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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Old Matilda has died

 She was thirty years old. She came to us out west, from a neglect case where she was being bred at age 19 without hay or supplements. Her feed were curled and back swayed, the latter never recovered from being bred year after year.

I'm so grateful we found each other. She had a wonderful life with us, and her little herd of minis. She and Paco were bonded. A week or so ago I noticed matilda had started separating out from her mini herd, which is not normal. I took note of it one night and said to Martyn, "The fact the donkeys aren't braying for her or joining her is telling."

In about four days after noticing that, it was farrier day, and Matilda was lying in the field and I had to try to get her up, She could still sit up like a dog, but my farrier had to push and i pulled. It was not a one person job. That was eighth days ago. Within another few days, she could no longer sit like a dog so we had to use the tractor to get her hind up with a strap, and I pulled and steadied her. I could not do it alone. 

It became clear this was not a temporary thing. What was most upsetting for me was she had just had her annual checkup and bloodwork done for her Cushings, and her blood looked good. And she came out of winter so good, after a bad year last winter-we altered her meds and she improved so well. So we were all excited how good she looked. Within a couple of weeks after her checkup is when she declined.

I had an urgent call for the vet-knowing this was not an emergency since she wasn't in utter pain, but I knew if the vet came it was most likely the end of the road. I couldn't imagine they would have any other solutions, at her age. We talked about altering pain management that might help her get up. But even one day of her not able to get up was a problem. And Martyn can't keep coming home to help me. We also knew there are dangers to hoisting her up with the aid of the tractor. A downed equine is a hurting equine both physically and mentally. They are a flight animal. I could not leave her in the open field in case she went down in sun, and horse flies. She was beginning to get bed sores.

It was a beautiful day. The vet was due at 2:45. I spent the last hour with her grooming her, and just sitting. I cleaned stalls. She had her morning with the donkeys. It was a beautiful, clear, 65 degree day. The daisies were out. Martyn had stayed home and dug the grave. We anesthetized her, then led her to the grave-after a lengthy discussion about options, if any, and the right thing for her. There was the possibility she'd fight it. But she didn't. She was gone before she hit the ground.

I let the all the animals in to see her body and grave when it was over, as is our routine in burials. I was most interested and concerned for Paco. But he came over, sniffed, and ran off into his field. Like I said, I think the fact she had separated out of the herd, and they were not alarmed, showed they knew and had said their good byes. Donkeys are very loyal and protective of each other.

I awoke with relief -for her, and me. It is no fun knowing she would most likely be down, and unable to get up, and I was unable to get her up alone. I had hoped we could have summer together. But we couldn't.

I'm sad. I miss her big ears already. But I spent every day with her for so many years. I helped her and she gave me so much just by being her. She got to see America when we drove from Oregon to Maine. She had her mates and a nice barn. She was never hungry. She was safe. She had people come and visit and fall in love with her and her eyes. They loved her eyes because she wore her soul in them.

She was a very special Apiferian, never to be replaced, or forgotten.

My beautiful, beautiful, Matilda. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Great Porta Potty Scheme

 “It’s here!” Pickles screamed.

All the animals were gathered by the front privacy fence. Hannah, the smallest of the goats, was on her knees, her head positioned under the gate so she could see the driveway.

“What’s it look like, Hannah?” asked Pickles.

“It’s a big ugly box,” Hannah said.

“Why would anyone want to poop in an ugly box?” asked Ollie the goat.

I entered the discussion, “I assume the porta potty arrived?”

“Mrs. Dunn, might I be able to see the inside of it?” asked Earnest the pig.

I sighed, “Alright, Earnest, go investigate, we’ll wait here for you.”

With that, the pig wandered over to the big box. You could have heard a pin drop amongst the animals as they watched from the fence.

“I’m going in,” said Earnest.

The animals’ eyes grew wide with wonder.

Minutes passed, and the pig slowly backed out of the big box. Before he spoke, everyone had gathered tightly around him, as if he was going to tell a really good ghost story.

“There is a seat with a large hole in it,” Earnest said.

They all looked bewildered.

“That is where the people sit down,” I explained. “It’s like a chair, with a hole in it.”

“But how does the poop get out of their pants?” asked Pickles.

“They drop their pants,” I said.

Everyone gasped again.

“Good grief,” said Poetry, one of the elder goats, “Is it too much to squat over some nice grass?”

“Our elder guests that come visit need a safe place to sit and...”

“Poop?” asked Pickles.

“Exactly,” I said.

“How big is the inside of the box, Earnest?” asked Puddles, one of the youngster goats.

“Well I’m not good with mathematical dimensions, but I’d say I could get about ten of me in there,” said the pig.

As I started back to the house, I noticed Pickles and Puddles deep in thought.

Oh no, I thought, I know that look.

Sometime that evening as I did dishes, I noticed what I thought was a very large firefly out the window. It was moving about near the porta potty. I cracked the window and heard a little voice say, in a whisper,

“That’s ten, keep going!”

As I arrived at the porta potty, I could hear muffled giggles.

“You’re on my head,” said little Hannah.

As I opened the door, a flashlight shone in my face, and I felt like I’d stepped into an old Hayley Mills movie. There before me were a bunch of little goats stacked into the porta potty, and Pickles was front and center, Puddles at her side.

I thought everyone had made it out and back to the barn, but Puddles was missing. I found him still in the porta potty, dropping rocks into the big hole.

“Mrs. Dunn, it makes a big kerplunk sound!” said Puddles.

“Yes it does, Puddles,” I said.

“Does the poop kerplunk too, Mrs. Dunn?” he asked.

“Yes, yes it does,” I said.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Is this the last house?

Martyn and I have been talking about the major home renovations we want to do in the coming years. A new roof -we are thinking metal-in the next  few years will be needed and new first floor windows in wood for improved energy conservation, and appearance. We have talked a lot about a heat pump but there are problems with one in this old house so we are holding off on that for now. They are all the rage and I understand why.

But the window is closing as we enter our soon to be be mid sixties in the next couple years. What seemed like years to do things now seems shorter, and one really asks, "What do I want to do with my time?" More of the same, since I love what I do...but, what else?

I've always been a homebody, as is Martyn–besides fishing that is, which he hasn't done much of for years. I like a day trip, but I've done a lot of extensive travel in my time, and now I'm content on the farm and in my garden, sitting with Martyn and the dogs–perhaps boring to some, but peace to me.

But I also love the challenge and excitement of moving. I never thought we'd leave the last farm but after 13 years we did, and it was the best decision. So glad we did. I sometimes find myself wondering, is this the last house? I suppose it might be. My parents kept moving, it was in my father's DNA. My mother was a pro at packing and moving on her own, as am I. I was the one who coordinated the move West, not Martyn. I've fixed up about four houses before I met Martyn. But I also came to a point in my life where I realized that if my life had challenges and excitement on a daily basis in my work, I didn't have the urge to move so much, like in my upbringing [we moved a lot, sometimes just down the street].

This home has some issues for someone growing old in it, but one of the first women to live here, a mother of 7, lived in it until she was 100, in the 1800's. Imagine how different her life was than mine. Imagine.

I always loved May Sarton's memoirs. In her later years she moved to Maine, into a rather large house by the sea. I've always got that in the back of my head-a house by the sea. But it would have to be on the sea and I doubt that will happen not only do to money, but do to the challenges and availability of something. 

I love the house. It has some things I wish we could change-like having a bigger, proper mudroom and closets. That would be my dream. But all in all, we are content. And so for now, it is still where we are meant to be, and will be. I have been through this before, where one thinks they will never leave this house, or this place, or this 'thing', but things are fluid in life, including desires and dreams.