Coffee Grounds – Mosquito Repellent or Just Gardener’s Gold

There’s a lot of things flying by on the internet these days.

Facebook is adding to it.

But some of it is true, some of it is false, and some of it has a bit of both in it.

I may have stumbled onto something here.

When I moved to South Florida, I ended up with a lot of really fascinating people around me.

My godmother was fresh from being one of the people directly responsible for having pig production being protected so that they do not end up in crates on factory farms.   She’s a gardener and her husband was into making some amazing Bonsai trees.  I’m fortunate to have her and two of those trees in my yard today.

I have other friends here who amaze me just as much as my own godmother.

Some are teaching appreciation for the environment by their own hands.  Others have a strong hand in creating ecological parks.  More are directly involved in horticultural pursuits.

I find life greatly improved as a result.

I do my own part to give back.  I’ve got a pot farm.  Well not THAT kind of pot.  A farm of pots with gardening plants in the back yard.  One after another is growing and taking root to later go into the garden.

The yard is so chock full of plants that I have a lot of trouble finding room for them.

Meanwhile I am trying to figure out how to grow more.  Our hedge is dying back so I am pre-growing Podocarpus for the next hedge.  May as well, I have the time!

I go out in the morning with coffee mug in hand and look for things to improve the yard.

But that coffee.  I was told never to throw the grounds in the garbage.  It’s “Rich Organic Material – Gardener’s Gold”.  May as well just toss it in the gardens, right?

We had gotten a few pots for the front porch, Lemongrass.  It was bought to keep down pests, mosquitoes primarily.  I would splash water on it when I go to wash the dog’s feet off before going into the house, and didn’t think too much more about the lemongrass.

At one point I was having a discussion of how there seemed to be fewer mosquitoes out front as a result.  The problem was that out back where there was another plant, I had a much worse problem with mosquitoes.  It wasn’t working.

But out front was tolerable.  I just would spray a fog of poison out the back door before going onto the Lanai

to cut back the mosquitoes.

There was something different about out front and one of those annoying Internet Memes gave me the answer.

That gardener’s gold – Coffee Grounds seemed to be having its own effect.

You see, to the one side of the lemongrass, I would throw the morning’s coffee grounds onto the top of the soil.  It was right under the bathroom window and the soil was visibly just a sheen of soil over some stones put there over the years.  It was getting thicker.

The picture in the meme said to toss the grounds near where you have a problem spot with mosquitoes, drain your pots.  This was because “Mosquitoes Hate The Smell of Coffee Grounds”.

We may be onto something.

My backyard was a fog of little tiger mosquitoes that I would literally run away from to get out to work in the yard.

My front yard and porch I could work on the windows, even rest my coffee mug on Aunt Betty’s table and not get bit badly.

It’s all relative.

So I got a lightbulb go off in my head.

Why not try coffee grounds in the plant pots out back.  I have more than 30 of them.  Orchids, Podocarpus,

Hibiscus, and Banana Trees.

So I did.  Started on the Lanai, worked my way out.  When I got to the end, repeat as needed.  I even put a stripe of the stuff over by the pool equipment which is a corridor about the same width as my own armspan.  I can touch fence and wall and it collected a cloud of the nasty little blood suckers.

I won’t say that the mosquitoes are all gone.  I would need a dome over the property and then pump it full of pesticides.  That would be no fun because I would never be able to use the thing.

But…

I have to say that since I started doing this, there is a definite difference.

Much fewer mosquitoes.

Much less of a panic.

I can use the lanai out back and my front porch.

Yes there are mosquitoes, but they are the exception and not the rule

My Lanai does not smell like a combination of Brazilian Cerrado and Pumpkin Spice at all.

And I can actually use it!

This is kind of a “Chicken Soup” thing – It couldn’t hurt.  May not work for you, but couldn’t work

But…
I will keep doing it since it IS working for me.

