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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Death of a tiny Apiferian

I found her this morning, surrounded by the busy activity of the other finches.

She was the only female and perhaps what was the most bitter sweet part of it all–having to watch the dominant male land by her body, look up at me when he heard my voice, peck at her body lightly, look around...

"Is she really dead?" he asked.

I do think he was making sure she was dead. If I told you he seemed sad, I guess you could accuse me of anthropomorphizing. But I've watched that male finch with her and he was the top guy, he would often light by her, and chirp off the other males. He told her when the fresh food was put out, even though she knew, but he always vocalized things to her first.

I think what was also very sad for us is we had noticed the males and female starting to gather things for the little bird houses in the cage. We were delighted. Even though we knew these birds were getting on in years, and the former owner said she was not breeding any more, we wondered if they were preparing for young. We also wondered if it was the daylight getting longer that set them to trying to make nests.

Either way, a couple days ago we put some more twigs and sheep wool in the cage for them-it was so fun watching them gather and move items into the boxes. The female would jump in every now and then,

"I think this is looking good," she'd announce, perhaps.

Now I wonder if perhaps they knew she was dying and they were preparing a place for her.

When I took her out this morning, the dominant male seemed lost, silent. So I put her back in the cage while I went for chores. He pecked at her some, but it was more like grooming than pecking.

I know she had a pretty good life for a caged bird-as the cage is large and she was treated well. In her last weeks here she had classical music and company with our movie watching at night.

Little birds, when gone, leave big spaces. We were fond of the female as she was the only one. I had not even named her yet-which to her did not matter. I came back from chores and brought her to my studio. Perhaps it was all that is going on around us, the fear and anxiety that is visceral in the air-for many-and the fact I haven't really taken enough time to weep about it, but I sat there with that little tiny creature in my cupped hand, examining her tiny tail of speckled feathers, the bunny at my feet, and I cried quietly for her. But like the feral cat I held in my arms at the old farm, days after my father died almost nine years ago, I was crying for much more than the body I held. Like that feral cat, I had hardly gotten to know this creature either, but I do know she brought nothing but beauty into my world, with song, her little feathers, and her beauty in flight. Crying for her today was a gift she gave me. I think I needed that.

Today would have been Huck's 13th birthday, he died in August, suddenly to cancer. I like to think she flew to him, to let him smell my scent that he knew when he was on this realm. Perhaps that is nonsense, but I did imagine it as I held the bird today.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


The days, and nights of the last week, for me, are caught in the charcoal in this quick drawing.

I'm outraged, scared, sad, and grieving for what I believe America is, versus what a bunch of Fascist and extreme thinking thugs of the newly appointed Upside Down Kingdom want to turn it into-by force.

I spent most of the day trying to focus on the good. I got somewhere by doing that. Martyn and I are planning a structure in the front of the property to store wood and other things, and act as a meeting place for people passing by in the summer, where we can sell share honey, wool, books...maybe kiss a donkey. We need to plant lots of trees for more sound barrier, and the bees will be in the field over where I want to do a beautiful nectar garden. Then we walked in part of our woods that has potential to give us more grazing. There is so much to be done, and money needed to do it-the latter has me feeling shaky too with Martyn still not working and the economy of the coming months-who knows. Sales are slow, I think many people are...sitting tight...preparing for lift off. Maybe I'm the only artist or freelancer scared out of my pants...but I'm nervous.

It gave me some grounding to work outside and imagine how we are evolving here.

But I had great sadness all day, thinking about so many desperate people just trying to survive. I am ashamed for what happened with the bans and am outraged, and many are and the fight is real now, it's personal. I never thought there was, but it is now a fact that there is no caring person inside the orange suit. If you really believe that with all your heart, you are entitled to your opinion, but you and I have no common ground strong enough to give me an ounce of hope of forming a bridge.

I'm done pretending to anyone who says "gotta give it some time."

Nope, I don't. Time has shown the destruction that only eight days can have when a small group of white housings want to inflict their warped vision-a vision based on fear-on our country. Their actions have now shown the true colors that many of us knew were blazing in proper light.

Like many, I want some peace and some comfort too. Many of us are viscerally affected by this-and we should be. I looked for articles today with facts from people on the inside that might give me a glimmer of...not just hope but answers on how to combat all that is being flung at this country. I'm talking to my senators, and their staff about as much as I can. This is not about the two parties, I have many Republican friends, I voted Republican once years ago, I have never been a political zealot. This is not about 'sides', or being a 'sore loser'. This is not about 'getting over it' - It is about humanity, caring, empathy-but the lead White House narcissist and his fascist sidekick don't have those words in their environ, or hearts.

