A photo collection …

The following are photos of just some of the people Eve and I have worked with over the years and the events I detail in “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”

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Say hello to Boris, the maybe vampire peddler who wants back fat from pig!

The following is an excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” This little vignette is about my encounter with an Ukrainian peddler named Boris who might be a vampire and was in great need of large quantities of back fat, from pig.

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Excuse me, do you sell back fat from pig?”

On August 17th, 2010, we were harvesting onions. I was working the big field lift on the yard. My brother was driving the harvester and my dad was out and about for some reason. Between one of the army truck loads of onions, a guy pulls in with a van. He is obviously a produce peddler. I say “obviously” because we deal with these types all the time. They usually sell to small markets and specialty stores and bodegas in NYC. They are of some foreign origin, either Korean or Russian or something else, where you have an extreme difficulty in communicating with them. Universally, they want everything cheap, and they are mostly a pain in the ass.

The guy gets out and he starts to talk to me. I’m too far away to hear at first clearly so I have him repeat what he said. His accent is thick and he sounds Russian. I later learn he is Ukrainian. He sticks out his hand and says “I am Boris” and then asks about onions and butternut squash (he sees a bulk box of squash next to the door.

And then he asks for something I have never been asked for before: “I need 2,000 lbs, every month, of the back fat from the pig.”

Excuse me? That was a new one. I paused for a moment, and without cracking a smile, because he wasn’t, I bit and asked “what for?” He was a little cagey on that detail, and never really gave me an answer. I prodded, “to barbeque?” He laughed and said “no, no, no, you don’t barbeque back fat from pig.” He then kept emphasizing,

in his thick Russian accent he needs lots of back fat … from pig. “And it must be 2, 3 inches thick, you understand?”

I responded with, “dude, I grow onions, not pigs, I really can’t help you there. Did you try the Quaker Creek Store next door?” “Yes, yes, they only have a little, I need 2,000 to 3,000 lbs, every month. And it MUST be 2 to 3 inches thick.” “Of course it must, who the hell thin slices back fat from pig,” I responded with. I had no idea what the hell we were talking about.

He then asked me for some cucumbers and other greens that I don’t grow so I suggest he call my neighbors, Ray and Gary Glowaczewski, who grow all sorts of stuff and sell them at various greenmarkets. I gave Boris their office phone number that he immediately calls on his cell and he starts talking to their mom, Ceil. He doesn’t preface the call with “Hi, my name is Boris and I like to buy produce from you” in his thick Ukrainian accent but instead says this in his thick Russian accent:

“Hello, I want to come visit and speak with you. Tell me where are you? What is your address that I may come visit with you now?”

Their mom was not disclosing anything to Boris. So Boris handed me the phone and I had to tell her that he was a guy interested in produce, and I added “he appears to be harmless.” Boris nodded in agreement. I left out the part about the back fat from the pig. She thanked me and then told Boris where their farm was located at (about a mile down the road).

Before he left we started talking about the back fat again. He repeated that he could move 2,000 pounds a month, easy. I asked. “Is there, like, a back fat holiday season coming up or something?” He looked at me quizzically and then smiled and said, “not really, but you would not like it, you have to start eating the back fat when you are this tall (he held his hand up about 2 feet high) in order to like it.” I didn’t question the veracity of that assertion. He then shook my hand and left to go to the Glowaczewski’s in search of cucumbers and presumably, “back fat from pig.”

But that was not the last that I saw Boris. Later in October my dad and I were working in our barns installing our own insulation in the ceiling. We were elevated by a very unsafe, if not dangerous, in my humble opinion, elevated platform constructed by my dad. It was a series of skids, boards and the like, elevated higher by two forklifts.

I hate heights as it is, I really hated this.  We were roughly 16 feet in the air. I hear him pull up and he starts calling out “hellloooo” in the barn, looking for us.

I yell down from my perch “Who is that? Is that you Boris?”

Boris responds, “yes, it is me!” I ask him, “are you still looking for the back fat, 2, 3 inches thick?” He quickly replies, “from pig, yes!”

