie

The final Pino Pie Day was held on Sunday under a blue window attached to the big top sky over Apifera. It was a solid turnout of friends, family, blog readers, and social media friends who had to share their real names. I thank everyone–guests and volunteers-who helped make it so special. And Peaches was probably the happiest cat in the world. Some more pics here.

It was another Pino Pie Day full of encounters with strangers and friends alike, coming together on a farm for all sorts of reasons. Some have read my blog for years and wanted to come this final Pie Day and see it in the real; others made a two hour drive or more to visit for the art and books; and there were children who I had watched grow up over the past nine years.

I had predicted a quiet day, and although it was a nice, steady turnout, it felt calm to me. I know that is because of what was inside of me. The little girl who I have since voted 'Most Enthusiastic Pino Pie Day Guest of 2015" was not feeling calm inside-her heart was puttering at high speed, thrilled at each pig snort, donkey hug and goat kiss. She found something in every nook and cranny that she willingly shared in excitement with any guest that happened to be passing by. When I had to move Boone out of a lower field mid day because of heat and flies, I let her walk on my side as I led Boone to his other paddock. These are simple encounters that child won't get on You Tube-they are little memory nuggets that impact a young heart to make dreams for a future, her future.

Then there was Gracie, age twelve, who was on her fourth Pie Day. I sensed pride in her face when I acknowledged how many times she had come to the event. She told me something as she was leaving-

"I got to do something really special this time. I just sat with the donkeys for a long time and listened and watched with them, it was really special."

Ah, heart swell comments.

That's why I did this event in the first place–to share the everyday encounters I have that I know enrich my life, in quiet ways-in turn they enrich the creatures. It doesn't take any equipment or technology to sit amongst animals. It is the best way I know to calm myself, and as I've written before, the silence and communing I do here creates an internal space-a safe space-to open up to feelings, emotions and conflicts I might have. I truly believe animals have an ability to absorb certain hard emotions we humans often have to sloth off, and they then shed that energy into the air after it cools through their bodies in some way. I recently saw a movie of a young boy having an emotional meltdown-he was about 15 and I forget what condition he had but it caused him great frustration in which he'd isolate himself in a room and sob and cry, falling into a crouched position-it was heartbreaking to watch. But his dog was always with him, and that dog just waited, in non judgement, and eventually the boy would calm, and then he'd melt into that dog's neck as his sobs lessened.

I have had meltdowns amongst my animals. Sometimes it is from sadness. Often it is boiled up anger combined with exhaustion or heatstroke, where I sit on a bucket in my barn and just let it all out. I don't call anyone over, I don't pick out one animal over another to come heal me. It's not their job. But invariably, one or two always come over. Marcella is now a big supporter of emotional cleansings. But sometimes, I sense a goat nose behind me, even a hen or two. If I sit quietly on a dust mound on Donkey Hill, there will always be Pino, standing, listening to me, understanding not what I'm upset about but that I am indeed struggling. He waits patiently until the struggle is over. When an animal dies here, I go about the chores, and as I come to each mouth I have to feed, I tell them

{Insert name} has died. I always tell Boone first as he is the first to be fed.

I think a good analogy of how I felt about yesterday's event was that it was like a mid-career retrospective. I looked around and saw all that had been done on the farm–all the paddocks and structures that would allow me to help animals. While I am not taking hundreds of animals in, just the number I can handle, the numbers aren't the point.

The point is that the animals and I come together and I use my energy creatively and spiritually to seek out a continual purpose for them, even if that purpose is to simply feel safe. When guests show up here, that's what they see. One guest said she did not look around and see misfits, she saw beautiful, loved animals before she saw disabilities.

Stevie has been giving kisses since his first days after being taken in by Sanctuary One. He was not taught to kiss, he just does it. You might think it sounds like a gimmick, or that we are all just saying it is a kiss when it is just a goat sniffing for food. I was somewhat skeptical myself when I first heard bout it. But as I grew to know him, I saw this was a way Stevie communicated his sense of trust and acceptance. I always feel Stevie's kisses come in two ways, one is,

Hello, nice day isn't it
and the other is I am here and I'm okay just like this and you're okay just like that.