After reading many excellent articles, I came up with only one conclusion. This mess is here for all of us, to teach us-and make us stand up together, all parties, all colors, all sexes. It is not a time to calm down. It is a time to speak up, loudly, with your own heart. Speaking up loudly doesn't mean you have to be a bully. And it doesn't mean you get what you want in a day, or a week, or a year. And it never ends. Look at the barnyard-they never stop speaking up to show their place in the hierarchy. Freedom is messy, it takes courage to speak up. I applaud many insiders that are now speaking up, risking their jobs. Gas lighting is very productive, we have seen that, but I applaud the people that continue to speak fact, and repeat fact, and knock down non-fact.

I leave you with Boone's tail, slowed down in the wind, it is these very small things that somehow help. His tail won't help stranded, terrified people I'm afraid, but it somehow is like thread that holds something together around here for me, because I have to stay tuned in, engaged, and be prepared for the worst and ride it out with people that care, truly care, about humanity and Mother Earth.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Itty Bitty Dolls

You can now get an Itty Bitty Doll and a copy of the new Itty book!

Back in the fall, some of the original supporters of the book  donated at a certain level that earned them an Itty doll along with their books. They were fun to make and I decided to offer them again. Each is unique, no two are alike. They are tiny, about 3".

If you were one of the original donators at the Itty Doll level, they will be shipped with your book this week.

Visit the Itty page to place orders.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A storm a brewin'

There is a storm brewing in the little, appearingly quiet village, and Horse gathers a friend, hoping for solitude and safety somewhere else. 

{Now available at the shop}

Monday, January 23, 2017

Did you hear?

As a subscriber to the monthly [or there abouts] newsletter, you are given chances on certain discounts on art originals and other deals of the month, and you get a recap of animal news, Apifera goings on and smiling pig and llama photos...and a Monday email called Happy Hope that lands a piece of art or photo in your inbox to make your week start out with a smile.

The monthly newsletter went out this morning, and you can sign up here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Misfit march

The Head Troll organized it, I helped get the knit pussy hats on everyone–that proved very difficult and it took me so long to get the hats on securely over long donkey ears, bristly pig ears and slippery rabbit ears, that the march got underway a bit later than The Head Troll hoped, and you know she is a stickler for sticking to schedules. I was so proud of her though, she is getting on in years but still whipped this little march together.

We doubt anyone heard us, but the point is, we know how we feel.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

We are the Insides

The Insides live in the house. You might know the story of Big Tony. When we arrived at the old farm in Oregon, there was a new litter of semi feels in the barn. Before I could trap the very industrious Mama Kitty-it took two years-she had another litter. The litters were all spayed and neutered, and continued to live out their lives at Apifera.

When I began trapping the cats, I never thought I'd land a 20 pounder the first day out. But there he was, lying contently in the trap, having just finished off the tuna that was placed their to entice him. He was charming and dignified throughout the entire transport to the vet for neutering. Within days of losing the responsibility of procreating, Big Tony made his way to the front porch, accompanied by several of his children. At the time, we had no indoor cat, just the dogs. Each night I'd casually alert Martyn that Big Tony was there, and each night I got him in the living room for longer and longer, until Martyn gave up and soon after Big Tony was sleeping in the bed. But not on my side. He liked Martyn's side.

It's the story that has repeated itself with Apifera cats, as it did years later with Itty Bitty.

So Big Tony is still with us in Maine. He is a complete grandpa now, losing weight off his backbone, but still able to jump. He has several favorite sleeping baskets in the sun, one in my office where he spends most of the day. But it is still Martyn he likes to attend to while we have our wine, or watch movies. He has a routine of putting his paws up stretched and staring into Martyn's eyes. Later, when I go to bed, he comes int to be with me and sleeps on my side of the bed now. Sometimes I wake with his paw on my hand.

The One Eyed Blind Pug II, aka Hughie and his chocolate sidekick have a very easy life, complete with beds by a fire, toast crust in the morning, and bowl licking at dinner. And now they have birds singing to them in the morning.

The Insides make daily life nicer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

And another Wednesday begins

We march forward. We play, sometimes. We line up after breakfast and we walk-one step at a time.

We rewind and go back into the barn and rest in the dimming light, until...morning, and we start again.

It's all we know how to do.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Books and updates!