So I climb down and shake his hand. I tell him, soulfully, that I couldn’t locate any sources for his pig back fat, YET, but I’m working on it. He then asks if we have onions in 10 lb bags and we tell him no, just in 50 lb bags. My dad, always the salesman, then tries to sell him squash. Boris says, “I buy one bag tomorrow, to see what my customers say.”

We then talk about my fear of heights. He talks about some supervisor job he had somewhere in Europe “where he was many feet high” where he was scared at first then no more. I have no problem admitting I’m a wussy.

At this point I whip out my Droid X to take a picture. I tell him, “Boris, I need to take a picture of you and my dad. I always take pictures of my best customers.” I can truthfully say this, because he actually bought a bag of onions. Boris smiles, just a little. But my Droid X camera craps out 3 times!!!!!!! I can’t take his picture!

Frustrated I exclaim, “Boris, I can’t take your picture. Are you a vampire or something?” Boris pauses a brief moment and says, “nah, (short pause) I don’t think so, (another short pause) maybe.”

I thought about asking him if somehow is maybe being a vampire was related to his need for large quantities of back fat from a pig, but I was afraid of experiencing a real life “True Blood” moment and didn’t want to push it. He did mention again the back fat issue and for some reason he thinks I’m the local go to guy to get it. When we exchanged business cards outside he made sure to show me, with his thumb and finger, what a “good, fat 2, 3 inch” looks like, not 1 or a “pretend 2 inch.” I dutifully nod my head, in knowing agreement. We are starting to establish a genuine back fat bond.

If anyone out there reading this has any tips on locating some back fat, from pig, please pass them along. My almost vampire friend Boris from the Ukraine who is no longer afraid of heights would be very appreciative.

Fantastic article!

I forgot to post the link to this fantastic article in the Warwick Advertiser about Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt’s proclamation. I am still overwhelmed by it!

http://warwickadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130612/NEWS01/130619969/Rabbitt-honors-Black-Dirt-advocate

Thank you Annie

“Hey dad, it looks like a roadblock in front of the house!”

Yesterday was a very long day. We were set to spray the entire farm (99 acres) with herbicides. It would take three big tanks of the tank truck even starting at 7 am we wouldn’t finish till late afternoon.

We had an unexpected setback during the day, delaying us for hours. Hence, we didn’t complete the job, leaving 15 acres to do today and we didn’t finish working last night until 7 pm. Did I mention it was hot? (See the image below to see what I wear when I spray herbicides) After a shower and a store bought sandwich and doing all of my e-mail replies and late computer work … and being thoroughly exhausted I finally went to bed by 10 pm.

I was awoken at about 2:15 am by Caleb. He had gotten up to go to the bathroom and called out “mom, dad, it looks like a roadblock in front of the house. Sure enough as we looked out our bathroom window (which faces west) Pulaski Highway in front of our house was blocked with emergency vehicles and trucks and cars with flashing lights. But we didn’t see and evidence of a crash so we thought, maybe it was a literal roadblock. Could some escaped fugitive be heading our way?

I had to find out, so outside I went. I could see what looked like one police car and one ambulance. Two officials were talking to someone along the road, but I couldn’t make the person out from the distance. Closer to me were a group of civilians and I approached them. I quickly recognized my fantastic neighbor Diane Matuszewski (of the world famous Quaker Creek Store: http://www.quakercreekstore.com) I also saw her son Matt. I asked her, what’s up?

She said how a friend of her son’s was driving on Pulaski Highway after coming back from Quick Chek (my dinner source a few hours previous: http://www.qchek.com) and she happened to see a body half lying in the road.

Me: “Was he hit?”
Diane: “We weren’t sure. She called us over, someone else called 911. The scanner was saying a heart attack. He was half in the road, half to the side, and he didn’t appear to be breathing.”
Me: “Lucky he wasn’t hit.”
Diane: “I know. But the funny thing was he had his cell phone to his head, and his other hand was outstretched holding the cover. So, the EMT person took his pulse and it was extremely weak. Then, all of a sudden, he stood up and started talking.”
Me: “Who is he?”
Diane: “He’s a Mexican farmworker, said his name is Mario.”
Me: “MARIO? He works for me, my main man for the last 7 years. Holy crap!”

