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you are most likely...

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
... "to succeed" according to your high school yearbook! Not really. You are most likely really tired of reading about the ant crisis that has been going on here for several weeks. Or possibly years of surreptitious reproduction,  just now getting to the point of population explosion, like the billboards that show you household pests like rodents or roaches replicating over generations. A dire warning from pest control companies encouraging you to "nip it in the bud" as Barney Fife enjoyed demanding of those en route to the lock up in Mayberry.

Do you really want an update? No, I did not think you would. I swept the floor in the kitchen again this morning, and decided all the wee little corpses in the dust pan might look more like a spilled jar of instant coffee granules than the shaker of pepper flakes. I've been up on the step-stool twice changing out the little white squares with drops of taste-tempting bait the creatures are supposed to fall in love with.  We thought they were diminishing, then found the sneaky insects attacking from another direction. Now I am wondering if there might be some way to go undercover, slip into the enemy camp and get the general. If we could get their top strategy guy, dispose of the boss, perhaps we could win this battle? Leave them in disarray on the battlefield to beat a hasty retreat, eventually disperse and wander off to RIP?

My new BFF Larry, the bug guy did come back on Monday to spray around the house, when it was a bright sunny day outside perfect for decimating insects. I cautioned him about spraying the lawn, entire yard, as I would prefer to keep beneficials that pollinate, have the food chain remain intact, as long as it does not include me!  I went out briefly to supervise, as he was dragging his hose around the back of the house. When he sprayed along the foundation and then up under the soffit below the roof, he said he would spray around the chimney. I quickly backed up and went in the house, having breathed in enough spray from ammonia over recent weeks to have my sinus completely aired out. I put the ammonia bottle away, and have  not sprayed (though it works amazingly well) since we started putting out the little squares of purported, theoretical 'bait'  they've been enjoying.

I will continue the fight, with optimism, as does any one who puts on their camo. and heads off to war. I recall at some time in the past, in an unremembered location, seeing an entire house wrapped in plastic, that I assumed was being fumigated. Hopefully it won't come to that?

the dance was...

Monday, December 17, 2018
... somewhat premature, when I was hopping around the kitchen, doing the hand-jive, celebrating the end of the ant invasion. They are still in residence. My anticipation that the squatters residing in the brickwork/walls of our residence were being evicted was sadly misplaced. They are still doing what ants industriously do. Arrrrgggghhhhh...

My new BFF, Larry the Bug guy planned to return on Friday afternoon to walk around the exterior of the house with his industrial strength chemicals and spray along the foundation, and yard near the house. He called to report that it would be best to wait and do the work on a different day after it started raining. Somewhat likely he was not remotely interested in working on Friday afternoon, and the change in weather was a fortuitous excuse. I hope he will drop by for a visit with his toxic sprayer today.

The weekend visitors had suggestions: get bait from the hardware store, strategically place in along the paths the insects were traveling like the Hebrews in the desert, going along a circular route. We  made a run to Wallyworld and got a little bottle of liquid. Actually read the directions, put out on small squares as the packaging instructed, and put dozens of small baited bits of paper along the upper edge of the wall. It was a big hit: the ants swarmed as if it were July and they were offered ice cream. We have periodically replaced the wee drops of clear sticky stuff, offering more treats as the insects have surrounded and consumed, with the hope/plan/promise they return home in droves and it is going back into the nest to be shared with extended family.

I've swept the floor in the kitchen a couple of times in recent days, and amazed at the numbers of tiny dots that go into the dust pan. Looking like someone spilled a can of  ground black pepper that needed cleaning up. There is evidence of more corpses on the tile floor, so it is time to sweep again. And still they come...

They apparently are getting addicted to the clear sticky substance we have been putting on little squares of a file card and sticking up near the molding: now they will probably be here for-ever as I am the supplier! I hope they won't expect me to foot the bill when they want to get into rehab?

it's not a big deal...

Sunday, December 16, 2018
.. but so annoying if you devote any time to considering how aggravating it is, it rapidly self-inflates to become much larger than it should. A relatively small problem in the overall scheme of things, but could become annoying. Mildly or more-so, depending on how much time you chose to invest. A frequent response to many of life's small annoyances you might hear: 'everything is relative'. You have to put things in perspective to realize there are not many things worth getting your blood pressure up over. Even though small things, left unattended can expand to appear monumental, it's really not a big deal.

When we moved into this house there was a teeny back porch on the north east side of the building. Over time we decided to get a screened porch added, as well as space for storage, adjacent to the carport. The connections for water and power for washer and dryer were up against the wall inside from the teeny porch. The vent for the dryer goes through the wall and blows hot air and dryer lint out there, where there used to be a teeny porch. But for many years the much larger porch has been screened, a space about eighth by twenty feet. Still that lint and hot air blows through little hole in the wall onto the concrete of the porch - making dust-bunnies, cobwebs and coating the screening.

