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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Evolution of thanks

As I've gone through life, what I'm truly thankful for has evolved as I age–good health-or the lack of any debilitating conditions, as of this writing-is on the top of the I'm thankful for list. A day free of pain becomes more important after you truly suffer pain. We had four days of out of town guests, in and out of the house, but we made meals here, and celebrated our main meal last night.

Today, the house is quiet again, and I'm grateful. I truly love my inward life, it is what I can handle, where I spend the days with nature and animals, my art, my writing, what is in my head and heart. I like people, the ones that understand boundaries anyway, but most of time is spent without people. I love my husband, any time of day. But I love my work-with art and animals. I think that is something that I'm thinking about today. I'd rather be working than almost anything during the day, including being with people. And I don't consider it a flaw.

I'm grateful for my mate, my best friend...one of the few people I have known my entire life that I can be with all the time and not feel...flattened out..or invisible. I'm not writing well about this....it would require sharing way too much about me and other people.

I did yoga as the sunrise came into the living room, creating a shadow of one of the finches on the wall...so simple, how did I not notice that before? Tonight we are making turkey soup. I am so looking forward to a night of quiet by the fire, some wine, and the routine that we love...some might say boring, not us.

To rely on our inner lives, and activities we love to do-work outside, cook, tend to the farm and animals-that is a good life for us. I'm grateful we can do it and hope we can until...we die. A tall order, but one can hope.

And in order to make this life work, I'm grateful for you who still read this blog, show up when I need you for art sales and animal emergencies...or just plain support me through email notes and caring thoughts. Some of you I get to know in real life. I work hard to entertain with art and writing...but I love doing it, so it is no burden on me. The only burden is that sometimes, I feel I'm not doing enough, not entertaining enough. But, that's lessened when I look at my photos, or the actual faces in the photos...it's like the animals look at me, as they are eating, safe out of the wind and say,

"You're doing okay. So are we."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mini sized purr factory: Maxine and I bond

Maxine and I have a daily routine. As an elder and perhaps due to her hyperthyroid issue, her coat is severely matted-the shelter began taking out mats but I work on her each day and we are making headway. In fact she seems to really appreciate it. She lets me know with a little "meows" when she's had enough.

Grooming is such a good way to bond and get to know an animal. She has gained half pound this month which is a lot when you only weigh 5 pounds! I think she has such a kitten face for an elder. When I groom her I tell her how she has always been beautiful but each day she gets more beautiful.

Maxine has a very unique purr. It is kind of a combination of a purr and a squeak.

While The Magnificent Maurice Mittens was failing, I spent most of the time doting on him, as was only right. When one animal leaves the group, it never fails to change the dynamic of those remaining. Maxine was always personable, but mainly spent her time sleeping in her first months here. I think some of that might have been depression, since she had been taken to a shelter as an elder. Putting on 1/2 pound for her too might have perked her up. But I always feel like since she arrived here with Mittens, maybe she blossomed a little after he passed-not because she didn't like him, she did, but because there was a space created, and the energy of that space allowed her to take a new position.

Just yesterday, a package arrived [thank you Melanie Reed wherever you are!] of more canned cat food-with a note saying,

A special gift for Maxine.

I told Maxie about it this morning in our grooming session. In the past week, with each grooming, I feel her understanding my intentions more and more, and my loyalty, and I know that is helping her to feel like this is really home, like she is safe and she won't be sent back to the shelter.

Animals like consistency: Consistent love, shelter, water and food, and a consistent sense that they are noticed. I consistently show up each morning and groom her, and she consistently purrs. It's a win-win relationship.

{Apifera is a 501[c][3] and we have been adopting elder/special needs animals since 2004. Maxine is one of the residents of The Elder Cat Suite. If you'd like to participate in helping, visit the funding page. In time, I plan to have open days for the cat suite, and workshops there too.}

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Intertwined with donkey

"First Snow" acrylic on canvas
My work with the animals and nature is intertwined with my internal work that comes out on canvas.

