Saturday, January 23, 2010


You know, I was going to step away from the insect issues here for a bit but it's almost impossible given my daily encounters with the weird and wacky. The biggest reason for me never moving to South America would be the high and large bug population. Ditto for Africa being off the move to list. I thought I was getting a sweet deal here when Chris brought home a book of "Bugs of NZ" before we moved. It was rather a thin book and so my thoughts were that perhaps there really wasn't much to note around here. In fact the thrifty author (no doubt a Kiwi himself as they do tend toward the thrifty side) decided that I didn't need to see all species of Weta bugs (for example -just one picture and a note to tell me there were 400 more kinds. So far I have managed to catalogue 3 different types here in my house. The routine is becoming the same with the discovery -usually by myself or the girl, followed by screams or moans and Ronin running to the get the camera for a photo op. In the week to come I will be posting new pics and descriptions of the the insects that we have found thus far. Generally speaking though, these bugs are large. Even the common bumble bee is too big for it's wings and kind of floats around like a bubble from flower to flower. I have an old hamster leash that I am thinking Shay could put to use if she ever wanted to adopt one. If ever there was a insect that bordered on "cute" the bumble bee would be it. The rest just give me the shivers. Although we do have a Stick bug that likes to hang around out front entrance and the kids have dubbed him "Sticky"and he did border on cuteness for the girl with his ever so thoughtful slow methodical movements until one day she touched him with a leaf and he darted at her....screams and pee pee dance followed. I can say I've been much braver (it's the adult face that I put on to deal when the girl is hysterical) but I have to say I lost it completely the other night.
It was later in the evening for us and the kids were busy with their nighttime regime of brushing their teeth and getting dressed for bed. It has been very hot the last few nights and I left the window in the laundry room open to cool off the house. In most houses in NZ there is a serious lack of screens. I really don't get this. Anyways, I was in the dryer with my ass sticking out pulling out the daily clothes when i heard what I thought to be a small plane above my head. I straightened up and looked about me and for a second everything looked the same. Calm and peaceful with the kids chattering down the hall in the bathroom. Then all hell broke loose. Out of the corner of my eye I see what I think to be a small green and pink bird fluttering by the wall, about the size of a sparrow you see... then it changed direction on a course straight at my face and I saw, what I believe to be, the worlds largest moth. The body was thicker than my thumb and so heavy that it was flying not horizontally at my face but vertically with it's wings beating the air about my hair. What to do? In time of crisis do you really know what you are capable of? Well, big bellyful of screams I can tell you that with me running backwards with my eye on the approaching beast. I checked my shoulder in the door frame and careened backwards, screaming all the while down the hallway with MOTHRA in drunken but steady pursuit. Kids are quiet now and I dart into the safest room of the house - Shays bedroom where she is in mid change, one foot in her jammies as I slam her door with my back against it and continue to scream. She takes one look at my face and answers my scream with one of her own. The two of us stared at each other just screaming. I hear Chris barreling up the stairs into the hallway banging on the door trying to get in. I still have my back firmly pressed against the door you see and refuse to let him in lest he brings Mothra in with him. "It's a bug! A MOTH!" I shout safely from the other side...get it!! Of course it's not like the thing is waiting around him, and the boy and the man can't see it so I crack the door open a bit and stick my head out. All's clear and I slowly emerge with the girl and her death grip on my shirt. The four of us move as one into the hallway and all eyes are peering about -scanning for the intruder. Of course, Chris can't believe that I am that panic stricken by a moth of all things (God's sake Jenn!) but I keep stuttering about the size of it. It was a site to behold this Mothra thing... resting it's fat ass on my dresser in my bedroom and the men really did begin to appreciate the magnitude of my panic. We all paused to regroup as we stared safely from the threshold of the room. Hmm, what to do? Like all bugs here I am firmly on the catch and release program but this one isn't likely to fit under and glass that we own. The boy, familiar in routine has gone to get the camera and Chris has come back from the kitchen with my extra large 8 cup measuring glass and cork pad. Obviously a slip of paper under the glass isn't going to hold this guys weight. The girl and I watched from a safe distance until the capture and then we approached the glass and peered in. The moth, was busy laying thousands of eggs on my dresser and looking none too healthy truth be told. WE are all fascinated and grossed out by the event playing out before our eyes. I have never seen, in so much (large) detail the anatomy of a moth. After the release out the window of which it arrived ( and a firm shutting of said window) Chris vacuumed the eggs up... which really meant that he vacuumed and then *I* vacuumed - and dusted.
There didn't seem to be anything in our insect manual to describe this one and so off to the Internet I went. As far out and gross and scary as it was I found out that we were extremely lucky to have seen the Puriri Moth.
The Puriri Moth is the largest moth in NZ. It lives in the tree trunks and starts out as a little larva eating it's way into the soft trees where it makes it's home for about 5-7 years. It lives and grows into the pupa stage all this time. When it becomes an actual moth it emerges from the trees and lives for about 2 days at which point it scatters it's eggs on the jungle floor and dies. The wing span is recorded to be about 15-20 cm with their bodies being about 12 cm....I can confirm this point. They generally only come about around December as well in their moth type form so this one was a little late. Chris thinks that we are lucky that we even got to witness this.... and yes, even though the EW! factor was extremely high for me I have to agree. Perhaps we should start buying lottery tickets...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Itsy Bitsy Spider

