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3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Ants. What I do when it’s ants.

Here’s proof this blog is about anything and everything. Tonight I’m writing about tiny ant season. Tiny ant season came early this year. I griped about having to perform an Unscehduled Ant Eviction on Facebook, that led to a conversation about how I get rid of tiny ants, and I promised I would write it out for some people.

And here we are.

I apply a four-step strategy to ant warfare: kill it with fire, salt the earth, raise high the walls, and poison the well.

Step 1. Kill it with fire

This is the most labor intensive phase. Everything comes off the kitchen counters. E V E R Y T H I N G. The counters all get washed w/soap & water, the floors get vacuumed & wiped down. (I confess I do not mop because I do not mop anything. Ever. Scrub on hands & knees, yes. Mop? No. ANYway.) If you suspect ants got into drawers, the drawers get opened, anything with crumbs or possible food smells on it gets tossed & the drawers get washed with soap & water.

It’s a royal PITA. And avoiding having to do it more than once a year is why I’m big on the salt the earth & raise high the walls prevention elements.

Step 2. Salt the earth.

Diatomaceous earth, to be precise, or DE for short. You have to block ants from returning once you’ve cleaned away the ant scouts & their scent trails. DE is my first choice for barrier protection. It’s non-toxic, safe for pets, and a generally fabulous insect death- dealer. You’ll want to wear a dust mask while working with it, because tiny dust particles are bad for your lungs in general and awful for triggering allergies, but hey! Everyone has masks lying around these days, right? How convenient! A little line along the baseboards does the trick if your only choice for barrier protection is indoors, and you can dust generously along the foundation of a house outside as well. Yes, it’ll wash away in rain, but it’s cheap & you can re-apply.

ALTERNATIVE: you can combine steps 1 & 2 and engage in chemical warfare. The windows get opened, the fans go on, and I spray permethrin-based ant death spray along every baseboard and at the bottom of the tile backsplash, also the wall behind the stove, and around any plumbing pipe accesses under the sink. (pick your own brand. I recommend ones that use no fragrances. But only permethrin ones. None of that heavy organophosphate bullshit.) It’s death and barrier all in one.

But if you want to go pesticide-free, you can skip the spray. Wash everything, then lay down DE.

And shouldn’t have to write this, but…yeah. NO POISON NEAR FOOD SURFACES EVER.

And let’s pause for a quick commercial.

Step 3, Raise high the walls.

Eliminating the temptation of food is THE essential aspect of long-term victory over ants. I was raised in an area where bugs & mice were impossible to keep out, so I know all open food has to be kept in sealed containers & all dishes have to be washed or inside the dishwasher before bedtime. But I don’t live in a pine flat converted to a subdivision anymore. So every winter Spouseman & I get slack about defenses…until one of us discovers a gleeful parade of ants partying on the countertops or lurking inside a kitchen drawer. So. Once the house has been reclaimed and the defenses are built, everything gets sealed in glass or plastic. Period. The cat’s food (when we have cats) goes on a tray with just a teensy bit of water in the bottom. (It kills the ants dead. So delightfully simple.

Pro tip: If it’s REALLY bad, upturned lids filled w/water or oil under table legs keep ants off the dining room table. Or other furniture.

Step 4: Poison the well.

Put out ant baits near any potential entry point. Ant baits do work, but they work really slowly and not universally, so they’re basically a long-term maintenance element in the defense effort. Thus, they come last. And they’re the simplest. I mean, there isn’t much to them other than, “unwrap & place where the cat can’t sniff them out & decide to play with them.” Oh, wait. Ant bait granules outside around the foundation too. Outside the line of DE, if you’re using that. Two layers of protection are better than one!

And there’s no need to feel quilt about laying out something that might be bad for other insects. It isn’t. Baits aren’t pesticide. It’s borax, like for laundry. Chemistry!

That’s it. That’s the post. How I get rid of ants. I know, in my last post I said I would write about the books I’ve read this spring, but this was overdue. Also I’m a little mush-brained from dealing with…life stuff.

