22 January

My Farm In The Snow. For Sale. Patience. We Are Coming

by Jon Katz
Bedlam Farm In The Snow. Patience


I love this view of Bedlam Farm, the old farmhouse surrounded by its barns and sheds and outbuildings. Bedlam Farm has been for sale for a few weeks not. I am not a patient person and get frustrated easily, yet I don’t feel that about the sale of the farm. I am so confident about it that I want to buy this New Bedlam Farm we love right now but the former girlfriend and the realtor say no, not a good idea. I have learned to listen to cooler heads than mine. We offered to pay a small monthly fee if they would hold it for us on a contingency basis but they understandably said no. So we are waiting and our new home is waiting. It just feels right to both of us. Great barn for the donkeys, and workspace for Maria and me. (She gets two big buildings, she wants me in the former hog pen.)

It will be this new place or better.

I can see the people who will buy the farm. A couple who want a nice place on a quiet country road that they don’t have to fix up, or a family from Connecticut, Long Island or New York City who want to come to the country and have some animals and need solid barns, outbuildings and good fences and water systems. People keep cautioning me about the market, as they do about so many things, but I just see it happening and we are both excited about it.

So that’s the update. Lots of buzzing around, cars driving by with cameras taking long looks, some phone calls to the realtor, lots of hits on the Prebble website. I drove by the New Bedlam Farm and whispered out the car window that we are coming.

22 January

Big Night For Jenna Woginrich’s Barnheart

by Jon Katz
Jenna and Gibson


It is not easy to buy and run a working farm and it is not easy to write a terrific book and jam a bookstore with fans, especially when you’re not even 30. Jenna Woginrich has done all of those things and more. She jammed the Battenkill Bookstore with more than 50 fans Sunday afternoon in Cambridge, N.Y. (where Maria and I plan to move when the farm is sold) and she read from her new book “Barnheart”  (her border collie Gibson, stoodby), took questions and then signed books for her readers, who came from Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and all over upstate New York.

Barnheart is a hit, much praised and loved. Jenna and I have a lot in common. Our blogs are central to our work and sense of community and we are both passionate about our farms. Jenna is a very different kind of farmer than I am, mainly because I am not a farmer. She believes strongly in agrarian homesteading, raises much of her own food, feeds and slaughters some of her animals, and runs a series of successful workshops at Cold Antler Farm. (You can get signed copies of Jenna’s book or any of my books by calling Battenkill Books at 518 677 2515,  through PayPal on the store’s website, or by e-mailing connie@battenkillbooks.com.)

Jenna is a very gifted writer and a good friend, and I am proud of her and excited for her. You will be hearing a lot about her.

22 January

Projections: We are cold: feed us more! Animals Thinking

by Jon Katz
Projections: Feed Us

I see animals as a mirror of many of my thoughts, as it is so simple and commonplace to project my thoughts onto them. I often hear people projecting thoughts onto animals – they are sad, they are happy, they miss us, they were abused, they are jealous, they are grieving, they are angry.  Vets know better. I know better.

But I still do it. Whenever it is as cold as it is now, I imagine the animals as suffering, as needy, as wanting more food, grain, carrots, apples. Upstate winters are very cold sometimes, and it sometimes hurts just to walk outside. But donkeys are not people, and they are well-built to handle extreme weather. And they have shelter and plenty of food.

Usually I give food to them when it is cold and I see them standing by the gate. And of course, wily and instinctive creatures that they are, they learn from this. Whenever it is cold, our donkeys position themselves at the gate near the farmhouse and stare out towards the windows. I look out and think – every time – poor things, it is near zero, they must be cold. They can see me through the windows, as I can see them. At the sight of me, they bray, and I project further: they are calling out to me, telling me “we are cold, please feed us!” If dogs are the animal world’s leading manipulators of human emotion, donkeys might be right behind.

And I invariably go outside with carrots or apples, sometimes grain. Once in awhile, when the fog that lives in my head clears, it occurs to me that it is no accident that the donkeys stand by the gate when it is cold. I have trained them to do so, as I project my own feelings about the cold onto them. And then I think, well, if they are that smart, then they deserve it! Animals do not rationalize, but humans do.

22 January

The Authentic Life: Infinite Expectation Of The Dawn

by Jon Katz
Infinite expectation of the dawn


I wonder how far Thoreau would get to his year in Walden Pond in our culture. Could he get permission? Afford the taxes? Would he go on such an arduous trip without health insurance? How many people would call the police on a single man living alone in a hut by the water, swimming naked in the pond?  Would he be able to pay the mortgage? Save for retirement? Risk his kid’s college tuition? Afford his cable, computer, cell phone,  satellite and Internet costs? His Storm Center warning fees? Would he need liability insurance to sit in that little cabin? Would his lawyer approve? And what about the blood pressure medication I am certain he would need, from reading his works? The blood work and scans to make sure he was healthy enough to be outside in the cold?  Would his corporate publisher every go for such a boring story  as “Walden- a man sitting and meditating for hours, eating uncooked and undoubtedly dangerous foods?

Would he be a hero of the Left? Or of the Right? Or would he offend both? And would he accept either?  Thoreau wrote that we must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid but by an infinite expectation of the dawn. Now, at long last, I know what that brave man meant. Our society preaches mechanical aid – experts, savings,  warnings, doctors, lawyers, politicians, regulators – all telling us what we ought or ought not to. Thoreau preached a life – and death – with dignity, and that is what I want. A self-determined life. A simple life. A life connected to love, the natural world, the animal world. A creative life, where I am free to pursue my light. I want the same kind of death. I recall that my grandparents died in dignity – in their own homes, surrounded by their families, with no surgeries, medications, artificial parts. Perhaps they did not live as long as doctors tell us we can live today, but it seemed to be they died better than many people die. Perhaps a good trade-off for me.

But it’s more important to see how I want to live than how I want to die. I will not live watching the angry people on the news. Or structuring my life around pills and procedures and doctors and lawyers. I remind myself every day to re-aweken and to keep myself awake, not by being safe or careful but an infinite expectation that every day can bring what I wish, what I need, what I choose. I think, for me, that is a life lived in dignity.

Email SignupEmail Signup