I turned behind me and could see the lights for my farmworker housing. Oh, crap. But as I walked closer, much to my relief, I could see it wasn’t the same Mario. Thank God.

Diane: “I asked him if he was drunk and he said no. But he has to be drunk. Do you recognize him?”
Me: “No, I don’t.”

As I got closer I could hear the Warwick Town cop and the EMT guy questioning him. They were insisting he had to go tot he hospital to be checked out. As one of the other EMTs took him to the ambulance I asked them what he said. He told them something about he was drinking down the road and works for the Koreans and lives somewhere along Pulaski Highway. I told them I didn’t think the Koreans had housing for their workers. They said he lives like a 20 minute walk from where he was drinking. He told them he was drinking at the Farmworker Community Center, known as the Alamo, but I told them that is impossible, they don’t allow that there and they close early on Saturdays.

Before they took him into the ambulance he said he was “walking with his amigo” who is somewhere around here. The cop starting shining a flashlight in the brush along the highway. We all started peering into the grass along the road. We didn’t see any signs of anyone, so either his friend just left him to sleep it off in the road, had passed out at a different section of the road or never had a friend with him to begin with. What was amazing was this guy had to be stone cold drunk yet he wasn’t bobbing or weaving at all, but was standing straight as an arrow.

We all agreed that he was lucky to still be alive. people do not typically obey the speed limit of 45 mph on Pulaski Highway (http://youtu.be/JqHW4VUk3o0), especially on the stretch by my house, and at 55 mph or faster you would probably not be able to see him in time to avoid him, from where he was passed out. Though Pulaski Highway is a very heavily traveled road the entire time this whole incident played out, which was 45 minutes or so, only a couple of vehicles came by and had to turn around or wait to pass thru.

Diane and I told what happened to our neighbor Mike and his daughter, then we parted ways to head back to bed … after laughing over the whole situation.

Once again our favorite phrase on the farm came to mind … you can’t make this sh*t up.

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WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL?

So, Joey and I are out on a field of onions down Indiana Road going thru the fields doing some cultivating on our AC-G’s with a Buddingh Basket Weeder (http://www.buddinghweeder.com) and I called my dad to pick us up at noon or so.

I see him come down Indiana and stop at the bridge in front of the field. I park the tractor about 25 feet away and I am hit with an overpowering smell of skunk!

Me: “What the hell happened?”
Dad: “I caught a skunk, a baby skunk in a trap by the house … I let it out, put some cardboard over it … it didn’t spray me.”
Me: “You stink … I can smell you 30 feet away … it had to have had sprayed you.”
Dad: “It didn’t … I don’t know.”

At this point Joey pulls up with his tractor. I yell to him that my dad stinks. He yells back “No kidding, I can smell him from here … what the hell did you do?”

He repeats what he told me. Joey takes his shirt and covers it over his face. I have my head sticking out the window. Joey climbs into the back of the jeep from my side and cries for dad to open his window. he can’t … it’s broken.

Me: “Oh my God … this is terrible.”
Dad: “Ahh .. you eventually get used to it.”
Joey: “No you don’t. This is awful.”
Dad: “Maybe it sprayed on the ground and I sort of stepped in it. It could be on my shoes. I don’t know.”
Joey: “Gracie is going to love you. You better stay out of the house. And change your clothes.”
Me: “Pour gas on your shoes.”
Joey: “No, pour diesel fuel. That will take it out.”
Me: “I can’t breathe. I’m going to gag. This is horrible. Don’t touch anything in this truck.”
Dad: “You get used to it.”

As we drove past the Quaker Creek Store (http://www.quakercreekstore.com) my dad says with a smile “hey, you can smell the lunch special at Quaker Creek.” I replied with “Are you crazy? I just smell skunk.”

After I got home I called my mom and asked her if she could smell him.

Mom: “Yes! Are you nuts. He left his clothes outside.”
Me: “What was it on?”
Mom: (laughing) “He thinks now his pants were sprayed.

Just another day on the farm.