NEXT-next time I’ll list off the books, most of which I’ve already recommended online here or there. Pinky swears.

Until later!

Look. I don’t know why this image came up on a search for “cute ant” photos, but how could I resist?
credit: ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com
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Detours Writing Life

Squirrel gardening: a tale of time lost

This is a thing I’m writing while most of my brain is occupied with uncooperative idea pieces I need to weave into a different post.

It’s a story about a day earlier this spring when I had two simple activities planned. One: salvage vintage hardware from three, nasty old interior doors that were cluttering up my screen porch, so I could toss the panels into the trash. Two: plant some flower bulbs I’d purchased.

Here’s how that went. <cue Law & Order sound effects>

First I put on my headset and started my music. That part will be important later, so make a note of it. See, my endurance is about two hours, but once I get going on…well, anything… it’s easy to ignore the passage of time, data from senses not directly engaged in the task, and yes, even pain. And if I push past three hours of physical labor, I’m physically wrecked for a couple of days.

I lean on audio input as an attention filter, so my solution is a 2-hour playlist with a short catchy jingle that repeats at half-hour intervals and plays 4 times at the end to assist in breaking hyper-focus. It isn’t perfect, but it works better than an alarm I can turn off without ever noticing. If nothing else, the silence eventually nudges me back to reality.

So. Out I went, rocking my tunes, tools at the ready.

The door part went as well as I could hope. Doors were wrestled out of their winter storage corner in The Screen House, bashed with hammers, scraped with razor blades and liberated from four generations of screws by four different screwdrivers. All manner of knobs, screws, backplates, and hinges were collected into bags for unspecified future crafting project fun.

I brought in the hardware, announced victory to Spouseman (working from home) then went out the front door to check the dirt in the front yard. The clay was soft enough for digging & also a flower was blooming! I pulled out the phone & went down on one knee to immortalize the momentous occasion. Then remembered I was wearing new jeans & would get filthy dirty planting bulbs. Time to go inside & change into old clothes from the wash basket.

Outside again, retrieved shovel & gloves & digger tool from the garage, can’t find bulbs. Moment of doubt. Did I buy them or just consider doing so? (This happens.)

Wait. I have the receipt on my phone. YES. I bought bulbs.

Went to the back door so I could to go inside and find Spouseman, who might remember where I put the bulbs. Multi-tasking win, right?  I could also ask where he thinks the bulbs should go.

Except the back door was locked. And the keys were in the pocket of the jeans I took off.

I went around to the front door. Removed dirty shoes to go through the house to the office at the back. Minor win, on the way, I remembered where the bulbs were & consulted with Spouseman anyway to discuss placement.

Back on track. Outside again. Dug into the untouched flower bed against the back of the house. Hit root. Not unexpected; upon moving in, we removed three large suckering trees that had been unwisely allowed to grow RIGHT UP AGAINST THE HOUSE. The stumps are too close to the foundation to grind down, and the stump-killer didn’t actually soften things, just killed them.

So I tried a new spot. Dug in. Hit root again. Moved to a different section. Shoveled. HIT BIGGEST ROOT YET. Muttered expletives, went back to the garage in search of loppers and pruning saw to aid in the digging process.

Loppers and pruning saw are both MIA. A bunch of gardening stuff went into The Screen House in the fall. Search for loppers & saw continued in new location for some time.

You may think the whole planting plan was well off the rails at this point, but no. THIS was where everything really went over the precipice into the Chasm Of Distraction.

A LOT of Things went into the screen house in the fall. More was added when the basement had to be emptied for renovations. Here’s an incomplete list: sofa, loveseat, folding picnic table plus benches, multiple coolers, metal trash can, multiple 5 gallon buckets of gardening tools, all the yard ornaments and solar lights, three vintage wood panel interior doors in various stages of disrepair, and sundry other bits of flotsam & jetsam.

I’d braved the clutter zone earlier when I moved the doors, but that was early on, when I could still power through the Valley of Temptation by using the “Ignore All The Things, Stay On Task, Stay On Target,” mantra.

