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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Listen to their feet

I did this painting today, and titled it "Listen to Their Feet". As I was doing it I was unclear of the entire meaning behind it–but that is the mystery of the muses-internal messages and stories often need to linger awhile before being understood out here in the wide open world. I do know when I finished it I felt it hit a sweet spot. The Native Americans say to listen to the feet not the tongue–one's actions speak louder than words.

I've been focusing on painting this past week and will hope to continue through the month. Once we close here, it will be full speed ahead. I wish we could close now, this second. There are things I can't do until we close, important things, many things. But it will happen. It will. Perhaps this child came to me, her hands unable to produce the results she wants at this moment, but her feet are telling the world what she needs. I did go for a long walk today, something I'm determined to get back into my daily agenda. It felt good, like winged feet.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I don't see me and I am fine

The lite in the morning is always so beautiful on the animals. The deep rich colors– almost black–of the coats this year is dramatic in morning light which is warmer than mid day light.

Everything is happening...fast, but slowly. I am breathing, and trying to go for walks. The rain should stop for a few days so I can get out more. In Minnesota I used to walk four miles almost every day, with my sidekick Louie Louie, the wire haired terrier. We'd hop in the car and drive ten minutes to one of the many city lakes. We'd walk in freezing temps too. There is something about walking in rain that has failed me, or I have failed it. I've put on good old fashioned middle aged lady weight, despite all my riding and barnyard work. It's the way it goes. Hormones and lack of them are a reality. My goals are to remain strong, and trim some blubber off my middle. That size 8-10 sprite I was at marriage is gone. I have become more used to it though-the saggy neck, the wiggle in my thighs. Hey, my butt is still small and somewhat firm, it's my best family genetic asset from my father. The body is my vehicle here, not my soul.

What does it have to do with morning light and the lambs? When I am outside busy, or just being in nature, I don't see me, I am not looking at me. I feel just fine as me. When I'm painting, I don't see me, I am just fine as me. In the past year or so I have become more acquainted with the chubbier, older me in the mirror. She is doing fine, as best she can. I don't judge the sagging backs of my elder animals or the jowels of my women or men peers. I remember their smiles when they leave my home, or their expressions and thoughts. It's the essence, not the physical matter that resonates.

Responding and interacting with the world does not require analyzing one's appearance, or pant size.

And in Maine, I will be walking again, daily. You can bet on that.

Easter is a beautiful celebration. I am not religious, but Easter to me is the best things a religion could present to the world–rebirth, renewal, change, and evolution to our higher selves.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Clan of trees

When I left Minneapolis back in 2002, I said good bye to all the trees in my yard. There were only a few, but I felt a certain sense of guilt leaving them. I suppose the same anonymous hater troll that recently told me to use 'my big brain' and admit that my mother can not be a bird [because "God" wouldn't do that...good God, that's all I could think] will tell me trees don't feel or have any problem with us leaving them.

In that sense, I agree-but I do think trees feel and emit feelings.

Back in Minneapolis, the healer that I was working with to work out some issues, heard my lament-that I was sad to leave all the nature in my own backyard-and she said,

"Trees are a clan, they are connected all over the world."

I could visualize this, their roots creating intricate systems below us, communicating with each other, and perhaps soaking in our feelings as we walk above those roots, or touch their trunks. Now that we are leaving this Apifera for the Maine version soon, I am not afraid to say good-bye to the nature here, because it is connected to the Nature there. I suppose its just like talking to my mother through a tulip or a bird. It's an innate language. It's all one. While each tree is unique and has it's own resonance with my individual encounter with it, the trees here will be happy without me. That's all I want, for them to be okay and live out their time.

The old Doug Fir behind the house is the first thing I see when I wake up, unless Big Tony is sitting on my head, which is often the case. I love that tree. It has helped me through sad mornings when I awake to a hurt heart from memories that came in a dream, or it enlivens me on a spring dawn when the windows are open and the birds are dancing from one branch to the next. With the river song in the background, and a wind blowing, its boughs and the water create a beautiful symphony. In wind storms I've laid in bed, hoping it does not lose its power to bend in the gust. And when we worked in the hot months in the then young lavender fields, I anticipated the shade she would give me. I love that shadow and am always amazed at how long it's shadow is cast in the field.

