Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
With the start of the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada (and Memorial Day next weekend in the U.S.), I thought it only appropriate to talk about mosquitoes. This weekend many urban dwellers will travel to the nether regions of remote Canada to experience nature in all its beauty, and oh yes, mosquitoes and black flies will be part of the ambience.
Michelle wasn’t enthused about me writing this blog, but I think it’s an important one. Lots of people who live in the city read this blog and have their own dreams of living in the country. Ninety-nine percent of my blogs talk about how great country life is. But I’d be dishonest if I didn’t write the odd post talking about some of the downsides. One negative that comes to mind easily is how difficult it is to just zip off to your favorite restaurant on those nights when you don’t feel like cooking.
So this blog is about mosquitoes - not the ones outside of our house, but the ones inside. Right now the mosquitoes are much worse inside of our house than outside. Yes we have screens. Yes we keep our doors closed. But these ones come from within.
It’s a bizarre occurrence but it happens every year at this time. And I know what you’re thinking. The Mathers must have large bodies of standing water in their house for mosquitoes to hatch from. There must be puddles in their kitchen. That’s how I understand the mosquito lifecycle - they start in water. And yes our basement floods every spring, but this happens even when the basement isn’t flooded. One year there was a bit of water in the sump well, but we closely examined it and there was no sign of mosquito larvae. And I know what these look like because I see them in my rain barrels all the time.
So then I thought maybe they’re breeding in the septic tank (which is a stretch because surely mosquito larvae couldn’t exist in those conditions). But all the drains have traps -“S” shaped turns with water sitting in them – that would prevent the mosquitoes from getting up the pipes. The last time I checked mosquitoes aren’t able to fly part way, and then go aquatic to swim through the trap, then dry off their wings and fly again, like little mini-winged Jason Bourne’s. Our friend Robert mentioned that he gets some mosquitoes in his house too and he figures that they come in on the firewood and come to life when they thaw out. But we don’t have any firewood in the house right now.
Nope, this is something science can’t explain. When we moved into this house I was expecting it to be haunted. Come on, it was built 120+ years ago, of course it’s going to be filled with spirits, maybe even some angry ones. Well, so far none of them have shown themselves, and since I once lived in a haunted house in Belleville, I know what to look for. Nope, I think these mosquitoes are part of some unholy scheme hatched in one of my previous lives. This is a plague of biblical proportions with no explanation. It’s like something out of a Poltergeist movie, or the X-Files where it rained frogs, only this time it’s raining mosquitoes.
There was a TV commercial for “OFF” mosquito repellant a few years ago and it showed a man putting his unprotected arm into an aquarium filled with mosquitoes. The air in the aquarium was almost black there were so many mosquitoes in it. Well, that’s our downstairs bathroom right now. Thank goodness the upstairs bathroom is still clear. The downstairs bathroom has more mosquitoes in it than our outhouse does.
Luckily we have a guesthouse. The guesthouse is only 15 years old and does not have this unholy curse, so it remains mosquito free. So for a few days every year at this time we migrate into the guesthouse. It’s not a problem for me since my office is out there anyway. The plague of mosquitoes in the house forces Michelle to vacate her upstairs office and she is forced to work beside me. I constantly ask her, “So what are you working on now? … Did you get any good emails?” Eventually she tells me to be quiet so that she can get some work done!
When it comes to cooking in the house, it’s really just a matter of running the gauntlet, cranking something off and then retreating to the guesthouse to eat. Many people have experienced this on camping trips. Some poor sucker gets stuck making the meal outside with the bugs while everyone else cowers in the tent or trailer, pointing and chuckling at the bug swatting and muttering going on out by the Coleman stove.
It could be worse for us. If we didn’t have the guesthouse we’d be camped out at our neighbours’. Or, since our days of being able to afford a hotel room are over, we would be sleeping in our car. As I recall from our honeymoon, even when I was 24 years old and on a beach in California, a bucket seat in a compact car isn’t always the most comfortable bed. I have a feeling that now that I’m also 30 years older, my back might not handle sleeping in a car too well.
It would be glorious to be the kind of person that would just use one of those fogging insecticide bombs and nuke the little blood sucking flying monkeys but we don’t do that sort of stuff. Alas no, time is the only solution to this conundrum. We have to wait them out. Wait until their natural lifecycle is over and they vacate our premises. We don’t grieve their loss.
We have many bats living around our home. Some live in a bat box that we put up on the side of the guesthouse as a way to discourage them from making their home in the board and batten siding. Some bats live in a crevice in the roof of Morgan the Wonder Dog’s house. Some live in the roof of the woodshed. Heaven forbid these wild bats would actually live in the 150 acres of unspoiled wilderness and nature like they are supposed to. The bats are pretty busy this time of year. They are out at dusk and feasting on mosquitoes. I stand outside at dusk and cheer them on. “Take that mosquito menace!” Of course the outside mosquitoes aren’t the problem at our house right now.
So as you sit at your computer in your cubicle fantasizing about your eventual move to your homestead in the woods, make sure you keep your expectations realistic. Wild creatures, big and small, will also be living there. Many will try and make your life miserable. I detested suburbia enough that camping in the guesthouse for a couple nights for me is like a mini-vacation. It makes me appreciate my own bed all the more when it’s finally safe to go back in the house.
If you are about to embark on a long weekend adventure in the woods, I wish you all the best. May the sun shine and the people at the campsite next to you NOT be huge fans of AC/DC and the Scorpions (yes, this happened to my cousin), and may there be more mosquitoes outside of your tent than inside.