Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

15 October

When Tina Hears My Car. This Wonderful Creature Is Where She Belongs. She Lives The Life Of Dogs.

by Jon Katz

I don’t really need reminding, but Tina, the Amish dog up the hill,  does help me to understand why I love dogs so much. She is the Miller’s dog, minus a leg she lost in a gas-powered saw.

I notice that most Amish families have one dog (I’ve yet to encounter an Amish family operating a puppy mill or with more than one dog), they are usually a collie/heeler mix and they are tough, hardy, and resilient.

They are much loved, but not in the way most of us love our dogs. They are not cuddled, played with or considered furbabies. They work, sleep inside, are well cared for, although they don’t go to vets any more than Amish people go to doctors.

And they don’t get a steady stream of treats, or any treats at all that I can see. The family loves it when I visit with Tina or cuddle with her, they smile and approve. But they don’t believe in treating animals in that way themselves.

Still, they bring her into their homes and the center of their lives in a way that is different from their treatment of other animals.

Tina seems an especially happy and healthy dog, she seems to focus mostly on keeping an eye on the children, following them closely as they move about the farm. She also loves to accompany Moise when he is plowing or working in the fields.

In addition, she loves to boss the horses around and will nip at their heels if they don’t respond to her. Like all of the great working dogs, she is fearless.

Moise is a skilled dog trainer, although he doesn’t train in the ways most of us do. He simply gives Tina the chance to be with him and learn from him – using her intuition and intelligence – without any shouting, threats, or tricks.

Dogs like Tina are allowed to make judgments for themselves and evolve in that way. One difference is that by trusting in God to take care of them, they are willing to take risks I might not be willing to take – Tina can run near the busy road if she wants, and roams the woods freely, despite coyotes and other potential predators.

I can report that she can take care of herself, even missing a leg. And while the family doesn’t practice outward signs of affection – this goes against their grain – she is full of love. She shows no signs of being anything but content and trusting.

I’ve arranged to supply Tina with high-energy dog food, and the family reimburses me for the cost. The food has helped with her coat and, I think, her energy. This isn’t something they would do, but they are fine with my doing it.

Running around a farm with three legs takes a lot of energy.

Tina knows my car now, and when I pull into the driveway, she is always waiting by the car door for me to come out. We do some scratching and talking. Tina is in the right place for her. She has lots of work to do and is valued.

When I come up the road, I can sometimes see her start to run for the driveway as she hears my car engine.

She has great freedom and much trust roams the farm checking on things.

Sometimes I find her watching the barn, sometimes following the kids, sometimes tracking Moise. She is definitely his dog. But this training is fascinating to watch, it is free of the anxiety and tension in so much of the dog training in the outside world.

If she is thirsty, she drinks from a nearby stream. She eliminates out in the woods.

The only time Moise ever scolds her is when she bothers the horses too much, and then he simply and softly says “Tina, leave them alone,” and she does.

I have never heard anyone raise their voice to her or shout at her. The door to their home is always opening and closing and Tina comes and goes. In the morning, a cup of dog food is placed outside, and she eats it, I think she also finds some rabbits and moles in the woods to eat.

I love dogs like Tina, they remind me of Rose, my great working border collie. And of Buck, the dog in Call Of The Wild. Left on her own, Tina could live happily in the outdoors. When it’s hot, she digs a hole, when it’s cold, she sometimes burros into the base of a tree, even though she could always go into the house where it’s warm.

The Amish do not believe in giving their dogs shots or spending hundreds of dollars on vet bills. Tina isn’t quite seen as a work tool, but something in between a working animal and a family member.

Whenever somebody would come up to Rose and talk the baby talk with her, she would growl at them and move away. Tina is more affectionate than Rose, at least with me.

We had an instant connection with each other, we somehow recognized a kindred spirit in each other. I feel great love for her and much respect. Before I got to know Moise, I had this idea that Tina might one day come to live on my farm when running around their farm got to be too much for her.