I caught this photo the other day of the donkeys walking with the shadow of my tree friend. Somewhere in Maine the shadows are responding, or they are busy reacting to the sun there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

There's a solution to every problem

I am focusing as much as I can on getting new pieces painted - once the closing happens on this property....my head and heart will be full speed ahead to Maine, as will Martyn's.

So, amidst the million phone calls and emails going back and forth between here and Maine about buying, securing loans [dreadful process], and things with the closing here, I have somehow managed to paint. I force myself to go to my painting desk and start. Then it usually comes forth, whatever prayer I need. The other day I guess I needed white tulips-a nice contradiction I think to dealing with the loan process. I still have wings on the mind, wings of different colors and capable of landing in different parts of the world...or perhaps even to other realms.

I also take time each day to talk to the animals. each day it seems one or another individuals need me, or I them, more than the others. White Dog has helped me, it is almost like he looks at me now with,

I told you it would be okay.

It is okay, despite some surprises in the selling process that are evening out and upheavals in other areas that all have solutions.  One of the mottos I carry with me-and have for many years- is there is a solution to every problem. Sometimes the solution isn't clear, or is a bit of a different direction, a step outside a comfort zone-but that is what personal expansion is all about.

Apifera is fine. The Maine Apifera is waiting-I communicate with her daily too, in dreams, through ideas that pop into my head for her, and in split second images of all of us there. Martyn and I talk about the types of plants that will grow well there and what we will do in our woods. I found out that there is an old Quaker cemetery on the edges of the property. I am ecstatic about that. The agent suggested I join the local historical society to learn more about it. I was thinking maybe I could help steward it, if possible. You know how I feel about cemeteries, right? This is someone -me-who spent her first two days in Paris at Pierre La Chaise.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Henry came a callin' !

It was a delight to get to see our little friend, Henry, who is four not three because four is very different than three.

I haven't seen Henry since I originally fell in love with him at one of our Pino Pie Days a couple years ago. I've kept in touch with him though, and his mama and auntie [collectively know as The Goat Haulers and Blind Pug Co-Pilots]. So when Henry's mom made a visit to Portland she arranged to come out and see us. Henry was very excited to meet the lambs. And of course meeting the lambs meant he also got to meet Cornelia the pig.

I did not take good pictures. I was focusing on the intellectual conversation I was having with dear Henry. I was telling him why the mama sheep really didn't like Cornelia the pig to get too close to their babies or their food.

"They are different species," he told me.

Kids today. Henry loves animals and nature and his family has given him opportunities to learn as much about nature as he can. He is also a very polite little boy. Very smart but not full of himself as can happen. He has learned to command the camera and has turned into a little poser! But in a good way.

We visited the goat barn so he could meet Earnest and see Moose and Goose and the others. It's always problematic with The White Dogs-Benne because he is so happy and big and wants to 'hold' any guest. Benne is about 90# and Henry is about 50#; Benne is about 5'6" when he stands with his paws on your shoulders, Henry is about 3' tall-so you get the picture. Marcella was placed securely in the hay barn. She is friendly, but also very protective of her charges, as it should be, and can get set off by certain things with guests. I did get a sweet picture of Ophelia holding baby Max with the little Misfits.

Did I just say, MAX?!

What a sweet guy he is. He is one or there abouts-I am better with lamb ages than real human babies, but I do my best. My way of dealing with babies or children is to talk to them like I'm having a sip of wine with my husband-you know, like they are human beings with brains, and lots of good insights.

We finished our visit inside, where Henry took a shine to the Old One Eyed Blind Pug II. Hughie rose to the occasion and I think he'll be a pretty good therapy dog in Maine.

Ophelia took one last look around the place as she loaded up the car. She told me how many people had been helped or made happy by Apifera and the stories. I sometimes forget this. I'm busy after all, just living here and experiencing it-and then sharing. I asked Henry if he remembered me from his first visit...No, he said.