I know I am the envy of you all. The summer is approaching here while you are all dusting off the snow blowers. I doubt any of you can feel my pain when I say the warmish weather is bringing about a new set of issues.

I love to garden, really I do. I am not afraid to get down and dirty with the er, dirt nor do
I care if I get a little dirt under my nails. It's all part of the process of being "one" with Mother Earth. I've looked forward to many a spring in Alberta with seeds and nursery plants pushed against a window at home waiting for the 8 days of summer like the rest of you. So I was quite keen on starting to get to know the local floral and fauna here and purchased a rather large encyclopedia from which to get a better understanding of what grows here. Maybe I could have saved a bit of cash and tried to find a smaller tome of what doesn't grow here -at an alarming rate. I swear the vines that grow on the lower level of the backyard and up the balcony rail manages 6" a day. At first I thought it was cosy and had a country like feel to it but I am seriously concerned that this plant may have a plan to take over the house. I have given up "pinching" back the stems and now greet it in the morning with a hack saw. I beg Ronin not to walk too close to it lest it grabs him and takes him into it's embrace. Much similar story can be said for the 13' high hedges that are so dense that you probably could walk on them. I'm not complaining just voicing a concern that one day I may not be able to find the house.

I don't think I have mentioned this but I live in a glass house. Truly almost all the walls are glass. Great big sliding patio doors surround me. It's fantastic but also a lot of work keeping them clean. I have been doing my best and maybe too good a job as the birds don't seem to understand that they can't fly *thru* the house. I have had many a feather to pluck off of the windows but no carcass to bury. My only guess is that the ants have been kind and carted Tweetie off. Ant's among other insects are a problem. I had been using the laundry sink as a kinda catch all for the dirty clothes and damp towels until one day while I was reaching into the sink to load the wash, I felt a tickle going up my arm. It was a lonely little ant. "Hello little fella, where did you come from?" I wondered. Not for long, as i reached to the bottom of the clothes and upended an entire farm busy making plans in the bottom of the sink. Screams and the pee pee dance came next with me turning on the water to full blast and washing them down the drain. I found the plug and hastily put that in and have never removed it since.

Now, for years, I have been a stickler about the kids taking food/drinks into their bedrooms. The black holes of the house if you will. I made that rule the day i found a half glass of yogurt which I suppose started off as milk in the boy's closet. Always dire warnings of consequences to the two should I ever find stuff again in their rooms. I *know* they still sneak candy in there and to a point I have been lax on the rules but after last nights clean up in the living room the rule came back into play. Sitting at the bottom of a near empty juice cup was a drowned cockroach. I paraded it around to the masses and made them take a good hard look at what would end up in their rooms should they be foolish enough to have any form of food. It made quite the impression especially to the girl who is deathly afraid of spiders.

At first, I thought the previous owners were a bit lax on the cleaning of the house inside and out as there were many cobwebs to be found in the rooms. It was almost like we were getting ready for a Halloween Party in the main room up in the rafters blowing webs of gossamer floated around. I spent a goodish part of my morning going up there and every other room, into the corners and along the beams. Feeling instantly cleaner after every room was sucked clean. That lasted a scant 8 hours. I don't know how it happened but the next morning I was laying in bed staring at the ceiling and was watching a spider waving at me from it's new web. I must have missed one, I mutter but on closer inspection i see that he is not alone and once again the ceilings and rafters are decorated for Halloween. I am learning to live with this and even almost caught myself petting one the other night as it lay on my duvet beside me while I read. I understand now that it's a matter of balance. If I take away the spiders then the giant flying things are more plentiful in the house. I have taken out plates from the cupboard only to discover something of a flying nature spread out like a museum specimen on it. The boy looked at it and asked if that's what I was serving for breakfast. Yes, it could have made a meal. I turned my back for a sec and it disappeared to somewhere less conspicuous in the house i guess... my tolerance has grown by leaps and bounds. I'm sure the spiders will take care of it eventually. It's not uncommon for me to be working outside in the bush trying to tame it only to be given a scalp massage by one of my eight legged friends or catching a ride to the next clump of trees on my shoulders. Probably just another reason for the birds to attack me at this point. I'll save that story for another time though.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Extreme Makeover -Home Edition

