2 January

Bombogenesis: Kelly AndThe Rhythms Of Life

by Jon Katz
The Rhythms Of Life

We went to the bog tonight, it was bitterly cold, the Bog’s big wood stove was glowing. At the Bog, there are the rhythms of life.

Talk of Bombogenesis, the monster storm racing up the East Coast with hurricane winds and ferociously cold temperatures, the newest scare from weather world. Big storms are big money in weather world, the rates go right up through the roof when a storm is big enough to name. Your misery is their stock dividend.

At the bog, life pulses through the veins along with the beer. Kelly says it’s quiet this time of year, the school taxes just came out and everybody is broke and saving up money to pay them. She says it picks up when the IRS refund checks are mailed out in late March and April.

Kelly always knows when tax bills are sent out, local, state or federal, she feels it from the other side of the barn.

Everybody is broke right now, there are the taxes, and the credit card bills coming due from Christmas.

There is talk of frozen pipes It’s worse if you have plumbing in upstairs  rooms, the wind is worse up there. There is vague talk of some big storm rushing up the coast, but not expected to hit us directly, so it doesn’t really matter, it’s somebody else’s storm to worry about.

The bar, full up at 7:30 is empty at 9, everybody wants to get home before the roads freeze up.

A young couple winds the first round of Trivia at the Bog, sponsored by Bug Lite. Another round of competition starts next Tuesday, the winners get a $25 gift certificate to the Bog, Maria shrugs. twenty-five dollars for four people? What does that buy here besides a hamburger?

At one table, the town snow plough guys sit having a beer after a hard and cold day’ work. They are the go-to people in town for weather forecasts and news, they  are up to date. At the Bog, the TV’s are always set to sports channels, nobody watches the news.

The big news in the town all year has nothing to do with Washington, the Cambridge Central football team, the Indians, just won the state championship for the second time in a row and half the town came out to greet the bus on the way home near the school.

The news of the day is background noise, or rumors. Almost everyone at the bar voted for Trump, but he is losing altitude here now. This is where I went the day after Election Day to drink some Scotch and try to figure out what the hell has just happened. I learned a lot that day.

But I’m hearing something different now.

Trump is just another rich windbag watching out for other rich windbags, says one of the drivers to his buddies,  they are just a tribe, they scratch each other’s backs. We thought he would be different. We are up here freezing our asses off, and he’s playing golf every weekend in Florida. He’s not tweeting about all the people whose pipes have blown out. Never mind the fucking fake news, what about the farmers whose manure is froze to the ground and their milking tubes. Why doesn’t he tweet about our propane and heating oil bills, no vacations for this family this summer?

At the bog, there is a lot of talk about pipes and plumbing. Everybody has a cousin or uncle who is a plumber, and they are working around the clock to thaw people’s pints. One woman in the Bog has already been without water for a week, the whole town is in a frenzy about frozen pipes.

The cold has been so unrelenting the ground is frosting up down to two or three feet. If it goes much lower, almost everybody’s water pipes will freeze up.

Friday will be the coldest day yet, they say, and then Saturday too. The plumbers will be busy for a long time, they say. It’s a bad storm, but it won’t hit us too direct.

The Bog is hardwired into the town, you can feel the rhythms of the town just like blood pumping from the heart into the body. Kelly probably knows more about what is happening in the town than the mayo, but she would never say so.

2 January

Deep Freeze: Life In A New Terrain

by Jon Katz
Deep Freeze

I confess to being surprised and a little rattled by the deep and enduring and endless arctic freeze we have been hearing, our hyper ventilating weather channels are in overdrive predicting the End Of Days beginning this Saturday and Sunday.

We do not have much time to get our affairs in order. Millions of people in the country are struggling with worse problems than I have, but the weather is touching me directly and somewhat intensely.

I’ve canceled my trip to New York City to spend time with my granddaughter Robin and my daughter Emma, she worked hard to get me accommodations close by. I can’t in good conscience leave the farm to anybody else when nighttime temperatures are expected to go below -20 degrees so many times in such a short period.

