Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

30 September

Rest Time Weekend Reading: The New And Free Bedlam Farm Book Club.

by Jon Katz

I’m under strict orders to rest as much as I can this weekend to speed up the healing of my banged-up brain (as opposed to being messed up, which I’ve experienced also.) This is an excellent way to feel good about resting, a strong enticement; I’m focusing on three exciting books right now with a fourth (Rosamund Lipton’s Three Hours coming next week).

I’ve got three books ready for this weekend. I expect to get through at least two of them.

Ava Glass’s Alias Emma is the first of her new and much-praised British spy series. I’ve just finished the second, and I liked it so much that I got the first even before I finished the second. I didn’t want there to be any space between them..

I highly recommend Glass; she is one of the new wave of women spy novelists entering LeCarre territory.

Lecrewas is unique and a genius; his books were about much more than spies. I am sure he will stick out as one of the great writers of his time.  It’s unfair to keep comparing everyone who writes a spy novel with him. There is no one like him.

Glass doesn’t write like him, and his character Emma is cheerful, young, and not yet made cynical by the ruthless, dark,  and devious world of spying as LeCarre saw it. Like LeCarre, Glass has been there; she is familiar with spy talk and procedure. Emma is a young warrior for MI5, eager to plunge into where others don’t dare to go. Russian murderers are her favorite target, and since her father was a British spy killed by the Russians, she takes it seriously. I’m a fan.

I just ordered one of Jonathan Lethem’s early books, brilliant novels focusing on the gentrification of Brooklyn people and neighborhoods. He’s a wonderful writer. I’m excited about this weekend. Maria and I are having a quiet weekend so I can heal and she can deal with her mother’s death.

Gentrification was much worse than I imagined, and his stories are reaching and beautifully written.  The poor always get knocked out of their lives by rich yuppies who don’t care whose lives they disrupt.

I love his writing and am excited to return to it, even though The Fortress of Solitude was only available in paperback, a form I  try to avoid. The type is reliable, tiny, and hard to read, and I like the feel of hardcovers. He’s worth it.

I’m eager to read Rosamund Lipton’s much-loved and praised story of the fight to save the lives of children in a British private school attacked by terrorists. The children have saved the life of the wounded and brave headmaster, but the question is how the children can be saved in what has become a gripping standoff. The book is a testament to love and courage, not a bloody horror story. The subject matter is sadly timely.  It should be here by October 2nd.

I keep putting off Louise Penny’s new book, A World Of Curiosities. I like Penny’s writing and settings and enjoy following Inspector Gamache’s story. Still, I find his terrible fights with his trusted in-law companion tiring, irrelevant, and distracting. I expect to get around to the book, but I see that I am not rushing to read it, which always tells me something.

What does his troubled aide and in-law to do with the murders they are supposed to be investigating?

I like the work of the new generation of female crime writers more. Her writing is stiff at times.

29 September

From Sue Silverstein’s Art Class At Bishop Gibbons: Mystical Fantasy Painting, And Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month With Glass And Layer Painting

by Jon Katz

Sue’s art students rose to her latest assignment – honoring Hispanic Painters during Hispanic Heritage Week; her 7th, 8th, and 10th-grade students made some fantastic art in honor of the week-long celebration of the Hispanic influence on our culture. Ja’Zell painted her mystical fantasy painting above.

The assignment was to mirror the work of famous Hispanic artists; the students responded beautifully, using the glass paint and other tools donated to them by the Army Of Good from all over the country.

Thanks again for donating art supplies and platforms and discarded objects and items to use in their work.

Sue isn’t looking for money; she’s looking for the things we don’t use anymore and haven’t yet thrown out. She is turning them into exciting and innovative art projects for her students at Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady, N.Y.

Here is the address for those of you with more things to send – old jewelry, clothing, wood, toys, vintage fabrics, paint supplies, old cameras and lamps,  and brushes, etc. – you can send these items to Sue Silverstein, Bishop Gibbons, 2600 Albany Street, Schenectady, N.Y., 12304. She will take whatever objects you send her and turn them into challenging art for her students.

Her art program is a smash at Bishop Gibbons; her classes are way overbooked in the age of TikTok. Art is still important to young and developing minds; her work gives them confidence and stimulation. I hope to be out at the school next week, and I find Sue’s work with her art students among the most exciting and uplifting thing I’ve ever seen.



This is beautiful work and a tribute to the impact of Hispanic Culture on America. Sue’s imagination is boundless.

