Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

1 October

New From Maria: First Peek: Ten Zip Potholders, Soon Up For Sale

by Jon Katz

Today, Maria is close to finishing ten new Zip potholders they will sell for $30 each plus $5 shipping.  Here is a preview: They are hand drawn, initialed, and inspired by a photograph she took of Zip on his first day on the far, peering out tentatively under the barn door to see what was happening.

He wasn’t tentative for long. I’m excited to post these potholders. They should be up on Etsy by the end of next week or soon after.

Zip is a barn cat that won our hearts even as he seemed eager to give his to our farm. It is a happy connection on both sides. Maria spent the week painting this potholder and working on those now well-known whispers. There is more sewing and backing to do.

She told me today that she is working on ten more  Zip potholders this week.  They will also be on Etsy when they are finished.

Note: Suzy Fatzinger’s beautiful and popular hand-sewn Autumn  Mohair shawls have sold out, and she is making several more; they will also be posted on Maria’s Etsy Page. 

If you want to make an advance purchase of the potholders, e-mail Maria at [email protected].

I doubt the potholders will be around for too long. Zip has a lot of fans for a young barn cat; something about him lifts people up.

(Keep your questions about Zip coming; I’ll keep answering them: my blog posts or [email protected]. Thanks.)


Note: An earlier version of this post said the potholders were available on Etsy now. That was premature. As I often do, I wanted to give people a peek, but I misunderstood when they would be available.

1 October

Introducing Casey Face, A Young And Talented Mother Seeking To Build A Dream. I’ll Be Going Along

by Jon Katz

I met Casey Face a month or so ago; she had just given birth to her second child but decided to come out and start building her dream, starting with the local Farmer’s Market, where so many food entrepreneurs begin. She calls her new business the Canteen Coffee Company and has agreed to let me chronicle her effort to make her dream come true.

As she pursues the cream, I’ll follow her and write about her on the blog, with pictures of course.

I’ve heard many people rave about her coffee, and I greatly appreciate her tea. The baked goods, cookies, and sandwiches will be coming soon. The farmer’s market is an excellent place for her to start, but the real business will come with her food cart when it takes to the streets.

I am a lover of dreams, and I got to follow mine, and Maria is getting to follow hers. Maria and I greatly value those who try to do the same, especially in rural America, where crowds are scarce and investors are almost non-existent. I’ve noticed that more and more y young people here are trying to follow their dreams – a post-pandemic idea, I think – and some are making it.

Casey is one of those people I respect and like instantly; her portrait reflects her warmth and energy. And she is no slouch. She was selling coffee and tea just a few days after her second child was born. She gets out there.

I want to follow her journey and, hopefully, chronicle her success. She strikes me as someone who could make it. Having a supportive spouse is critical – many women (like my mother) don’t have this, and those who do have a much better chance of succeeding. I’ll meet her husband and children and cart tomorrow.

Casey is local and knows the area; she hopes to rebuild an old horse cart and park in town to sell her coffee tees, baked goods, and sandwiches. She has a busy site on an important highway in mind for her cart. Food carts are spreading up here, people are getting used to them, and they are cheaper and easier to maintain than brick-and-mortar restaurants.

I was fascinated by her and liked her a lot right away. She struck me as lovely, creative, and honest.

. She loves her children dearly (one of them was asleep in a carrier in the back of the car today, she has a supportive husband, a pilot, and is ambitious about serving the best and freshest food to a town not used to any of that.

Tomorrow, I’m going to her house – a few miles away – to meet her husband and children and the food cart she is already working to build and rehab. I hope you’ll follow us. Sacred are those who pursue their own dreams rather than become slaves for money.

I don’t know if I can be of help to her or not, I’ll try when I can.




1 October

Portrait: Why I Love Living In The Country: I Could Start With Ted Emerson, A Man I Love And Respect. His Tractor Rolled On Him Again And Nearly Killled Him. He’ll Be Here In A Week Or So To Brushhog The Farm

by Jon Katz

Ted Emerson looked like hell. I thought he might be dying when he showed up today to explain why he couldn’t brushhog the farm this weekend. He was hunched over and in great pain. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he said, “My tractor just rolled over on me. Doctor Pender says I can work in a week.”