In my time living in the country, this is unprecedented, especially this early in the season. So much of the country is feeling the cold. I wonder if climate change will have to engulf Washington before the people who run it think of Mother Earth as much as their gold coins.

I went to the hardware store today to get a heat light for the chickens huddled in their roost, and I was sorry to see the place flooded with panicked farmers and homeowners whose pipes are bursting every day in this weather.

The farmer struggles are awful to hear – frozen manure, sick cows, broken down tractors and skidsters, broken milk machines. The hardware store staff say they have never seen anything like it, it seems that pipes are bursting in every horse in the town, plumbers are working day and night and it is now nearly impossible to reach them.

If your pipes go, you might just be on your own, and I’ve been there, that is not a good place to be. The store has already just about sold out of blowers, propane and portable heaters. People are running oil heaters in their basements day and night, their oil bills will be sky hight.

In so many ways, Maria and I are lucky. We have no plumbing in the upstairs, we have only one kitchen and one small bathroom, and the plumbing there is on the inside walls of the room.

If anything is in danger, it would be the frost-free line from the basement to the barn, it provides water to the animals. We know that there is really no such thing as a frost-free pipe when temperatures get below zero and stay there for weeks on end.

I know the animals are all right, but I feel bad for them, out there in frigid weather day and night for weeks. We are doing everything we can to give them energy and warmth.

In this cold, the ground freezes down below the five foot mark where water pipes are traditionally built. Until recently, it was nearly unheard of for water pipes that low to freeze, but in this kind of cold, the frost comes right through the ground and walls.

Beyond that, I realize that with my heart condition and medications, I really can’t go outside in this cold for more than a few minutes, every part of me, including my heart and lungs, starts to hurt. So Maria is doing a lot of the farm work alone.

She is very strong and healthy, and handles the cold well, we are not in need of assistance and she has plenty of energy to haul hay out and make beautiful quilts. I have lots of time to write, I start my day early with some hot chocolate, take the dogs out, feed Gus and Red and Fate, light a desk candle or two, bow to my muse, and get to work.

Writing is my grounding, and even though all of the desperate men in the hardware store got to me, I remembered not to take it all in. There are things I can do, and things I can’t do.

Speaking of which, our pizza New Year’s lunch at the Mansion is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday. I’ve ordered pizza for the Mansion residents and the Mansion staff. This is our own private New Year’s celebration.

The RISSE soccer team was supposed to come, but we are postponing that visit. The Mansion Sleigh Ride has been postponed indefinitely. I will think of the many farmers and struggling home owners tonight and beyond.

Sylvie thanked me for the robe, Long John’s and slippers that will help her stay warm in the morning, when she gets the shivers. (The room is quite warm, she is sensitive to cold). The robe I got her is too big, so we will give it to someone else and I ordered another one on Amazon.

I brought a new resident some badly needed clothes I bought at a Thrift Shop and also from Wal-Mart.

Sunday, we are kicking off our new Refugee Food Project, Maria and I are meeting Ali at a Price Chopper in Albany Sunday in the early afternoon to buy $150 worth of groceries and bring them to an African refugee with eight children. Her husband was killed in the refugee camp she lived in for years after the Condo genocide.

She is a single mother with eight mouths to feed. She will kick off this program, which I am enthusiastically embracing. He knows who needs help and what kind. We will do this once a month all year.

Thanks so much for the support you have already given this project, I hope to raise a year’s worth of groceries, that will cost $1,800. Tomorrow I’m talking with the grocery chain’s community relations department, I hope we can get a discount. I’ve already raised more than $1,000 for this project, and thank you, we are good through August.

If anyone wishes to donate for the Grocery Food Monthly Project, you can send a check to me at P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via PayPal, jon@bedlamfarm.com. Thanks much. We are getting off to a strong start, despite the weather.