Concentration failed this time. I just HAD to move the couches. And then organize the garden tools. And put out the bird feeders. And place the bird bath. And…and…and…

Three hours later, the screen house was cleared, organized & swept, ready to enjoy, the loppers and sundry other tools had all been located and given summer housing, the gardening-related shelves in the garage were clean, and I’d found the seed packets I bought way back in January & promptly lost…along with the loppers I’d originally wanted.

But the bulbs were still in their bags. And the music was over.

(I told you the music would come up again.)

I had no business opening up those bulb packages & seeds, or spending another hour or two digging & planting. I should’ve gone inside & washed up. But I didn’t, because I really am a squirrel sometimes, and there were holes still to be dug!

Yeah. I did use the big shovel and the loppers instead of the little digger tool I usually use for planting. And yeah, I was wrecked by the time I finished, but it also started raining as I was wrapping up, which is kinda like the universe saying, “Good job, you did a right thing.” All in all, it was worth the aches & pains.

And there it is. That’s my tale.

Eventually I will write about the Black Lives Matter rally I attended yesterday. That’s what I originally sat down to write today, but it was not to be. Every sentence was gibberish. See, sometimes my thoughts and feelings are so big and so knotty I need more time and better tools to cut them into wordable forms.

What I’ll do is keep writing other little posts while my squirrel brain hunts around for its figurative loppers. But make no mistake, I never stop thinking about the important stuff.

Until later!

Categories
3. Other Things Detours Writing Life

Technology is a time sink.

Hello, world. I hope you’re here to read about my mundane daily author adventures, because that’s what I’ve got for you.

Today was not a total bust. I accomplished things. Mainly I spent far too many hours troubleshooting connectivity and monitor issues. Still haven’t solved the wifi network problem–upgrading to Catalina has fucked up the IP address in some weird intermittent way–but resetting the NVRAM (PRAM? whatEVER) has solved the on-again off-again monitor problem.

I have possible fixes for the other issue, but they involved all kinds of “carefully follow these steps in order” instructions and I have no spoons for that, so…for now the mobile hotspot works fine, and it isn’t like I’m using the data for anything else these days.

In other news, Landscaping Firm 1 has been contacted for consultation & a quote on Full Yard Redesign, from drainage to new brick patio, walkways & driveway buffers, to reworking the front planting beds & installing plantings in back AND front. These people get high marks from native planting organizations, eco peeps & rain garden folk, so I’m hoping it works out. (technically it’s the 2nd firm but the first designer I consulted last September has ghosted us, so…I’m not waiting any longer.)

Why am I back to thinking about Big Outdoor Projects so soon? Wasn’t I going to put it off a year or two, what with Pandemic, and other big projects, and y’know, wanting to focus on WRITING?

Yeah, well. We were going to hold off. But now we aren’t. Therein lies a tale.

It starts with yesterday’s entry in “blessings in disguise” or “bad news/good news.”  In the AM Spouseman discovered that the drain valve for our not-new water heater has developed a slow leak. Only a cup or two a day, but enough to erode  little hole in the nice new concrete flooring under the valve. And enough to tell us we needed a consult on whether to repair or replace. So I added it to the “ask the FBC folks for recommendations” list I already had going, with questions about sump pump maintenance and other minor things, and bumped the priority to “call Monday.”

But that meant Spouseman & I were both on high water alert, which served us well later in the day, when the latest of this week’s soggy-day downpours turned to torrential deluge & the runoff couldn’t run away from the foundation fast enough. The photo for this post shows the guilty area. Just too much water being directed into one small space.

Water came seeping up through the floor of the basement entryway and poured inside onto the cheap area rugs we’d put in that part of the basement. BUT! Since we noticed it nigh-immediately, we sucked it back up with shop vacs before it had been standing long.

25-30ish gallons of water suckage later, the floor & area rugs were dry & damp, respectively, and fans+dehumidifiers were running.  Unfun way to spend a couple of evening hours, but far less than a total disaster.

But it’s certainly a harbinger of disaster, as storms are getting worse every year. So. “Better Drainage + Thirsty Native Plants Everywhere” Yard Redesign moves to the near-top of the to-do list. (Battery back up for the sump and new water heater are THE top.)