I can remember encounters with people in my pre-Apifera life, pre-Oregon life and pre-self employed artist life, where I'd have have a momentary inspiration that would come on fst and be tucked inside of me after I'd say to myself,

Someday I'm going to do this.

One such encounter was when I was about thirty, trying to find a way to make a living on art, and I met a woman in her seventies who was a self supporting painter. That waas truly the moment I knew someday I'd paint. It took a lot of other jobs to get there, but I did. I know each Pie Day there are guests, some of them little children- who have these momentary sparks. This year my friend and volunteer Emma was working the studio and young girl really liked my art. She wished she could paint like I did but didn't know how. Emma encouraged her, telling her how I once didn't paint either and you have to start sometime.

I've had some people -mostly people I have never met or hardly know but follow me-wonder if I'm okay. Am I sick or something that I'm ending Pino Pie Day? Are we moving?

To any good creative endeavor comes a stopping point when you know internally the painting is complete or the book is ready to be printed. This is a time of accomplishment, a time to feel good about the efforts of the last nine years, but it lso comes with a sense of relief. The farm has shifted. My work and muses have shifted. The ending of Pino Pie Day opens my internal space for other creations. I don't know what they are, but they will present themselves in time.

And there will always be Misfits out there. I will be open to them until I can't be.

If you missed Pino Pie Day, the annual fundraiser to support The Misfits, you can always contribute or subscribe on an ongoing basis.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Blind pug pie prep

For the record, the Walnut Pie I made yesterday had some of the best crust ever. It should be an exceptional year for my pie!

Hughie fits right in. I prepped the many pie crusts yesterday and he and Huck were right there at my feet. Hughie took it upon himself to snorkle up any dropped flower and Huck was more about bits of scrap butter flying around.

I can't tell you much I love having an old pug around again, and Hughie is his own man. He has fit in so smoothly, such a courageous guy being totally blind and all. he's been through so many changes this year, I'm just so proud of the little tater tot. He really is good with the layout of the house, can do the stairs slowly on his own and has a routing now.

He and Huck have almost become elder buddies, as Huck is a year or two older and getting very grandpa like. In the morning, I let Hughie out on his won, and Huck comes up and sits by my side while I eat my yogurt and banana and then he gets to lick the bowl. It is written that this is the way and has been the way for years.So then Hughie is let in but I've been letting him in before i eat breakfast, so now Hughie and Huck are at my side, and Hughie tries to outsmart Huck for the best seating arrangement. It's very funny. But Huck still gets the bowl, and Hughie gets the spoon. Mud goes to sleep on the couch.

Today I will be dashing about, okay dashing like a donkey-methodically- getting fabric hangings and signs up, the porta potty will arrive and the Puppet is waiting at the gate for it.

Much to do. Pie baking begins tomorrow.

Pino Pie Day is a fundraiser that helps maintain The Misfits. Donate or buy at gift levels if you are able. Thank you to the people who subscribe to this blog or have given kindly when emergency needs arise. And thank you for buying art and books so I can make a living and do what I do.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Today I shall bake for us

I began hanging the fabrics for Pino Pie Day and just love watching the different shades of white and beige blow in the breeze, and cast shadows-abstract originals that change each second. I like putting up the sheets and banners-it is like prepping for a god dinner party, anticipating the guests and good conversations.

I spent time today making pie dough, leisurely. It was so nice, the weather is so pleasant-thank goodness, after all those 95 degree days. Perhaps my slight gloom in the last post was draught related.

Today I am breaking Pino Pie tradition. Usually, and this was a secret until this very moment, usually I make an extra walnut pie along with the others, and hide it on Pie Day to ensure Martyn and I get some later on. I know, it's horrible when the host hides food, but it's my party and I need to know that walnut pie is going to be there for me at night's end. But this year, I'm baking one tonight for us, so we can have pie leading up to the big day.

