The Wee Flea Problem

One of my friends from work asked me if I knew how to get rid of fleas.  I didn’t, but I said I could find out (because that’s how I roll).  So after exhaustive research of the internets (seriously, I read like TWENTY different sites), I came up with what seemed like a sensible solution, and I put so much work into it that I thought I would share it with you.

First, a little note on having fleas: they tend to like damp, dark places, so if you live in, oh, say, Newfoundland, chances are you’re going to encounter them at some point.  You don’t even have to have a pet to get fleas in your house — they can come in on your legs, your clothing, even stuff you bring in from the garage or whatever.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a dirty person.  Fleas just sometimes happen.  Living in crowded or damp spaces will do it.  Getting rid of them takes a bit of work, but it’s a relatively simple process.  So here we go.

Step one:

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Take everything your pet lies on and wash it in hot, very soapy water.  Dry it in the dryer or hang it out in the sun.  Fleas apparently don’t like the light.  Or soap.  Wash your bed linens, pillows, cushions, dish towels … anything a flea can hide in and that fits in your washing machine, you should chuck that in.  Anything else, you can scrub it with soapy water and hope for the best.

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Step two:

Wee Flea Problem

Wash your pet in flea-killing shampoo.  Either that or use a flea comb to brush him or her and have a bowl of hot soapy water nearby so that when you comb out a flea you can douse it in the water to kill it.  Either way you will need to use a flea comb to get eggs and the like out of your pet.  Always, when brushing or washing, wash/comb the neck first so the fleas can’t jump onto the head while you’re washing the rest.  Don’t let your pet near any other animal that could be carrying fleas.  Use a flea preventative specifically designed for your pet (we use Advantage on Gren, it’s not too expensive).  We use a flea comb on Gren just for the brushing of him, so he’s used to the pull of the fine teeth and his hair is very straight.  If you have a curly or wire-haired dog, this is going to be a little bit more difficult.  You might want to book a special appointment with a groomer for this step if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Wee Flea Problem

Step three:

Vacuum the crap out of your place.  Go over your carpet with some heavy brush attachment to loosen clinging larvae.  Get into all nooks and crannies, carpets, furniture, and any spots that are dark and/or damp.  Cracks in the floors, behind doors, in grates – anywhere dust collects could be a storage spot for flea eggs.  Immediately throw out your vacuum bag to avoid escaping fleas (my mother-in-law, Mrs. Nice, tells me that if you put moth balls in your vacuum bag it will kill any bug you suck down, though it smells a bit weird when you first turn on the machine).  If you have a canister vacuum like we do, empty the thing into a bag outside and then hose ‘er down.

Wee Flea Problem

Step four:

Use some form of insecticide (most of the internet says you have to go the chemical route, sorry).  Get one with a compound in it known as IGR (insect growth inhibitor) and follow the instructions.  Don’t let children or pets near it.  You could also scrub every surface of your house with soap (rugs included), but you have to be thorough.  The insecticide treatment, while gross and chemical-y, probably will work better than any vinegar-soap-lemon juice thing you can come up with, so it’s something to think about, even if, like me, you’re not into using those kinds of things.

Step five:

Hose down your garden with soapy water (or a chemical insecticide) and trim back all the foliage to expose all the damp dark places to sunlight.  Mow the lawn often.  Keep dark and damp spots to a minimum.

Greenthumbing Update

Step six:

In two weeks, repeat steps one through five, vacuuming every other day.  Fleas have a two-week life cycle and fleas in egg form will not be affected by any form of insecticide, so you gotta do it twice.  If you don’t do it twice then it’s not going to work.

Prevention, the natural way (after you’ve taken the previous steps):

Sprinkle nutritional or brewer’s yeast on your pet’s food or rub it into his or her fur. Our first dog, many decades ago, got fleas one summer and we fed her the yeast.  It seems the fleas don’t like the taste of the dog’s skin once the yeast has gotten into it and they take off.

Herbal flea dip: boil 2 cups fresh rosemary leaves in 2 pints (~1L) of water for 30 minutes.  Strain the leaves out and add the mixture to a gallon (~4L) of warm water.  Saturate your pet and do not rinse – allow to air dry.  This is a nice refreshing thing to do on a hot day.

Cottage Pie

Citrus spray: thinly slice a lemon and chuck it in a pint (~1/2L) of water.  Bring that to a boil and then let it sit overnight.  Alternately, use a few drops of lemon oil in an appropriate amount of water.  Spray in areas where you think fleas might be hanging out (remember that lemon juice also acts as a bleach so watch out for fabric).  Spray it onto your pet as well, and put a few drops under his or her collar to keep fleas at bay.