Now, i want to be clear here that i am not welding some whip here over the Mister's head (in as far as home renos are concerned). We are both keen to see this house right and up to date from the early 80's in which it currently resides although i am starting to see that in fashion anyways, the 80's are making a comeback. Part of me wonders maybe if i hold out long enough my house will once again be en Vogue. It doesn't matter much now as i did it to myself, this starting of my personal renovations, by sitting on the toilet of my loo and staring at the wallpaper above the dispenser. I had wondered how hard it would be to remove the offending paper and hmm, what was under this avocado green shite and so i ran my nail along the seam. The tiniest of edges gave way, enough to slip my finger under and then i did it. I pulled the paper. I was still under the illusion that a beautiful smooth wall of plaster was laying underneath but well, i couldn't be more wrong. The more i pulled the bigger the piece grew till a napkin sized sheet of wall paper dropped to the ground. Er, well... what have i done? Not like a towel is likely to cover that. Under the picture part of the paper lay the backing and gobs of glue. I knew this about wallpaper, coming off in two parts -first the picture then the backing. it's not Rocket Science by any stretch but there i am looking at a huge gap in the once perfectly smooth paper and knowing that i was "in for a penny in for a pound", so to speak. It's ok really. i don't care for wallpaper and in my mind i have painted it a lovely mossy green to go with my towels and such. Right.
Under the layer of wallpaper is another layer of paper and glue and even further under that is a wood wall in parts of the bathroom and drywall in others. Don't ask, i don't pretend to know the methods of madness of the construction of Kiwi homes. What i *do* know is that i am ever so thankful that i watched infomercials the first month here with the boy while others were away at school and work. You see, afternoon television viewing is pretty much non existent. Perhaps it is thought that most people are out shearing their sheep at this time or other outdoor activities and so from the hours of 11-4 you will be treated on all 5 channels to a carousel of infomercials urging you to get fit, eat better and steam your clothes. Same ones appear daily and for the first while Ronin and i had the TV on for background noise but then one day i came into the living room and found Ro avidly watching some grinning fool steam their clothes on TV. The boy says to me without looking up from the TV, "I bet Dad would steam his own clothes if you got one of those, it looks like fun." Huh. So i join him on the couch and see all the marvelous things the Steamie 2000 can do to enhance my life. I think the lure of sanitizing mold on grout had me reaching for the phone and my Visa, it could have been the removal of pet odor in the carpets too that had me hooked - can't remember but yes, in three working days Steamie 2000 arrived home. As a one time early bird offer i also recieved a dashing carrying case and extra attachements, Fantastic! The Man just shook his head.. apparently it never occured to him that i wouldn't revel in the process of ironing his clothes -go figure. Ronin and i steamed everything and examined the before and after of our efforts in the bathroom and carpets but to be honest, i don't know if things smelled any fresher and i hadn't packed my microscope to gage the bacteria quantity in the carpet and so i can only say that the clothes did look a bit better for use of Steamie. The one thing that the infomercial didn't show me was that it was a handy device to remove glue and backing from walls that had been papered and it was quite by accident that Chris found me in the bathroom with a chisel and hammer one day and suggested offhandidly that i try my gizmo. Oh, to be sure it's still a slooow agonizing process to unearth the bones of a wall. I can tell you almost to the year that changes were made in the house and at some point i won't be surprise to unearth hieroglyphics done in some time in later BC. My vi sons of cleanly painted walls also went out the window. I have ordered more wallpaper to cover the disasters.
Now, wallpapering has come a long ways over the decades in most countries. I have hung prepasted borders (remember the era of the stencil and Debbie Travis?) I wouldn't call myself a guru or anything but i consider my skills to be passable. Uh huh, *never* in my wildest dreams did i think that i would ever be standing at my kitchen sink mixing vats of glue from scratch into pails and slathering it on pock marked walls. I have come out of my tiny bathroom with bits of glue and paper stuck to my hair and joined my family for our nightly family dinner with no more than a Zombie type gaze at them across the table. Of course Chris has nothing to add to the conversation as he seems to be in an equal state, covered with drywall dust and the same haunted look apparently he too is in too deep to back out. We have invested heavily in plaster, paper and wine so far the combination of the three has our optimism high.