I don’t feel that way any longer. I was being patronizing and presumptuous.

She is where she belongs, respected and allowed to live the life of a dog – no leashes, no medicine, no shouting or confinement. I wouldn’t dream of moving her. But I am happy to see her and love her and receive her love in return.

I’m happy to know Tina. And proud to be her friend.

14 October

Recovery Journal: A Happy Day: Bandage Falls Off, Switching Apnea Masks – Aaron And The Patient Success Team

by Jon Katz

I woke up this morning and started to get out of bed, and looked down at my foot. I was surprised to see that something was wrong.

It turned out to be the beginning of a sort of messy day; several things that could go wrong did go wrong and then got right.

There was no surgical boot on my foot, and even worse, there was no bandage either. I was looking at a long line of very exposed surgical stitches, and I was doing the very thing the surgeon was most worried about: standing unprotected on the floor and putting pressure on the stitches.

“Oh, oh,” I said to Maria, “I’m in trouble; it looks like I’ll be heading back to Saratoga this morning to get a new bandage.”

The surgeon and the nurses were obsessive about the bandage; it was so sensitive and essential that it had to be covered at all times and dry.

I had to keep the surgical boot on all night in bed to avoid any risk of hitting the hard ground. The wound had to stay dry, no showers, off of the floor completely, and protected by heavy bandages and special cream.

Yet there was the raw wound, staring back at me in some wonder and confusion. Briefly, I thought it was laughing at me.  It wasn’t a good thing to happen.

But it was the boot that was the undoing; it caught on the bedsheets as I moved around and pulled the bandage right off. The wound looked good, but the dressing was trouble. I could hardly imagine how it got pulled off; it was so tightly applied.

Maria rushed into the breach, ran downstairs, and put a  gauze patch on. We got the boot back on, and I hobbled downstairs. Once again, no pain or discomfort. The surgery has never been painful, even right after the anesthesia wore off.

I called the surgeon’s office, got a couple of nurses right on the line.

They asked me a million questions and then called me back to suggest coming to Saratoga might be a good idea. I fought back a bit, saying the wound looked great; there was no redness, swelling, blood or staining, no red lines suggesting infection, no pain indicating discomfort.

I was losing the argument when one of the nurses said, “who was the person doing the bandages for you that we’ve seen these past few months?”

Oh, I said, sensing a window of opportunity, “that was my wife, Maria; you met her last week when she came with me to the office. She does great bandages, and she will re-do this one and put some antibiotic cream on it right away as you suggested.” More huddling.

“Well,” said the nurse. “We talked to Dr. Daly, and she said if Maria was the one doing those bandages, it’s okay for her to do this one, and we’ll see you next week, as scheduled?” (Translation, “we wouldn’t let you do it, Bozo, but if she does it, stay home.” I’m getting used to that.

First, we both rushed to Walgreens and stocked up on supplies.

Then Maria got all her gauze and bandage stuff out and built a massive application for my toe that I could hardly get my pants around. And I can leave the boots off when I sleep. Maria saved this day. She is terrific in a clinch, or even without one.

I’m all bandaged up and looking forward to next Wednesday when I can bathe, walk and wear shoes once more.

Speaking of sleep, I had some trouble last night with my apnea mask.

It was fine when I sat up but seemed to struggle when I rolled over on either side, expelling and making curious noises. It made this loudish blowing sound, and the air pressure seemed to get out of whack. Notwithstanding, I slept for five straight hours and felt strong this morning. But something was off.

I also noticed that I was trying to breathe through my mouth and my nose – this seemed a reflex, not a decision – and the mask had trouble with that. The mask is designed to cover the nose only.

When I was done with the podiatrist’s office, I called the very impressive and efficient mask company (Hometown Healthcare). I ended up in the “Patient Success” department, talking to Aaron, a  friendly and intelligent warrior for success.

He recognized the problem right away and said my breathing through my mouth and my nose was the problem. When that happened, the system got confused.

