Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

30 November

Life On The Farm. The Work Never Ends. The Stove Chimneys Are Clean

by Jon Katz

I consider buying a farm and getting Maria to marry me among my two most significant and beneficial decisions. I love Maria, obviously, and I love the farm as well.

Neither one is simple or without complexity.

(Photo by Mike Conklin.)

Living on a farm is different than I expected, both better and worse.

Farms with animals are a graduate course in life and death; they challenged me to grow up and face the world’s reality. Mercy is not always fighting for life; quite often, it is letting go of life—a lesson for me to remember.

It also has taught me more about acceptance than I had learned in the previous decades.

A farm is a living, breathing, organic thing. This morning, Mike Conklin cleaned our two wood stove chimneys. This is essential for wood stoves; the interiors can catch fire if not cleaned and watched.

Mike said our decision to dry our firewood for two years had paid off. The picture is of the living room chimney from the inside out; it is clean and clear.

There is hardly a day when something on the farm does not need maintenance. One day, we have mice, then rats. The cheap donkeys chew on the barn wood in the winter, and we need to cover every bit of it with chicken wire.

The sills on the big barn are rotting and need replacement.

Bud is digging holes to get out of the dog yard and go after Amish carts and frogs, among other things. We have to build a fence that goes deeper. When the Amish move in across the street, Bud will go nuts and tear up the ground to get to them and their animals.

Our roof was rotted through this summer; we had to spend $4,000 to repair it. The Pole Barn gate is chewed through; we need to replace it. We paid $500 to dump gravel in the Pole Barn; the ground was as hard as cement and threatened the barn’s foundation.

Bud is a terrier. He never gives up.

A dozen slate pieces on the big barn had broken; they needed to be replaced. Two gates to the pastures and one to the backyard had tilted and sunk and wouldn’t open. They needed to be fixed. A flock of pigeons invaded the upper floors of the barn, breaking through the windows and leaving behind all kinds of droppings.

By October, the grass and weeds have grown too high, and the whole farm needs to be brush-hogged.

One door in the farmhouse needs replacement, and three windows have cracks that need repairing. I think that covers half of it, and I’m not even a real framer, which means there is three times as much to do.

That’s about half of it.

Real farmers joke with me about this. They say one rule is never to buy anything retail, only used, and then to keep everything you buy forever. All those tractors are repaired,  not replaced.

I don’t write this to complain, only explain. Part of what makes a farm so wonderful is that is alive, and demands so much. It is a reflection of life itself.

I love the farm; our lives here are rich, stimulating, and beautiful. But there is hardly a day when we don’t come across something that needs fixing. Apart from nature, beautiful things are rarely free.

30 November

Bedlam Farm Journal, Beautiful Morning At Bedlam Farm. Blue Skies, Wonderful Maria, Lots Of Manure .And My Meeting With A Cat. Thursday, November 30, 2023

by Jon Katz

This morning on the farm was exceptionally beautiful; it captured the joy, love, and work that goes into having a farm, an organic, living thing that needs care and attention. Maria approaches cleaning up manure the way healthy people embrace their lives. She loves doing it and does it well. These photos are devoted to her and her fantastic job here: cheerful, grateful, and diligent.

You will know manure if you have a farm with animals like donkeys and sheep. It is useful; it nourishes our gardens and the gardens of friends. It’s a testament to life. Some people complain about manure, but Maria accepts it as a small price to pay for our lives. Yes, I do know how fortunate I am. Sometimes, the job falls to me. I accept it as well. It means we are living our lives here.

There was also Zip, my new alter ego, always waiting for our morning meeting on the garden bed, all closed up for the winter. I love my life and give thanks for it every day.

This is now one of my favorite Maria portraits. It just captures the essence of her.


Manure is shoveled out of the Pole Barn every day. Zinnia grabs some of it to eat; there is no stopping her—life on a farm.

I was shoveling the manure into a pile.