Hope I see some of you! And if you can't come, you can help out this important Misfit event by heading over to the funding page-and playing along at various reward levels.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pondering a quiet Pino Pie Day

I am quietly preparing for the final Pino Pie Day. I say quietly because that is how it feels this year to me. It is not a sad quiet, just a realization that Pie Day is coming to an end, and I think it is a quiet end. Each year, the event has a different energy, and this year, I intuitively sense it will be a quiet energy.

Every year I try to add something new to the event-a Museum of Misfits, free kisses from Stevie, the Prayer Tree this year- but each year I have not been able to build the event in a larger market. The Portland media never were interested and that was always frustrating- what, you don't want to do a write up on me and my donkey? Assinine. Donkeyronkulous. The costs went up each year it seemed, but not the net.

The event has never been about making tons of money [I'm lucky to net $1500, but that is helpful for the Misfits] but it has begun to be financially problematic.

People have shown less interest in helping and donating this year, online donations have been very low even with the fun options of having virtual kisses from Stevie and more. For the first time I received no interested in having a local newspaper write about the event which always helps bring people in and the costs for putting it on have doubled. Hardly anybody watched Pino the Puppet's final movie. this year-even the Puppet is tired I guess.

It just feels 'over'.

Martyn and I were talking last night and I guess I was sounding discouraged and he made a very helpful comment, as he often does–

Maybe this Sunday is Pino's gift for you-to relax, and eat more pie. Be the guest of honor.

Out of the mouths of Dirt Farmers often come compassion and simple wisdoms.

So I have decided - even if the turnout is low, this Pie Day is for me. That might sound very un-host like, but I think I need it to be for me this year. I need the comfort of pie, and the dusty necks of donkeys to put my face into.It will be for The Misfits too, of course. But where there is a Misfit, there is me.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Spaceless encounters-my parents joined in the ground

After moving to the farm, I became well acquainted with burial. In my former city life, single, with a dog and a cat, I'd bury little birds, or set dead moths free in the garden for the earth to mix with their remains resulting in a meal for worms or dirt creatures. But I didn't give much thought to the ritual of burial.

I only saw a couple of dead bodies as a child, my Uncles', in their open caskets and they didn't look real. I didn't connect the person i had known with the person in the casket. They were not the people that had talked to me or lifted me up on a horse. I know now its because their spirit had left, but I was too young and inexperienced with death to comprehend that.

As a caretaker here of so many creatures that arrive here in their elder years, I get to experience death in a much more authentic way. The animal dies and I am usually with the body when it is still warm. I can move the limbs and hold it in my arms and still sense who that animal was in life. I believe that their spirit is slowly leaving their body after the last breath, leaving on its own terms–just like the moment when you are finally done packing up the moving van, and you come in for one more look to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. As you packed up that house, memories abounded, but with each piece of furniture lifted into the truck that house loses a bit of the combined spirit it had with you.

So the spirit lingers a bit, I've always felt, the moments after death. They've let go of their body, now they have to let go of this realm and all the trappings of it. It is an adjustment of the spirit, and of my spirit as I say goodbye.

But by the time I carry them to the burial spot, dig the grave, their body is becoming a shell of what it once was. I've written this before that there is a very specific sound when you place a body in the ground-it is very real. I try to place each creature in the ground with care, and cover their eyes with some hay. This is all part of the ritual to honor my respect for them, even though it is now just an empty house-I do this to honor the symbol of that body. The grave becomes a kitchen for worms and oxygen to combine with limbs, muscle and bone of the departed, making meals for the earth and all the creatures of the underground, sparing some of it for weed roots and pumpkin seeds.

When my father died and was cremated, I thought it rather odd to bury the ashes. He had left no directions on what to do with his burnt remains so my mother and brother quickly came up with options. Because he was a vet, his burial was feasible in the vet cemetery and that is where most of his remains rest. I took some of his ashes to bring back to the farm. I sprinkled them in the roses in the garden. Each day for a couple of weeks, I'd visit the area where I scattered him, and each visit I'd see this one tiny chip of bone that hadn't been thoroughly turned to dust. I became very attached to that piece of him, and considered taking it and burying it with a headstone. But one day, it was gone. I missed it, and mourned its loss like the death all over again. That encounter made me realize that there are healing benefits to having a grave site where you can go and let go on your own terms.

