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

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Friday, August 28, 2015

An example of pig architecture

This may look like a mud hole to some, but to those of us lucky enough to experience a life with some pigs, we know this is a finely tuned example of a porcine water feature, complete with three swimming holes and one recycling water bucket. The black bucket is filled to give fresh water and let to overflow in hot weather. Wherever there is a bit of slime mud, the pigs role and use their snouts as their little chisels and hammers. Within an hour they can have a swimming hole.

I swear I've heard them out there whistling Hi Ho Hi Ho It's Off to Work We Go.

The pigs also have fresh water on a drip nipple. The nipple is secured into a large 6" PVC pie, filled with fresh water. The pigs push the nipple and get their drink. Some of my pigs always prefer the bucket water, which means I am wasting more water, because I have to clean it, but they often love to stand in the bucket and drink.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Donkey dusters

They stand on Dust Hill like this often, their ears become shadows with the arms and fingers of the old oak.

"The rain is coming this weekend," I said to them.

They looked at me, I looked at them, and then we all went about with our mornings.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Priscilla says goodbye and all is as it should be

It appears that Priscilla, the old goose that lived a long and good goose life, has returned herself to Earth.

I have no physical proof of this. She is not to be found. And now I must tell you that while I will miss her, and it is always sad to say goodbye, I am relieved-for both her, and me. It was time.

She was fading in many ways over the past year, but especially this fading was noticeable in the last months. She had lost weight, was less able to right herself quickly if she toppled forward, and she had no interest in the one remaining Bottomtum-the original ducks she used to protect.

In the past couple months, she had begun separating herself from the main barnyard, and squeezing under the main gate so she could wonder into the yards, and fields and drive below, looking for berries, or remaining water in the stream. Initially, this was all fine, she would waddle back around five and I would pick her up and bring her to bed down with her duck.

But in time, she would not be at the gate at her designated hour and I would have to wander the fields and bramble to find her. She used to always respond to my "Wack! Wack!" goose call, but perhaps her hearing was fading too. In the past week, I noticed that when I did go and retrieve her–which was becoming a nightly task–and I would carry her up to the barn, she would rest her neck and head onto my face. While Priscilla was never ornery, in her younger elder years [she arrived here at age 20] she never did this.

While I knew her body was failing her, and that this small act of resting her face to mine could be seen simply that her energy was fading, I also instinctively knew she was going to leave soon, and she was telling me. It might be a day or more, but I knew her days were ending. The ducks that left before her kept wanting to return to the natural water of the stream in their final days, rather than there beloved water bucket they were so fond of.

"Just letting you know, I'm getting ready," she said.

So yesterday I greeted her around noon while she was in the shallow bramble by Old Barn. This was a usual spot for her. I went about my business. By evening, I looked for her, calling, and traveling around the fields and dried out stream at all the many places she would frequent. There was no sign of her, her honking or her feet crunching dried leaves below her. I found not a feather. I waited an hour and took Martyn out on another walk about. I even went to places I highly doubted she would have gone to, but saw nothing. This morning, I looked again, and checked all of Old Barn thinking she might have dropped in there.

It's been brought to my attention that some people might have a hard time continuing to read my blog and updates, due to the fact that a creature is always dying at some point. In a way, this saddens me, as it means I have not done my job as a storyteller, I have not expressed properly that death is not to be seen as the opposite of life, it is the balancing arm of life, it is part of life. Priscilla was not walking around eating blackberries, fending off death, she was being a goose, living as a goose. Somewhere, an old goose is truly returning to earth.

I can understand how a loyal reader of this blog might get tired of the deaths-they read and fall in love with certain characters or animals, and one by one after ten years, those creatures start to die. They are most likely dealing with deaths of people they love int heir own real lives, so when they come here for some humor and story, more death might make them hit the pause button. I suppose it would be like if The Waltons television show–which I loved–went on and on into the elderly years of the young children and one by one they started dying-it might be too much to swallow.

Part of me, mind you, for seconds only, thought, Maybe I should just write fiction from now on and never really mention the deaths, maybe readers deserve only a happy place.

I'll keep writing about death when it happens-it's my experience here. And maybe in time, I won't.

And there are worse things than death. Life is the hard stuff, in my opinion, in all its messy glory. Suffering is hard, pain and fear are hard. Loss is a process for the survivor to overcome, but for me, the actual last moment of death is a door into Nature.

Priscilla is now where she is meant to be at this exact time. She was over 24 years old. Looking back on the photos of her arrival, I can see how old she looked in the past few months. The coloring of her orange globe was fading, and her body was losing mass. It's possible she just lay down, and her long, beautiful Grace Kelly neck, naturally reclined on the ground.

Postscript:  I looked up the symbolic meaning of an encounter with a goose:

You are being reminded that we often take on the quests of our peers and family without stepping back and discerning whether or not this is something that we ourselves would wish to pursue. Make sure that the path you are currently following is your own and look deeply into your heart to ascertain that the choice is yours and not what someone else has wished upon you.