I hope that somehow he might have a glimpse of a memory of his short visit here. I am not sure it will mean anything in the grand scheme of his life, nor does that matter. When I think back to places I can remember as a four year old, they were my Uncle's farm, places I got to go over a period of years so the memories became more ingrained in me as I grew up. But I do remember some things from being three and four-I know this because I would tell my mother and she would say, Good grief you were only three when we went there.

Life is about living of course. But these human bodied vessels our souls reside in on this realm contain memory. I'm glad I have put moments into the soul of a four year old-he is marked now by his visit. What his soul does with it is his journey, and I too have been marked by him.

I asked Henry if he'd write me every now and then, you know, drop me a line, I said.

Sure, he responded, head down, sipping from his juice carton. And then they drove on down the road.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Porch date

We sat on the porch for the first night since last fall. It was divine. We talked about the many types of plants we can have in Maine, and those we will miss. Bit by bit we are saying goodbye to all we have done here. It is like a long movie right now with starring roles. I am taking time each day to acknowledge the many memories we have here, the work we've done to the property and house, the fun and the not so fun. Last night I looked out at the garden which is beginning to spring forth, and I remember the horrible, rotting deck that was there when we moved in. I had the memory of sitting there with my mother and father as the inspector did his job. I've looked at so many houses with them, I'm glad I got to have them here to see some of our improvements.

I almost thought of closing the blog down for a month. I thought I might be sounding like I have a sock over my head, sort of muffled, not my usual self, like a Debbie Downer of change. I am not upset in anyway, but this is a transition. It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. Until we close on this property at the end of the month, we are stuck to do anything really. We can plan, and we are, but then we pull back, thinking, "Not until the house closes will it really happen"

That is the way it goes with buying and selling–unless you are wealthy–you do a lot of waiting, and hoping for the best but it is all out of your control. I'm not complaining, I'm just....ready for the next step.

So last night was beautiful for us. And then it began to lightly rain and the smell of spring was pungent. The hope of spring is every where now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Do you remember the first time you saw the sky?

It was a big day for the lambs yesterday. I opened up the barn and they got to see and feel Mother Earth for the first time. I was thinking that it would be interesting to be able to venture back and remember our first moment we saw sky. I kept thinking about it through the day and I came to the conclusion that perhaps we do remember it, we just aren't able to verbalize it into straightforward sentences, so we put it into art and poems. To those who are scientists, bankers or non-artists- maybe they might verbalize it in their personalities–maybe those that saw their first glimpse of sky as cloudy bursting forth with thunder and lightening became scared in new situations, maybe those who saw snow became light of heart and always remained childlike.

The month of steady down pours got to everybody, including me, so the first day of real warm sun yesterday was so...rewarding. I took a chair out into the field and watched the lambs. I didn't take my camera, I just needed to soak it in, and enjoy them. But I took this one phone shot of Otis eating with his little herd.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Young pig, old sheep

They melt my heart when they do this-which is all the time-Cornelia the young pig shares naps with Daisy, the elderly matriarch. Lilly isn't that keen on pig shared naps, but Daisy has always been so tolerant of so much-babies crawling on her, dogs sniffing her, my early shepherdess mistakes...and now a piglet companion. I love them both to heaven and back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blue wings blue donkey

I am trying to focus on painting this week through the month. This is very difficult right now. I am doing my best and yesterday I did this piece, now available.

To be honest, at the moment I am very stressed. Stress is such a killer, so hard on your body and it can creep up on you and all of sudden you crash. I am a healthy person and understand this and can recognize stress and ways to relieve it, but I have to say...I broke down today. It is partially due to the details–not of moving–but of dealing with the many hoops required to close deals, and if someone besides me misses a hoop, it affects the outcome of our entire life. One missed detail can wreak havoc. I hate incompetence and when I am confronted by it in others that have a job to do, I do not react well.

So I painted my blue donkey–The door is open, but we're all on stand by.