Stay warm.

2 January

Gus And His Illness: What I Am Learning

by Jon Katz
Gus And His Illness

I’ve had nine days to study Gus, follow my vet’s advice,  experiment with his food and eating habits, read about Megaesophagus, a troubling and often deadly illness, and visit the Megaesophagus support groups on Yahoo, Facebook and elsewhere.

Thursday, Gus and I will meet with Dr. Suzanne Fariello of the Cambridge Veterinary Service and go over what I have seen and learned  since he was first diagnosed.

We will make some decisions about where to go from here, and I wanted to share what I have learned with you as well, there might be something useful for you to think about with your own dogs and their health.

Megaesophagus, for those who don’t already know, occurs when the esophagus, a muscle that moves from the dog’s mouth down to the digestive tract, swells  and becomes deformed and blocks the passage of food.

The symptoms are a continuous regurgitation of food, loss of weight, or aspirational pneumonia. Sometimes the dogs starve, or die of malnutrition. it is serious, life-threatening disease.

Many people use what are called Bailey Chairs to force the dog upright when he or she eats and use gravity to pull the food through the esophagus since it no longer can do this on its own.

No one knows what causes what vets call this “dread disease,” and there are no surgical or medical cures. Often, these dogs can live for years, sometimes they will starve without feeding tubes or other drastic interventions. They frequently contract pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Until recently, the disease was invariably resulted in the death of the dog.

For me, the most successful and responsible pathway to health for my dogs is a nurtured partnership between me and my vet. A relationship of trust, honesty, and open communication. I am extremely wary of the growing tendency of people to go online, trade amateur diagnoses, and advance cures and experiments that are not tested or ratified by anyone.

I often find that these sites promote a distrust of science, conventional medicine and vets, who are often portrayed as greedy and corrupt. Dog loves are unhinged enough when their dogs get sick, they don’t need to mistrust the very people most likely to help. And yes, animal health dare is ridiculously expensive, as is human health care.

This is not an argument, but my own value system, you are free to have yours. I don’t tell other people what to do.

The online sites and support groups that I have seen are effective at offering basic information and emotional support to frightened and sometimes frantic people. There is also epidemic emotionalizing, drama and support of extreme and expensive solutions. It is very difficult for many animal lovers to keep any perspective when their animals get sick.

These support sites are just not for me

I do not trust or rely on people with no extensive training or research when I have a vet with six years of training and considerable experience. My vet is accountable and responsible for her treatment and diagnosis, she follows rigorous medical protocols and knows me and my dog. She also embraces holistic treatments – Chinese herbs acupuncture, laser. I just don’t take medical advice from strangers, for me or for my dogs.

Dr. Fariello recommended these support groups to me, and I will tell her I consider that a mistake.  She wants to know these things. They were not helpful to me, other than raising questions about veterinary medicine, and alarming me about not doing things I will never do. I want the vet to guide me, not the message boards of Yahoo.

I don’t know a soul on Yahoo, cannot look them in the eye, they don’t know me or my dog and are in no way accountable for what they recommend or diagnose.

I have been keeping detailed notes on Gus over the last nine days and I will write-up these notes and give them to Dr. Fariello when we meet, I think they may help us move to the next level of treatment.

In many ways, these nine days have gone well. Gus regurgitated his food on four of those days (once this morning, just as I’m writing this), not at all on the other five. On those three days he regurgitated his food three times, all in the morning, all after eating, and all between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon.

Before we changed his diet and the way he ate, Gus regurgitated four or five times a day, throughout the day,  and he spit up food that smelled especially foul, and seemed to have bile in it, which suggested the food was being blocked and backed up in his esophagus.

It’s important to remember that Boston Terrier’s, like many small dogs, often have respiratory and digestive troubles because of their small intestinal tract. It’s sometimes difficult to separate those troubles from this disease.

