Friday 25 November 2011

Bed Bugs Make Lousy Carpenter Ants...

The pluses and minuses of condominium living differ from individual to individual, as does the relevance of each item on both lists. For me, never having to cut the lawn is way, way up there, followed closely by the fact I never have to clear the driveway of snow.

My reason for hating having to cut the lawn is simple; I have a huge allergy to grass; an allergy that isn’t activated until the grass is cut. Whether living in a house or in a condo, I know when the landscapers’ gang is busy cutting the lawn during the summer, even if I can’t hear them. My nose stuffing up and my breathing becoming labored is a dead giveaway. The difference between the house and condo is that in the condo, I don’t have to sign that bloody humongous cheque every month.

During the winter, every time I hear the weather forecast calling for snow, my appreciation for condominium living goes up a notch. Each forecast brings back memories of when we lived in the house and how much time I wasted clearing its driveway of snow. The wasted time wasn’t a result of the driveway's size as it wasn’t that big, although the layout did offer independent access to three parking spots. What consumed so much time was my inability to leave it without making sure the wall of snow around its perimeter perfectly followed the driveway’s footprint, as well as being perfectly square and plumb for its entire length. The reality is, I’m just way too anal to hire someone to do this job and way too anal to do it myself without wasting half a day in the process. Ya, I know. I’m a nut.

The benefits of not having to deal with these grass and snow are so great, the obvious minus of not having room for a dedicated shop pales in their comparison. Another reality is that what I used to pay a landscaper over the course of a summer to maintain the lawn was more than what my condo’s maintenance fees are for an entire year.

My wife is also not without her own obsessions. Her main one is maintaining a spic and span home. In truth, she drives me nuts with it, cleaning things around me before I even have a chance to make them dirty. She absolutely hates clutter, but sadly, she doesn’t put things away, she just removes things from view. This, of course, means I can never find anything at any time, a problem that she is no help with at all. As the only thing on her mind while cleaning is not having something out, she doesn’t have a clue where she puts it.

Up until now we have both been happy with our condo; my wife because, compared to the house, it has minimal floor space to fuss over, and me, because cutting lawns and removing snow aren’t on my to-do lists. We are, however, right in the middle of a minus that has such an impact on our lifestyles, neither of us ever imagined it could happen. It is such a minus, we might start looking for a house again.

What’s the issue now, you ask? Bedbugs!!!

I started out itching first, but as my wife wasn’t, I wrote it off to another allergy developing. When she started to display hives, my last thought was bugs and my first was the cause being an issue with air quality. Because I have a dog, I knew I had to rule out bugs before anyone would talk to me about testing the air, so I called in an exterminator.

The bug-guy arrived; white shirt, tie and uniform; one that had the company’s name blazing out from its left pocket. I swear the thing lit up as he walked. He nosed around, checking on, in and under everything. Fifteen minutes later and with us 50-bucks poorer, he came back to us and the first thing I noticed was his smile. It reminded me of smiles I had seen in photos of lottery winners. He announced we were “live”. My wife and I looked at each other because we were both thinking the same thing; what the hell is he talking about. That is when he said the magic words; “Live means you have bedbugs”.

Now I’m not big on bugs. I never pulled their wings off them when I was a kid because to do that, I would have to catch them and possibly touch them. I’ve camped a lot over my lifetime, but never without a couple of cases of “Off“ insect repellent. When he told us that we were proud owners of bedbugs, my skin just started to crawl. My wife, of course, took this news as a sign she wasn’t cleaning things enough, so God help me when we finally get through all of this. She will be scrubbing the varnish off the wood tables.

After doing a lot of research, I approached others in the building, as well as the building’s management, and starting asking questions. It didn’t take long to discover where these disgusting little buggers came from. Thinking it would make my wife feel better about her cleaning skills, I ran up to tell her what I learned. It didn’t make a lick of difference.