29 September

Questions About Zip: Ask Away. I’ll Answer Every One Here On The Blog, Not On Facebook Or Blog Posts

by Jon Katz

(Note: I’m getting a lot of questions about Zip, both on Facebook and via e-mail, and on my blog posts. I can’t respond to the Facebook people with questions, nor can I respond to all of the posts coming to the blog. There are just too many of you and only one of me. I am happy to gather and collect the questions when I can and then respond to them here on the blog when I have the time. It’s an essential thing for me to do, and I’m happy to do it, so when you have a question about  Zip, who is attracting a lot of interest, you can e-mail me at [email protected] or post on Facebook comments or post the questions on my blog posts. I will try to answer all of them as can. The cat world is mostly new to me, and I appreciate the questions and the chance to learn from them. Zip is a rock star. Someone wrote to me saying he is the Taylor Swift of Barn Cats. Gulp. Writing about him and talking about him is a gift to me. 

Most popular question:

Answer. Will you try to provide Zip a secure place to sleep at night, away from possible predators and the elements? Are you afraid of predators getting to him?

No. Zip is a barn cat. Barn cats don’t have any desire to live inside; they love being outside, especially in a barn where they can move freely and hunt. That is their natural life. We can’t tell them where to sleep or force them. Their response would be never to be caught.

Living as house cats will change them and take away their work natural instincts – killing the barn and rats in the barn. Barn cats are savvy and rarely go near the road or get eaten in or near a barn or farmhouse. Donkeys keep coyotes and other predators away from the farm.

We’ve never lost an animal to a predator. Could it happen? Yes. We live in the real world of nature, which is both beautiful and cruel.

Barn cats do run more risks than house cats. We accept that out of respect for nature and their unique way of life.


What do the animal rights people say about letting him live outside?

It depends. First, I don’t live by the animal rights movement’s erratic and often unknowing dictums. They seem to know little or nothing about animals, just fund-raising, which they are good at. The core AR ideology is that humans should not ever own animals.

Yet they object to our owning a barn cat and leaving him to live in nature outside.

My New York Carriage Horse experience taught me not to listen to most animal rights people, especially the top national organizations. I’m sure there are many good and sincere ones, but the leading groups are now are mostly money-obsessed manipulators who lie even more than Donald Trump. They don’t do much for animals but have become extremists in the animal world,  skilled at horrifying people into sending them money and promoting hatred and division among humans. It’s sad for the animals.


Do we feed Zip every day, and if so, what?

We feed him regular cat food recommended by our vet. He is fed twice daily and given some treats every now to get him comfortable and at home and to trust us. His appetite for hunting is strong, which will supplement his diet; the vet says that is the healthiest way for barn cats to live.

It’s the best way to keep domesticated animals alive and living among people is to let them work with people who will care for them.



Will he see the vet regularly?

Yes, once a year to keep up with all of his vaccinations and get a thorough check-up.  Well-cared-for barn cats live long and content lives.


How are Maria and you getting Zip to jump into your lap?

We are doing nothing but sitting down and letting him come near us. We are careful to let him make his own decisions in his own time; we don’t pressure or coerce him into doing anything. We hold him and scratch him when given the chance.  Left alone, he will figure out what he wants to do and do it or not. At first, he was reluctant to come near us. Now, he follows us when we go outside. He loves attention; we enjoy giving him some. I get the sense we are happy together.


How long do barn cats live?

According to the literature and our vets, barn cats live a year or two longer than house cats – about 16 years if they are fed and given good health care. Our vet says this because eating their natural food is healthier than any processed cat food.


Why are you so determined that he not live in the house?

As I’ve written, if we wanted a house cat, we would have adopted or purchased one. Barn cats are essential for the health and stability of farms, and they are also proud and independent animals; they can take care of themselves.

They keep warm in cold weather and appear to love their work.  We assisted them with blankets, soft beds, and warm enclosures, heated if necessary.

I don’t want to lock them up at night because it makes us feel safer. We also have three dogs in the house. That’s enough. We have always loved our barn cats, and neither wants to get them inside. We came to the country because it’s the country, not a house in the urban suburbs. When Zip gets old, he’ll be allowed in the basement if he wants to come in and sleep in a heated cat house—our two previous barn cats wanted to come inside in January and February only a few years before they died. We always let them in when they wanted to come. They usually don’t.


Are you really a cat person?

Yes and no. So far, Flo and Zip are the only two cats I’ve really been drawn to. Zip has definitely reached into my heart. This is new territory, but I’m always careful about labeling myself. People love dogs and cats for different reasons. We’ll see. I love knowing Zip and writing and photographing him.



