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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Empathy doesn't mean you have to like someone to try to understand their feelings


I don't know. I am an optimist and I believe everything is a teaching moment in some way. I use this thought with my animals too, creating little interactive lessons when I'm doing basic chores. 

I think more than anything, I'm just...excited to move on. But I think it might also be a let down because when January 1 rolls in, we are still in this mess of the pandemic. The optimist in me knows it is fluid and it is going to get better, in time. But I have no real words of wisdom, except to always look at sad, bad, good or not so good times as a way to learn something, even if it is a tiny thing. So I guess we all have to do that for ourselves. 

I already know that I love my life, that it took time to build what I have in this life, that I am grateful, that I work hard to maintain what I have...I think all those feelings are intensified because of this year, and because of my work with the elders. Someday, I might be alone in a nursing home. I hope not but I could. A young volunteer will come in and tell me about her farm animals. And the inside of me will think about my animals. It can happen in a breath, to lose what you have. So my love of life, the farm, my art and writing, story telling, my animals, my husband, have all been intensified this year. 

To say, "Happy New Year' this year seems trite. 

My wish for you is health and the hope that your life gets out of neutral. 

My wish for the country is that we wake up and realize we need to learn, or relearn, or practice, active listening. And not listening to another person just so you can answer them, or defend your position, but that we all practice listening so we can begin to understand why that person feels or acts in a way that is different than what we like or believe. That is empathy. Being empathetic does not mean you have to like someone, or be their friend, it means you try to walk in their shoes and think, "Oh, I understand why you feel this way." That is what I tried to practice all year, and the past four of constant barage of noise. I failed a lot. But I'm going to keep trying. Social media is not the place to heal the divide. People need to to partake quietly in active listening, one person at a time. It is a skill to be practiced , we aren't born with it–it takes constant practice, for a lifetime. And it is hard work. Our heads-or mine anyway-is often zooming around thinking of how I want to answer, or it reminds me of something else and I want to bring it up...so it is a challenge. But imagine if we all got better at really listening and trying to understand why a person has the feelings they do-what happened in their life that gave them those feelings?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The name finally came to us

If you follow along on my other social platforms, IG and FB, you know about the beautiful roo I took on for someone. This was a risk, and I knew it. My little Seabright roo that came from the shelter last year, lives with the working girls, The Secret Sisters, in the main chicken coop. I thought another roo could be with the front semi-retired-lay-an-egg-twice-a-year elder hens...that would be Henneth the blind hen, Victoria, Marta, Mary and Mo. The Goose lives there too and I was a bit worried about that. But after one day of the two working it out, all is well. He is a gentleman and hopefully he will remain so. I do not handle him even though he was held in his former home. I've learned that works out fine until the two year old body kicks in and they can turn. He's lovely and I really love looking at him.

He came with a name, but I couldn't keep it. There was nothing wrong with his name but for many reasons it had to be changed. No offense if anyone is reading this who knew him in his former life.

So he is now R. Rhoades. The first family that homesteaded here in our 1760 house were Rhoades and many generations lived here after that. The ducks are referred to as The Rhoades Boys - all the boys in this house in the Civil War were in various battles. Four out of five died, one in Gettysburg. I've been to their graves. The mother went on to outlive them all and died at 101!

So I call him Roo alot. I had a Papa Roo out west, my first roo and he was a papa since he serviced all the ladies. He was a wonderful Bantie roo that gave me no trouble and lived a very long life, dying naturally.

But I like R. Rhoades. We'll stick to that.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

I am so glad that...

 I'm so glad we brought Officer Mittens into our world. It could have been a disaster, a kitten roaming the small home built for elves, with a decorated tree and two other cats and a large dog. The only kitten we had in our home was out West when we found Itty Bitty on the rural road side and she became a fixture-that all worked out, I thought, why not this kitten. But we had a bigger house then, with more of a flow. 

But from the moment he arrived, officer Mittens has taken not only to us and the animals, but to his home. He is clearly very content. He went from living in filth and overcrowded conditions, infested with worms and parasites, to being fed three times a day [he has gained over a pound since his arrival three weeks ago].

Sometimes you have to jump in with faith and it worked with Officer Mittens. It didn't work with Uncle Wally but I know he is in a better fitting home for his personality and needs. I have to admit that, I think our life here, in this smaller house with more cats inside, is more suited for the labs, and I love my labs and I miss having two. I suppose that might seem odd, a smaller house more suited to labs, you say? Bear is a year now and I do feel he grew up a bit quickly when the pug came for a week. I've been working with Bear on short training things-like sitting at my side and staying before I kick his soccar ball, or sitting by my side while I get ready for the day...just boundary and manners things. Bear wanted a pup of his own for Christmas, but the timing isn't right and I told him he has a bit more maturing to do so he can be a teacher to the new puppy, just like Huck was to Mud, and then Mud was to Huck. And I need time with him too, he needs me right now.

