20 December 2014

Community: Appreciating Tyler

By: Jon Katz
Appreciating Tyler

Appreciating Tyler

Every week or so, there is a brief message on the answering machine from Tyler Lindenholl, our neighbor and friend. The message says "hello, this is Tyler. Do you have any work for me to do?" Ever since a friend passed me Tyler's hand-written card, offering to do chores big and small, he has been a part of our life, a part of the farm, a part of our community.

On a farm, there is always something to do, usually there are not enough people to do it. I always call him back, and in a few hours, he comes rumbling over in his small ATV, the engine roaring and sputtering. He comes roaring through the empty corn fields, his house is about a mile and two cornfields away.

I was not fortunate enough to have a son, I lost the one we had, but if I had one, I would be proud to have a son like Tyler. He is smart, strong, gracious and very competent. Tyler appeared in our lives around the time I had my open  heart surgery, and while much of the summer is a blur to me, I remember this young whirlwind appearing regularly at the farm, mowing, stacking, cleaning, raking, shoveling.  I had been wondering how Maria could possibly get all of the things done that needed to be done, but then this young dervish appeared, he works like the Tasmanian Devil.

It would have been a much tougher summer without him. At the Open House, Tyler took charge of parking, and handled hundreds of cars for two days.

I have recovered from my surgery, I can do many chores, but there is still much for Tyler to do here, some things I still can't do, somethings I can one day do. Tyler knows and loves the dogs, they love him back, he comes and goes when he pleases.  If he needs a drink of water, or call home, he just comes into the house.

At a time when there is so much fear and distance between young people and adults, there is no tension or discomfort between Tyler and us. We are at ease around one another. He is gracious, quick to smile, curious. He is sort of a human Red, he works and works and rarely loses focus.  Maria and I are both very fond of him and impressed by him. He is coming to my Hubbard Hall play in January, he follows the blog once in awhile, we talked about Disney World today.

Tyler is a renaissance man, he is an athlete and working hard at  his school work, he is getting great grades this year. He has a Kindle and is considering the books he wants to read. I think he is one of those people who can do anything he sets out to do, although I don't know if he knows that yet. For Maria and I, our move to Cambridge has made us rich in friends and community, and we have friends who are younger and friends who are older.

Tyler is a gift, we will be watching for him and rooting for him, he is someone who is special.

Posted in General

Red At Work: Afternoon Chores

By: Jon Katz
Afternoon Chores

Afternoon Chores

It was bitter cold today, and beautiful. I looked up and saw this winter tableau, the sheep waiting for their hay, Red on station prepared to keep them in their place. He was watching them, they were watching him, and both seemed to understand each other, as happens with border collies who know what they are doing, and sheep.

Posted in General

Barn Cat’s Spa

By: Jon Katz
Barn Cat's Spa

Barn Cat's Spa

It was the winter of 2013- cold, harsh, unrelenting – that got the hardy barn cats inside for a month or two. Flo and Minnie swing both ways, they love being outside in the good weather, they love being inside in the cold, usually within snoozing distance of a wood stove. In the morning, if it isn't storming, they go outside and hunt and nap in the hay bales.

Maria said it was my idea to bring them in last winter, she says I was opposed to it, I remember it differently, if you are a barn cat and you live near Maria, you will have a warm place to sleep on a cold winter night. The barn cats  have preserved their dual life, they are outside nearly as much as in, but last night was especially cold and Flo took up residence on a new and soft blue pillow. It's soft and high-up, and there, her majesty can rule the living room and peer down at her subjects. And sleep on my lap when I am in the chair. She has a sweet side, if you are not a mouse or bird or rat.

Posted in General

Return Of The Sun: Bedlam Farm. A Celebration.

