15 April 2016


Two And A Half Cords

Two And A Half Cords

I order firewood in May, we need six or seven cords to be dry and stacked by October, when the stoves are lit up again. We have two wood stoves, and they do an amazing job keeping our small house warm. We need very little oil. I called Greg Burch and asked him if he had any firewood and he went out and chopped some and put it in  his truck and brought it over and dumped it. Nearly two cords, a good price.

Ed Watkins is also bringing us two or more cords. For me, winter begins in May. I ordered 125 bales of first cut hay from Ed Gulley, he'll mix in some second cut but the donkeys and the pony don't really it second cut. The best feeling in the world is to have a barn full of hay and a woodshed full of firewood all ready for the first frost. The worst feeling is not to have wood dry and stacked and hay in the barn when the winter comes.

This year was unusual, most  years, it strikes fast and hard and it is very unfortunate when you are not ready.

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Barn Light

Barn Light

Barn Light

I love barns, and I love barn night, that unique and especially beautiful sunlight that creeps into barns through cracks and broken windows and paints it all kinds of shades and reflections. There is no light like barn light early in the morning. The ancients say light was created when God said "let there be light," and there was light. God saw how good the light was, and God separated the light from the darkness.

I think of this when I see barn light.

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Can Animals Heal The World? Not If They Are Not In It.

Can Animals Heal The World?

Can Animals Heal The World

In ancient times, people worshiped their Gods and the philosophy and creativity and conscience of other people. In our time, I think, we are sometimes so disenchanted with people that we have come to worship animals, they are, for growing numbers of people, a faith and a religion.

It is interesting to note that for all that the shrinking brains of the left and the right have done to polarize American politics and thought – ideology does not permit original thinking or disagreement – everyone seems to love animals.  The politics of the animal world are every bit as rigid and vicious as the politics of cable news but the love of animals seems to unite people, no one cares to speak against them.

The carriage horse controversy in New York and elsewhere is tragic, not only because it puts safe and healthy animals in great danger, but because the great minds of the city government and the animal rights movement do not seem to grasp the healing and unifying power of animals like the big horses, or like dogs or elephants.

The horses can do a lot of good, if permitted. They help people heal, they calm people, they promote a love of the earth and the environment, they are large but gentle, they can be touched and approached, they can do many tasks that machines now do that would bring them in closer contact to people than they are now permitted to be.

Think of how schools could use animals to quiet and inspire children, and teach them about the earth, and about our own history with these proud creatures. Think about the elderly and the sick taking carriage rides through city neighborhoods, or how touching it would be if the horses delivered food and medicines. Or brought the disabled to parks and doctors appointments. Or doing therapy work with victims of crimes and gunshot wounds.

Or help to plow and dig up gardens and offer their manure for fertilizer. Or haul trash, as they do in so many cities in the world. Imagine what sturdy ponies could do in urban neighborhoods, giving rides to children, showing them how to brush and care for animal, connecting them to nature. When it comes to animals, were are the people of vision and imagination?

How powerful a motivation animals are for children. If you want to see for yourself, stand by the horse carriage lines in New York and watch the faces of the children who come by to stand and stare and touch them. What sane society would drive animals like that away?

In our increasingly narrow view of animals, we  only see them as helpless and abused, we don't really see them at all any longer. We know few ways to make ourselves feel better about the world than "rescuing" animals from us, our partners in the world, not only our victims.

If you go to Blue Star Equiculture farm in Palmer, Mass., you can see the power of the horses to heal the emotionally disabled, young men and women tangled in the justice system, battered spouses.  You can see the power of their work on farms and towns.

Before I came to my farm, I would have scoffed at the idea of animals healing and unifying the world. I'd love to see a few Labs dozing in the U.S. Senate, they might even get senators to work together for the common good, rather than thwart and obstruct. Animals make us smile. They heal our wounds. They touch our souls and lift our spirits. They work with us and for us.

If we are divided in so many things, we are united in our love of animals. No "left" or "right" has yet poisoned that well.

Can animals heal the world? Not if they are not in it, not if the people who claim to speak for their rights succeed in driving them to the ghettos of the animal world, out of human sight and mind.

In other cities around the world, leaders are experimenting with bringing horses back to urban environments, not just chasing them away. Animals cannot help us if they live only on rescue preserves and private compounds.  it is obvious what dogs do for people in so many ways, they bring unconditional love and attention to many millions of people who live without it in our disconnected world.

I believe animals could  help heal the world – literally as well as figuratively, every horse that replaces a car helps to save the world.

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P.O. Box 205: The New Camera. Rage And Affirmation

Shame And Affirmation

Shame And Affirmation

The first letters in support of my camera fund arrived at my Post Office Box this morning, two days after I asked for support for buying a converted Canon monochrome camera. I asked for $3,000, I think I am more than halfway there, although can't be sure. There was more than $300 in checks this morning, and one angry and anonymous letter with a $1 bill. It's going in the envelope, along with many other very sweet messages.
"Here's a $1 bill for you for our stupid camera," said one letter, which was sent from Boston without a name or return address…Shame on you! Get another job if you can't afford your bills or want to buy expensive stuff…Stop mooching off of the kindness of your blog readers…Have your healthy looking wife get another job!"


From Helen Golden of New Jersey: "It is my pleasure to help you get your new camera. After all you have given me immeasurable pleasure with your blog, books, pictures and my visit to Bedlam Farm last October — See you in June, best of everything."


From Iris Hoffert of Ocala, Florida: "Your photos and postings bring great joy to my life. Thank you for the depth of your thinking and writing."


