WWOOF Day 15: Ants

Randy came by today and we worked vigorously on tilling the old corn husks to prepare the bed for being left fallow and weeding and watering the rest of the plots. It was nice to see him again and it was equally exciting to be in Santa Barbara soon after adventuring around the outskirts for such a long time.

The excitement was reeled in by Randy telling me that I was losing his trust because he did not think I completely understood the irrigation system. When he asked me about the amount of valves it took to water each field, I answered him genuinely, but I was short on one of the plots. Between his diction and tone, it was rather hard to think anything besides that his perception of me was that of incompetence. He asked me if we needed to go over it again and I agreed without reluctance. When we looked over the notes, it appeared as if I was following orders as given, but the notes themselves were wrong. They were his notes and he corrected the mistake on paper, but it was an empty gesture as I never looked at them again. I committed it to memory and refused to make the same mistake again.

After all, I did go to college.

While we were taking a break under the shade of the packing station, he asked me if I needed a pep talk. I was frustrated now and it may have been apparent despite my eagerness to still do his bidding. “Sure,” was my answer accompanied by a bit of smiling and confusion. He told me that I probably didn’t need one, but he soon started it anyways. He asked me, “What do humans struggle with the most in life?” I told him I didn’t know the answer to that, but it was “satisfaction.” He said people get their expectations too high and soon trailed off after a few more words. There was nothing more to the talk and it didn’t come up again. It seemed as if this was his roundabout way of apologizing, or realizing that my mistakes were founded in a honest effort to do what he asked of me. I nodded along and accepted it as such.

Now that the tension was diffused, the ride back to Santa Barbara was rather comfortable. He asked me more questions, this time increasingly personal and with little tact. We got to his residence about an hour later and I went to set up my tent while he went inside to start dinner. I pitched it, threw my gear inside and changed as quickly as possible to meet him and his wife at the house.

Inside, there were ants crawling everywhere. There was a steady stream of them from sink to the counter top, around the compost bin and lining the floor out of the door to the trashcan outside. His wife Dolly, offered me some tea and in the usual fashion I accepted, although there were ants crawling around inside the mugs that were kept on a rack on the counter. Now thinking about the mesh sun roof in my tent, I was hoping that they wouldn’t weasel their way inside.

Dolly, or Dorothy, is Randy’s wife and a soft spoken grandmother like figure. She has an upward affection in her voice and speaks slowly, with a whistling like quality. She is noticeably shorter than Randy, with a shoulders forward posture and has straight, sandy grey hair that curves at the bottom just over them. When she speaks, it always seems reserved, especially compared to Randy’s boisterous and often condescending nature of talking.

We ate dinner outside at a patio table and I explained to her my purpose for traveling and how I managed to get to the west coast. Randy preferred this over what he said was her boring chatter about the women who she deals with at work. They offered me a lot of food, which I was appreciative of, because I didn’t cook very much for myself when I was out at the farm house. I was comfortable eating the fresh vegetable salad that was for dinner, because I knew that Randy understood the dietary restrictions of vegans. Dolly offered me some toast with peanut butter to accompany the meal and brought it out to the table with an extra layer of fresh butter on it. Randy chastised her for not really understanding that butter was included in the long list of “things vegans can’t eat.” She politely took those pieces for herself and came back soon with more toast to replace them.

I read for a short period of time in the living room of their house before heading to bed. As I sprawled across my sleeping pad, I spotted movement. There were a couple ants scurrying back and forth along the mesh and seam of the tent. After some scouring around and inspection with my headlamp, I also noticed them moving around the lining of my open pack and in the corner where I rest my head.

There was no winning; I was in their territory now. Reluctantly accepting this fact and reassuring myself of how the Zen masters would meditate under trees,  I ended up convincing myself to fall asleep.