Diatomaceous earth is something you can sprinkle into your carpets and in your yard.  It has no effect on humans or pets (it’s just dirt) but the granules are sharp and will puncture the exoskeleton of insects, causing them to dry out.  Also a very good humidity and odor buster.

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Newfie Screen Door

This post comes from a conversation I had with a lighthouse keeper on my second trip to Bell Island.  Yes, a real lighthouse keeper.  How cool is that?

A “Newfie Screen Door” (his words, not mine) is a natural insect repellent that keeps pesky pests out of your house when it’s a nice day in St. John’s and you want to leave your door open.  It mimics a wasps’ nest, so other wasps, bees, and flies will steer clear.  The lighthouse keeper said it worked about 80% of the time, which is pretty good, I think.  Of course, there aren’t that many bugs around in St. John’s, it being a rather windy city on a geographically isolated island in the North Atlantic Ocean, but this is how they do it here and it seems to work.

I already have a screen door.

But it’s an experiment worth trying, especially considering the wasps’s nest in the eaves outside my bathroom window.

Take yourself a brown paper bag, like the ones you buy to put lunch in (unless you’re smart and you use re-usable lunch bags).  I keep them on hand so I can roast red peppers in them.  Mmm-mmm …

Squinch the top.  For today, I have decreed that “squinch” is a word.And blow it up like a balloon.

If you have no sense of fun, you can fill it with crumpled paper.  Obviously, I have a sense of fun.

For the record, I’m not in the habit of standing in front of mirrors, watching myself do things.  There just happens to be a mirror in my kitchen (there are three, actually, all built into the walls), and I was standing at the window doing this and looked over.  So there I am.  Pretend for me that my hair looks good.

Tie the top with string.  Maybe work in a pretty bow.

Hang it over your threshold.  TADA.  No more bugs inside.  Or at least, 80% less bugs.I even put one up at my parents’ house too.

Greenthumbing Day Two

FINALLY.

The weather and the fates conspired against me and I was not able to go out into the garden until MONDAY evening.  It’s shameful that “Day One” and “Day Two” should be so freaking far apart.  Stupid Newfoundland.  Spring just does not exist here.  In fact it’s supposed to snow Tuesday.  Of course.

Anyway, I did my raking.  The Pie helped tremendously even though he loathes gardening.  Otherwise it would have taken FOREVER.

Here’s the before.

Here’s the during.  It was the Pie’s idea to put all the leaves on a tarp and drag them to the leaf heap behind the shed.  It was sheer genius.

He grew up in a forest and is thus familiar with such brilliant leaf transport methods.

Here’s the after.  Admittedly it’s rather half-assed, but at this late point all the leaves have disintegrated and are impossible to rake.  The Pie says the rest of them will disappear the first time he mows the lawn.

I hope to have better luck with the slugs and snails this year.  As I’m sure you noticed with my Rodentia posts that I’m not a huge fan of needlessly killing living things that have done me no personal harm.  But these slugs and snails, they’re everywhere (and I mean everywhere), and they’re costing me money (that I don’t have) in replacement plants. My young plants have no chance to grow before they’re literally nipped in the bud by the slimy suckers.

And you can see that the slugs have already had their way with my tulips.

They’ve eaten all the buds on my iris as well.  I nearly raked up the iris while clearing out the beds due to their tenuous grasp on the soil.  I hope they don’t die.

So I caved and bought Scott’s Eco-Sense SLUG-B-GON at Canadian Tire.  Because the name is AWESOME.

But actually because the bait just stops slugs from eating once they eat it, and uneaten bait is safely absorbed by the soil, safe for other animals, children, pets … all that jazz.  I’m excited to test it out.

As far as the actual growing of things goes, I got nothin’.  The tulips, iris, and daffodils are doing their regular thing, but haven’t yet bloomed.  I’m trying to get a cutting from my indoor palm to root to give to Kª, and I’ve started trying to root some avocado pits as well.  If that works I’ll give you a little how-to.  In the meantime, we just wait.

I have been doing my research, however, and have come up with a list of perennial plants that are supposedly hardy here on the rock (shallow, rocky, lead-filled soil) and which I wouldn’t mind having in my garden:

Cornflower/Bachelor’s Buttons (these grew last year but they’re an annual so I’m not sure I’ll plant again)

Fair Maids of France

Hosta (though the slugs had their way with them last year)

Laburnum (which actually grows in huge trees next door)

Lilac

Lily

Lupin

Pitcher Plant (the official provincial flower)

Poppies (we had some success last year.  I’m hoping they appear again.)

