Tenting The House – All Done!

All Done!  We’re back.

After three days, we got the call at 9AM, right on time that we could come home.   We anticipated that, so in the rain of that morning, we piled everything we could into the Jeep and Kevin’s Beast, and rolled home.  It was only a couple of blocks, so it wasn’t a big trial.   Even Rack was happy to leave.

Ed Lugo’s Resort was fine, no complaints, but it was truly nice to head back to our own digs.  Home Sweet Home may be a cliche, but it is for a reason.

Pulling into the driveway, we saw our house, darkened.  A light glowed in the living room, all the windows and doors were opened.   Kevin got in first and was chatting with the person from Hugh Turner Pest Control.  True to form we got The Joke.

I was told that I would have to wash everything, dishes, Linens, and the lot.   Then the lady laughed and said that we were fine.

You see, Vikane Gas may be lethal, but it does not leave a residue.  There was a grit on the floors but I attributed that to my own housekeeping shortcuts and had a mental picture of teeny critters falling like snow while the place was buttoned up.  Probably nothing more than a fantasy and the soles of a herd of workers’ boots.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the house though was “It Smells Like Death In Here”.

There was a good reason for that.  We found a day later that there was a freshly killed grey mouse on a glue trap that tried to get a last meal in the attic.  It was right next to the air intake for the HVAC system so the scent was everywhere.  It doesn’t any more.

Also, coming back into the House Of Death meant that all the no-see-ums were dead too.  That was a good thing because those critters who were eating my walls needed to go.  Dead Termites good, Live Termites Bad.  All the random moths that I would see fluttering around haven’t been back yet either.

Unfortunately, my friends the Lizards and Geckos were harmed as a result.  There was one that was alive, probably shut itself off during the time to conserve oxygen, and it survived between the window panes when the house was closed off.  There was another one which was ghostly white and dead on the front of the house.  I’m sure there were more.  I still smell death outside now when I’m in the garden but that’s fading fast.

We three settled back into the routine of life.   Rack found his spot between the coffee table and the couch.  We had 14 double bagged sacks of food, medicines, and odds and ends to unpack and load into cabinets.  My own house cleaning hack had to be fixed since we just didn’t see the sense of vacuuming before the workers got here, and before they left.   There was a herd of Chihuahuas worth of dog fur creeping out from the nooks and crannies here that got vacuumed up as soon as the pest control worker left.

I am a week past the event when I’m writing this.   The house smells like beer since I’m trying to make Sourdough Starter.  I figure that since the place is open, the “natural yeasts” of South Florida will repopulate fast.  The “clean” house didn’t stop my making Yogurt either, the first two brews were perfect.

Yes, normal life here means there’s always something brewing or cooking or waiting for the time to bake.

But basically it’s all done.  We are back to whatever passes for normal here.  Sometimes you just have to kill off civilizations of bugs to get back to normal.   It took us 6 years to get to this point, lets hope it is longer next time.

Tenting the House – The Day Arrives

Would you like to run away to the Circus?

Would you REALLY?

Well join us on a little trip we want to call “Tenting The House”!

You see, we have by this time boxed all our food that goes with us, all our clothes, and all the needs of the Parrot and the Dog.

It went into the cars and brought about 3 blocks away.

And then it begun.

Almost precisely on schedule, which in Florida means about 30 minutes late, they arrived.   We really did need the extra half hour to plan this anyway since we were still bagging things and showering and doing Normal Household Things when they got here.

There arrived a box truck and this … thing.   It’s sitting in the driveway.   A truck full of things that I am sure I would have loved to explore if I had the time to.   Clamps, water, tarpaulins, signs, and everything you would need to entomb your house in a giant circus tent.

No loitering allowed, this place was going to be gassed.

The truck has an upper deck that would allow the workers to step onto my rather fragile roof so they could do their thing.

