31 May

Meet The “Bedlam Farm Warriors.” Really.

by Jon Katz
Meet The Bedlam Farm Warriors: Ali And Team

Ali and I have been talking about buying classy Jerseys for the RISSE soccer team this Fall.  They will need about 20 jerseys, and they will have to have them designed.

We have been talking about names, and I said I would raise the money for this, they don’t have a name right now. The team had a meeting last night and Ali called me this afternoon and told me the team held a meeting and voted unanimously for a name: they wanted to call themselves the Bedlam Farm Warriors.

I said they did not need to use the name “Bedlam Farm,” I didn’t need that, we should just use the name “Warriors,” but the team was right behind him and started shouting “Bedlam Farm, Bedlam Farm,” and then, “Bedlam Farm Warriors.”

They love the farm, he said, and they love you and Maria, they want to use “Bedlam Farm” in the name. A friend said he thought the name was a bit warlike, but I said that was up to the team. It was fine with me. You can be a warrior for love and light (I try to be) as well as war.

I think the jerseys matter, the teams they play against have all kinds of fancy names and symbols on their expensive journeys, it will help their pride and drive to have some nice ones of their own.

Maria and I sat down and I told her this news and we both had exactly the same reaction. It was not necessary to use the name of the farm. But if they really wished to do it, it would be all right to get the name “Bedlam Farm Warriors” stenciled onto their jerseys.

We just looked at each other, and said, we have to pay for this.

I insisted that we would get the jerseys without the farm name on it, but Ali held the phone up to the team, and I could hear their shouts.

But we will insist on paying for the jerseys ourselves, if it has our farm’s name on it, we should pay for it, and we can and we will.

Well, I am trying to process this strange twist. No one has ever named anything after me or anyplace I have lived.

I am not a sports person, I’ve never played sports and don’t follow them much, not since money overran Major League baseball, and Bedlam Farm isn’t really selling or advertising anything. They really don’t need to put the farm’s name on their jerseys, but Ali says it is something they are all clear about wanting to do, for me, for Maria and for the people who read the blog and have already given them so much.

As I think about it, I like the idea of connecting me, Maria, Red, the farm and the blog and the Army of Good all together and having this very loving and beautiful team wear it on their jerseys as they play soccer, and form their own community to guide them on their difficult journey into America. Perhaps it will bring luck and inspiration. It will certainly do that for me, the idea of Bedlam Farm is a powerful part of my life, and of the team also, I suppose.

A year ago, their immigrant and refugee supporter center was burned to the ground by arsonists, today they are planning to get New Jerseys, going to the Great Escape Adventure Park in July,  and also getting ready to have a two-day retreat at Pompanuck Farm at the end of June.

I believe they are seeing the true spirit and soul of their new country, the real one. This has thrown me a bit, but I will get over it.

So I am good with it, I will accept it and not overthink it. They said they also want to try and get a patch or other image of Red to put on their jersey’s, and this surprised me and touched me also. I don’t know if that is feasible, but it’s  up to them. So we are going to pay for this – no donations or contributions for this, please, and I am happy and excited to do it.

I am still sick, but hopefully will be able to get to their game Thursday. Life is quite amazing, once we decide to live it, or as Grandma Moses said, life is what you make of it.

31 May

Meditation: On Being Sick. I’m Not Good At It

by Jon Katz
I’m not good at it.

My granddaughter spent a fun weekend at the farm, and left me a gift when she went back to New York: I got sick, as she was just before she same. I am in the second day of being sick, and whatever is inside of me has blossomed, and even though I should know how to get sick by now, I do not, and I am sorry to say that I am not good at it.

Being sick makes me depressed, brings out old demons, I fight with myself, and I lose. I have headaches, a hacking cough, an aching body, runny eyes. I can’t really sleep or read.

I’m supposed to get vigilant when I’m sick – I have diabetes and have had open heart surgery – but I reject that kind of thinking. Getting sick is a letting go, you either can do it or you cannot do it.

I get into bed, and then get out of bed. I try to read but can’t. I want to take a walk or move around, but it’s not a good idea. I need to rest, but I don’t know how to  rest, if makes me uncomfortable, I feel worthless, idle, lazy. There is so much do so, so much life around me, so many words to write, photographs to take, dogs to walk, woods to visit.

I got up to write on the blog, I tried to work on my book, but could not.

The restless Fate watches me closely, she acts as if she understands. The faithful Red knows when I am sick, he will not leave my side. Maria worries about me, which makes me anxious and uncomfortable, I cannot bear to be pitied or worried about.

She goes into her studio to do her work, checking in on me. We don’t like each other to be sick.

I want her to make me get into bed, I don’t want to be told what to do. I don’t want to get into bed. I am impossible, even to myself.  I want to let go, but I am only recently learning how to let go. The sky has turned dark, another storm is coming, the wind is growing harsh and threatening.

So, another round at letting go, heading upstairs to close my eyes and perhaps listen to music and try to sleep. I’m in the mood for Leonard Cohen.

