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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, June 30, 2019


It is what she does. She suns, she naps, she sits looking out of whatever is in front of her. Her vista becomes what is in front of her. Like an elder woman confined to a front porch, she awaits her meals that are brought to her, and needs some help to get up each day. But all and all, I believe she is still content, for now. One day at a time.

As she fades, she is the first I look for her each morning when I open the barn door.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The choir sings to the animals...was that a dream of sorts?

Yesterday was perhaps one of the most memorable times at Apifera in our many years of existence. It was one of those days where the glow began from the first moment, spontaneous encounters happened each step of the way, and by the ending it was like...a dream of sorts.

The Homeward Bound Hospice Choir  came to sing to all the animals. I had met them through one of our volunteers, also in the choir. The choir is a group of people from all walks who volunteer their time and heart, and voice, to sing to people in hospice. When I came into touch with this group, I immediately asked if they might come and sing to the animals. They immediately agreed and sent me a date that would work-that date turned out to be yesterday, which was also Birdie's birthday. Hankies!

Now, normally when I have a group coming, I might rearrange animals into paddocks or barns so the people can see them up close. But on this day, I made a conscientious choice to let the animals be...as they are...I let the donkeys and Boone go to their fields, knowing that if the energy was right, they'd come up when they heard singing. And they did. More on that later.

I had old Else and the elder gang, and Opie and The Goose, in the orchard, and that is where we began. In some ways, this was the most touching scene for me. I had packed lots of tissues in my vest, and hoped I'd get through the day without becoming a blubber fest. Else is on her last summer, I am pretty certain of that. She enjoys the sun, and spends most of the time laying down, which she was doing in the clover and grass when the choir entered her area. I was busy doing something and when I looked up, the choir and lined up in front of Else, and that is where they first began to sing. It was as if Else was there just for them, and vice versa. And then The Goose arrived, voicing, or singing, but also checking in on Else, which he does regularly.

We went on to sing to the llamas, Arlo infatuated them all, and then on to sing to Earnest who greeted each singer through the gate, and even did a belly flop [a sign of true pig happiness]. White Dog was next and he of course loved it, The Teapot was as I thought she would be, The Teapot, snorting and chewing her hay. And then into the equine area. The donkeys and Boone were in the lower fields. I suggested the group begin to sing, and I did yell down to the field to get their attention. Old Matilda began her slow walk up about 400 or so feet, and that alerted the donkeys to come up. I knew that Boone would most likely wait, and in Boone fashion canter up in a beautiful Boone way, and he did-and that was a beautiful moment. The donkeys were right close to the singers, and Matilda especially won their hearts.

And then, we sang Happy Birthday to the nearby resting spot of Birdie. I made the entire day without a blubber, till then.

The day hung on even after they left, it was a glow, a glow that comes after certain special encounters, or music concerts or gatherings. I think what I felt the most strongly, after I had time to gather my thoughts, was that...this is truly where we were meant to move to, this exact spot, at this exact time. The scary reality of leaving the old farm, the pit in my stomach when I was the only one who knew we were moving to Maine and I knew it was a calling of some kind and once I expressed it out loud all hell would break loose...all that turmoil ended up landing us in a place that could bring us to this moment.

The other thought I had was, all the animals, and me, we are a bunch of bodies walking around, but we are so connected, like a string of old pearls...I have heard people repeatedly say it is a magical place and I believe it is magical-because the idea of what Apifera started as long ago came from my child's heart, and it has remained true to that essence and intent. One of the reasons I am not interested in having an open farm event every week, nor do I accept people's pleas to visit [or very rarely] is because this is my haven, this is where my heart lives entwined with the trees, fields and creatures-it fuels me to create and write, but I also fuel the creatures with my intentions-and they turn around and act the way they did yesterday. They didn't do any special tricks...but what resonated with the guests, I believe, is the pureness of my intent that is channeled through the animals and is demonstrated by their gentleness, their acceptance and enjoyment of the people. Animals know our intentions. And one of my intentions with my animals, is while I teach them boundaries [ie ground manners that are and aren't acceptable] I allow them to be...just be who and what they are at that moment...a grumpy pig or cat, a sour little spitfire pony, a young llama learning the do's and don'ts.

