Moving a barn …

Allow me to formally introduce my dad, 3rd generation onion farmer Richard Pawelski.


My dad is a thinker and a doer. As he often says:

“I have an idea stuck in my head.”

Frequently these ideas come to him in the middle of the night. They percolate and then come to fruition. Frequently.

Sometimes these ideas which get lodged in his head are good things. He’s always on the hunt for scrap lumber or tin and is always building something, or taking something apart. As our good friend Tom Savaglio has remarked, “you are a cobbler Rich, always doing something!”

The piece of property between my house and his, called “The Cemetery,” is filled with incredibly large Rich-made structures all put together with cannibalized wood and other materials. “I only had to pay for the nails” he has often remarked.

As I said, sometimes these projects work out quite well … sometimes, not so much. Sometimes he is not so easily dissuaded from one of the “ideas stuck in his head.” Allow me to share the narrative of one of those ideas.

See this barn on my yard:

barn today

That barn years ago used to be on my dad’s yard. here is a vintage photo of it when my brother and I were really young (this pic is from circa 1971 or so):


At some point in our early childhood my dad cut the side of the barn off and moved the primary structure to a different spot in his yard. I don’t recall how exactly he moved it, but I faintly remember him doing it.

Well, he then decided, sometime in the early 80’s, that he was going to move it from his yard to my grandmother’s yard (where I live now and it sits to this day) so all of his primary barns would be in one location. How was he going to move it?

He was going to take this forklift:


He was going to drive into the barn, lift it and have it balanced on the forklift, then he was going to drive it down this 1,000 foot driveway:


And then drive it over 1,500 feet down Pulaski Highway to the other yard:

Pulaski Highway

I am not making any of this up. I remember, distinctly, everyone protesting this idea, me, my brother, my mom, etc …. We thought it was insane, but, as usual, my dad was not to be deterred. He even enlisted our neighbor and his good friend Ed Ratynski to stop traffic along Pulaski Highway as he slowly drove the barn down the highway.

I asked my dad the other day what happened next, and as he recalled, chuckling about it:

“I thought it would work … I had the idea in my head. But then as I started down the driveway, and the driveway wasn’t even, the barn started tilting toward the ditch. Then I decided it wasn’t a good idea and went back up the driveway.”

Another neighbor eventually suggested putting the barn on a wagon and then driving through the black dirt fields between the properties to the new location. And voilà the barn was moved!

In recapping this event with my dad the other day he lamented:

“I should have left the barn where it originally was, before I moved it the first time. The yard would have been more picturesque.”

But, if he hadn’t moved it we wouldn’t have had this story!

After moving it to its current resting place my dad built another side addition with his scraps and “timbers” and it houses a number pieces of equipment, including one of our AC-G’s, our Cat-22 and under the side addition our ditchbank sprayer, fertilizer spreader and Case 350. It is quite useful.

Hand signals are not what I need …

Somehow last week I hurt my back. How, I don’t know. I somehow strained my lower right side. Not the left, just the right. The pain was severe enough I went once again to my preferred massage therapist Lori at Tranquil Touch Day Spa.—Facials.html

Four times now when I have been in pretty decent sorts I have gone to her for a 30 minute treatment and she virtually heals me. Shortly after a treatment from her I am able to get back out in the fields and resume abusing my body.

So, this Saturday she treated me and my back felt better. The problem though was the pain migrated into my right hip and down my right leg. It hurts, and it is difficult for me to drive. But, yesterday my father and brother’s transplants needed their second fungicide/insecticide spray, so … I had to spray.

I’m wearing the outfit you see in the picture at the bottom. It is not exactly comfortable to begin with. As I drove the 140A out to the field I then realized the right brake was sticking. Every time I depressed it I had to stick my foot under it and push it back.

And each time I did that the pain was excruciating. To top it off it was hot, my tractor was missing (something was wrong with the motor) and I had limited range of movement.

When you operate this rig you are going at a decent speed and you have to depress the brake or you will go into the ditch. Each time I did it it felt like a knife was going down my leg. Then I felt it again as I got the brake unstuck.

My solution was to depress the clutch a bit early and come to a stop before the ditch without depressing the brake, or depressing it less frequently. This meant that a foot or two of onions were not getting sprayed. Small price to pay versus the pain.

I’m finishing the second field and am about to head back tot he tank truck to get filled up by my dad when I turn and look and see him doing one of his frantic hand signals.

He is always doing hand signals. I am supposed to be able to read his mind and understand them. I just looked at him and thought that maybe he was stretching or something. I pulled up to the tank truck, he attached the quick coupler and started to fill my tanks. He then walked over to the tractor and in a snide voice said:

“You aren’t spraying to the end. You are leaving a couple of feet. You need to spray to the end.”

He knew my side was killing me. But once again “Mr. Id” forgot. It was hot, I was in pain, the tractor wasn’t running right, and I let loose with an expletive filled tirade that dutifully informed him about my leg, hip and back pain and inability to easily apply my brakes. he laughed and said:

“Sorry … I forgot that.”

I immediately calmed down, he finished filling me up, and I eventually finished spraying for the day.



DSC01298 DSC01292


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 ( 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 ( 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.

The usual and some wacky odds and ends ….


So … first, I’m looking to buy a used jeep to replace my ailing Ford Explorer/Eddie Bauer. Been on Craigslist for a few months and finally spotted a potential up in Rock Hill, NY, about 45 minutes north of me. My dad called the guy and we set off to look at it this morning. On the way dad and I chatted … here is the best exchange:

Dad: “I went to see the urologist yesterday morning.”
Me: (pausing from texting and perked up for what was about to be delivered) “And?”
Dad: “The doctor wanted a urine sample, but I didn’t have to go much. When I handed it to them I said, ‘my fluids are low, if I was an engine a check fluid light would have gone off to alert me.'”
Me: “How on earth did they react?”
Dad: “They laughed … that’s cute isn’t it, it just popped into my head.”
Me: “What did mom think?”
Dad: “She said ‘that’s not funny Richie!'”

