Saturday, March 31, 2007


The melting snow has uncovered a tremendous amount of roadside and sidewalk debris in and around our beautiful Village. In preparation for the upcoming tourist season and celebration of Earth Day - Sunday, April 22 The Village of Cambridge Board, the Village Department of Public Works and the Towns and Villages of the Battenkill Valley, a tourism promotion association, invite you, your organization and families to participate in beautifying our Village and its gateways.

Village of Cambridge clean-up: April 14-22

Contact Christine Hoffer, Rice Mansion Inn, at 677-5741 or email for area assignment, safety and clean-up equipment and waiver form.

All volunteers will be treated to a hot dog roast in VARAK Park on Sunday, April 22 in celebration of Earth Day

This clean-up endeavor is in addition, a compliment to the May clean-up.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Windows on our Worlds Windows on our Worlds

What is the view out of your window? Email your jpg to with date, time and general location that you took the picture and I will post it ASAP. It is wonderful to see all the fun views Cambridgebuzz readers have on our world! So... grab your digital camera, point it out your window and share a slice of your life. Thanks.

Cambridge, NY 3-16-07

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Are you looking for something to keep you busy this summer and earn a little extra money? The Cambridge Youth Commission is looking for interested people to teach summer enrichment classes. This is a paid position and runs for two full weeks Monday through Friday from 9:00– 11:00 a.m. We are attempting to have enrichment during our ten week program therefore we are willing to try and work around your schedule.

This enrichment program is new this year and we will run as many courses as possible with our limited funding. We anticipate a large return on applications and may not be able to fund them all this year. So with that in mind please fill your application out quickly and completely and mail back to the address listed. Also please note if you are interested in teaching more than one class you will need to fill out an application for each one.

Enrichment ideas are suggested as follows but not limited to: cooking, science, theatre, paper folding, yoga, sports, photography, sewing, scrap booking, fishing and nature. Team teaching is also an option as well as a one week program. We will work with you to fit your needs.

The Cambridge Youth Commission believes this is a unique and wonderful opportunity for our youth to experience quality enrichment and important life skills. We are always happy to take course teachers on a volunteer basis as well. Thank you in advance for your support and interest.

To request an application and have questions answered contact CYC Director, Meaghan Wilkins at:

About the Cambridge Youth Commission

The Cambridge Youth Commission was organized over 30 years ago. For most of the CYC's history, its focus has been on providing a summer recreation program. Swimming lessons and arts & crafts have been part of the program since the beginning. Over the years, other activities, such as sport clinics, drama programs, field trips, and most recently a martial arts program has been added.

The CYC also runs an after school program, monthly open gym and movie nights during the school year and various community activities such as the annual Halloween Costume Parade, a Parents Get-Away Day and an Easter Egg Coloring Party. In 2006 we put on the first annual Skate Jam with the United States National Guard Counter Drug Task Force. We estimate that approximately 650 children ages 4-18 participate in at least one CYC program per year.

The CYC is funded by the Village of Cambridge, the Towns of White Creek, Jackson and Cambridge and the State through the Washington County Youth Bureau. CYC is also supported annually by the Cambridge District United Fund and The Eagle Newspaper and has also received support from the American Legion, Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Lion's Club and the St. Patrick's Knights of Columbus. A handful of other businesses and organizations in the area have also provided support. fundraisers are also put together and small fees are charged when necessary, however the majority of our programs are free. Cambridge Central School has also been a big part of our success by accommodating our needs.

The Cambridge Youth Commission is anticipating that 2007 will be a year of phenomenal growth. While maintaining our current programs we plan to expand by providing more enrichment opportunities in both our summer and after school programs, adding a free lunch program during the summer and offering more activities for children in sixth grade and up.

We know that without the support of our community businesses, church, organizations and citizens these plans cannot become a reality for out children. We hope that many more organizations will support us financially and that many more individuals in the community volunteer their time and expertise at our events.

Again if you would like to learn more about CYC or if you are interested in helping us meet the needs of the families and children in the community please email Meaghan Wilkins, Director, at:

Photographer's Log Photographer's Log

Enjoying Spring on River Road
Spring is my favorite time of year (at least it becomes so every year just before Spring!) Winters are filled with so many colors that are unappreciated during the other seasons: tans, rusts, blues, greys, browns, blacks. Winter presents pleasures totally unique to itself in my photography but by February I am truly longing for the colors, scents, lighting and promises of April. This week I decided to celebrate the advent of Spring with this evocative photo and one of my own poems. Perhaps they will touch kindred emotions within you.

