Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

5 July

Awakening: Between Peace And Joy

by Jon Katz

Once the soul awakens, wrote the poet John O’Donohue, the search begins and you can never go back.

From then on, he writes, “you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment.”

My awakening began about 12 years ago when I broke down, left my normal life, and moved to a farm in the country with some dogs and a bunch of donkeys and sheep.

I decided to live, not wither away, I got help, and met Maria.

My move would have been glorious except for the fact it was conceived in madness and fear. It turned out to be glorious because the experience woke me up.

I believe that the only men I know who are truly awake were either tortured as children or humiliated as adults. I qualified on both counts.

Whatever my path, whatever the nature of each day, whatever riddles, disappointments, and challenges I had to face to stay alive, the secret of my life somehow always has to do with the awakening:  the liberation of a soul and heart that had been asleep for longer than I could remember.

I entered a different phase of life.

There were the usual struggles, but there was also a satisfaction that lingered and is with me still, it exists somewhere between peace and joy.

I awoke to a need to help Mother Earth rather than fret about her.

I awoke to the joy and meaning of doing good, a latent part of me that was desperate to come out.

I awoke to the selflessness required to love another human being.

I awoke to the need to take care of myself.

I awoke to facing up to the anger and terror that lived inside of me and needed to be both acknowledged and faced.

I awoke to the need to not argue about my life, but to take responsibility for living it.

I awoke to the need of the writer inside of me to explore what is happening in our country beyond the peaceful boundaries of my farm.

I awoke to the need for respecting life and celebrating it, to never speak poorly of my life or complain about it.

“Like that sponge,” wrote Mark Nepo in the Book Of Awakening, “our very heart begs to unfold in the waters of our experience, and like a little fish, the soul is a tiny thing that brings us peace and joy when we let it swim.”

I found that life and its promise made little sense to me until I took my heart in hand and walked gently into the life I was living and wanted to live.

5 July

Three Dogs Eating

by Jon Katz

Maria and I have been talking a lot about keeping our three active and enthusiastic dogs – a pack – from charging out the door or losing control around food or banging into people.

Maria’s head is always in her art in the morning, and we decided that we needed to take some leadership to keep our household from being chaotic, overrun, or even dangerous.

Bud and Zinnia were getting too excited about food. Fate already was. Bud is a small dog, but he can wreak some havoc at mealtime. He’s not above trying to grab food in the other bowls.

I was always mindful that Zinnia, while adorable as a puppy, would grow up to be a large dog, quite capable of knocking tables, chairs, food bowls, and people over. Like most Labs, food is her faith.

She takes it seriously.

We both work at home. We need dogs that understand the rules of the house.

My cardinal rule of dog training is that dogs get nothing for free. Eating offers a wonderful opportunity for training dogs,  because they are hungry,  eager, paying attention, and willing to negotiate.

Our dogs are all sweet creatures, I intend for them to stay that way.

Hungry dogs around food can be obnoxious around food, and even dangerous. The vast majority of child bites by dogs occur around feeding. I make sure that every one of dogs can be trusted around children when they eat.

And I’m still careful about it. When a kid gets bitten on the face, which is what sometimes happens when they lean down to pat a dog who is eating, the wounds are often to their faces and necks.

I had a dog who bit a child in the neck once, and he paid for it with his life and a chunk of my heart. It will never happen again.

Maria has taken up this challenge with purpose and determination. When she makes up her mind to do something, she does it.

We fill up the food bowls and put them in the same place every day. The dogs are commanded to sit and stay.

It took three or four tries, but this rule has taken and we mean it.  At the first sign of trouble, we take the food up off the ground and take it out of sight. The dogs are stricken at the sight of their food leaving the room.


This morning, Maria got the dogs to sit and stay and I went off to get the camera, feed the fish and put my shoes on. When I came back in with the camera, the dogs were frozen, sitting in place, barely moving and staying quite still.

Then she gave the command “okay” and they moved to their bowls and ate. Good work all around. This kind of direction calms dogs and lets them understand they are not in control, that there is a leader for them to follow, which is how they like it.

Dogs who are permitted to get crazy will happily agree to be crazy. But those dogs are often not so nice to live with. We have all seen them.

5 July

Brunch At Jean’s: The View From The Parking Lot

by Jon Katz

Every Sunday morning, it’s kind of custom for us to go have brunch at Jean’s Place, and then to the local farmer’s market. While the restaurant was shut down, I did take-out.

Now the restaurant is open and limiting the number of people who can eat inside. I’m still being cautious about the virus, I wear a mask outside and avoid crowds in enclosed spaces.

Maria and my doctor have educated me to be mindful of the virus and what it can do to people like me.

