4 July

Carol Gulley And Rudy, A Lucky Orphaned Turkey Jake

by Jon Katz
Lucky Rudy
Lucky Rudy

Life at Bejosh farm is never dull. Last week, Ed Gulley was haying out in one of his fields and the tractor mowed over a nest, empty except for one jake (we think he is a male). The mother fled the nest, and turkey’s wont return to a nest if their cover is taken away. So the baby was an orphan.

Ed, an animal lover and animal mystic, brought the baby home and he and Carol have been caring for it every day, they named him Rudy. They have it in a glass incubator in their house. They give him water and regular chick starter grain. They have also begun putting crass in his new home and he has begun picking at it.

Ed and Carol also talk to Rudy, sing songs to him and hold him in the enveloping way a mother would cover the nest. He is doing beautifully and will one day return to nature and make his own way, although knowing the Gulley’s, they might just have a turkey hanging around the farm. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Farmer’s are the worlds most fervent animal lovers, they know animals in a way few people ever get to know them. The Gulley’s are are veteran, hard-working dairy farmers, they have started their own very popular blog, the Bejosh Farm Journal. It is honest, original, poignant and entertaining.

7 October

The Gulleys, Ed And Carol

by Jon Katz
Ed And Carol Gulley
Ed And Carol Gulley

The Gulleys have been married a long time, they work very hard, every day all day, seven days a week, almost always side-by-side. They are dairy farmers, their work is brutal and endless. Ed finds time to work on his art, Carol takes care of the farm and cows, tends to her chlldren and grand-children. She and I went through cardiac rehab together and became fast friends. Our friendship has expanded, now it’s the four of us – me, Maria, Ed and Carol.

These two are a love story, one of those great love affairs, they care deeply about one another, share a great love of almost any kind of animal. Ed is a handful, he has his own ideas about the world, when Carol wants to get his attention, she calls him Edward, and he snaps to.

When the truck pulled in, Carol was laughing, she said she was laughing so hard she was in tears. The truck was filled with Ed’s junk art sculptures, and she said they felt like the Clampetts, so they started singing the theme to the “Beverly Hillbillies.” Carol started laughing every time she thought about it.

This weekend, their first art show, at our Open House.

30 November

Carol And Ed Gulley: Living In The Real World Of Life, Of Animals

by Jon Katz
Living In The Real World
Carol and Ed Gulley: Living In The Real World

 

I met Carol Gulley while walking on a treadmill in cardiac rehab, she leaned over and told me that my swiss steer Elvis, an animal I unwisely acquired at the first Bedlam Farm, had come from her farm. We became instant friends, and Maria and I were eager to get over to her farm and meet her husband Ed and the goat Sadie, and the cow Sweetpea that she was always talking about. Carol is a pretty shy and quiet person until you mention one of her animals, and then she lights up. Turns out her husband Ed is the same way.

They are one of those couples that complete one another, that define connection and love and loyalty in marriage. They represent something that has become important to me in recent years, as a writer and as a human being: they live in the real world, the real world of life, of animals. They are open and honest and direct. They represent a precious and vanishing way of life, as a culture we are forgetting what a life of independence and individuality is like, what it takes, how important it is to support it.

Farmers are beset these days, encircled. The farmer and author Wendell Berry writes that we have forgotten what people are for, the economists and politicians have decided that the small family farm is no longer efficient or feasible in the new global economy, small farmers are beset by government bureaucrats, unfair and outdated regulations, arrogant and unknowing people who claim to speak for the rights of animals, and they have been abandoned by the rest of us, most of whom are happy to stuff their shopping carts with food without knowing or caring where it comes from.

We get what we deserve, and we will all be the worse for it when these farms finally disappear and give way to the factory farms who represent nothing but mass production and profit. Carol and Ed Gully birthed most of their cows, and know every one by name. They work brutally hard, beyond the imagination of both of us. A few months after her open heart surgery, Carol was on her tractor helping Ed harvest the corn sileage for their cows.

I have a rule at my farm that people eat until the animals do, and Ed and Carol have lived that way for years. I was reminded yet again that people who work with animals are especially blessed, and so are their animals, who have great care, purpose and need in their partnership with people, in the joys and travails of life. Carol and Ed Gulley do not need a wiser and more mystical understanding of animals, they have that already.

This is what people are for, we owe them more than this, we forget it at our peril.

18 September

Our Farmer’s Market Rocks, Doing What You Love: Meet Cindy Of Caz Acrez Farm, A/K/A “The Crazy Goat Lady…” And The Macmillan Family’s Wood-Fired Pizza Wagon

by Jon Katz

Cindy and Larry Casavant are two of the enterprising and self-made people who have made America so great. They love animals, had an idea to do something they love, and work daily to do it.