Zip waits for me every morning; he sits on the raised garden bed and waits for some patting scratching. It’s a beautiful day. I have my Zoom meeting with blog readers (and now, good friends).

We will bring some Christmas decorations to the Farm Market people this morning so they can set it up on their Christmas tree. We’re getting it from the great people at the Senior Citizens Center Thrift Shop; they have all kinds of great Christmas stuff to sell for pennies. I like the season, except for the barrage of sales online.

29 November

Video: Casey Page’s Dream Takes Shape: Putting The Final Touches On Her Breakfast Food Wagon. Her Enthusiams Is Infectious. Shooting For February!

by Jon Katz

I spent some beautiful hours this morning with Casey Face, carpenter Dan Rogers, and the nearly finished former Horse Trailer, soon to be Casey’s dream for many years: a food and breakfast cart that features gourmet coffee, exotic tea, and all kinds of delicious donuts and baked goods she plans to put on the menu.

Casey has been working on her dream most of her life; she’s worked in 20 different food industry places in various service and office jobs. She knows everything about the industry, who succeeded and why, and who failed and why. She’s maneuvering through all the things she saw and learned.

Today’s goal was to paint the inside of the truck, and when I offered to help do some of the painting, Casey said sure, she could use the help. I did the two doors with the help of Dan, who is renovating the old horse wagon and making it shine.

We had a great time. I did a short video below of Casey talking about her plans for the cart and then got to work. Casey is a very organized and reasoned dreamer. She is impressive. She does her homework, consults scores of people, embraces networking with other coffee makers, bakers, and young farmers, and plans to set up her Canteen/coffee company right in the middle of our small town in early February.



Casey has worked on this project for years as a trained designer and restaurant worker; she has designed every inch of the cart herself and talked to just about everyone in range who might know something about food, sales, networking, and the best possible food and coffee and tea and cider.

She knows the town inside and out. Her video is just above, and I’ve added some of the photos that capture what was a terrific experience for me and an exciting time for Casey.

There is something about Casey that is special. We all dream, and most fail, fade away, or are defeated. Casey initially seems quiet and soft-spoken, but that is not the reality. She is tough, wise, and determined. She is locked into her dream, symbolizing the freedom to shape our lives without shorting our families or selves.

She’s, for real,  determined to be a present mother of her two small daughters (one four months old) and has every bit of this planned and considered. She has the complete support of her husband and family.

Casey has learned the mistakes of every food place that failed and is meant to avoid them. She understands that this is tough to pull off in a small town fixed in its ways, but things are changing here. The Pandemic brought many people from the shutdown cities, and they may well form the core of her new customers.

There is a great hunger in our town for good, healthy, inexpensive food, and she is on it. Her eyes reflect her strength and determination. She’s not expecting to fail. And she is appropriately nervous. She has a lot of time and money in this project and isn’t rich.

I’m a Casey Page believer. She is intelligent, curious, and intensely creative.

Her dream is right at hand, and she will take it as far as possible. I’m already hooked on her tea and can’t have breakfast at her cart. I get hungry when she even talks about her plans.

She is always careful to include her two children in the project; she doesn’t wish to be an absent mother. She’s taken on a lot. She is up to it.

I had the best time painting two of her doors, even though I couldn’t quite reach the top (Dan could). Casey has a lot to do before opening up – locking down a site, getting health department approval, registering her old and abandoned horse cart, and making it beautiful, which has already happened, thanks to Dan Rogers.



Dan has been working on the horse trailer for months, and Casey has been right with him. The two work quickly and efficiently together; Dan has done a fantastic job. He is soon coming to our farm to build a space for our new compost upstairs toilet.

Casey works quietly and hard; she paints stains on the interior and has all kinds of design ideas for the inside and the outside.


This is what the horse trailer looks like now; it is no longer recognizable when she found it in Northern Vermont and brought it to our town.


The stain is already transforming the inside. She will probably get a portable heater. The plumbing is done.

