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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

My little shining Sparkle

He is so gorgeous in the morning sun. He was tied up because the farrier came today. Captain Sparkle had severe laminitis and Cushings that was not being treated or cared for when Horse With Hope took him on-they did a great job helping him and at some points weren't sure if he'd make it through the lamanitis. Grateful he did. But about a year into being here, he started really acting up with foot trims. One day was so bad, and dangerous for him and the farrier, that we give him a little oral sedative for trim days. I don't want him having any bad associations with foot trims again, after all he went through-nor do I want my farrier to struggle with that.

I really am hoping for a few inches of snow so I can let him and The Teapot run in their bells. They only run in snow. If there is one cold short blade of grass to be found, they will find it. But they really love to run. I feel like Captain Sparkle has been a bit blue lately. I put him in with The Teapot the other day thinking he might enjoy it, but she is such a little sass pants that he can't get near the hay, and there he was, standing out in the paddock all alone, looking perplexed. He prefers being with Biggs and Harry.

I love him.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The msytery of our 1760 house...I love it even more


{I am documenting the work over on Instagram]

What does any sane person do the day after Thanksgiving? Rip out the ceiling in the kitchen!

Our house was built in 1760, one of  the first houses in the village along with the Hilton place [this is my research anyway, still uncovering the history here]. It is a post and beam structure, and the only addition was done in the 18880's sometime when they added what was to be used as a Quaker meeting room [ a Quaker cemetery sits on the property line, property that was once part of this property which at the time covered 300 acres and went from the cove to Pemaquid Pond - I so wish I could see it like that! 

So anyway, we have remodeled many houses and the Yamhill house was a huge job. So the kitchen here is so small it is not that big of a deal. Um, sort of. But taking the ceiling out to expose the original beams is our goal. You never know what hides up there. A lot of mouse dust that is for sure. There was sheetrock from about 2005, then a layer of concrete from about 1800's and original hand hewn lathe under that and then the original pine floor boards and hand hewn beams.

I have to say, I feel like a kid again. This is how I grew up-with an architect father who like to remodel old houses. I thought of my mother a lot yesterday, as I did the hauling of the mess and MArtyn ripped the ceiling. How many houses did she do, a lot, and with two little kids. She never complained.

We found an old sheet from the Lincoln County News, from 1890. So cool. 

I am going to whitewash the ceiling and beams, the kitchen is small and needs the light. I am going to paint the walls and cupboards an antique white. I love the green, a color I've had in all my houses, but lately I want white and off whites. I was also inspired by the roughness and simplicity and sparseness of the Olson House. We will replace the outdated 1970's looking counter with pine wood and a new sink and fixtures, and new lighting. We also will take down the fireplace area roof -we think it will fall easily, it is the oldest in the house.

And we pulled all the old flat nails and will save them or reuse them.

But as we sat, exhausted last night after two days of demolition, I was so proud and felt so connected to this house. I loved this house the second I saw it online, as I sat in Oregon, panicking, since we needed to find something. It came on the market that very day, like an hour before I saw it, and I had email alerts on several sites. I called the realtor that day and put an offer in. We got it, with two other offers that same day. 

I feel like by taking the modern ceilings down, it's like setting the house free. We sat imagining the people that probably were outside the house hand hewning the lathe and beams. I wondered what they wore? Knickers? Probably not. The history of this area is intense. There is not a spooky bone in this house. I have done some research and have gotten to about the 1950's when it seems the house sort of sat uninhabited. We think at some point who ever was living here was living  pretty rough. And then around 2005 someone came in and modernized it-some of which was...mediocre, but none of it was unlivable and it allowed us to live here and work on the barns first.

Anyway, I was sort of dreading the ceiling demolition...such a mess, chaos...but I have to say, I am so energized and it has opened me up to all the other 'little' projects we want to do. And it generated some ideas for short stories I've been percolating for a year. I feel I owe it to the house. I feel like the house likes us and understands what we are doing for it. 

I love our house even more than the day I saw her.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A new tradition with help from Earnest the Pig

Happy Thanksgiving on this gorgeous sunny, crisp day! I hope the day gives you more light than dark, peace and an ability to see the things that have meaning in your life. I am grateful everyday for simple things-being able to be independent, free of pain in body or mind, a good home and husband, my animals, my life...as an artist and writer amongst the story makers in the barnyard. 

We put up the Red Ball Tree in the front yard and I just love it,  it is our third year of doing that and it brings me pure joy each time. And this year, I decided Earnest needs some extra love as he lives alone in his hut [he has animals all around him though]. We put up a string of red balls for him too. So the Hanging of The Red Balls is a new tradition, and it is not to be confused with Earnest the pig's balls. Sorry, I could not help myself.



Sunday, November 21, 2021

How to be amongst the greiving-slip off your needs at the door

I think I've learned a lot about how to be amongst the sad and weary with my elder work, and I guess part of it is also innate, but like any human, I have daily lessons to learn about how to speak...and as importantly, when not to speak. The latter is harder for us humans.

I know for myself, sometimes I want to fill up a sad space with fun words, and I am very good at making people laugh. I'm learning about how my 'pleaser' MO has effected many things in my life - like choosing people I can not please to come on in. But of late I've learned, as this poem so well articulates, that one should not let the moment be about them, it is about letting the grieving or dying person speak [or not]. Or perhaps they just want to sit with you and let you witness their sadness. They aren't seeking advice [unless they ask] they just want a hand to touch their shoulder and make them feel 'I understand you are sad'.

One pattern I see online, a lot, is when someone posts about...let's use a pet as an example....someone posts that their dog has died and they express their feelings about why they are sad. And then a whole bunch of people [not all of them] post their own stories about their dead pets and how sad it made them when they died. There is nothing horrible about this, but I've learned, having done it myself!!, that this is not being present for the grieving person who wrote the post. There is probably a time and place to share stories of our own.

When I post about the death of an animal, or one in hospice, I don't take the messages like that as selfish, I just know they have not learned the skill of being present with the grieving, and it is a skill. And before the skill, one has to be aware they are doing it. It took me awhile! And I still stumble.

I did this recently, not with someone who was dying, but with someone who fell and has a TBI. It was a bad one. Much worse than what I went through. But instead of just encouraging them, or telling them I was their in spirit, I had to add that 'when I had mine, it took a long time to recover blah blah blah'. I was 'thinking' I was sharing a common understanding of how scary TBI's are. But maybe it just was not the right time or place to say it. No harm was done, but when I saw this poem I had saved, it made me realize this being present, and leaving your own bags at the door, can be applied to more than the grieving.

I will continue to hone this skill, and probably slip up here and there.

Friday, November 19, 2021

The animals worry about the demise of a tree...the annual drama

{My latest Tales & Tails column for The Lincoln County News}

I heard the slow shuffle of donkey feet as I left house.

Paco, I thought.

“Mrs. Dunn, I am concerned about the tree,” Paco said. “It is almost Thanksgiving.”

Every year, I have to reassure Paco that we’ll find the perfect tree in the woods well before Christmas.

“Paco, you need not worry, we will find one in plenty of time,” I said and we headed to the outer barn for his breakfast.

“I just need to get to the know the tree, so I can write a poem in honor of it’s demise,” he said, still concerned.

Just then, Pickles appeared out of nowhere, followed by Puddles and Hannah, and soon all the goats, old and young, joined us.

“Who had a demise?!” asked Poetry, one of the elder goats.

“What’s a demise?” asked little Hannah.

“A death,” said Earnest the pig who had wandered over hearing the commotion.

“Nobody has died!” I said.

“But we are going to kill a tree, so I must prepare a poem for him or her, to honor them,” said Paco.

Hannah began to cry. She had never had a Christmas tree since she was just born in the spring.

Earnest the pig consoled her, “Hannah, the trees have many purposes in life, and one is giving themselves to us so we can decorate them for Christmas.”

“But what if they have another purpose, like holding the squirrels and birds?”

“We always look for tiny trees, that aren’t strong enough to do that,” said Earnest.

Pickles gasped. “We kill the baby trees?!”

By this time we were to the outer barn, and all the horses and ponies and llamas were wondering what the big conversation was.

“Has something of importance occurred” asked Harry the llama.

Paco the donkey said very slowly, “I am worried about finding the tree in time, so I can write a worthy eulogy.”

“Ah yes, the annual tree crisis,” Harry said stoically.

George the goat appeared, eating something. George was always eating something. “The best part of Christmas is the tree, because I get to eat it after the holiday,” said George the goat.

Hannah started crying again.

“We could get one of those pink, fake trees with glitter, I saw one in “Sears and Roebuck”,” said Poetry.

How are they getting that catalog? I wondered.

“Sacrilege!” said Earnest the pig. “There will be no fake trees for Christmas!”

And then Boone, the mellow red horse, walked over.

“Everything we have to eat was once alive. Shall we stop cutting the grasses for our hay?”

Hannah screamed, “We kill grasses too?!”

Boone leaned down to Hannah and said, “My lass, we are in circular relationship with all of Nature. We poop on the grasses, and that feeds them. They thank us by growing tall, and then we eat them.”

Earnest the pig put his arm around Hannah, and Paco, “What do you say we all visit the trees, and share our poop with them?”

Friday, November 12, 2021

Earnie dies...he mattered to me

One of our elder friends from Cove's has died....Earnie, sweet Earnie. If you follow along you know we loved him and have many photos of him with the animals. He was 87.

I think we first met him in 2019, or maybe 2018. It was when we first brought Opie over there. Earnie was a farmer his whole life, since he was a kid. He lost his arm as a young guy in a farm accident. He told me all about it.

Earnie loved animals, and they responded to him. Opie would make his sharing rounds with the people, but then he'd keep returning to Earnie. We all noticed it, and it was a sense of pride for Earnie I think. He was just a magnet. They knew his motives were pure, something you can't say for all people.

And then there was his tie die shirt which he often wore. I will remember him in that shirt.

I was at Cove's the other day dropping off puzzles, and I happened to get to meet his sister in law, who was with him a lot, including the day before, and hours before he died. She got to say her goodbyes and he did too. He lost his wife years ago, and also had two lady companions at Cove's who both passed on.

I suppose when you are in a home like that, especially when you are totally relying on care from others, and you can't walk or eat on your own, you can't do the normal things a body must do just to go through a normal day, I suppose there might be times where you wonder if any of it matters any more, or do you yourself matter. The elders, especially those like Earnie are often the ones people don't want to see, they avert their eyes, they don't know what to say. As one of the elders said to me, "They are afraid they will be like me someday." I believe she was right. Earnie mattered to me. And I know he mattered to the caregivers, and residents, and his extended family.

He was always at our visits and he always was in good spirits despite the losses and the health issues...despite losing all independence...he always smiled. He had some good farm stories too. I always told him I had to find a cow to bring for a visit-he had farmed cows his whole life.

I don't even know if he knew my name, nor the farm's. But when he saw me he knew who I was and what it meant. An animal could take him out of his head, out of his reality for moments and I'm grateful I could do that for him. In that way, I guess I mattered to him weather he knew my name or not.

We will miss him, truly, we will. I think he must be tie dying the sky somewhere, and riding a cow home.

{You can send a donation in Earnie's honor to Acitivity Fund at Cove's Edge. Cove’s Edge c/o Activities Program, 26 Schooner St., Damariscotta, ME 04543. This is a Medicare facility and these people operate on shoestrings.}

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Another new elder creature is birthed

Mrs. Rosas has lived many lives. She still insists on walking in the fields, even though she can barely walk. Her clothes are a bit raggedy-she finds scraps in garbage cans and sews them and mends as well as she is able.

Mrs. Rosas is made of all natural cloths and a velvet cape. She is sewn with embroidery thread and her tail is mohair. She is very crippled, but can stand but needs her canes. She stands about 11".

Visit the shop >


Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Focusing on what I can do...I don't need to know everything about you and vice versa

This is not a political post, far from it, it is more a self healing post. I've been sad about our country for some time....and scared for democracy, to be honest. I wondered if it is wrong to simply turn out all news, all of it...is that selfish, is that the right way to handle all the upsetting [for me anyway] news? I think tuning it all out is irresponsible as a citizen and voter, so I am not choosing that path. I do get my news from online reliable papers, not social media and definitely not Facebook. And I find I'm just passing by certain articles-usually becasue the media, no matter which outlet, likes to rehash something over and over, and it becomes numbing, kind of like the last 4 years. I read it, explore what I need to, and step away...until I might yell at the tv a bit before we watch one of our shows.

But I was thinking that we know way too much about everybody, thanks to social media.

If I knew every thought of every elder I love at Cove's Edge....would that change how I feel? Perhaps. I know many people I enjoy running into in my weekly errands have very different thoughts than I do on many things, but it doesn't matter, because we focus on things we share. For example, at the feed store I have no idea what thoughts or beliefs are in most of their heads, I could assume I guess, but I focus on the fact that I can go in there and they know me and what I do and I can ask for advice on a sick chicken.

I get very depressed about our mother ship more than most of the other madness going on-and that includes important stuff like voter suppression, COVID, congress infighting, women's rights, and more. I am very sad for our Earth and I am not that optimistic, and I have always been an optimist. If we can't get along better than we are in one country, and men continue to rule the world with their main desire being power, I just don't see it changing enough that our beautiful Earth will be helped in time.

Still, I want to help people in my area, and people that are hurting, and animals. That is my plan for emotional survival and health. Just keep making art from my heart, keep writing, keep reaching out if I see someone is down, keep sharing my animals with the elders, keep smiling and being there for them in small ways which to them are big ways...keep my head down in the wind. The local paper had an article from the police departments that are suffering from staff shortages, and they pointed out how many more people are being arrested for road rage and anger disturbances–it makes me even more picky about the people I interact with. I prefer my elders and a handful of people, and my animals.

Because of my age, and because I see elders who must leave their homes or lose their mates, I have never been more aware of what I have. Each night, I really mean this, I look forward to being with Martyn by the fire, talking, sharing, his cooking...falling asleep together and his kiss goodbye every morning at 6:30. It can be gone in an instant, and it often is for people.

I have also taken in, soaked in, life more this year than I think I ever have. My time table is mine more than it has ever been and I've earned it-as many of you out there reading have. I've been a self supporting artist/writer since 1996 and I worked my butt off to get to this spot. I'm blessed to live on my farm, and see the sights I see, like this image of old Luci as I opened the door very early this morning-so regal she was in the sun and crisp air and autumnal colors all around her. I've become stingier with my schedule and rarely -unless I have to -make an appointment before 11. That is not laziness, it is practicality. I do not want to rush with my animals and morning chores which take about 2 hours. Not only to I want to move at a pace that will help me not trip and fall, I want to enjoy them. There are so many ways to fall! You don't think about it much in your younger years. But after the concussion, after aging some, I am very aware of it.

I want to see, like the sun lighting up the tippy top of Pino's mane at sunset.