2012.08.01 Worry, with a side of compost

Written by David Green.


I am eating Maddie’s crackers.

They are her favorites: Late July brand. “Organic, Classic Rich, Flaky, Buttery Tasting Crackers” it says on the box. Their expense keeps us from buying them except when they’re on sale. 

I bought the box several months ago in a moment of weakness at the food co-op in Ann Arbor. They weren’t on sale, but I missed Maddie and it sounded like she might be coming home. I thought she’d be happy to find them in the house after months of travel.

But then she changed her plans again and they’ve sat on the shelf, waiting, while she continued her travels in New Zealand.

And then a few weeks ago, she flew to Australia hoping to learn to surf and sail. Several days after landing, she arranged two sailing trips, one for two nights and the other for two weeks, and then planned to head home, probably by Aug. 24. 

And then Monday evening came this text:

“Would you be mad if I went back to New Zealand and worked/traveled in the north island?”

She was having some difficulty making flight arrangements for an August 24 departure and the ticket was going to cost way more than she anticipated. I’m not sure why she asked if I’d be mad. It doesn’t really matter if I get mad or jump up and down with joy. She’s going to do whatever she’s going to do, and it’s not looking like it’s going to involve getting on a plane any time soon.

So, tonight, looking for something to snack on after an uninspiring, weak dinner, I made a bold decision. The heck with saving the crackers for Maddie. Chances are, she won’t be home before their “Best by” date of Sept. 13, 2012. I opened the box and lavished them with peanut butter.

I am worn out from worry.

“Survived first night on the water and I love it,” she had texted a few days ago.

Oy. I had so hoped she would get seasick and not go on the next arrangement she’d made through a website, sailing with some unknown older man and some other girl.

I kicked myself for not encouraging her to take advantage of an internship she was offered back in April for this summer. An internship on the land, not the sea.

When Maddie took off for New Zealand in January, she had planned to return in May—either to begin an interesting internship in Santa Cruz, or, hopefully, to begin one of several other intern opportunities she was applying for in California.

Before she left, she had to spend a week at the Santa Cruz place, Love Apple Farms, to see if she and they were compatible, and for them to decide if she would be accepted into the Farm Apprenticeship Training Program. The visit would also allow her to see firsthand what it would be like.

It’s the kind of program she could probably have done at an organic farm in Michigan. But then she would be in Michigan, not California. And California has the advantage of being California, so when Love Apple says it “integrates the rigors of traditional farming practices with modern organic and biodynamic values and sustainable, high-end farm to table standards,” that sounds a lot better than  a Michigan farm saying the same thing. 

Plus, “With unparalleled attention to detail and devotion to quality, owners Cynthia Sandberg and Daniel Maxfield have elevated Love Apple Farms from a small garden to a widely-renowned farm and agricultural education center”—in California.

“So, what’s the story?” I texted her after her visit. “Did you like Love Apple and vice versa?”

“Yeah, I don’t know. It was nice, but I won’t be super upset if they don’t want me,” she said.

“Was it the dead-gopher-in-the-compost bit that dampened your enthusiasm?” I asked.

I was referring to a gory detail in an e-mail she had sent while at Love Apple.

“Drank goat milk from a champagne glass 5 minutes after it was milked, shoveled a giant pile of compost, Swiss chard sautéed with garlic on quinoa for lunch, sat in on an aromatherapy class, shoveled and carried some more, farm dinner (I ate soup!) and now I have a 5 minute hot shower...not too bad!

“Oh and I picked up a torn apart gopher doggy poop style and buried it in the compost.”

“What?!” I emailed back. “How did it get torn apart? I thought compost isn’t supposed to have meat in it...”

“Dog,” she said explaining the gopher’s demise.” 

“I don’t know...Uncooked rodents are OK?” she surmised about the gopher’s final resting place.

Yes, uncooked rodents are OK in compost piles in America. Come back and learn some more, Maddie.

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