8 January

I’m Proud Of My Farm Today. And Grateful For My Life.

by Jon Katz
Proud Of My Farm

I”m proud of my farm today. There was another nasty winter blast, but the temperature was almost 40 degrees warmer than it was yesterday (it was 20 degrees today) and it will be in the 40’s on Thursday.

I’m proud of the donkeys, sweet and tough and uncomplaining creatures, they patiently endured weeks of sub-zero temperature without losing their grace and poise, soaking up the sun whenever they could find it.

I’m proud of the sheep who didn’t seem to notice the cold at all. The animals teach me grace and acceptance.

I’m proud of my wife, who went out in the middle of the night and the very bitter cold and shoveled and hauled hay, usually by herself. I couldn’t go. I’m proud of me too, for letting go of my male baggage and letting her do her work. She is my Willa Cather hero.

I’m proud of the dogs who hopped and danced on the freezing ground, tried to work when they could, and did their business against brutal cold and discomfort.

I’m proud of Gus, who disdained his booties and sweater and chased Fate all over the tundra. He’s my guy. I’m proud of Fate, who didn’t ever seem to noticenof the cold, and I’m proud of Red, who didn’t play the hero and let me know when it was too cold for him.

I’m proud of the farmhouse whose plumbing was built intelligently in the center of the house and basement. It withstood the wind and the snow and the ice and the cold. Our pipes held steady in the worst cold in many years, if not ever.

I’m proud of our frost-free water line to the barn which did not freeze, saving us from haulingl water from the bathtub to the barn until April or May.

I’m grateful for the chickens for staying happily in their roost and basking in the warmth of our read heat bulb. Maybe they will lay eggs again soon.

I’m proud of our cars which started every day  (even Maria’s little Toilet Bowl) at the first turn of the key and drove us safely through cold and snow and ice. I did what I was not supposed to, I shoveled and fussed, but only for a little while and not all the time.

I’m proud of my heart for not complaining when I shoveled or scraped, and my angina, which chose to leave me in peace, even out in the cold.

I’m proud of our wood stoves for keeping the house warm, day or night. I’m proud of the new baseboard heat we put into the bedroom, which kept us comfortable through the awful cold.And the heated blanket I bought my Maria a year or so ago, how sweet to get into bed at night.

I’m proud of the loggers who got us such good firewood and the big guys in trucks who put the frost free line to the barn down deep. And Vince, the plow guy who kept our driveway open, even through some nasty storms.

We all did one another proud and good, we got through this challenging spell. We planned ahead, stayed calm, trusted our little farmhouse and our steady and hardy animals. We got through it well.

I hope your lives are emerging now and returning to normal. We have taken some deep breaths here in the past few weeks, it turned out fine. When all is said and done, I love winter, it challenges us and makes Spring quite wonderful.

8 January

The First Tray, The Mansion Geranium Garden

by Jon Katz
The First Tray

It took about an hour for Bliss to carefully “propagate” our new Mansion Geranium Garden, Sylvie (back left) already has her eye on the plant she likes, it has a white circle on one of the leaves. Madeline is eager to have a plant in her room.

Bliss turned  each small planting tub into a greenhouse, she put two wooden sticks in each planter to hold up the plastic bag she put over the top. The humidity from the bags will help the Geranium cuttings grow. We finished the first try and put it in its new home near the door, we will come back to make a second tray.

I was excited by Bliss and her wonderful feel for the plants, she let me plant two and I loved the feel of them going into the soft dirt. I might adopt one myself if there are any left to adopt. And I will keep an eye on them all.

By Spring, we’ll have some beautiful flowers to hand out or to plant in the Mansion Garden. We think this might make it as an annual event.

8 January

Portrait: Bliss McIntosh, The Mansion Geranium Garden

by Jon Katz

I am grateful to Bliss McIntosh for agreeing to help us create the new Mansion Geranium Garden, a pilot project of mine to bring certain safe and living things into the Mansion so the residents can nurture and care for them, and feel alive and connected.

Everywhere I look in town Bliss is there, helping out, organizing the Community Garden, helping the Hubbard Hall Arts Center, helping to build community wherever she can, she an angel in our town, the spirit of community and caring.

I am not gardener but I was mesmerized by her talk on raising Geraniums indoors at a place like the Mansion. She was clear and gentle and intuitive in  her talks about the care the garden would need. She and I both agreed to stay in touch and keep an eye on the garden, my plan is for the residents to each adopt a flower and help it to grow.