While those folks up North won’t need to think about this since it is getting colder and they’re going into winter, down here we wont’ see 60F/15C for another two months.  By then I will have a nice coating of brown over all my plants and much fewer mosquitoes.

I guess once in a while, those memes have something to them.  At least in my eyes.

Your mileage may vary.

War On Mosquitoes

I’ve had it.

It’s been a week of this.

It’s time to up the game.  To bring in the big guns.  The Next Step.

I’m making a trap.

The reason is that since the construction we had on the house, I’ve been plagued by mosquitoes.   I have finally had enough.

Last night, I was in bed.  The house was quiet and there was only one light on.  That light was over the bed in the back of the house.

I saw a black dot flick across the computer screen. 
I saw that same dot flick back.

I knew I was being targeted.  A mosquito had found its way to the most distant part of the house from any door or window that had been opened in days to find me.

Sorry, Miss Mozzie, but I am not your food.

I pulled the covers up as high as I could get them leaving my arms exposed and waited. 

She came in close and landed on the back of my hand.  I wasn’t fast enough to kill her.  She flew off.

More targeting and she landed on the other arm.  This time success.  I could sleep safely.

The next morning there was one in the bathroom so aggressive that I couldn’t use it for its intended purposes until I unleashed sweet death on the creature.  I used bathroom tile cleaner on it all the while laughing like an old movie villain.

Muwahahaha!  Die Mosquito, Die!

I thought to myself “Evil thing” as I went back to my desk forgetting about the Intended Purposes.

At my desk, I managed to kill one more using the “Tennis Racket”.  It’s a tennis racket shaped appliance that has parallel wires where the strings would normally be.  You flick it through the air and it makes a satisfying “SNAP!” as it vaporizes the life out of a worthless bug in a brilliant blue white flash.

Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) hates that thing.  Every time I go on patrol looking or more of those blood suckers, he cringes.

“I’m tired of this!” as I walk into the kitchen and grab a 2 litre bottle that I saved for this purpose.  Cutting it in half and then trimming it down, I make a mosquito trap.

Add about a cup of water, two teaspoons of sugar, one half teaspoon of yeast, I shake the mixture up.  It’s now making carbon dioxide on my counter.  I’m hoping the little monsters find it.  I’ll then target them again with the Tennis Racket of Doom.

Time to evict the house guests.

Yes, it’s all happening indoors.  Before 8AM, I killed a total of four mosquitoes, one of which was trying to bite its way through the blue jeans I have to wear inside and outside to not be targeted.  I guess I have that Sweet Blood everyone hears about, always have.

But it’s time, this has to end.

As for that trap?  I had one outside the house for a while.  It didn’t actually “trap” the mosquitoes.  I think they may be too smart for that.  They merely made a cloud around it trying to get at the CO2 emitting source, but realized that it isn’t an actual creature, they flew off.

If that happens here… I’m prepared.

Besides, next step is chemical warfare.   I have a can of bug spray, and I know how to use it!

Welcome to Florida, Here is Your Hamster Ball

Of all the things I found most annoying about being Up North, the one that kept coming back and soaking me to the bone was being cold.

Hate it.

Mind you, when I hear descriptions of what the Moslem World thinks heaven will be like, I immediately picture a certain spot in Valley Forge National Park.

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You know, Pennsylvania.

I got spoiled by just how pretty country is up there.  Any time after the trees come in until the leaves fall.  Beautiful country. 

Rolling hills, small babbling brooks pouring off the sides of those same hills to get to the valleys where a river flows.  Open fields, green verdant mountainsides.

I could easily speak of New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and a dozen places other like that.

Then the leaves fall and we’re miserable until the trees are back in full leaf again.   The world gets locked in by this ugly white stuff and things just go dormant.  Including the people.  It’s dark, cold, and covered in ice and snow.  At the peak of this thing called Winter, people are getting into survival gear just to walk to the corner shops for some milk and a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread.

You know, so when the power goes out due to a freak snowstorm they can make some French Toast.