Cindy says she is known as “the Crazy Goat Lady,” and she has 75 goats, which would make anybody crazy. Her farm sells goat stuff all over the place. She is new to our Farmer’s Market.

We stopped at her stall at the farmer’s market, as we do every week, to buy goat cheese, goat milk yogurt, and bars of soap.

Anyone with that many goats – she loves to take out her Iphone and show photos of them – is a hero to me. She also makes lovely cornbread and small cakes and coffee cake. If we get there late, she offers us “deals” on the yogurt and cheese she has to take home.

I love to bargain, but most of the time, Cindy gets what she wants.

When I first came to the country, I had three goats, which drove me insane.

Every morning, when I went outside, all three were standing on top of my car, and I never figured out how they got out of, under, or over the fence.

A farmer warned me not to get any; he said getting an animal smarter than you was foolish.

I admitted my defeat and sold the goats to a goat farmer who loved them. Cindy has a lot of crazy goat stories. She is happy to tell them.

As always happens in small towns, when you see somebody two or three times, they invariably ask for your name, and then we unfailingly find connections and mutual friends. Cindy is a great friend of Carol Gulley, and she knew our friend Ed Gulley very well. She is very close to the family and lives nearby the Gulley farm.

We had a good time reminiscing about Ed and catching up.

Cindy is especially friendly and warm, as people with animals most often are.

We bought a half quart of yogurt, two cornbreads, apple squares, and a wood-fired pizza to bring home. Our friend Margaret was having lunch with us. We sat on the back porch to have lunch, which was great.

 

(The McMillan Family’s Shift Food Trailer brings wood-fired pizza, salads, and sandwiches to our town. It’s starting to feel like the hip part of Brooklyn. Corey, his wife Sarah, and daughter Sadie are also committed to doing what they love.)

Cindy is a friend now; she’s in our lives, and we have common ground. She has a great sense of humor and is fun to talk to. Corey McMillan is also a neighbor; he’s going to be set up on weekends just down the road at Barnard Farm. And Cindy lives a mile south of the Moses Market. This is what small towns are like, and we are lucky to have them both.

Good food is not too common here; it just took a good turn.

Cindy plans to join the winter market, which moves indoors in a month or so. We’ll be there

We love her yogurt, her soap, and her goat cheese. We also think she’s pretty great and will accept an invitation for us to visit her farm and see the goats. I don’t know how anybody could resist that, especially the person I’m married too.

14 May

The Gulley Bridge: Heartbreak And Gratitude

by Jon Katz

Zinnia loves the Ed Gulley Memorial Bridge, even though she usually just jumps into the water and foregoes the bridge. More than a year after Ed’s death, his wooden deck is still secure and functioning well.

In the short time, I knew Ed – too short – he affected my life in many ways. Ed was a big man, in soul and heart, and he was always thinking of ways to do things for Maria and me and our farm.

He was always doing good for somebody, he just loved to help people.

He surprised us by building the bridge that connected us to our woods, he dragged a bench out into the woods for us to sit on, his creative and evocative sculptures still define our yard.

Friendship has always been complicated for me, but especially so in recent years, and it had little to do with being older. One friend and I had a quarrel, and he says he’d love to talk with me, but doesn’t mean it. He lies to me almost every time we talk.

Another committed suicide. And Ed died of brain cancer. I have a couple of lovely friendships developing with women, whom I mostly talk with on the phone. They are very good friends to me.

Once in a while, I’ll have lunch with a man, but we rarely do it again. I’ve come to terms with my idiosyncratic nature and have found peace in my life at last. I have no complaints.

I think in some ways I was closer to Ed than anyone except Maria.

Some people just get me, and some people don’t. I can make people uncomfortable without even trying, but I could say anything to Ed, and he could say anything to me. And he did.

We just loved each other.

I never asked Ed for a bridge or a bench in the woods. I couldn’t imagine building one with two planks, some nails, and a metal fence post.

Ed just thought it was ridiculous to own all those woods and never go and see them or walk in them. He couldn’t put up with it.  We walk in those woods almost every day. If you talk about a friend who has your back, that would be Ed.

I was grateful to Ed for his help, and he was grateful to me for my encouragement of his art. He and Maria connected very warmly as artists. When he made something he was proud of, he had Carol text me and asked me to come over.

Ed had no use for texts or e-mail or cell phones, you talked to him face to face, or not at all.

As I came to know Ed, I saw that as much as he loved his cows and farm, he was weary of the hard labor and continuous financial struggle. He was thinking all the time about change, about living off of his mind and spirit.

When I was in trouble, Ed appeared, without ever being asked. I don’t know how he knew.