June W. Mohan

It seems we wait so long for April, just like an unborn child.
Months of long anticipation waiting for the mild
weather and warm sunshine, breezes soft and moist.
Yes April is our favorite child, the one who gives hope voice.
The babe we place our futures in, our plans and all our visions.
Dreaming of the fruit she’ll bear to satisfy ambitions,
sown in dreary frozen months, when longings gnawed our bones,
making us depend upon her presence yet unknown.
Sweet April come into our lives, a gusty juvenile,
filled with storms and gay rainbows, that will make us smile
wide with prospect for your progress we’ll watch as you fulfill
all our winter reveries with sunshine’s warmth until
our stalwart faith in you is proved. Summer’s birth will then sustain,
the works that you’ve begun anew with your warm, healing rain.
Your enchantments summoned us through dark months come before.
Oh, April, newborn we so need, come welcomed through our door.

Photos: (Copyright Mohan 2006) To contact the artist, please send email to:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jack's Outback Rendezvous # 36 Jack's Outback Rendezvous # 36

Handmade Doll Rocking Cradle
Nothing pleases Jack more than to get a hold of a handmade object like this children’s doll cradle, circa 1865, and explore the special human dimensions of the past that are inherent in the details found in a used, but unaltered, piece like this.

This cradle still sports its origional square nails and early red wash paint. "It has not been repainted or “fixed” with a bunch of modern round nails." Jack goes on to say, “I love pieces like this with its natural patina and wear on the bottom; signs of use by the child rocking their dolls to sleep. That is a lot of years of rocking!” This handmade doll rocking cradle is a perfect example of early Americana hierlooms.

Jack’s Rocks!
Go there! Visit Jack’s Outback, 30 West Main Street, Cambridge, NY 518-677-2929.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Elvis is in the House! Elvis is in the House!

Mirroring Our Humanity: An Interview with Jon Katz
March 6, 2007

Author Jon Katz with his rescued cow Elvis.
(Photo by Peter Hanks)

Journalist and novelist Jon Katz is perhaps best known for his acclaimed non-fiction books that detail his relationship with the dogs who have been a part of his family, including "A Dog Year," "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm," "A Good Dog," and more. Katz has also been a reporter and editor at major newspapers such as The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Boston Globe, and was executive producer of the CBS Morning News.

A supporter of The Humane Society of the United States' work to protect farm animals, Katz shares his farm with numerous rescued animals. Below, he shares his thoughts on farm animals with the director of The HSUS Factory Farming Campaign, Paul Shapiro.

Paul Shapiro: At what point did you become interested in animals and helping to protect them?

Jon Katz: I've always had animals—dogs especially—but until I bought an old Civil-War era family farm in upstate New York in 2003 and got some sheep, cows, donkeys, chickens (and dogs, of course) I wasn't as conscious of these wonderful creatures as I am now. Far from the political and media sensibilities of urban and suburban animals, these are animals we drive by but often don't know. That was the case with me. The more I know about farm animals, the more I see that there is much more going on in their lives than many of us think. They are capable of great attachment and affection, are trainable and have quite distinct personalities.

PS: You're most well-known for your writings about dogs. What led to your interest in farm animals?

JK: First, I began herding sheep with my border collies. That led me to buying Bedlam Farm. I've got four dogs, two steers and a cow now, and adopted a lonely donkey named Carol. Now I have four donkeys. You see them differently when you live with them and care for them, of

I have a chicken, Henrietta, who likes to ride on the backs of donkeys and cows. Elvis, my giant steer, loves to nuzzle and drool on people.
course. I never dreamed that I would bring a 2,400-pound Swiss Steer a candy bar every day or that he would rest his head on my shoulder while I scratched his nose. Nor did I know how loving my donkeys were, or how spiritual, or how individualistic and alert sheep can be.

I have a rooster named Winston, who injured his leg protecting his hens from a hawk, and he is a dutiful, gentle and dignified creature. I am fond of him.

PS: How has your relationship with Elvis, Henrietta, and the other farm animals with whom you live affected the way you think about cows, chickens, and farm animals in general?

JK: The vet came recently to treat one of my donkeys for a lung infection, and it was touching to see how the other donkeys gathered around Lulu, who was sick, and nuzzled her while she was examined and got her shots. They were clearly protecting her and concerned about her.