If you ask me why I love living here in the country, in Washington County, New York, at the top of the list would be knowing people like Ted Emerson, the first Big Man In A Truck who showed up to help me live my life when I moved up here.

Ted is the go-to brush hogger in these parts; he shows up in his tractor, lets himself into the pasture, and hogs all three of our fields so they can grow up healthy and green next Spring and eventually mails a bill.

He is 100 percent honest and reliable. He opens and closes the gates, never lets an animal out, and never needs to ask for directions. I don’t think he would take it anyway; he knows what he is doing. I knew something was wrong today because he never stopped to chat while working that tractor, only when he drove it into the marsh and couldn’t get out.

I called him two weeks ago to ask him to brush hog the farm again. The heavy rains have nourished a lot of tall weeds.

I saw him pull up in a red truck with no tractor today, and I knew something was off. He looked like hell, walking stiffly,  his arm in a bandage and a cast; he made me feel like a 20-year-old jogger. I thought he might be terminally ill. I should have known better. I doubt Ted will ever die.

Maria got out first, and Ted told her he wanted to speak to me. I was apprehensive when I saw him. We invited him into the house.

He told me his tractor rolled over on him last week and he thought he would die underneath it. He managed to squeeze out (he was trapped underneath it), drove himself to the doctor (he doesn’t do ambulances), and came by to apologize for not coming right away to brushog the farm. He could barely stand up; every breath seemed to hurt.

He was sore, and he picked up bronchitis this week and couldn’t help coughing.

He believes he owes his life to a religious charm a relative gave him as a Christmas present(below). “I believe in God,” he told me today, “but I’m not religious. But I believe in this now; I’ll always keep it in my pocket.”

It reads: “Oh, Dear Guardian Angel, protect me wherever I go, and keep me from harm’s way…” As soon as Ted left, I went online and bought a Guardian Angel charm; I’ll always carry it with me. I believe in Ted; he has rolled his tractor more than I can count. And he never stops smiling or laughing about it.

This injury was severe; he wanted me to know about it.

I could see the pain on his face when he coughed; he said it was the worst he’d ever felt. I assumed he would not be able to come this year, but when I asked him how long it would take him to heal, he said about a week. I told them the grass and weeds weren’t going anywhere and that he should take as much time as needed.

I have no doubt he will be back in a week or so, probably with one of his many grandkids in the tractor with him for support. He has no conception of resting.

Ted and I have a warm history. We took a liking to each other when I first moved here from the city. Early on, I learned that to work well with big men in trucks, I had to respect and appreciate them and never pretend I knew what I was doing, which was easy for me because I didn’t and didn’t. Ted took pity on me. I also always paid my bills, a serious matter up here. The big men always tell me the richer their customers are, the longer it takes to get paid.

The best of these men want to help people like me and watch over them. I am grateful to them. I never cause them trouble, and pay instantly. They all know how to laugh and not take life too seriously.

Ted never waits for me to pay the same day he brushogs; he sends a handwritten invoice a month or two later. “I know where to find you,” he says, laughing when I ask him if he wants a check immediately.

Ted is a wild cowboy in those tractors. I pleaded with him not to drive too close to the march in the north pasture; it was wet and soft. He laughs at the idea that there is anything out in the field that he can’t handle. Every year, he would drive into the lot and get stuck. His son would usually show up in another tractor – brushhogging is a family business – and pull him out.

It became a joke with us; I would scold him and beg him not to drive into the pasture, and he would get his ego up and get stuck every year. I knew I could never tell him what to do. I came to love Ted and was tremendously relieved when he explained that he looked worse than he was. But he couldn’t laugh off the pain in his face.

Since he is one of the people I am so fond of, I told him I needed to take his picture. He was waiting for that as if it happened every day. I said I also needed one of his charms.

He asked me why I was hobbling, and I told him about my brain injury, back injury, and foot troubles. I said I was healing.

According to the doctors, I said I had a brain bleed and nearly died. He shook his head, and we went outside for a photo and shook hands. I was delighted to see him. As he limped stiffly towards his truck, he turned to me and said, “how are you folks doing.”

