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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, October 23, 2023


Today is a sad day for me and Harry the llama. I’ve shed some tears.

We lost a dear friend. Her name was Margaret and she was 92 years old and until about a month ago she was living independently in her little house on the farm of her daughter in Virginia. I had known her daughter for some years after ‘meeting’ in blog world some 15 or more years ago. When Margaret turned 90, her daughter asked people to send cards. Well, of course Harry and I rose to that occasion and sent her a card and a Harry t-shirt. She swiftly posed in it, beaming into the camera.

Soon after, she and Harry became pen pals. I of course helped but it was all Harry’s words-telling Margaret of the goings on of the farm. Margaret would share stories, weather reports and she had a wonderful sense of humor. And she knew how to write a proper letter, something many in today’s modern world don’t. I’m old enough and went to a grade school where we were taught how to write a proper letter.

Getting Margaret’s letters in the mail also brought me great joy. And while I considered Margaret a friend to me, and Harry, I also felt like I had another mother for a brief time. I told her that seeing her lovely handwriting gave me a jolt, because it brought back all the letters my own mother had sent me during my days at college or away in NYC or where ever I was living at the time.

About a month ago, Margaret took a fall. She needed surgery. She was placed in a rehab facility near her home so her daughter and family were able to see her regularly. And of course upon hearing this, Harry immediately began his Harry the Llama Letter Campaign. I’m so glad he did. He wrote her every day the first week, short little cards. We all prayed that Margaret would be able to go home. But the fall and surgery take a toll on an elder. Through those days in rehab, she never lost her sense of humor, and never turned dour. At some point, I sent her a llama doll, and she had the doll placed on her basket of letters and cards, and told everyone Harry was the Protector of the Cards. She loved to tell people about her pen pal, Harry. She had sent Harry a red knit scarf for his outings into the village and in time, I drew her a piece of art of Harry wearing his scarf. She cherished it.

In the last couple weeks, Margaret developed bleeding and they could not determine what it was and more surgeries were out of the question, and Margaret was having none of it. But she remained her true self. After a couple bouts in the ER, she returned to rehab last week. We all hoped she could continue to grow strong enough to go home.

She died this morning. I had just been thinking as I did chores, giving hay to Harry, what should we send Margaret today, Harry? Harry did not respond. I think he probably knew before me.

There is a part of me that would like to drive to Virginia with a llama in a red scarf, to walk on her farm in her honor.

No matter how old you are, or how young you are, or what species you are-you can make impactful dents in another creature’s heart. I don’t think Margaret knew how much her letters meant to me, I told her daughter often. Margaret loved the letters but she initially didn’t want Harry to be overwhelmed and feel obligated to write. But Harry, and I, do everything we want, and we loved writing the letters and imagining a sweet, elder woman on a rural cow farm in Virginia getting an envelope from Harry the Llama.

I have saved all the letters. I will send them to her daughter as a memento of the beautiful friendship her mother had with a llama. I am not sure what Harry and I will do with ourselves without our pen pal.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

We lose Roscoe

Roscoe, one of the elder goats, showed signs late yesterday of having stones, a serious situation. I gave pain meds and this morning was able to get my emergency vet here. I knew it was probably going to end like this, but he was in dire pain.The x-ray showed his bladder was 6 ml wider than what is considered a bad enlargement, and showed signs of multiple stones some large. Even if I had wanted to do surgery [I did not due to his age and chronic issues] she could not have opted to because his electrolytes were already messed up. As she put it, even with surgery many continue to have these, and the smaller goats are problematic for recovery. We talked about my feed and I wasn't really doing anything wrong, but for the boys I'm going to switch to more hay and as little pellet as needed and only if they lose weight. I'm so glad he could die here. My vet agreed, and she said the 2 hour ride to the clinic would have been horribly painful for him. I'm a firm believer in letting them die here, and am also a firm believer in not over-vetting - that is a very personal choice for every sanctuary and animal owner.

So this is one of those things that has ended in relief for animal and human. It is always hard to see them in pain, so when he went under, I was so relieved for him. His belly was way extended which she noticed right away which was from him pushing out trying to get relief.

I buried him with a polk-a-dot blankie.

It was a tiring day. We got a lot of stall pre-winter clean up done which was tiring. Ready for a fire and a glass of wine.

When he went under, he turned his sweet little ol' head towards me, and kind of curled it over, like a swan. He looked so peaceful.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

I'm simply an emerging happy crone playing with stuffed animals and dolls

I have been learning stop motion animation these past couple weeks and am having fun. I'm giving myself time to learn the app and am experimenting with the whole process. I have much to learn.

For this reason, I reopened my Patreon site and you can follow along there and see me leap and stumble. For some reason I can't load videos here anymore so I hope you might check out Patreon. Right now, you can see my first attempts at this process, for free. In time, as I evolve, the videos will be available to members. I of course will post other creations there too.

I've also added some perks for members depending on your tier: free books and prints.

Working in new mediums is good. It expands one's thoughts. I saw this young woman artist on IG do a post about how she will always follow her heart and muse and even though she grew her following on one medium, she likes to play in other mediums and she often hears followers tell her they came to follow her for that first medium. She gave them a little message: I do what art I want and am moved to do.

I feel the same, especially at 65 and a HALF. I once had a semi well known painter tell me I should focus on painting if I wanted to be in 'serious' galleries. It made me ponder, are there 'funny' galleries? I was somewhat taken aback as I was relatively new to painting and she was more well known than me. She also thought being in Sundance was a bad idea. Sundance has done for me and my continued ability to sell my art and make a living than any gallery and I have no interest in being in a gallery again. I'm grateful for Sundance, I've been with them a long time.