They form relationships, attach to people, are quite fond of one another and aware of each other. My barn cat Mother, who is ferocious to rodents and birds, is fond of one of my chickens, and sleeps next to her at night.

All of my animals are gentle with people. The better treated they are, the calmer and more affectionate they can be.

PS: For years, you've written about how individual dogs have transformed your life. How do you see farm animals' personalities in comparison with the dogs you've come to know?

JK: Dogs are much more interwoven with the lives of humans. They know humans well and understand them and have been living with them for thousands of years. Cows and other farm animals don't usually get that opportunity. If you live with them, you see that almost all of them have distinct personalities, and differing personas. Some like to come right up to people, others are more cautious. I have a chicken, Henrietta, who likes to ride on the backs of donkeys and cows.

Few people, including me, are aware of the chilling and brutal conditions under which so many farm animals spend their lives.

Elvis, my giant steer, loves to nuzzle and drool on people. When he sees somebody at the gate he comes thundering over. When I come to the gate, he comes running to see me, and we often hang out together. He is a good soul, gentle and curious and affectionate. I have trained him to come, and to stay, feats of which I am particularly proud. I ask many of my farmer friends how long Elvis will live, but they all say the same thing: They don't really know, as they have seen few steers [live] past the age of two or three.

I have one ewe who loves crackers and loves to have her head scratched. She loves to hang out with the donkeys and is very attached to Jeannette, my oldest donkey. The donkeys are extraordinarily intuitive, loving and spiritual creatures.

These animals are less domesticated and I wouldn't want people to think of them as household pets. But they have strong personalities. I believe they show playfulness, love, anxiety and a lot of animal and human attachment. At times, they radiate patience and contentment, and quite a bit of resilience.

PS: Do you believe most people are aware of the common practices on factory farms today? And how do you think most people would react if they were able to interact with farm animals on a one-to-one basis?

JK: Few people, including me, are aware of the chilling and brutal conditions under which so many farm animals spend their lives. If not for The Humane Society of the United States, I would not know. If I didn't have cows and sheep and chickens, I would perhaps not be as sensitive to it. My animals are fond of me, and I love many of them, and feel strongly that there is no reason to treat them so cruelly and inhumanely.

I have enormous respect and compassion for farmers, and the cruel treatment of animals is not common to farmers, or to farming. Quite the opposite. The level of scope and cruelty is new, and I believe it is completely unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans. I talk to animal lovers all the time and very few know about the conditions detailed by The HSUS and other animal advocacy groups.

I understand that, in our society, people need to make money and have a right to be profitable. But profit is not incompatible with mercy and decency.

Animals mirror our own humanity and morality. The better we treat treat animals, the better we are as human beings, the more self-aware, the more human, the more ethical.

PS: Why do you think it's so important that Congress pass the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act?

JK: Animals mirror our own humanity and morality. We judge ourselves by how we treat these often helpless and dependent creatures. The better we treat animals, the better we are as human beings, the more self-aware, the more human, the more ethical. No benevolent society would chain millions of animals up their entire lives and deny them any mercy, pleasure or contentment. I also believe that treating animals well has enormous implications for the rest of society: The better we treat them, the better we treat each other. The more callous we are to them, the easier it is to be callous to one another. There is no reason to treat animals so brutally. It is a stain on our humanity.

PS: You've mentioned that you'd like your writing to help improve the lives of factory-farmed animals. What do you think are some of the best ways to work toward that end?

JK: We need to reconnect with nature, I believe. We need to spend more time with animals, know more about them, get in touch with animals and the animal parts of ourselves. A culture as estranged from the natural world as most of us are—as I was before I was fortunate enough to get this farm—is by nature alienated. It is difficult for me to simply to go about the business of life knowing there are millions of creatures, all of us sharing this planet, who spend their lives shackled or confined in filthy and cruel conditions just so we can buy a few different kinds of sandwiches more cheaply. This is not the act of a moral society, as we like to think we are.

©2007 Peter Hanks (Used with permission from Jon Katz)
Originally printed by the Humane Society of the United States

New to the Cambridge Buzz New to the Cambridge Buzz

There are so many reasons Cambridge, NY is a unique and vital community. One is the tremendous interest we, as a community, have for the Arts -- from music, dance and film, to theater, painting and sculpture. Many people living here, and those who make Cambridge their seasonal homes, are artists who have a connection to the national and international art scenes.