I also cried for my mom today. I wish she were here to talk to...more than any other day I can remember.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sigh of the shepherd

The tilt of a head, the sigh of a shepherd

One day you have no lambs, the next day you have eight. And so the final lambing of Apifera here in Oregon is complete. Just like that. The moms made it so easy for me, there was no need for me it seems-this is usually the case, but with all that is going on it was a relief, and a joy, to walk into the barn on Friday morning and find both Mavis and Ophelia had lambed. Little Lil was in the corner in pre-labor. By afternoon feedings, she had two beauties at her side.

We ended up with two boys and six girls, all healthy. All the new time mothers are pros already. Like I said, I didn't have to do a thing-except raise healthy sheep and give them my all, and they returned their own gifts. This year, we lambed in the new barn with makeshift jugs. But Mavis and Little Lil are in the large open area with Otis and all is well. I like to jug new moms and lambs for one to three days, depending on how it goes. Some moms need more time to bond and imprint their voices on their lambs. I've had moms that are fine lambing and being amongst others. And did we ever get great color. Wendell the papa must have a strong gene, as all the lambs except one were a deep chocolate. One of the ewes, shown here, is a beautiful buff rose color. She is the gangliest of the group, but cute as a button and doing fine. It always amazes me how far they come from the birth day to the next day. We now have leaping lambs, and they are all checking each other out through the fencing.

I am spending time with the lambs and while we've had non stop rain for weeks, it makes sitting in the barn, the rain drumming on the tin roof, pleasant, almost comforting. It reminds me of being five, sitting in my sumac fort on windy days-feeling protected by the shrubs. I'm planning on taking lots of time to enjoy this last group of young ones. Twelve years has gone so fast.

I'm finding it more and more difficult to look back at photos from our 12 years here. I was looking for a photo yesterday, and was overwhelmed at all the images before me-like a movie on fast forward-so many of the faces are not with me any more. My muses are shifting too-as an artist and writer, the grounding place that has given me courage to write will now be changing. I have no doubts my Maine home will inspire so many things, but being here now, it's like the feeling you might have experienced when you pack the house up but you have to wait one more day for the moving van. The house has let go, and you have let go-you feel rudderless, you want to just get on with it.

I have some crucial good-byes to come in the next month. I won't write about it today, but it is on my mind. I will remain honest here, and hope to not bring my readers down. I just want to share this transition-for there might be others going through big changes that will take comfort in the changes I can write about.

It's symbolic of the time of life Martyn and I are in-mid life-entering our final quarter. Perspectives shift. It is the best time of my life though, I can honestly say that. If you told me I could be thirty tomorrow, I'd say, "No way." The perspective is rich, wiser, less flip, less casual about the important things of life. The lambing season is symbolic of new beginnings, fresh blood, community, and the miracle and strength of Nature. The young lambs and their mothers are juxtaposed with their great grandmothers, Daisy and Lilly, who reside in the stall right next to them. Just as in some households, a baby is heard crying, a child is heard singing, while a grandmother sits knitting, or napping, with the chatter of youth in the near distance. Being a shepherdess all these years has given me that–a home of generations, a place to see life and death as a connected path-nothing to fear, just something to explore wholeheartedly until like the elder matriarchs of the farm, I lay my head down for the final time.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Birthday blessings...and lambs all over the place

Alma preens her new twin lamb in this our final lambing season

Yesterday was my fifty-eighth birthday. I had mentioned that the mothers-to-be were taking their time to lamb, and wondered if perhaps The Head Troll had somehow managed to schedule them all to lamb on my birthday. What a grand send off that would be, I thought.

Yesterday afternoon I arrived back to the farm and as I entered to do chores in the mama barn, I quickly scanned the room and saw no lambs. But then I heard that familiar sound of a tiny bleat, and there was Alma with two beautiful lambs, newly born, still a bit gooey but looking strong and healthy-a girl and a boy- both beautiful rich chocolate color like their father, Wendell. Alma was doing wonderfully with them-you never know with new moms-but she was a pro as most of them are. I gathered them up and put her in a separate lambing jug so she could rest and get used to her charges.

