Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

4 December

My Life: I’m On A Building Picture Taking Jag In My Town. Here’s The Rice Mansion

by Jon Katz

I’m on a new photo jag, capturing some of the most exciting and beautiful buildings in our town. I started with the Chinese Restaurant and then the local bookstore. Today, my Leica and I drove by the very proud and beautiful Rice Mansion, which dominates the middle of town.

I’m not boosting the Chamber of Commerce; I’m just looking to capture the feel of beautiful old buildings still standing out in a small rural town. My Leica is the perfect companion.

Our town is lucky; we’ve been spared the scourge and devastation of a mall, we aren’t big enough. I’ve never been inside of the Mansion, just driven by. It has a kind of mystical aura for me.

We are poor in some ways but rich in beautiful old architecture (The Mansion is one of those beautiful old buildings.)

In June 1901, the old Crocker Mansion was torn down to make room for a new Mansion, built for Seed Magnate Jerome B. Rice.

The Mansion is now an inn. I’m glad I scratched this itch and took the photo. I’ve wanted to take a picture of this spectacular building for some time.

4 December

Giving Thanks For Our Jewel Of A Bookstore. This Isn’t Supposed To Happen In A Small Rural Town.

by Jon Katz

I live just outside of a small Cambridge village in upstate New York, right on the Vermont border. An anomaly is right in the middle of town,  a thriving independent bookstore on Main Street in a small agricultural town, with perhaps a dozen shops and restaurants all told.

In the age of Amazon and the Kindle and Alexa and all kinds of online shopping, Battenkill Books is just not supposed to exist, certainly not a beautiful store with thousands of current books and three book-loving employees plus the owner, Connie Brooks, a superhero of the book world to me.

She isn’t supposed to exist any longer either, perhaps she is a magical Book Witch.

Her store is chock full of books. And people. And kids (she has a kids book section.) All my dogs are happy there.

Conny is a savvy business person and a savvy book lover, and she would be the first to admit that is not a simple or easy combination to mix. She does it with grace, patience, and good taste. She is also a wonderful mother and wife.

She does it with lots of fiercely loyal customers who appreciate her. Connie has weathered Amazon, e-books, savage storms, recessions, great recessions,  a pandemic (maybe two), and the most brutal book-selling market a number of times in many years.

It seems book lovers are not yet ready to abandon the book or the bookstore. Connie ought to get a plaque or a medal.

I don’t know how she does it, but I am grateful to her for doing it.

When I was still writing books, some of my most cherished and memorable moments were the big signings I did in the store. My cherished moments now include browsing in Battenkill or picking up the books I order from Heather or  Eve or Kate or Connie. It is always a pleasure to see them.

Dogs and kids are welcome there, but especially people who love to read and they feel welcome there. What a treasure to have a first-rate indy bookstore in our very small town halfway to Canada from New York City.

Whatever Connie has, she ought to package and market it.

It would have to be a bestseller. For years, I ordered books from Amazin, it was so convenient and quick, and even as an author, I was wary of arrogant bookstore owners who ridiculed the idea of Customer Satisfaction and alienated millions of Americans with their snootiness.

Bookstores are changing and for the better. Caring about customers and treating them well is not immoral or a crime. Amazon sells an awful lot of books.

Connie was way ahead. of the game.

Everyone who steps into the store is made to feel welcome, not stupid, and anyone who needs help gets it in seconds. That kind of stuff works.

Battenkill is full of kids, families, book lovers.

I don’t click on Amazon any longer when I want a book, I click on Connie’s phone number and am happy to run down to the bookstore and see what’s new. Connie’s bookshelves are dependably current.

Very few people in America live in a small town like this and have a bookstore that would shine in Manhattan. I know, I used to live there. How lucky we are.

4 December

Maria Gets Her Booster, Some Side Effects As well. Down For A Day

by Jon Katz

I’m not sure Maria has ever been sick until today. We have been living together in the decade – perhaps a cold or two somewhere along the line. She is the healthiest person I know and can snowshoe for miles. Yesterday, when she went to the pharmacy to get her Covid-19 booster, she was there a flu shot.

She had a dumpy night. We got up early to go to Vermont to get Maria’s yarn, and as we headed home, she just crashed – fatigue mostly, but some aches and pains also. I drove; she just wasn’t up to it. But she got her yarn, for sure.

