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

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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

A real buddy for Bear

I got a message last winter from the farm where Bear was born that she was having some more pups. I had planned on another chocolate pup for Bear but was thinking it would be when he turned about 3. We have always had two related chocolate boys and that is what we wanted again. I like knowing they have a real relative in their midst, and I really love these dogs from this farm. They have beautiful personalities and are raised with family love because they simply love labs. 

But after Muddy died too youmg-at age 9.5 from bone cancer- I just started thinking, what are we waiting for? I'm not getting any younger. We tried talking on another very old, blind pug last winter [sweet little Uncle Wally] and that experience also had us realize that right now, in our household, an older dog is not a good fit-with Officer Mittens and our pack. Besides, in case you haven't noticed, I bury a lot of old animals. I just wanted some youth, some hope and joy. So we decided on another lab pup. The more I worked with Bear, and played with him, I got excited about bringing home a buddy for him. Watching Bear this past year and a half try to play kick ball with The Goose and goats has been fun, he certainly isn't depressed, but I really started realizing I wanted him to have his very own little Bear.

The farm emailed me to tell me a litter was coming in April. I told her I only wanted a chocolate male. And if there wasn't one, it was not the right timing for a pup.  On the day of the birth, she emailed me a pic-there was only one chocolate male...so that was proof enough for me. We call him...Buddy. Such a common name for dogs, but it just seemed so fitting. So now Bear has a buddy, his very own Buddy.

If you want to follow along in photos of The Bear and Buddy Show follow us on Instagram. if you don't like an abundance of puppy pictures, you might want to avoid me for awhile. So far Buddy has met The Goose, and goats, and White Dog. Imagine all the new sounds he heard on his first day. And Bear is so happy. You can just see him looking at Buddy and thinking, "I finally got my little buddy I wanted."

One of te first things Bear did was bring out his beloved Mister Bubbles to show Buddy.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

I couldn't help it! Pickles Power is Girl Power shirt!

I had to add this design to our Bonfire Tshirt shop [Bonfire helps non profits selling Tshirts, it is a great product and great customer support].

I made these in both adult and kid sizws. I think our young girls would like to wear Pickles Power too.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Yume dies a good death, but what does that mean to a human?

I often use the term 'good death", and I did again this weekend when i let my followers know that Yume, one of the first elder cats to be adopted in Maine, died at 19+. I found her, dead, in her little bed where she always sleeps, pretty much where I left her that morning. It was not unexpected. That morning she was weaker in her body and ate little, I held her and reminded her I had bought her that one way ticket, but there was no expiration date–she could leave when she wanted to. And she did. These are the picture of her as I found her and when my chores were finished I captured how Inky and Walter came to lie with her. They had said goodbye long ago.

What is a good death? As a human, i look at it differently than a cat. A cat just wants peace, comfort and to be on their own terms. They don't use the word 'struggle' but they want to be able to breathe, to not be stressed. So yes, I feel in cat terms Yume had a very good death and i was happy for her.

As a human, I see many people die, as do all of you. I often hear people say they want to die in their sleep, and there is merit to that. I recently heard a doctor on a radio interview say that while many say they want to die this way, usually the body has had a heart attack or stroke when a person dies this way. I am not sure if that matters if one is asleep. With animals, I've been able to witness many natural deaths, and other induced deaths. Generally the natural death is how I prefer to see Nature takes it course, unless their is true distress or pain or danger there will be sever trauma ahead without help. But I've also witnessed how it takes a body a long time to shit down when it is in the active process of dying.

But back to a good death. This same doctor brought up the beautiful words of Maurice Sendak in his last interview with Terry Gross. He was in his last months and was ready. But he talked about how age made him acutely aware of how much he loved life, and he talked about his beautiful trees outside his window. He didn't want to miss his trees but because he loved the beauty of Nature and the trees, each second he got was spent in awe and joy of the beauty of it. The doctor said that he felt that was the layered meaning of a 'good death'–when a person can live that moment, and every moment in the day in awe of what is around them, and also be aware they are going to die and eventually they do die. They die aware of the wonder of it all–that is a good death, to be ready, to have lived, lived, lived, lived.

