Vacation Week

Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine. If you are picturing me lounging in the sun, fruity drink in hand, keep dreaming.  The only downtime I got was Sunday, between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm.  I didn’t see a single fruity drink the whole week, unless you count the orange juice I had to wipe off the windows when the kids missed the sink.  The one highlight? My husband also took the week off. Normally this would have rocked beyond belief.  But since we are LIVING THE DREAM of 250 year old home ownership, Vacation Week was Hell.

Highlights of Hell included:

Cleaning out the basement.  Normally I wouldn’t complain, a little tidying here & there, but our basement was so congested we had to rent a jumbo sized construction dumpster.  It arrived Friday afternoon.

Let the Vacation begin!  Our super duper olde house had some super duper olde wood in the basement.  As you can see here:

All the construction debris from upstairs had to be stowed somewhere.  Unfortunately, the recent rains which flooded our basement also waterlogged much of the discarded material.  Causing it to mold as well as rendering it ungodly heavy.  The rodent excrement peppering much of it was just a bonus.

It took us four days to haul everything outside to the dumpster.  And if the backbreaking labor wasn’t memorable enough, its aftermath was truly unforgettable.  Likely b/c of something I breathed in/touched/otherwise ingested while hauling all that crap, I spent two nights splayed across the bathroom floor, longing for death.  There is something about a severe GI upset that scars a person.  Twice in 3 days is enough to induce psychosis.

In between the wood hauling, full body chills & bathroom trips, we enjoyed nature.  And we didn’t even have to leave the house!  When you are Living the Dream like we are, you discover all sorts of things you never knew you had.  Like red squirrels!

OOOooOOOh!  Yes he (or she) IS VERY CUTE.  My older daughter was beside herself with worry and desire, both to save and KEEP the squirrel.  I am wild about animals. but frankly, I draw the line at eyedropper feeding an infant squirrel ten times a day for the next who knows how long.  After 2 days of trying unsuccessfully to reunite baby w/momma, we took him (her) to the nature refuge.

So, where was that squirrel hiding?!  Remember all that wood in the photo above?  Well, it’s reeeeaaallly hard to see, but there in the back you can faintly make out some wood paneling/shelves.  These walls/shelves were put up by the former owner, who had hoped to use the basement as a workshop – before realizing how high the water table is.  Back before we bought the house, our home inspector urged us to remove as much of this stuff as possible.  50 years of flooding hasn’t been good to this wood.  These walls/units were serving no other purpose than to 1) hold water, 2) mold, 3) conceal stuff.  Stuff like the squirrels who’d been living behind them.  As well as a lot of chewed up batting, poop, and potential structural issues – which, thankfully, we’ll now be able to see before they wreak havoc.  Here is the space with the beautiful brick archway exposed.

But the nature discovery didn’t end there.  Oh, no.  With all that work we’d been doing INSIDE, we hadn’t noticed just what a beating the outside had been taking.

When we moved in 8 months ago, we had a green lawn. Over the winter, the green naturally turned brown. As spring has sprung, much of the grass – mostly out back – has regained its verdant look. But the lawn out front?  About a month ago, these strange brown patches started appearing. Subtle at first, now downright ugly. Initially the dead grass fit the pattern of being urine burned. Along the edge the sidewalk, where dogs do their business. Or, as one neighbor suggested, it could have been salt burn from the snow plowing. Initially this made sense, until these brown patches began to grow, moving up from the sidewalk to the upper part of the front yard. My husband and I wondered whether it could still be dogs? But our neighbors are courteous, and we had such a mild winter. Surely, neither explanation could account for this, and no other yards seemed touched. The dead zones kept spreading and our concern grew.

I went out late last week to investigate. I brought along a heavy metal rake, and began first by poking, then by scraping the surface of the grass. The brown dead areas came off effortlessly, and just below the surface, to my horror, I found:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  WHITE GRUBS. Dozens and dozens of them. I spent some time removing the dead zones, which of course just so happen to be DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE. Facing the street. Where everyone can gaze upon them.