Today, the majority of my mother's ashes were finally laid to rest next to my father's. She died in 2013, but it took some time to get her back to Minneapolis. My brother and his wife had business and other family duties and took time to have a private, five minute ceremony that the Vets offer, just as we did with my father. I was torn about not being there, but I knew her spirit was not in those ashes. I knew if she could speak out loud, she would have said

Good, that's taken care of, now your brother doesn't have to worry about it any more.

I asked them to take a photo of the tombstone, my mother's will be done in a few weeks. I never got to see my father's tombstone and as I first saw it, I skimmed my fingers across the computer screen. Just as I do here after I bury an animal that has been bigger than life to me and now lays under the dirt, the grave is a conduit to each other of what that body once held.

I was thinking that death is so hard to comprehend, and imagine for ourselves, because it is spaceless. Like in a painting-the negative space is as important as the positive, but the beginning painter might not know how to work with it, or can't see it at first, because it is not there. But it is there.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Pino says good bye to his beloved porta potty

The Puppet has made his final Porta Potty movie. He kept the drama low this year.

We are celebrating our final Pino Pie Day on Sunday June 14 here at Apifera. You can come and enjoy my homemade pie, share hugs and touch with the many animals, feel the land we have worked so hard on and been blessed with, buy my books and art, or just sit by a tree. Please visit the information page before coming for tips and directions.

If you can't come, you can still support our efforts [Pie Day has been our main fundraiser each year to help me maintain the many needs of adopted The Misfits] at various, fun reward levels, like sponsoring a Prayer Flag for the Prayer Flag Tree, or getting a virtual kiss from Stevie. Just pop over to the Pino Pie funding page.

I want to thank the volunteers who are taking time to come this year- I could not, and won't, do it with out you.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Marcella guards a massive...well, read on

I came to the barn last night to do feedings and all the usual suspects were hanging about, waiting, some ruminating waiting for more of earth's cast offs to ruminate some more. One comes to innately know when there is a slightly different arrangement of bodies at the feet, and I noticed Marcella, usually bounding to me or waiting at my side for the next job, was lying in the middle of the ducks, goats and pigs.

It was not a casual lay down either, she was at attention, showing everyone with her body positioning and ear pricks that she had something special, and it was hers.

Do not come near this, she told each nose bold enough to sniff too close.

I calmly looked, knowing it could be a baby bird, rabbit or dead snake, to name a few possibilities. Not that I'm callous to this, but one has to learn to be of them, the herd, and not over react. About seven times out of ten I do this pretty well.

What I saw was a gray, long, fuzzy object, about ten inches long and two inches wide. I considered the possibility it was the tail of a dead cat or squirrel. She allowed me in closer, as if I was somehow the one she was waiting for.

Look at it, isn't it magnificent? It's huge!

She stood up, looked at the thing, then looked at me, with the same expression Muddy gives me when he has his beloved Frisbee. So I picked it up, and examined it visually. I realized it was a giant hairball. It jogged my memory, of finding Marcella with her head in a bucket of old Victor's wool clippings. This dog will eat anything. It is usually futile to try to grab anything out of her mouth. I dare any of you to do it, but only if you sign a court document of waiver with a notary and a lawyer present.

Yes, Marcella, that is one fine hairball. Thank you for waiting to share it with me.

And with that praise she bounded out of the barn, looking for her next project.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

When llama meets one eyed alien

Lady Birdie met the Old One Eyed Pug II last night.

What's this? she asks.

Is someone there? says the pug.

I'm up here, says the llama.

Can't you read? My tag indicates I am blind, says the pug.

Well, I was blinded by the light shining off your one eyeball, forgive me, she says.

It's okay, the pug responds, you sound very tall.

I'm tall like a short giraffe, she says.

Wow, says the pug. I think I saw those on Wild Safari when I had two eyes.