"I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more. ... What I dread is the isolation. ... There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready." {Maurice Sendak months before dying}

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New Work: Turtles Crossing the Road

"Turtles Crossing the Road" 20" canvas, acrylic.

Inspired by the land and essence of Apifera. Now available on my shop.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Pickles learns about the birds and bees [and lumps] from Earnest the pig


My latest from my monthly column "Tails & Tales of Apifera" for Lincoln County News

“Mrs. Dunn! Mrs. Dunn!” I heard as I opened the front door.

“Pickles, what is it?” I asked.

“It’s Marta! She’s sitting on her egg and won’t get up!” Pickles said, alarmed.

“Well, I suspect she wants to be sitting on her egg, Pickles. She is broody,” I said.

“What’s that?” Pickles asked.

It dawned on me that this was going to be one of those talks, the talk every adult must have with a youngster at some point, even if it is a little goat.

“She wants her egg to hatch into a baby chick,” I said.

Pickles’ mouth gaped open. She went screaming into the barn.

“Everybody! Marta is going to pull a chicken out of her egg!”

Pickles’ shouts woke up Earnest the pig.

“Pickles, did you not know chickens come from eggs? It is time you understand these things,” the pig said.

“How did the baby get in the egg?” Pickles asked. The barnyard gathered around Earnest, waiting on his every word.

This ought to be good, I thought.

“First, you need a lady chicken, and a man chicken,” Earnest began.

“I say, I say, that would be me, I am the man!” said the rooster. The hens rolled their eyes.

“The man chicken sits on the lady chicken, and magic sprinkles are spread in the lady chicken. Soon after, a baby pops out of her egg.”

“Can the rooster make me a chicken baby?” asked Pickles.

Muffled snickers were heard in the group.  “No, Pickles, you are a goat, so you need a boy goat,” said the pig.

Pickles turned around to look at Ollie, Jim Bob and Roscoe–who looked sheepish.

“Those chaps can’t help you, Pickles, they don’t have the right parts anymore,” Earnest said.

Now it’s really getting good, I thought.

Pickles looked confused.
Earnest went on, “Boys are born with lumps, and the lumps carry the magic sprinkles that goes in the lady to make the baby.”

“Do you have lumps?” Pickles asked.

“In fact, I do,” said the pig, and he graciously turned around so she could peer at his backside.

“Oh, goodness,” said Pickles.

“But Ollie and the other boy goats don’t have lumps anymore, they went away,” said Earnest.

“Where did they go?” Pickles asked.

Oh dear, I thought.

“They went to Lumpaland, where lumps are sent to live happily ever after, without their sprinkles,”  said Earnest.

Ollie and the boy goats rolled their eyes.

“But let’s just say Ollie did have lumps, how does he give me the magic sprinkles?” Pickles asked.

One of the old goats jumped in, and said, “He slow dances with you.”

“Or sometimes they do a quick jitterbug!” said Henneth the blind chicken.

“And then where does the baby come out?” asked Pickles.

“Well, between your legs, of course,” said Earnest the pig.

Pickles went screaming out of the barn.

Earnest followed her and put his arm around her. He consoled her, “Don’t fret now, no lumps will sprinkle you,” he said.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Slow stitching with the elder cats & Walter and I are in the in-between time

This week I took my threads out to the cat room and began taking a couple hours a day to slow stitch amongst the old cats. This is a very special time for me and Walter. 

Walter and I [and the other three remaining elders, all are 18-20] are in the in-between. He seems to be losing strength in his hind, which is very common when they get this old. I've seen it a million times. I've noticed that his bone structure in his face is shifting, more sunken as muscle is lost. It's been a few weeks since Lemon passed. While Walter had surely lost weight over the year like Lemon, Lemon was much thinner and clearly on his way in due time. In the past couple days I've seen something shift in Walter. He is not depressed or anxious or sad or ill. He simply seems the most content I've ever seen him, and the most bonded to me he has ever been. Our journey together has been so rewarding and we took our time to get here. 

Today he wanted to be with me, sitting on my stitching, then my lap. He got up a few times but always came back. If you had told me this would be our final part of the journey when he first arrived, feral and scared, I might not have gone along with it.