Sea Thrift (apparently pretty rare but also native to the island)

Silver Dollar

Snapdragon

Snowball Tree

Viola (Pansies)

Wild Rose

The goal with this garden is to plant all this stuff and set it up so no one has to work on it while I’m gone on my fieldwork term.  Easy peasy is the key here.  Any suggestions (or cuttings!) would be most appreciated, just put your comments below.

***EDIT: I’ll have you know it has snowed TWICE since I wrote this.  The last time it snowed was yesterday morning.  Oh Newfoundland … ***

Rodentia: Judgment Day

I had two more posts about this damned mouse.  So much for that.  Had to delete ’em.

I had a dream about mice last night.  I dreamed the house was overrun with them. One of them was so big it resembled a large angry black cat that hissed at me.  Armed with a broomstick I did battle with it, only to be distracted when the house (which, in the dream, was a ship), hit bad weather and started to roll.

The Pie and I were quite pleased with ourselves for blocking the gap under the door to the water heater with dryer sheets.  Now the mouse’s only egress into the house was through the fireplace.  We have a piece of wood that leans against the fireplace opening to hide the ugly insulation and block drafts, but if you place it flush with the opening it topples open, so we have to have it at an angle where there’s a small opening at the bottom.  This is the mouse’s entrance.

I came home from work today (which for me is the 12th), all gung-ho to finally prepare a wedge that would keep the door fully shut.  I found the appropriate piece of wood in the shed and sawed it down to size.  Cut myself on my new saw.  Now it has a taste for blood.

I came back inside and was ready to wedge it into place when I figured I’d better check the trap in the fireplace, just in case the little bugger had managed to eat the rest of the peanut butter off the other side of the trap (I had discovered to my dismay a few days previous the mouse’s ability to remove the bait from the trap without setting it off).

And I got the bejesus startled out of me.

The mouse (I’m guessing it’s a female but I could be wrong) got too confident and went too far over on the trap.  It looks like it was instantaneous at least.

I have mixed feelings about this.  I’m not in the habit of killing small things (except house centipedes, because those things terrify me), or even big things for that matter.  The mouse was just following her biological imperative, and I had no right to interrupt that.  On the other hand, she was pooping in my pans, and who knows where she had been?

Andy and I ceremoniously dumped her in the scrap heap in the backyard, and then threw out the trap.

We’re going to stay vigilant in case she wasn’t the only one but the problem is solved for now.

Rodentia Update

If this were a real mouse it would be in trouble for being on my counter.

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.

Because a war this has become.

The little mouse is taunting me, baiting me daily with its bold exploits across my floors.

The Pie and I have come to the  conclusion that perhaps there is only one mouse, and we simply see it on multiple occasions.  It’s always the same colour, same size, and it picks the same routes through the house every time.

It gloats over my frustrated attempts to keep it out.

Remember how I jammed dryer sheets into every crack in the fireplace?  Well it’s not coming through the cracks – it’s coming through the dripping, sagging, and fetid pink fibreglass insulation that is blocking my chimney.  There is obviously a hole in said chimney, as well, because the mouse, if thwarted coming out of the fireplace, can go through the wall some how and come out in the closet with the water heater.  From there it makes a bee line for the kitchen, goes under the fridge, behind the dishwasher, and then into the pan drawer under my stove.

Every day it poops in my muffin tin.

I used the muffin tins the other day to make blueberry muffins and so the tins were out for a wash.  You know what the mouse did?

It pooped in my loaf pan.

It pooped in my loaf pan.

I pulled that out to wash it.  This morning, I pulled the drawer open to take a peek, and what did I see in my other loaf pan?

TWO POOPS.

TWO POOPS

The daily deposition of that dessicated black grain is really getting to me.  I think the two poops were made out of spite for the fact that I chased the mouse through the house last night.

I have NO IDEA what this mouse is eating.  My floors are swept daily, and there are no crumbs behind the dishwasher.  My recycling bin, next to the stove, is full of clean plastic.  My pantry is impregnable and shows no signs of breach.  But every freaking day I have mouse poop in my drawer.

This is a call for vengeance.  If the mouse cannot be repelled, then it will be beaten back.  The Pie has convinced me finally to pick up some mouse traps.  Should I be successful I will look upon the body of my beaten foe and rejoice.

More bulletins as events warrant.