This new thread brings the world of art to Cambridge, and features Artists who are showing, or have shown their work from New York City (ArtNYC) to LA (ArtLA), from London (ArtLondon) to Paris (ArtParis). We thank our growing cadre of writers on the arts to the Cambridge Buzz. Enjoy!


CambridgeBuzz welcomes writer Donald Goddard. Donald lives in New York City and is the author of books on Nahum Tschacbasov, fashion photography, sound art, Harry Jackson, American painting, Alan Scarritt, and wildlife conservation.

Rachel Harrison by Donald Goddard

If I Did It
The exhibition’s title, presumably derived from the title of O.J. Simpson’s book about the murder of his wife, evokes the specter of an endlessly conditional, or dubious, material reality. Paradoxically and inevitably, no one’s work is more material than Rachel Harrison’s. The sculptures are alive with the artist’s hands and fingers molding masses of a stucco-like substance, or as forceful compactions of various objects into shapes that become enveloping contexts rather than pedestals. They are suffused with brushed colors in various moods and modes, from dark to delicate to brilliant. And that which they might be pedestals for—cans of Slim·Fast, Arnold Palmer’s Lite Green Tea and Lemonade, or some ingredient for a racing car driver, manikins, a stuffed rooster and hen, a thermometer—are literally material(istic) objects for our consumption. All of this exists as surely and distinctively as do or have the men they represent: Alexander the Great, Amerigo Vespucci, John Locke, Pasquale Paoli, Claude Levi-Strauss, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fat Domino, Al Gore, Johnny Depp, and Tiger Woods.

Ironically, the men are pedestals and public monuments and are perceived as such; they sustain themselves. There can be no such thing as a woman who has changed or defined history, at least in western civilization, except through association with a man: Mary and Jesus, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, Hillary and Bill. But now these figures belong to Rachel Harrison, and she takes them on inversely to their importance in history. “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.” This passage describes a distraught, disappointed youth, and the figure in Harrison’s sculpture is a youth, but an putatively optimistic one, a naked, smooth-skinned manikin striding forward on a boat like mass painted in bright colors, either embodying the falseness of his hopes in his very being as a manikin, or their genuineness in his newness, hopes that might not even be about conquering. A mask of Abraham Lincoln faces backwards on his head, as though to say that there were indeed new worlds to conquer (incongruously toward the rear), and that they would be sundered and presided over by serious, bearded, older men.

Alexander the Great, 2007. Mixed media, 86” x 45” x 92”.

John Locke, which stands by itself in another room, is much less exuberant, but no less insistent. The simple off-white square column of 18 by 19 inches, about 7 ½ feet tall, has the breathing presence of a person, moving from inside, the contour of a collarbone, breast, or hip emerging in the surface, or are they simply ideas swiveling into place, “Combining several simple ideas into one compound one,” as one possibility from his “Essay on Human Understanding” would have it. It is the piece in which the greatest sense of the interior self, the human body as a single, complex entity, is expressed, and it is a body, vulnerable as much to doubt as to history.

John Locke, 2007. Mixed media, 91” x 19” x 18”.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder is the manikin of a young woman dressed in shorts and T-shirt moving forward ahead of a trail of white plastic foam popcorn on the floor. The popcorn is as a pedestal that has disintegrated, or the packing in the box from which the young woman has escaped. Turning her head, she looks through her eyeglasses with a distraught expression as though she is being or expects to be pursued. On the back of her head, facing forward, is a mask in the likeness of Dick Cheney, who is also wearing glasses, staring relentlessly into the blank space before him, personifying, perhaps, Fassbinder’s reflections on terrorism, which might include his 1979 statement “ . . . that in the last analysis terrorism is an idea generated by capitalism to justify better defense measures to safeguard capitalism.” Both the young woman and Cheney need assistance in seeing, one not knowing the future, the other not caring for the past. As in Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, the nymph is being transformed into another being, but she neither knows how or by whom. She can only look back in distress at the destruction in her wake.

Like the ancient Italic-Roman god Janus, two works in the exhibition have faces looking in opposite directions. Janus was the guardian of heaven, who opened and closed the gates to Olympia each day, and protector of the Roman legions. Facing east and west, he encompassed beginnings and endings, past and future, good and evil. Harrison’s art covers a lot of ground.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 2006. Mixed media, 66” x 19” x 15”.

