It’s just that time of year for poor air quality, bad smells, flies, and other pests – and I’m not even talking about the election!

This morning as we were opening windows around the apartment, my close friend and constant companion Arthur Itis complained we’d just be shutting them in a couple of hours, why bother?

He’s probably right. The air quality index is laying somewhere  between zero and negative seven. There are wildfires burning all over California, a couple in Nevada.  And then there’s car pollution – Chico is a traffic mess, especially now that school is back in session.

But the apartment gets soooo stuffy, and there’s a couple of hours in the early morning, before the sun comes up, when the air is sweet and cool, gets the garbage-and-farts smell out of the house.

I don’t remember any Summer my dogs have been in the house so much. As soon as the red stuff hits about 99, we bring them in. I don’t remember the last Summer we’ve had so many days over 100, with lows in the high 60’s. Biscuit is a pretty tough old dog, but if we’re in here under the vents, why should she be out there in the heat? Besides, if we don’t bring her in, she hits the door real hard with her paw, she’s scratched the paint off in that corner. At the turn of the latch she noses that door in and flops down in the corner right behind it. She’ll lay there for hours, playing dead if anybody wants to come in or out, but perking up quickly at the mention of “ball” or “kibble”.

Badges is a wheedler. He comes in and lays down in the doorway, but within minutes you hear that tag jingling as he sneaks his way up the stairs, one by one. If he hears me approaching he immediately lays down on a stair, lays his chin on folded paws and pretends to be asleep. A couple of minutes later he’s nudging at my elbow for petting. “Go lay down, hair bomb.  What have you been rolling in, there’s stickers in your collar!” I have to wash my hands after patting him on the head, he’s so dirty. About every other day I run the vacuum around the house and dump out enough hair to make another little dog.

Yesterday I sprinkled baking soda on the stairs carpet and worked it in a little with a dry scrub brush. I let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then I went after the stairs with the shop vac. That is Arthur’s favorite job, he uses language from another planet. But, even  Arthur had to admit, the stairs smelled a lot better. So  then we put a big dollop of soda in some warm water and washed the vinyl entry way, door, walls, etc. Had to employ the elbow grease just inside the door where Biscuit rubs against the wall coming in, making a big brown dirt streak.  It all smelled better, and the walls are positively shiny.

We got some new neighbors, and as friendly as they are, they have brought chickens on the property again. It’s been the same as before, when the previous neighbor had chickens.  About a week after the girls’ first appearance, the flies started to pick up.  Michelle, a nice but stupid lady, does not clean the coop, she just throws down straw every now and then, creating a perfect incubator for flies, all that urine soaked straw and poop. Keeps the ground a perfect temperature to hatch out the little eggs and then there’s all that food for the maggots.

Like our previous neighbor, Richard, Michelle got really offended when we tried to talk to her about natural pest control – we got a pamphlet from our vet and gave it to her.  “We don’t have flies,” she insisted. We didn’t want to waste anymore time trying to reason with her, so just went out and got fly traps. These are cellophane bags with a plastic neck that allows flies in but not out. They are loaded with a smelly powder – just add water and they stink like a dead horse. We hang them just out of our own radius, and they attract Michelle’s flies away from our living area. We get them for about $3.50 at Lowe’s, they last about a month before they are so full of dead flies they don’t work anymore. It’s worth the money, frankly, to keep the swarms off the dogs and to not have to deal with idiot neighbors. 

Of course, garbage cans can work like big fly traps.  If you don’t wrap your trash well, you could actually be breeding flies. According to Orkin, a fly egg develops into an adult fly within six days – well within the weekly trash pick-up schedule. Furthermore, maggots can attach themselves to a surface, such as the inside of a garbage can, while they develop into adult flies. These are brown and blend in easily to a dirty surface.

Excuse me for knowing so much about flies, but living next to back yard chicken farmers has forced me to become somewhat of an expert because these people never seem to be very knowledgeable or cooperative. Trying to be a considerate neighbor myself, I’ve always wrapped the heck out of our household trash, especially meat scraps.  We also save really messy meat scraps or containers of grease in our freezer until trash day, so they aren’t sitting out there stinking all week. And, every few weeks, as soon as they start to stink at all, I take the trash and recycling cans in on collection day and give them a good going over with Comet scrubbing powder and an old scrubber brush, inside and out. 

And here’s a trick we learned from friends who live in bear country – tape a dryer softener sheet to the underside of the can lid.  I don’t care for those myself, I can see where flies and other pests- let’s not forget the meat bees! – would steer clear of them. I tried making my own repellent from essential oils but nothing is quite as obnoxious as those dryer softener sheets.

Something I’m always on my tenants about is overloading garbage cans, leaving that lid propped open. That’s an invitation to not only flies and bees but rats and other varmints.  Ever stare down an adult raccoon in your driveway in the wee hours of the night?  They make their rounds, they seem to know when the trash cans are out in various neighborhoods.  Even a pile of old cardboard boxes will attract these type of pests, who carry diseases that you or your pets can catch.  If your household can’t fit your weekly refuse into a 96 gal trash can, you might want to take a good hard look at your lifestyle, something might need to give. You may just have to pay for another can. 

Now’s the time to look for everybody’s favorite house guests – ants. After they raided us good a  few years ago, we learned to keep a good margin of space clean around our house, keep leaves from piling up, etc. Every now and then I move the container plants on the patio to look for ants’ nests. I read online that they like to nest under stuff like that, so I went right outside that minute and moved a big container next to our front gate to find a very lively nest. The little bee-atches were moving right up the plumbing in the corner of the house, to my kitchen upstairs. As soon as I sprayed that nest, they were gone and I haven’t had a problem inside the house again. 

The trees are shedding and leaves are piling up all around our house. Once we found a nest in our tenant’s rain gutter, they were doing a fast conga across the carport roof and into the wall. She was going nuts cleaning her apartment, but they just kept coming.  As soon as we cleaned the leaves out of the rain gutter and sprayed the nest, they were gone and she never had a problem again.

This is the time of year for smells and flies and ants. Pretty soon the wind will change and we’ll get some relief.







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