Birdie reached through the fence to sniff him. And that was the end of the discussion. She then walked over to the magical double dutch door created to transport people to a different level of donkey understanding on Pino Pie Day, where she stood posing in her I'm darn cute I can't help it pose.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Sheep naps and me naps

Just looking at these make me yawn...in comfort that is, like a womb engulfed me. I am going to post these and then go take a 10 minute lay down, something I rarely do but have done twice in the past days, why I don't know.

The sheep are very good at regulating their need to rest. In the heat of the day, rest. Up early and work [for them that means eating] and then rest, whenever it is needed. Look off into the sky and go all zen, ruminate, rest, just be right there...and rest.

It is important to put the chatter aside, the internal dialogue between selves,

"Must make money, get to it!"

"Think of new book idea, quick, before you become obsolete!"

"Do something...anything."

I will put those chatty selves aside right now. I will go be sheep like, my body says,


Monday, June 01, 2015

When a girl gets her first haircut

The first haircut of any creature must be very strange. I can't remember mine, but if you think about it, the sensation of having your hair cut off must be frightening to a youngster. I can't remember my first haircut, but I do remember gong to the beauty parlor [this was the term in the early sixties, in case any young lasses are reading and rolling their eyes] and spinning in the lift up chair. Plus I was quite the catch as a little girl, curly red locks, adored by all the women in the shop. Those were the days!

So I set out to give Birdie a haircut, with scissors, no sheers. I know, I know, this is the laborious way to trim a llama. I haven't invested in sheers yet, nor did I engage someone to come sheer for me. There will come a time when I might have to have help, but for now, I am taking my time and hand sheering.

It was very hot for the past three days-over 85 and maybe even 90 yesterday. My intentions of helping move 7 tons of hog fuel melted upon my first step outside. So while Martyn tackled the hog fuel–which we are moving into the barn-I set out to conquer Birdie's wool coat.Martyn had the radio on to an oldies station and as I trimmed, I sang the songs I know so well. Birdie got a taste of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl", Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way", James Taylor, The Eagles and even classic Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. The barn was warm but with the goats walking in and out, Martyn raking hog fuel, the coast range in the distance with thunderheads slowly forming, I enjoyed the entire encounter.

Birdie is a very sweet creature. As you know, I am new to llamas, and Aldo who arrived from Sanctuary One as a very old elder, is pretty much like many llamas-he's not going to be putting his head in your lap. Llamas are very interesting, I really like them, but I must say that Birdie is like having teeny llama pal. She comes to me, chortles, neck hugs with me, and stands with her head on my shoulder. I knew I had to be careful in the beginning to not let her dominate the situation or become mate like, but so far, the behavior does not appear to be breeding related, just friendly.

I tied her tight to a post and went at it. She did very well–except for her legs, which I guess is normal for llamas. She would lay down at that point. I then took a rope and tied one hind leg so she couldn't lay down, or kick out. Although she wasn't kicking out, I did this for my safety. I leaned into her and trimmed the opposite side, so if she reacted to it with a kick out it was on the opposite side of me. In the end, I let her lay down and I trimmed her toes in that position-it worked, so that was all that matters. Her fiber is gorgeous and she was really easy to trim, sheering would have been a breeze for someone, I'm sure. Next year I hope to be more organized and able to harvest the wool–right now I use bits of it for my raggedy dolls.

Working with animals one on one is a wonderful way to get to know them. Grooming in the animal world is a key component to bonding, and I've always taken time to touch and handle my equines and other creatures. I've always done my own feet trimming on the flock, and shots, meds, etc. I don't know if I could, or would ever, turn it over to a helper. I know it will depend on my physical aging in the coming years, but something will be lost for me, and them, if I the sole caretaker can't lay hands on them daily. I think about this-the fact I'm aging, and even though I'm healthy, there are already many things I can't do as extremely as I did 10 years ago at 47. I had to trim Victor in four sessions, it was just too hard on my certain parts of my body.

The haircut must have felt good. So did my shower to wash all the wool bits off my warm skin.