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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Big bottom Littles and piglet mayhem

It's going to get wild around here very soon....I guess it already is, but even more so. The piglets are eight days old and are starting to leap and explore in the stall. They are not outside yet as I have to create a separate safety zone for them. I let Eleanor out once a day to roam a bit but she needs to feed every two hours and if she doesn't, bam, smash, she'll go right through the wood gate to get to her babies.

Meanwhile, Little Lonely has a fine butt, don't you think? You can see it waddling in the final movie below. He is still very polite, but also he and his mother Cornelia now bash each other around a bit at dinner time-normal behavior. In fact Eleanor bashes her daughter Cornelia around at dinner. Can you imagine having to bam your mama in the head to get more food at the cereal bowl? She hasn't totally weaned him, and I've always been one to let animals naturally wean-if I can. So he is a chuck!

All the nine piglets are doing well. They are available so if interested you should contact me.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Signs that The Head Troll lingers

It's not that we're unfriendly. it's just that we need out privacy. And it is true that you never know what is behind the big, sliding gate. Some people just need a little encouragement to keep a boundary. If they don't one thing or another will pop out and get 'em.

We are busy recreating our private area of gardens. We are also creating a beautiful front garden-even bigger than the old farm-that people will be able to enjoy from the road or on farm visits. Stay tuned. Apifera is blossoming.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Death comes in waves-we lose the runt and an old Rosie the goat

I don't know why death seems to come in waves-perhaps it helps us focus to the tasks on hand.

Yesterday afternoon we lost the tiny runt gilt who was born with a very weak hind end and quite thin. A litter of ten is big, so there was bound to be a runt or two. She latched on to the teat well, so I kept my eye on her and she seemed aggressive enough at the milk bar. Yesterday morning I decided to start her a bottle too because I felt she was getting more stumble in the hind end. I got some mil in her and she was strong fighting it, and was not near death at that point. Mid day she also did not seem in dire straights-she just needed time and milk. But at 4 pm when I checked on her, she was gone. In my previous check on her, she had been napping in the pig pile, and i wondered if she had been crushed, without the strength to move out.

I don't know.

I do know I tried, and she tried, and she had a short life of three days but was with her mates and mother in a warm, safe place. And I got to hold her a lot and care for her, so we all did what we had to do.

While we lost the tiny runt yesterday, today I approached the barn and had a thought just popped into my head as I opened the doors,

Death comes in waves...will there be another?

And there was old Rosie the goat, dead, Sir Tripod and Opie happily greeting me for breakfast.

She was never healthy - I took her on last fall from a breeder who said Rosie could not keep up at the hay stand and was getting thin, and wasn't aggressive enough to get enough feed. I had found this breeder and approached her via email, explaining how I took on old goats, and she said she let me take Rosie. When we picked her up I knew this goat was not long for the Earth, although I didn't say anything. The woman wanted $100, and I paid it and brought her home and did my best. I guess I'm a knucklehead for paying $100 for what was clearly a sick old goat, but she got one on one here and didn't get pushed around.

She was so thin and weak in the rear, often stumbling. I got a bit of weigh on her and got the lice under control, and wormed her. At on point she showed signs of congestion, but no fever, so I vetted her and brought her through that but every week she seemed to struggle with one condition or another. I felt sorry that she had given so much to this breeder and arrived here full of lice and thin as a bone.

I buried her and the runt together amongst spring floral to remind Old Rosie of youth and to show the runt the flowers she never got to see. They lie near The Head Troll and Scooby Keith, and the other piglets that died in the extreme cold farrowing in January. The gardens will be planted there though and it is a beautiful spot to be returned to earth.

Sometimes I question if what I'm doing helps or not.

{There are ways to support my animal efforts}

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Paco's Poem

{As many of you know, Paco is a poet. At the old farm back West he wrote in his Bower of Love, but here he was a bit lost since he had no private writing spot. I created an area for him in The Wood and I was so happy to see he is writing again}

I hear the leaves as they lay


I stand to their right, left and front and center

But the road people rush

Their vibrations shove the air

Leaves scatter

It will take me all day to place my feet 

Right, left, front and center of them

There’s a sun beam

On a dirt patch

I’ll wait for them there

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Eleanor delivers ten!

I knew when I left her last night she was ready. Eleanor is not one to lay down for belly rubs, never has been. But last night when I checked on her before calling it a night, she was laying down and didn't bother to get up. She seemed to appreciate a belly massage.

I checker her tweets and they had milk.

Well, that was a give away.

