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27 August 2016

The Gulleys: Celebrating Family, Farming, Art

By: Jon Katz
At The County Fair

At The County Fair

In a sense, the county fair is a celebration of the quite remarkable Gulley families, who we are proud to call our friends. Carol, Ed and their daughter Maggie have set up the most creative and beautiful stall decorations in Barn 2, (their cows are right behind it) and from what I could see, in all of the fair.

When I think of them, I think that they and their family embody the great spirit of farmers and farming, and of the idea of the county fair. I have great respect and admiration for both of them.

Their booth is festooned with milk cans, Ed's wooden flowers, floral decorations, old farm artifacts and links to Ed and Carol's popular and wonderful blog, the Bejosh Farm Journal. Ed and Carol are long-time dairy farmers, they work long and brutal hours and at night, work in their daily writing about their life and about farming.

At the fair, the family shows cows and has already won some ribbons.

Carol is joining my writing class this fall and Ed will be showing his folk art at the Bedlam Farm Open House in October. He has already sold three of his sculptures at the county fair, he has sold others at our Spring Open House, and he is working on another wind chime sculpture and other works for the Open House.

We are in awe of the Gulleys, they decided to speak up about the lives and challenges of farming in America, and also advance their own very creative spirits. Ed is selling his wooden flowers his turtles made out of old engine parts, his beautiful wind chimes and  his inventive lawn sculptures.

Ed and Carol's reports from the fair on their blog are unique, a daily account of what family and farming has meant to them, and what the fair means from the inside.

I've talked to many people about the opportunities blogging presents, but no one has ever taken the idea and run with it like Ed and Carol. They never heard of a blog until a few months ago, now theirs has thousands of devoted followers. Blogs have the potential to give voice to the voiceless, and opportunity to the creative. I know, my blog is the centerpiece of my creative life.

A good friend, a doctor, expressed wonder the other day at how often I write on the blog, and i laughed and thought, how many patients does she see a day? It is my work, as farming is Ed's work.

The Gulleys's writing is authentic and heartfelt. It is often funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes informative. Ed's art is inventive and exciting. Carol's writing is filled with humor and love, and Ed's is a honest as the sunrise. We went into the Swine barn and saw one of Ed's eclectic sculptural turtles, turns out he is bartering the turtles for drawing from a farmer/artist who raises pigs.

The Gulleys' have become dear friends to Maria and me.

Ed was here when the bear was hit by a truck and euthanized in our pasture, he took the body away. He came to take Deb, our sheep's body away when she took ill and had to be put down. Our friendship began when I met Carol in our cardiac rehab class, she was on one treadmill, I was on another.

We all became friends, we have spent many rich hours at their kitchen table.  Maria saw Ed's art one day and challenged him to see himself as an artist and take his work seriously. He didn't need any more encouragement than that, he began showing his work at his farm and at our Open Houses. He has a loyal following already.

The Gulleys are a remarkable family and a remarkable couple. I think the fair is, in many ways, a celebration of them, their family, their values and their good lives. They are happy,  busy,  and proud.

Posted in General

County Fair: The March Of The Ducks

By: Jon Katz
March Of The Baby Ducks

March Of The Baby Ducks

In the poultry barn, the baby ducks march up a ramp out of the water and up to two cups filled with feed, then they slide down and swim back and climb up the ramp again. Baby ducks are especially soft and appealing, I could have stood their all day to watch them climb up and down the ramps and then swim back.

Posted in General

Washington County Fair

By: Jon Katz
Washington County Fair

Washington County Fair

County fairs are rich and powerful celebrations of a culture we love, but which is, in so many ways, dying out. Although the fair celebrates agriculture, there is much more popcorn, ice cream and fried corn dogs than there is the farm produce and food that is truly what agriculture is about.

Food is so important at the county fair, I was struck by this mother, pausing with her baby to taste some quite delicious maple ice cream. A portrait of rest and peace. Food and cows are the symbols of the fair to me.

Posted in General

At The Washington County Fair

By: Jon Katz
Royalty

Royalty

We went to the Washington County Fair this afternoon, a celebration of community, agriculture and, with few exceptions,  horrendously unhealthy and popular foods (I saw a friend eating a (frozen) clam roll smothered in cheese). The fair has its own traditions, it's own hierarchy of royalty.

I found this family having some maple ice cream, mother and daughter were all wearing crowns, they were all decorated  on behalf of the spirit of the county, the state and the fair. They exuded warmth and pride and I was grateful to be able to photograph them. There was a pure joy and pride in them and their crowns.

Posted in General

Meeting Robin Thursday. Love Feeds The Heart.

By: Jon Katz
Facetime

Facetime

Emma's generation weaves technology into experience more seamlessly than I do, and technology is a seminal part of my creative life. Emma and Jay used a number of different tools to keep all of us  informed  about Robin's birth- text messages, photos, and today, Facetime, Emma called me up this afternoon and I got to see Robin face-to-face and talk with her a bit.

I liked meeting Robin, it was Emma and Jay's way, I think of signalling me that they want me to know her, to be involved in her life. I'm game, although also clear-headed.

They are already working at it, and so will I. We have obstacles to recognize and overcome.

I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that Emma, my daughter and only child, now has a child of her own. A seismic shift in the cosmos, I am still working it out. I haven't absorbed it quite yet, I feel mostly confused.

New technology is cool, but still sometimes limited. I don't feel as if I've meet Robin yet, not on the Iphone.

Mostly, she screamed or yawned at me. That is all you can ask of a newborn baby. Is she adorable? I don't know, really.  She has not revealed herself to me yet, and why should she?

I enjoyed seeing her and I enjoyed seeing Emma looking tired but very healthy and happy. As a male, I can never know the wonder of childbirth, except from a distance, but it must be one of the most amazing experiences life can offer. I can only imagine.It is a humbling thing to think about.

Maria says it is time to get down there – she said she felt strongly about it – and that means it will happen, and I agreed. So we are both going to New York City on Thursday for a brief visit to say hello and welcome her.  Just a couple of hours, down and back on the same day.

Maybe try to take a portrait for Emma and Jay to have. Taking the first portrait, now that is a special thing for me to be doing. I am already mulling which lenses, how much light, etc.

We went to the Washington County Fair this afternoon and we met Ed and Carol Gulley there, their families are showing cows and have already won a couple of ribbons. Carol and I have a longstanding joke, she is always pulling out her cellphone and showing me numerous photos of her grandchildren, and I am always rolling my eyes and kidding her about it, I got to pull out my Iphone and show her Robin.

I've resolved not to do that as a general rule unless asked. Carol is innately loving.

I don't assume everyone wants to see my grandchild, yet I am eager to see what happens with this relationship and write about it.  I learned a long time ago that I show my emotions in my writing, not so much in my life. This all feels like a triumph for me, a window, a door to walk through. I am keeping my expectations in check, my life is not going to be different but hopefully richer and deeper.

I understand the importance of love in my life, I lived without it for a long time.

Love is always good, it always feeds the soul and the heart. It is always a gift and a small miracle. I will open up to it.

Posted in General