23 September 2018

Belly Dancing At The Open House

By: Jon Katz

Belly Dancing At The Open House

My brave and beautiful wife is working hard to become a belly dancer, something that is surprising in some ways, but not in  others. This is who Maria really is, the spirit that has always lived inside of her.

It is so natural and joyous for her the wonder is that she just started doing it a year or so ago.

The Belly Dancing is not, in my mind, something different, it is really her, it is what she is about. Belly Dancing is not about pleasing men or arousing them. It is a beautiful affirmation of identity and self among the women who do it.

They are saying, quite simply, this is who I am, and who I am is beautiful. Period.

Maria's Belly Dancing groups is coming to our October Open House (they will be here at 1 p.m. on October 7). In this year of all years, this is the right dance for all of us.

Audio: Belly Dancing At The Open House

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Joan And The Light

By: Jon Katz

Joan And The Light

Joan has a gift of finding the light everywhere she goes. I remember a cold day last winter when I came upon Joan staring out the Mansion window at the park beyond. Oh, she said, look at the beautiful flowers blooming in the garden, and can you hear the birds singing?

It was Springtime for Joan, and it is often Springtime for her, she has a sweetness and love about her that is infectious, and we have, I believe, come to love each other. I'm putting a series of portraits up to honor those who have lost their memory but not their souls or spirits.

I have come to believe that there two distinct realities for most people – darkness and light, although I tend to drift into the gray often. When I am in the light, I believe I am in the light of creation, and Joan is so important because she lives int he darkness and also in the light.

She has the most radiant spirit, and at times, is simply at a loss to understand what is happening around here. I think there is no gray for Joan, only darkness and light.

Monday, Joan is getting her new CD player installed, and her new batch of CD's – the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Willie Nelson, all among her favorites. Thank you, Army Of Good, for making that possible. Music is precious to Joan, it is calming and soothing.

Joan is one of the reasons our work at the Mansion is so important, and I am trying to build up our Mansion fund a bit – to $2,000 again – so we can continue to support the residents there.

If you can or wish to contribute – this is a good week to focus on feeling good – please send your contribution to me, Jon Katz, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or to me via Paypal. Please mark your donation "The Mansion" so I can be sure it goes where you want it go.

There are no middle-men here, not administrators, the money goes where it ought to go. And thanks. This work is so important to me, and I hope to you. I am seeking to get the Mansion residents a Karaoke Machine, they are excited about it, that is my next project.

I also need to buy some more underwear for two of the residents. Small acts of great kindness, that is what we do. I'm publishing a different portrait of Joan every day. She will soon be moving to the new memory unit that will adjoin the current Mansion residence. Red and I will certainly be visiting her there.

Audio: Loving Joan

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Donkey Manure Heads Out. It’s Manure GIve-A-Way Time

By: Jon Katz

Donkey Manure Heads Out

Our friends Kitty and Charlie came to the farm Sunday to pick up eight or nine bags of donkey manure, some of the most wonderful garden fertilizer there is. This manure pile is more than a year old and the manure at the bottom is mature and wonderful for gardeners.

Kitty and Charlie took as much as they could stuff into the back of their care, they are welcome to come for more. This time of year, we try to give away as much of the manure as we can, Scott Carrino from Pomanuck Farm usually comes for a load, we take some for our gardens, and the rest is scattered over the pasture to help the grass grow rich and green.

The giving away of the donkey manure is one of the sweet rituals of loving on the farm. It is amazing to see how much manure comes from only two donkeys. I can only imagine what comes out of cows.

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Reflections On Our Open House, Oct. 6-7.

By: Jon Katz

Ready For The Open House

We are just two weeks away from our 8th Bedlam Farm Open House, and it is jarring to reflect on how our lives have changed since the first Open House, and how the Open Houses have themselves changed.

The first one drew 1,500 and we had to hire a security detail to handle the crowds. It felt out of control. I think I was somewhat famous then, and Maria had just launched her career as a fiber artist and curator.

Our idea was to celebrate her art, and the art of rural life, and the deep well of creativity we felt and saw all around us.