Those are enough questions and answers for now, I think. Thanks for sending them, feel free to keep asking.  This should be a regular feature of the blog. I’m into it. You can also ask other questions about cats, and I will research them and learn from them. [email protected]


29 September

Recovery Journal: Lessons Of The Brain. Living Out Of Focus, The Hybrid Human

by Jon Katz

In many ways, my brain has been a lifelong friend to me, my means of making a living, getting help, finding love, moving to the country, writing books, publishing a blog, changing, improving, and taking up photography.

It seems my brain was always there when nothing else was.  My brain made me a writer and a photographer and inspired me to love. A few weeks ago, I fell backward – we’re not 100 percent sure why- and suffered a brain concussion; there was blood in the brain.

No surgery was necessary; the brain’s blood would be absorbed, and the concussion would heal if I rested. But I never imagined my head being so out of focus.

This is a spiritual experience. It speaks to patience, hope, and empathy. I am increasingly conscious of so many people whose injuries can’t heal themselves and who can’t be completely healed. Empathy is, to me, the highest calling any human can hope to achieve.

In the meantime, I am experiencing what they call vertigo, dizziness, and disorientation when I move a certain way, lie down, or after sleep. I can take photos, but I must be careful where I put my head and at what angle. Otherwise, everything I see can be off-kilter, thus dangerous. I write and drive a car without trouble.

I have to rest after anything I do that requires the brain, which is just about everything I do.

There is also some mysticism involved, and I am drawn to magic and mysticism.

It’s a powerful and mysterious thing to lose control of a brain or to see it go out of focus. I depend on it for so much. And I see that the rest of the brain is going into overdrive to compensate for the injured part. One side effect is that I am much more aware of nature,  animals, color, and my surroundings, things I can appreciate without thinking about.

But it feels as if there is a dybbuk in my head, the demons my grandmother used to evoke when she was frightened or angry. (In Jewish mythology, a dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person.)

My brain, my lifelong guide and partner, is out of focus for the first time. This is a remarkable kind of injury for me and an unpredictable one. I have no problems writing or taking photos unless I move my head in a specific direction, and then my brain goes out of focus. I don’t know any other way to put it.

(I fell on the cerebellum, which bled into the brain. The cerebellum – lower left- (Latin for “little brain”) is a significant structure of the hindbrain located near the brainstem. The cerebellum is most directly involved in coordinating voluntary movements. It is also responsible for a number of functions, including motor skills such as balance, coordination, and posture.)

I see the world as upside down or in motion, and I often bury my eyes in my hands to keep from seeing things in this different and unsettling way. This has good points; I love taking out-of-focus shots of the flowers and the pasture. Looking through the camera finder, I see all kinds of things (see above) that ignite my creativity.

I can’t read for very long or very often. But I can read a bit every day. It’s getting easier. But I do feel like a hybrid human, sometimes fully functional and strong, sometimes out of focus and exhausted. I’m a lot better than I was a few weeks ago, but I still have a ways to go.

When I sit in bed or stand up from my reading chair, the world spins or turns upside down, and I feel like I am falling. If I stand still for 10 or 20 seconds, my brain rights itself, and I can walk again. In the meantime, I instinctively clutch for something to hand onto or feel like I will fall. Having a brain that is out of focus is a new experience for me, something I know happens to people who suffer brain injuries, but not like anything that has ever happened to me.

This kind of injury requires consistent patience and some education. I’ve talked to doctors, gone online, and heard from victims of vertigo.

There are treatments and cures for this; I can lie with my head way down or even lie upside down, do head movement exercises, and above all,l  I am told I can rest the brain to heal by itself. I’ve chosen this latter course. Because of my age, etc., this may take longer than it would take a younger person to heal. Every time I write, I need to rest.

I rest my brain for two or three hours every afternoon – no devices, movies, reading, or taking photos). Every day, I feel some small progress, and every day, I have a relapse and find my head spinning and out of focus again.

This, I understand, is normal. I am pretty fortunate that it wasn’t or isn’t worse. I am sorry that it put a lot of pressure on Maria; when I get out of the car or stand up, she is right there for me to hang onto until my head clears. She knows when to be there. As this wound heals, I will need less and less of her attention, and it hasn’t interfered with her work; she is working on quilts, hanging pieces, and her beautiful potholders.

I appreciate her.

When I lose focus, remember that I am healing and that no one knows exactly how long it will take, but it is getting better all the time. And I appreciate all of the support I am receiving and good wishes. I can read those without difficulty.

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