From Lorraine Hailbach of North East, Pennsylvania: "Dear Mr. Katz, I just wanted you to know that I love all your pictures. I have enjoyed your books and now your blog. I hope this little bit helps…"


From Kathy Kelly of Concord, Mass: "Hi, Jon, hope this small amount helps your purchase the camera  you like to keep your creativity active. Your photography is a gift that you can share with others."

Thanks for these contributions, they do help, and they are much appreciated.  This is a gift for me, but I also believe a gift to you. My images and words are worth something, and your contributions, however small, affirm that.

We can all be engulfed in the storm at any time, there are so many people eager to do good, given the chance. And so many people shouting at them to come back, to stay in the shadows.

I am excited about the camera, and about the other creative streams in my life. I will move forward. I think there is no greater compliment for a writer or a photographer or any artist than to know that people will take the trouble to mail me contributions for a camera, even in a world where such a thing can also generate much hatred and cynicism.

We are all wearing our own masks, and when the mask cracks – when you lose faith in it, you can withdraw and regress into your own pain and anger at any point in life, at any stage. When society loses its myth, its imagery, its compassion, it feels like a wasteland. That's what I feel sometimes watching the news, I am looking out at a  wasteland. These messages, even the angry one from Boston, remind me that this is not the true picture of life.

My life is a good one, rich in too many ways to count.

The job of the contemporary writer, poet or artist is to bring the life the world in which we live, to activate it in a profound way. That is my job, that is my camera's job, that is the job of the words I write.

There is always the possibility of chaos, there is always the possibility of bliss.


Thanks again for your compassion and generosity. People who wish to contribute can do so via Paypal (go to "Friends And Family," my ID there is jon@bedlamfarm.com) or write to Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.


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The Case Of The Monochrome Camera: Update. Harold’s Journey To Ireland.



I got a message yesterday from Harold Donway, a metalworker from Ohio, who worked hard and loyally for 35 years and was laid off when his company moved its operations to China.  Harold worked very hard for his company, which tossed him readily into the garbage.

A month after he was laid off, Harold's wife died of cancer. His son, who loved him very much, did a crowdsourcing project to send him to Ireland for a year – Donway's family is from there – and people sent him $150,000 in two days so he could go. He just returned. It was, said Harold, a "miracle," a good fortune he could barely conceive of.

"I struggled with this," he wrote, "I've never taken a dime from anyone. But it was a wonderful experience for me, and I remember what my son said to the people who wondered why I got to go to Ireland and they didn't – "nuts to them."

Harold is a reader of my blog – he wants to meet Fate – and he donated $25 to my camera fund, he is sending a check to my Post Office Box (P.O.Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.) That touched my soul.

I'm not sure what to say about that story, or how it relates to me, but I'm glad Harold got to go. Crowdsourcing has changed the lives of many people, and empowered generous spirits to decide where to send their money. There are some people out there who love to give, it is a gift to them, I feel that way myself.

This ethos has benefited me and many others. I loved Harold's story, he fell in love in Ireland and may marry again.

This is an an update on my project – launched only on my blog, not anywhere else – to raise money so I could buy a $3,000 Canon camera converted to Monochrome for black and white use only. This camera will not take color photos and will permit me to explore a long fantasy of shooting in the kind of detail and emotion that black and white sometimes offers. Most of my photos on the farm will remain in color.

I am comfortable seeking this support, I give my photos away free and photography is an expensive habit. I initially wanted to pursue the new Leica Monochrome M, the world's first digital black and white camera, but the total cost would have approached $15,000 and I didn't feel comfortable asking that much or thinking of the hard-working people, I was afraid that some might send it to me.

The beauty of crowd-sourcing is that people can give a small amount, but there are so many that it adds up. It is all up to them.

I spent some time pursuing the alternatives to the Leica, and thanks to a reader of the blog named Susan, I found maxmax.

Maxmax is a company in New Jersey, the first company on earth to convert digital cameras to Monochrome, and I am buying Canon 7D that maxmax will rebuilt for black and white use. I will have to buy some accessories for the camera, but it will all be a lot cheaper than the Leica, which I will continue to fantasize about.

This is very important to me. It is about growing and creating something memorable. I want to move forward as an artist and photographer, and also as a human being. Some people at my age – I am 68 – are downsizing their lives and their expectations, I feel as if mine is just beginning. I have a great love, a new book contract, a life that is very much mine, and a passion for growth and change.

The camera is a big part of it, and at this point, I could not buy it for myself, there are too many obligations we have to meet and will. Thanks to those of you who understand this and have already sent $2,000 to my Paypal Account (you go to "Friends And Family" and my ID is jon@bedamfarm.com).

The closing of the mind is the first death, so far as I am concerned, the death of the body can be an afterthought. If our minds our open if we are following our zeal, then we are alive. I am alive. I don't know yet how much money is on the way to my Post Office Box, it's still too soon – perhaps I will check today.

There is no pressure. As my friend Ed Gulley says, "people who want to can send a buck, those who don't won't. End of story." Ed has a way of cutting to the chase. There is no shame, I have learned, in asking, there is no shame in giving or not giving. End of story.

__For those who do wish to contribute – I am already two-thirds there, thank you, you can do so via Paypal ("Friends And Family" to jon@bedlamfarm.com in any amount you choose), or send a check to Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. I thank you.

Harold says he wants to  invite me to his wedding. I will go. I have invited  him to one of our Open Houses. He says he might bring his fiance.

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