Before we knew it, we got to the exit off of NY 17 for Rock Hill. The seller told my dad to call him for final directions when we got off the exit. The exit ended in a t and we chose to slowly go to the right. I tried to call the dude but the phone eventually went to voicemail. We pulled off the road and I tried again. On the third time he picked up. It sounded as if I woke him up, or he was stoned. I told him we just got off the exit and he said to go left and then said something about a sharp curve and even after repeating himself four times I could not decipher the rest of what he was saying. We proceeded along slowly and within a half mile or even less we saw the jeep.

As we pulled in the driveway we found debris everywhere, toys, and just general stuff, including what appeared to be a ripped open bag of garbage. Shortly after we got out of the car the owner appeared. We shook hands and then he proceeded to back the truck up for us. There was considerable more rust and damage than he indicated in the ad … and the truck was a filthy mess inside of it. My dad says to the owner “looks like you put up the picture of the good side” and then chuckled like he does. The guy either just woke up or was on something. My dad says to him “there’s quite a bit of rust here” and he responds with, a bit loud, “what, are you crazy?”

I just want to get out of there … we are on the border of the lands with the sort of people that make you squeal like a pig … if you get my drift, and I don’t want to irritate anyone. I’m giving my dad looks to shut up, which he never saw. We left it with I would get back to him.

Me: “I don’t want that, it’s not worth a fraction of what he’s charging. And it was filthy inside. Who sells something like that?”
Dad: “I know, and did you see the cup holder? It was wet … with something sticky in it.”

My dad made a point of mentioning this to me like 3 times.

On the way back my dad says:

Dad: “What a mess outside, what do you think it looked like inside? I wouldn’t give him $100 for it. And the wife was still sleeping he said …at 9:30, still sleeping.”
Me: “I know.”
Dad: “One time a couple of years ago I went to see an air compressor that I saw an ad for. Place looked like this one outside. The guy invites me inside … he has the compressor in his BEDROOM … in his bedroom (chuckles). What a mess, guys sleeping all over. I was going to buy it but he said ‘how do I know your check is good?’ What does he think I’m going to do, it’s a good check! I ended up not buying it.”

I thought this would be the most interesting exchanges for me today. But I was wrong. At around 1pm I got a call from someone in Goshen. Speaking of “squealing like a pig” as I mentioned before …

Me: “Hello?”
Woman: “Is this the farm on Pulaski Highway?
Me: (short pause) “Uhm, yes, one of them.”
Woman: “One of them … good. Can you tell me who has some pigs? I have a bunch of relative from NYC who are coming to visit today. They have a bunch of small children. They’d like to see some baby pigs. Know where we can find them?”
Me: (holding back laughter … and thinking about my friend from the Ukraine Boris who stopped at the farm a few years ago looking for “back fat from pig, 2 to 3 inches thick, 2,000 to 3,000 lbs”) “Well … offhand no but let me ask my friend Maire at Cornell Cooperative Extension and see what I can find out. I’ll text her and call you back.”
Woman: “Thank you!”

About an hour later Maire texted me back and said she knew of no one locally that raised pigs, or had a petting zoo like that, but, they could go to Bellvale Farms Creamery in Warwick and they have tours of their dairy farm on the weekend and great ice cream. So, I called her back, related the information and she was very excited and thanked me profusely.

Strangest thing today … of course the day isn’t over yet.

My dad and Superstar Billy Graham

My dad is a lot like Billy Graham … no, not the tv preacher but the old-time professional wrestler. I remember reading an article about him back in the 70’s and in the article said he didn’t comb his own hair or do anything … he just dictated to people “comb my hair” or “tie my shoes” or stuff like that. He must have once served in the military or something because …

… that’s just like my dad. My dad was once in the army and some aspects of army life have never left him. He quite frequently will look at me and say “do this” or “do that.” No please … just do it … just like the Superstar. No, it’s not to comb his hair but to get him a wrench or move something with the forklift … I’m in the army … under Rich’s command … I’m the servant of “Superstar Rich Pawelski!”

PS … classic Superstar Billy Graham quotes:

  • I lift barbell plates. I eat T-bone steaks. I’m sweeter than a German chocolate cake. How much more of me can you take?
  • I’m the reflection of perfection, the number one selection.
  • I’m the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour.
  • I am the women’s pet, the men’s regret. What you see is what you get. And what you don’t see is better yet.
  • I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. There’s nobody as beautiful or as powerful as me!
  • I am the sensation of the nation. The number-one creation.
  • This is what the world waits for. The world out there asks, ‘What’s the Superstar going to wear next?’ Not, ‘Who’s he going to whip next?’ but what in the world is the Superstar going to wear. And I’ve got millions of letters saying, ‘Superstar, would you please lay some yellow on me, daddy?’
  • Marilyn Monroe looks her best when she is sitting on the Superstar’s chest (On wearing a Marilyn Monroe t-shirt.)
  • What you gonna do when the Superstar comes down on you?

Get her some damn bread ….

Within a 1 hour time span my mom left 3 messages on the barn answering machine and talked to my dad live …. telling him there is no bread in the house and he needs to get some pdq!

Dad (on phone with mom): “You mean there isn’t even 2 slices for a sandwich at lunch?”

Mom: “NO! Get some bread!”

I think he has since gotten her some bread!