I also am a firm believer that music is a healer and communicator on so many levels-for all creatures including people. When I worked with Boone, I often sang to keep his canter or trot going. Mothers have been soothing babies for centuries this way, music is a rhythmic cue to our animals. And of course music is a vibration and I believe it connects us with our souls of long ago.

The entire day was 'pure'...of pure intent. It wasn't about propping photos for social media and marketing [although we all did take pic and video, thank goodness], it wasn't yoga for baby goats to gimmick us into the paper, it was pure and raggedy and imperfect. I loved the choir-they are not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they are just sweet people singing, a note or two off, it was so Apifera.
Oh, I should mention the song choices were all spot on....including "Angels Hovering Around".

So there you have it. They came, they sang...and I can guarantee not one of them left here without a buzz.

Monday, June 24, 2019

I embraced winter so I guess I can embrace this

The Goose and Miss Lilac both stunning

Many years ago, when I was living as a single woman in my little Minneapolis bungalow, I made choice to embrace winter. I actually loved winter, but it could and can get to you, especially when I lived alone and had to shovel and all that. But I began walking almost everyday, no matter the temp. The other day as the weather warmed, and a flock of mosquitoes - or are they a herd since they are as big as elephants this year?- followed me everywhere, I decided I had to embrace summer.

Summer is my least favorite season, always has been. I have fair skin so heat and sun are hard for me. Humidity, which thankfully midcoast doesn't suffer too much from, kills me, literally shuts me down. If it is over 78 and sunny, I slow way down mentally. The flies leave scars on me no matter what protections I take.

But this year, I decided to start focusing more on small elements of summer. I have no trouble loving the snow, I need to open up to...heat? Anyway, I have been relishing many things this year. It was the most beautiful spring we've had since arriving in 2016, and the garden is already gorgeous. Last night, we saw our first fireflies. I walk the garden twice daily, and love my time with Martyn examining things we've planted and nurtured. Yesterday, I held a yellowtail for seconds.

I can also say that the mosquito traps we've found are working, for small areas, so I also embrace those.

Matilda in the seas of Runaculous

Arlo embraces summer by rolling in the pile of dirt

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Arlo shines in the spotlight and a shift occurs

No words needed
Arlo has felt the power of love, of being touched. Yesterday we had a wonderful first therapy session of the summer season, and it was Arlo's first official group get together. He was a star! He behaved very well, and lasted about 30 minutes before getting itchy young llama syndrome, but I was really proud of him, and me I guess–all our work together paid off and we still have a lot to do together but he was very good. What was most wonderful is he enjoyed it, and gravitated to people, gave kisses, and wowed everyone with his long neck and soft wool.

It was a new group of elders and most of them were in walkers or wheelchairs, one woman was blind, some had difficulty speaking due to stroke [I assume], but even those people were able to communicate their joy around the animals. The group could not have been sweeter, and responsive to their outing-they were very happy to be there. They came all the way from Camden, which is up the coast about an hour. One of the women had grown up on a farm, and had a horse, which she had named "Pony" because she was only four years old, so she communed with Boone a lot. I was so pleased to have five volunteers, which made it possible for the first time to have Boone and Teapot in the paddock, then we brought Matilda and Paco into the orchard first. Matilda loves people and is usually very calm and special at these things, but she and the minis have become a bit herd bound so she was wondering why she was there alone, and she also liked the grass. So she did great, but I felt bad they didn't get a better sense of her true gifts. They loved her, and her deep eyes. They told her she was beautiful. Then I went and brought the little goats out, which was a hit because they all ran in and it was a fun scene for everyone. We brought Ollie out on a lead too, and he was very happy to partake. And then, I went and got Arlo.

I left Luna in the barn, since I knew it might distract him, and Luna is a real worrier. I could hear her humming the whole time. Argo came in and I let him stand and look at all the people and wheelchairs for a few minutes, and then he did his thing. One by one we visited each person, and he reached down to touch their faces. There were a couple times where I got verklempt, not only because it felt like Birdie was there, but also, I was just so proud of him. I have been training him not to lean into me, and he has been very good, but a few times he came to me for reassurance, and it was ok. He just did great.

Once again, I saw the power of how animals opening people up to share story–and how sharing story opens us all up to listening to others, learning and seeing our common grounds. By sharing story, the elders feel heard, and we all want to be heard.

At the end of the day I asked everyone if they had a favorite animal on the visit..."the llama".

I returned Arlo to the field with Luna, and let the donkeys out too. Arlo proceeded to chase everyone around, to the delight of the guests. He then went into a young male romp, rolling, head and neck twirls like llamas do, and the guests -all lined up in the chairs-sat watching, oohing and awing like we were at a parade with fireworks.

It was such perfect way to start his career. I told him so many times that night that I was proud of him. I also sensed that night when I went out to feed, that our relationship had shifted ever so slightly, like it does when you work with an animal as a team. I sensed he 'got it'.

And so, it begins.

Boone communed with a woman that had a horse as a child

They told Matilda she was beautiful

Arlo's career begins

I felt Birdie at any times

Ollie examines the oxygen cord as Opie looks on

Monday, June 17, 2019

Summer's first therapy visit...and we Birdie On

I am excited for our Wednesday visit, with a group of elder residents coming down from Camden. This is a day of firsts in that it is the first farm visit where there will be a hole where Birdie once stood. But we will have Arlo at his first official therapy day. I plan to also bring in Matilda, and maybe Paco as this group seems enthusiastic about bigger animals.

I am excited but found myself feeling anxious this weekend. I began to realize it was partially sadness that Birdie-a natural at these things-was not there as my partner. I never had to think with her, she was a lady and a love star. With Arlo, he is in training, but is doing very well and I have had people over to due test runs with him. But I will have to watch to make sure he doesn't wear out. And Luna will have to be in the barn I think so she doesn't get anxious and then he will get anxious. He likes people and is also behaving well with learning his ground manners. I have several volunteers coming so am also feeling good and appreciative about that since this day will take some moving animals around. I'd like to have Ollie in the mix too but he is getting so big and is like a giant puppy, so he will be on a halter for control.

I think I miss Birdie more than any animal I've ever known and loved and lost. I think because we were partners, right through her illness and death. But, there is only one thing to do, Birdie On...and I know Arlo is going to bring smiles. He is so soft, and he is caring. The other baby female llama is supposed to be coming this week or very soon and she will be fun to train. She is also black as is her elder mom who is coming. We will then have two elders who will live out their months or years with us–it is hard to know how long they will live but they are up there on the age scale-and the two youngsters. I still would like one more, a white faced or speckled/white one. Selfishly I miss seeing a white llama. So I am putting it out to the old universe, and Birdie. I'm in no rush, and just am keeping my eyes and heart open for that final llama to add to our family.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

I once was a shepherdess

Little Sylvia Pettini is now three and she has blossomed and grown well, even her bad eye is normal. She had a rough start–she almost died after her now retired mother, Calla, who also lives here, rejected her and had mastitis. Sometimes I have to look twice as they look so much alike. Their wool is beautiful. She and her elder mother will live out their days here.

Of the many faces of animals that I've known since living at Apifera it is perhaps the faces of my old flock out West that come to me more often than you might think. I think this is because for starters, I raised them, I watched them get old, I buried them. We were a team. Until you've raised livestock-for whatever your reasons-you will not understand, it is not the same as owning sheep or livestock, raising them is an entirely different relationship. I suppose too one's intent in raising animals is entwined in the outcome. I loved being a shepherdess, as hard as it could be. I loved being their flock leader. One of the hardest parts in leaving the old farm was leaving my flock. I knew it was unfair to bring them to Maine and was unsure of what our land was like here. I did the right thing. They were hair she and it makes more sense to have wool sheep here I think. I chose to euthanize my two weakest and oldest ewes who were on their last year, but I wanted that end to be with me.

I sent some of my flock to live with young farm family and the rest, including that year's lamb's stayed with the new owner. I had many communings with my girls before we left, and I know they wanted to stay-it was the land they had been born on, it was what they as a flock were embedded in-their mothers and sisters, sometimes children or great grandmothers were buried there. While they respected my place in the flock, it was the land that was their true bond.

Besides learning about animal husbandry and all that goes with it-lambing, medicines, fixing broken legs, saving a sheep torn up by a dog, sewing up a prolapsed vagina to name just some of the acquired skills-I learned so much about animals and my place as a human amongst animals by raising sheep. It helped me clearly understand my specific place in the Nature, on Earth. Having been a vegetarian for seven years before moving to the farm, it helped me sort out the conflict of loving animals, and eating some. Some of you might not understand that, some of you might be angered by that...but you are you and I am me and I am grateful I got to live on a farm and watch Nature-not control it or demand it fit my morals-and decide what was right for me and our farm. Some people never get the chance to live emerged in Nature and land so I am grateful for that time there as a shepherdess. I don't miss lambing though or all that went with it, it was a beautiful time of my life, and now I have shifted ever so slightly to be exactly where I am meant to be, still in Nature amongst animals, and elders–but I come with those years of experiences that shaped me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Another art giveaway to help Apifera

For the coming weeks I will be offering an art print to someone-all you have to do is donate that week and once the pot hits a certain amount one person will take home a print. This piece is 11 x 14". Once we gather $750 from donations [ we are already at $300 or so at this writing, someone will take it home-and this week Earnest will pick the winner. We are collecting donation on this give away through the week.

So donate here if you can. You an also send a check [just let me know]

We are of course always in need of bringing in donations for feed and vet care among other things, but this summer we are putting up the final barn addition which is going to total $20,000 so we need to keep our regular fund healthy for the animal care. Thank you again to all who support and follow our work here at Apifera!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Living with Goats [Prepare to Share your Sandwich]

I have been writing a monthly article "Tails & Tales from Apifera Farm" for our regional paper The Lincoln County News. Since many of you that follow me have no need to subscribe to the paper, I will be republishing the articles one month after they come out in the paper. This article was from March. Enjoy.

Buy a whole bunch of pasture fence. Make sure it's five foot tall or higher. Spend your whole weekend getting it up. Run electric wire on the top and bottom of the fence.

Put the goat in the fenced pasture. Explain to the goat that this is her goat-side, and over there, that is your human-side. Explain to her what an electric current is. Goats are very smart and appreciate facts, even if they often ignore them.

You are now tired, but also pleased with accomplishing your new goat-proof fence. Make a good sandwich, preferably with home grown tomatoes and good bread. Get your lawn chair.

Sit in your lawn chair and enjoy your sandwich.

As you chew, notice the goat roaming in the nicely fenced pasture you just finished especially for her. Call out to her,

"Hello dear Goat! I see you!"

Enjoy the sweet sounds of the goat calling back to you in goat bleeps. I will translate:

"Hello!" says the goat. "I see you too! What are you eating? You are so close, I can smell the bread! I love bread. I'll be right there! OH! Ouch! Electric current, no problem, it's over now. Oh look! Here I am right by your chair, I will join you and your sandwich."

Say nice things to the goat, then lead her back to the pasture with a bit of the bread. Ask her if she learned that touching the electric fence has consequences. Explain to her in clearer terms why this is her side of the fence and that over there is your side of the fence. As you turn around to leave, you swear you can hear laughing.