It was day 115 and she always farrows by day 116. And she had discharge. She got up and I was checking for heartbeats for fun, and she tossed her head into my leg, a clear sign she was ready for me to leave and give her the space she wanted.

I discussed the situation with her. Eleanor is stoic, calm and a very good mother. I knew she would do the job and do it well, and she did.

The weather was perfect for farrowing, unlike the night Cornelia lost all of her litter except Little due to hypothermia.

When I arrived this morning, I could not wait to open the door, and there they were, up and about, strong and healthy. There were ten of them, which is a very big litter.

"It's a basket of pigs," Martyn said as he went off to work.

There are four boys and six gilts. The more girls the better. I must say, the markings are just wonderful, lots of waddles [which really means nothing but they are fun]. I'm very happy for Eleanor that all is well, and this litter is really up and about and doing well and not even a day old.

Mother creatures are heroes. I was thinking this morning of all the animals in the wild that birth on their own, and stoically carry on to fend for their young, and keep food in their own bellies along the way. I learned way back in our first lambing seasons to give the mother space, be aware of the conditions and situation, but stay out of the way unless it is dire. I roll my eyes thinking of the first lambing, the ewes must have been talking behind my back,

"I wish she would just leave us alone, if she checks my udder one more time I will scream."

I took the afterbirth and fed it to the chickens. Our eggs will be nourished my Eleanor and the life she gave us today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Conversation with chickens

I was minding my own business, doing chores in the front barn, and was kept company by a chicken conversation. They were in their coop while I was attending feedings, manure cleanup and water bucket cleaning. Their clucks and whirs kept me company, and amused.

"Move over," one of the Secret Sisters said.

"I was here first," another hen replied.

"Na-uh," I heard.

A series of clucks in varying degree of irritation erupted.

"Can you speed it up, my egg is killing me!" the intruder exclaimed.

"I can not rush perfection," the hen replied.

"My eggs are much larger," intruding hen said.

"Na-uh," was the response.

It went on like this for sometime, until I finally came upon them in their preferred hen laying box. You give a bunch of chickens a lovely array of nesting boxes and they prefer to squish into one.

By the time I left, they were still at it.

"Good Lord! I hope there isn't a fire today or you will be fried," said the intruder.

"How crass," said the laying hen. "Go lay somewhere else-you are disturbing by peace and it will effect the taste of my egg."

I swear I could hear the eye roll.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pig mystery

The Pig's Prayer Flag Forest is available at the shop
There are many mysteries here on our Maine farm, many start in a story but appear before me in real life. This is the life of imagination and reality mixing. I just finished this piece and it's based on a real episode, which someday soon I must share, but for now you will have to look into this piece deeply and hear what it is about.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

M'Lady returns

I have waited patiently, full of anticipation. I will never tire her. Last year when we arrived, almost a year ago today, she was in bloom but due to the dry winter and spring last year, the other apple trees around her [there is Little Lady, Little Apple and Old Apple at the outer barn] were not as full of flower. This year we had lots of rain and they are all so beautiful.

I see her from my studio and from many of the vistas from the house. When the sea blows in dark, brooding clouds, she stands firm, her color pops out even more boldly, and in the the sunny days with deep, blue windows behind her, she sings, literally, with hummingbirds and cardinals.

She is a confidant of sorts when I sit under her to give myself shade.

I realized this weekend how much I love it here, how this location is a blessing-despite my initial mistrust of the front road, that road will also bring me what Apifera needs. I started planting the vegetable garden this year and thought when people drive by they will see my sunflowers at the barn and it will make many of them happy.

The land is old here, who walked her in 1760? It also means it has seen and felt trauma of many kinds, struggles of our first Native Americans and their struggle with the Europeans that would come and push them out, killing and judging. I was on the fence during a lot of our first year, about opening up-truly opening up-to our land. But as I plant the vegetables, as we shape the front gardens this year and give it our touch, our covenant, I can feel it now-the land is reciprocating and recognizing we are committed to her.

This is when the magic really starts.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Earnest and I wait, and I will make a covenant with the sea today

Earnest and I are awaiting the arrival of Eleanor's piglets. I thought she was due on Monday, but I looked at my farrowing calendar wrong and she is due early next week. She is huge and while I had her in her farrowing stall for days, I let her out yesterday so she could wallow. Her belly is low to the ground and I've felt the little buggers inside moving a bit. She is getting a puffy posterior and is holding her tail upright, another sign she is close.

It's very busy here, May always is on any small piece of land. And I'm behind. We got the veggie area tilled and fenced and this weekend I will plant. I always had my entire garden planted by 4/15 in Oregon, but things are different here. Today is 90 degrees! I need a wallow. I had planned to go get my seeds, but instead, I feel a strong pull from the sea. I have had some things I need to work on, as in self realization and goals, and today I decided it's so hot, too hot for me to be planting, and I just kept hearing the word "sea" in my head.