I took this shot after the sun went down. I made dinner and am hovering sporadically, but she will do what she wants to do.

She does not blame Bill Gates, Joe Biden,  Jews in Space, or Dr. Fauci, for the side effects. She is grateful to live in a country where she can get a flu shot and Covid Booster. So am I.

I’ve gently and not so gently nudged her to lie down for much of the day, assuming the role of my grandmother.

She is wiped out. She can read for five or ten minutes, then falls asleep. She took two Tylenol and is getting much stronger already, but when she asked me to close up the chickens, I knew she was still wiggly and googly. She loves the barn chores and never wants anyone else to do them.

She promises to rest until tomorrow morning, and then, all bets are off. She’s a big girl; she can take care of herself. I’ll hover and make myself annoying.  I’ll try a movie to keep her steal, and gobs of tea.

4 December

New, In Time For Christmas. Bedlam Farm Yarn Going On Sale Sunday

by Jon Katz

We just got back from Vermont where we went  this morning to the Vermont Knitting Mill to pick up the Bedlam Farm wool spun into yarn of six different colors, the wool all shorn from our sheep.

Maria is very happy with the colors, each skein will cost $27 plus shipping, the roving will be sold separately or turned into ball dryers. Maria got her vaccine booster and a flu shot yesterday, she is pretty tired.

My guess, knowing her, is that she will put the yarn up for sale on  Sunday, (Monday at the latest,) it will be sold on her Etsy Shop.

She was very happy to have the yarn in time for Christmas.

If you have any questions, you can contact MariaNew directly via e-mail, [email protected]

4 December

Collecting Yarn Today In Vermont: Soft And Gentle Messages To Start The Day

by Jon Katz

Good morning. Maria and I are heading to Brandon, Vt. to pick up the yarn made from our shorn sheep, including sweet Merricat, above. Knowing Maria, it will be on sale either Sunday or early Monday, well in time for Christmas.

Thanks for the lovely comments I’m getting these days. I’m learning that you get back what you give. Anger breeds nothing but rage, argument breeds nothing but opinion, especially in America in 2021,

As I let go of it, it lets go of me. As I back away from writing about the Amish so often, anger also recedes. They seem to anger a lot of people, I have learned. I am inclined to celebrate our differences; I am naive in thinking it’s a popular idea.

It is not.

When I focus on the good in people, the interest in people comes right back to me. Why was I so late in learning this?  Some messages from this morning, they spark the beginning of a good day:

Jon, your passage gave me goosebumps. Thank you for writing about your experience. It is tough to close yourself off from everything in this day and age, but I think you may have achieved this very thing. It makes me very happy for you.

You are so lucky to have Maria, Zinnia, Bud, and Fate as family. You seem to have created a paradise of sorts, along with the sheep, donkeys, chickens, and cats. You and Maria have worked very hard to achieve the life you have created, and the peace you have brought about through your afternoon meditations is wonderful! May it last for many years to come. – Fran

I’ve been reading your posts daily since August 2009 and you always give me much to think about. What an amazing ride it’s been! -Jan

You crack me up, Jon! I, too, am not able to tie my shoelaces the same way Maria does because of a bum knee for which I never sought treatment. I have to stand up, bend from the waist, and tie them that way. The physio will help immensely, and you’ll be able to do it soon, especially with your recent weight loss. You amaze me how you keep on truckin’ with self-improvement, and at the same time, you do so many good works. Congrats, and keep it up. I need your motivating thoughts daily to keep me on the straight and narrow! 🙂 And, you’re right, we don’t have to agree with absolutely everything you write. That doesn’t matter. To me, your writing is about getting myself to actually think about things and see where I can improve myself daily. Thanks! – anonymous

Thanks all, your messages lift my spirits, and I am glad I’ve become posting some of them. Good energy is catchy, I believe, and will save our country and the world one day. Fran, I thank you for your loving and gracious note. I should say that Bedlam Farm is no paradise; we are very human, with very human issues and problems.

I don’t seek paradise on earth, nor do I think it’s possible. We are learning to live our lives the way our hearts and souls guide us, not the way we are told we must live. It is far from paradise, but it is very good for us.


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