He is sending me a different mask (no charge), and I could keep the existing one. The new one would cover the mouth and the nose. And he promised it wouldn’t interfere with coddling with Maria.

He was sure this would eliminate the problem, and if, for any reason, it didn’t, I should call the Success team right away, any time, night or day. I loved the name, and Aaron was pretty impressive. So was the company.

I’ll have the mask in about two days. In the meantime, I sat for an hour this evening with the current mask, making an effort to breathe through my nose. There was no problem. But I’m not sure I can do that when I sleep, so I’m eager to try the other mask and see.

I consider this mask a profound success; it has already greatly improved my sleep, energy, and focus. I am excited to try the new one.

In between all this, Maria drove me up to the Millers with boxes of pie pans, small plastic containers, and a boot for Joe.  All of these things were delivered at the same time.

These were the things Moise and I  bought together yesterday,  but two of them – the boot and the container – were the wrong ones or the wrong size.

No sweat, I was planning to return them when Sue Silverstein called me from Bishop Maginn High School and said a new refugee student desperately needed a winter boot – size 6. That was the one I was going to return. I asked her if she had any need for 300 plastic cups, and she said yes, her art class could use them for painting.

They were the wrong size for  Barbara, the perfect size for Sue and her art class.

I’ll send the boot and the cups to her or bring them as soon as I can.

I went back to see Moise and Barbara and proposed not charging them for the wrong orders and paying for them out of the Mansion/refugee fund since that is where they are going.

I found the right size containers and the right boot and have ordered them. The  Millers received their donut boxes and pie pans and will use them tomorrow for Donut Day in their Food Shed. New boots are coming Friday; new containers are on Monday.

“This is what you get for asking me to do this work,” I said, and Barbara laughed out loud. Moise offered me some instructions on choosing the right thing, and I stopped him, “Hey, are you blaming me for all of this?” I asked. “I remember somebody else sitting right next to me.”

Everyone in the room was laughing, even Moise. I told Maria he tried to take a shot and putting it all on me, but I didn’t go for it. Moise is not used to being corrected or being wrong.

But he was laughing as hard as anybody, except possibly Barbara. The kids were drinking it up.

I told the Millers the things ordered were going to refugee families that needed them, and they seemed puzzled when I told them about Bishop Maginn.

I explained what I did with the school and what the school did for refugee children. I also explained what I meant by refugees and needy families since they seemed puzzled.

I talked about where these people came from and who they were in such need. They said they were happy they were getting these things. They seemed to be listening carefully.

Sue also told me that a new refugee family has just arrived in Albany this week and is joining the BMHS  community and has absolutely nothing in the way of possessions – no clothes, soap, detergent, deodorant, bed sheets,  kitchen utensils, pots, or pans.

The federal government used to help. They don’t anymore.

They are desperate; I offered to support an Amazon Wish List for this family, going up Friday or Monday. Please look for it and keep it if you can. This family is in dire need. They’re not asking for money, just personal and household needs.

Bishop Maginn and Mansion work mesh together well, and perhaps the Amish connection will also. Often now, the different threads of my life come together, and I think that can work for them and us. I love leveraging one along with the other.

All in all, a good, successful, and productive day.

My foot is quite happy and safe.

Maria saved me from another trip to the doctor’s office, the wound is healing beautifully, and the stitches will soon come out.

My sleep apnea project is taking some work and attention, but I have a whole Customer Success team behind me now, I feel very good about it; my body is having its own Spring.

And the Amish got some of the things they need (and will get the rest). Hopefully, we can help this refugee family settle into their new and very small home with some dignity and comfort.

I love it when everybody wins.

14 October

I Need To Write More About Donkeys

by Jon Katz

I need to write more about donkeys. I have lived with these beautiful animals ever since I permanently moved upstate and bought my first Bedlam Farm farm. First, I had Carol, a grumpy old donkey, when I bought some sheep in Pennsylvania.