Alternatively the quest you are currently on is about to take an abrupt change of course. Know that this is only a temporary thing and that you will soon be back on your chosen path.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Piglets private swimming hole

A video posted by Katherine Dunn / Apifera Farm (@katherinedunnapiferafarm) on

The piglets were weaned this weekend. This is nothing traumatic like weaning the lambs from their mothers-that can be bleating for a couple days–hard on the shepherdess as well as sheep! But the piglets just sort of accept the separation, as does the mom. And when they got out to their new digs and they found their own swimming hole, well, that sealed the deal.

This little black and white gilt is pretty funny. I call her Chunk, as she is built like a brick. All the gilts are pretty nice. I think two of the barrows found a wonderful home and will be off to their new lives next week-including my beloved little runt!

They are living in Lower Misfit Village area, with prayer flags blowing over their dreams.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Creatures to love

Juliette the donkey is going to the haberdashery. She sews all her own handbags and the haberdashery man is from Italian and he gives her beautiful fabrics, buttons and such in exchange for her handmade bags. Although lately, he only requests that she dine at noon with him. He is 78 and alone and Juliette, although much younger, speaks Italian so they can discuss books and current events. But he really just likes looking at her as she is beautiful and reminds him of his eldest daughter who was lost at sea.

Else the cat is ready for the museum. She spends many days there. She goes immediately to the room where the Swedish painters are, and sits on a bench and stares into the landscapes of her old homeland. She is a not married and relocated to America when she thought she loved an American. But he turned out to be scam artist and took all her family jewelry, the only things she had left from her parent's belongings–Except her scarf, which her mother made for her. She always wears red shoes because she says it grounds her. She says she will never marry or even date again, she only wants to go to the museum. Although she has recently learned to ski.

And of course, little Pino the donkey. I did this felted doll years ago and could never part with it, but...he needs someone to love him every day, instead of having to live in a box. He loves his red sweater and he thinks the "P" stands for "pie" so I don't tell him otherwise.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hazel, an original Apifera cat

In 2004, when we first moved to the farm, a little orange ball of fluff crept out of the hay bales. That was just the beginning of my life with more cats than I ever thought I would cohabit with.

That orange fluff ball was later named Angustifolia aka Gus, and he was from the first feral litter of Mama Kitty and Big Tony. There were five in that litter, and two remain–Hazel, pictured here, and Mr. Plum.

That first year and and a half, I actively trapped cats, both kittens and strays. All were taken into one of my wonderful local vets who always gave me a fair price for all the spaying and neutering. And, thanks to this blog, and the many followers and cat lovers, I was able to raise most of the money to have that all accomplished. It took a lot of time.

That first litter consisted of Mr. Plum, Quince, Hazel, Gus, and tiny little Sweet Pea. Gus disappeared about a year ago, which broke my heart as not only was he the last buddy for Hazel, he was a the first cat I met at Apifera.

Hazel was always buddies with the wonderful, much loved, bionic man cat, Samuelle Noel, who probably had the most vet care of any creature I've had-again, followers helped me though it. In the end, he had cancer, but I was with him and cared for him until the end. So after Sam died, Hazel was left alone in the barn. The bright side of that is it really tendered her up, now she comes out to me when I'm there, and asks for petting. She's a tiny thing, not much bigger than Itty Bitty.

Tomentosa is our two timing cat. He is part long hair, he comes for dinner for a day, then leaves, and always comes back brushed and healthy a week later. He must be 12+ now. I'm always so happy to see him, and he seems to feel that way about me, I must say.

After that first litter in 2004, Mama Kitty had two more litters. One litter she amazingly carried down to a nearby farm, and those kittens lived there. But the litter she had under bramble outside by Old Barn infiltrated into Apifera. Of that litter-Pumpkin Head, Little Orange, Blackberry, Teasel, and Fig–only Little Orange remains, and he lives with Mr. Plum.

Mr. Plum and Orange allow me to pick them up and hold them, They are fed on the deck and then spend their days in the front gardens or under the lilac trees.

Mama Kitty died last year, the end of an era for sure. I tried to capture her again, as I knew she was sick with a huge growth, but after two weeks I just couldn't get her, even though she continued to eat on the porch. It had originally taken me two years to capture her back in the '04 cat era. But remarkabley, she climbed into one of the baskets on the front porch, and died, all curled up in sleep. This was so touching for me, as she was the only cat that was still truly semi ferel, and I knew she would most likely wander off and die. I took it as a 'thank you' for helping so many my kin. SHe is buried in the front gardens, where her two remaining sons nap.

ANd of course, we had many stray show up and never leave-all brought meaning to my days, some had a bigger impact than others: the incredible BW; the theater cat Phinnias T. Barnum who had to leave for his show; Samuelle Noel; Miss Prairie Pussy Toes; Mr. Brandshaw who ruled the hay barn but in the end was such a lover; and the cat I only knew for an hour.

Big Tony, who spread his seed well lives in the house, an old man now. He is allowed bed privileges, couch duty, counter top eating-he lives like a grandpa King. Itty Bitty also has indoor privileges and she and Martyn are dating. Peaches is allowed in for short spurts but she lives very independently of all the animals, preferring me.

Oddly, we haven't had any new strays come in the last couple years or more. I don't know why. Although I truly believe it is because of two things-one, the neighbors and I did a lot of trapping/spaying/neutering; and two, I don't think I've resonated a call out to the universe for more to come. In time.