There are many ways to talk to animals, many ways to listen to them. We humans are the most arrogant species, we believe we know what they are thinking because we most often believe they are thinking what we are thinking. But they are not, they do not have our words, our language, our narratives and emotions. Much as we would like to cast them in our image, they are alien, they have their own language and emotions.
Maria talks to her pony every day in many ways. She brings her an apple in the morning, sometimes corn cobs. She brushes her, grooms her, hoses her down. Sometimes she talks to her, sometimes she rides her, sometimes she lets her in the pasture with grass, sometimes she walks her around the pasture.
Sometimes she shows her her emotions, sometimes she trades images with her. They are having a rich conversation, the same kind of conversation that I have had with Fate, the same kind I have had with Red. Communication with animals begins with our understanding that we do not know what they are thinking and feeling, they understand few of our words.
Only then can we listen to them. Only when we are humble and accept them as our partners, not our piteous wards or slaves, not voiceless creatures to be exploited for our own needs. That’s when the conversation begins.
I am adding videos to the blog regularly now, mostly in response to the many requests for them. We are living in a visual world, the blog has to keep up. This afternoon, Jay Bridge,a friend and carpenter came to the farm to fix the slate steps on the back porch and repair some of the holes in the barn that the donkeys made this winter. When they don’t have grass, they eat buildings. Took Red out in the heat to get the sheep out briefly so Jay could take some measurements.
I took a video of Red moving the sheep, Fate was assisting. I am using my Iphone 6 plus for the videos, the quality is very good and it is easy for me to post to YouTube and then link to you here. I am approving comments on the YouTube channel as there are one or two stalkers coming around and they can be hateful, it is a privilege to ban them, one small step towards a civil Internet.
I am adding a video streaming screen to the top of the Farm Journal so that you can all access the latest videos quickly and easily.
So it’s time to mention subscriptions again, they do matter, they keep the blog free, they keep it modern, they keep the photographs and words coming. They permit to be a writer in time of great change. They help pay for the cost of the blog, it is not cheap to run a good and dynamic blog. If you subscribe, you can cancel at any time, it is quite simple, you have three good options – $3 a month, $5 a month, or $60 a year. If you can’t pay or don’t wish to, the blog is free, you can access all of it whether you pay or not, I don’t keep track.
This is the future of writing, I wish to be a relevant part of it, I hope you do also. Or there will be no writers like me. I mean to be here a good while. I embrace change and creativity, you will never hear me lament my life or speak poorly of it.
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The subscription program is important, it is the new way for writers like me to keep doing their work and make a living. I’m not there yet, but we are getting closer. Five years ago, this would have been unthinkable for you, for me. Now, it is not only thinkable, it is the future of writing. It is my future. I began the blog in 2007 to support my books, the blog has become the book. More than four million visits to the blog are recorded each year, there are more than 400,000 unique visitors. A very small fraction of them subscribe, at least so far.
Those that do are appreciated, and their numbers are growing, slowly but steadily.
The blog is my new living memoir, my great work, I write and take photos here just about every day of the year, usually three, four or five times a day. It is good to be paid for my work, it is a long time coming, and it is beginning to work. Thanks for subscribing, and if you can’t subscribe, thanks for reading the blog.
Many of you have followed me from the beginning, you have not abandoned me, I will never abandon you, whether you can subscribe or not.
Some people call it yard art, or outsider art, or folk art. Maria and I call it art. Sunday, she invited Ed Gulley, an artist and dairy farmer in White Creek, N.Y., to our October Open House. He was showing us his workshop at Bejosh Farm. He will join Maria and none other artists, and me, Red, Fate, Chloe, Lulu and Fanny and the barn cats in a celebration of our lives in October. The Open House Columbus Day Weekend will happen on Saturday and Sunday of the Columbus Day Weekend.
Friday, we will kick off the first Creativity Conference at the Pompanuck Farm Institute outside of Cambridge, N.Y., that day-long event will be open to members of the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm, a few local high school students and my writing students. It will feature workshops on poetry, blogging, writing, fiber art, singing and photography. We are excited to have Ed Gulley join our Open House art celebration. He is the real deal.
We will also have singing, poetry readings and some talks.
I will be conducting some herding workshops with Red and Fate and visitors can meet the pony and donkeys. Plenty of restaurants and shops nearby in Cambridge. Details about the events and the artists here.
I have decided to get Trumped. All my life, I have been swimming upstream, no one told me there was fame and money in being stupid and hateful. Why am I broke?
Last week I read on Facebook – those mysterious ads popped up on my page – that Donald Trump, Warren Buffett and Denzel Washington, three successful older men, were all taking the same smart pill, brain and memory enhancement tablets available only on the Internet. They all swore by it, they said it was a wonderful pill, it was a key to their success. They no longer needed to nap, they said, their IQ’s had doubled overnight, their memories were sharp, their minds racing.
Hmmm, I thought, I could use a brain enhancement, I want to double my memory, I have to stop sometimes to remember my name.
