2 May

The Farm Widow And The Crow

by Jon Katz
The farm widow and the crow

There is a farm widow, who lives far out in the woods,

with an old horse, a goat and an ancient dog,

who saw a crow fall from a tree, crippled,

and he would never let her touch him, or come hear him,

but if she took a large bird cage

out in the field, and left a can of cat food, he would appear in it

every morning, and eat the food and hobble or fly away,

she was not sure which.

But he always kept the open crate between himself and her,

and she respected that, as he was a wild thing, a spirit of the world,

and rarely seen or considered up close.

Every day for weeks, she left the food in the open cage,

and the crow would come and eat it, and heal himself,

and find his way out,

and most days he comes to the crate still, to watch over her,

and thank her, and once in awhile, she leaves some food,

and she told me that if I came and sat quietly, I could take his photo,

and he would tell me some of the secrets of the world,

and one day I came with my camera and sat by the crate,

and while I was looking away, he suddenly appeared,

and was calm and curious,

and penetrated my soul with his piercing gaze,

and whispered to me that life was good, and life was precious,

and that I needed to be strong,

and that magical helpers and spirits in the form of animals – dogs

and donkeys, and crows, and sometimes, even the humble chicken,

would lead me on my path, and I took a dozen pictures, as he watched me

curiously, and tilted his head, then, when I looked up to get

one last photo, he was gone.

Oh, said the farm widow, he will be back.


On Facebook, a photo album of the crow.

2 May

A Girl And Her Goat

by Jon Katz
A Girl And Her Goat

If you are a photographer on a cloudy day, restless and wandering, it helps to have a friend like Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm just down the road (and soon to be a neighbor). There is always something quite great to photograph, in any kind of light. I often worry that Jenna is taking too many things on for any single human being, even a strong and young one, but she always handles what she has to handle, learns quickly, and puts it all of it to work.  She can handle many things and make it look simple. Her animals are all engaged, healthy and well cared for. Her farm is a happy, energetic place. Jenna can take care of herself, and routinely does things most people could not do.

She also has an easy and natural way with animals. She is a lot of fun to hang around with, and we do share things that most people do not share – crazy dogs, lambing, farm management, panic attacks,  blogging and writing. Jenna is a terrific writer, and she has a lot to write about, something writers figure out how to do. We are very different, and in some ways, very similiar. I admire Jenna. She works and thinks hard and is a very gentle and good-hearted human.  I kind of avoided her because she reminded me of some of the scary parts of me and my past. But that was my problem, not hers and I am happy I got over it.

She is passionate about everything she does, and this week, she is passionate about milking goats. I am always impressed by her ability to process new things and absorb them into her life.  I missed this one – the milking thing – but it is compelling to see. I was fortunate  to take some photos of this very intimate and touching thing to see. I’ll post an album on Facebook also.

Jenna and Bonita
2 May

My Dandelion Queen: Choosing A Dog

by Jon Katz
Choosing A Dog

I’ve not had just two dogs for many years, and it is different, quiet. I see Lenore looking for Izzy on our walks, the two of them always went ahead together sniffing the woods carefully for the stories of the world. I’ve chosen another dog, Red, from Virginia, a working border collie who is also looking for a good home and a car to ride around in.

I receive a lot of messages with assumptions about my getting  a dog. I am getting Red to heal from the loss of Izzy and Rose. I am rescuing Red from a life of hard work. I do not get dogs for healing, or as a moral imperative. Many Americans see getting a dog as an emotional or philanthropic decision, as in the many messages I get urging me to consider rescuing a dog, as if I have never thought of it or heard of it (at the moment, I have rescue dogs, chickens, donkeys). I do not see a dog as a moral choice for me, or as an emotional one. I am as cold-blooded as I can be when it comes to choosing a dog. What is best the for the dog? What is best for me? My family? My other dogs? My work? If that means rescuing a dog, fine, if it means going to a great breeder, that is also fine. I do not ever tell anyone how to get a dog, or try to manipulate or guilt-trip someone into getting a dog because it will make me feel good, as opposed to being the best and safest place for the dog to be.