There is also a Janus configuration in one of Harrison’s 57 photographs lined up on two of the walls, but she is female, a work of sculpture in what appears to be a medieval church, and she looks inward and outward, into the self and beyond the self. The progression of photos, titled Voyage of the Beagle in reference to Charles Darwin’s journey of exploration that led to his theories of evolution, begins with an ancient menhir in Corsica, a carved upright stone of 3000 B.C. that might commemorate a person or event or represent a deity. What follows is all manner of single figural images—of Gertrude Stein, Marilyn Monroe, a pizza waiter, a polar bear, Lady Bird Johnson, and others—in the form of store window manikins, stuffed animals, sculpture, kitsch statuettes, publicity photos, and other forms of representation. In all of these images there is a sense of sadness, of living entities being trapped within particular forms, a recognition that every act of representation, and/or exaltation, is fraught with ambiguity and mortality, as is the role of the artist herself.

Five stills from Voyage of the Beagle, 2007. 57 archival inkjet prints, 18” x 13” each (framed).

All reproductions courtesy of Greene-Naftali Gallery.

The exhibition runs through Saturday, March 31, 2007 at Greene-Naftali Gallery, 508 West 26th Street, New York, N Y 10001.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Hell of the North is Coming The Hell of the North is Coming

Photo by David Kraus (All Rights Reserved)

April 14th, the 3rd annual Battenkill-Roubaix bike race comes to the Cambridge valley.

The race is fashioned after the prestigious 100 year old Paris-Roubaix in France where racers trek over a very difficult course that includes cobblestone paths, narrow roads, and scenic European villages. It's North American counterpart - the Battenkill-Roubaix - features both paved and dirt road sections, difficult hill climbs, and exciting passes through the small villages of Salem, Cambridge, and Greenwich, NY where an estimated 2500 spectators were present for the 2006 edition.

Race organizers Farm Team Cycling of Cambridge, NY are proud to announce that the 2007 Battenkill-Roubaix is the largest Pro/Am cycling race in the Northeast, and is already the fastest-growing Pro/Am race in the United States. With just 4 weeks of open registration remaining, more than 780 racers from 18 US States and Canada have already registered. Nearly 1000 racers are expected by race day on April 14.

Mark your calendars for a great weekend and join us on race day!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Photographer's Log Photographer's Log

Seasons Passing on English Road
March 12, 2007 - English Road. The early noon sun shone down in forty-degree weather making all of the snow on the hillsides of our Valley resemble great inverted bowls and plates of old milk glass. The snow was old itself, sculpted and scoured by the winds of the weeks before, then softly smoothed, polished and refined by the heat of the sun, finally more densely merged by the higher spring like temperatures causing it to melt from beneath itself. The end result was a glowing, eerie, almost alien landscape through which I meandered that day. This shot from English Road is a marvelous example of the all but imperceptible way I see each winter metamorphose into spring. May your Spring be a glorious and sweetly memorable one. I’ll be around collecting its images. Perhaps we will pass by one another’s lives as imperceptibly as the seasons pass one another upon our beautiful area hillsides.-June Mohan
Photos: (Copyright Mohan 2006) To contact the artist, please send email to:

Monday, March 19, 2007


Reminder: Citizens of the Village of Cambridge, NY


Tomorrow, Tuesday, 12 noon -9 pm MARCH 20th 2007

Cambridge Firehouse, West Main Street, Cambridge

Check the local newspapers, MainStreet, The Eagle and the Observer to learn more about the candidates and their positions.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Photographer's Log Photographer's Log

February 2006. It was nearly dark as I drove along Stump Church Road in one of the few snowstorms that befell us last year. As is so common when snow is falling it was very silent, peaceful. It being near dinnertime during the snowstorm I was pretty much alone on the roads. Minutes before I had stopped to admire the beautiful old white Stump Church in the driving snow of the approaching evening. After driving on this farm came into my field of vision as I rounded the corner.
Through the tree branches and snow the outbuildings and silos of this farm looked like a group of sojourners gathered closely together, bravely keeping the cold and snow of winter at bay. They seemed to be waiting on the spring (which was not far away) to release them once again into animation from their long winter’s solitude and slumber.
The little horses seeking shelter next to the shed wall seemed to express accepted weariness with the inevitability of the blowing wind, chilling wet snow and enforced home-bounded-ness of it all. You could almost feel their hearts slowly beating in cadence with the heart-rhythm of the farm-island itself and all those upon and within it. The slow beat of a resting heart waiting, waiting.
In spring the quiet would end with hustle and bustle all around the farm. The dust of the earth and seed would fill the air in place of the propelling snow. The acres of white on the ground would give way to new carpets of green growing crops. The rustling sound of snow flakes falling upon buildings, ground and fur coats would be replaced with the roar of great farming machinery, turning earth, planting seed, pushing water, spreading fertilizer.
A resting island no more, the farm would rise with great stretches and yawns and spread out as far as the eye could see, reveling in the freedom which is brought by the warm sunlight and rains of Spring.
But, just then, in the twilight, I was viewing the great island of interdependent beings and structures quietly settling down after one more day of sustaining plans and unobtrusive work while awaiting nature’s release. -June Mohan