I found the pill on Amazon, it arrived yesterday, it is miraculous. It has already changed my life.
It is supposed to work instantly and it does. I was up all night, I watched two mysteries on Netflix, finished two novels, started a third and woke Maria up, demanding to discuss the spiritual symbols and sexual habits of Nefertiti and the ancient Goddesses. I asked her if she thought I was sexy now that my brain was enhanced.
Maria rolled over and yawned, she told me she would break my fingers if I bothered her again, and she said I was crazy to buy brain tablets online. It was a scam, she said, and we couldn’t afford it. I pointed out that she was not being good to me, she was a bimbo and a slut and was probably on the rag as well. She will never be great.
A few minutes later, I woke up on the floor with a sore butt and a bruise on my cheek. I was confused, Maria did not praise me for speaking my mind and for not being afraid to be a complete asshole in public. If I had known sooner that there was so much money in being ignorant and hateful, my life would have been different.
But it is not a straight path. Maria had pushed me out of bed with one foot. Reporters were not calling to ask my opinion about climate change. I was undeterred, my brain was racing, nourished, spinning. My memory was amazing, I was recalling every stupid and hateful thing Donald Trump had ever said. “Oh, no,” Maria said. “God help us.”
I got up and looked in the mirror. My new hair was there, the pills were truly amazing.
Red took one look at my hair, and he growled and bit me on the leg and ran and hid under the dining room table. He wouldn’t come out, not even to herd the sheep. Fate came running over and tried to jump up and grab my hair. She acted like my hair was her toy or something, I kicked her across the room. She is just a slut. And I love sluts. They are great.
I told Maria to get with the program, that I was going to allow my hair to grow out, with the new pills it would not take long. I will tell you in all honesty, my hair is great, I am great, it is not a wig. Everyone loves it, everyone is telling me it is great. I asked Maria to pull my hair, and she did, but she yelped and claimed it bit her on the finger. She says she won’t touch it anymore. She says she won’t touch me anymore. I am not worried. Women love me, I love women. They are great.
This morning, focused and alert and feeling sharp and successful, I got up, took the dogs, went to Stewart’s, the convenience store where all the farmers and the men in big trucks hang out every morning, their trucks idling outside, they gossip like girls. They grunt and grumble. They are great, they love me. I walked up to Bridget Shaunessy, the tough old Irish mom behind the cash register, and I asked her what she thought of my hair. She said it looked like a ferret was nesting on my head.
I called her a stupid whore and asked her if she was bleeding from down there, and she came around the counter and whupped me upside the head with a coffee mug, and then her three sons, whose pick-ups were idling outside, picked me up and threw me in the dumpster. I said she was a pervert, how could she think I was referring to her time of the month, I was just explaining myself. She poured coffee on my hair. It sizzled, burst into flames.
A group of Scottish-American farmers gathered around to see why I was in the dumpster, they helped me climb out. They were all named McLanahan or McClachlan. I unveiled my agricultural program to them. First, I said, we had to send the Jews back to where they came from, we were not getting the good ones, the Jews we are getting are not great, they are not good people, they are all thieves and scumbags and lechers. Rapists too, maybe.
Just look at the politicians mailing their penises all over Twitter and Facebook, some of them are Jewish. Send them back, we will build a huge wall around the Jews to keep them out, it will be beautiful, we’ll make them pay for it, they’ll be happy to do it, because they know I am great, we will all be great again, it will be a great wall, don’t listen to the media, they are all bleeding from down there, they are all perverts. And I love Jews, and they love me, they think I am great. And I have to be honest, I am a Jew. I have worked with lots of Jews, and some are my friends, I will have to send them back where they came from, but they will still think I am great.
The farmers loved my idea about the Jews, they looked a little puzzled, they hadn’t heard those things about them, and didn’t know they were causing such trouble, but they said I was telling it like it is, I was not afraid of the politically correct people who are ruining our country with their stupid demands that we stop persecuting people and telling them how to live. America needs to be great again, I said, we have to get back to hating people and discriminating against them and persecuting them and stealing their money and making the poor miserable. You know, the good old days when women did what they were told, they were not loud-mouthed bimbos like my wife. Why not look into owning people again, get business moving, start some more wars? I got a round of applause for that, although I noticed most of the farmers were slipping away.
Good, I said, thanks, you are great, we will be great together. After the Jews are gone, let’s send the Irish and the Scottish people back across the sea, they are all drunks and probably sleeping with their sisters and cousins. We don’t need farmers, they don’t play golf or stay in expensive hotels, they are dirty, probably perverts. We can buy what we need from peasants and coolies and poor people in other countries, we can put up condos and golf courses on all of the farms, that’s what I do all over the country. And you know what, it’s great, it really is. The media will never tell you that, but just ask my stockholders, they will tell you how great it is.