There’s a caveat there.  When it’s green they have mosquitoes.  But you can duck away from them.  Just keep moving.

After all, far be it that you aren’t food for something else.

But for the most part, they don’t get inside to harass you.  It’s a rare and random occurrence that you hear one, maybe once a month, in the house.  The House is where you live, and not them.  Outside is for the times you are moving to somewhere else, or doing something else that keeps you moving.  They’re small and can’t keep up.

Here in Florida I often think we need to build a dome over the town and just pump pesticides into it, then let everyone back into it.

Give the natural world a reset.  Leave the Iguanas, Boa Constrictors, and Pythons in there as well.  They don’t belong here either.

That thought comes to me frequently when I hear a certain sound.

EEEEEEEE!  In my left ear.

I reach up to that appliance that I never really thought there was a need for Up North, and turn it on full blast.

The Ceiling Fan.

It’s not on so much to cool me.  I’m fine at a temperature that would wilt a Scotsman.  It’s to keep the mosquitoes away until I can come after it with a spray of instant death, or just a clap of the hands.

Great, now the dog’s scared.  Besides, the mosquitoes here can bench press a Buick or carry off a Moose.

I’m muttering about how cold it is in here and I’m overheard.

“Turn off the fan then”.
“No, I’m already a quart low and I don’t want to donate any more blood to my pets!”
“Is there a mosquito in the house AGAIN?”
“When isn’t there?”

I’m sitting in a down draft that would cause me to consider whether I could stand upright in it outdoors, and I’m being asked if I’m cold.

The mosquito is hovering, over there, just out of the “cooling breezes”, waiting.  She knows I have to leave my little Hamster Ball of wind.

Eventually.

Then she will drink the sweet, sweet nectar of my arm so that she may make children.

Not. If. I. Can. Help. It.

I go into the Kitchen.  Washer’s beeping its insistent “BeepBeepBeepBeepBeep…”.  I look in the Red Solo Cup on the counter.  There’s the culprit!

There are a dozen seeds in there I’m trying to get going.  Meyer Lemons.  Wonderful fruit that are almost sweet enough to eat from hand.  In the little puddle of water with the seeds there are some wrigglers.

I drain them out into the sink with a maniacal laugh.

In my best Mad Scientist (boo!) voice I tell them: “Live no longer my children for you meet doom in the whirling chamber of death!”.

I turn on the hottest water I can, and the garbage disposal, and they go down into the dark beyond of the sanitary sewer.

I laugh as I turn it all off and empty the Washer.

One less group of blood suckers down.

I bend down to move the clothes into the Dryer, close the door, and hear a familiar sound.

EEEEEEEE!

That’s what you get for Living Outdoors.  They get inside.  Besides, you left the Hamster Ball.  Go back to the safe zone, they’ll get you again.

But no, you eventually have to wander out of that safe zone where the little blighters are waiting.

Walk near the nearest source of water and they’ll be there.

In this case, the bathroom.  The drafts grab hold of them and draw them into the hallway where they smell the water.  I walk into the bathroom and close the door.  The lights come on full, four large CFL lights that are so bright you have to shade  your eyes at 5AM when you’re up.

I hear it.  EEEEEEEE!
She’s in here.

I look over to the bathtub and she’s coming for me.  I close the one door, then the other to seal the mosquito in.

Do my own business, then it’s personal.

I arm myself with the tile cleaner and open the door.

Immediately she sees me.  The battle is on!  I notice she’s moving slowly.

The bottle gets set down and … CLAP!!!!!

GOT YOU!

I’m safe for another day.  Scratching my right arm, I realize she got me too.

Damn.

Selective Hearing In Dogs Can Be A Help In Training

It’s the dry season in South Florida.  That is why you folks are clogging up our roads and putting money into our businesses.  The weather is nicest this time of year for people from out of state.  Their homes are surrounded by something we’d put in our drinks and our freezers, while we’re complaining about something that would make a Scotsman sweat in the “heat”.