It was a great pleasure to work with Bliss and learn from her, and I thank her for helping me put this together, I am no gardener. I can kill a plant just by looking at it, but I think that is about to change.

Thanks so much for your support and interest in this project, I will follow it regularly.

8 January

Wayne And Red, The Mansion

by Jon Katz
Wayne And Red

Wayne was a bit shy, he didn’t want to come down and get to close to the Geranium Garden demonstration, he chose to stay up at the top of the stairs and watch from a distance. Red  saw him and make  his way over to him, and the two watched together. Red knows what to do and where to go, I often introduce myself as his driver.

8 January

The Mansion Geranium Garden

by Jon Katz
The Mansion Geranium Garden: Bliss McIntosh tells us how to raise Geraniums.

This has been a hard winter for the Mansion residents, it is difficult to ever take a walk, and sometimes you can feel the arctic wind creeping around the windows, even as the giant Mansion furnace rumbles and roars. Inside the Great Room and in the hallways and rooms, it is snug and inviting.

I felt it was important for the residents to have living things to nurture and watch grow and take care of. I got this idea for a Geranium garden that they could plant and care for, and each one could pick a plant or flower to put their name on, and in the spring or summer, they might take a flower into their room or plant some Geraniums in the big Mansion garden just outside the back porch.

They were excited about the idea, about a dozen residents came to see Bliss McIntosh, a gardener, botanist and community activist in our town, she oversees the Cambridge Community Garden, a beautiful garden cared for by  the town as a whole, a beautiful act of community.

Bliss is one of those people who makes community live, and she graciously agreed to come over to the Mansion and talk about Geraniums and how to help them grow. I bought the supplies – the special soil, the root powder, the small containers and the trays. Bliss brought some Geranium cuttings.

She explained that Geraniums are hardy flowers and can grow well indoors, kept away from the sun and radiators and not drowned by too much water. Barb, who cares for the two Mansion parakeets diligently and lovingly, agreed to care for the Geranium cuttings. She will be all over it.

Below, a short video of Bliss talking to the Mansion residents.

Everyone said they would want to adopt a flower and keep track of it as they grow. I’ve learned that the residents are almost desperate to care for living things – cats, dogs, birds, and now flowers. They didn’t take their eyes off of Bliss, she walked all of us through the process. We put soil in the pots and planted ten Geranium seedlings.

Bliss and I are coming back to plant another ten. We put them on the opposite wall near the front door, there is shade there and no radiators close by. She showed us how much water to put in the tray and how to gauge the plant’s health. I will be responsible for checking on the plants two or three times a week, and will help Barb out.

I loved the attention and excitement in the room, and I will be following the story of these cuttings. I think much of what we do for the Mansion is bringing life, light and color to the lives here. I’ve seen how much the parakeets mean to them, and I imagine they will pay close attention to these plants and watch them come to life and grow.

Sometimes I think the absence of diverse life is the greatest challenge of assisted care. Many of the residents feel removed from life, and your cards and letters and photos and decorations and gifts have brought life into their lives. My job is keep it going.

Living things are a metaphor for all of us, I think the Geranium Garden will bring much life into this warm place. I thank the Army of Good for their support of this project. Next event will be a Valentine’s Day lunch on February 14, catered by the Round House Cafe: lasagna, cookies and cake. A Valentine’s Day party will be held just after lunch in the Great Room.

I am exploring some special food for the Chinese New Year  as well.

Decorations, pendants, crafts, noisemakers, heart symbols, photos and gifts are welcome. Here is a list of the Mansion residents who wish to receive mail:

Winnie, Jean, Ellen, Mary, Gerry, Sylvie, Jane, Diane, Alice, Jean G., Madeline, Joan, Alan, John K., Helen, Bob, Alanna, Barb, Peggie, Dottie, Tim, Debbie, Art, Guerda, Brenda, David, Kenneth, Ruth, Wayne.

If you wish to donate to the Mansion or refugee work, you can do so by sending a contribution to my post office box, Jon Katz, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com.

Thank you, thank you. Truly, you have touched and lifted the hearts of so many people. A Geranium tray seems like a small thing, and it is simple and inexpensive. But to the residents, it is a very big thing, they are already studying the plants to see which one they wish to adopt.

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