To contact the artist email her at:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Excitement in Cambridge, NY Excitement in Cambridge, NY

A soft glow illuminates the night.

It's been an exciting 24 hours in Cambridge, NY. On Saturday, March 10th the area was hit with a power outage. Friends and neighbors have told me that when riding home from up-county they saw a huge flash in the sky...

and then the lights went out.

Naturally, I thought I'd caused the outage when I tried to submit a grant application to the NEA. I've been writing grants for the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company and am under the deadline. Last minute, of course!

Reading passed the night away

I dug out the candles, flashlight and lantern, hunkered down with a good book, and enjoyed my evening the old fashioned way. Setting the clock ahead at 9:30 pm fooled me into thinking it was late enough to go to bed. Cats curled on the bed for added warmth, I slept the night away.

Frantic to complete my grant submission, I sought out a local internet cafe in Schulyerville. I'm happy to report that all goes well with the grant and I made some new friends along the way. Just shy of 24 hours later, the power has come back on, but it made for an exciting evening for me and my cats.

Loosing power can be nerve wracking, but it's also sort of fun, slows down the pace a bit and reminds us that candle power gives off a beautiful glow.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jon Katz : Musings #2 Jon Katz : Musings #2

It's a dog's life on Bedlam Farm

Henrietta the hen is a chicken with attitude.

I've had a small crew of chickens for a few years now; my wife says they're the only truly useful creatures on the farm.

They're industrious, pecking all day at grubs and bugs, purposefully marching around the pasture. Aside from water and a handful of feed and corn each morning, they require little from me. At dusk, they hop up onto their roosts in the barn. In return, they supply all the eggs we need.

Henrietta's father is my speckled rooster Winston, a dignified, conscientious, even heroic creature whose leg got mangled when he staved off a hawk attack on his hens.

Her mother is one of my tawny, unnamed Buff Orphingtons. This hen disappeared a few months ago, which sometimes means bad news. But my helper Annie soon spotted her in the garden, sheltered by a bunch of tall zinnias and warming half a dozen eggs. I tried to move the mom someplace more secure, but when she nearly pecked my right hand off, I decided to let her be.

We left her there for weeks, bringing feed and water as close as she would let us come. Only one egg hatched, though: Henrietta. The first chicken born on Bedlam Farm, she was gray and speckled like her dad.

She and her mother spent a few weeks in a snug little milkhouse, abandoned for decades and slightly decrepit, but perfect for a nursery. Annie and I visited daily, bringing water and assorted goodies - corn, birdseed, Cheerios.

Annie wanted to keep mom and chick in the milkhouse for a few months. She worried particularly about Mother the barn cat, who was hovering around the milkhouse with chilling enthusiasm.

But I, playing the father who wants his offspring out in the world, freed Henrietta after six weeks. "She seems quite able to take care of herself," I said.

Henrietta is the most recent subject of the unofficial study I've been conducting to see whether the way we treat farm animals can affect their personalities.

Animals of the same species can behave very differently, yet there's little research that explains why. Genetics is a factor, plus health and environment. But I'm coming to believe that humans can also shape the natures of domesticated animals, as opposed to house pets, even those who sometimes seem without affect or individuality.

My animals have space to roam and graze, shelter from the weather, first aid and veterinary care when they need it. They have plentiful food and water, and strong fences that keep them in and nasty critters out.

Unlike many farm animals, they've also been continuously, even relentlessly socialized by humans. My farm is a highly unmechanized operation: People give the animals their food, bring extra treats, touch them and talk to them, treat them gently. My cows, donkeys and sheep meet children, old people, visitors of all sorts, who invariably arrive with carrots and apples and want to scratch ears and pat backs.