When a big black bear got hit by a truck outside the farmhouse and fled into our tall grass to hide,  Ed stayed over to help wait for the police, find the bear, shoot him out of his misery, and then take the body home.

Ed handled his brain tumor with his usual decisiveness and bravery.

He knew there was no cure, and didn’t want to put himself or his family through the often medieval procedures doctors recommend, mostly because they are trained to always do something, and don’t know what else to do.

Ed asked me to write about his death, do videos with him, and come by as often as I could to talk to him. As he got sicker, he begged me to help him die. It was the only time either of us turned the other down.

Like me, he was careful about getting too close. But we did sometimes.

I was sitting with him for an hour or so while Carol went to the grocery store, and he looked up from the pen and pencil set I brought him, and just said: “I love you, man.”

And he teared up.

I’m sure we both had the same thought: we weren’t going to see much more of one another, we would never know how our stories would turn out.

I took his hand and said “I love you, too, Ed. You are a very good man.” It was hard on me, sitting there day after day, watching this vital and proud man have his sheets changed.

But I was very glad to share the experience with him in this small way. He loved the videos we made. Like me, Ed is not shy in front of a crowd.

He also wanted me to write a book about him until I told him he wasn’t Winston Churchill, and he cracked up.

I got the feeling that Ed was the only person who wanted me around as he failed, and I do understand that, although it was painful too. I came by because Ed asked me to, I believe he was glad I was there and was able to bring him what he needed to paint and draw and write his poems, most of which I didn’t love, and told  him so.

But I do know when I am wanted, and when I make people uneasy.

I’ve only had contact with one of his children and his family since his death, the ties that bound us to them seemed to melt away after he died. The friendship is best remembered through wind chimes on the porch, sculptures on the lawn, and bridges to the woods. I think of Ed every time I pass by the giant metal good he made for our front lawn.

I hope Carol has healed somewhat and resumed living if she can and is ready. I know she had an awful time.

I wish her well.  She loved Ed dearly. We talked once or twice after he died, but I’ve not heard from her since. I respect the distance.

Mostly, I miss the strong and loving friendship with Ed.

I have pretty much given on on friendships with men; perhaps I have too many issues with my father. I don’t trust most men to get too close to them or them to me. The funny thing was I completely trusted Ed, and on the surface, we could hardly have been more different.

We did both have issues with our fathers, who were critical of their sons.

Maria says at the core we were both very similar.

We were both storytellers; we had large personalities, we had substantial egos, a very similar kind of humor, and a sense of having a mission in the world. Neither of us was ever nervous in front of a crowd, and we both had big mouths that could get us into trouble. We were both full of ideas and full of ourselves.

There is fraternity in that.

Ed could be belly-laughing funny, and so could I. We laughed a lot when we were together. Big strong men don’t always respect someone like me, whose only tool is his mind, whose physical work is typing. But Ed respected me as a man who had done a lot in life, and I respected him in the same way.

Perhaps our most robust connection was a creative one.

We were both driven to create, every day of our lives, and felt great joy in the process. He loved to sit down with me and talk about his future life as a sculpture; he had a million plans for his next chapter.

Up until the end, I thought he would do it.

The family was very much Ed’s life, unlike me, and we both had a love for the country and the role of the farm. Ed loved his grandchildren, but he wasn’t much for soccer games or school events – his heart was on the farm and his cows.

Ed could fix anything, and I can fix nothing, but there was a tremendous creative connection.

During one of our last talks, I told him he would probably talk the ears off the angels, and he said he couldn’t wait to annoy them. We could always get each other to laugh, and to awaken.

He would drone on forever about the price of milk, and I came to memorize his milk story, which never changed. He was frustrated by the small-mindedness and passivity of farmers, who let every administration for the past half-century screw them every year.

He disliked Donald Trump and had no respect for him, but he voted for him in the hopes he would trash the power structure in Washington. I don’t know if he was happy with Trump or not, towards the end, he wasn’t paying much attention.

He believed me when I encouraged him, it meant a lot to him, and his affection for me – I’m not exactly a farmer tied to my crops and cows – meant a lot.

I feel some heartbreak when I cross the Gulley bridge, it was such a thoughtful thing for him to build, and we use it so often. And I always smile at the thought of Ed. If he is up there looking down at me, I am sure he has a lot to say about the things that should be done on the farm.

I am still amazed that two long planks of wood and metal pool have stood up so well for a few years. I told him I was going to call it the “Ed Gulley Memorial Bridge,” and he just laughed.

“Why?” he asked.

I said I was doing that before he died because I doubted anybody else would do it after he was gone. He thought that was one of the funniest things he had ever heard.

Bedlam Farm