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

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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Annual Pig Sunscreen Drive is here!

Contrary to some chatter, I did not use styling gel on Rosie, she does her own hair and make up, thank you very much.

It's time for the Annual Sunscreen Fund!

Every year in mid summer, Rosie loses all her little bristle piggie hairs and is bald–all over. Besides the fact that she has very scaly skin even with hair, without hair she becomes burned and her skin suffers. She often rubs it and it scabs. I have kept the scabbing at a low with the help of Destin, a diaper ointment with cod liver oil [a wonderful product for many skin ailments I must say!].

My regime with Rosie is to massage her with baby oil at night. Then in morning I add Destin in, and the left over baby oil on her body helps spread out the thicker Destin. I use spray on sunscreen all over her throughout the day. I also find the Destin doesn't tickle or sting her. The spray on screens are great for coverage and is much easier to cover the worst bald areas of her piggie body.

If Rosie is in a grumpy mood - a 90% possibility - covering her in sunscreen can be quite a challenge- but she is much more accepting of it now that I do it all the time.

How to help:
Either donate a small amount to the sunscreen fund - or scroll down for "Buy" button.

Send Sunscreen:
Rosie is accepting spray on sun screen this year. The spray on is much easier to get good coverage on her grumpy body, and as you can see from these photos where she was somewhat burned, she needs sunscreen!

Desitin Ointment - accepted year round
Rosie's skin chafes and I use this year round to soothe her skin and keep her scabs from rubbing to a minimum. "Desitin" is a diaper rash ointment found in the baby section at the store, made with cod liver oil - I also use it all the time for the other animals when skin issues arise.

Rosie appreciates your help. And no, the working pigs of Apifera do not need sunscreen because of their skin and their hair doesn't blow out-so rest assured your sunscreen is all for little Rosie.

Send your sun screen to:
Rosie McDonald McDermot
c/o Apifera Farm
14710 NW Tupper RD, Yamhill, OR 97148

or donate a small bit here:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

She recomends the book with all her heart

I was so pleased with this book review of "Misfits of Love" that I had to share it. Perhaps better than anything I'll ever see in The New York Times, this reviewer seems to really understand the essence of the book. This isn't just any reviewer-it is from a savvy reader who happens to be in 5th grade. It made my day to get an email from her Aunt, who wanted to share it with me, and I asked permission to then share it here with you.

As I read through it and I came to the paragraph on me and Old Man Guinnias and my father, I choked up, as she hit the nail on the head.

So thank you, Lili, I could not have asked for a better review of my work. And I am also pleased to see you received an "A". I hope you and Misteltoe continue to have conversations, and perhaps you will write your own book someday–if so, I will be sure to read it.

Dear Mrs. G,

Recently I have been reading a most amazing book.It is a collection of short stories, all of them true, written By Katherine Dunn of Apifera Farm.

This book Misfits of Love has no main character. In fact, the characters are mostly animals. There's no plot, story line or protagonist. What happens between one cover and another is purely soulful. The animals in these stories are amazing to think about, to wonder about. My favorite tales are "Hospice of a Lamb" and "Conversation with Old barn".

Mrs. G, I apologize if this is a short letter essay but this book is so powerful that my eyes are watering up reading it. My writing, though not nearly as powerful as Katherine's, is quite similar to hers. We think the same way about animals and their lives and passing. My favorite quote is,

"To say the souls is not a physical entity could be disproven by looking into Matilda's eyes."

I will explain who Matilda is later, but so powerful was that statement, I actually get teary just thinking about it.

Katherine shows a lot of similarities between the animals and humans around her. For example, when she took in an old goat named Guinnias, she would often talk to him and, as she did, she realized she was also speaking to her father who was dying several states away. I think it gave her comfort to have those conversations with someone, even it was an old goat.

Another example is Frankie, the Head Troll, a funny, bossy goat who arrived at the farm and immediately took charge of everything going on. Katherine's comments are that some animals–like people–"leave a bigger mark on one's daily life." Katherine said she could hear Frankie's voice in her head when she writes. Amazing to know that animals can have important voice when they don't speak at all. Or maybe it's that we don't listen?

Unfortunately, to truly understand the miracle of the book, you have to read it yourself. What you can understand without reading it is the impactful creatures that live or float along in our very real world. An example of this is Mother Matilda. She was originally kept as a brooding jenny, and then came to Apifera a neglected donkey. She is loved and cared for to this day.

Mrs. G, experiences with animals are not frequent, but are always incredible. I have a question for you: if you have ever experienced anything like the powerful connection I have made with my dog, Mistletoe? Please tell me if you have ever had that sort of a feeling, since I find it wonderful when humans and animals think together.