Maybe that's why some of these animals behave contrary to expectations. Take Elvis, my enormous Brown Swiss steer: I've found him to be trainable, affectionate and intelligent. To my surprise, and contrary to certain bovine stereotypes, he has a life -- that is, he has relationships, pleasures, attachments. So did this feisty little hen.

From the start, Henrietta was unusual, a hen of entitlement. None of the larger animals intimidated her one whit. She seemed to have some of her dad's better traits: She looked people right in the eye, reacted to them, seemed curious and adventurous. She wanders off from the other chickens from time to time, and occasionally stops by to visit.

Our perceptions of animal personalities are shaped by our own cultural conceptions too, I think. We like animals that are "cute" or good looking, and that respond to us. I admired this assertive chicken, so I talked to her and tossed around more grain.

But that doesn't fully explain why, on a warm fall day while I was brushing hay and flecks of manure from the donkeys' fuzzy coats, Henrietta hopped right up on Jeannette's back and began pecking. Jeannette, my senior donkey, can be territorial, and argumentative, but she seemed not to notice or care as Henrietta tidied up her back a bit, then settled down in that comfy spot for an hour or so, riding along when Jeannette ambled over to the feeder.

None of the farmers hereabouts, wise to the ways of poultry, had seen anything like it. One neighbor came by, watched, spit on the ground and said, "You've got yourself an interesting chicken there."

The barnyard residents seem quite unruffled, though. Henrietta bounds onto the donkeys' and sheep's backs, pecks a bit at their coats and fleece, then sits and takes in the view and the sun. She holds court, clucking and grumbling, right in the middle of the hay feeder while the other animals are eating. Except for the humans, everyone seems quite blasé about it.

Most striking is the...let's call it a relationship, that's developed between Henrietta and the barn cat.

Every evening, I bring out a can of cat food and Mother appears mysteriously, from somewhere in the upper reaches of my vast dairy barn, for her supper. But one recent night, Henrietta came zooming over from the chicken roost, chased Mother from her bowl and then, flapping her wings and squawking, drove her right out of the barn.

I was astonished when Henrietta proceeded to eat all of Mother's Fancy Feast, while the cat returned to complain loudly from a rafter. Given Mother's kill count of rodents and birds, I was astonished that Henrietta was alive at all.

Now this pair interacts all the time. Mother hides in the barn, then pops down to startle Henrietta, who gives chase. Henrietta sometimes stages ambushes from atop a donkey, waiting for Mother to pass by in pursuit of some hapless mole, then swooping down.

It looks like they're playing hide-and-seek or tag. My neighbors had never seen a cat run from a chicken; now, they have. On the other hand, some nights Mother sleeps right next to Henrietta on a shelf in the barn.

Though it appears they're having fun, I know better than to anthropomorphize. They could well be at war. I'm not always sure there's a difference, or that I'd recognize it if there is.

Nor can I really say what gives Henrietta such sass. Partly breeding, I think - her father's Churchillian courage getting passed along. Partly, Annie's tender care early on. If you give animals little reason to fight, compete, or cower, I've found, they often don't.

But who really knows? Some things simply can't be accounted for by limited human perceptions. The best part of living on a farm, sometimes, is the mystery of things.
Sometimes, it dawns on me that what my animals teach me, more than anything else, is just how little I know.

About Jon Katz:
Bedlam Farm is where I live, write and tend my animals - four dogs, four donkeys, 30 sheep, two steers and a cow, a barn cat, a rooster and three hens. It's a 110-acre farm in upstate new York, with a rambling old house built during the Civil War and four barns in various stages of disrepair.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Photographer's Log Photographer's Log

Someone recently asked me for a photograph of a cardinal. I didn’t have a variety from which he could choose, but I remembered a little cardinal who seemed to have a penchant for diving out in front of my car several times while I drove down Route 22 towards Cambridge. So, I went out in search of the little guy to try to capture his image. After staking out his spot on Route 22 for 15 minutes I realized he was not to be found. Giving up in discouragement I went out to do some regular shooting with no target in mind.

Then it became a "cardinal" morning unlike any other I’d experienced before. Suddenly there were cardinals on all of the back roads, their vermilion feathers bright against the white snow! I sat for nearly two hours at various locations watching them filling their little tummies to bursting that morning. It was such a joy because they were all around the roadsides, untroubled by my presence, sharing the foodstuffs to be found with all the other little birds.

