You can write us at Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, New York, 12816
“Your real duty is to go away from the community to find your bliss.” – Joseph Campbell
25 May 2016

Voluntary Payments For The Blog. Getting Paid For My Work.

By: Jon Katz
Gratitude

Gratitude

If my blog is meaningful or entertaining or stimulating to you, please consider helping me to pay for my words, photos, and for the blog's maintenance. I hope you enjoy sharing my life with Maria and with the wonderful animals on the farm, it is a miracle to me.

It is immensely gratifying to have this blog, perhaps the most creative thing I have ever done. There are millions of visits each year from all over the world. It is also expensive and time-consuming, a true labor of love. I love working on it every day.

Publishing has changed, and authors like me need to diversity their sources of income. Advances and sales and book royalties have all declined since the recession.  I will (hopefully) always do my books, but the blog has become the centerpiece of my creative life. Amazing.

I am pioneering the new life of the modern writer, there is nothing more creative than change.

The photographs are now as big a part of the blog as my writing. It is a gift to be able to share things like the greening of the deep woods in Spring.

The blog is free, but there is a program where people can (voluntarily) support it in several inexpensive ways – a one-time payment of $75 a year, or smaller payments of $5 or $10 a month, depending on your income and resources. I don't think I can make it any easier.

Although the blog has nearly 400,000 unique visitors each year,  few contribute to it financially.

There is room to grow. Writers and artists will have to be paid for their work, if they are to make the transition I am making and following my readers online.

Thanks for considering it. The blog takes most of my work time, and photography is an expensive art, as you know.

If you can't afford it, or don't wish to pay, the blog will remain free and fully accessible to you. This has to be something you wish to do, not something you have to do. . Everyone is welcome to share the posts and photos in any way they wish, I don't bookmark the pictures. You are free to reprint and share the posts, I see the blog as monologue, but also a partnership.

Use the photos them as screen-savers, print them out, share them. I will never abandon the people who have stayed with me since the blog started in 2007, whether they have money or not.

And I am determined to continue my work as a writer, and to be relevant in the new world of the author.

I have no access to your money or credit cards (we take credit cards and Paypal or checks – some send cash) which can be sent to Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.) I cannot start or stop payments, for your protection. You have an easy-to-access account where you can start or cancel a payment at any time. It works well.

The voluntary payment system is somewhat revolutionary. Some people contribute regularly without fail, some people come and go all the time, depending on their bills, obligations and time.  I try to make it as simple as possible, I know what it is like to be pressed.

No financial information of any kind is stored on my blog or servers, and two security companies monitor all traffic in and out of the site at all times.

Payments are important, they keep the blog alive and growing and vibrant. Without them, it would be difficult to maintain a blog of this quality and frequency.  I post just about every day (except for vacations) and more than once. Please consider sharing my life with Maria and the animals and paying me for my work if you can and are so inclined. It matters.

For five years I refused to accept payments for my work. Getting paid for my work is better. Thanks for thinking about it.

Posted in General

Bedlam Farm Friends

By: Jon Katz
Barnyard Friends

Barnyard Friends

Minnie came to the first Bedlam Farm as a feral kitten, she grew up with the chickens there. She especially loved Winston the rooster, she stayed by his side for days when he died, keeping the other chickens from bothering him. We sometimes think she thinks she is a chicken, and the hens love to sit with her on the Rapunzel Chair or hang out with her in the barn or on the porch.

Animal relationships are among the most fascinating things to observe here on the farm, chickens normally stay well away from our dogs and they never go near Flo, the other barn cat. They love Minnie, and Minnie likes to be with them. The Fiber Chair is a spirit all of its own here.

Posted in General
24 May 2016

Democracy At Work: Assessment Grievance

By: Jon Katz
Assessment Grievance

Assessment Grievance

We went to the annual Assessment Grievance today in my town of Jackson, N.Y., where homeowners can go to "grieve" their taxes before the town's Assessment Review Board. It was a lovely exercise in democracy at work. Four or five people showed up to ask that their assessments be lowered and present their arguments.

There are not a lot of homes in our town.

We had a new appraisal, done last year which valued our house at about $40,000 less than the town assessors did and we asked the assessment board to consider reducing it. They could not have been nicer or more patient or professional, they are just volunteer townspeople and neighbors, everybody seemed to want to know what we had to say and do the right thing. We'll know in a month or two if our arguments were accepted. If not, we have no complaints, we were treated courteously and fairly.

The board introduced themselves, and I noticed right away that every single one of them had a road named after them. That means their families have lived here a long time. No matter how long I live here, I do not imagine there will ever be a "Katz" road. I knew some of the board members, they all knew Florence Walrath, who owned our house before we did.

It felt like the purest kind of democratic exercise, it was held in our little Town Hall and Justice Court. (The judge sits on the dais on the right once a week.) We think we have a good case, we not only have the appraisal but a number of comparable sales for houses that are new or much more updated than ours – two or three baths, two-car garages, pools – that were assessed at lower rates. Win or lose, it was actually fun and rewarding.