They arrived and began opening every window, drawer, and door.  Everything had to be opened just enough so that the gas could get to it.  That gas was Vikane gas, something related to what the Nazis used in the holocaust.  It would be released in the house along with Tear Gas to deter anyone from entering the place.

Why tear gas?  One of the dodges that criminals were doing in South Florida was to get scuba gear and go into these houses and basically empty them while the gas was in the place over night.  Nobody would be there to see them do it and they did get away with some of the burglaries.   Luckily these scum got caught and will be in jail for a while.

The workers inspected the entire place, deemed it ready, then cleared away an area of about a foot from the actual footprint of the roof of the house.  It needed to be clear so that the tent could be weighted down to the soil.  Anything actually living within the perimeter of this zone of death would be killed over the next three days.

It was Monday and we weren’t allowed back until Wednesday morning.

Over the next two hours, I watched my Orange Tree trimmed back since it was encroaching on the carport, watched my orchids and other potted plants relocated to the pool deck, and people swarm over the place like the ants that they were ejecting from the premises.

It was fascinating to watch.  People who were as large as myself on the roof stepping over tiles, handing down clamps and tarpaulins, and eventually wrapping the place up in cheerful blue and red.

They finally affixed a sign to the place that pronounced that we were being fumigated by Dead Bug Edwards as we left for lunch.

It was surgically precise.  The house was professionally secured.  The grounds were cleared.  Things were prepared by people who clearly have been doing this for a long time. 

Tenting the House – The Preparation

Having your house tented is a major disruption.  A Huge Pain in the … Tail.

We first had to schedule the operation.   This is such a “popular” thing here that the better companies are booked months in advance.  Oddly enough that worked in very well with what we had to go through.

I bake, a lot.  We both cook large meals and keep frozen leftovers.  The cupboard is full of things like baking soda, and mixes that are somewhat less common.  A Spice Cabinet with things like Cumin, Curry, and Vanilla Bean that actually get used.

I tell people that I have a spice cabinet and I know how to use it. 

I buy Cinnamon by the “large jar”, as well as certain other spices.   It can be an obsession but my neighbors like it when ever I get a bit out of control and start baking.

All of that had to be drawn down.   The freezer needed to be “minimized” as well.  The freezer was so crammed full of food that even in the hurricane season it was difficult to manoeuvre in there.

There was a silver lining in this whole process.   When asked when we would want to have the house tented, we were told it would be three days.  Either over a weekend or starting on a Monday.  The Weekend Tentings were not as popular since we could get one sooner.   We were speaking to them in August, the next weekend tenting was in October.  That would give us two months to empty the freezer as much as possible.

The problem with Weekend Tenting here is that we have people who are going to the shopping center with the bar that is close to the house.   I had this mental image of coming back to the house after some drunk climbed under the tent after thinking mistakenly that they can hold their nose and be safe.

We went with a weekday Monday tenting as a result.  That could not happen until the Monday before Thanksgiving.

We had a date.

For three months we were purposely eating everything we could that was “back stock” in the refrigerator and freezer.   I was baking to draw down supplies as much as possible.  I managed to use up 20 pounds of flour in two months.

The instructions were straightforward.   If it goes in you it gets bagged in a giant Nylon bag.  That bag would get bagged inside of another bag.  Each bag gets separately zip tied shut.  This was true for anything in the cupboard – so there went my spices.  It was true in the freezer and the refrigerator.  If it is sealed in a can or sealed in a jar it can stay out, but plastic bags and bowls go in the bag.

By the end of the bagging, my refrigerator had two bags, the freezer had one.  There was a mountain of bags in the dining room of food that would not be harmed by being out of the cupboard.

The pet food would either have to be bagged or taken with us.   Anything that was the dog’s had to leave the house.  After all, Rack’s sense of smell was much better than ours was.

So dutifully, I began putting Rack’s toys in a box to take with us when we would de-camp to another place.  The box being on the floor was an invitation for him to take his favorite toy out of the box and play with it again.  This went on for a while until I picked the box up and placed it high and out of his reach.