Many dogs pay with their lives for the human tendency to choose them – sometimes to exploit them – so that we can feel better about ourselves in a disconnected world. Dogs chosen for the wrong reasons often have behavioral problems (millions of dogs are returned to shelters because people cannot train or live with them), dog bites on humans are epidemic – rising about 47 per cent a year, according to the Center for Disease Control and the American Pediatric Association. Rescuing a dog can be wonderful, it can be a problem, and the same goes for buying one from a breeder.

I tread carefully and thoughtfully. I want the dog to be happy and I want me to be happy. Maria, too, and Frieda and Lenore. And the donkeys and sheep. And barn cats and chickens. And people in bookstores and readers of the blog and editors in New York.   Red has been around other dogs all of his life, as a herding demonstration dog is nearly unflappable, can help me with the work I need on the farm, and also hopefully blend into my dog family – Frieda, who needs an acclimation period but then accepts other dogs, and Lenore, who loves all living things. I predict she will bond closely with Red. I am also thinking of Maria. Red is a dog who could hang around her Studio sometimes and who loves to walk and work with people. I expect she will learn to work with Red and sheep. And I never again mean to see a dog of mine harming a human. Red has a lot of experience around people.

I have learned to never listen to anyone who tries to tell me how I should get a dog, but to turn inward.  Getting a dog is not like going to Church or feeding the homeless. Bringing an animal into the home requires a lot of thought and care for me. I always ask myself how I wish to live with this dog, what do I know about his or her temperament, how will he fit into the rythyms and cycles of my life. And I love working it through with with a savvy and experienced breeder like Karen Thompson. She asked the right questions and answered all of mine. She understands what I need. And what Red needs.

The odds are good, when a dog is chosen in that way. I’ve had the greatest luck with that approach. Rose, Izzy, Lenore all came about in that way, Julius and Stanley before them, Pearl and Clementine. Frieda, well Frieda is her own story, working out in a different way. I think Red works in all of the ways that are important for me.

2 May

Chicken Morning

by Jon Katz
Chicken Morning

I love the disconnection of chickens, the sense of their living in the own world, all around us, yet completely apart from us. They do not have the need for attention that dogs have, or the mysterious intelligence that cats have. They are defenceless, almost primitively naive and vulnerable, they they go about their business with great industry and diligence.

I have learned to watch them, listen to them. They are soothing, comforting, sometimes meditative.

2 May

Chickens, Foxes. Fran Goes Viral. Me, too.

by Jon Katz
The Oldest Story

The story of Fran and the Fox went viral this morning. Slate Magazine ran a story by me and a photo slideshow about the Bedlam Farm drama involving the fox, the chickens, the donkeys, and the unnerved farmer  that many of you have been following here on the blog. The e-mail is roaring in, so I wanted to mention that there are some “Fran and the Fox”  notecards still available for sale on Maria’s website. There are six photos, all signed, selling for $20 plus shipping, for those of you who want them. I’ve added text to the cards, also.

There is a lot of stuff going on. Battenkill Books says they are happily swamped with people wanting signed paperback copies of “Izzy & Lenore” to remember Izzy and benefit hospice. We are making plans for the last Bedlam Farm (at least the last one on this Bedlam Farm) Pig Barn Gallery Art Show, to be held on the weekend of June 23-24.  Details here.  I’m meeting at Hubbard Hall tomorrow to start sorting through the final applicants for my writing workshop, the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project. And I am speaking on Mother’s Day weekend – May 13 on “Creativity And Photography” at 2 p.m. at 70 Main Street, Greenwich, N.Y. Maria will be showing and selling her art there, along with some other gifted artists. A neat Mother’s day activity, I think.

In two weeks, Maria and I are going to pick up the border collie Red (he is from Ireland and has an outrun big enough to circle the Adirondacks) from Dr. Karen Thompson outside of Richmond, Va. Red may be on duty for the art show weekend, moving our sheep around and showing me how to do it. I’ve just finished my fourth children’s book, “Simon Says Good Night” and send it to my agent. I am preparing for publication of my first short story collection, “Dancing Dogs,” this September. Also that month, the second Lenore children’s book, “Lenore Finds A Friend.” I’m waiting to edit the “Frieda” book due out next year.  I am finishing  up my first e-book original, “Rose’s Call: A Man And His Dog” due to be published digitally in July.  I think that’s enough for one morning.

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