Casey studied design in college, and I sense she is a designer at heart. She has worked out the design of every inch of the trailer and keeps her drawings on her Iphone. She lights up whenever she talks about design, an integral part of renovating the trailer, and her plans for selling food and drink.

One of two doors I got to paint. I loved it; thanks, Casey, for letting me help. I don’t have your energy, but I share your enthusiasm. I love dreamers and the things they do. I am one, and I married another. I guess it’s in my blood.  I did okay.


Inside the wagon, before the painting. The service window will be on the left.

29 November

Book Report. A Wonderful Novel To Recommend, A Plea To Stop Sending Me Boxes Of Things Without Asking.

by Jon Katz

I think this will be the book of the year for me. North Woods, by Daniel Mason, is the story of a House built in Massachusetts and its occupants over more than 300 years. It is brilliantly and creatively written, and it knocked my socks off when I started reading it two days ago.

I guess you’d call it historical fiction. It begins with a pair of young lovers in colonial New England who escape the wrathful Pilgrim’s judgment by fleeing into the then-wild woods of western Massachusetts.

They get away from the grim pursuers who are trying to force them back so they can be thrown in jail. They are chased by “solemn men” with harquebuses cocked in their elbows. They get away and the novel continues the story in surprising and inventive ways by chronicling the lives of the people who followed them in the Yellow House for three centuries.

I love every page of it, it is often surprising, telling the story of all kinds of people, from the Apple Man to a Revolutionary Loyalist and author to an amateur historian who believes that bodies are buried on the property.

I highly recommend this book, it stands out in a good year for books and is breathtakingly creative. I stopped reading every other book to read this one. It’s a beautiful book, gripping and beautifully and inventively told.



But I have a problem I want to share.

Yesterday, I got a fabulous book gift from a nun named Sister Lucy, who has been reading my blog and picked up a book she was sure I would love. She is right.

The book is called ” Becoming Who You Are”  and was written by James Martin and inspired by the lives of Thomas Merton and Henry Nouwen, two of my favorite spiritual authors and guides. I write about them all the time.

Lucy nailed my interests and spiritual curiosity, and I love the book and will soon be writing about it. I read it in a half-hour. It was only 90 pages and very inexpensive; it is my perfect gift now.

I also got a letter the same day from a good man far away (I won’t use his name). This was different.

He said he was sending me a box so large it was packed to the bursting point and marked “do not open with the knife” for fear of damaging the clothes stuffed into it. “And also,” he wrote, “a book from the 1950s that I’ve loved reading” and thought I might enjoy. It’s about homeless people in NYC in the 1950s and focuses on their eccentric and exciting approaches to life.”

He said he loved reading about NY in the 1950’s and assumed I would be interested.

Before writing this, I braced myself.

One or two members of the social media yenta police will be messaging me early in the morning and calling me an ingrate or cruel bastard for asking this not to happen and not thanking the man. I thanked him and asked him not to do that anymore.

This is a problem for me, not only because I am an ingrate but because I dislike throwing out things other people treasure or want to get rid of. And we have run out of room for big and unwanted boxes. It takes days and weeks to eliminate them or search for takers, and we are backed up. That is not my job; that is not the way my work works.

I sometimes feel like a Good Will Reception Center.

Our small farmhouse is crammed with boxes and books, most things nobody wants or has asked about.

Sister Lucy sent me a small, thin book I knew nothing about and am happy to get. She had no time at her conference to mail me.

The man who sent them knew my e-mail, he wrote to warn me to tell me the box was “packed to the bursting point,” which made me cringe, and not in joy.

I wish he had just taken the trouble to ask me if I needed another huge stuffed box of things I did not need or wanted to read.

Then, I could explain whether or not I could use these things or anyone else could. And have them shipped where they ought to go.

I will be honest: I am not interested in homelessness in New York in the 50’s. There is no way I will get to this book in the next year, and I am not interested in the subject. That means I will never read it.

