25 October 2014

Ready For Shearing

By: Jon Katz
Ready For Shearing

Ready For Shearing

The shearer called Friday and said he was swinging through this area Sunday, so we will get our sheep shorn Sunday after. We shear twice a year, Maria sells the wood for yarn and roving. October is my favorite time to shear, the sheep have plenty of time to grow their coats out for the deep winter. Around noon, Red will get the sheep into the Pole Barn and hopefully, the shearer will come in the early afternoon. One of the sweet rituals of farm life. Ted Emerson came and brushhogged the pastures, another ritual and our barn is stuffed with hay. In a few weeks we hope to dig a trench and put a frost-free water pump out in the pasture so we won't have to haul buckets in the winter.

The rituals of the farm are timeless, they define our lives here. It is good to have a dog like Red on shearing day.

Posted in General
24 October 2014

Poem: The Divine Old Dog: Chasing A Rabbit

By: Jon Katz
Divine Old Dog: Smells A Rabbit

Divine Old Dog: Smells A Rabbit

The Divine Old Dog is alert,

her heart is dancing,

she smells a rabbit, then hears

him rushing madly through the brush,

her legs are sore, her nose is strong,

she is on her feet, gliding quietly

through the brush, circling around,

her eyes gleaming, legs flying out from under,

into the chase, the Divine Old Dog

is full of tricks, she circles far to the left,

through the brush, into the meadow,

around the trees, splashes through the

muddy creek, closer and closer,

then around from the other side,

the rabbit has only one trick,

he runs and runs,

until he is nose-to-nose with the

Divine Old Dog,

alive with joy and purpose,

the rabbit freezes, surrenders to

the eternal fate of rabbits,

pursued by savvy dogs.

The log in the fireplace pops,

the Divine Old Dog awakens,

looks around for her rabbit, is confused,

feels the warm fire on her sore legs,

stretches and sighs. She loves her

videos, they fill her lungs with

the breath of life,

her head with purpose.

Posted in General

Beads On Hatpins: Windowsill Gallery

By: Jon Katz
Beads On Hatpins

Beads On Hatpins

In her Schoolhouse Studio, Maria takes glass beads and sticks them on hatpins, then puts them on her windowsill to catch the sunlight. They seem to me to be dancing.

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Tyler: Magical Helpers

By: Jon Katz
Magical Helpers

Magical Helpers

Joseph Campbell says of the hero journey that the hero leaves the familiar behind and journeys to an unfamiliar, sometimes dark place. Along the way, he or she finds magical helpers, sometimes in the form of people, sometimes of animals, who help find the way home. Tyler is a magical helper, he appeared right after my surgery, he mowed the lawn, stacked firewood, helped direct traffic at our Open Houses. He is helping to rake the leaves, move firewood to the porch.

I don't always know how these things happen, but Tyler feels as much like a member of the family as someone we hire to work. He says little, works hard and continuously, always finds a way to get himself her and home – sometimes a ride, sometimes a bike. He will come into the house once in awhile to get a drink, or to say hello or goodbye. He is learning to hunt and although he is quiet, he has a ready smile and doesn't miss much. He loves to be around animals, especially dogs.

Today, he showed up in the cold and the rain and moved a half-cord of firewood onto the back porch, where we can reach it easily on stormy and cold nights. Tyler does not care if it is cold and rainy.

I have one child, a brilliant and wonderful daughter, if I had had a son I would have been happy to have one just like Tyler.

And this is one of the things I have learned about life in the past few years, if you are open to it, magical helpers appear when you need them.

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Recovery Journal: Red And Carol. “You Are A Farmer, Jon.”

By: Jon Katz
Carol and Red

Carol and Red

I suppose it can be a lonely and disconnecting thing to have major surgery, I am in a community of sorts, of disparate people, most of them quite unlike me, yet there is a deepening sense of community about us, we root for one another, share the good and bad news of our healing, and of our lives. I have become friends with Carol, the wife of a farmer, they have a small family farm, she had her heart surgery a couple of months before me and we both approach it in much the same way, without much dread or "negativity," as Carol puts it. She has read some of my books, we talk animal talk – she has an imperious goat named Sadie, unruly roosters and hens, cows, six dogs.

She paid me a high compliment today, she finished reading "Saving Simon" and she said "you are a farmer, Jon, I know you say you are not, but you are." I was surprised – she is a very real farmer, along with her husband Ed – and I asked her what she meant.

"You have learned when to let go and not to let go," she said, and I realized she was talking about animals, not about crops. Farmers taught me that, there is no such thing as a no-kill farm, farms are not rescue facilities or zoos. Carol told me about a rooster she loved who suddenly and for no reason attacked her and her grandson, a farmer's grandchild, said, "grandma, why don't you just eat him?" I just can't she told him, so she gave him to her son who has a fenced-in chicken area.

Farmers learn to let go when they have to let go, their survival depends on it, so does almost any farm.

Carol got some good medical news today, she might have gotten some very bad news and we were all worried about it. I called her this morning at home and she had just gotten the good news, and I brought some non-heart healthy cookies over from the Round House to celebrate. Carol is advising me on my play, "Discarded Men: The Last Days Of A Dairy Farm," she says she will come if it is performed at Hubbard Hall in January.

I was pleased by Carol's compliment, but I am not, of course, a farmer, I have never claimed to be one, I could not survive one week as a farmer, I am a writer with a farm, and there is a big difference. Carol's rehab is very different from mine, she often comes to rehab fresh off a tractor where she has been all day cutting down corn stalks and mashing them up for sileage.

There was a palpable relief in cardiac rehab, there is a closeness that comes from surgery and recovery, we understand each other in a very powerful and particular way. I suppose there is a loneliness to recovering from open heart surgery, I am not yet really sure how to talk about it or if to talk about it. In cardiac rehab, I don' really have to.

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