Jean’s set up a bunch of tables outside and we can get the benefit of the parking lot view, which we did today.

We go inside to order, and they bring the food out in take-out boxes.

As always my egg n’cheese and potatoes were delicious and Maria and I sat talking quietly.  I joked about the view, but I liked it back there. I was shady and clean and inviting.

I’m not sure what will happen in the Fall, but neither is anybody else. I’m living in the now.

I’m just grateful they came through and every seat that could be filled inside (under the new regulations) was filled. The pandemic is about more than sickness, it’s also about changing and growing.

Jean’s Place is moving along with the future. I’m going too.

5 July

One Man’s Poem: “This House Was Built For You And Me”

by Jon Katz

And love says, “I will, I will take care of you,”

This house is your house,

from California,

to the New York island,

this house was built,

for you and me.

When the people came marching,

and we were singing,

and the gas was stinging,

this house was made for you and me.

When the soldiers came swinging,

and the tears were running,

we all remembered,

the slaves had built this,

they built it for you and for me,

As we came marching, we saw a church there,

the fences were taller, the noise was louder,

 In the shadow of the steeple,

our people were running.

Police were


as the fog was lifting,

We saw a blue suit,

and it was scowling,

and the Bible was waving,

and all around me,

 a voice was chanting,

“This house was made for you and me”

And love said, “I will, I will take care of you,

and everything that is near.”

Do not be fearful,

they cannot  stop us,

As we go walking

that freedom highway,

nothing  can make us turn away now,

In the shadow of that steeple,

I saw my people

“This big old house was made for you and me.”

As we came closer, we saw a sign there,

it said “no trespass”

This house does not belong to you,

and all around us,

we heard a voice say, 

“I will, I will take care of you.”


-Thanks to Woody Guthrie, an American hero who will never be in the new National Garden Of American Heroes,  and Hafi.

This poem is dedicated to Morgan, who came to the White House on June 1, 2020, in a wheelchair to support the demonstrators marching to protest the death of George Floyd.

She is 77 years old and was temporarily blinded by the gas-fired by federal police.

She was struggling to breathe, and protesters pushed her wheelchair away from the White House and she was taken to a local hospital where she remained for two days.

Nobody knows or is saying where she is today. I know the odds are long, but I hope someone will get this poem to her.

5 July

New Lavender Garden: Measuring Killowatts

by Jon Katz

Maria planted her seventh garden at Bedlam Farm this afternoon, this one is a Lavender garden, filling the spot where the electric company installed a new meter for our Solar Energy System.

We’re calling it the Solar Garden. We put one lavender plant in the garden, we got it at the Bennington, Vt. Farmer’s Market yesterday.

I ordered a second plan online and some more seeds on Amazon this afternoon. Lavender likes dry, sandy soil, which we had there. We will fertilize it later on with compost from our new Composter, which we are calling Oscar, after Oscar on Sesame Street.

He lives in a garbage can.

Our solar system is soaking up some rays and bringing us electric power. So far today (it’s 1.39 p.m.) we’ve drawn 37.17 kilowatts.

We are currently using 6.29 kilowatts of power.

So far in July, we’ve drawn 228.78 kilowatts. Since the system was turned on a few weeks ago, we’ve collected 457.32 kilowatts.

I’m sorry we waited so long to do this, it feels wonderful.

FYI, a kilowatt (kW), is a globally recognized standard for measuring electricity. One kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts.

Electricity costs are measure by the number of kilowatts used over time.

To give you an example of what we are saving right now, our daily kilowatt usage in May (the last bill I have) was between 32.6 kW and 38.9kW.

The bill for the month was $194.67, this includes Maria’s Studio as well as the farmhouse and the light out in the barn.

By 1 p.m. today, we’d already collected 37.7 kW of electricity – our daily average for May, and 457 kW for the month of July, which is less than one week old.

On July 4th, the system collected 63.79 kilowatts. On July 5, a mostly cloudy day, the system collected 43.77 kW.

I’m assuming our May power usage will be lower than the daily average in the winter. The power collection should be strong at least until November and even in winter, the panels will draw from the sun.

It just won’t be out as long.

We can’t project the energy collection for the year since the winter will draw less power. But I’ll keep you posted as we know more.

At this rate, we’ll the Solar System will draw thousands of kilowatts more than we need by the end of the year.

We’ll use approximately 1,140 kilowatts in the month of July, according to the bill.

We are credited for what don’t use by the electric company and that power will be distributed to our neighbors.

The electric company estimates that our power savings are equivalent to the planting of 5.35 trees. We’ve saved 708.13 lbs of carbon emission.

I am surprised at how excited I am to be doing something to help the earth, our sister. Maria is also.

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