15 November

Reflections: The Move

by Jon Katz
Reflections On The Move

We put Bedlam Farm up for sale last December, it is almost a year that it has been on the market. People come sporadically to look at it, but no buyers yet.  Many wrinkle their noses. Too much acreage, no attached garage, a kitchen that isn’t spanking new. The farm will find its lover, I am sure.

In the late Spring, we made an offer on our new farm and moved in before Halloween. As is obvious, it has been exciting, creative,  financially stressful and both exhilalrating and exhausting in other ways. We are in a transition, ending one phase, moving into another. The major work on the farmhouse and on Maria’s ecstatic studio are done. The driveway is not filled with trucks and cars. The hose has been rewired, painted, scubbed, there is new plumbing, roof and beams and sills. Floors have been shored up, beams sistered.  It is a different house than the one we bought, its spine and guts new and strong. Ben did a lot of it, so did we, so did others.

Ben comes by every now and then to fix a piece of slate or rebuild a door or rotten sill but he has moved on to other projects and is busy, as he  deserves to be. Much as I love him, I am ready to claim my office and my house and our life here.

Florence’s spirit is here, but it is not her house any longer. It is beginning to feel like ours. New paint, curtains, a wood stove.

We very much appreciate and enjoy being near a town like Cambridge – close to a hardware store, small market, Battenkill books, friends. We are driving less, things are closer. The farm is compact, sensible for us to manage. Two or three times a week we get a sandwich at nearby Mama’s. The animals have settled into their routines. The sheep go to their feeder, the donkeys to theirs.  They know where the sun is, when they get fed, and how to find the shelter. There are lights in the barn, the hay is where it ought to be.The Pole Barn is sturdy, spacious and dry, even in hurricane rains.

Maria and I still feel the presence of Rocky, but that is fading also. Red is an invaluable dog in many ways, he helps organize the farm, move the sheep. He is moving into Rose’s role as a farm manager, these amazing border collie dogs taking responsibility and learning the routine. Frieda now understands that she lives here and has two tasks – guarding the farm, sitting with Maria in her studio. Red and Lenore mostly hang out with me go on walks, sit in my study while I write. Lenore is this farms’ greeter too, and spends her days basking in the sun and looking for love. We have neighbors who care about us and watch out for us.

People ask me if I regret our moving here, if I wish I had waited. No, I am very happy to be here. It is where we needed to be. I’ve written many times that money doesn’t bring security and I will get to find out if that is really so. This place feels right. A self-determined life is important to me, and it has brought me here. There is loss, too. Money, for sure, savings and nest eggs. I’ve separated from the medical and political and media systems, they are simply not compatible with the kind of life I wish to live. I am working hard as always on my spiritual life, deepening my practice of meditation, seeing how much it is benefiting me. I still struggle with some fear, but less and less all the time. The hardest work of my life, and the most important, next to finding love.

Somehow, this all feels like a respite after a long battle, the battleground smoking and still filled with debris. Busy days filled with intrusions, decisions, labors. Going to the dump. Waving to the trucks that go by.  And casualties. My beautiful Bedlam farmhouse and barns, my path in the woods, the breathtaking view, the light on the hills. Mother, and then, Rocky.

The greatest thing about our moving is that Maria and I did it together. We needed to do this. And it helped me grow and grow.  It opened me up to new experience, from painting her studio to scraping off the wallpaper to sanding and working closely with Ben to build a pole barn, spackling and glazing, a skid barn to build, fencing to plan and the need to organize the farm so it works for us, and the animals. I continue to grow up, learn how to be a man, how to be a human. Hay, storage, fences, gates, water, heated hoses, rakes for manure, a coop for the chickens. Those are the measures of a farm that works, not a working farm but a writer’s farm, his place to live with and study animals and rural life, his Peaceable Kingdom.

The move was costly in many ways, and I am still recovering from it, Maria too. I am so happy we did it.  I learned a lot, grew a lot. There is no price too high to pay for a meaningful life, a feeling reaffirmed when I went outside to photograph Maria working in her new studio and saw it glowing like a radioactive jewel.

15 November

Bedlam Dogs

by Jon Katz
On The Path

I took the dogs out for a walk this afternoon.  I needed to get out of the house. Maria’s studio is now all done, and she is working like mad on her potholders and streaming pieces. I’m not quite done with my workspace.

