We almost didn’t go to the Chinese farm.
You’d think with the way we complain about food safety and fresh air that we’d have run for this organic farm at a sprint. But, alas… organic farms in China have the same problem as normal farms in China: they’re outside. And going outside here tends to be bad for your health.
But this time we got lucky. The night before the farm visit, well after we’d decided the air quality was too bad to go, the winds took a swerve for the better and we woke up to discover that going outside wouldn’t kill us. It wouldn’t be good for us either, but we’ll take what we can get.
So to the farm it was. It was drizzling and grey out but we were so thrilled to be leaving the house that we had no complaints.
The farm was a small one that raised wonderful organic vegetables and had real broccoli growing right out of the ground. It also smelled a lot less like livestock than I'd expected despite raising cows, goats, and chickens on the grounds.
Take the chicken coop that didn’t smell like chickens – you’d hardly know it was there. This was especially impressive since it wasn’t a coop so much as a chicken-filled building.
No matter what you called it, the most entertaining part of the trip was standing next to this nearly odorless chicken-filled building and watching peoples’ reactions to what they saw inside.
It usually started with “Holy” and ended with language a little less pure. You couldn’t help yourself. There were just so many chickens and no reason to suspect they were there.
But if we’re making a list of farm shockers, let’s skip ahead to the giant spiders.
These are not the spiders you find in your house and leave in the corner/blinds/whatever to eat other bugs. No, farm spiders are the spiders that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up as you calculate how fast something with eight legs, each several inches long, can run in your direction.
And have I mentioned they’re toxic?
I was admiring the farm’s reconstituted wetland, which looked a lot like a grove of apple trees, when I noticed webbed sheets of spiders stretched between the trees. Giant green- and black-striped bodies hung in midair and repeated row upon row into the distance. The scale of spider domination was fairly horrifying and made me wonder if I would run through the field to escape a murderer in chase. I was thinking this question through when the farmhand next to me asked, “Did you know they’re toxic?”
He went on, “They’re worse in the summer. In the summer they’re much fatter than now. And if you’re riding your bike,” he continued, “they’ll definitely jump on your face and bite you. The bites will hurt at first, but the poison will make it numb and you’ll be okay.”
The look of disbelief on my face asked the question that he answered. “Yes, it happened to me. But I got used to it.”
And this was pretty much when I decided that not only wasn’t I ever going to run through that field, I also wasn’t going to live on a farm. Bad air is a problem but when your skies are filled with spiders and you think it’s normal, that’s a nightmare even organic broccoli can’t solve.