"Winter Night" acrylic on pine board

Friday, November 17, 2017

Goodbye to a most magnificent cat

It has been an exhausting 48 hours, and week. The Magnificent Maurice Mittens became out of sorts earlier in the week and I spent a couple days working intensively to keep liquids in him and help him. Because the vet I like is still waiting to open her brick and mortar clinic, I finally opted to take him into the emergency vet clinic which is only open nights and weekends. We went in Friday night in pouring rain and discussed all the possible issues that were making him listless, and off food and water. An obvious suspect is thyroid and kidney issues in an older cat, but there were other things that made me feel there were multiple issues going on. I had felt really upset last night when we got home, and missed the relationships I had built with my Oregon vets over years who I felt always understood my work, and knew the animal's interest was in my heart, but there are also limits to what measures can be taken, or should be taken, on case by case basis. Keeping an animal alive come hell or high water is not-in my opinion-something that is always the go-to goal. Their comfort is, of course, but also-sometimes elders let go, and deciphering that can be hard for the human in us sometimes. I didn't have to explain that with my old vets, and I never felt judged if I had to draw a line on what extent I felt we should go for a dying or sick animal-but it was a discussion with my vets and we made the answer together.

Blood work was done and we kept him in there overnight for 24 hour observation. The blood work really didn't show a definitive answer, so I picked him up at 6 am, since no animal can stay there after 7;00 am-it is strictly for emergency work-and I drove him down to a clinic I've heard good things about and had wanted to try out. If there was a silver lining in all this, it is that I now have a clinic I truly love and the doctor and techs were really wonderful.

I felt no pressure to make a 'right' or 'wrong' decision about Mitten's fate. The doctor took over an hour with me discussing options based on what we knew at that moment, and understanding this was an elder cat, and that I was the one who knew him best.

It was a had choice, but we decided we would do another round of blood work to rule out one more thing, and I would take him home and give him fluids, and we would go from there. But as the hour and then another hour wore on, he was showing more and more signs that there were multiple things going on-including neurological issues, like walking into walls and losing his motor functions. He deteriorated throughout the visit with the vet, and that prompted me to change my mind-I felt it was in his best interest to be put to sleep, we all did at that point.

He went in an instant.

I can't say enough good things about the vet, and like I said, I lost Mittens, but I gained a clinic I felt at home in, and respected in. I did not feel pressure to pull out every dollar and every trick in the book to save an animal that really just was clearly checking out. I admit, I cried this time. I was so exhausted from the last 48 hours-but it was also the unsettling feeling I didn't have a clinic [yet] that morning that would be able to help me. I got a group hug from the vet and the tech, and it was really a good experience.

The thing is, Mittens was a favorite of mine. I love them all, I really do, but Mittens seemed to be the one I had to gravitate to in the last months. While everyone is held on a daily basis, and cared for, Mittens loved attention. I look back on it and think, well, maybe that is the way it was meant to be-he got extra attention in the past few months because he or the universe knew he would be leaving soon.

Mittens was adopted twice at the shelter as a 12 year old, and returned twice. I don't know why. But I do know he was meant to come here. He had a place called home away from barking shelter dogs, and although he was well cared for there by staff, it wasn't the same as having a home.

When he arrived, I altered his name. He was more than just 'Mittens' to me.

He was magnificent.

He was The Magnificent Maurice Mittens.

UPDATE: Due to the love and generosity of followers, the entire vet bill has been collected. It takes a village! Any small donations go into directly feeding and maintaining the Misfits. All donations are tax deductible.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The arrival of White Dog-it's still magic

The first photo ever taken of him, on his arrival, his collar still embedded
Four years ago, a most wonderful introduction was made. White Dog mysteriously appeared in our fields. I can not imagine life without him, our bond and relationship has thickened and what makes the continuing story of White Dog even juicer is...he really was meant to be in Maine. He is so in his element here, adoring the cold and snow. I still have not let go of my book idea about him, it has changed multitude of times. But for now, I am reposting what I wrote days after he arrived at the old Apifera. It still makes my skin tingle.

{Originally written on Benedetto's arrival, 2013}

We all want magic.

The world is so chaotic, with the masses iphoning, apping and texting as they rush by one another not making eye contact. So much vitriol fills the airways outside Apifera.

We want happy endings...because there are so many sad endings, or unfair ones.

Sometimes, we want magic, real magic. The kind of magic that sets the hairs on your neck straight up and makes your heart pump faster.

And that is one of the gifts White Dog has brought us...that feeling that magic does exist here. And it can be shared and multiplied through story and images. One could summarize the entire episode of White Dog appearing in our fields in a factual way–he strayed here because in tact male dogs often stray. He smelled something in the air and went a wandering, randomly stopping here and somehow got into the fields.

But the more I suggested that in the past couple days, my readers wanted more-they wanted the magical answer. That he came here for me, he was meant to come here for reasons we might not grasp, or I might not grasp yet. I am leaning in that direction.

After all, this is not the first time an animal has appeared in a magical fashion. There was Lloyd Baines for one, a rooster hiding in the bramble in the middle of nowhere, who refused to get in my car so I could take him home to safety.