I have to say, it brought a couple small tears to my eyes. It is and will be a very special lambing season for me. The final lambing season...is sad for me. What makes it okay with me is knowing where we are going, visualizing our new life, and knowing I will still have many animals and amazing new stories to tell. I have loved being a shepherdess. But, it is time to make some changes and while I might have a sheep or two someday again, I don't think I will breed sheep. You never know. I want to get to know Maine and our property. I want us to have more time together to explore, and understand our fencing needs and barn needs. I want to ride Boone in our new woods, and sit and enjoy sun naps with Earnest. I don't want to worry about predator issues right now-keeping my flock safe is a full time commitment.

Someone on Facebook made a comment that she had her last lambing three years ago, and she assured me that I will miss it. She meant no harm, and I don't know her, but I told her I was focusing on what we will be gaining, not losing. It is not helpful to tell someone they will miss something when they are bravely saying goodbye to so much. I'm sure she didn't stop to think about that, but it is not helpful. I will have a hard time looking at my photos of my sheep. I don't need strangers telling me such things. So if you know someone making a huge change-don't tell them what they know, encourage them about the new windows opening.

Anyway, we celebrated my birthday last night with a good meal by the fire and good wine. Not much different than any night here, but so many exciting things going on that it was fun. I checked the mamas in the evening and I knew they would most likely lamb by morning. And Mavis and Ophelia did just that. When I arrived for morning feedings, Mavis presented me her two new ewes, beautiful chocolates and strong and dry. She most likely lambed midnight or so. Ophelia had just lambed and her twin girls were gooey and wobbly. Ophelia is a bit less calm than the others, but she was doing fine, and I chose to leave her be to lick her lambs. Eventually I got her in a separate area as she was getting a bit confused with Mavis' lambs. All chocolates so far!

Meanwhile, Little Lil was clearly entering pre labor and I think she will lamb by tonight. She is a big gal and I wouldn't be surprised to see triplets...time will tell.

They have made it easy on me so far. I will enjoy every second with the lambs. I have some people that plan to take them, and I am confidant all will be well for my flock. It is the only way to think about it so as not to go mad.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Crows, art and listening

Just a quick message to any art lovers that I've added some originals-some old, like this one–to the shop. It's time to lesson the load as we plan for the pending move to Maine...and let's face it, raise some money to pay for it.

This piece has hung in my home for many years-crows used to be important messengers for me back in Minnesota. They always arrived at a moment when I needed answers–answers I most likely had inside me. Crows told the truth, but I often wanted an answer they could not give me. But in the end, I learned that their answer was always spot on, and if a crow arrives now a days I ask myself it I'm tricking myself into believing something just because I want a certain outcome, versus the real outcome.

But the crows haven't come around much in these past year. Maybe I've become more in tuned with reality.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

We are so in love

The handle to the barn door at the Maine house

...with the new Maine property. It makes leaving this Apifera much easier. I've actually done most of my hardest mourning, when I had to figure out if I could bring my sheep, or when I began telling people. Martyn is just beginning to tell clients and he admitted he is now going through some mourning. He's lived in Oregon his entire 57 years. But he is so excited. The opportunities for him there, the new house that we don't have to redo [for a change!], the land, the nearby ocean, water everywhere for my fisherman...it's all worth the temporary upheaval.

While Martyn goes off to his business, I take care of the myriad of details of the move. In a way, this is good, I am good at it and I think it allows Martyn to simply work and not get anxious about the many details involved. Things are falling into place.

Today I was at the kitchen and looked out the window and saw a morning dove on the branch. It was calling out with its cooing. I haven't seen one for awhile and said,


You might recall my mother, Kelly, returned as a morning dove immediately after she died in 2013, and a tulip, but I used to hang on every dove I saw back when she died knowing it was her checking in on me. It gave me comfort. As I grew stronger, I would see doves and didn't always relate them to my mother, some were simply...doves. But this dove, it was so close to the window and was sitting so calmly looking in at me, I'm sure it was her.

It was her.