Officer Mittens makes me joyful. He is a muse. I miss Mister Mosely of course, what a cat he was, my dream cat, as I've said repeatedly. And one should never try to replace a pet, but be open to the new personality of the new one. Sometimes we fail at that, or we get a new pup or cat and it takes awhile to accept their true personality, versus what we had before. 

Mister Mittens is funny. He likes to nibble my toes at night if I stick them out of the covers, which I do. He likes to come sleep right by me. He likes to be loved, but he is independant-most Officers are.

I did this portrait of him, my first of him and think I somewhat captured him. Black animals are always hard to do, for me anyway.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Have a Harry Christmas

We are grateful for all the support of so many. I am blessed and graced to be able to live amongst my animals and share them with the elders, and share story and art through them with all of you. I could not ask for more. I truly am meant to be a story teller, part comedian, part crow, part grief counselor...it seems to be that all things have come together for that.

We are doing tonight what we do most nights, sitting together with the fire and good food and some spirits. I truly acknowledge every moment of it, with Martyn, and the animals because I know it will not always be here, this life, and I see couples apart due to age or illness, or death. While that fact is sobering it is also a gift as it keeps the perspective healthy-what we have this minute is what is to be acknowldeged.

The animals are sharing songs on Facebook and IG, so stop over there and enjoy the festivities. The week after Christmas is always my time to reflect on what I envision for the next year, as in goals and dreams, and improvements.

I delivered Harry's newspaper to the elders yesterday. I wish it could have been with Harry but it was too crazy over there and my activity director was too crazy-when I arrived at the front door, there were people with signs standing in front of their family's window to share some love. It is so hard. 

But we do plan after the holiday to get Harry over there to hold court in the front outdoor atrium. It is better than no Harry. For now, he has shared his ornaments, puzzles, newspapers and Harry pin ups with them. We also will start doing more Facetime with some of the biggest animal lovers there.

So be safe. Look for the silver lining. There is always something invisible percolating.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

It turns out I was a conduit for the pug....


I'm sorry to tell you that the old one eyed pug will not be staying at Apifera. I'm happy to tell you that he has found the perfect fitting home now, without pets or cats or kids. I need to be transperant with all of you, especially those who donated to the vet bill when his eye stitches popped [thank you,we raised the $700 needed to pay for emergency eye work].

 In some ways, it was an easy decision, in others, not. I just knew that he was not safe here, and my animals also deserve to live in their home without being harassed. We went over it a million times, and always came to the same conclusion-and he deserves a quiet home, with his very own human-that is what he wants.
I can tell you that each of the nine days he was here, I loved him and helped him as best I could. I was able to show him he was ok, he was not being left. 
Is it still a Christmas miracle, as I wrote on his arrival? You know I'm an optimist, and I believe in the wisdom of the universe, and I do still see it as a miracle, because it got him out of the bad situation he was in -quickly-and he got stablized so to speak in order to finish his journey to his real home that waited for him. I thought it was our home, but it wasn't, I was a conduit.
I'm not really sad, because as the mama bear of the house, I like knowing everyone is happy and safe. ..and now they are, including him. It's just kind of a blur. I'm just kind of worn out. But it was the best decision for him, and our animals. Am I disappointed....yes. Am I relieved too...yes. Did I do my best...yes. Is he safe...yes. Are my animals safe...yes. Did I shed a tear...yes.
I loved him. And cared for him. He will probably get a new name which is fitting. But for 9 days, he was Uncle Wally.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The perfect imperfect tree

"It's a perfect day for tree searching, Pino," I said as I grabbed his halter.

 "Yes, I agree," his donkey ears said. Even though I don't rank days by perfection, they are all worthy of something, Pino thought to himself.

We set off into The Wood. December had been warm, but crisp, leaving the ground perfect for walking without slipping.

 I saw a perfect tree-tall, full at the base and formed well, with no real gaping holes at its side. 

"It's too tall," Mr. Dunn said from behind us, holding his saw. 

It was the first time I had rigged up a makeshift hay twine harness on Pino, nothing fancy, so I didn't want to go very far this first time out.

 Suddenly, Pino stopped. When Pino stops it can be for many reasons, but I could tell by his ears pricking forward, his stopping had meaning to our mission.

"Do you see one?" I asked him. His ears pricked backwards to me, then forward again as he stared at a tree. 

I walked to a little mishapen, crooked tree, one that would never be in a Christmas pagent.

