Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Tale of the Fly

So, this has been the ultimate lazy weekend for yours truly. Chris is up in Alaska for a couple days; he was originally up there for work but got to sneak in a day and a half with the family. Everyone except Greg is in Anchorage currently since it's summer break (for the girls). I am a firm believer that Americans need to hop on the European bandwagon and take summer breaks, four weeks at a minimum.

Being a lazy bum is hard work. For me it includes reading lots of books (three so far) and checking the web frequently. I don't understand why you people can't update your blog on an hourly basis, because that's how frequently I've checked them this weekend. Oh, it's because you have busy lives? I see. So what exactly are you implying about mine?

Unfortunately, this has also been the weekend of the FLY. I've been remiss lately in maintaining my worm bin so this weekend I decided it needed a little TLC. I opened up the lid and discovered that the entire surface of compost was SEETHING with maggots. Seriously. Carrots were zipping around like little mosh pit surfers thanks to the mass of maggots. Now, I should warn you here that I pride myself on being rather calm when encountering various critters. I always found the girl who squealed at the sight of a spider, garter snake, or other unnamed animal to be incredibly annoying (although I did give out a bit of a yelp the other day when a snake zipped right between my feet). And don't get me started on people that freak out around honey bees (unless they're africanized). Honey bees are good, people. If you like your fruit, your figs, your beautiful flowers in the garden, then you need those beautiful little bees. Of course, we also need bacteria to break us down when we die but I'm currently choosing honey bees as the necessary ecosystem animal of the day. Plus, I'm a sucker for the cuteness factor and there is nothing cuter than a honeybee with her pockets stuffed with pollen.

See? Isn't she cute? Ok, point made, I'm moving on.

My original intent of this post was to describe my horror at opening up my worm bin to find it crawling (crawling I tell you) with maggots. Maggots are a new thing for me. I don't remember seeing any in Washington or Oregon although they must exist because there are flies up there too. I don't call Chris up much at work in a tizzy but a year ago somebody waited too long to take out the trash and when I opened it up a horde of maggots poured forth onto the floor and I promptly sent a hysterical call to Chris tell him about the horror unfolding in my kitchen. I think it was one of the only times he hung up on me. Politely, of course. It went along the lines of (after 20 minutes of hysterical conversation on my end): "Sonja, it's ok, deep breath, get out some nasty cleaning products and spray the heck out of them. This isn't a big deal, deep breath, you'll be fine, I need to get back to work. I'm hanging up now...." Yes folks, I was that screaming, squealing girl. Oh, how far I have fallen. Thankfully, we haven't had a repeat of the kitchen garbage incident, once was enough thank you very much, but the maggots in the worm bin this weekend definitely threw me for a loop. And, Chris was in the Alaska bush with no cell phone coverage!! What's a girl to do?!

Well, take a picture, for starters (documentation purposes only), and then bleach the hell outta that thing. Here's what I think happened:

Several weeks ago I was crowing (on this website, no less) about picking up several pounds of mushy, almost liquefied apricots that had dropped from our tree. I distinctly recall writing something along the lines of: "It's the best smelling compost ever!". Why yes, it was, for about two days. And then it dissolved into a liquid, stinking, god-awful mess. Additionally, (and here I'm making things up since I don't really know much about the fly life cycle) I'd be willing to bet that those apricots were filled with fly egg. I could be wrong about that but I know they lay them in poop and in rotten meat so a mushy apricot doesn't see too far off. Anyway, my lovely worm bin turned out to be a perfect environment for breeding enormous, Country Fair-winning sized maggots. And, once the apricots liquefied, it was too wet for my lovely worms and they drowned. Yes, I know, it's quite tragic. When I was schlepping all the maggot-infested crap out of the worm bin yesterday it: A) smelled worse than a toxic waste dump (and I, for one, have intimate knowledge with toxic waste dumps and can, in good faith, make that comparison!!!) and B) didn't contain a single worm. So, once the worm bin dries out, I'm going to have to start over. Sad day.

And no, I'm not going to post a picture of the maggots; I'm getting the heebie-geebies just thinking about it. In fact, I'm starting to itch all over. This is bad news, people. I could barely send the picture to Cherie, I was so disgusted. Thankfully, she agreed with my assessment, which was quite comforting since she is a very sensible person and not at all given to unnecessary squeals. If you'd really like to get an impression of the horror of my worm bin, then you may, if you desire, click here or here.

Part two of my story is a bit more uplifting, at least from my point of view. I'm sure some of those maggots morphed themselves into flies. Southern California is fly-country anyway so I can't claim to have noticed any influx of flies that might have been attributed to my worm bin; however, the problem is that it's really, really hot outside and we have a total of two, yes TWO, windows that have screens on them. Actually, we have more than that but the rest are firmly painted shut. Yeah, it's an old house and people painted the windows shut. We've tried, in vain, to open windows but many of them remain firmly closed. Our poorly insulated house gets extremely hot if the doors and windows are left closed. It's a problem. So, I open the doors and in come the cooling breezes and the flies.

Thankfully, my uncle Bill provided us with a MAGNIFICENT electric machine of death. It looks like a tennis racket and uses a battery to zap insects that make connection with the wires. I should write an Ode to My Uncle Bill, we are that grateful.

I have turned into a killing machine and here are my trophies (which I had to collect before I could deposit them in the garbage):(Photo caption: There are 15 of these little buggers. Whew! I have been one busy lady. I've actually perfected my technique: I trap them against the window with the tennis racket and then blow on them so that they fly up against the metal wire of death. You may start calling me Sonja Roosevelt, avid fly hunter, if you wish)

On a rather sad side note, I took an identical picture (prior to this one) and then observed just how dirty the window sill was. What did I do? Did I, you might ask, clean the entire window sill, leaving the house sparking fresh for the return of my darling husband? Why no, of course not. I cleaned a 12-inch square of the window sill, took my picture (seen above), and them mumbled something to Bailey about needing to call the housecleaner. I'm sure my parents are disowning me as you read this. Oh how far the innocent (and industrious) have fallen. On the up-side, the house is fly-free.

And on that note, I'm off to go do some more reading. In my fly-free living room.

Honey Bee picture credit here.

Update: I felt so guilty about that damn windowsill that I went and cleaned it right after I finished the post. Of course, I didn't clean any other window sills in the house....[why did that last thought cross my mind?!! There is entirely too much thinking going on right now] Crap. ok, I'm off to clean the rest of the window sills. In the meantime, and in my own defense, I'd like to state for the record, and in which my dear husband might vehemently disagree, that I consider my house habits to be untidy, NOT messy. Believe me, there is a distinct distinction. Ok window sills, here I come.