I am one of those people who avoid sitting on committees or getting too involved in local government, but this was a pleasure. How it is supposed to work.

 

Posted in General

Safe Places: Staying Grounded In The Din

By: Jon Katz
Staying Grounded

Staying Grounded

I get letters every day from people saying they are frightened by the new and angry politics enveloping the country, and worried about the future. Many say they are sickened by the cruelty and viciousness that seem a hallmark of our search for a leader.

"For the first time in my life," wrote Marcia, "I am really worried about my country."

It is a challenge, for me also, and I am working to find my center, my safe place, my way of grasping what is happening without surrendering to it or being enveloped by it. But I am getting there. Challenge is good for learning, if your eyes and heart stay open. If you are curious as to how I do it, here is how:

– I do not attach labels to myself or permit others to label me. I do not belong to the "left" or the "right," my ideas and values cross those lines, as do those of many people. Labels are the opposite of thought and learning, they kill both. They spawn anger and hatred, not reason. I reject them and avoid people who carry them in their consciousness, and define themselves in so narrow and demeaning a way.

– My life is not an argument. I do not discuss my politics on social media or with people I do not know and trust.

I do not object to people who disagree with me, or despise them for it. I do not try to persuade them of my beliefs or belittle or ridicule theirs.  It is not my purpose or right to tell other people what to believe. I have no patience or space in my head for haters, people who demonize those they disagree with and make them monsters.

They are enemies of reason, free speech, and democratic values. They are damaging our precious and fragile system.

I do not argue my feelings on Facebook or Twitter, forums built efficiently for expressing rage or hysteria but not for civil communication or understanding. Connection for its own sake is pointless. To connect with another human, I must listen as well as speak.

Be gentle, I tell myself. Listen and learn. Follow my heart and remember to like the face I see in the mirror each morning. That is the only one that can guide my moral choices. Say or do nothing I will regret at another time. I resolve to  not hate those who disagree with me, or those who are hateful to me because of what I believe.

I am smarter and wiser than no one, my world is filled with hues of gray and shade. I do not live in the black and white world of labels, anyone has the capacity to be right. The gift of hatred and rage is that it gives me the opportunity to be better, to do good.

I resolve in this turbulent year, this time of finger-pointing and rage, to be my own good example, since our leaders do not care to inspire us, but mostly manipulate us. I want to be my own revolution, to listen, to strive to do good. To take my photos and write my words.

I strive to make human connections wherever I am – at the pharmacy, in a box store, on the telephone with a giant company I know does not really think I am important to them. Every connection is a beam of light, a cause for hope.

I understand that the for-profit corporate news is neither truthful nor reflective of the human spirit. The criminal is damaged and frightening, the hypocrite is truly evil, beneath mercy or contempt. H.L. Mencken writes that the demagogues and racists are an ingrained tradition in our culture, they prey and rise quickly on the fears of the masses of people, and fail and inevitably fail when they are called up to offer more than fear and hate. They never can, he says, because they are not able to.

They don't really know how to do anything but stir the boiling pots of anger and fearfulness.

Joseph Campbell says revolution does not come from the streets outside, but from within each of us., from our commitment to leading our lives.

"A revolution is supposed to be a change that turns everything around," wrote Thomas Merton. "But the ideology of political revolution will never change anything except appearances. There will be violence, and power will pass from one party to another, but when the smoke clears and the bodies of all the dead men are underground, the situation will be essentially the same as it was before: there will be a minority of strong men in power exploiting all the others for their own ends.  There will be the same greed and cruelty and lust and ambition and avarice and hypocrisy as before."

For the revolutions of men change nothing, he says. The only influence that can really upset the injustice and inequity of men is the light and love with in us.

People who preach hate and explore fear are gifted vampires to me, they feed off the blood and souls of the suffering and the displaced, they grow fat like ticks on terror and confusion. They have nothing to offer me, and nothing to do with me. I do not care to join any system that accommodates them.

It is a conceit to tell other people what to believe and feel, I am not that strong or wise. It is a tragedy to let others determine what I feel and make me tremble and worry.

This appears to be the season of rage, I see anger and resentment all around me, in the air. I am resolved to deal with it well.  The Kabbalah says "go to yourself, know yourself, fulfill yourself." If I make my own revolution, no one can take it from me or stop me from creating it. My salvation will always be what is within me, not what is outside of me.

Posted in General

Circle Of Love: Red And The St. John’s Boys

By: Jon Katz
Circle Of Love

Circle Of Love

Before the St.  John's Boys left the farm to go back to New York City, they all gathered around Red to touch him, talk to  him, connect with him. He enjoyed it as much as they did. Most of the kids had never seen a border collie, they had only known guard dogs walking in city streets. They were drawn to him, surprised by him. He rewarded their affection and attention.

Posted in General