I love the way they stare at us and manipulate us for treats and attention. They succeed much more than they fail. I find them almost impossible to resist.

Donkeys are the smartest and most intuitive animals I have ever known, they are amazing creatures and have taught me so much about communicating with animals and learning how to love them

I bought Fanny as a young donkey to keep Carol company when she moved up here. Carol had never seen a donkey and didn’t know she was one. All her life, she had only seen sheep.

Carol and I had a volatile relationship. She bit and kicked me at every opportunity, and every time I had to give her her shot to treat her floundering. Willie Nelson was the only voice that could calm her, and when I went out to feed her or give her her photos, I’d play Willie Nelson on a boombox (you may remember them), and she purred like a kitten.

She died of a stroke, and I bought Lulu to keep Fanny company. The two are sisters and have been together for every one of the past 15 years. They are usually sweet for donkeys, who understandably are wary of the intentions of humans. Fanny favors me; Lulu is attached to Maria. But we both love them both very much, and they seem to love us back.

Our farrier Matt Ross (above)  refuses on principle to trim the hooves of donkeys; he has been kicked and bitten by two many of them. Lulu and Fanny love him; we don’t even need to tie them up when they get trimmed; they love to put their heads on Matt’s shoulder. They are the only donkeys he will agree to come and trim.

Six or seven years ago, we rescued Simon from neglect and near death. Lulu and Fanny took to him and kicked him in the head – each on one side or the other – just about every day. Simon loved me like a Lab and followed me around the farm.

We had begun training for walking in the woods before he had a stroke and was put down immediately.

He was a great loss to me, one of the greatest and most painful. Simon and I had forged a most beautiful relationship. But a life with animals is also a life with loss and pain and a teacher of both as well as of love.

Donkeys can live to be 40 or 50, and because Maria is much younger than I am, we don’t have to worry about that right now. A close friend has agreed.

Donkeys are guard animals, they protect the sheep from coyotes.

We have never lost a sheep to a predator, the donkeys won’t let it happen. The four of us love to hang out together. On weekends and days when we have time, Maria and I drag chairs out to the pasture and the donkeys come over to cuddle and be scratched.

I’m going to write more about the donkeys, they have been as important to our lives here as dogs, sometimes more.

14 October

It’s Time We Bought A Generator. Past Time.

by Jon Katz

It is almost impossible to pay attention to the floods and fires and storms and not think about a generator if you live in America’s rural or suburban area. This, to me, is the biggest story in the world, but the message hasn’t yet reached Washington.

When I moved upstate, we lost power once or twice a year, for one or two hours. The longest I recall being without power was 10 hours. Around the country, it is now routine for people to be without power for days, even weeks.

We’ve had four or five times as many outages as before. I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet, stretch a credit card, and buy a generator. I r researched it for a month and paid our friend and home maintenance and repair specialist Mike Conklin to study the right one for us.

He and I ended up picking out a 13,000 Watt Duromax that would protect my medicine, Maria’s studio, our refrigerator, and water heater. Maria opted out of this one.

In a bad storm, which is now a question of when not if, we keep our food fresh, protect my expensive medicine, power Maria’s studio and keep the heat and some lights on.

We used to shrug power failures off as no big deal. I think it’s myopic and foolish to blow off the likelihood of powerless storms now. I’ll be able to read books at night.

I hate what it does to our budget, but otherwise, when we need it, it will be too late to get it.

We’ve had a couple of these new superstorms up here. They are fantastic, unprecedented, and more destructive than any storms before them.

I believe in science, and the scientists say they will get much worse before they ever get better, if they ever do.

I want us to try to get ahead of this awful new reality to the extent that we can.

The new generator is a start. Mike is going to help us find an electrician, connect the machine (it runs on gasoline) and also propane, and set it up somewhere in the back of the house.

We hope to have it up and running by the end of November. This model will keep almost the entire house running for 11 hours with one gasoline tank, more if we also have a propane tank.

