July 13, 2011

Alone with the critters

Jrex is back in the Bay Area for the next six weeks. Fortunately, my work life is fairly busy, so the days aren't completely dragging. Plus, I still have a plate to return to a neighbor (she brought cookies) and a stranger to meet (a house a block away has an "It's a Boy" banner strung across the porch. Seems worth a knock to see if our kids can grow up playing together).

On the home front, the first floor air conditioner is fixed. Unfortunately, they put the furnace (drives both the heat and the air) in the crawl space under the house. It's mounted to a joist under the dining room, so if the system is on, the dining room vibrates enough to cause mild nausea. NOT a great solution when wanting to host a dinner party. The AC guy says there's no fix that he knows of given the location. Sigh.

When we moved here, I knew the weather would be different and would be hot. I hadn't realized the impact that would have on what animals and insects we'd encounter.

Two nights after we arrived, Jrex was downstairs in the living room as I put clothes away upstairs in the master closet (Walk-in. HUGE. LOVE.). Now, our mutt actually eats bugs. She hunts down flies when they get inside and eats them: spiders, beetles, mosquitoes, she doesn't discriminate. As I folded some clothes I noticed the mutt, just outside the closet, staring at the floor in confusion. I looked down and saw a 2-inch cockroach scurrying towards me. I screamed for Jrex, "Honey, I need you upstairs NOW!" I didn't hear any movement from him so I yelled again, "Jrex, come up here now! Now, NOW!" Nothing.

I gathered my courage (not to kill the beast, but to run past it--hey, it's no fun to be married if I can't abdicate all bug/slug/beast duties!) and go grab him. He'd fallen into an exhausted slumber. I shook him awake insisting, "Jrex, wake up, you have to come kill it!" While understandably very confused, he stumbled upstairs. I gave him a pile of packing paper as a weapon and then we realized the demon roach wasn't there. I saw movement and turned, it was crawling up the wall in the bedroom. I pointed and Jrex scooted over and tried to smash it. Five tries. It took three-times the normal roach-killing force AND it was fast.

The next morning, Jrex was in the kitchen and saw movement on the floor next to him. Instinctively he stomped HARD. When he lifted his slipper, he saw that it had been a tiny lizard. Oops. We both felt bad about that one.

I told various Dallas friends about the roach and they told me it was actually a 'palmetto bug' or a 'water bug'. Nothing to do with a dirty house, just something that occurs here in this foreign country.

In fact, while chatting with our contractor about bugs and snakes (roof has to get redone and potential deck if we can afford it), he told me rattlesnakes are the least of our worries. "At least they tell you where they are, it's the copperheads that'll get you. Or the water moccasins in the lakes; they like the water lilies so you want to be careful when you go water skiing." When?! There's no "when" after you tell me to watch out for water moccasins!

The day before Jrex was supposed to leave, I looked out our back door and hollered, "You can't leave me here with bugs, lizards and dead animals!" Here's a picture of the view (no animal):

Spreadeagled flat on the sidewalk was a squirrel. Unblinking eyes staring straight at the back door. No movement. Ugh.

Jrex called animal control and they promised to come by within 24-hours. "Call us if anything changes" they added. It's dead! What's going to change? A little while after that, Jrex had to go out to the garage, when he opened the door, the squirrel jumped up, ran up a tree and then draped itself over a branch in the same position. We thought it's back was broken or that it had fallen and stunned itself.

That night we met friends at a local restaurant and told them our critter stories. "Yeah those roaches are scary. The lizards are 'friendlies' though; they eat the other bugs. Well, probably not the palmetto bugs, but all the other ones. As for the squirrel, that's what they do when it's hot. It's the only way they can get cooler. Have you noticed that all the birds keep their mouths open most of the time? Same deal."

Now that's a new definition of hot for me: cool-bathing squirrels and panting birds.


scarp said...

Yeah, I had a similar adjustment living in Saltillo. The roaches are huge and just part of life. I always made my husband kill those too. We found Raid to be effective (the super-duper one specifically for roaches... I decided this was one area where it wasn't worth it to try and save money). A spray or 2 is enough, altho it will still take a few minutes for it to die. But easier than chasing and trying to hit it. We also found that it helped to spray occasionally around windows and doors, they didn't come in as much (altho with the dog, don't know if that works...)

And since he was familiar with what was dangerous and what not, I always abdicated to him, no matter how harmless the animal may have appeared. I wouldn't touch even simple looking spiders.

He keeps asking me what dangerous animals we have here in Rochester, and doesn't seem to quite believe that there aren't any.

michiganme said...

Our squirrels do that on hot days in Michigan too. It's so funny to see them all spread out like that on a deck rail.

When there's a small critter that's dead we use a snow shovel to scoop it up and carry it to the garbage bag. It keeps you at a good distance and you don't have to look at it. (Oops, forgot you don't have snow shovels!)

Anonymous said...

Regarding your vibrating floor joist. I suspect that the physics are the same as a water hammer due to an inadequately supported copper pipe.

So, a solution to check out: Get two jacks. On either side of the air conditioner, put pressure on the joist with a jack.

Problem: You need a base for the jack. Packed earth isn't enough. A foot-square steel plate would do the job, but over time it will rust and give out.

Go to Home Depot, talk to a pro consultant. See what he or she recommends. They probably run into this problem often.

Anonymous said...

Follow-up comment.

When I said "you" should get and install jacks to stiffen the joist, I didn't mean you.

You already have some good contacts in the neighborhood. Can one of them recommend a good handy person? A general repairs person is a treasured jewel. Every homeowner needs one; few have them.

When I spoke of "jacks", I didn't mean car jacks, but rather stationery jacks, used to support joists or rafters. They are fitted in place and then screwed upward to apply pressure.

Before you go to Home Depot, measure the space, as best you can, between the ground and the joist.

The AC guy said there was no fix that he knows of because he's paid for installing the equipment -- not for doing it right.