14 April 2017

Ed And Silly Sally: The Farmer’s Life. Everybody’s Life. Why There Were Communists…

Ed And Silly Sally at Bejosh Farm

Ed loves being a farmer, there is nothing else he has ever wanted to do, or ever would do. A life of hard work, seven days a week, a life of financial struggle, suffocating government regulations, dumb decisions by economists,  insane persecution by animal rights activists, sore knees, hips and back, a life enmeshed with all kinds of animals, a life of outdoor work and a close relationship with nature.

After World War II, the government and many economists declared family farms were too small to be efficient in the new economy, and the great migration from rural America to the urban coasts began, and is underway still.

Farmers are still fighting hard to survive, many are losing. Ed Gulley is still hanging on, and he is tough and cured rawhide, and I imagine he will outlast the peckerheads in Washington.

If you talk to Ed for any length of time, he will soon be squawking about the hard life of the farmer. Milk prices are too low, farmers are too passive, nobody understands how hard farmers work,  they can't set their own prices, which have not risen in years, they blindly and reflexively produce too much milk and prices can't drop. people do not understand the real lives of real animals and the people who live and work with them.

He was telling me how protesters scream all the time about de-horning cows, but they don't see what cows do to one another when they have horns, the scars and wounds are pitiful.

I tell Ed all the time that all of his laments are true and justified, but I also see that almost every who is not at the top of the financial pecking order can say the same things – artists, writers, factory workers, service workers, Uber drives, police officers, teachers, students with loans, small business people.

For the middle class and down, life has gotten harder, especially since the Great Recession. So many people cannot keep up or fall far behind, especially in rural America. That's a major reason Donald Trump was elected, and God help the people who voted for him thinking their lives will change. I hope he remembers why he was elected and spends less time golfing and tweeting about how wonderful he is to groupies who believe it.

I can assure you he will do nothing for the embattled small farmers and the working class, already hanging on by their calloused  and stressed fingertips.

More and more I understand why Communism was so appealing to many people. The capitalist culture can be cruel and heartless and greedy and unrelenting for the powerless and the middle-class. The family that owns Wal-Mart has as much money as the bottom 40 per cent of all Americans.

In the 1930's many farmers were anarchists and populists, and yes, Communists. They had given up on government helping ordinary people. Many people seem to be giving up on that idea again, especially in the country.

It's a wonder the lower and middle classes are not out in the street burning buildings down, as all the money in the world flows upward into an ever shrinking number of hands and bank accounts. What always strikes me is that the farmers and working men and women and fast-food workers and teaches and police officers and African-Americans and gays and trans people never realize that they are not unique, they are all in the same boat.

They all suffer from the same things. This division and obliviousness is great for the CEO's and the wealthy. There is not a farmer alive who does not see the effects of climate change every day, and who doesn't know what it will do to the farm. But I have yet to hear one speak up about it.

Every writer or factory worker or poor African-American and so many women can make the same argument Ed can make, but each group seems to think they are unique in their suffering, they never seem to grasp the idea of linking up with others, so every group is not too small and impoverished and disorganized to bring about real change – the kind of change billionaire will, by definition,  never want to make.

Billionaires are not in the habit of burning themselves at the stake. That's why there are heretics and peasants.

I've been photographing and writing about farmers for years, and they are fiercely individualistic and increasingly abandoned and overwhelmed, I can't imagine them organizing in a powerful or political way. When the farmers of France get screwed over, they drive their tractors into Paris and dump tons of manure in front of Parliament. People pay attention to that.

I can't imagine American farmers every doing that in Washington, they are just too busy, or perhaps too cowed, and they are by nature allergic to organizing and joining things or blogging on Facebook and Twitter. Ed is an  exception, his wonderful blog is red-hot.

Farmers are horrible at speaking out for themselves in general. Did any one of the score of presidential candidates ever once mention the plight of the small farmer in America? Not even once, even in passing? Perhaps there is something to be said for lobbyists.

The same things farmers complain about can be said for many of the other groups feeling beleaguered and left behind and pressured. One day, perhaps on Facebook, or Twitter they will stumble across one another and forge a new Army so powerful it cannot be ignored.

I think Ed will be right out front with his tractor, pitchfork and pile of manure. I'd love to go on that march.

Posted in General

Bought Another Gulley WInd Chime

Another Gulley Wind Chime

We went to see Ed and Carol Gulley at Bejosh Farm this afternoon, we just took a ride out in the country and ended up there. I fell in love with another Gulley creation, a wind chime made out of old farm spoons and a pan from an old one-room schoolhouse.

The sound is quite magical, it's going to hang on our back porch, along with two other wind chimes, when the wind blows, it is is a veritable Gulley symphony out there, a lot sweeter than listening to him rage on about the world.