Bedbugs are vagabonds and hitchhikers who don’t give a hoot where they go or who they ride there with. They are an equal opportunity parasite that don’t give a damn how much money you make, how clean your house is, or whether or not you shower at night or bathe in the morning. As long as you have human blood running through your veins, they are happy. We, as things turned out, had done nothing wrong that would entice these things to sleep with us, other than being dumb enough to move next store to the morons we now live beside.

If you don’t do your research or use a professional exterminator, neither of which our neighbors did, you usually don’t end up killing the buggers, but instead, you send them away. I just hope these damned bugs appreciate that they didn’t have to walk far to join us. What I discovered was that our neighbors sprayed enough Raid around their place daily to kill the cast of “Them!” (a 1954 movie about giant ants). I learned this from the owner’s friends as afterwards, he bragged about how he got rid of them. It would appear that he didn’t give a second’s thought to why there was no dead bugs lying around his apartment.

My first thought was to react in kind; start spraying the place like a maniac and, hopefully, send the buggers back were they came from. I had met the guy a few times before all of this and during both conversations, I remember thinking that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. I made up my mind to stop the bugs here by killing them, assuming that we would probably end up playing musical bugs until one of us moved if I didn’t.

After more research and more information from the exterminator, we ended up “cooking” just about everything we own. We put “soft” items; meaning linens and clothes, in the dryer, even those that couldn’t be washed first due to the material they were made from. The “hard” items; smaller pieces of furniture or parts of larger pieces, shoes, books, area carpets, pictures, paper files, and of course, all my tools were placed in a Styrofoam box I made up using duct tape. The drying had its own source of heat, and I heated the hotbox with a hotplate I bought a while ago for heating my hide glue. Adult bedbugs survive for about 10 minutes in temperatures above 120°F (49°C). With the dryer set on high and the hotbox kept at 140°F, we left everything we placed in both for a minimum of 40 minutes. As bedbugs have some pretty specific nesting habits, we could pretty much count on these items not containing eggs, which is something to keep in mind as the heat kills the adults, but it doesn’t have any effect on the eggs. When the items came out of the dryer or hotbox, they were immediately placed in garbage bags or cardboard boxes, both which were quickly sealed with packing tape. The idea behind this method is to kill any adult bugs present and by sealing the items up, it removes as many hiding places as possible for the next generation, once they hatch.

This exercise took five days and our livingroom/diningroom looks like some bizarre, alien warehouse.

After we finished up yesterday afternoon, the bug-guy returned and he dry-steamed all of the furniture and beds which killed the adults that were present. Between his steam and our heat, we pretty much eradicated the entire colony which the bug-guy believes was divided into three nests. He then sprayed some chemical around the circumference of each room to try and contain the next generation to those areas. That is the bugger in all of this, as the new crop of bugs will slowly increase in numbers over the next 10 days, which is the gestation period for these things. To allow for slow learners, he will be back in 14 days to do the same process all over again. We, thankfully, will not have to do ours, but we have to keep everything in the bags and boxes until the end, which is a real bummer. That means no normal life for the two weeks between treatments, plus another two weeks until he inspects to ensure they are all pushing daisies. It is possible we could have failed and have to do the regiment all over again, but I'm trying not to think of that scenario.

It is easy to get bedbugs into your home, moderately difficult to force them to leave, and beyond a royal pain in the ass to kill them.

The one highlight for me in all of this was that I had to pack up all of my tools, going through 8 large plastic storage containers in the process. If you haven’t done this recently, I highly recommend it, sans the bugs, of course, It brings your collection into perspective as you have to handle each tool as you pack, it gives you little surprises because you come across the odd one you forgot you bought, and I can vouch for it being a great activity to take your mind off your bedbugs.


Oh, ya…and don’t let the bedbugs bite.


Added Sunday, Nov. 27

So what's the dilly-oh with this post? Other than one short paragraph, it hasn't anything to do with tools or woodworking, so what's up?

While I tried to make light of this situation with our new house-pets, I am a tad ticked by this whole thing. Naw, that's not true...I'm pissed!