Since we switched to wet gastroentric food and feed it to Gus only while he is standing up on his hind legs to receive it – he’s a circus dog, we use it – his regurgitations have been different, clearer, without any signs of the brown bile, more like a golden fluid. And not as much.

That’s what happened occasionally before the diagnosis. We dance to our food now.

On the three days that Gus has regurgitated, he has been lethargic and visibly uncomfortable. Normally, he’s a perpetual motion machine. On the other days, he is energetic and playful.

So most days, he is completely normal.

On those four days he has had diarrhea, his stools were not normal. On the other  days, his stools have been regular and quite normal, which suggests the food is getting into the digestive system and bowels. That is a good sign.

But still, we are clearly not out of the woods.

In those nine days, Gus has never regurgitated in the afternoon or evening. This suggests that Gus may have a digestive issue that occurs when his stomach is empty – he is fed in early evening, and not again until morning, around 9 a.m.

We might also be doing something to spark the regurgitations.

Some dogs, I know, have digestive troubles when they have nothing in their stomach for long periods of time.

If Gus has severe megaesophagus, little or no food would be getting through. And why only regurgitate in the morning, after his breakfast? The real dangers of megaesophagus are malnutrition and pneumonia.

Puppies can sometimes grow out of this disease – Gus is nine months old – adult dogs do not.

My sense is that the switch to Purina  gastroentric canned food has been good for him, I always thought the dry kibble was too rich for him, he often spit up dry kibble.

He eats this new food heartily and seems to process it well. The fact that he can eat while standing up right and almost dancing is good, we don’t think we will need a Bailey Chair.

After eating, Maria or I hold Gus in our laps for five to ten minutes while he sits up, enlisting gravity in the move to get the food down and out of the esophagus.

So that’s what I know. I hope this new information will help Dr. Fariello focus her diagnosis, and if we can settle his stomach down in the morning, we may move towards a situation we can comfortably live with, at least for now.

I want to do everything within reason to keep Gus healthy and with us, and also stay within rational and ethical and financial boundaries. I’ll report back on Thursday.

I have, as might be expected, been receiving a steady stream of medical advice from strangers and friends online. I am working to soften my attitude about advice, not because I want any, but because i see it’s embedded in the DNA of social media. Some instinct compels people to offer unwanted advice, and I am working to accept that.

Smart people don’t need advice, fools don’t take it.

I think most people do not understand that all dogs are different and all people are different and what has worked for their dogs has no real concrete application to my dog or me.

If you feel the need to message me, please do, fire away, i pledge to not criticize you (I might poke fun at you once in a while anonymously, you can take it).

I am not generally a fan of lost causes, I prefer to fight for good causes that are concrete and meaningful. Taking on the dominant ethos of social media – minding other people’s business and taking on their troubles –  is already a lost cause.

I reserve the right to speak my mind and fight against hostility and cruelty whenever it pops up. When I upset nasty people, I am doing the work of the angels. That may also be a lost cause, but not one I’ll walk away from.

2 January

Fanny, Absorbing The Sun

by Jon Katz
Absorbing The Sun

When the weather is this cold, the animals response in many ways. The donkeys and the sheep are similar, they are quiet and still, they conserve their energy.

They drink the heated water to warm up their insides. The stand facing the sun like statues, and their coats and wool and fur absorb the sun and warm them, even on the coldest days.

When the sun is not out, it is harder for them to stay warm, but we sometimes forget that animals like sheep and donkeys are desert and mountain animal, they have lived outdoors for thousands of years and they adapt, especially when they are given grain and hay and fresh warm water every day, and they have shelter with dry ground to stay out of the wind and dry off their hooves.

The donkeys stand like this for hours in the frigid cold, I stood with them this morning for a few minutes, and my fingers and toes began to hurt but my face and body felt the warmth.

The donkeys looked as if they were in a trance, and meditating. I hope they get relief soon, this weekend the temperatures are expected to drop far below zero, day and night. I cannot recall such a prolonged period of bitter cold, even where I live.

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