I know the title is a bit confusing. I am working on my memoir/wood fire cookbook. It will be titled The Wood Fire Diaries: Essays on Food, Life, and Related Fallacies or something close. It will include published nonfiction pieces, conversational segments about living off the grid, assorted stories of my life, and of course, recipes all cooked over a woodfire.
I’m about to write about bugs. Bugs are a huge influence (to put it kindly) for those living in the boondox off the grid in the U.P., especially near water and my Little Two Hearted is directly out front providing everything necessary for the life cycle of black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, those ankle biter house fly types (reminds me I need a bit of research here). We also have dragon flies and grasshoppers and other more innoccuous types of bugs, but they don’t figure in.
I hate bats, even still, yet they have started to look better to me…never once have I seen one here.
I wrote in my linked stories about the order in which I’d dispose of these nuisances. First to go would be mosquitoes. Now I know many Yoopers would disagree with me and go for the ubiquitous black fly but I contend that is because they don’t actually live off the grid full time, just have camps and/or recreate there. If you live here, you’d know that black flies don’t buzz, they don’t come in the house (or if they do, they spend all their time trying to get back out), and they don’t hurt when they bite you since they have some kind of anesthetizing quality to their sting which lulls you into complacency. (Though it is true they have been known to suck enough blood to actually kill a cow and they can swarm enough around the face, particularly, to be down right claustrophobic). Still, mosquitoes come in the house, they can even breed there if you’re not careful, forcing you–if you’re careless–to have to bomb the house. They carry more disease and are responsible for more illness than any other living creature on the planet (this is a fact–look it up) including giving your dog heartworms and you Malaria, or encephalitis or West Nile disease to name a few. They hurt when they sting you and they freakin’ buzz. If you’re lucky enough to keep them outside the house, they will buzz near the screened windows so loud it invokes Hitchcock’s horror film The Birds and you are sure they will lift the house off the foundation and make off with it into the heavens. If they are buzzing inside the house, well, you get the idea. You have to bomb the house or get those mosquito nets they use in Africa to cover your bed but that still will not stop the freakin’ buzz.
I contend that anyone that prefers mosquitos over black flies does not actually live with them. I have bug zappers inside the house which have a blue light (luckily only using about 1 amp of juice) and they do help. I also have a window fan pointed at my front door so when I want to enter I can turn it on high, first blast away the dozens lurking at the ready (setting on high) and then open and close the door in a flash while simultaneously shutting off the fan as I back in, sneakin’ in before most of them are the wiser.
But ok, mosquitoes go first. Then, surprisingly, it’s those ankle biter types that look like house flies, but take huge chunks of skin out with every bite and unlike both the mosquito and black fly, insect repellent has absolutely no effect on them. (I use a natural repellent most of the time–reminds me to look up the ingredients in that), but nothing works on these suckers. Then third for me are black flies. Again, I’m hesitant to defame them since a good black fly year means fewer mosquitoes for some reason. But they are third. They get you under your hair, behind your ears, and along your hat band and you swell and itch, some people really swell. Then the horse flies and deer flies which do hurt like those ankle biters but just aren’t numerous enough to factor in. Regular house flies are more annoying since they do get in the house and lay eggs you aren’t aware of. You leave for a week or two in fall or winter, come back, turn on the heat, and they hatch by the dozens forcing you to once again, spray chemicals along window ledges. Because they fly around like kamikaze pilots and you guessed it, they freakin’ buzz.
Now, this brings me to this year. June is the bug month. It’s why we built that screened porch two years ago and sometimes plan a trip or two away. The last two years were hard winters with a lot of snow and the mosquitoes were unbearable. This year we had a mild winter. It’s June 8th at this writing and neither the black flies NOR mosquitoes have been more than a mild annoyance but I’m poised for the storm. The last couple days were darn cold. Highs of about 50 and lows about 39 and windy, and so I wait… The fan, though, is sitting next to the back door, bug zappers at the ready, head nets on the shelf next to the door so I can garden and mow the lawn.
They bide their time, but I know they wait for me in the tall grass…