I wanted to let everyone who supported the original fundraiser for the New Itty Bitty & Big Etta book that your copies are being packed and I am busy shipping them out in stages. So you all get your book[s] by mid February at the latest, most likely sooner. I hope you love them; the size is so small and intimately itty, but I hope the feeling of it is Big Etta love for all of you.

Secondly, don't forget to sign up for the newsletter. I have changed some things on it in the past months. There is a monthly email with animal/Misfit news, farm updates, new books/art notices and subscriber only deals for the shop [comes out end of month; there is also a weekly Monday mailing I call "Happy Hope", a piece of art or image with a brief one sentence statement that will start your week with art/visual love and goodness.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Earnest the pig and his crazy quilt

Earnest inherited a crazy quilt from his great great aunt three times removed...or something like that. On sunny winter days, when the round quality permits, I allow it to come out of mothballs and lay it out for the little pig, and any others he invites, like bunnies and mice.

These scenes in my heart are what get me up in the morning, along with homemade bread, toasted, a fire by my mate, and the ability to somehow believe the world won't blow up in the near future and the wind and sea will somehow be here for future pigs and people.

{This original drawing now available at the shop.}

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Meet the six new tiny Apiferians!

I was minding my own business....and someone we have met recently contacted me to see if I might be able to take on some birds. It seems her friend was suddenly made homeless due to an entire serious of events, and had to give up his birds. She explained they came with their own vintage inspired cage.

I immediately researched Zebra Finches and sort of fell in love with the idea right away. And since I had left my old farm last May and had to rehome my flock and a few other animals that could not come with us, I know the feeling he might have had.

So yesterday our friend took us to his home he must leave-a very old 1870 manor house where his mother lived until her death at age 87. The house was empty now and he showed us around-what a place. I wish I could have bought it and given it back to him. Anyway, when I saw the bird cage, I swooned. It was custom made by a bird lover, and it shows, even having little bird houses in it.

So I gladly took their wings under my wing. They now reside in our living room, and when we sat down last night for our evening cocktail and conversation, they were right there partaking. They are fascinating to engage with. There are five males and a non breeding female and they do not like loud abrupt noises-sirens, shouts, loud trucks. Last night we were talking about some current news, and my voice grew a bit agitated, and they all started chattering! I apologized. So today, I have classical music on for them instead of NPR. Last night they slept soundly and were up with the daylight-perfect farmers.

I am so pleased to have them, and I just hope their former caretaker finds a place to land soon.

Monday, January 09, 2017

New drawings of muses

Last week I showed you some new prints I had created. Some people asked if there were originals. Sometimes especially for illustrative work I combine hand drawn and hand painted elements and sandwich them into a digital original, hence there is not 'real' original to hold in your hands, it is a layered piece, so I make prints from it.

But there is always a starting point original. I decided to go back into the drawings and finish them with pencil and charcoal. I really love the muted tones and these remind me of old storybook pieces from childhood-which reminds me, I am still trying to get going on a new book idea. But more on that down the road.

In the meantime, these originals drawings are on the shop [the cat image has sold]. {And the prints inspired by them are too.}

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Old Donkey Weather Report

The Eskimos have one hundred words for "snow". I appreciate this and would like to learn each one. Imagine how important snow is to their culture, and how communicating about snow is so crucial to their economy and survival.

Last night we got a couple inches of beautiful, powder snow, tlapa. When we awoke it was quite chilly, about 14 degrees, but no wind. I have a white antique donkey someone gifted me. She reminds me of our Matilda, so I refer to the statue as Old Donkey. She sits on a windowsill and has become a beautiful weather reporter for me. I have taken her photo before, but think I will post Old Donkey Weather Reports through out the year. Today's report: silvery and crisp.

The animals have no problem with the snow. White Dog loves it, I knew he would, and Birdie the llama is programed for cold and stands outside in dry weather waiting for her hay-she prefers breakfast under blue sky even if it is cold.

When I came back to the pig barn, Earnest had just finished breakfast. I wondered what the Eskimos would have called the snow on his nose. The closest I could find is hiryla for "snow in the beard". Perhaps I can find an Intuit to help me. Any Intuits reading my blog?

Friday, January 06, 2017

Bunnies and the gloomies

I sat in the studio looking at the painting desk, bunny at my feet. I just kept painting bunny blobs. Bunnies are pretty addictive I guess. It raised my dull mood. I was sort of blue all day and I really don't know why, so I just worked through it, walked through it as I did chores. I sort of wondered who I was. I guess as artists and people we might be swimming along and all of a sudden the thought comes into our heads,

What am I doing?