No, Rack, you may not play with that now.

Pouty dog aside, Oscar the Parrot was easier.   His toys are bolted onto the cage and the food all went into one giant bag save a little for the three day trip to the BnB.

A solid weekend plus worth of packing food, dog gear, parrot food, and people’s clothes resulted in a disrupted house full of things “staged” to go.

Finally, electronics and other valuables had to be triaged and staged.  I had to make sure that I could do whatever it is that I do with my computers while gone.  The computers I have are all older and I use them differently than most.  Since data is put on the machine that it is most needed, it is spread around.   There isn’t a computer in the house that is newer than a year old, and most are what others would think are underpowered.  That’s a benefit since underpowered means cheap and in some cases free since they are “cast off” or even throwaway machines getting a second life.   But since there are more than one, I can spread the load around. 

There would be a long block of time that workers would have access to the house but we would not.  Luckily we had honest workers.  I’ve heard horror stories about that sort of thing down here in South Florida.  You’ve got to watch people while they’re working these days.

We even went so far as to take pictures of anything and everything in the house.   While it turned out to be overkill, it is a great inventory in case of a break-in and well worth the couple of megs worth of picture files we both have floating around.

After all of this obsession and prep work, we were ready.

Tenting The House – The Backstory

One night we were sitting in our big green chairs, having an evening of what passes for Domestic Bliss here.  Lights were on, the TV was glowing, and we were preoccupied with a conversation.  Chattering back and forth stopped when Kevin was dive bombed by “A Bug”.

This is South Florida.  Wilton Manors.   We’re technically not “in the tropics” but it’s close enough to not matter.   The freeze line is 15 miles North of us in Boca Raton.  We’re used to having wildlife crawl into the house and not give it a second glance.

Trying to ignore The Bugs, we shooed it away as it banged its little insect head against the twists of the Compact Florescent Lamp above our heads.

It’s not really that uncommon to have a moth here doing exactly that.   They come and go as they will, and you learn that when you live here, it means to keep all your food in jars, double sealed and set away safely.

I have had the pleasure of watching those bugs get eaten by lizards and geckos.  I’m completely entertained by those.  There is a window that looks out of the kitchen, into the Lanai and out into the backyard beyond.  The light from the living room will glow out that window drawing outdoor bugs to it.  Moths will bang themselves senseless against it while translucent Geckos will come by and feed on them every night.

They also help to keep the population of ants down, but we do have to spray for them fairly regularly.  Recently the ants got past that passive nuisance phase.  We had two different types of ants living in the house.  Ghost Ants are tiny creatures that threatened to pick up my coffee jar and move it as it got in their way.  These are much smaller than any ant I have ever experienced and simply would not die when we sprayed the over the counter stuff from the big box stores.

The other kind of ant lived in the holes in the metal frame around the windows.  They would make great lines of black dots leading to whatever they find interesting as a food source.   We couldn’t keep them down either as they became more insistent.

We had the exterminator by twice to get rid of them but they just kept coming back.

The final straw was the Light Bulb Bugs.  You see, they were termites.   We had them come by for a visit.

The geometry of the house is such that that light bulb over Kevin’s Chair will shine out into the hallway and out into the master bedroom.  The master bedroom looks out into the backyard.  There was just a little bit of wood around the window there.  That was where the termites nested.

Having the exterminator back, they did a more thorough inspection.  In fact, we were dissatisfied with the old exterminator company getting indifferent work here.  We moved to a much better group of people who took a much more professional level of care on the house.

Hugh Turner was recommended to us as a company that has “Been around a long time” and would “take care of us”.  They did that well.   The report we got back was that there were termites in that frame and in some of the nooks and crannies above that spot up in the roof.

In short, it was time to tent the house.

Here there are two types of people.  Those who have termites and those who will have them.  We had them.  We will have them again.  It is all a part of living in South Florida.