I think these moments we are having our the most beautiful and profound moments I've encountered for awhile. I had been feeling the muse provoke me over and over to take my stitching out to the cat room and kept forgetting or got busy with something else. But in the last few months there has been a shift in me too. I simply want to do the work I feel like at the moment and not feel any push to do something speciific for the shop. I still make my living this way, but these past months have felt more liberating. I don't know why.

Anyway, today I was thinking -did my muse urge me on to work in the cat room, or did Walter also urge me on, so we could be together even more in these final weeks or months that he has? Yume too is clearly transitioning and she too came and sat in my lap yesterday as I sewed-this is unheard of. She is tiny but now is very, very tiny, and pretty blind too. One can't predict the muse, but when it speaks, an artist learns to listen. If they can't follow the muse, they get all messed up and confused. And if you can't follow the muse you are probably in a part of your art career that is taking you on a certain path that you feel is necessary to make a living or grow a clientele. I'm glad I'm passed that part. I always played with the muse but it is really since I started my own shop and quit reps and galleries and focused on my writing too that things settled into what I have now. It wasn't luck. And it was a winding path. And I made some wrong turns.

I've decided that I like working out there, and I also like having fewer cats in the elder suite [we had 12 at one time and usually had around 8-10, but we are down to four, and they are all very old]. I think I will make it my slow stitch and sewing area. They get my time, I get their time. I think I'll take my sewing machine out there too.

{I post my art and stitching and creative work regularly on Instagram}

Monday, April 12, 2021

New work: The Mailbox in Spring


This canvas is now available at the shop.

There is something so hopeful about spring, things that come out of the ground, after being frozen all winter give one a sense that, for today, it is going to be fabulous. The little pussy willow blowing in the wind is the first sign of spring here. 

And the mailbox waits to give a letter to our mail woman...the mailbox, ready to embrace letters of love, news and support.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Beauty Parlor Day-healing for elders and equines [and me]

We had two of our elder friends out from Lincoln Home today, along with a caretaker and my equine helper. Our task was simple-groom the equines, and have fun making The Teapot girly for one day. Becasue these two women are able bodied we could work in the equine barn which was great becasue all the equines were there. I had Captain Sparkle tied up to work on his ground manners, and The Teapot was with him on a lead. Biggs didn't even need a halter, he stood and loved the attention and grooming. I had Boone tied in the paddock and he really loved the grooming too.

It was really fun. And at the end of an hour and a half one of them said she loved hearing all the stories being shared too. That was so true. I actually know one of these residents who lived near by when we got here aso it was really special to spend time with her, and we shared stories of past things.

We are going to make it a regular outing for these two women-both are starving for fresh air, touch and animals-one of them lived with horses so this is really nice for her.

It is fun doing these smaller intimate get togehters too for healing times.

And the equines loved it, especially Biggs. He truly, truly loves humans-somebody did something right with him at some point in his life. Sparkle was a spitfire but did fine. He needs to partake more like this and learn better manners but we all agreed-we adore him and his Beatle haircut! The Teapot was very good and stood pretty well, I think she was once doted on by her little girls before they grew up and wanted bigger horses.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

I had to let her go...Joliet


If you follow us on social media you know sweet Joliet was leaping around in a video I posted on Friday, and on Saturday I found her foaming at the mouth with extended rumen. I assume it was frothy bloat [even though she had not eaten anything that usually causes this]. I doctored her with the right stuff. She improved slightly. I also noticed her neck felt very large leading me to think something was stuck in her throat. It was also Easter weekend. I was able to talk to my vet on Easter and she said I did the right things but was concerned it was not bloat, which should have dissipated after my treatment, and she did not like the sounds of the enlarged throat area.

So on Monday, nobody could come to me. I did not want to put Joliet through a 3 hour round trip drive to the vet, and said I would wait until Tuesday. But I felt pressure to go, so I went. I knew that all the things we talked about it 'might be' were non treatable. What was the point of putting her through a trip like that. That morning she was ok, but her breathing had changed, and her rumen was softer, which is good, but still large. She got up and walked around. I knew she was uncomfortable but she wasn't thrashing out. When I went to help her to truck, she cried-not in a typical pygmy drama cry [pygmy goats are huge drama queens!], but more in a distress cry. In the truck she did ok on the trip, only talking once or twice.