I will go to the sea and I will make my wishes known to her, and tell her I need help and strength...and focus, to make them come to the light. I have been wanting to begin my communing relationship with her, something I didn't get to take advantage of in Oregon. But I sense now is the time for this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Earnest's pig love song: can Rosie share love after all these years?

In which Earnest the pig tells of his attempted flirtation with The-World's-Grumpiest-But-I-Am-Fine-As-I-Am-Pig, aka Rosie.

I have been watching her all these years, since back in Oregon. She is not really a looker, as Eleanor is, I do like the looks of a red head I must say, but sometimes in a new environment a pig can get a second look.

She is grumpy. This can be problematic in pig love making. Perhaps it was my first Maine spring, after a long, dark and chilly winter, that made my loins itch for her. I waddled over to her area last week and watched her casually from across the fence-a fence that protects her from me, and every other creature. Rosie is not mean, she just doesn't quite understand the beauty of reciprocating attention with other creatures. Only Stevie seemed to be able to discuss life issues with her, or sleep without being compromised by her gruffness. He was a hell of fellow, that Stevie.

We had warm weather again. This intensified my itching loins. I made my move. I put on my best performance of a love song I heard my father sing to my mother. I hardly remember my father. He was stern, but I do remember that love song he sang. He too was across a fence, and it made me wonder why the guys always get on the other side of the fence. I was a piglet, and that was the last I remember seeing him.

I sang that song to the best of my ability. It did not phase her...at least not that day. She continued to ignore me and ate the left over dinner of White Dog.

I do understand that most often food comes before love to a pig.

The next day, I returned to give it one more shot. Rome was not built in a day, they tell me. Well, to my surprise she was there at the fence.

"What brings you to the fence line this morning, Rosie?" I asked, quietly. We have all found the best way to address the grumpy pig is to speak softly. This saves our energy in case she does a rant or head toss in one's direction.

"I am not sure, but I felt enticed by something to venture to the fence," said Rosie.

"Shall I come by again, then, in the coming days?" asked Earnest.

"I suppose that will be acceptable," said Rosie, and she returned to her private suite, to nap, all grumpy like.

But I did notice a slight lightness in her step.

{Like all Apifera stories, this is to be continued.}

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother - it's the journey

There are many feelings on Mother's Day for the daughters and sons left back on this realm with their memories. I can tell people that are freshly in a loss of a mother, the days get lighter, the nights become for sleep again, and you will learn a new dialogue with your departed loved one.

I was reading over some entries from the blog I kept after my mother died. It was so visceral, those first entries, but one does see the evolution I went through that year. I encourage everyone in a loss to write, paint, make a memory doll, listen to Nature-for if you listen, truly listen to Nature, you will hear, and even see your loved one.

It's a new language to learn after you lose someone. I have so many fun conversations now with my mom. Is it as good as picking up the phone? Well, I think the key is not to compare it. It is almost like asking, was it better being five or twenty or forty or now? It's not the age that counts, it's the now. Dead does not mean gone. When one travels, I came to the realization it is a lot like dealing with the death of a loved one. You can take photos of the journey, you can describe the place to your friends, but travel transports you individually in an your own individual experience with your thoughts, sensations, and epiphanies. Even if you travel to Paris with your best friend, you both have your own interior life while you are there. And I think experiencing the death of a mother or loved one is like that.

It's a journey while you have her here on Earth, it's a continuing journey when she leaves this place. No matter what your belief system, your interior life remains as your own, and that will include your mother.

That may seem depressing to anyone just having lost a loved one. But in fact, it grows richer as you learn the new vocabulary. It takes time to learn it and appreciate it.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Soaking up Maine

"Spring Morning View from Window"
I did a lot of driving yesterday to drop off my wool, shop for food and pick up the rototillers so we can get going on the gardens. I had a nice day. I felt settled. I had a moment where I thought as I was driving,

It's really pretty nice here. I like it.

I suppose that might seem silly. Of course it's nice here, you're thinking, it's midcoast Maine. People plan vacations here, and I get to live here. But it takes time to settle after a huge move, and settling we are.

And the environs are merging into my art, as usual.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Awaiting M'Lady with Lady Birdie

We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of M'Lady Apple's spring frock of deep red pink blossoms. It will most likely be my go-to photo shot of this particular land. I can not tire of her beautiful bows standing naked in winter, and then transforming into sight red dust this time of year. Soon she will be in her full glory.

