In Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm, Jon Katz tells of life on his farm in upstate New York.
You're a successful suburban fiction writer—why did you move to the country to start running a farm?
A lot of us who live in urban and suburban areas are what I call "existentially lonely." We're cut off from the natural world. We're hungry for a reconnection with the animal world—even with the animal parts of ourselves. I'm not a likely person to be running a farm with 110 acres and cows and donkeys and dogs, and yet it feels like the most natural thing I've ever done. For me, coming up here felt like coming home. My first year—which I covered in The Dogs of Bedlam Farm—was the worst winter here in 80 years. I was constantly confronted with things I knew nothing about—hay issues and water issues and bitter cold. I got frostbite, and I fell down all the time. It was a nightmare, but I got through it. And then I loved it, once I learned how to manage it.
And readers can buy your books and enjoy country life vicariously, without suffering frostbite or getting manure on their shoes.
That's my job—to take readers into a world they don't have to live in. The other farmers, my neighbors, come around and ask me what I do here—I tell them my crop is stories. That's my crop—I grow stories. And they get that—they're very supportive.
We hear they're making a film of A Dog Year. How does it feel to be played by Jeff Bridges?
Very strange. He's a great person—very warm, very smart, very serious. But having someone wandering around in your clothes, playing your life, is just the most bizarre thing. This guy ran up from the town during the shooting, banged on the door and yelled, "Jon Katz is wandering around town, and he looks just like Jeff Bridges!"
So, anything new on the farm?
I have two new border collies.
I thought you weren't going to have any more dogs?
Do you know my wife? Have you been talking to Paula? Seriously, I got this call about these two border collies who'd been left for years inside a fence, never been to a vet, never housebroken, but gorgeous dogs. So I took them just to train them and find a new home for them.