I know the pieces of the move, the selling, buying, hauling animals-all of it–have been clipping right along. I think she wants to get us there sooner than later. I think she knows our lives will be enriched in many ways and we will be able to do a lot of things we can't do here-more relaxed times, hiking the woods, visiting the small villages, making more art and letting Martyn have more of a time off period instead of working 24/7.

I guess I was thinking that the new house in Maine...maybe it had a lot of mothers in it, because it already feels like a comfort to me, it feels like it is accepting us as we are, and is there to shelter us. I've lived in many houses and not all of them were mothers. I feel like there is a energy in that house that will wrap itself around us like a mother wearing a wool sweater opening up the door on a windy, winter day.

I do not take this lightly–with all that has transpired since we listed our property here, that house came into our lives on purpose, with intent.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Maine farm has found us

The Head Troll describes the area in Maine where the new Apifera will be.

Martyn came home Thursday night, opened a beer, and I told him to sit down.

"I bought a farm. It's perfect," I said.

I remember my mom bought a house once when my dad was in Europe on business and she said,

"I have to do it and I have to do it now."

When I showed Martyn the photos of the place, he said, "Wow," and he kissed me.

I have been looking at Maine properties since December. It was still too soon to put offers in, but I had my list ready. One by one, they sold, or I realized they just didn't speak to me. One did, sort of, not the house, but the big barn was okay.

But on Thursday, my Maine friend emailed me a brand new listing, and when I opened the link, I felt it. It was the same feeling when I bought my Portland home, and we all know what that led too. I called the Maine agent, and listened for a few minutes, and said I was making an offer. My friends would go out the next day and look at it. And they did. And it is meant to be, they said it is even more perfect and magical in person. I'm not showing pictures of it...yet. Even as I was putting offers in, there were showings stacking up, and it had only been on 2 days. My friend who found the listing said if she hadn't signed up for hourly notifications from the on site realty site for the area we were looking in, she might not have seen it until the next day and I know we would have lost it.

But wait, the story gets better.

So when my friend, and her father-who is also a friend to Apifera now-when they arrived to see the property with the listing agent, she knew it was his 60th birthday, as I had mentioned it to her. And she brought him copies of my book as a gift-unbeknowdst to me. He loved them and said he was going to show them to the seller couple. He took the books to them, and they immediately said, "They are definitely the people that need to live on that farm," and even though they could have looked at other offers, they chose not to.

I am trying to remain calm, but I am so excited to just be there. I feel like I need to be there as soon as possible. Of course we need a successful close here the end of march and we see no reason why there shouldn't be one, but will be so relieved after closing.

I can tell you this–there are old growth peach, plum and apple trees, a weathered picket fence around perennial and vegetable gardens, a ready made chicken area, woods to ramble in with old oaks, maple and pine-and the ocean coves are on both sides. I can tell tat when I first looked at it, it was like looking at a baby I birthed. The house is a 1760 cottage style, old plank pine with fireplaces and is pure Maine.

The town is called Bremen and it sits between two coves of the Atlantic ocean, convenient to many beautiful places and charming towns. Of course it is not ours until after closing...but is there for us and I feel it wants u and all will be well.

I am giving myself through tonight and then I will go into complete get a move on mode-which means I have so many details to deal with, including hauling the animals, purging, getting this farm ready for the new owners as they will be keeping many of the flock and I want my flock to be all ready for them with shots and feet trims. And any day now, lambing begins.
To say there is a lot going on...an understatement.

I can tell you too that knowing where we will end up makes the leaving so much easier. I was actually having a lot of moments of grief here. It was just becoming so hard, all the goodbyes, all the memories rushing in and out during chores. Now I can think of the new land and house. Oh you will love it, I can't wait to share it with you.

But I have to go now. The Head Troll has a list of questions, Earnest has requested writing tablets, with lines, so he can keep a diary on the road trip...and Paco has many concerns which I fully expected and I need to start reassuring him.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Empty house

I'm trying to stay grounded, to focus and was able to get a small painting done. I was going to work on it more, but I found myself just sitting and staring into it, and it made me feel calm.