A weekly CSA full of carrots makes a delicious gift, but last year when I was craving a fresh rhubarb crisp, our CSA farmer Clyde Gunderson delivered a bushel of kale. Incidentally green kale combined with blueberries and a shot of apple juice, makes another color — brown. Hence, the term Poo Smoothie made its way into our food lexicon. But, more to the point, why squander good money on fertilizer and compost when Andres and I toss it out of my room every day?
Madam, on the other hand, swoons when the spring seed catalogs arrive. Daffodils, mums, heirloom tomatoes — she sticks them in the ground the minute she can chisel a hole in the dirt. A case in point: last spring, she expanded her petite kitchen garden into an enterprise worthy of the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum. Size, by the way, didn’t necessarily spell success. Just about the time she popped a fabulous looking head of cauliflower into boiling water, an entire worm family swam for cover. Thus ended the blanch-and-freeze operation. Yet, Madam is nothing if not persistent.
Armed with this information, I should not have been surprised when she texted me to ask if I would bring big Sven over to her place to help tidy up last year’s botanical behemoth. According to her, it was a job requiring horsepower from manly specimens like the two of us.
“We’ll need to pull your Comfy Sundowner trailer out of the shed for this little undertaking,” she added. “All the garden litter and leftover pumpkins will never fit in the Subaru Outback.”
“Um, how about bagging the stuff and leaving it on the curb for Aspen Waste Management,” I suggested. If memory serves, last year’s clean up produced a number of hidden surprises including slippery night crawlers and a petrified vole.
I tried to explain. “The idea of thawing rabbit poo and rotted hostas joyriding in my Comfy Sundowner just feels wrong,” I offered politely. “And sharing space with rodent carcasses doesn’t appeal to Sven either. He might be a big shire but he happens to be afraid of mice.”
It helped her case that she kept referring to Sven and me as manly specimens. So, with minimal coaxing and the promise of a Dairy Queen Moo Latte, we agreed to help. Sven loaded up our Bobcat Gator and a few pitchforks, and Madam drove us to her home for a morning of garden prep.
Once we filled the Comfy Sundowner, she announced, “Okay boys, jump in. We’re off to the St. Claire Avenue compost site to get rid of this stuff.”
We climbed in. Sven tied a dish towel over his nose cowboy style to protect against the Eau de Squirrel fragrance that wafted from within. Fortunately the ride took just minutes, though lots of other folks had the same idea. Fully loaded cars and trucks wound around the driveway and down the street. So, we caught a quick nap while we waited. Once Madam reached the front of the line, she pulled up to the nearest pile of organic matter and started pitching while Sven and I waited inside the trailer.
Folks must have been feeling jumpy with all that waiting because, soon enough, a fracas broke out somewhere in the next row over.
“What’s all that shouting?” whispered Sven.
I stretched my neck attempting to get a look out my window, just in time for a rotten tomato to smack the glass. I ducked, and Sven gasped. More shouts followed. “It’s coming from that red van,” I whispered back. “Can you see anything from your side?”
“All I can see is Madam pointing at a sign that says No Guns, Fighting, or Foul Language Allowed on these Premises. Violators will be Prosecuted!” Just about then, a muddy cantaloupe ricocheted off the trailer door, as Madam yanked it open and jumped in. Armed with a pitchfork and a plastic bag, she appeared to be ready for a firm discussion.
“Why don’t you just call 911 and let the authorities stop over for a word,” I suggested, to no avail. (No pun intended).
“You boys don’t move a whisker,” she commanded, disregarding my entreaty. “I’m tossing the rest of this stuff right out the back door, and we’ll be out of here in a flash. “
By now, the shouting had escalated to an unruly level, and I could see the site supervisor galloping across the parking area waving his fist. A woman in a pink tube top bellowed at her boyfriend Frank calling him a good for nothing lump. A guy named Billy threw a punch at a fellow driving a Ford Super Duty pickup. Just at that moment, a can of beer made it through the pickup driver’s open window. That was when the foul language struck a high note.
Meanwhile, Madam kept pushing garden remains out the trailer door. She then slammed and bolted the tailgate, jumped in her Dodge Ram, and drove for home like a volunteer firefighter on her way to a four- alarmer.
“What the heck was that about?” Sven squeaked as we bounced over a curb and up the hill. “I thought compost sites were friendly places where folks traded tips on grilling sweet corn.”
“Hmm… I suppose that sign should have been our first clue,” I reasoned out loud. “I’ll have to admit though, that woman in pink had quite an arm to pitch a full can of beer through a truck window.” Sven shuddered at the thought.
“Not a chance,” I replied. Once she gets a big idea, she’s hard to deter.
— Noah Vail
Noah Vail and Mary Farr have collaborated on a book, Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and the Power of You. Noah, author, philosopher, humorist, gin rummy ace and all-around “good news sort of guy,” blogs here. Never Say Neigh won an honorable mention in the 2013 Paris Book Festival. Their newest book, When Your Plan A Bombs, is due out in June.