"It's the right height," Mr. Dunn said. “ But it's not very full, should we look a bit longer?"

We started walking again, but Pino didn’t budge. I turned again to look at the little tree, and with a fresh perspective could see the charm of her crooked, sparse branches.

 Pino was quiet, and we both stood looking at the little tree.

"We want this one," I told Mr. Dunn, and we tied the tree to Pino’s harness.

 Donkey hauling Christmas trees is not something one does in a rush. And when we finally made it to the house, I leaned the tree up against the porch, leaving Pino there too while I ran inside to get something. I returned to find Pino staring into the little Misfit tree, his ears pricked towards it, he was clearly deep in conversation with her.

"You are a beautiful little tree," Pino said.

"I'm surprised you picked me. I'm crooked and ill kept," the tree said.

"You are as a perfect as an old Redwood," Pino said. "You had a purpose to hold the birds, and now you will hold the Christmas lights. We will see them from the barn on clear nights. Thank you."

I led Pino back to his mates. When I returned, Mr. Dunn had the tree up and was hanging the lights. I placed white doves at her top and hung glistening fruit on her branches. The little tree spoke clearly to me as I finished,

Thank you for noticing me.

Most of us are all like this little tree, not necessarily the tallest or the prettiest, or the most perfect. We little trees are outshined at any dance, or feel invisible as we just try to our best even if we are surrounded by taller, and louder trees.

We turned on the tree lights and they sparkled inside, and outside to the barn.

And I heard the donkeys bray.

{This is the latest edition of Tails & Tales published monthly in the Lincoln County News.}

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Christmas miracle has occurred at Apifera


We’ve had a Christmas Miracle at Apifera. I'm now ready to share it with you.

I was minding my own business, working in my office, when I got a call from a friend. She knows my love of pugs, and she knew Hughie [the second Old One Eyed Pug, the first Old One Eyed Pug being Billy Baker], and knew how sad his loss was to me last July. She had heard me say that the universe would bring me a pug. I’ll also point out I had just written the Harry Chronicle Christmas newspaper [that goes to our elder shut in friends] and in this issue we had Letters to Santa, from all the animals. And I also sent Santa a letter asking if he could find me an old pug.

I'm not sure if Santa found the pug first, or my friend did. The pug came from out of state, from neglect, I won't go into the story, it is hard to hear, but suffice it to say he was living in a undesirable situation. My friend brought the pug to her vet and he had a couple different surgeries including eye removal.

She wondered if I wanted him. Um...an old, one eyed pug? Of course!

He could be as young as 9 or he could be more like 12. I think the latter. I tell you that because I have no idea how much time I’ll have with him, but each day with a pug is worth it the tears after they leave.

When the pug got here [I have been hiding this from all of you] we had a scare, his eye reopened. It was unpleasant but not painful. But I just picked him up from the emergency vet clinic [we have a clinic open all weekend and after 5 on weeknights for emergencies, it is a god send] and he has a nice new purple stitched eye now. He is the Million Dollar One Eyed Pug.

I named him Uncle Wally. Uncle Wally was an old family friend from Minnesota. I was five when I met him and looked up to him, I knew him until he died at 90. His wife was my kindergarten teacher. I told Bear that the pug is not your brother like Mud was, he is your Uncle.

I want to thank my friend for all the effort it took. And I want to thank Santa for bringing me this Christmas miracle. Uncle Wally has been through so much. If you’d like to donate to the $700 emergency bill, please do.

But I have a pug...a beautiful, old, one eyed pug.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

There's a new Officer in town

This is a four part story.