It's been annoying to have to go out and sweep the porch, periodically corralling the dust-bunnies and swiping at the cobwebs to keep from looking like a haunted house. It does not really qualify as an aggravation, and probably not actually worth writing and reading about, but it is very irritating as one of those household chores that never seems to 'stay' done. It should be cleaned up about once a week, but sadly I care remarkably little for housework, so it might happen every few months. Which means the lint accumulates, and we often appear to be decorated for Halloween.

I've asked several people for suggestions, ways to resolve the small splinter-sized annoyance. The answer appeared as the people from TN came for the weekend, planning to help with the 'honey-do' list that has accumulated for months. I'd think of things that need to be done, and either unwilling or unable to accomplish, often just not ready to devote the time to a variety of small projects that need attention. Then along comes the smart, resourceful guy who can seemingly puzzle out most any challenge, knowledgeable, practical and with a brain wired for taking things apart. How fortuitous there is a fix-it guy in the family, since all the others are no longer here with us!

He went to the ACE hardware store and came back with this little 'kit' in a box that seems to be the solution to the on-going minor irritation. The vent deposits the lint into the little plastic box, that has a couple of inches of water in it. When the fluffy stuff hits the water, it changes form, just like we learned in science class. It becomes a liquid, that will eventually turn into  a solid if the water reservoir is not kept filled - so you can just peel the lint off the bottom of the little container: poof! Problem solved!  

another thing...

... that I had on my list for the workers who came to spend the weekend: getting some projects done in the yard. Apparently it is very gratifying to get out the ladder, climb up on the roof with the blower and blast all the leaves that have fallen from overhanging trees. It's one of the things C. does each time he comes to visit. The man likes to be helpful, and I like to know there are not creatures residing in the trash that accumulates from season to season as the leaves and twigs fall. C. is actually the one who discovered an urgent need for a new roof, when a limb pierced the shingles on the back side of the house. Fell off a branch at the right angle to benefit from gravity and go straight in: through the shingles, tar paper, decking and into the attic.  How unlikely is that?

There are several things I hope to get done tomorrow: doing some trimming and planting. I have had a couple of large Styrofoam pots for a while, intending to plant some small holly bushes received as a gift. The hollies are deciduous: leaves drop in the fall, but hopefully they will keep red berries.  They have been in pots, planted in the ground, with plenty of mulch to survive the summer heat, get some size on them as they were very small when they first arrived. The big pots are half full of Styrofoam chunks so it would not take fifty pounds of soil to fill them for planting, making them impossible to relocate. I unearthed the holly plants and got them planted yesterday. Expecting the soil will settle down into the cracks around the filler and more will need to be added.

There are a couple of places along my frequently traveled route where these trees grow, very inconspicuous as drivers pass by. But in the winter when most trees are bare, and even the occasional deciduous  volunteer holly has shed greenery, the bright red berries lining the limbs are so pleasing to the eye, quite noticeable if you are paying attention to the landscape. I've been so enamored with those slender grey limbs, and colorful fruit, I have stopped more than once along the right of way to do a little trimming. Bringing several limbs home to put in a vase and enjoy colorful berries for days before they begin to fade, wither and drop.

I am really looking forward to seeing them grow and get big enough to have those pretty red berries hollies will make that are so colorful in the winter landscape. Plus mine are portable so if the time comes to relocate, the holly plants can go with me.The ones I transplanted into pots will never get as big and glorious as the photo that was borrowed from a nursery/grower on line, but I still anticipate the berries that will be so delightful when the plants mature a bit. I know when you put things in pots you deliberately limit their size by confining their roots, so don't expect the ones I have will turn into trees, but will nurture and watch them grow.

doing the happy dance...

Friday, December 14, 2018
... right here in my own house after a visit by the new, helpful, friendly, informative, responsive, attentive bug man. His name is Larry, and if I did not already have a best friend, I would have asked  him to consider being my BFF. He was most willing to tackle the problem, and spoke with such knowledge and authority I feel he has had experience with similar situations. He was quite chatty as he made his way around the kitchen putting out bait along the wood work and bricks on the back of the fireplace.

I appreciate the fact that he explained stuff, and answered questions and was able to get started right away. With life complications, this ant problem was getting to the point that I thought it might push me over the edge. I told him I knew, was never surprised at seeing bugs in the house (though that episode a couple of years ago of the millipede infestatipn qualifies as bizarre), and knew there would always be roaches, in residence since the dawn of time, other small creepy-crawlies taking  up residenc via invisible orifices. I've been combating roaches for years, putting out boric acid, first as a powder then little white tabs about the size of your thumbnail, for the bugs to enjoy as dessert, only to discover it to be their last meal.