Today, the Open Houses are different.

Our farm is smaller, and we could not handle 1,500 Usually, we get between six and seven hundred people. We have retained the focus of the Open House – a celebration of our own lives and creativity, a chance to share the farm and our animals with people who love both, and an opportunity to draw from gifted local artists, spinners, poets, shearers and farriers.

It is a hard thing for us, weeks of work, and everyone is special and has a different tone. Maria works like a demon selling art in her studio, and my role is mostly to greet people, herd sheep with Red and Fate, give a talk or two, and introduce the poets and speakers.

Some new and special things this year:

Bud will be spending his first week on the farm and will get a somewhat shocking introduction to life here. I hope to use Bud as a therapy dog at the Mansion and elsewhere, the Open  House will give me a chance to get a good look at his temperament and social skills.

I don't want to stress him – he has been through a great deal – but I'm excited to introduce him to people on Saturday and Sunday (Columbus Day Weekend, October 6 and 7th, ll to 4 p.m.)

Mary Kellogg is publishing her fourth volume of poetry, This Is My Life. She hopes to be present, but has asked me to read from her book. I am thrilled to do so. In addition, there will be poetry readings from Jackie Thorne, Carol Gulley, and Amy Herring. The very gifted Vermont artist Rachel Barlow will do an oil painting and everyone can see the process and ask questions.

Sadly, Ed Gully, the farmer, folk artist and friend who became such an important part of our Open Houses in recent years, won't be here, he died more than a month ago. Some of his art will be here, it is scattered all over our farm. His wife Carol will be helping Maria in her studio and also reading a poem or two.

Maria's Belly Dancing Group, The Sisters Of The Shawl, will dance Sunday at 1 p.m. I am so impressed with these dancers, they do not dance to entertain or arouse men, they dance to affirm their own pride and identity. It is quite amazing to see them.

Maria has assembled a remarkable group of eight artists – paintings, pincushions, pottery, jewelry, sketches, scarves, among other things, their work will be displayed and sold in the Schoolhouse Studio, the 1801 Schoolhouse moved to our farm many years ago and converted into a studio for Maria.

In addition, there will be sheep shearing by Liz Lewis on Saturday,  sheep herding several times a day both days.

It is more intimate and much less chaotic than the first one, and we are grateful for that. It is a coming together that is warm and uplifting. I will be talking about my next book, Gus And Bud, to be published next year by Simon & Schuster.

You can follow events for the Open House here.

I visited with the sheep today, they are now hanging out in the cooler weather by the side of the Pole Barn, where they are shaded from the sun, but still in the cooler open air. Maria will gather the wool shorn at the Open House and take it to a Vermont knitting mill.  It will be dyed (some of it) and sold as Bedlam Farm Yarn.

It is fitting that Bud is arriving just before our Open House (if he passes all of his tests). That seems right.

If you can, come and join us for our celebration of the art and creativity of rural life.

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All Shined Up: Maria’s Jacket

By: Jon Katz

All Shined Up – Maria's Leather Jacket

I spent a couple of hours cleaning and polishing Maria's leather jacket, it was languishing in a dark closet for five or six years (I bought it for her at a Thrift Shop in Bellows Falls, Vt.) and it was covered in dust and some mold.

I cleaned the mold off first and then applied a good dose of saddle soap to the jacket after it had tried. It looks shiny and new and healthy again. Maria loves it and so do I, she just forgot about it and the closet is a black hole, musty and forgotten.

Maria cleaned it all out today, some clothes needed some sunlight.

The upside is that it inspired me to buy a $46 leather Bomber jacket from a seller in London for $46 on Etsy. I always loved the leather jackets that I had, and this one looks right for me. It was by far the cheapest vintage leather jacket on the page, which made me a bit nervous about buying it, but I have always loved the leather jackets I owned.

Maria and I will be sure  not to wear both of our jackets out together, that could be a bit much. I confess I was also worried about wearing a leather jacket at my age, 71. A motorcycle leather jacket would look silly on me. But I think this one is quite appropriate. I hope it's as good as it looks on the site.

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