The world has come alive around us. The trees are lush and green and the animal world is imbued with the excitement of the coming summer. For several weeks a pack of coyotes seemed to surround our land each night, yipping and howling in a circle around the buildings. We would shiver with delight as we listened to them from beneath the covers. They seem to have moved on now.
The insect world is close at hand as well. Thousands of insects of every variety seem to swarm to the screenless windowpane each night as I turn on the small bedside lamp on the windowsill. The boundary between their world and ours is very thin and they seem to find countless ways to enter without invitation. One night, a few months ago, Scott and I had been working in the house while the boys drifted off to sleep in the apartment. When I returned, exhausted from the late hour, Pixie tossed and turned in the bottom bunk. His brother was sound asleep. I pulled back the covers, by the light of my headlamp, to find dozens of tiny flies exploring the wrinkles and folds of the bed. Ironically, they only seemed interested in my side of the bed (the side by the window). Flustered, I did what any self-respecting homesteader would do when faced with a truly gross situation. I asked my man to get rid of them.
“What should I do?” I asked, squinting in my exaustion, while he washed dishes on the temporary sink counter in our future kitchen. “Can you take care of them?”
“You can do what I would do. I would just get the vacuum.”
“But, the boys!” I protested. He shrugged. “You can’t sleep with the bugs. I’ll be over as soon as the dishes are done.”
Returning to the apartment, I heard Pixie moving around, with those deep, deliberate sighs that say, “I want you to know that I’m still awake and quite unhappy about it.” I sat down on his bed.
“I have to run the vaccum for a minute, but it will be quiet again soon, I promise.”
“Why?” His confusion was warranted. I never vaccum. It is my least favorite chore. Luckily, Scott enjoys it. We are well matched. But even he does not vaccum in the middle of the night.
“There are a few flies… on the bed…” From the look of curious disgust on his face, I knew I didn’t need to say any more.
I wheeled the vaccum in from one of the storage rooms. Then I turned on the bedside light. The window was covered in tiny flies. So was the bed. And the wall. And part of the ceiling. Insects don’t generally bother me, but, ewww!
Pixie propped his head up with interest, watching the show. I plugged in the vacuum, attached the hose and began to vacuum the bed sheets. The sheets twisted and tangled. The bugs stayed put. Then Scott came in. I stood back and marveled at his vacuum prowess as he stood on the bed and cleared the ceiling, walls and sheets of all evidence of insects. A thick layer of duct tape on the window frame ended the steady stream of flies that were entering. Pixie and I looked at each other, impressed and amused. We turned out the lights and he went to sleep.
Dragonfly boy slept through it all.
Then, there were the wasps. For several days in the early spring, wasps infiltrated the apartment. They would buzz across the ceiling at dinner time, bouncing from light to light. They never came close, but the made us nervous. One night, we counted seven wasps at dinner. When the boys were done eating, Scott sent both immediately to the house to brush their teeth.
“I didn’t want them to see this,” he said.
He left the room and came back with a tennis racket. Leaping into the air with an overhead swing, he scored seven points in the time it takes 2 nine-year-olds to brush their teeth, which to our concern, is not long at all.
Another night, not long after, I was sitting in bed reading. The lamp stoods on the windowsill beside me and several books leaned against the other side of the window frame. Scott sat down on the end of the bed. As we talked about plans for the house, something began to move on the back of his shoulder. I screamed. A bit incoherently. It took him a minute to understand that the thing I was pointing to was a wasp, crawling up his back.
He grabbed a hardcover copy of The Hobbit, our current family read, and began to try it hit the wasp on his back. As he ducked and turned, aming behind him, I sceamed again. A second wasp had been behind the book he lifted. Skillfully, he dispatched the two.
The wasps appeared to be entering through a hole by the beam above the top bunk. Duct tape solved that problem as well. I haven’t seen any more. Until today.
I spent the day planting. After the hard work, dirt and sweat of the day, I was looking forward to a long, hot shower. I stepped into the shower and let the hot water flow over me. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my toe. I screamed. A wasp tumbled out from under the shower curtain and limped around the soggy shower stall. I jumped out of the shower, hopping on one foot and exhorting my pain.
“What happened? Are you OK?” Scott’s concerned voice came from the other side of the door. I told him what happened.
“Can I help? Do you need anything?”
“You can kill it,” I replied, with unusual aggression. I grabbed a towel and unlocked the door.
My hero entered, broomstick in hand, gave the shower floor several thwacks, tossed the wasp in the trash, and left, telling me to enjoy my shower. Toe throbbing, I got back in.
Insect life is a curious, and sometimes uncomfortable, aspect of tour decision to homestead. I love how deeply in tune we are with nature, even with the unpleasantness. I am fascinated by how much more life we see than we ever have before. Remarkably, the insect life is not following the mandate or structure of the human world. They are, perhaps, the kingdom least affiliated with us. We are simply occupying the same space, each with our own agenda. While I am sometimes disturbed, even injured by this interaction, I maintain my gratitude for the “real”-ness of this experience. I would rather intimately know these beings, even if it causes discomfort, than never have known of them at all.