“Fine,” I said, “we are just fine. You take care of yourself; you are needed!”

1 October

Zip’s Adventures. He’s A Lap Cat Now, He’s Taken Minnie’s Morning Spot, Waits Outside The Chipmunk Tunnel, Greets Visitors

by Jon Katz

It feels like he has been here for years.

Zip wastes no time taking control of much of the farm. He’s routed the chickens from the lilac bush (he likes it there), is sleeping on Minnie’s chair on the back porch at night, is busy driving the pigeons from the barn, and has spotted the chipmunk’s elaborate tunnel system entry points. He’s watching it closely.

Yesterday, he shocked Maria and me by jumping up on Maria’s lap, and then mine, and going to sleep.

We also enjoyed watching him spot a chipmunk popping out of a hole and setting off quietly to catch him. He failed Yesterday, but not by much. He has patience, is quiet, and strategizes skillfully. We hoped Zip would be adamant, but he has gone much farther than we expected. Studying him and trying to understand a cat’s complex mind and instincts is fascinating.

He also is a good and easy sleeper. Seeing him so safe and easy in Maria’s lap was beautiful, and then mind. This chipmunk has stumped Bud for a while; we’ll see how that struggle goes. Zip is not easily discouraged, and the chipmunk is savvy and battle-hardened. I am in love with this cat.

Photos below.


Every sunny morning for years, Maria sat with Minnie on the back porch steps, singing her a song rubbing her back and ears; Minnie was always waiting for her. Maria always took the time to visit her and give her a great; seeing the two of them sitting together every morning was beautiful. It was a beautiful thing to see Zip there today. Maria was right to want a cat. I’m so glad she did, and I’m so happy I could find one quickly.

I am proud to be the farm’s hunter-gatherer; I’m a killer on the phone or online when finding the things we need. A friend came by to say hello, and Zip rushed out to meet him and rub against his jeans.

Zip spotted the chipmunk on Maria’s lap and started stalking, walking slowly and silently toward the hole in the rock garden. The chipmunk spotted him also and vanished into the hole.

Zip tiptoed slowly, looked down into the hole, and sat still for four or five minutes.

Zip is young and still learning to be a silent hunter. He is pretty good at it; he crept up slowly to the chipmunk’s tunnel hole and sat perfectly still for half an hour. The tunnel is long and deep, and his work will be cut out for him.

When I put some slippers on and went outside, Zip was waiting there, planning his day—a lovely sight. Life and death flow through a farm; they teach me acceptance and appreciation.

Seeing the skittish cat fall asleep after his vigil over the chipmunk hole was a bigger shock. Zip is just beginning to be accessible here.

1 October

Surprise! A Beautiful Autumn Day, From First Light. Bedlam Farm Journal, Sunday, October One.

by Jon Katz

It was an especially beautiful day. It seems that dangerous days are surprises, and gorgeous days are unexpected. Today started out misty and a bit gloomy, it has turned into a perfect day; once I post some words and photos, I’ll take a book and sit outside, hopefully with Maria, who is holed up in her studio making magic and dealing lovingly and bravely with her mother’s death. I love the photo above; it captures the flower bed in the early morning mist.

I hope you are all having as pleasant a day as I am.

Zip has gone to work driving the pigeons away from the upper barn floor; the pigeons are still hanging around, waiting for two newborn squabs to fly. I doubt they will all be back. Zip is serious about his work, and the barn is no longer safe for them. My pal Fred showed up this morning (far right is his usual spot) and brought some friends with him. I said hello. I don’t want to be a hypocrite; they need to go. Our upstairs barn, where we often store hay, is turning into a mess. We’ve closed up and fixed the windows, and I’ve ordered two plastic horned owls to make them uncomfortable. There are lots of places around here for them to live safely, except for hawks and owls.


Lately, I’m drawn to St. Joseph at sunrise.

Maria goes into the pasture with the sheep, Zinnia, and Fate every morning. I love the image of them coming out. I am so grateful to have gotten serious about photography, it is such a good companion of words. And it is so credible. Photos don’t lie. I can’t wait to sit outside in the sun.

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