"Look, you won't last out here much longer. Apifera is one mile up the road, take a left through the fields and head down 3000 feet."

Two weeks later, there he was in the barnyard.

I can't make this stuff up.

So when a white dog shows up, the same rare breed as my own, out of nowhere-after eleven years of not one dog penetrating our fences-I took note. My initial reaction was a tingling sensation coupled with glee. I was floating through air when I met him.

Some people mentioned that he was a gift from our recently departed, Floyd. I must admit, I did consider this. After any death here, there always seems to be something that hits me over the head with,

"We're sending you this universal gift, take note."

The day after White Dog appeared, I had a phone meeting with an editor I worked with a few years back on a manuscript, and I had hired him again to review some book ideas I was percolating since he is so knowledgeable about the market and industry. He gave me lots of good things to think about, and steered me clear of a few things too. And he gave me a couple ideas that were just spot on and so clear-ideas that helped me visualize right there as he was speaking what my next projects could be, and will be, if I choose to say 'yes' in my heart to them. And as I was thinking that, there was White Dog outside my studio window, looking in at me.

Many out there seem to believe White Dog is here to stay. I am still not sure. He might be passing through. While he seems very happy here-and clearly likes the flock and the set up, and me, I might add-I am trying to not get attached...yet. But I'm failing. This morning when I went to feed, the name, "Benedetto" came into my head. I looked it up later and it means "blessed". I told Martyn and he warned me it is too soon to get attached, and it is. But that name just came to me, so I have it tucked away for a few days. I

want him to stay.

I have done all I can do in the form of ads, calling vets and other online resources to alert that he is here and no one has come forth. I've analyzed it all to death. He arrived very, very thin, a collar was embedded into his neck and some nubs of hay twine were on the collar, like maybe he'd been tied up. His toenails were very long. He clearly knew what sheep were. The fact is, in my mind, he was either placed here by someone that has come to know my farm and blog and felt he'd be safe here, or...

...he was pulled here by invisible hands and energies rooted deep in the pumpkin patch. The most stoic way to look at it would be that he showed up because he smelled Marcella-although she's not in heat–perhaps she perfumes herself each day.

We all want it to be magic. We all need it to be magic. So let's stick with that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Inspired by wind

I've been able to get some canvases done this week - these were inspired by the wind storm last week. They will be available through Sundance in the coming month.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"I'm going as fast as I can"

The morning chores and feeding actually begins at 5:30 a.m. I'm still in bed but that is when the animals note that the front porch light comes on and Martyn lets Muddy out which makes Marcella bark and then the pigs squeal. But they stop, because they know this is there are other things that must happen in certain sequence before their breakfast. It is not until they hear Martyn's truck leave, and then they hear the front door open again and I let the blind pug-then Marcella barks again and the pigs begin their second squeal session. This second pig squealing lets the entire farm know that breakfast is really close.

When Benedetto sees me walking to the front barn, he wags his tail even though he is quite far from me, and I always wave to him.

And the pigs squeal again but this time they don't stop until they each have grain in front of them. The rooster is crowing and the cats are scratching at their door and Marcella likes to taunt Moose and Goose while getting ready for breakfast. I feed the hens and Opie invariably gets in the coop and I have to tell him,

"You are NOT a chicken," and he scurries out with me.

As I leave for the outer barn, Benedetto is always there at the gate, his giant nose greets me before any other part of his body. The donkeys then bray and the sheep and llama wander out to see if perhaps they will get some grain-but they never do, and they know to return to the barn this time of year where hay is laid out for them.

Meanwhile, Boone is front and center at his station in the barn anticipating his hay and Matilda positions herself at private eating area where she gets a bucket of senior feed away from the others. Old Sophie has entered the barn because she knows she gets her own special breakfast there where she is assured privacy.

And in the background are the grumblings of The World's Grumpiest But I'm Fine As I Am Pig, aka Rosie, who is both delighted it is breakfast but also annoyed she has been awoken, again, and that it is quite chilly.

Between greetings and feedings, I usually calmly tell them,

"I'm going as fast as I can."

I don't think they believe me, except Benedetto who takes everything in stride.

I return to the front barn-I have to let Maxine, one of the elder cats, out of her crate where she is fed to ensure calories, and I usually sit with the cats for a spell. I often look over into Marcella and Earnest's suite and depending on the time of the day, the sunlight can be so beautiful on the straw.

Morning has broken on Apifera Farm.