ANYway. This morning started out with leaving woeful “HALP PLS” messages with the basement people before I dug deep into research on green solutions/drainage specialist landscape contractors.

Which turned into a long, long detour through Technology Troubles…

But I did get all necessary communicating done, got answers to my questions, and somewhere in there I managed 200+ words of solid progress & some minor revisions on Sharp Edge.

And now I’ve written up the saga here. That’s a good place to wrap.

Until later!

Categories
3. Other Things Writing Life

Spring yard update!

I’m sitting on the couch with wine in hand & a pillow under my achy hip, thinking, “Someday I will remember to take proper ‘before’ pictures.”

But today will not be that day. See, there’s an unhealthy intersection between ADHD hyper-focus brain & a hyper-mobile body, and I live in that intersection when I have lots of outdoor projects & only so many good spring days in which to complete them.

I keep forgetting about documentation until I am too sore, shaky-handed, and covered in muck to snap pics. Ibuprofen & hot shower always win.

ANYWAY. I do have a few pics at the bottom, if that’s what you’ve come to see.

The new yard is coming along.  All the beds I’m going to dig are dug, except…okay, all the beds I’m going to dig for a while are dug…okay SOME BEDS ARE DUG AND I HAVE PLANS, ALL RIGHT? 

Ahem. This yard wasn’t exactly a blank slate. A blank of bare soil would’ve been easier. The drainage in the back is abysmal because the soil is…not alive. It’s dead substrate.  So. I can fix it, but it isn’t easy to work with dead clay that’s been overdosed with chemicals & compacted until it’s rock-hard. Complicating matters, that clay is beneath massively root-bound turf grass or scrappy invasive plants, depending on whether I’m working in the “lawn” or the “flowerbeds.” Turning this into proper prairie loam will be A Big Project.

Good thing I love big projects.

What’s been completed so far? LOTS. All the rusty, ugly steel edging that had stopped holding in bricks years ago but hung around as a horrible tripping hazard? ALL OUT.  Mulch is down on the beds that most need it, the summer bulbs I planted have all popped up, a few seedling veggies are in (more on that later) lettuces have sprouted, & hope seeds have been scattered.

What are hope seeds, you ask? Hope seeds are packets of assorted annual flowers I buy every year because I don’t have the patience to start seeds indoors but cannot resist a seed packet display.  Every year I buy a selection, throw them into mulched perennial beds & wait to see if any sprout & survive.

Something always does. I get little midsummer happy surprises when they make their appearances long after I’ve forgotten I planted them. (No, I never mistake them for weeds. I know my plantses.)

I have also established a great big mulching zone under the back bird feeder, where the dying spruce used to be. All the dug-up bits I remove from other beds get dumped on the stump shreds & surrounding sad lawn area. It’s a big ol’ mess of hard turf hunks, chunks of uprooted hosta, bits of leftover holiday greenery, twigs & leaves that blow in from other people’s yards, potting soil sweepings, weeds pulled from the lawn… pretty much everything plantish is getting tossed there. 

In due time bugs & bacteria & sun & rain will work their wonders on it and it will become topsoil. It isn’t…pretty…but it has a wholesome “nature at work” look. Plus the birbs & squirbs love it because there’s cover & nooks & crannies full of insects for them.

And! We had a hard freeze last night, but at least one of my l’il tomatoes, two of the basils and two of the chili pepper seedlings have survived. This pleases me to pieces. I’ll wait a few days & see if any new growth sprouts from the others before giving up on them. Roots are resilient.

If not, oh, well. I knew planting early was a gamble, and I also figured this was my easy chance to evaluate this yard’s microclimes. I tested several different types of coverage in different locations, and…now I know! So that was fun.

Here be the pics. They don’t show much…but each one represents a LOT of sweaty work. (They also get bigger if you click on them.)