Part One
My contact from the shelter was here dropping off a very old cat [Hermann who passed very soon after] and she knows all our cats since they are all from her shelter. She knew how much Mister Mosely met to me, and at this time, Mosely was in his final days or weeks but I still had hope it would be longer. I told her to keep in mind instantly if a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest kitten or cat same in no matter the age. She pulled out her phone. She had just taken a bunch of kittens to her home to foster them. She fosters many, many animals. And there on her screeen, was a mini Mister Mosely, same coloring. He and a litter mate were part of a big rescue they did. The person was an animal lover who had helped many cats over the years, but, as can happen, things got out of balance, and there was breeding going on out of control, poor conditions, etc. She tried to fix it, but eventually she needed help and many of the large quantity of cats were taken to the shelter, including the two little Maine Coons. I told her I seriously might want the mini Mister Mosely. And then I put it out of my head, because I had to care for Mose and enjoy each second with him. I figured the universe would orchestrate the next cat.
Part Two
Mister Mosely did die, as you know. I was crushed, just so sad. That night, my shelter contact sent me a picture, of the little black Maine Coon, hoping it might cheer me up a little. My first thought was, 'stinkin' cute' my next thought was 'where's the mini Mosely?' I told her I was interested and asked about mini Mose and she told me he was gone, or something. I took it to mean he was spoken for. I figured maybe it was better to have one that looked different and opend my heart to the black/white kitten, and went and met him.
Part Three
My first encounter, he pushed his little head into mine. He was so tiny, and he had been through a lot already. he was loaded with various worms and due to the situation he was living in ...well it was very hard on his tiny body. But my contact care took him and he began to perk up, and become less scared and shy. She did wonders for socializing him too. I again asked about the other Maine Coon kitten, the mini Mose-he had died. His little body just couldn't take the stress of the worm load and other variables. Hearing that almost felt like losing Mose again. So that was one reason I was so cautious about his surgery last week for neutering.
Part Four
I truly believe that Mister Mosely was part of this. If I had not acted quickly to go see that kitten, he would have been gone. If I had gone a week earlier, I would have picked the mini Mose and been heartbroken when he/she died. I have never known a kitten to be this personable., at such a young age. I know I'm acting like a kid who just got her first pony under the Christmas tree, but that is what he feels like to me...a special gift.
And today, some five days after arrival 
He settled in so fast. he is alert, active, mischievous, busy, but also so loving. He began sleeping amongst us right away. He comes to me when I come in. he eats like a draft horse. He's gained 1/2 a pound. And he now has a name. Officer Mittens. As Officer Mittens he will undoubtedly be handing out a few citations around here. And eating doughnuts with his coffee.



Thursday, December 03, 2020

The tree brings me my dead father...I return to chess, and a rooster

Martyn brought in the little tree he's been watching all year. I have to say this is the most non Charlie Brown tree so far since we've been cutting our own out of The Wood. I just love  her. We decorated right after turkey day and our outdoor ball tree is all lit too. It brings such warmth into the dark of winter days. I always think of my father on Christmas, he loved Christmas. My mother was more of the Thanksgiving guru. We always had festive Christmases and I still have my father's mother's vintage ornaments-they are 80 years or so. I don't put them on the tree anymore they are so fragile, but think I will hang them high up in a threshway. We have all fruit and birds on our tree, and some red roses, a few llamas and pigs are in there too.

I was telling someone that when I think of my father now on Christmas, it is more like he is right there, hovering, it is not a mourning feeling. He's been gone since 2008 and it shows the path through loss and grief evolves. My mother is the same way, she died in 2013. But I do wish I could speak to her, on the phone, hear her voice again, talk about all the stuff going on. 

We've had some additions to the barnyard. A nearby local had a roo that he had to rehome. I initially said, "No" but when I heard it was a Barred Rock...well....at the same time, I knew I was about to take on three needy hens from a woman that had to leave the country. I like having my front barn hens around me, and Henneth the blind chicken and old Victoria live in the front barn with the goats and the Goose. I knew the roo could be an issue, but decided to risk it. I gave him my rooster talk -"I'll respect your boundaries if you respect mine and treat the ladies okay". So far, he has lived up to his part of the bargain. We've probably had 15 or so roos in our days, and only about 5 of them went bad. I personally think some are just wired that way. And in my experience, over handling at a young age can do it too [I learned this the hard way starting out].

But he's a beauty. The new hens are very sweet, easy to catch and are doing just fine. The transition has been smooth. The little tiny hen came with the name "Marta". Marta was named after a circus performer who was a bit of a runt herself, and the other circus people were sort of hard on her, teasing her and such, but Marta just put her head down and kept going. And I liked that story so kept her name intact. And she is the funniest little hen. The other day, true to her name sake, she was letting one of the large working hens know she was no push over, through the chicken wire fence, banging and flapping her wings at her. It was funny.

 I've been in computer hell. Literally. First email crashed, and for me, that is the worst. All my sales and clients are all tied into email. Then my Photoshop started acting weird. One thing after another. So I ended up getting a new Mac, was due anyway, and you know how that goes, transferring files, getting passwords up and running. I hope to be back in studio next week. My year has been, like many of yours, distracting. And my art took a back seat. I got some things done. But it is time to refocus. Less news, thank god, and more thinking time. I'm done thinking about the person who has thrown grenades into every news cycle. It's over. No more rent in my head...you are fired.

I've also started playing chess again. My father taught me when I was a little girl. He had this beautiful hand carved set, the horse looked real and all the pieces were real people. I also remember at some point, I beat my father at a game, and I remember he was pleased but surprised, but it was a right of passage and I remember I felt a bit bad for him. I play online and it is good for my brain. In time I want to buy a nice set.