I talked to people, read online, went to and visited the websites of Home Depot and Loews, and hired Mike Conklin, an experienced carpenter and handyman, to help. I trust him.

I am well informed on generators now and feel very good about the one we got.

There are not too many practical things I can do here on the farm to stop climate change. But at the very least, we can be ready.

(Friends, I don’t give out specific information about the things we buy here, you can check Duromaz or other generators on Amazon or visit Loews and Home Depot or their websites.

You can also talk to people at your local hardware store. There are lots of choices and decisions to make. I didn’t trust myself to make them all.) I feel solid about the one I bought. Climate change has plenty of punch, but winter up here still has some wallop.)

13 October

Getting Moise A Train Ticket An Exhausted Nurse Falls Apart

by Jon Katz

(Moise in my study. Yes, I wanted the photo to be out of focus, just like we are.)

Moise came over to ask me to buy a train ticket for him to Syracuse, N.Y. for tomorrow.

He came into my study – there is a red chair there always for him – and put it in front of my computer, as he always does.

I then realized with some horror that he was almost certainly looking at an e-mail message I had just received from an enraged nurse suggesting I was a murderer for coming anywhere near Moise and his family while there was a Covid-19 epidemic.

While I was in the kitchen, he started reading.

I did move quickly.

“Moise,” I shouted, “wait for a second,” and I stepped in front of him and got my browser quickly over to the Amtrak Web. Here was a moment when Covid, Amish values, me, our friendship, the poison of social media, the American dilemma, and the Internet all came together.

I know Moise saw some of it, but I didn’t know how much, and I wasn’t sure if he knew what it was. He was staring at it.  Moise is hyper-vigilant and doesn’t miss much.

He came over in his buggy just after dark. I now know the sounds of his horse calling out to the donkeys, who seem to like him more and more each day—those girls.

He wanted to thank me for dropping off some pizza at the farm, and he asked if I could buy a train ticket for him online, which I often do.

He had to go away for five or six days. It felt like a sudden emergency to me, and he looked drawn, even ashen. I didn’t ask what was happening; he didn’t say. I was still shaking my head over that e-mail.

I am his go-to ticket person; I can even navigate Amtrak’s website now, which is no small thing. Moise can look at the site, but he can’t go on it or use it directly.

Moise is careful to take his boots off on the porch when he comes, and he waits at the door until I appear. His horse is always tied to the big red barn.

The dogs rush out to greet him, Bud tries to drive him off, jumping up and down, and I had to tap his butt with my foot to get him quiet and away.

I had the e-mail I was pondering up on my computer; it was from a nurse-driven nearly out-of-her mind by Covid-19 denier and anti vaccers. She has seen a lot of them die, I suspect, clinging to suspicion and lies.

If Moise read it and grasped the content, he never said it, and I never mentioned it again.

The enraged nurse had written before expressing shock that I was coming anywhere near the Millers; she presumed that, like other Amish, they were not vaccinated.

She was essentially accusing me of being a murderer, happy to kill the family so that I could write about it.

I’ll be interested to see how you feel when they get sick, and it’s your fault,” she wrote. “Especially the kids. And they’ll leave it in God’s hands until they get sick, which they will; it’s just a matter of time. Then they will want science to heal them. I’m stunned at your level of irresponsibility. I thought you cared about them. You don’t. Keep putting them at risk because it gives you something to write about.”

It was a hateful message from a health care worker, even by the shallow standards of social media. And it was no way to persuade people about anything.

Yet, I sympathized with her.

I’ve talked to several nurses devastated by the people they treat who essentially commit suicide rather than believe doctors, scientists, and government leaders. I’ve been present as the anti-vaccination zealots scream at nurses and receptionists and threaten them.

My letter writer was right to be worried about the Amish. It wasn’t that everything she said was wrong; the way she said it was so far over the top that she had lost any perspective.