I was not thinking this would end the way it did. In fact, on the way up, I reminded myself not to feel pressure to do something I felt was not necessary. I like my vets. But out west, my vets treated me more like a farmer versus a pet owner. I feel sometimes, especially with llamas and goats and ruminants, there is too quick a "Time to euthenize"...and it can lead to feeling pressure. Sometimes, you can wait to long to put an animal down. Sometimes they are failing in a normal way, and they die peacefully, and sometimes not. It's a hard call sometimes. But most vets here seem to want the quickest end. I understand not wanting suffering, but a slower natural death can often happen.

But when we got her out of the truck into the working horse stall, my vet went right for her neck area. She immediately suspected lymphoma. This would also make sense that her rumen was still large, since the throat could not cough or get rid of the foam.

She cried when touched by them. I told them I thought the trip was stressful on her, that she was calm in the truck, but I did say her breathing was more labored for sure. Her temp had been normal but this morning it had gone down. 

We opted to do a throat and rumen xray. And blood work. We knew we might not have options once we saw the xrays but it might help in our understanding of what happened. As we started to do blood draw, she clearly was distressed. We decided to go right for the xrays and did those but she was anxious. When I held her she calmed but I was in the way of the xray paddles so could not assist [I did not like this!]. In the 20 or so minutes we were trying to get xrays and blood, she started declining. I was on the ground with her, cradling her head and body and at one point I felt her release and start to want to slump. She cried out-in a death like cry-they are different than a normal stress cry. I told my vet she was dying and she agreed. She got the medicne and we put her down.

I have mixed feelings about it. I wanted her to die at home. I did not want to drive her due to stress on her, but felt some pressure to do that. If I had not gotten her there [she was not as stressed at the barn] she might have gone through a bad death that night. Or she might have died that night on her own.

I know I did what I could. I was with her and she calmed everytime I held her. But I felt out of sorts.

On the way home, the words "death is life, life is death" kept coming to me. They are partners. Like the moon and sun and the wave and the shore-can't have one without the other. I got home and as I walked to the front gate, I saw her little hoof prints in the wet sand. It hurt. I was not ready. But in the end, when she got out of the truck and into the stall, I think she let go. I had told her on the way up we would make it better, and we did. I think she held it all in on the ride, and then let go.

But how she could be in a video on Friday night-I posted it on IG-and she is leaping like Pickles, with no swelling...and the next morning she was down and a day later she is gone...I just don't get it. How it came that fast-if that is what it was. I could have done an autopsy. I've done them before on sheep. They can give you hints but often don't tell you anything conclusive. I declined one and said I just wanted to get her home.

Pickles was there to greet me, and I said a solemn 'Hi Pickles." She kicked a tiny, quiet leap, almost symbolic of my feelings.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Feeling the sadness through the screen

Today Was Facetime Friday. I decided to bring The Goose in...what could possibly go wrong? He stayed in Bear's play pen while Officer Mittens kept his eyes on him. He pooped a lot. He flapped his wings and preened. One woman was worried he was sick due to his wrinkled feathers. We discuss the inside's of a goose bill and how they can really hurt you if they need too.

 I felt the sadness and 'worn outness' of my elder friends at Cove's. They are once again in a 2 week 'can not gather, no visitors' place due to a staff positive test. I just felt we, they, are all drained from staff to residents to onlookers. We talked about how it all seems to go in starts and stops, this recovery. My main gal friday was off today so Amy, my second in command gal friday, did a great job. Since they could not gather in groups, she walked the halls and we visited that way. I got to see some familiar faces I had not seen for a year...including Earnie. I also learned of two passings I did not know about. Everyone is just tired. How can they not be, if I'm tired of it how must it be for them?  One gentleman had just moved in and was not happy, how or why would he be? He wanted someone to help him speak to someone-it was out of my realm and it made me feel upset for him, or anyone in that situation.

I am not sure if seeing a goose in a tiny phone screen helped. I feel sadness.

I am going to think of something to drop of for residents next week, and staff, to lift their spirits.