It’s also a great time of year for us to do some outdoor chores like pest control.  Our homes are constantly being invaded by the great outdoors, and if you don’t want to live with great patrols of ants making their way inside to carry you off, you get on a first name basis with a pesticide company.

Herbie.  His name is Herbie.  If you ask me nicely I will even give you a reference.

But Herbie, as good as he is, can’t be here the entire time.  We got some pellets and spread them around the foundation of the home to make a ring of doom for critters.  Sorry, we pay the mortgage, you critters don’t.

It created a problem for us.  More specifically, for Rack, my McNab Dog.

Yeah Him again.  You see, he’s incredibly intelligent and is learning English, at least the way we speak it.

There’s a wrinkle to that.  Dogs hear individual words and try to assemble meanings.  Humans store the sentence, or paragraph, and try to assemble meanings.

At least some of us do.  Both people and dogs.  When you’re talking about a McNab, you’re talking about a dog that is as smart as the smartest out there.

So one morning we were talking about whether it was time to add a ring of doom around the house, give it a booster shot of poison.  That means that we couldn’t let Rack out to run his lap around the yard.  His family on the other side of the wormhole that is in behind the shed will have to do without him for a couple weeks.  The poison that we used is persistent and will take a while to soak in with rains.  Since we have just had our first rain in weeks, the prospect of not using the back yard with Rack is very real.  We put notes on the door so that I will remember, and even one at Dog’s Nose Height.

That was the discussion.

Rack heard “Rack Backyard Note Go Run”.

He trotted to the back door, sat down and stared holes into us.

I walked over to the door and my velcro-dog was with me, glued to my right calf.  I needed to go outside.  Luckily he does understand more than I think he does, and I get great results when I devolve my own University Educated English into a Pidgin Dog Speak.

I said “Rack, This Says Not For Dogs” while pointing at the post-it note with the thick letters that say “No Dog”.

I swear Rack Moaned before he looked back and forth between the note and my own eyes.

“Rack, you can’t go out”  pointing back at the post-it I said “Not for Dogs.  No Dogs Allowed”.

Sure, I’m channeling an old Charlie Brown cartoon but it worked.  Rack’s ears went down, tail dropped from excited to grumble height, and he slunk out of the Florida Room.   I went out back and dealt with the pool’s water level and came back.

Rack was staring at the glass door, then the note, and when he spotted me, myself.

“Sorry Boy, not today.”

See, he will go to the back room when he needs to go Use The Tree out back, and our own routine is for him to stare me down until I pay attention, then I’ll ask him “Show Me” and he’ll lead me to what he needs.  Kind of like Lassie where they’re asking “Did Timmy Fall Down the Well?”.

Leads me to wonder why they didn’t build a wall around that damn well with kids falling in it so often.

That particular morning I took it a step further.  I got him to go out to the Front Yard on his own.  That isn’t a big deal for most, but Rack is highly fearful.  He’s afraid of anything noisy, which could be anything from a leaf moving down in Miami to my own making a Kissing sound toward him or the parrot.

I managed to coax Rack out front where the street was, let him Use The Rock instead of the Palm tree out back, and watched as he stopped.  His tail went full tilt.  He saw a pack of dogs being led out for their march round the block. 

“Rack, go home”.  He looks up at me as if to say he wanted to go play.
“Sorry Buddy, let’s go home”.  I didn’t have to say it again, he was already in motion toward the open front door.

It proved that I had a few milestones passed that I didn’t realize I had passed, all because I don’t feel like living with ants.

Rack could be depended on to go out front, avoid the pack, and go back into the house on command.  Pretty big step for a dog who would go into hiding and shiver in a corner when I dropped my mixing spoon on the floor the other day.

The forecast is clear for a week more so Rack will be out back only on leash. That’s a shame because I really do enjoy watching him run around the property like a CrazyDog.  The grass will grow back where he “corners” around the big palm tree and accelerates past in a black and white blur on the way to the wormhole behind the shed.


