Spidermageddon

Apple Clafoutis

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the entire spider population of the world. I’m happy to live and let live with my “spiderbro” friends. But ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been completely overrun with spiders. They’re just the common North American house spider, and they mean no harm, but each room contains at least a dozen. There are no other bugs in the house, so we assume that they’re just eating each other to survive.

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Mostly they just build little nests, fight, and mate with each other. Sometimes there’s serious drama that occurs in the corner of the shower or the living room ceiling.

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Recently, I was reading in bed and found one crawling up my arm – I squished it accidentally because I thought it was the dog touching me with his wet nose. And then I thought about whether I wanted these creatures crawling around the new baby and I got all skeeved out …

So Spidermageddon happened. I took my vacuum and sucked up all the cobwebs, tiny nests — spiders too — that I could find. Some spiders hid behind objects but I managed to winkle all of them out eventually.

Then, before they could come back, I whipped up a quick and natural spider repellent. Spiders not only walk with their front feet but they eat with them too, so anything strong-smelling that they’re walking through gets in their mouths and they really don’t like that. So any pungent essential oil will do – I picked some that are particularly strong.

Grab a reusable spray bottle and tip in about 5 drops each of your essential oils: here I used lavender, peppermint, and citronella (I figured the citronella would repel the OTHER bugs should they come out to play this summer). Add in as well a dash of dish detergent – the soap will help to disperse the oils better than if you didn’t use it.

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You can also add a splash of white vinegar. The acetic acid is an irritant to spiders and other bugs, but it may also discolour the surface of what you spray it on so be warned. I was using it on the walls and windowsills so I wasn’t worried.

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Fill the rest of the spray bottle with warm water, give it a little shake, and spray away!

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Make sure to cover all the spaces where you found spiders in the past, like ceiling corners (they like pale or white surfaces to attract mates), and places they might enter the house, like windowsills and sashes.  I went through two bottles of the stuff in order to get all the rooms in the house.

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A week later I find the occasional spider, who gets deported and then the spot re-sprayed, but we no longer feel outnumbered in the house. I consider it a success!

Shoo, Fly. Don’t bother me.

Another consequence of being away for the week, in addition to my friendly mushroom collection, is that we were inundated with fruit flies.  This is despite me scouring the kitchen before we left, scrubbing everything and emptying the compost and the garbage and cleaning them out. Nothing was left on the counters.

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And they’re everywhere: flying into our faces as we sit in the office, harassing Gren as he lazes about on the couch …

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GRATUITOUS CORGI PHOTO

When I was a kid and we were living in Victoria, all of a sudden one fall we were completely inundated with fruit flies. My mother tried EVERYTHING: traps, glue, tape, swatting, pesticides … nothing worked. Eventually she began to take enormous satisfaction in sucking up clouds of them with the vacuum cleaner. The culprit was eventually revealed to be a banana hidden in Ando’s closet. Yuck. I didn’t want this situation to turn into that situation. So, after hiding all produce in the safe confines of the refrigerator, I made up some traps for them in the hopes that they will mostly die and go away. There are lots of different fly traps you can make at home, but they all have the same basic concept: something sweet to attract them, some method of preventing them from leaving, and then a liquid to drown them. Or you poison them by other means.Shoo Fly 1

Fruit flies are also known as vinegar flies, because they are attracted to the sweetness of wines and juices, and of cider and rice vinegars. So my trap involved filling a bowl with enough rice vinegar to drown a fruit fly. You can also use juice or wine for this. Then you add a drop of dish soap to the mix to break the surface tension so the flies can’t get away.

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Then you make a cover. You can fashion a paper cone with the narrow end pointing towards the vinegar so that the flies get funneled in but can’t escape, or you can use plastic wrap. Poke lots of holes in the plastic wrap, each one about fruit fly sized.

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I also read that apparently fruit flies are like teeny tiny asthmatics. Because they’re so small, they need to breathe nice clean air. Particles like smoke get stuck in them and kill them. So incense is a pretty good killer of fruit flies. I shoved a few sticks into my house plants (because fruit flies like to hang out there when they’re not cavorting in the kitchen). After a few seconds I saw a fruit fly do a death spiral in the column of smoke and then keel over on the table below. NEAT.

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This is the kitchen vinegar trap after about two hours. SCIENCE.

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Some Cool Things My Parents Do

I get a lot of my DIY-know-it-all from my parents, who have been renovating houses and cooking up a storm since before I was born.

They also know a lot of nifty shortcuts that make them look really crafty and smart while taking little to no effort on their parts.

Here are three of those shortcuts for your edification.

The first is the tablecloth curtain.  This one is in our “yellow” bathroom, which will be renovated shortly, and the tablecloth will go back to the second-hand store from whence it came.  My mother simply folded over one end for a café look and sewed on a series of tabs to hang it with.  Simple, easy, and really it makes a cozy little room.The second, also in the “yellow” bathroom (because it’s yellow, though who knows what colour they’ll paint it next), is the pot-lid holder magazine rack.  Perfect for a small space, the pot-lid holders (which you can purchase from IKEA or Lee Valley) are strong enough to hold several books and magazines for your bathroom entertainment.And the third, while we’re on the yellow theme, is the fancy dish detergent bottle.  This was an old bottle of wine my parents picked up when we were living in BC, and you used to be able to just buy refill bags of dish soap so it cut down on packaging.  Pour in the coloured dish detergent of your choice and pop in a bartender’s stopper and you’re good to go.More ideas to come.