And that, Mrs. G, ends my essay. I hope that, although it may not have been as detailed as my others, you are curious about reading this book. I recommend it with all my heart.

Sincerely, Lili

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I find that there are many ways to pay homage to a person or creature-writing about, painting or drawing the subject, or taking a photograph series. The latter somehow allows me to not only really spend time observing an animal I might not have had an opportunity to examine up close, but it also just lets me partake in it's worldly vessel that is now about to take on a new form of dust.

I've been wanting to start a series like this and each time I see a beautiful moth in the water bucket I think about starting but life kept getting in my way.

But no more. So yesterday when I found this White Crested Sparrow in the lavender field, I decided to finally start a photo series called "Homage".

Please visit my main art site to see all the images. And as I do more I will let you know.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The farm as church

I was not raised with a church background, or a religion. Years later when I was in my thirties or older, my mother said she wondered if they did us a disservice by not giving us some sort of organized Sunday church going. I told her that it allowed me to figure it out on my own as an adult, and I didn't have to peel off the many layers and dogmas many churches prescribe too. I went to church for a short time at certain periods in my life, often to hear the choirs and I did enjoy the spirituality of certain buildings and communing of people.

But nature is one of my churches. So is the farm. I know it is Passover today and we-me and the Misfits and the other worker bees of the farm-are all busy today putting our spirits into action here on the farm. As is Martyn, of course.

I have new gates up which I'm pleased with-thanks to the Dirt Farmer- so now I have the pigs tilling up some of the vegetable area. But now that the ground is drier, they seem to prefer eating grass. The first weeks of warm weather I let Doris and June graze, but they rototilled soft areas of grass looking for worms. I was worried I had trained them to only till since they spent the winter in a dry paddock being fed hay and feed. But yesterday I spent the majority of the day with them as I tidied up the veggie area, getting ready for planting. And they mainly ate grass and weeds. If I created a wet spot for them, they did a bit of rototilling. I am still learning the language of Pig and it is very interesting.

Yesterday was also a big day for Earnest as he spent it with Doris and June. I have been on the fence about breeding them. It was my intention when I bought them all. We are self sustaining and while you can rest assured that Doris, June and Earnest will always be part of Apifera, some of the offspring will be sold, and a couple will grace our table. I know this rankles some of the rescue world-a world I separate myself from and stay out of discussion with online-but Martyn and I choose to eat pork and chicken and some lamb [lamb is anything up to a year-so if you are a zealot vegan, please do not write snarky comments about us killing baby lambs-they will be deleted anyway as I don't tolerate dogma from anyone of any agenda]. Anyway, the pig behavior is so different than sheep, and with pigs the fencing must include a bottom board, or the pigs will lift the fences with their noses. One of the reasons many small farms are going to the smaller pig breeds is their manners and maintenance are much easier-on fences and farm. Having experienced the power of Big Pig-who we tried to adopt so she could retire here- I know how important good pig fence is.

SO I wanted to see how Earnest's weight and height was compared to the gilts [an unbred girl pig]. Earnest is a Kunekune and will get to be about 200-250#. The girls are Guinea Hogs and currently a tish taller. The Kunes are a wonderful, docile breed. So are the Guineas, but from what I read and hear, the Kune is more docile. Earnest is not pushy at all and still easy to handle.

So, in they went. And little Earnest began his job with gusto. I will keep this post PG rated, but let me assure you Earnest gave it the college try-for hours. I was there the entire time and even made him take time outs with mud baths. From what I can see, I'm not sure he is quite tall enough to make full contact-but we'll find out. I was pleased to see he is catching up in size, as I know the Kunes grow a bit slower.

Today I have the smaller Misfits in the veggie bed, and Old Rudy is in the back yard off my back studio-usually shut down to animals-but Rudy is helping me clean up brush and grass there. The sheep are grazing, Aldo is watching, Scooby is napping..oops, well, we all must rest during our work. The donkeys are busy with brush and eating too. Chickens are grooming the flies off water buckets. Marcella is trying to help with everything.

So church today-with a big top blue sky and warm temperatures-has been glorious.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We salute the head matriarch

Today is Daisy's eleventh birthday. I can hardly believe how that time has passed. Daisy arrived with her mother, Rosemary, in our first year here at Apifera in 2004. I had little knowledge of raising sheep and was so lucky to have stumbled on those two, along with Joe Pye Weed who helped us build our initial flock. We lost Rosie, tragically, in the Spring of Death in '09 but her calm demeanor and leader abilities were passed onto Daisy.

I retired Daisy a few years ago. She is toothless now and her arthritis is showing more and more. She is slowing down in the fields and the other day I watched her try to keep up with the flock as they ran to the gate for dinner. It is best she stay with the flock though, rather than separate her out into the barnyard. If I ad to do that for her safety, I would, and would bring in Lilly too, her eldest daughter who is also retired.