So playing with my art creatures, experimenting with little sets, how could I not being having a wonderful adventure?

If you venture over to Patreon today you'll see two baby elephants meeting.

Friday, October 13, 2023

It happens every year...the making of the Halloween costume chaos

 “Mrs. Dunn! Mrs. Dunn!” I heard as I finished the dishes one morning.

Arriving at the door, there was Pickles, and her sidekick, Puddles.

“Mrs. Dunn, we’ve run out of needle and thread!” said Pickles.

“And my scissors are dull,” said Pancakes.

Oh Lord, please help us all, I thought. And then I remembered...Halloween was not far off.

“You aren’t supposed to make costumes requiring sharp objects, remember?” I asked.

“But I need the scissors! I’m going to be a real pancake, with syrup and butter!” said little Pancakes the baby goat.

“Why don’t we see what everyone has going on,” I said, dreading to see what awaited me.

When we got to the barn, little Hannah was sitting alone and looking quite glum.

“I don’t want a costume this year,” she said.

“And why not?” I asked.

“Because the peoples wouldn’t let me enter my pumpkin into the Pumpkinfest,” she said.
“They said they only take whole pumpkins, and Ollie ate most of mine,” Hannah said.

“It was a wonderful pumpkin!” said Ollie the goat as he crashed through the room.

“Well Hanna, maybe you can be a pumpkin this year then,” I suggested.

She sighed. I moved on to look at the mess before me­-cardboard, scissors, ribbons, paper, cloth, and seed bags.

In the back corner, I could hear deep sighs and a bit of cussing. It was Helen, one of the elder goats, trying to thread a needle.

“How in the world does the fashion industry ever get any clothes made? I’ve been trying to thread this needle for hours,” she said. I stepped in and helped her, although I struggled too.

“What are you making?” I asked.

“I am making a fish, so little Puddles can say “I am a Puddles with a fish.”

, I thought.

Earnest the pig ventured over.

“I think it’s better when you make the costumes. There is quite a bit of chaos, and soon we have to prepare for the nativity scene,” the pig told me.

“Let’s just get through Halloween first,” I said.

Pickles came rushing through the scene.

“Does anyone have anything that looks like long, brown hair?”

“And your costume is?” I asked.

“I am going to be Sophia Loren,” she said. “What are you going to be, Mrs. Dunn?”

“Terrified. Terrified until all the sharp objects are back in a box,” I said glibly.

As I walked back to the house, I remembered that months ago as a lark I got a little wig for the pug– don’t judge me. I found the wig and returned to the barn.

“Pickles, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe this will help with your Sophia Loren outfit,” I said.

Pickles was thrilled.

I returned to the house and went about my business.

“Mrs. Dunn,” said Lumpy the pug, “have you seen my wig? I need it for my Three Stooges costume.”

Oh dear me. I thought. Now I’m in a real pickle.

{You can support my art/writing if you wish at this link. You can also become a member of my Patreon page where stories, art creatures and more are shared. Members get perks}

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

The lone turkey...are there lessons?


I had just turned to toss some manure and suddenly a turkey flew up and roosted about twenty feet from me. I chatted with her. Within seconds another adult and about 7 youngsters arrived. They began roosting in the fence too. It’s just special to have them visit right now.

The turkey stories have continued all week. One morning I headed out to the driveway to get something in my truck and turned, stopped in my tracks,

“Did I leave a hen out?” I thought. 

There 10 feet from me right under the house window was not a hen but a young turkey. I told the turkey I was friend not foe and I gave it space. The slider gate to the Goofball barnyard was open, the animals were still in the barn, and the roosters were crowing. I had seconds thinking that this was some divine gift and Ruthie or God had sent me a lone turkey to care for. But the turkey flew up into a snag about 20 feet up. It fled to the back wood. All morning I heard it making calls to the flock and when I went to outer barn I began to answer back in my best turkey sounds. It worked for a bit and then went silent. A turkey most likely knows a fake turkey. So now I can’t stop thinking about the lone turkey. I’m hoping he or she finds the flock. I could hear them in the lower field where they often roost. 

Later that same day, I had to go to store and when I came back the turkey was back by the house in the same spot. It (I don’t know the gender) likes the cover of the quince. I got it some chicken pellet and sprinkled it around-thinking to myself this is probably a bad idea-but I did. My last toss sort of spooked it and it fled back to The Wood.

Well…the turkey came back late day. As I walked to barns for chores there it was in the orchard. It must feel some attraction with the sounds and creatures. I had looked for it before I started chores tonight in the front road where it has been coming. And now it entered our sanctum. I refrained from getting all squirrelly and greeted it and sat about 20 feet away to take a photo. It is pretty calm. It flew up and went over into Ruthie’s old field. I hated to see it go down to lower field but maybe it will find its flock. Maybe it’s a male they kicked out but I’m not sure turkeys do that like coyotes. Well I told it that barns are safe and open to it. 

I’m enjoying the delight of the visits but also feel that maybe the real lesson here- for myself- is despite all the loss of the last 20+ years of this work and despite knowing I have no control over this creature’s life or death …that my heart is still open to it.

No matter how brief the interaction, the turkey has or had an impact on me. Not having Ruthie still hurts and seeing the turkey walking about just helped.