I feel like I'm making good art, have my portfolio online really up to date. I've made some nice books. And then I did the very bad thing we artists sometimes do: I compared my past accomplishments to some current successes of other artists. You know, you see a very good and nice artist getting a book deal and you go into that Self Debbie Downer conversation in your head?

It's pitiful to think that way. I snapped out of it. I began to think about:

What project do I want to work on more than anything?

And I didn't have an answer today. That can lead me to the gloomies, when I don't have a focused direction-like a new book or series of pieces. It will be okay.

But I bet a lot of you artists friends out there have the gloomies and Debbie Downer moments. It's part of it. It always passes for me, at least it always has.

Here's to bunnies.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Cats and books, cats and books

The new Itty Bitty & Big Etta books are scheduled to arrive tomorrow, pending good weather for delivery!

I am always nervous to get new books. No matter how many times I check and recheck for errors, there is usually something I am not happy with. I seem to learn new techniques and tips with each book though. So, fingers crossed for this little gem to arrive safely.

I imagine it will also bring up some buried emotion I have about Itty herself. I really do miss her and still have sadness that she is not with us. But every time I hear a car go by on the very close busy road, every time I come in the house and know Itty would have been right there ready to sneak out, I know what happened was probably for the best, because she would have been unhappy inside 24/7. Big Tony on the other hand, happy as a clam.

When I get those feelings, I focus on what is here...now...the animals that are in my charge need me, and are beautiful creatures too. There will never be another Itty, or another "insert name of any Misfit of the past, but there are many Misfits to come.

And the current elders living in the Elder Cat Suite are bringing me lots of happiness. I have much to do in the to make it extra healing for cats and visitors–although the current perches seem to be very acceptable to the cats. There is plenty of room for more residents, but there is no need to rush. The right cats in need will present themselves. I still need to paint the murals, find an area rug that is durable, and find a farm table for guests. Money is always tight, so we will make do as we go along. I'm hoping by summer I can have some Elder Cat Suite .

So, with the new book's arrival, please note that any donation of $50 or more gets you a book. People have asked me to post a list of needs, but right now, money is really the best gift–for litter and food.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

When the world gives you ice, skate, thought the pig

When the world gives you ice, grab your skates. We can not be kept down here at Apifera, we embrace the winter.

Earnest's paddock, due to lack of drainage which we just couldn't get to this summer, developed a shallow pond. Perfect for pigs and other Apiferians both wild and tamed to grab ice skates and feel the wind against their faces.

Now available as prints at the shop.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Bee shepherdess to be

I sat with the flock this morning, a beautiful day, a new year, and thought about what the first day of last year was like, and what was to come with the move. I'm glad that part is behind us. It was a lot. I think it started soaking in around October.

I'm pleased for our new life here, I have optimism about our future here. I do not have optimism at this time for many other things including world peace, or our situation in America, so I am going to focus on what we are trying to build here at Apifera, and the good we can do here, and that I can do through art ad writing and sharing stories and animals.

We went to a nearby friend's last night and played pool in an old Maine farmhouse, came home by 9 and sipped wine while we watched 'The Graduate'. We have made a cluster of friends from a nearby road, really smart, interesting, grounded people. It's like an instant community for us and we are so happy to have met them all.

And today we walked our Wood. It was so pretty out, with coyote tracks laced all around. I guess my hope for 2017 is pretty simple-health for us, the ability to continue to be able to buy Martyn's prescription meds and what are now affordable, continued sales so I can support our farm, and..I hope our country does not get shattered by the incoming administration. But like I said, that is an area I have very little optimism in, and I am by nature optimistic, so this pessimism is very difficult on me. And it is why we will focus on Apifera and making it a respite for people driving by, where they can stop in on their busy summer travels, talk to some animals, visit my future little book shop, buy some produce or art, and some of our flock's fiber.

And after much research, and finding good resources here, I have decided I am going to become a bee shepherdess this year. After all, "Apifera" does mean "bee bearing" and it is Maine's state insect. I have always loved and admired bees. And just doing the research I learned so much about the ingenuity and work ethic of this creature.

Thank you to so many of you who have followed along with me and Apifera-be it a short time or over twelve years now, your support of my art and writing allows me to do what I was put on Earth to do, and also make a humble living for yet another year. I'm grateful for that, thank you.