This particular little fellow however, became the one who most intrigued me. He stayed far off the road, deep within the tangled branches of large trees. He seemed not to want anything to do with my company and spent my visit near him peering at me from behind the dense thicket in which he took refuge.

Getting his photo became almost a contest of wills between us and, if not for the special abilities of my camera lens, he would have won! But now you see the shy but curious little cardinal who helped make my day.
-June Mohan
Photos: (Copyright Mohan 2006) To contact the artist, please send email to:

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Jack's Outback Rendezvous Jack's Outback Rendezvous

Cast Iron Launders Irons and Iron Trivets

Not being that into the process of ironing in the first place (sure glad to be living in the modern age of permanent press and electric steam irons!) it seems as though it was a popular item, as everyone had at least one of these irons in his or her laundering arsenal. These would be heated on the wood stove and then used to press clothing and other materials.

The trivets are interesting items, as often they would be fashioned into the family tree or coat of arms of the people who owned them. They also were given by traveling salespeople as a later day calling card, cast with the name of the company or product being sold.

Iron out the past at Jack’s!
Go there! Visit Jack’s Outback, 30 West Main Street, Cambridge, NY 518-677-2929.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Treasures of Cambridge Treasures of Cambridge

Everyone is a treasure!

We each have an important story to tell... our own.

So, drop me an email to schedule a time to be a part of "Treasures of Cambridge". This is an ongoing project to document the stories of as many area residents as possible. The Cambridge area is a great place, made that way by the wonderful people who inhabit it. Life is short, and we are all to soon forgotten. So take a moment to honor yourself and your place in the history of our area. It is easy, fun and costs your nothing but about 20 minutes of your time.

Make an appointment by contacting me, John Carlson at

Treasures of Cambridge # 37 Treasures of Cambridge # 37

Melissa Spiezio pictured in front of the vault in the former Bean Head’s Coffee House, has lived in the Village of Cambridge all of her thirty-one years.

Melissa lives with her spouse and son in her husband, Poke’s, childhood home. She says, "It is really nice to keep up the family traditions that Poke and his family started there in the house, and bring in my own family’s as well." She likes to raise her son in a village that is familiar, where she knows the people and is familiar with the kids he goes to school with, and their teachers.

She loves the safeness of the village, a place where people look out for one another and her son. "He can go to a friend’s house and I know that when he gets there I will get a phone call that he got there OK." People just care about each other here.

Much of her time is spent working as an x-ray technician at Bennington Hospital, which she loves. Her home life is also very busy, keeping up with being a homeowner and, "of course, being married to Poke (the Village Fire Chief), who is going 24/7, we spend a lot of time at the fire house doing fundraising and supporting the guys there."

In her free time, she loves getting together with friends to chat and engage in scrapbooking. Melissa’s prop is a scrapbook, a hobby she started when her son was born in 2000 to preserve her child’s first moments. She tells the story of when it was getting close to when her child was to be born, she wanted to start a scrapbook with the footprint of the baby, yet she did not want to know if it was going to be a boy or a girl. There was a woman at the hospital that sold scrapbooking materials, and, also happened to do an ultrasound of her while she was pregnant. So she knew it was going to be a boy and had a boy’s book all wrapped up and ready for Melissa when her water broke and she had other things to think about for a while!

Melissa takes scrapbooking very seriously which has become a beautiful history (the books are extremely well done, tasteful, and full of heart) that she has to share with friends; snapshots of her life as wife, mother, family member, friend and village resident.

When asked how she would like to be remembered, she responded, "I would like to be remembered as the girl who grew up in Cambridge and was sweet to the old ladies of Cambridge, and a helpful and kind Cambridge person."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Photographer's Log Photographer's Log

For all CambridgeBuzz readers who are winter weary, a preview of Spring!

Chapin Farms Greenhouses
The beautiful patterns of newly-plowed and planted fields are such a delight to the eye as they trace the previously hidden contours of the land. When the morning or afternoon sunlight strikes the rows it makes the contours even more evident, prompting me to muse upon just how lovely the land is. Did God, when He was creating it, actually reach down with a great hand, like a child in a sand box, smoothing the earth into curves and whorls, hills and valleys; patting it into flat plains, pushing it into mountains, dragging His fingers through it creating canyons and river beds, pushing off the tops of mountains to create great mesas? Did He have fun creating such awesome, irreplaceable, unmatchable beauty? I enjoy the reverie. -June Mohan
Photos: (Copyright Mohan 2006) To contact the artist, please send email to: