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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, October 30, 2020

A perfect death for Twinky, and I was there

Twinky died, and I was honored to be holding her in her final moments. This is what I wrote about her on her arrival in July:

We took on another elder into the elder cat suite and she is a dear. She is 18 and I'm told to consider this a hospice case. Twinky was living her whole life with a couple, who grew older, but they had taken her to the vet right up to about 6 months from her arrival here. I can't go into detail, but there was some real drama and trauma in those last 6 months or more in her household with her people. The husband died, and the woman had to go into a facility.

It is believed she has stomach or intestine cancer which has been causing diarrhea, and she is on a steroid. I have not witnessed any, so let's hope. But no matter, we will take care of her. She is very lady like to get her pill so that is good. I spoke to her on arrival and told her I knew there had been traumatic events in the house. Who knows what parts of those events she witnessed. But I wanted to acknowledge them.
I knew it was coming a day ago. She had been sleeping more than normal, and when she got up to see me that morning, she fell to her side. But she was in no distress with breathing or actions. She was so tiny. At first, I was thinking, "Really? Another one, can we just go a month?"
But then of course, I moved on from that thought. You don't take elder-very elder-cats from the shelter with health issues thinking they will some how go on. But I also realized, I was able to give her exactly what I had intended to give her-a place to open up enough to feel the love and safety, and to release when her body gave out. It is why we do what we do, or I do. The idea of her in the shelter, with more sounds and louder activity, possibly in  a crate in the end due to her condition, it is our intent to get them out of there so they can die in a more homelike setting [the shelter people are hard working, caring, animal lovers, don't get me wrong, but they too love that we can help with these seniors that really aren't adoptable for most people].

When I held her and sang to here here, she was pretty much transcending, you see how her eyes are like glass, and I touched them-a sure sign her body is shutting down. I was so glad I was there. It was quiet and peaceful and who was lurking above me on the upper shelf? Walter. Perhaps he is taking up the work of our beloved nurse, Noritsu.

So on we go.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Anti anxiety tips...you don't even need donkeys

To those who do not want to talk politics, that is not what this post is about. It is about normal everyday life anxiety compounded by extreme situation our country, and world, is in. And how to take teeny steps to combat it.

Just becasue I'm hanging out with the sensitive donkeys who are experts at slowing down the pace of life, doesn't mean I'm not human with a full set of raging anxiety right now. I'm blessed to be outside, not locked up, and to be able to do chores around my farm and animals. And I still have an income as does Martyn. We are healthy and trying to stay that way [please, wear the mask, or stay in].

The last time I felt this feeling, my father was in home hospice back in 2008. I would get a tightnss in my chest, and fluttering. Of course I thought I was having heart issues, which I wasn't. I began to realize a few weeks ago that the anxiety was building in me. So I began to confront it. I was waking up each morning and realizing my body was sort of lightly vibrating. I get plenty of sleep but this was sort of like the feeling of being anxious about the first day of school.

I cut back on my morning coffee to two full cups. Cut back a tish on the wine at night. That sort of helped, but I realized I was letting stuff live in my head too much. I needed to tweek my daily encounters.

Like many Americans, I have been finding my anxiety levels are ebbing and flowing. There is so much going on in our country, with the pandemic, that comes with so many depressing things to deal with-separation from family, illness, fear, death, lack of income...on and on. And of course there is the chaos in the country right now, and our divisive political world. I've tried really diligently to understand other people's reasons for supporting one person over another. As someone who has lived in Yamhill County out west, a very red area, I got to know a lot of people that had very different views than I did. But it was different then. It was not as divisive, or fear driven. But I learned to understand why many people did not like certain political views, or candidates, or parties. It was very renegade there, and it is similar in many ways to Maine, even though where we live in Mid Coast it is very blue.

I always read the news in the morning. I go to the Times first and read it more thoroughly, then see what other papers are reporting, including even Fox News-just to keep track of that other perspective that feeds many Americans. But I started to not read anything that had not happened. In other words, if an article headline was, "What will happen if a candidate refuses to leave office"...I don't read it. I did months ago. But now, I realize reading 'what if's' is not healthy, and until it happens, there is no reason to have it compound my head and heart. This is of course a Buddhist teaching, but it is also very donkey. Be more donkey.

I only read polls on Five Thirty Eight, that are averaged and ranked. I never read an article about one breaking poll [whether they are good or bad for my candidate].

 Find something you like to do with your hands and do it daily.

I look for one tiny morsal of common ground when I feel my hair on my neck bristling. I heard a Trump supporter, an earnest sounding man in the midwest, state that he was really, really scared what would happen to the country if Biden wins. I mean, he was genuinely scared, and cared about his country. And I thought, okay, we have something in common-I know what that fear feels like because I too have it, it's just that I feel that about his candidate winning.

We have to find common ground when this is over. And it will start in our communities if it has not already.

And speaking of communities, the signs are going up all around. More than 4 years ago. We never put them up-this year especially I fear someone might throw something into the animal pastures...it's that crazy out there. I know of people that are voting for Trump here. With one in particular, I was really surprised, and yes, I was disappointed to see the sign go up in their yard. I thought about asking to just have a fireside chat together, because I was trying to understand. But I decided hat is very pompous of me. She has her reasons. I don't know what they are, and at this stage I don't need or want to know. Maine NPR has been doing a wonderful segment every week or so where three Americans come on, and without being labeled as liberal or right, or this or that, they talk. And at the end of the show, they say who they are voting for. And it wasn't always obvious. But they were discussions, and it helped show them as people with their own brains and thoughts and opinions.

Anyway, the anxiety. Limit the news more. Don't worry about something if it hasn't happened yet. And take time to be freaked out, but when you feel it, breath in. And out. Move your head side to side. Free dance in your chair. And don't look at single polls. 

We will vote on Tuesday at our small town hall, there are 600 residents in our village and I like the feeling of voting in person. I am a bundle of nerves and fear and excitement. But I'm also focusing on what i'm doing here at the farm, with the animals and people. I'm sure many of the elders I visit are on another side than I am, and I could not even think of not wantitng to share Harry and love and empathy with them.

Seek the common ground.

I also suggest watching the movie "The Trouble With Angels".

And of course, if you can find a nearby donkey, just follow their lead.

Buckle up, America.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Earnest the pig worries about Pickles and her pumpkin...The Great Pumpkin Contest Part II


Teeny Pickles and Earnest's pumpkin

“Mrs. Dunn, may I speak to you?” I heard through the cracked window in the living room.

It was Earnest the pig, standing on the front stoop. “It’s about our pumpkin contest. I’m concerned,” he said.

Earnest and little Pickles the goat were having a pumpkin contest. I was to name the winning pumpkin later in the day. Earnest had wanted to be part of the local Pumpkin Festival, but due to the pandemic, there was no festival, but they still had a pumpkin contest. I swayed Earnest to have a contest here at the farm instead...telling him if he won he would also get a grilled cheese and cucumber sandwich from Eider’s–I was reminded of when I wanted to go to a Monkee concert when I was eight, requiring my father’s chaperoning me along with a bunch of little squealing girls. He sat me down and gave me a choice– I could have all three Monkee records, or concert tickets. I picked the records, and I know he was relieved.

“What are you worried about, Earnest?” I asked.

“My pumpkin is clearly the biggest. And Pickles can’t stop talking about her beloved pumpkin. She even named it Teeny Pickles,” he said. “I think we should adjust the rules. Can’t we have a ribbon for roundest pumpkin, and one for happiest pumpkin?” he asked. “That way, we will both be winners.”

“But maybe your pumpkin is both the roundest, and the happiest?” I asked.

“Oh, my pumpkin is not the happiest, I know this,” said the pig. “Pickle’s pumpkin is the happiest.”

“It’s kind of cheating, isn’t it? Or maybe being a bit dishonest?” I asked.

“She is so happy about her pumpkin–I don’t want to scar her little soul for life. She even named her pumpkin Teeny Pickles”

“Well, that is taking the high road, Earnest. Go tell everyone to meet in the pumpkin patch in one hour,” I said.

I whipped up some blue paper ribbons, one said, happiest, and one said, roundest. In precisely one minute before the hour was up, the animals had gathered at the pumpkin patch.

Pickles came leaping over everyone and everything to be by Teeny Pickles. She put her ear to the little pumpkin, then she stared to squeal with joy. “Teeny Pickles just told me a joke!” said Pickles. “Who helps little pumpkins cross the road safely? The crossing gourd!” and she and Teeny Pickles rolled on the ground laughing.

I guess she is a happy pumpkin, I thought.

“Ok, everyone! I now announce that the roundest pumpkin goes to Earnest’s entry, and the happiest pumpkin goes to Pickles entry,” and I handed out the ribbons.

“What will you do with your pumpkin, Earnest?” Pickles asked.

“Well, I will eat him,” he said.

Pickles gasped. And she ran with her little pumpkin back to the safety of the barn.

I figured I would help Pickles understand that sooner or later, something was going to eat her beloved pumpkin...but now was not the time.


Pickles and her Teeny Pickles

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dead Puppets


I am working on my Raggedy Creatures, and what I'm calling Dead Puppets. I don't care what anybody thinks. People can be funny about puppets, they don't know what to think about them. Kind of like some people feel about clowns [my mother would rush out of any room or store if she saw a clown, it was pretty funny]. I kept waking up and thinking about the term Dead Puppets. I thought, oh maybe I should refer tot hem as Heavenly Puppets or something, but I stuck with Dead Puppets. I want to make sets and stuff. I just want to focus on them for awhile. I have no idea where it will lead, or not. it is important to work on them right now, for me.

Monday, October 19, 2020

A beautiful poem was sent to me

 If you follow along on social media, you know it has been a lot of loss-one right after the other. We were just catching our breath when Noritsu died suddenly this weekend. You might recall how important his presence was to me in the elder cat suite-I called him my "nurse" as each time an elder was hospiced, Noritsu was there to nurse too, and nurse me. I will, and do, miss him greatly. Some have said it isn't fair. It can seem like that, or it can seem like someone or some entity is sending messages through these deaths–am I doing it not up to your standards? But being partially composod of magic dust and mystery, and partially composed of science, I see it as part of the deal when living amongst the elders, or compromised. Even with that knowledge, and respect for Nature's way, it was, is sad. I am sad about him leaving.

So it was beautiful to get this poem from a friend's poet partner, Dag. I am deeply moved by it, and am going to frame it, maybe I'll put it in the barn too. If you are willing, take a breath, and read it out loud, as poems should be. 


~Poet, Dag T. Straumsvåg ~

I didn’t know you
wearing your nurse’s white coat
your eyes always wise
& calm in pictures
watching over someone else
next to Katherine
in the elder suite
I knew a cat called Nusse
looking just like you
with winter coming
& the season’s first snow
falling over us
I’ll think about you
Noritsu Nusse Birdie
Old Sophie and see
you in each snowflake
beautiful & different
from all the others

~ October 18, 2020 ~

Thursday, October 15, 2020

One foot in front of the other, we are retredding our soles

Morning broke over the herd, minus one

The beautiful sun shone over the herd this morning, sans Honey. We are not sad. We are just regrouping, retredding our soles. She would have suffered this winter. And we are relieved she will not.

This morning was a beautiful day. So was yesterday, old Honey's death day. We buried her in the back paddock. She was able to see her buddies in the next paddock, and she had some apples before the sedation was streamed into her. She went down fast. She did not fight it. Afterwards, al the equines were let in to smell her and inspect the grave. Boone spent the most time with her, smelling her open eye, her body...then he walked off.

This morning felt like a quiet relief. I say 'quiet' because the day after death there is sort of this feeling of relief, but also a tiredness. You don't realize how it can stress you out and it effects your body. I wasn't stressed about the decision, it was the right decision for her, but it is the 'knowing' it is coming, it is knowing you are responsible for her death. We did all we could do for her, she just could not put on weight. She was famished, I think, devouring 10# of food a day plus trying to eat hay which ended up in cigar spit outs since she had no teeth. Soaked alfalfa did not work either. She had minerals and teeth work and blood tests.

She was old and her body was done.

I told her that it was her journey day. I like to think of it that way, for her, for me and any loved one or loved creature. The leaf drops off a tree and travels, travels, travels, finally landing in a new spot, a new world, then gets blown a bit by the wind, and covered some day in rain as it decomposes into the dirt. It feeds a worm who tills the underworld. And that energy never dies, it just gets recycled over and over.

I hope to take tomorrow and just work with the ponies, setting up a beginning obstacle course, or at least some small jumps. I'm way behind on it, I've been talking about it for months. Talk is cheap. Captain Sparkle and The Teapot could use the fun, and discipline. I can't wait for the snow to do some pony runs.

Boone smells Honey's body before going off to graze


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mister Mosely and Nurse Cratchet update


Mister Mosely has been a very tolerant patient. SInce we brought him home, I have been hand feeding him a mash, along with some high calorie substenance. So he's getting 150-200 calories a day, or that is the goal. And this morning, Martyn saw him drinking and eating, and then I filmed him eating tuna. I was really happy. Plus he just seemed more himself. We are not out of the woods. And of course, he could still die of something soon or...not. We just don't know. He still has yellow skin but my understanding is that can take weeks or longer to go away. For now, I'm just so happy to be able to nurse him. Caretaking a creature, of any kind, like this is a bonding experience. I have always been bonded to him, but it intensifies the bond. There is a lot going on. Winter prep and just alot of little animal issues. Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Honey. Send us a prayer of wings.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Mister Mosely is home...and now we try

Mister Mosely came home late yesterday after three days at the vet. He was jaundice this past Sunday so I knew the slight weight loss was something to get checked out. But the scan showed  he has a dilated biliary duct. Firstly, there was fear it was a mucoseal which would have been the worst news, so we were relived it wasn't. He still had a chance to be treated. He is not in good enough condition to open him up and explore in a more probing way-looking for a stone, abscess, something blocking him to csue the coliostasis. A specialist was another option after the initial scan, meaning he'd be in the hospital for days or weeks, getting test after test, but I saw no sense in that, especially if he is not in good enough shape to undergo exploratory surgery or any surgery.

So we are treating him for things it might be, with antiobiotics and liver enhancing pills. 

And the struggle to get food in him is now the main goal of every day. 250 calories to be exact. Mose has always been a bit picky, but he was a good eater and that is another way we knew something was up-he wasn't getting up in the wee hours with Martyn for some milk for example. I got him to eat before we went to the vet and he ate there the frist two days.

So I went to the store today and bought as much different variety of stinky fish as I could. Smokes salmon, mackerel, Kippers...and he is letting me force feed him. The drugs he is on-the one that lasts one week-can cause a lack of appetite, so I will not give up until weeks are gone. I read about a cat that took five weeks to get back to eating right. 

It's one day at a time.

When I got him in the house, I held him forever and he was probably saying, "Um, Mum, really, put me down now I'm not a baby."

While I know that the end result might not be what we hope for, to be able to try...I'm so grateful I thought he would have to be put down when they told me he might have the mucoseal. That was a horrible 12 hours of waiting.

Mister Mosely was adopted from the shelter, while I was there picking up another elder they wanted me to take. I went into the cat area while they got paper work ready, and Mosely was sitting upright in a chair, looking at me. It was instantaneous. We already had brought home Omar and Oscar, and I didn't consult with Martyn, I just knew he was meant to come home with me. Looking back, I know he would have been adopted quickly, he'd been in the shelter for awhile having treatments and things. I walked in at the right time. 

So I remain optimistic, hopeful, grateful...but also realistic.

But I will do everything I can to get food in him. A feeding tube thing would have required surgery.

If you don't have love with them, there is no pain when they leave. So I will continue to love, and know that through the pain, there is always more love to give, and receive. Mister Mosely is my dream cat. He is like a pug version of a cat for me. He was supposed to be my cat, my long term cat as all the other elders we adopt pass through quickly. He was supposed to get old and cranky with me. But maybe Mosely knew he wasn't going to take that route, and somehow he masterminded it so I would walk into the shelter that day, and find him. I always thought I needed him, but maybe he needed me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

The Harry Chronicle! The llama now has a newspaper!

Harry and I have been working hard on the first issue of The Harry Chronicle, a full color newspaper that will promote joy, wisdom, humor, ideas and more. We came up with this idea as another unique way to help our elder friends who are still in lockdown. All the residences that Harry visits will get free delivery of the newspaper.

 It's an actual printed 24 page newspaper that will go to the elders. But I also have an online version for family or Apifera followers. I decided to make it free too, and hope that if people like the idea, they will share a donation with Apifera. 

Each printed issue costs about $1000 to print. I am paying for that out of my own business funds, not the non profits.

Harry is editor-in-chief, Pickles is proofreader, and I am everything else.

Our hope is to work with our activity directors so that each quarterly issue might include things from the elder homes-letters, stories, art-anyway that they feel they can reach out to Harry and the outside world.

The issue contains Paco Poetry, Harry Chats, Ask Harry, Stories from Apifera, photos and art, an Opinion section, and The Barnyard Dirt which is gossip from the barnyard. 

So feel free to share the link with anyone. And the actual newspapers just shipped to Harry today and should be here next week. He of course wants to deliver them llama style.

If you love Harry's paper idea, please consider a donation. Enjoy the paper!

Monday, October 05, 2020

I'm not even sure how to title this

I am sorry to report that Luna was put down. Deep breath on this end. We can’t be 100% sure but we think it was a combination of a tumor or abscess -the lump in the side of her throat) combined with choke. I did some things right when I first noticed it on Thursday, and the next morning she seemed ok but on feeding again she had trouble so I called vet. We were looking at old pics of her and could see a slight lump and think maybe this had been starting a few months back and since she was eating ok I just did not notice. 

Luna and Luci weren’t handled much so I do not examine or touch them like I do Harry and Arlo. So..I learned some new things on any future events. My vet -always kind- said not to beat myself up-even if I had called sooner the idea we could have done surgery on her going into winter on a very old body was not really practical. But if anything happened with the others I would know to act sooner-or she gave me some tests I can do before I did call to help assess. We put her down in the paddock-one has to think about getting her body out-and everyone was there that she is used too-Earnest watched, White Dog assisted my vet , Luci and Arlo who came with Luna watched...Harry in the distance. Damn it

I have decided it is best I also share two pieces of information with you, now. Because I am open here about the bad and the good, withholding the sad things is not healthy for me. I just know it is hard on some followers, but that is not my responsibility to care take that, and it becomes a burden on my soul to hold things. But if you can't handle more sad, best read elsewhere today. Firstly, my beloved Mister Mosely is at the vet today after I discovered this weekend he has yellow skin. There is no scenario that will be presented to me after initial tests that will likely be good, but I am praying we will be able to treat him [and there are some treatments for some scenarios]. Mister Mosely is so special to me. He is the cat equivalent of Hughie the pug. I'll be honest and say...I'm a bit ticked off. But I'm trying to stay in the light. But, really, Mister Mosely? Why? And of course, there is no answer, and it isn't personal but I do not want this. It wasn't suppose to happen. 

Secondly, it has become crystal clear that the right thing to do for old Honey the horse is to euthenize her before winter. She came out of last winter thinner than fall and many vet evaluations over the spring-summer-fall, dentistry work, diet changes, additional supplements, she is not gaining, she is loosing. We've done photos too every month. She is 30+. It is time. She has hardly any muscle and I can see her getting weaker even though she is still a pistol in the herd. But she simply can not digest her food anymore. It would be cruel to make her go through winter. And even with 4 coats on her, she would suffer. I have done my best for her in this last year. But it is time. While I was unsure in summer, I have no doubts this is the right thing. That will happen next week. 

One of the reasons I want to tell this upfront is if you can't handle all the loss here, combined with the volatility of the country right now, I just don't want to bring anyone further down. But I want to share the reality of life here. What I want more than anything is to help Mister Mosely. Entering the house without him was horrible. He and I are very bonded. He started acting a bit off a week ago, so I weighed him and he'd lost a pound. I made a health check up for next week. But then I found the yellow skin and was able to get squeezed in today with my vet [thank you!]. But now when I look back over the past days, the way he was looking at me did feel different. He was telling me he needed help. The car ride over, he was purring and content–that's so like him. I will do whatever I can for him. 

People ask how I can go through loss after loss. Sometimes, I can't. This one....this one might explode me. One thing I've learned about myself, since I am an optimist, is I tend to just keep going in a crisis, buck it up, but often I carry that around without sharing the load. Of course I tell Martyn, but I am the one that makes the final decisions, I am the caretaker and executioner. I am the one who walks around for the next coming days knowing I am going to put an animal down, and even though it is the right decision, it can eat away at you. I often crash the next day and have palpitations or a headache and realize how the holding it in can cause physical illness. I have begun to dance again to relieve stress, and deep breathing too.

I told Mister Mosely as we left, "Don't worry, I'll do the worrying." And I just sort of stopped in my tracks, and thought, man...I need some worry co-pilots I think. So that is why I'm telling you this. You can watch all the free videos of Pickles and Harry and songs and donkeys and joy but you also get a free look into the hard stuff and that goes with it.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

How do I keep doing it, she asked

You might have already read elsewhere that sweet little Fuzzy died. I knew she was dying a few days ago and she went into pretty much a death slumber 24 hours before formally passing. The video was right before her body finally let go. She was very much 'not here' and not in stress.

Sometimes people ask how I keep facing loss over and over. I guess you could ask the same of elder caregivers at residences. Someone once said people have to be wired for it.

I don't know.

I think maybe I am just at a place in my life where I can keep doing it, keep going on after a death. Some hit you really hard of course. Some are a relief when they pass [like Fuzzy, due to her chronic cyst issues I was relieved for her]. And I won't say one gets desensitzed to it the loss, one just evolves into the role.I still have so many charges here, that after I buried Fuzzy, I came back to the ct room and hung out with the other cats for awhile. They all need me.

Maybe that's reason enough. Other animals need me, need a place like Apifera, so you don't question going on. Maybe someday I will question it, but not now.

The video below is this morning's Walter Song. He came over to me everytime I was attending Fuzzy in the pass days, even more than Noritsu. I have noticed Walter has lost a teeny bit of wight. I asked him not to go yet. But then I told him I can't do that and it is out of my hands but I sure do like having him here.