By: Jon Katz
Return Of The Sun

Return Of The Sun

The sun returned to me, this morning (I take the sun personally) after a two-week hiatus marked by snow, cold, sleet, fog and rain. I love my farm, I love my life, but I will admit the first weeks of winter are a challenge, spiritually and emotionally. We need color and light in our lives, perhaps the purpose of winter is to remind us of that. These are the short days, the dark days, the transitional days. On weekends, Maria and I both try to give each other some rest, whoever gets up first sneaks out in their nightshirts and pajamas to feed the animals – they can't wait while we sleep late – and give the other a chance to sleep.

Maria went out in her nightshirt – it was 8 degrees – and I got up and went out to help here and take this photo. For me, the image celebrates the return of the sun, it celebrates my wonderful wife, friend, lover and partner. I cannot image life without her on this farm, or anywhere else. Sunday, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. On Monday, the day start to get longer again, and that is a beautiful thing, the return of the light.

Posted in General

Help A Great Farrier And Human Being: The Man Who Saved Simon

By: Jon Katz
Helping Ken Norman

Helping Ken Norman

Horses and horse people seem to be in my life this year.  I am so proud and excited to be telling you about  Ken Norman's GoFundMe  project to help him, his family, his many horses and donkeys get through a winter that is going to be one of the most challenging of his life. Ken has been bending over to trim hooves and heal hooves for more than 25 years, he has suffered countless bruises and cuts, many broken bones. He has helped and saved hundreds of animals. He is much loved and respected – and needed.  Now,  his knees are shot,  on December 29, he will enter the hospital to have both knees surgically replaced.

His recovery, say the doctors, will take about three months, and he will be without income during that period for the first time in his life. Apart from his medical bills, he has a wife and a daughter – Nikolene is the Bedlam Farm Barn Princess and a magical spirit in her own right – a farm, monthly bills and needs and a farm to keep going. He also has more than 30 horses and donkeys, many of them rescues, to take care of. On his gofundme  crowdsourcing site, Ken explains what it costs to care for the animals and keep his farm going.

Ken is the man who saved Simon's life, he was there right after he was  rescued, he devoted many free hours of his time to getting Simon up on his feet that awful night when he was taken from a farm by the New York State Police near death. He has helped Simon – whose hooves had not been trimmed in years – to stand and walk and recover. He has been in my life ever since I moved to upstate New York, I could not count the times we at Bedlam Farm and others have called on Ken to help – with the animals, with broken locks and gates, or to help with feed and other issues.

Ken also has two donkeys who lived at the first Bedlam Farm – Jeannette and Jesus – and has taken the most wonderful care of both of them. He lives the life of the individual, he does not have a pension or IRA, he does not have a fat bank account to tide him over. His animals need to stay where they are,  his family and farm need to be cared for. There are few good places for them to go to. Ken is a prince in the real world of real animals, in addition to being a volunteer in his local Fire Department, he has also worked to support the New York Carriage Horses in their long and hard fight to stay in New York City.

Farriers work is brutal work, physically and emotionally challenging. Anyone who has seen a farrier like Ken wrestle with a horse or a donkey will not soon forget it.  Ken has been a friend to Maria and I as well as the animals – he helps whenever he is asked, day or night.  I cannot think of a more deserving person to help as this holiday season begins. We love his visits to the farm, his way with our animals is a powerful thing to see. He has shared my life with animals and supported it.

I will be campaigning for him here on this blog and I hope you can help him – no amount is too small or large. Gofundme is different from Kickstarter, he sets a goal and gets to keep whatever you decide to give him – $5 or $5,000, whether he meets his overall goal or not.

For me, this is one of those things that defines me as a human being. We are all asked to donate money, to buy things, most of us feel financial pressure these days, but some causes are especially important and just and worthy. Ken  is one of them. I am thinking of him this weekend, and of Eli, just as dedicated to animals and community as he is. This year, many of you helped to do the impossible, you are helping to save the New York Carriage Horses from banishment. I am sorry to be asking you to help the equine and animal world again, but this cause is just as noble. Ken has always been there for us, we will stand by him.

Thanks for your consideration and your help. You can help Ken Norman and his family and animals by contributing here.

Posted in General