There are numerous cases of Covid striking Amish families in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I’ve not heard of any here, and Covid has almost entirely vanished here. I have two vaccinations and a booster. I know that doesn’t keep me from passing the virus along to unvaccinated people. I just thought I should mention it.

What, I thought, were the odds of this happening, of his walking into my office while this message was up on the screen; I am amazed at how many people find reasons to hate the Amish rather than understand them. And I know many people also love and admire them. But the hate mail I get about them seems boundless and often wholly irrational.

Moise doesn’t go online and read e-mail, and I doubt he knows most of the negative messages I’ve gotten. He is aware; I know, that I have been criticized for writing about him. and our friendship.

I’ve been accused of being an abuser, a patriarch supporter, a white male of privilege,  an obsessive, even an enabler of child abuse. This is the first time I’ve ever been called a probable murderer.

I won’t use the nurse’s name in the hope that she has some perspective and decency, also because I have genuine empathy and pity for her. She doesn’t need any more trouble.

I have great admiration for nurses, and I can completely understand how the fact that violent idiots are threatening them all the time could wear anybody out. I can’t bear to fight with one, not right now.

Moise has many friends and visitors here and travels all over the town and the country. I’m not sure why she singled me out as the callous killer.

Thousands of people could transmit Covid-19 even up here, where social distancing is a way of life.

If you infect Moise,” the nurse wrote. “it will tear through their unvaccinated community., there will be fatalities. How will you feel if you cause this? It’s not in God’s hands as they believe. It’s largely in yours. Stay away from unvaccinated people! It’s the responsible thing to do. From an exhausted Covid caregiver.”

It is a genuine and almost insoluble issue. We are degenerating into a nation of zealots; each one licked eternally into hatred and bitterness towards the other.

I should say that I have no idea if any family member has been vaccinated; it is not prohibited.

I have discussed vaccinations with Moise, and we have talked openly about it. I’ve discussed it with Barbara and the children.

I will not here or anywhere reveal the nature of those discussions, they are not anyone’s business, not even the exhausted Covid nurse caregiver. Covid has exhausted me also, and I’m not trying to treat anyone for it or been around any of the victims.

Nurses are so very human, and right now, so very vulnerable. The doctor’s offices I have been visiting lately have all-new posters warning that violent speech, abuse, or violence against doctors and nurses and staff will not be tolerated—what a troubled country we are now.

I got Moise his ticket to Syracuse (he’s going much farther); he was pleased it only cost $32. He paid me back on the spot. Afterward, we sat in my darkened office and talked for a while.

I told him he looked exhausted and asked him if he was all right.

Moise talked about the many tasks he had to understand, his plans to keep his crops safe over the winter, the challenges of building yet another house in the winter. He had a lot of his mind, I could see. And he was exhausted.

He said what he always says. “I’ll have plenty of time to rest in the winter.” He will never complain. And he won’t rest in the winter, of course. I don’t think he can.

I was upset by “A’s” letter; it was especially and intentionally cruel. But it was hard to take seriously.

I deleted the first one and didn’t post the second one. She just went too far, even though many people would agree with her.

Moise is the first friend I have ever had to defend, and he is such a lovely and peaceful person. Sometimes, life is so strange. He is devoted to his family and works his heart out for them every day. If he is not vaccinated, I hope he knows to be careful.

He wears a mask almost everywhere he goes, and I gave him two for the trip.

But hate is just a rallying call for me to be good. I’ll find a way to make it productive.

I won’t permit anyone to put me in the spot “A” was trying to put me in.

Moise and I both have to make our own decisions about life, for better or worse, and that includes the pandemic. I have decided to take every precaution over Covid that I can take.

I don’t know what he has chosen to do. It’s not my business.

And, of course, I will never walk away from Moise unless he asks me to or tells me to.

I hope it goes without saying, yet I think it needs to be said.

To the exhausted nurse, I wish you healing and support. You are among the angels among us, perhaps a fallen one.

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