Ughhh.  Yes, it is UGLY.  Having had a mere postage stamp of a yard in Philly, we had no freaking clue.  How could we have possible hedged against a nemesis we didn’t even know existed?!  And so, we got to work.  Once again.  We spent time researching online, investigating natural and chemical pesticides, trying to determine the best course of action.  I wish I could tell you we did it the happy holding hands way, but this time – it was us or the grubs.  We decided to take the dirty route and poison them using Grub-Ex.  I did not want to do it, but dammit, we have invested everything we have & more in this house and I will not let some white grotty grubs take my beautiful lawn away.  OH NO.  Our next door neighbor lent us her spreader and we put that Grub-Ex down on every inch.  2 days of work and the lawn’s still ugly as sin.  But hopefully it’s on its way to health.  Time will tell.

The icing on the cake came at the least expected time.  I went to relieve myself and was greeted with this.

No droppings in the (lived in portion of) the house, no sign of them at all – then BAM! a dead one in the TOILET?!  When the mice are jumping ship, is that a sign?  Sigh..

Parasites SUCK.

Soooo…Yesterday morning started like every other. I get up, go to the bathroom – but I notice as I lift my shirt that I have this little black speck on my belly. It looks like a tiny seed bead. My daughters and I had spent the better part of the previous afternoon making jewelry on my bed, so you KNOW there were beads scattered everywhere. I pick the little sucker off my stomach and P-TOING! flick it away. I’m still kinda half asleep, and when I look again, I notice there’s a purplish mark where it’d been. DAMN cheap beads. So I lick my finger to wipe away the stain. Lick, wipe, lick, wipe. But it doesn’t go away.

Hmm. I look more closely – and am jolted awake by the realization that THAT tain’t no cheap bead, that mustabeen…. a BUG. Oh MY GOODNESSS. I peer around me on the floor, looking for the tiny black speck, and there, lo and behold, it is. I press it to my fingertip, raise it to my eyes. It looks like a teesy tiny seed, but when I look reeeeeaaaaaaaaallllly close, I can indeed see. it’s got LEGS.


My husband comes running. He isolates the thing in a small lidded jar. I then place the jar into a ziplock bag. B/c YOU CANNOT BE TOO CAREFUL. I call the doctor, they are about to put me on hold, when I announce “I have just been bitten by a deer tick.” They patch me right through. And so the ladies & spent the better part of yesterday rectifying my “little problem.”

You can see from the above photo how a sleep-ridden mind could indeed mistake this tiny bullseye mark for say… a freckle. or Cheap bead stain. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I found the tick on me, so there was no mistaking it. After a few minutes, anyway.

Here he is in the babyfood jar. I was feeling brave – this was taken w/out the additional plastic sheathing.

Now, here he is this morning. I am thinking he is dead. GOOD. He was waaaay bigger when I plucked him off my stomach. [Yes, I did have to tell you that.] That is a pencil point next to him. YES he is UNBELIEVABLY TINY. So WATCH OUT.

I did some online research and have concluded it was a nymph (juvenile) which bit me. The adults are quite a bit larger and more leggy. The nurse practitioner shone a light on him yesterday to establish his identity and color. Although he looks black to me, in the light he was indeed a reddish-brown. Perhaps from the blood he had stolen. Bastard. The nurse asked us what we were going to name him, so I chose Evil. which seems to fit him nicely. She gave me a prescription for a one-time mega-dose of Doxycycline (which I took last night) and said that I should be fine.

So, yesterday – b/c we have instituted this NO DRIVING DURING THE WEEK rule at our house – the ladies & I had to walk into town & back to get to the doctor’s office. Over 10 miles. As a treat, we meandered back via the Reading Terminal Market, and then South Street, of course treating ourselves to some TREATS. When you get bit by a damn deer tick, you milk it for All it’s Worth. Needless to say, everywhere we went, my younger daughter would reach her hand right into my purse, pull out that crazy ass bagged jar and announce to all & sundry MY MOMMY WAS BITTEN BY A TICK and HERE HE ISSSSSSSSSS. After the first couple times, I knew the routine & would head her off @ the pass. Somehow, I didn’t really want to share the whole story (along w/ specimen) w/ the girl at the cheap earrings shoppe. I am sure she was grateful.