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.