Ed is hitting his stride with his wind chimes, made completely out of farm machine and other parts and tools. They are mystical and very real at the same time. He's selling them all over the country, the artist in him is roaring to come out. His Bejosh Farm Journal is quite wonderful, he and Carol write and produce it every day, and if you want to understand what the real life of a real farmer is all about, subscribe to the BFJ.

You can also see his new wind chimes there, he is selling them all over the country.

Posted in General

Summer Cut: The Refugees Are Coming To The Gulley’s Bejosh Farm

Refugee Visit

Ed Gulley has just had his annual summer cut from his wife Carol, he doesn't bother much with hair in warm weather, the beard and  hair on top are gone. Moving towards a modified Duck Dynasty look, I think. I asked Ed if we could bring the refugees who are coming to the farm to visit next week over to his farm to see what a dairy farmer looks like.

Ed is distinctive, he has his own personality and way of doing things, and he does not care a hoot what other people think. We are brothers, I think. I have a day long plan shaping up for the refugee kids.

The refugees from RISSE, the refugee and immigration support center in Albany,  are coming first to Bedlam Farm, they'll see the donkeys and sheep, watch Red and Fate work, hang around for a bit. Then we'll go to the Round House for some pizza (or maybe bring it to the farm, depending on how busy the place is.)

Many of the refugees were farmers in their former countries. They have not seen the country in awhile.

After lunch, we'll go to Pompanuck Farm, the beautiful  retreat outside of town. They can feed the goldlfish, and when it gets  warmer, swim in the pond.

After that, we'll drive down the road to the Gulley Farm, Bejosh Farm, and they will meet Ed and Carol and see how cows are milked and meet the many animals there -goats, peacocks calves bulls. I think Bejosh Farm is the Disney World of farms, and Ed is a master story-teller. I think it will be a great day.

Ed is cruising along with his art, we bought another wind chime, he is on a roll, selling his windchimes almost as fast as he is making them. They are all made out of farm elements from tractors and other machines. They are quite amazing. I'm excited about the sked for the refugees, Ed is not forgettable.

Check out his new chimes on the Bejosh Farm Journal.

They are shockingly inexpensive and amazing to see and listen to.

Posted in General

High Noon: Red And Liam Square Off On Main Street

Red And Liam Square Off

It felt like "High Noon' in Bedlam. Liam has been getting cheeky lately, he butted Red the other day while Red was focused on the sheep. I think  Red has been looking for a chance to settle scores. Today Liam walked away from the flock and stared at Red, who turned and stared back.

There was a standoff for a few minutes, this time Red was locked in on Liam, who is a wether. After a couple of minutes, Liam blinked, moved over to the right and hurriedly tiptoed past  Red, who kept his eyes on him every step of the way. Red is not afraid to exert his authority.

Posted in General

The Round House Cafe. Vs. 2.0.Coming in May.

New Home

Thanks in no small measure to the generosity of many of you, my town will keep its very local and community-minded cafe. Scott and Lisa Carrino couldn't work it out with their landlord to buy the building they were in, but a beautiful space opened up next door in Hubbard Hall, our funky and beautiful old restored Vaudeville Palace, now the Hubbard Hall Arts and Education Center.

Scott and Lisa raised nearly $70,000 to buy the cafe, but it wasn't enough for that. It is enough to fix up this beautiful old space for a new cafe, just a few feet from the old one. Main Street lives here.

The space is beautiful and atmospheric – I love the old wooden shelves, and Scott and some carpenters and electricians are working hard to get the new space ready, it's a major upgrade in so many ways.  The work has passed all the fire and health dept and zoning checks and will open pretty soon.

There is much more display space for cookies and cakes and local crafts and plenty of room for tables. In the back is  a huge cold storage room. They can also have bigger musical and other events here.

Scott is working like a demon to get it ready, we had coffee this morning before he left to go to Switzerland for a three-day Tai Chi convocation, he is a Tai Chi master teacher. It's a short trip and I told him he was nuts to go to Europe for three days in the midst of all this work, but he was set on going, he loves Tai Chi.

It's a great thing that this cafe can remain in our community when so many rural towns are losing their community and institutions, bleeding from lost factories and box store competition.  Scott hires a lot of people and pays a lot of taxes. And we don't need empty storefronts in the middle of town.

There are three Wal-Marts not far away, the they are small business killers everywhere they go.

The Round House has become the soul of the town, and it is a miracle that Scott has done so well and figured things out. He has also nearly killed himself working so hard. He says things will be easier in the new space, it will be more efficient, his overhead will be less. It's a big victory for community in our town, and I wish him the best with it.

Posted in General