Return to your lawn chair. Gather up your sandwich, anticipating the fresh bread and tomato melting in your mouth. Look over at the goat pasture. Oh good, she is still there and clearly understands the rules now. Close your eyes as you chew your sandwich. It is a beautiful day and you have so much to do but
you have a few minutes of peace and quiet to just sit in the sun, and doze for a few minutes.

But wait, you hear foot steps behind you.

"Hello! I'm right here with you again!" says the goat. “I did it right this time though. I went under the fence, no electric shock. No consequences!”

Try to refrain from yelling, harshness gets you nowhere with a goat. Accept that your goat simply wants to be with you, and your half eaten sandwich. Forget about the comfortable lawn chair, and walk back to the pasture with your goat. Find a good rock to sit on. It is warm from the sun and feels mighty fine on your old bum. Sit and share the rest of your sandwich with your goat.

Friday, June 07, 2019

More Llama Love arriving!

Hours after being born-look at those legs!
This sweet girl and her mom are coming to Apifera! She was born on Wednesday and we have been waiting for what seems forever but she finally popped out. These pics were taken hours after. She is pure black.

When Birdie died and I began looking for more llamas, I quickly found that it is hard to find them in Maine. So I began to really pursue llama people in New England as I didn't want to go too long without a llama. I also knew I wanted more than one, and if one died, I would not be llama less.

So I found a woman with the young male now known as Arlo, and she gave me the 19 year old we now call Luna. Luna is old, she could live to be 25, or not. SO when I picked out Arlo and Luna, I also was on board to take another elder llama and her baby. The elder llama is 19 which is a bit up there for having a baby and I won't go into details-but there is no 'bad human' story here–and the baby was born healthy and all is well.

Argo can not be gelded until he is at least one and a half, it has to do with his ones and joints forming properly. This of course means I have to separate him out very soon from Luna and will do so once the baby and mama arrive in coming weeks. I was hoping for a girl, as I really didn't want to train two in tact males. I was also hoping for more white, but...I think this is exactly as it is meant to be. A black llama is so different than Birdie and it will remind me of that, that she is her own llama this little girl.

Argo has been doing so well, in fact, I had a volunteer come this week and I wanted to see how he would be with a newcomer in a therapy setting and he was great. i really think he is going to be a good therapy llama. He is inquisitive but has learned boundaries well-something I work on everyday. He is gentle with his head and not spooky. Luna is also getting settled, she is not scared, just a bit shy. She will not be a therapy llama, her job here is to be herself and retire with ease.

I am excited to meet her. I will have lots to do this summer but what a gift!

Hours after being born
One of our volunteers gets to know Arlo

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

When your office is a port potty

If you have followed along you know that The Puppet has always been enamored by the Porta Potty. Out West, we would rent one every year for the infamous Pino Pie Party, and The Puppet just loved it, and would decorate it and sit in it and sing to it...it was always fun the day the Porta Potty arrived. The puppet was quite sad when we had our final Pie Party, understanding his ports potty days might be over.

But they are back, and now in Maine we have decided to have a porta potty for the entire summer season! The Puppet is beside himself. In fact, he asked for permission to put his office in there for the summer. I did not know he had an office but he leads a mysterious life when out of my site despite the fact he is basically a sock.

Anyway, if you want to become a Porta Potty Queen, and you know you do, you can donate $125 to help defray the monthly cost,and you will get a Porta Potty Queen button which you can wear with pride.

{And thank you to our current Porta Potty Queens!}

If you prefer to send a check make it to Apifera Farm Inc.
315 Waldoboro RD, Bremen ME 04551
You will get a receipt immediately after arrival.

Our EIN # 82-2236486

Monday, June 03, 2019

Black fly woman

The black flies are horrible this year. I am very sensitive to any bugs, and ever since a child get huge welts no matter the terrorists that bit me. The black fly season is winding down. Thank God. But wait, that means we are getting ready for biting fly season!

This is my portrait of me and black fly bites. I was pleased at how I got my dropping jawbones.