The mood changed, the farmers and the big men in trucks didn’t like that, they threw me back in the dumpster. Everybody is afraid to speak in this country, not me. Let’s talk I said. I asked them to pull my hair for themselves, and a young woman said she would and gave it a tug, but it pooped on her hand, and she screamed, and then it bit her too, she said if she had rabies she would come back and find me and sue me. Not if I sue you first, I said. The bimbo. She owes me an apology, I’m sick of all this sensitivity.
As I moved quickly away from Stewart’s, there was an incident. A red squirrel jumped out of a tree and landed on my head and tried to have sex with my hair, there was a lot of squealing and screaming up there. My new security detail came running over the tried to shoot the squirrel, but the bullets just bounced off my hair, and I think the squirrel is hiding up there. I don’t blame him. It’s great up there. It was no big deal. There’s room for him if he wants to stay.
I love my new pills, and my refurbished brain. I love being Trumped, I am reborn. For just $30. My memory is twice as good, I don’t feel like taking a nap. I am awash in new ideas, as you can see. The truth is, I am great. I have great ideas. I always have. Some people don’t like me, but hey, you can’t make an omelette, right….? I see the whole world as eggs to break, when you think about it, it’s a brilliant idea. That’s who I am. I am just a brilliant man, that is why everybody loves me.
I am loving Donald Trump. I am being Trumped. I like finally being loved, I see the path. There is no future in this writing stuff, my pills have already made me see that. Last night I sat up until sunrise reading some of his quotes. Like this one: “I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is.” If you think about it, it’s very true. It’s great.
I woke Maria up to read this to her. She did not get the program, I might have have to find a new wife, one who appreciates me. That will be easy. Women love me so much. I have always loved women. Women are great, and I am great, so what is the problem?
Maria threatened to spray me with some disinfectant in the kitchen if I didn’t stay away from her. She said she would call the police if my hair came anywhere near her. Or if I did.
She said she was going out in the barn to sleep with the donkeys. She said if she was going to sleep with an ass, at least the ass ought to make sense and not have a dead and smelly thing on it’s head. She said my hair belonged to Fate, and I should give it back to her. I said she was probably just another stupid whore, she will be left behind when America is great again, and then I ran out of the bedroom before she could get out of bed and slug me once more. I do not think she will ever be great, she is just a bimbo like Megyn Kelley. As I ran, I yelled that she should be apologizing to me. Because, you know, after all, I am great.
I noticed early on in my work with border collies that there are many critics and experts out there, but very few people who share the process of training honestly. You will never see Cesar on TV failing to train a dog, you will not ever see videos of a border collie wiindbag failing to herd the sheep.
For me, sharing the training of a dog means showing mistakes as well as triumphs. I have a lot of both. People are afraid to be authentic on social media or You Tube because a lot Internet warriors – the bands of the righteous – will pounce on them for it. That is unfortunate. I love to share my mistakes, that is the only way we all can learn and show the truth. I value being pounced on, it means I am alive and learning.
I don’t generally give advice, but I will share one bit of training lore: do not trust anyone who will not share their mistakes with you out in the open, they are lying to you. You cannot train any dog, let alone a turbo-charged border collie puppy without making mistakes. People who never share their mistakes, who love to judge others, know nothing. The real learning comes from the mistakes, not the victories. I will always share mine and take what comes. That is what it means to be authentic.
Can working with dogs and sheep be fun? I believe it ought to be, and the first day it isn’t, I’ll quit. Fate has a joy for life and work and I don’t want to extinguish that. I got five ribbons in my year or two of going to herding trials, I never had fun at a single one of them, perhaps because I was nervous, and because I wasn’t that good at it, and also because I started putting a lot of pressure on my dogs to get that blue ribbon (they still hang on my wall, though, hypocrisy lives everywhere.)
I also noticed that there were always lines of people waiting to tell me what my dog was doing wrong, even when we won.
There were a lot of people around, they were constantly critiquing one another, their dogs, the judges. I don’t want to generalize, I met some great people, some were having fun. But not too many. Fate and I are having a blast – we always have fun – as Dr. Karen Thompson wrote me, we appear happy and relaxed in our videos. That was music to my ears, just what I want to do. If I am grumpy or in a bad mood, I just stop. The dog deserves better.
I am working with Fate to clarify some of the confusion and fuzziness in our earlier work. Because we worked so much with Red, Fate tends to look for him and cue off of him. “Come bye” often meant racing around the pasture with him, now it means she should run clockwise around the sheep. She is getting it, we are working alone, Red is put away in the house when he isn’t working.
Fate still can’t move the sheep by herself, we are getting close to that I think. In my training, there are always steps forward, steps back. All of the mistakes are mine, not hers. I have my own style of working, it works very well on the farm, the dogs are efficient and invaluable to me here, we have no need of ribbons anymore.
This morning, Fate and I worked on clarity. When Maria and Red and I are in the pasture, she isn’t always sure where to look. So we are working alone, quietly and calmly – and happily – to clarify that, a new phase. She is getting it, as she always does. Fate is very quick and we are communicating almost telepathically now, come along and see in this video.