First of all, I've been sicker than a dog. To be fair, I'm not exactly sure how sick "a dog" is, but I think I'm givin' him a run for his money. Seriously, it's been over 2 weeks now, and while the coughing and sneezing has pretty much subsided, I'm still a bit of a snot factory - which has made sleeping difficult. And, when my sleep patterns get disrupted I get migraines... so yeah... I have not exactly been a happy camper.
But... being sick is not actually the crisis I was referring to with the title of this post. No... actually there's been another little issue here at chez CatLady - the invasion of the carpet beetles!!
Now, to be honest, I've been dealing with the carpet beetles for years now. They're more annoying than anything else - they don't bite people or animals, and don't carry diseases - they just lay eggs that hatch into disgusting larvae that eat things like wool and animal hair.
Hmm... where could they be finding a source of animal hair in this household?
Well anyhow, as I said, this issue has been brewing for years now. Last year I figured it was just the cat hair, because I had been avoiding frightening Princess with the vacuum while she was sick. So I made an effort to wash their beds and vacuum more frequently. Still, the little black bugs persisted.
Thinking back on it though, I realized that this issue has been slowly building for a looooong time. I first noticed it back before I bought this house, when I took my long-neglected violin out of its case only to discover that most of the hair was totally missing from my bow.
|Not my photo, but that's pretty much what it looked like.|
I got a new case and re-haired the bow, but the problem persisted. But as I was thinking about it this past week, I realized that the bug had to have come from somewhere... and I think I have finally figured out the culprit.
Yup... me beloved old recliner. The timing is right... the bow hair bug appeared shortly after I found this thing at a yardsale for $20 (that was over 20 years ago). But you see that crease between the headrest and the back... well, every cat I've ever owned has always gone crazy pouncing on "invisible" somethings in that little crease. And I'm pretty sure that I now know what it was!
Anyhow, long story short, I left one of my beloved Smartwool tops on the recliner (which was slipcovered) for a few days, and when I retrieved it to put it away I discovered to my horror that there were about half a dozen holes in it! Then I saw the larvae fall out of it. Eeeeewwww! I ripped the slip cover off and saw a bunch of larvae retreating into the stuffing of the chair.
That was it. I finally reached my "ick factor" tolerance level. So the recliner is now gone and I've been on a carpet beetle eradication mission.
Folks, between my coughing and sneezing I've undertaken a deep cleaning frenzy the likes of which I've never taken on before, because those little suckers have pretty much invaded the entire house. Along the way I've gotten rid of huge amounts stuff - most of it having to be tossed rather than given away - because I can't in good conscience give away something infested with carpet beetles. I do have to say, it feels great to let go of stuff.
So, here's the "opportunity" part. As I've been cleaning, scrubbing, laundering and vacuuming, I've decided to make some upgrades around here.
First on my list is the kitchen.
This started because I pulled a rag out of a kitchen drawer to clean something and discovered carpet beetle larvae on the rag! Oy! So every drawer & cabinet has been emptied and scrubbed, and I replaced the horrible curtains and mini-blinds with easy to clean, cord-free roller shades. I also laundered the rag rug (and discovered that there's a cheap and easy way to keep it from slipping on the floor - duct tape - who knew?!)
Along the way I figured out why my silverware drawer was so hard to pull out - long story, but a little roller piece had fallen off the bottom of the drawer, which was causing the bottom brace to rub against the bottom of the drawer, literally wearing a groove in the drawer bottom itself. Anyhow, I didn't take any pictures, but here's one I found on the web that shows you the little roller.
I re-attached the little goomer, and wow! It's really nice to have a drawer that's easy to open and close!
Anyhow, somehow having functional drawers and window coverings made such a huge difference that I decided I'm gonna make some further improvements. Eventually I'd love to replace the floor and countertops, but for the moment I think I can make a huge improvement by just painting the kitchen. I'm thinking white cabinets and trim with contrasting brown walls to help tie it into the floor. Most of the walls are covered with cabinets, so it will be mostly white, but the brown will provide a nice contrast. I'm thinking something about this color - because there are flecks of this color in the horrible yellowing floor tile:
BTW - I've tried EVERYTHING to de-yellow that tile. I've stripped it and scrubbed it and bleached it and even tried a crazy science experiment with peroxide, oxy-clean and UV light - no dice. So I'll just live with the floor for the time being.