The social media yentas do not understand that courtesy is not defined by doing things one doesn’t want to do or can’t do. It comes from finding out what people need and helping them get it, if possible.

My rule is that I never buy anything for anyone I was not asked to get or that I am not 100 percent certain it is needed.

The Mansion aides know to tell me when a resident wants something. So do the residents.

Sue Silverstein only asks me for what she needs and rarely does that. If I see a Mansion resident walking in slippers outside, I know to get them shoes.

That is the way it ought to work. I don’t show up at either place with stuffed boxes for them to sort through. They don’t have staff or time for that. I don’t want to be a Good Will Reception Center.

I hope that helps clarify things. This being America, someone will be offended. My e-mail is [email protected]. Recommendations are welcome.

Questions are answered. I am very available. And we love the packages, hats, and supplies so many of you send this way. Truthfully, I appreciate them and please don’t stop. But the ones we love the most are the ones who ask. We respond quickly and gratefully.

Please take advantage of that so I can’t waste or toss out your valuable things or fall over them. I’m picky about the books I read and can afford to buy them, which I prefer. Sister Lucy is an excellent example of an exception..

If you are eager to buy me a book or gift or send me huge packages, please take the trouble to e-mail me first, and I will take the trouble to answer you. That does not feel ungrateful to me.

It seems the embodiment of courtesy and thoughtfulness.

It’s simple. Just ask: [email protected]. We are out of room.

29 November

Bedlam Farm, A New Perspective With A New 60 MM Lens. Come Along.

by Jon Katz

I spent the morning testing out my new macro lens.

Then, I went to Dan Rogers House to meet Casey and help her paint the rear doors of her Horse Wagon/Food Cart.

She and Dan do a fantastic job turning the horse transport into a spiffy breakfast food wagon. It’s almost done.

She’s still working on approval for the location and health department and planning a February opening.

I had great fun helping them paint the wagon; I didn’t spill too much or pour the stain all over myself—pictures and words to come. I’ll write about it later.

I’m thrilled with my new (used) Leica macro lens.

It is a tremendous close-up and great at some distance, which I didn’t expect. All of these photos were taken with the new lens. I’m keeping it for sure. I’m thinking of a new motto for the blog: “Our Story. Our Life. Our Home.” What do you think?

It captures who we are and what we are doing with our blogs.

I’m putting up the painting, progress photos this evening, and a video with Casey inside the new cart. She spent the whole day working on the wagon. The more I know Casey, the more impressed I am by her. She is honest, thoughtful, hard-working, and a dreamer.

There are no shortcuts; every detail is considered.

Those are great qualities to have, no matter what you do. I’m happy to follow her story; it is uplifting and fascinating. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone quite like her. She is meticulous, cautious, and determined. She is also stubborn as hell. That will come in handy.

She is a designer at heart, and that is being used well. Here comes Coffee/Canteen from Casey Face.


Maria was startled to see me walking outside in my underpants and in freezing weather. It was worth it. Thank God she didn’t have her camera ready.


The 60mm did fine in the morning light— nice depth of field nice colors.


Fate at rest, this time lying on her belly.

Silhouette, dining room windowsill.

Silhouette, donkey, and plant, black and white.


I’m experimenting with silhouette, and this one worked. With a macro camera,  you must test repeatedly to get the distance right. There is no auto-button.


Feeding time. The 60-millimeter works well at a distance and has depth and detail.

I love the portrait of Zinnia. t captured the Soul Of A Dog. It has a soft, solid quality.

I loved this funky old sign we found the other day at the Senior Citizen’s Home, where we went and got “ugly sweaters” for the Mansion Christmas Party. I just spoke of us: Our Life. your Story. Your Home. This is what the blog is about.


Casey Face’s food wagon. Coffee/Canteen opens in February. Reams can come true—more pictures to come tonight.


Email SignupFree Email Signup