I like to imagine all the various people and animals that she has met under her tangle of arms. Considering the house is from 1760, I don't know when she might have been planted. I think she is at least 100 years old, but I'm not sure.

Has she ever met a llama? I have not heard her answer.

She is so crucial to my heart that every time anything new is planned in the garden or near the house, I always state matter-of-factly,

"As long as it doesn't block my view of M'Lady."

I have always had strong relationship with specific trees in any place I've lived. While I believe that trees are a global clan and are connected by the dirt, reverberating language we humans don't appreciate [or many of us], some in that clan take on more prominent communications with me, or you. When I was leaving trees I loved in Minneapolis, for Oregon, I was reminded of this by a wise teacher-the trees there are a clan with the trees you will meet.

Trees have helped me get up in the morning, soothed me in frayed times, brought light and beauty after the dusk when the moon shines on them and sheltered me in hot weather. They are the symbol of being rooted, even in a storm. They break limbs but go on. And at some point, they will succumb to age and their life will return to the Earth underneath, or above., just like yours will and mine will.

I can only hope that in the next realms I venture to, I will see many old friends in one form or another-and I imagine that M'Lady and many of the trees I've communed with will be there.

I will share M'Lady with you as time goes on-a gift for recipient and sharer.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Conversation of donkey and pig

A version of this piece is available at the shop
"We look so different," said the donkey.

"Your ears are fabulous," said the pig.

"Thank you. I'm impressed by your nose. To be able to root up the ground must be thrilling. I must use my feet," said the donkey.

"My nose is worthy of your respect," said the pig. "But your hooves can kick away badness and strangers."

"True," said the donkey. "I see you have adorned yourself today with daisies?"

"I like daisies," said the pig. "You too, I see?"


And the two that look so different went on with the day.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Chunk of pig love

I guess Little isn't so Little anymore. He is more like a Chunk of Pig Love. These things happen. Piglets get bigger and grow out of their piglet pants into big boy pants [and don't ever let anyone tell you there is a creature called a micro pig}. Another week and holding him will be difficult. He is still a charming fellow, and today he finally got to graze and get outside. Eleanor should be farrowing in a week and a half. I will relish that one since the plan is that it will be out last litter. However, Earnest has not been told and he might have his own plans. I caught him snorting around Rosie's pen gate. I explained I was pretty certain The-World's-Grumpiest-But-I'm-Fine-As-I-Am-Pig has no interest in love making or romance.

I hope this piglet smiling face will make up for this lack luster post. I'm on day ten of this dang nabbit cold and it has finally turned a corner for me. I spent the entire day outside in sun and beautiful sea wind helping Martyn put more electric wire up in equine area. Another rite of spring greeted me: the infamous black flies of Maine. I was not impressed, nor were the equines!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Faces as medicine

I'm on day 6 or 7 of this horrible cold, working it's way slowly out of me. I made a note to myself,

When sick, do not try to outstay the llama.

I'm lucky to have so many faces that look to see me each morning. It gives one a reason to get up even when your head hurts and takes your mind off your own pain.

How can I not feel better for a moment looking at these faces?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Moving pretty fast for my size

You've probably heard me quote that line before, from a Neil Young song,

There's a comet in the sky tonight
Makes me feel like I'm alright
I'm movin' pretty fast
For my size
I really didn't mean to stay
As long as I have
So I'll be movin' on

I'm not moving, from here anyway. But I am moving. I've been thinking a lot about the land here, the actual property, and how it feels like it suffered more than the place out West. I mean that the individuals that lived here in 1760 era when the house was built, suffered– the war[s], the deaths of all but one son that lived here in that war, the indigenous peoples here fighting for their land as immigrants arrived–all of that hardship vibrates here, for now. I felt the land here sniffing me out when we arrived, and a year later, I sense the land thinking,

OK, she's sticking around while, she seems committed to us, we might be able to make this a true communion. 

I tend to come into a new situation with guns a blazing, with optimism and big visions of what is to come. The old farm seemed sad when it arrived, it had been neglected, the century old barn that spoke to me that first day needed purpose again-and it got that from us. I miss her but am so glad I was able to work with her.

Here,  each month I peal a new layer of hesitancy off the relationship the land and I have together.

And as we enter the one year anniversary of our departure from Oregon, I was thinking about that old wisdom of giving oneself a year to make any changes after you have moved or been through a huge transition-either of your own making or one that was thrust on you. I have always found that there is truth to this, in a healing or growth process-the year marker helps us look back and see where we were but from a new perspective. And the day you go past that first year mark, it is like starting over, fresh, you tend to not look back at markers from the year before.

