One night not too long ago I opened the recycling bin to add an egg carton and right on top of the empty jar of maple syrup was a roach! At least I think it was a roach–it was a skinny, flat, reddish-brown bug with long legs and antennae–and it was long! Maybe two inches long. For an instant I was ready to head back to the farm.

I’d never actually seen a roach before. Garden spiders half the size of tarantulas with furry legs that scuttle across the big farm kitchen floor? Yes. I use a handy-dandy gizmo from Lee Valley to trap them and then release them outside. Rats with really ugly bare tails? Yes–one took up residence in our broken dishwasher for a while. (That’s another story.) Bats swooping through the bedrooms just after we turned off the lights at night? Yes. We even had a whole colony of mice living in the insulation of our attic. At one point we’d pulled down the kitchen ceiling so all that separated us from the mice community was thick, transparent plastic–we could watch them going about their business. So why did this one roach seem creepier than any of our farm critters? Most wild creatures find their way into a farmhouse by accident. They’d much rather be outside and if you let them out, they don’t come back. But this roach seemed quite at home inspecting that maple syrup jar. It obviously wanted to be there.

Or maybe it’s just the way it slunk around. It’s so flat, it could disappear into a crack in an instant.

What do you do when you see a roach? “Catch it and let it outside,” was my first plan–that’s what I do with the spiders in the farmhouse. But letting a bug outside in Brooklyn is complicated. On the farm you just catch the bug in a jar, open the back door (which is rarely locked and usually not even shut in the summer), step outside and upend the jar over the nearest plant. In Brooklyn, first you have to find the keys. Then unlock the apartment door, then run downstairs, open two more doors–all while holding the jar with the roach in one hand. Finally you’re out on the stoop–with a million people walking by. They probably don’t want a roach dumped on their shoes. And the nearest park is at least three blocks away. There’s nothing to entice the critter to stay outside. It’s likely to scoot right back to your nice recycle bin.

So I grabbed the top of the plastic bag holding our recycling and twisted it together with the roach inside. Then I dumped the whole bag into the recycling barrel by the front stoop. Then I took the trash out and dumped it in the trash barrel. Then I sent a calm and controlled email to my daughter, her wife, and for good measure my other daughter who was rehearsing a show in New Jersey, asking for advice on what else to do. Poisons are not an option. After all, we came from an organic farm. We don’t poison anything–animal or vegetable. They all said, “Don’t worry, Mom. Your apartment is probably not overrun with roaches.”

We already wash our recycling and compost our edible wastes. The cabinets are clean.  I never leave dirty dishes on the sink. (You can’t do that in the country. You might not get roaches, but the mice would have a field day!) I haven’t seen another roach inside–or any other bug for that matter. So I’m not worrying. But I’m keeping the compost in the fridge and tying the recycling and trash bags shut. I’m vacuuming the floor every day and looking under the covers before I get into bed at night. Roaches. Yuck!

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