But, the good thing is that we just had a mid-term test and passed with flying colors.  He’s well on the way to becoming another Dog Of A Lifetime like my Lettie was.  I could open the door to the house, she’d do her thing and come back, completing whatever tasks I told her I needed done on the way.  I swear if she had thumbs, she could have built us that pergola over the spa I was thinking about.

Rack is learning.  He may not get a construction permit, but he’s figuring out life, and at this point that’s a good thing.

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 – Rack Does Not Like Change

We had to decamp for three days.  Really one solid day, plus two half days. 

Practically the entire time we were gone, it rained.   In fact when the rain left us here in South Florida, it paid a visit to Havana Cuba where I hear it caused a lot of damage.

Wet Cubans aside, we ended up at Ed Lugo’s Resort.  Just around the corner and up the block from the house, this place was perfect for us.   A small two bedroom house with one bath.  The place gave me ideas about redoing the bathroom here.

Remove the tub, add a glass partition wall and make the whole thing a shower.  I can hear my mother complain that “You’ll never sell the place, families want tubs!”.

Sorry, Mom, times changed.  Plus I’m 6’4″ and need the room.

Fantasy discussion with Mom aside, the place was fine.  Ed has done a nice job of clearing the backyards out and connecting them all together with a pool, large hammock, and places for discussion with other guests and the friendly staff.

Highly Recommended.

In Ed’s accommodations, we were comfortable, excluding the dog.  Rack had never been away from the house for any length of time since he joined us in April.  It was November when we left our house.

He was recovering from his experiences as being a shelter and a rescue, and really still has a way to go.  Any loud noises at home will send him running for the crate.   Tuesday and Fridays are trash days here on my quirky little island, and he will spend most of the day hiding in his big plastic box.  If the windows are open he’s up and down all day.  Anything noisy gets him running off.   My neighbor Kirby taking D.O.G. (yes, that is his name) for a walk, and Rack comes back into the living room trying to see.

Rack loves Kirby.  I think he likes D.O.G. as well, but Kirby is the attraction.   So we’re breaking him of his fear of loud noises to tell him that everything loud is Kirby on his big motorcycle.  It is starting to work, but has a way to go.  Yes, I am lying to my dog.  No, don’t judge.

So taking our little boy out of the comfort of my little house to the small place we stayed at at Ed Lugo’s was a big disruption. 

His usual fear was compounded by the confusion of not being at home.  I have had him longer than anyone else at this point, but I had to wonder if inside his little mind he was thinking that he might have been one step away from another stint at another rescue.

No, get that out of your mind.

He did start to get used to it by mid day the second day, but we simply didn’t concern ourselves with that.  Putting the crate in the door to the front bedroom helped, he could lay in his safe room and watch us while worrying about all the drama around him.

On the other hand, getting him out of the house was easy.   We got to take him out to different areas in town, he got to visit the Island City Park Preserve, and sniff new trees and fences.

Being a McNab Dog means he is extremely intelligent, and he did learn the area and which little house was our little house within the first 24 hours.  On the other hand, getting him out to the quieter areas meant you had to get through the noise first.

It really only was about 48 hours for us.   We had him out back to visit the house Chihuahua which helped him a lot, but every little noise sent him to the door of the house for refuge.

When you have a fearful dog, or cat, or person, life means making adjustments.   We did finally adjust him to the situation, in fact a bit quicker than we thought, but it did take time.

Better to get back to the normal routine at 9am that Wednesday.  That day, we took all the crap we brought with us, loaded it back in to the vehicles, and made the short hop back home.  What took us 4 car trips to load only took us two to get back.

When Rack saw his crate get into the back of the car, he got hopeful and nervous at the same time.  Well really, he gets nervous with a summer breeze blowing through the house.   The crate leaving meant he began to almost panic. However, opening the door with his leash on meant every time he passed by the tailgate of the car, he would hopefully look at it to leave.

Finally when the time happened, in the rain, he vaulted into the crate and we left.

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.