He said the clear stuff in the tube he was dotting along the woodwork, molding, edges of brickwork, was 'bait', something that will attract them to their unwitting demise. They will take it back to the nest, to share with extended family as the spoils of a successful foray into human land. Far be it from me to inform them it is hemlock or foxglove or an antifreeze spill. My new almost-BFF will come back in the afternoon and spray around the outside of the house, saturating mulch and leaves along the foundation to prevent future entry. I cannot tell you how happy I was to write him a check for $150  - best money I have spent in recent memory, as I am convinced my sanity is still intact.

you know...

... that song the kids sing in the back seat, second only to the endless one about bottles of beer? I am thinking of how 'the ants go marching one by one' ad nauseum, as the little ones securely strapped down in close quarters do their best to make you bat-crazy before you can get them out of the vehicle! I'm having some of that in the privacy of my own home, without ever having to get dressed and go anyplace to loose my mind.

The ant invasion is still awful, overwhelming and making me more than a little nuts. I have been spraying straight, full strength ammonia on them as they trail across just below the molding at the top edge of the wall, crossing vast distances from the brick wall at the back of the fireplace as they make their pilgrimage towards a water source. Maybe the rains that started falling overnight will encourage them to beat a hasty retreat, and go back out into the cold of winter and seek sustenance elsewhere? Probably not, but a tempting thought to feel that the problem will resolve itself.

I don't recall precisely when this aggravation began, but it seems like about two weeks: when I got out the half full bottle of Windex, as the pest control guy told me to do. Spraying several times a day as the invaders formed a new battle plan, replacements began a fresh attack. Then I ran out of glass cleaner and went to buy a half gallon of straight ammonia to refill the bottle, continue to spray across the top of the wall, down into the sink where they were having a party. So frequently misting the encroaching insects, the walls now look like the ceiling leaks, with water stains all the way to the floor. Needing painting, and it's not over yet. I just looked at the receipt the man left, when he also left us $95 lighter and did not resolve the problem. After two calls for help were not returned or   acknowledged, I called another pest removal service yesterday. The new guy is coming today.

People are coming to visit, so I felt compelled to sweep up all the carnage. I got out the broom and dustpan early this morning, and honestly believe I disposed of ten thousand corpses, looking like someone had spilled a can of ground black pepper on the floor. I wanted to at least make an effort, as I have not swept them up for about a week, waiting for resolution, wanting to get them all at one time. Ha!

The latest steady stream was found as they were making a direct attack on the cupboard where the jars of peanut butter are stored. I now wish I had screwed the lids on tighter. But why would there be any reason to think with the top half-secured there was the remotest possibility of bugs being able to scrunch their way into the jar? They are nothing if not persistent. I left the ten thousand there on the shelf where I sprayed them for the newest guy to see when he comes to offer sympathy, condolences on the extent of this chronic problem.

book review: "The Forgotten Girls"...

... by someone I have never read or heard of, just randomly taken off the shelf of boxed Cds at the library, with the idea that it would be a good traveling companion when I am dashing to and fro. The author is Owen Laukkanen. It was so intense and stressful at times I had to turn it off, but would soon be back because I was so interested in the progression of the search for the 'cereal' killer.

It was well written, a fascinating story, told from several different viewpoints of various characters. The plot involves a number of young women, many who were what society might classify as trash, or throwaways, people very few would miss or search for if they never returned, disappearing into the underground. Most of the story takes place in the northwest, between Washington state and Montana, wrapping up across the border in Canada. A young woman's body is found, in the snow, with a wolf nearby,and a 'Jane Doe' death reported. Local law enforcement are stretched thin, have little time to investigate the demise of an anonymous female.

The FBI gets involved, with the pair of agents beginning to see a pattern of sorts, as they evaluate reports of unidentified victims across a wide swath of country, with the one apparent commonality being rail lines. Autopsy reports showed that most of the women were strangled as well as sexually assaulted. The agents gradually piece together the facts to be persuaded there is a serial killer out there, who has been at work for many years, with similar traits in his MO.

As the story progresses, there are many references to the awful weather that predominates in the Cascades and Rockies, at high altitudes over several months. Ice, snow, temperatures that make me shiver just to read about them, endless miles of empty country with only rail lines and trees in the white bleak landscape. And a man who hates females, preying on the women he encounters as they are hitching rides in empty boxcars traveling across the rails over mountains in the harsh winter chill.

He is ruthless, heartless, cruel, without mercy. Living a survivalist life, isolated up in the mountains, preying on people he could physically overpower and destroy. Just plain evil. But a character in a very well written story, that was a clearly described as any thing  you would see in film. Very realistic scenery and people,  making me desire to see this psychopath brought to justice