The electricians are putting outlets in and I’m trying to edit amidst a roar of drills, hammers, shouts and thumping. I’ve written like this for years. People who do not write do not really think of writing as work, and so there is much banging on doors, many jokes and stories of electrical exploits. Still, I got through three chapters, I think now I could write in the middle of Grand Central Station it is a gift of the farm.

When the electricians are gone – all they have to do is put another outlet and a phone jack in my office, we will be done. Ben is returning next week to spread some gravel under the hay feeder and in the Pole Barn and at the foot of the driveway. Our move will have been complete. I have been wanting to write more about this change all day but the power is about to be turned off again. More later.

15 November

The Fromm Family Dog Food Experiment

by Jon Katz
Fromm Family Dog Food Experiment

Today, another milestone for bedlamfarm.com, the first ever commercial ad on the home page of the website. At the top of this page, an advertisement for Fromm Family Dog Foods, the first premium dog food company in America, a family-owned company,  and the dog food I have been feeding Red, Frieda and Lenore for most of this year. Fromm is family owned, innovative and very much focused on nutrition. I could not be happier with the impact this food has had on my dogs.  I have always refused to accept ads, but with Fromm, I found something I use and believe in and can recommend in good faith. I turned down two offers of sponsorship from corporate dog food companies.

Fromm and I have agreed to a one month experiment to see if the company and I are comfortable with this arrangement. This is the story behind this ad:

Sometime in the Spring, I realized I needed to find a different dog food. Two of the dogs – Frieda and Lenore – had developed allergy symptoms, dry skin, scratching, shedding. Frieda ate sporadically. Although it is not a delicate thing to talk about, I pay close attention to my dog’s stools as a sign of health. I won’t go into details, but I was troubled by what I saw. Then early this summer I got Red, a high energy working dog. He also ate erratically, and it was a bit chaotic feeding all three.  I began talking to vets, doing some research online, talking to some nutritionists at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, people I had spoken with while researching articles and books about dogs. Several recommended Fromm foods. Then my vet urged me to try Fromm, she said it was the food she recommended for dogs of any age.

The name Fromm kept coming up. I got some. The Fromm site offers thorough and transparent nutritional information, and I compared it with other dog foods. I liked it. So I switched. I was delighted with the results, so much so that I contacted the company in September and we talked about Fromm becoming a sponsor on my site.

I like the fact that this company is family owned, and has been a champion of good nutrition for dogs for decades. I  would not have been comfortable with a corporate company, or a corporate ad. The company cares about nutrition and pets.  I appreciate that it is locally owned. The food is different than any other I have used. I am using the regular foods for Red, and the senior food for Frieda and sometimes, with Lenore. I appreciate the solid packaging as well, and have not had the usual troubles with tearing and spillage.

Specifically, this is what I have seen since I began using Fromm foods: My dogs coats are shiny, and the allergies and dry skin have disappeared. The weight of all three dogs is precisely what it should be. The dog’s stools are exactly what they ought to be, a reliable sign of good nutrition and health. Red, a high energy dog, is thriving on this food. So are Frieda and Lenore.  In addition, all three dogs go to their bowls, eat quickly and enthusiastically. Much more orderly.  I’m very happy with this food. My dogs are health and look good, and my vet is very pleased with the way they look, their weight and coats.

I am reluctant to have ads on the top of this website, for aesthetic reasons and because the site is not a commercial site. But I also want the blog, which is expensive to maintain, to be free. Ads are a way of accomplishing that. So we’ll try it. You, the readers and dog and cat lovers, are a big part of this. I’d encourage you to click on the ad above, check the Fromm site out and if there is a lot of traffic and the people at Fromm and I are happy, we’ll keep it going. This is the best dog food I have ever purchased and I am happy to share that with you, whatever we ultimately decide to do.

15 November

Another Chapter

by Jon Katz
Another Chapter

Another chapter in our move, and I’ll write more about the meaning of that later. The electrician is coming today to do work on the outlets and that will conclude the outside and inside construction work for the farmhouse. We haven’t yet sold Bedlam Farm and we have to sort out the many implications of that. It is time for us to move forward, return to our work, begin living in the rythyms of our new life, our new home. I have a book to edit and write, Maria has so many things she wants to create, so much art to make. We are exhilarated and exhausted. We have come a long way, as this living room shows (we just got some curtains up.) I’ll write more about this later, the electrician is about to turn off the power to the house.

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