AgriCulture: Country Monkeypox

A neighbor was late for his tour of the farm. And he seemed like such a responsible fellow! We had arranged the meeting a month earlier. Doodle’s formula was in bottles and all my various equipment for a demonstration of chores was prepared. Twenty minutes later, the phone rang and he apologetically explained. The reason? He had snagged a last-minute appointment in Brooklyn to get the monkeypox vaccine.

My Country Monkeypox Vine Photo by Mark Scherzer

He assumed I would be understanding, and I most certainly was. Most of the gay men I know are desperate for these shots. Friends are refreshing their phone screens dozens of times on end trying to score a scarce vaccination slot. People who wouldn’t be caught dead in Staten Island consider crossing the Narrows for an appointment. One friend told me he had had just two sexual encounters in the entire past year — both with the same ex-boyfriend (“And he’s crazy safe!” he assured me). Yet this friend was still considering attesting to multiple or anonymous sexual partners in the past two weeks to get the jab. “We’ve reached a point in history where I have to lie to the government about having tons more gay sex just to be medically safe! What a bizarre future we’ve ended up in!” he ranted. “What if it got me on some list of names President Ron DeSantis eventually uses to round up gays? I’d be so pissed.”

The basis for this vigorous vaccine enthusiasm is not hard to understand. Most of these friends came of age during the AIDS epidemic, which, like monkeypox, disproportionately affected gay men. While monkeypox is not usually fatal, its symptoms are gross, painful and unpleasant, and you don’t even have to have sex to get it. People are determined not to let yet another novel disease up-end their lives and send them back into social isolation. Plus, we all share the recent COVID experience in which vaccines proved their worth.

While my circumstances living on the farm don’t give me the same sense of urgency about monkeypox, I fully intend to get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. Every time I look at my forearm, and try to refrain from scratching the bleeding scabs and oozing pustules of the attack of poison ivy that’s currently plaguing me, I think, Get that shot! Yes, I have what I’d call “country monkeypox.”

I’m usually pretty good at avoiding poison ivy, which is a recurrent invader on my property. I can spot it readily. If I should brush against a leaf or accidentally pull out a vine by hand, I immediately wash up with my tube of Tecnu.

But last week, while working with Eric to replace a frayed clothes line that had finally broken, my vigilance lapsed. I had to loop the line through a pulley, attached about 12 feet up to a post on the deer fencing. I climbed the ladder, and then I noticed some huge green leaves overhanging the pulley.

Poison ivy? I asked myself. Well, it looks kind of like it, but the usual notch in the leaf is barely there, and these leaves are huge — at least twice as big as poison ivy leaves should be. And they’re the same color as the leaves of the weedy cherry tree just on the other side of the fence that I’ve been meaning to chop down. I took the chance, and have been itchy ever since.

As with monkeypox, all you need is that glancing contact. In the case of poison ivy, you just need to have your skin (or clothing that your skin then touches) brush against an oily resin called urushiol that’s on the leaves and vines of the poison ivy. And I clearly brushed, as two days later I exploded in itching on the back of my hand, on my wrist, and up the forearm. Even a bit on the bicep. Behind the itch came the oozing pustules. On those spots, I had to rely exclusively on calamine lotion and caldesene powder (like Tecnu, great products) to dry the pustules and ease the itch.

I went into the public health mode we’ve all learned during COVID — avoid infecting others. I powdered the arm heavily whenever I’d be near people. I even wore a bandage around it if I thought there might be skin-to-skin contact. I had always assumed the oozing pustules would move the poison oil around and transmit it to others. Having read up on things at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins websites, I now realize that it’s not contagious that way. The pus is your own body’s product, the result of the allergic reaction 85% of the population has to urushiol. Gross, but not the poison.

Also, I realize that I’d better get used to those huge poison ivy leaves. According to at least some studies, poison ivy has become both much larger and more virulent in recent years, another by-product of climate change. Additional atmospheric carbon invigorates vine growth.

With vaccines coming for everything, why couldn’t they just develop one against poison ivy? And why not add it to a semi-annual cocktail vaccine with Lyme Disease and Shingles? I’d be for all of them! A triumphant Poison Ivy/ Monkey Pox/ Lyme/Shingles/ COVID combo (PI-MP-LY-iSH COVID). I’d happily refresh on my phone for an hour for an appointment in Staten Island.

(Please take this lighthearted missive as a reminder to get vaccinated, friends! )


Zucchini: pale green, small 3 for $2, larger $2 each 
EGGS: $5/doz Less plentiful (flock has been decimated by predators) but still available 
Lamb chops $14/lb, ground lamb $7/lb, riblets $10/lb., butterflied leg of lamb $14/lb, shanks $12/lb 
Garlic: $2/head 
Mint, $1/bunch 
Fresh horseradish root: $4/lb. 
Garlic chives (flat leafed): $1/bunch 
Rhubarb $4/lb 
Sorrel $3/bag 
Shiso leaves, $1 for 10


Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.


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