Today I put the lambs and mothers back with the main flock. The lambs are a month and it is always exciting to have everyone back together-they greet old friends, butt some heads if necessary, sniff out the youngsters and let them know the pecking order. But in minutes, everything is calm and quiet again, with lovely white and brown shapes floating around the fields, eating grass. The two ram lambs shown here, are very nice too, really growing nicely.

The photo seen here of Daisy is included in the book, "Misfits of Love".

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Which way do I go

This is one of Little Lil's ewe lambs. We are at one month old now and all the lambs are looking good and growing well. I sat in front of her and took this sequence, but then it went on and on–she kept looking one way, then another, back and forth.

"Where's Mom? Where is sister?"

I enjoy spending time with the flock like this. I find one has to sit quietly with animals, a lot, to really observe, in order to comprehend some of their motions or why they react to certain things as they do. It is all interesting to me and is one reason I continue to love farming. You learn from each season, each group, each field.

Donkey Dream is spreading its wings

I will be sending the files off to the printer next week for "Donkey Dream" and let me tell you-I am so pleased, and relieved. There are so many tiny details to be consumed with and it is hard to focus on any other work while making a book–at least that is how I work on them.

What has been fun for me is to go back and read the original story–which was originally called "Raggedy Love". I started it in 2009 I think. This book has been through so many transformations-it started as a children's story of Pino and his pies, but then evolved into a memoir of how I met Martyn and got to the farm, which included Pino and his pies. Depending on who saw it, the poor book [and me] would labor over a new direction. But looking back, it was all worth it–the book is really more like I had envisioned it in the first place, with the love story but also pie recipes.

Anyway, I settled on a cover and back cover, seen here. Very soon I will have pre-order information up too.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Guarding wheelbarrows and other Marcella skills

She is growing so fast. Going on 4 months her puppy body is turning gangly and discombobulated. It is as if her front end and hind end are working against each other. Her teeth are coming in and her paws are still polar bear like. She is smart, independent and drives everyone in the barnyard a bit crazy from time to time. She likes goat feed and cat food and raw eggs. She beats Ernest tot he duck hut every morning to look for a prized egg which she neatly pokes, then sucks out the feast. The pigs crunch the whole egg, then somehow eat the food while spitting out the shell in one step.

Marcella is learning not to chase. I can't watch her 24/7 so about twice a day I hear a loud yelp from her in the barnyard. Usually it is her overzealous behavior around Rosie. I've told here a million times, "Watch out for the grumpy pig," but she keeps trying to make friends. She'll learn.

We haven't had any accidental deaths- I worry a bit about the ducks since they came to me clipped. She is intrigued with them, but also likes anything that moves fast. Usually her romp is over fast and if I am there it is a stern,

"NO chase!"

and she immediately sits. She is after all, a puppy. I know by about a year I'll see a huge difference. She had her first real encounter with the main flock this weekend. I put her out in the barnyard with them-not the lambs or moms at this time, too soon-and I took a seat to observe. One of the yearling ewes head banged her and Marcella got up to leave, and that ewe came after her again knocking her to the ground. This sent her running, crying to the barn. Watching them learn is not always easy, but you have to weigh safety with learning and let them figure out the dynamic. She is big enough to get rammed a few times without harm. But she's not mature enough to be left unattended for a day. So they spent the afternoon together, and things calmed. She learned that the ewes are bigger than the Pygmies and mean business.

She already sits in certain spots-the fence line when the dogs or Martyn are out and about. And why not guard a wheelbarrow-its a very important item to us.

Mother Tulip returns

Mother Tulip came back. I had my eye out for the first signs of her. This time of year I run the sheep down past the house and front road to put them in the side fields, and it is a challenge to keep them from eating the tender Muscari and my lone tulip.

But she is not just any tulip. She is Mother Tulip. Many years ago my mother gave me lots of tulip bulbs to plant here at the farm-she loved tulips. They are had to grow here due to the deer, let alone the always escaping Stella and Iris, and sheep passing by. The original Mother Tulip came out right after my mom died last April, so I took it as a clear message from her,

"Hello, I am still here." While it sounds silly, I really hung on to that tulip in my heart and it had great significance for me.

So this year I watched for her. I knew the bulb would have separated or died out, but then came a tiny shoot. In her first stages, she looked just like the original Mother Tulip, with yellow highlights, but when she began to open, she turned red. She was not as strong and tall as last year, but we all evolve, and so does Mother Tulip.

I think she came back to give me a smile. It did bring me one, although it brought back the memory of how sad it all was. But a year later, I can look at her as a beautiful creature taking on many forms.