I would not want to go back and relive the final months at the old Apifera. I can see now looking back just how upsetting it all was for me. I had to say a lot of goodbyes, and make so many rapid, difficult decisions for the good of the whole. Would I do it again. Yes. Would I do it differently-some things, definitely-and if I ever do a move again I hope I remember the things I would have done differently.

I sat in my second office, the one in the outer barn, on my collapsible lawn chair. I've been sick for five days and have felt lousy and weak, but manage to rally to do barn chores twice a day. I'm hoping today is a turning point. I was sitting and letting the sun just soak into my face. I could hear the sheep, feel the wind, smell the horse manure and hear the occasional sea gull. Random thoughts entered my head,

The sun felt like this at the old Apifera too. It was the same sun that hit my face there, and the same sun that would have warmed the faces of so many-my parents, my friends, me as a child, all the former presidents and all the former loves of my life, the Beatles and Pavarotti and Grace Kelly in Monaco. Native Americans saw that same sun. Hitler, Matisse, my father at age seventeen battling in the Marines in WWII Pacific islands saw that sun.

It was just a moment in a day. Just a clear moment of feeling like I was one of a big whole, as were each creature in my life, and the land.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

When crippled goats get gifts from kind strangers

Over the past many years of writing this blog, I've come to know many of the readers. Some come and visit at some point, even becoming close friends. Others lurk, and years after lurking they send me a long letter how they've been lurking reading every word and getting much out of the stories from Apifera. Sometimes, I get an email that makes me stop and wonder if it is real-like the man who out of the blue wanted to contribute to the old pony paddock in Oregon.

Well last week I got such a letter, from a woman I didn't know who had just bought an Itty book, so I knew she was "real". She had found herself growing fond of Sir Tripod Goat and having had a special needs dog at one time, she knew how much effort goes into making them comfortable. She wanted to buy Tripod a wheelchair. Now I knew these wheelchairs are expensive so I proceeded cautiously. For starters, I was really touched she wanted to help like this. But the more I assessed Tripod's condition, I felt it might not work for him.

After talking to several people I trust, and a vet I knew, Martyn and I both decided the wheelchair wasn't the right idea for Tripod for a variety of reasons. We came to the conclusion it might make his front shoulders worse off than they already are, and, unless I stood all the time with him there was the danger of him rolling over and not being able to right himself. And, he really likes to be laying down. His hind is so crippled that fitting comfortably in one could be an issue too. I didn't want someone buying such a gift and not being able to use it a lot so I suggested a couple other items for Tripod-a 'lifter' that will help him get him from the barn to the sunny paddock-this will also hopefully help me from spraining my back like I did caring for Professor Otis Littlebery in his final days. And there was a pee proof cushion which might really help him-since he likes to have a fusion of bedding under him when he goes to lay down [a painful process to watch]. And the lifter is something I could have used a million times over the years so will be put to other Misfit uses I'm sure.

So those items are en route.

This kind stranger was so happy to be able to do this-and it was infectious to feel that happiness of a simple offering to another human being and their charges. It reminded me how much good is in this world, and that kind deeds are for the recipient but they also heal and help the giver. Accepting the gifts of another person, even a stranger, to me is an act of grace and with grace comes love and peace on both ends.

She's no longer stranger to us. We call her Tripod's Friend. And we thank her!

{If you want to help me in my animal work, visit the funding page. You can also contact me for other methods of donation.}

Don't wake the sleeping princess!

Her royal highness was already in bed at 4pm feedings and was not pleased that I interrupted her beauty sleep. As my mother used to say,

"Oh, that pig!"

Monday, May 01, 2017

Another elephant needs a home

Looking for love
Nuffy is learning to walk. But with that nose it can be a bit of a bumpy road. She is unafraid though.

Nuffy knew her mother briefly. She wishes she was still here, but her mother taught her well and that anytime she sees a tulip, that will be her, or when she smells cinnamon, that will be her. Nuffy also thinks that white clouds with grey spots are her mother so she really sees her often.

She would like to be adopted by a home with elephants, but if that is not possible, she just wants to be her ownself and be all elephanty and not told to be quiet or not play with her trunk.

Nuffy is needle felted with the wool of one of Apifera's grande dams, Annah Assumpta, a beautiful Leister sheep. Her body is sturdy and is made by refurbishing and needle felting over a vintage stuffed doll form a Paris flea market. The insides are excelsior shavings giving her body a firm feel. Her arm and leg joints move. She can stand, with some help. She's about 15" tall.

Visit the shop to bring Nuffy home.