I’m no good at being sick, the angels can’t stand to be around me and fly up into the sky.


31 May

South Pasture: The Bedlam Farm Open House, June 10-11

by Jon Katz
The Bedlam Farm Open House: The Art Of Rural Life.

The Bedlam Farm Spring Open House is a little more than a week away. It will be held on June 10 and 11, from ll a.m. to 4 p.m.

It is a gentle and low-key kind of affair, one part art show, one part farm and animal tour, with some other parts – sheepherding, donkey hoof trimming, some poetry and other talks, Ed Gulley with a sweet young calf Silly Sally and his exciting farm and folk art.

Maria holds forth in her studio, showing and selling the fine work of local artists, I run hourly sheepherding demos with Red and Fate (see Fate run) and the donkeys are always eager to receive visitors, nibble on carrots and get brushed. Maria has listed the artists and their work on her website, and there are also details of the Open House on her website.

People come from all over the country to share our lives and say hello and visit our town – the Round House Cafe will be open by then and will be happy to welcome visitors. I will be reading from my new book “Talking To Animals” and signing copies.  You can also visit Battenkill Books in town.

We call the Open House a celebration of the art of rural life, but it is also a celebration of our own lives together with the people who follow us and help make our lives possible.

There is good food and some fun shopping in our town, Cambridge, N.Y. Sadly, we cannot accommodate dogs or other pets, it makes the animals nervous. We are pleased to open up our farm to visitors twice a year – our next Open House is on Columbus Day Weekend in October of this year.

She is too shy to say so, but the Open House is also a celebration of Maria’s ever-evolving life as an artist and a curator. That is something we both cherish. Check it out here.

31 May

Happy News: The RISSE Soccer Team Is Going On Retreat!

by Jon Katz
Going On Retreat

Thanks to a soldier in the Army Of Good, the RISSE soccer team, every one of them, is going on a weekend retreat to the Pompanuck Farm Institute, a gorgeous eco-and farming  retreat center near Cambridge, N.Y. sometime in July.

Last weekend, the soccer team came to Bedlam farm, and then to Pompanuck for lunch. Seeing how  much they loved Pompanuck,  I wrote later that I was determined to try to help them spend a weekend retreat at Pompanuck. They could spend some time hiking, swimming, taking some classes in one of the most beautiful settings in upstate New York.

Pompanuck has 78 acres, and adjoins 2,800 acres of state forest.

There are hiking trails, streams, a bakery, gardens, a beautiful kitchen and recreation center. We will keep them busy, and I imagine this will be a weekend they will not soon forget.

One day later, an angel who asked to remain anonymous send me a message saying she wanted to pay for the team to go on a weekend retreat to Pompanuck and she would send a check to help cover the costs.

The check is on the way.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting with Scott Carrino, the co-owner of Pomanuck and the Round House Cafe, to firm up the details and negotiate the final costs.

The kids – 16 of them – will be accompanied by their mentor and coach Ali (Amjad Abdullah Mohammed) and another teacher.

To keep the costs down, and  because we would love to,  Maria and I will help cook some of the meals. There is a big grille and full kitchen at Pompanuck and we will set up some classes in story-telling, art and how to deal with stress and body movement.

Pompanuck will provide the dinners.

Maria, who has hiked on Pompanuck’s very beautiful woodland trails, has volunteered to lead a hiking trip into the forest. There is a big field for soccer practice, and a large and room Yurt for the kids to sleep in, along with a coach or teacher.

Inside one of the buildings, there are game tables, a piano and puzzles, big sofas to dit on a giant fireplace to keep warm.

This is great news for these young men and women, many grew up in refugee camps and have barely been outside of Albany, where their families have settled. They have been through a lot, and are adjusting to America. Last year, the RISSE offices were burned to the ground by arsonists, and all of the tires on their vans were slashed.

The girls on the team will be present, sleeping in separate quarters.

They were thrilled to be at Pompanuck, running in the fields, looking for frogs and tadpoles, feeding the fish.

The soccer team was created to help these kids form a community and support for one another as they adjust to America during a difficult time.Their motto, chanted in vans, is “we eat together, we ride together, we play together, we die together.” So great for them to have this experience, and H—–, I am ever grateful to your for your generosity and empathy.

I didn’t even get a chance to try to ask for help or fund-raise, that is really how the Army is Good often works, they seem ever poised to help do good, and they (you) have done a lot. This is good and happy news, real news, I will keep you posted and take some photos at the retreat. Thanks for all that you have done, it is kind of mind-boggling.

It is so much better to do good than to argue about what good is.

31 May

Hanging Out

by Jon Katz
Hanging Out

Fate has taken to hanging out with the sheep. Increasingly, they don’t chase her a way but tolerate her until she gets in the way if their eating, and then they chase her away. She gets closer to them all the time, and still never tries to push them around.

All she wants to to is hang out with them, and run in mad circles around them,  not argue with them. One day, perhaps, she will awaken to the fact that she has the power to make them do anything she  wants. But I don’t think she’s really interested in that, at least for now.

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