But I'm gonna replace the cabinet hardware and do a bit of work on them so they'll close properly and stay closed. And I found a trash/recycling combo can that will actually fit in the space next to the microwave - it's been ordered and I can't wait to stop tripping over that second can that doesn't quite fit into the space.
Maybe if I hate my kitchen a little less, I'll be motivated to keep it cleaner.
Next up: the window coverings. I've been washing all of the drapes because carpet beetles like to hide in the pleats, and along the way I'm realizing that many of them are literally falling apart, plus I sort of hate them.
So I'm working on slowly replacing them with easier to clean alternatives. It may take a while to figure out what works - the cats seriously complicate the matter. The ideal window coverings would be cord-free, plastic free, easy to clean, insulating, and cat proof. I may have to compromise a bit, because finding something that fits all of those requirements is a tall order, but I've ordered a cellular shade to replace the horror pictured above, and we'll see how it works. In theory, it will look something like this:
I've also decided to lower my "eco" standards a bit and put some moth balls in the closets. Moth balls kill carpet beetles and their larvae, and since the little buggers LOVE dark places like closets, I'm sure it's a prime breeding ground for them.
This means that I'll need to keep the closet doors closed and latched - both to make the moth balls more effective and to keep the cats out of there. So I've done some work on the closet doors to make them work better, and I have to say, having closets that close easily and stay closed is sort of huge in terms of how the house feels.
And speaking of repairing things so they'll close and stay closed... We've had a few somewhat concerning incidents in the neighborhood recently. One involved random people walking through backyards (including mine) in the middle of the night. Could have just been kids "cutting through" so they didn't have to walk all the way around the block, but it was a bit un-nerving.
The other thing was, I was working in the front yard one afternoon when a strange SUV pulled up and a woman claiming to be a "new neighbor" from a few blocks away started asking me questions about garbage collection. It struck me as odd, and I had a fleeting thought that it might have been one of those things where one person distracts the homeowner in the front yard while another slips in the unlocked back door and robs the place. Fortunately my back door was locked, but both of those incidents convinced me that I needed to do something about my ill-functioning gates.
It took some creativity because the land has settled over the years, so the gate latches were no longer close enough to the pole to function properly. But I rigged an extra pole in the gap on each gate, and then I put a padlock on all of them.
It's not gonna stop anybody who really wants in, but it should make my yard less attractive for random midnight wanderers and anyone looking for an easy "crime of opportunity". It will also stop the things from blowing open in windy weather.
Plus, and I know this will probably make me sound like an un-neighborly recluse, but it will stop my neighbor from letting herself into my backyard and peeking in my back door every time she wants something. Part of me thinks that I should feel fine with her doing that because it hearkens back to the era of Lucy & Ethyl or Laura & Millie - apologies to anyone who didn't grow up watching I Love Lucy or The Dick VanDyke Show.
But honestly, it just really feels like an invasion of privacy to me, and somehow knowing that she can't just suddenly appear out of nowhere is very comforting to me.
And finally... I've decided that it's time to get rid of the hideous avocado green shag carpeting once and for all! I mean not only is the stuff ugly as sin, and full of god knows what kind of dirt (and carpet beetle larvae) it's also completely falling apart.
It won't be a simple project because god knows what sort of shape the oak floor is in underneath there, but I'm resolved that I'm gonna get it done before the end of the summer. The other complicating factor is that the house was remodeled somewhere along the line and a wall was taken out, so I'm pretty sure there's a gap in the hardwood where the wall used to be. I won't know what the gap looks like until I get the carpet up, but hopefully I'll be able to come up with some sort of a fix. I sort of like the idea of just having hardwood floors with a nice rug in the living room, but depending on how it looks, I may end up just having new carpet installed. Stay tuned...
Anyhow, I was gonna show you some pictures of the garden too, but this post is already too long, so I'll save that for next time.
Oooooo!!! But I do have one last photo for you. While I was writing this my new trash can arrived!
Not only does it actually fit into that small space, it's pretty nifty too. The bottom section is for trash, and it tilts out when you step on the little grey goomer. The top bin is for recycling, and it easily lifts out so you can take out the recycling without having to haul the whole can out to the alley.
It's sorta crazy how happy this thing makes me, but hey... it's the little things, right? (Made by Rubbermaid, $35 ordered online from Home Depot in case anyone is curious.)
Anyhoo... that's the news from the funny farm. Hope you're all enjoying the beginnings of summer (or winter for you southern hemisphere dwellers!)