There are many little green things in all those shots, but they aren’t showy yet. Not like the spring bulbs up front. Those are just lovely. Here they are again:

 

My right wrist, elbow, & foot, AND my left leg from the lower back down to the toes all hate me with a fulsome, fierce, and all-consuming hatred today, but that is a price I am willing to pay for feeling Very Much Accomplished. Fair value. A bargain, even.

Lots yet to do. The planter tubs will move into that bed by the driveway, (and I may need new annuals for them…) I want more mulch there, I need to reset all that flagstone so it’s about level with the concrete, I have a big list of perennials & veggies to buy — I have the right kind of sunny zones to plant cucumbers here! I could let pumpkin plants nest in the back mulch zone — and then I’ll have to dig holes for all of them… So. Many Ideas!

But there it is. For now, yard update complete.

Until later!

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Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

Inside My Head 30.9.2018

  • This week’s annoying lesson in medical stuff: elbow splints are all one size fits none. (I need night braces that keep me from tucking in my arms and making my sore elbows worse.) Never fear, crafting supplies & Amazon to the rescue! The DIY-adapted splints are already helping, and I now have stabilizing exercises to do too.

 

  • Nothing attracts a cat more than dirty laundry…except clean laundry.

 

  • Another component in my love of autumn: it’s the trickster season. Not only Halloween, but fall in general. Expected a nice day when you left for work on a sunny, sticky hot morning? HAHAHANOPE. Big, muscular clouds roll in like linebackers, and it’s hot cider weather by dinner hour. (YAY, CIDER!) Days of gloom and wet chill resign you to winter’s arrival, and then HAHAHA you wake to endless deep blue skies, trees dressed in party clothes, and air as warm and soft as a towel fresh from the dryer. I love me the antics of the trickster gods, so of course I adore fall.

 

  • I just realized I compulsively check the news every few hours to find out what fresh hellspawn has been hatched by my own government. In one of my writing worlds I’ve been looking forward in time toward a post-chaos future for 30 years now, and that makes reality a very weird place to be living in today.

 

  • What’s up with ridiculous corporate name changes? I haven’t seen this many questionable “re-branding” ideas since the heyday of the early 90’s. Weight Watchers, Papa John’s,  Dunkin Donuts…I swear, it seems like decisionmakers are being pranked bigtime by their marketing teams.

 

  • The latest in fun internet searches:
    • potato chip packaging
    • thermoplastic shaping elbow armor cosplay
    • lyrics purple people eater
    • octopus seal kayak video
    • marching band helmets
    • rank US cities metro population

 

  • An phrase I saw keeps popping into my brain: “TOXIC POSITIVITY.
    Yes, it’s toxic. It’s a villain’s most effective tool. Dolores Umbridge was all about positivity. ANYway. Turns out, “positive attitude” management is worse than ineffective. It damages morale (oh, the irony) stifles creativity & leads to rebellion and/or employee flight. Cites? Nope. This is my personal blog. The internet is right there. Search for yourself.

 

  • Because I was back on campus for an alumni event this weekends, I was thinking recently of all the creepy times in college when people told me in hushed, sentimental tones, “Your years here are the best in your life, and the memories will stay with you forever. Don’t waste a single minute.” I know it was meant as encouragement, but it always felt more like an threat. The idea of life being all downhill after college still appalls me. It hasn’t been true, either.  They were formative years, certainly, and I do remember them well, but  rosy nostalgia just isn’t my gig. And the most important year in my life is always next year.

 

  • It must be fall. I’m moving furniture. Carefully, because elbows, but I’m moving it. I didn’t move anything around last year, so this year the living room and my writing den are getting rearranged.  Maybe this year will be the one when I finally buy plant lights and a stand for my herbs & things. No promises.

 

  • This weekend marked a major life shift. When people ask what I do, I said, “I’m an author. I write science fiction and fantasy.” So, there’s that to celebrate. I even had a card in my wallet. Small steps, but BIG small steps, ya know?  I didn’t make much progress on the WIP while I was away, but I did keep my hand in, and I’m not going to kick myself for taking a rest day today. I needed the decompression after four days of Major Social time. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. So I’m dealing.

 

  • And that’s a wrap.