Bed bug infestation is at epidemic levels across North America and has been for more than five years. These little shits infest more households than all the other bugs combined, yet every year the epidemic grows by 7 to 10 percent.

The reason for this is because my neighbour is not alone. By some estimates, almost half of those infected with bed bugs react irresponsibly because they either want to save a buck, or they are embarrassed. Whatever the reason, they only serve to make this situation even worse.

Yesterday, I found out one of my wife's relatives had them. He is part of the wealthy side of the family, lives in a 17,000 square foot home worth about $21-million and has a staff of three that spend their lives taking care of the house and grounds. I would think it would be a safe bet to say his kitchen garbage can gets emptied at least four times a day, as is usual for the ladida crowd. If his house can become infested, anyone's can. So how did he react? He packed up his wife and kids and took them to a hotel for the month while the staff and the exterminators dealt with the infestation. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Absolutely not!

In all probability, he took a few bugs with him to the hotel, allowing them to establish yet another colony. Instead of packing the family's bags and making a run for it, he should have taken the necessary steps to make sure any live bugs weren't included before they walked out the door. Simply throwing the clothes in the dryer and packing them in clean plastic bags would have been the right thing to do, but emotions (or just not giving a shit) over-rode common sense.

The reason for this article is to bring some attention to this problem, however small the audience.

Even if you think you don't have bed bugs, check the following once a week...

  • Check out the seams, creases and folds of your mattress and box spring weekly.
  • Check the joints in your headboard as well as the bed frames, even if they are metal.
  • Check the underside of chairs and couches, as well as beneath and between their cushions.
  • Inspect the perimeter of each room, especially in any gaps in the baseboards.
  • Inspect telephones, radios, clocks and other electronic equipment.

Remember to make these checks once a week.

If you discover you have them, there is only one responsible way to react...

  • Call in a professional exterminator and follow his directives to ensure you eradicate your colony.

Don't spread them - kill them.

Ok, I feel better now...



Monday 21 November 2011

Crazed Drill...

I started messin' with wood over a half-century ago, being introduced to it in the same way many of you have; through my old man. To say that our relationship was "rocky" over the years would be the epitome of the understatement, but tools and wood were always our constant. 

My old man found pure joy in the woodworking processes. Fitting two pieces of wood together with spectacular precision was always his goal, no matter how simple or complex the joint. For him, a tool was something to respect, but not for the tool itself, but for what he could achieve with it. All he saw in a tool was its function, and he didn't give a rat's ass about its form.

For me, it was always the opposite. When I look at a tool, I see its form first, then assess its ability to function. As with most things in my life; I could care less about the destination as I am too busy enjoying getting there.

The differences in my old man's and my ideologies can be seen in our tool collections. At the end of his career, the old bugger sold me his collection, which consisted of about 60-odd basic hand tools (there is a list of them on this blog somewhere). My collection is now approaching 400 different tools, and while I doubt I will ever put the vast majority of them to use, whenever the thought of getting rid of them comes up, I suddenly turn into Charlton Heston and start mumbling about cold dead hands.

My last post was over a month ago, and it was nothing more than a list of tools I though I should part with. As things turned out, it was like sending out invitations to a party and having no-one show up. I sold one of the fourteen I had listed, and thinking about it now, I'm not exactly upset about the results.

A few days after posting that list I had a rather bizarre situation arise. I had finished doing a little woodworking and was putting away my tools when I was attacked by a drill. I hadn't even used this drill that day. It was just sitting out on the cabinet because I really don't have a proper storage place for it. It is a Ryobi 18 volt combo screw gun and drill, and for some reason, it decided to just jump off the cabinet and stab me.

I whipped up a little animation to show you what happened...

While it doesn't seem to be a big deal, here is what my ankle looked like twenty days later...

You can see the hole to the left of the ankle bone where the drill bit entered, penetrating about a half inch and nicking the bone in the process. It took two weeks before I was able to walk on it again, and was as painful as a son-of-a-bitch.

I'm starting to get a complex regarding drills, given all the nonsense I have been through with them over this past two years.