Of all the gross things we have encountered while working on this old house, and there have been many gross things, including dead mice, snake skins, hair filled plaster, moldy drywall, and plain old dirt, the grossest by far are the cluster flies. Have you ever seen a wall teaming with millions of dopey cold flies? Lucky you! The upstairs windows always have loads of slow moving fat flies trying to get out by banging their bodies against the glass. I noticed them when we first bought the place and did some research to find out that they were called cluster flies and that they were common in old houses, especially around the windows. I even read that they "cluster" in attics and wall voids. I imagined small groups of several dozen flies hanging in the attic in dark corners. Gross, right? I had no idea how gross until yesterday.
Yesterday, Brandon ripped off the drywall in the upstairs bedrooms and found that the south facing wall, which would be the warmest, was full of live flies (hm, I wonder what the insulating R-value of flies would be...). All those black specs in the picture above are flies! Millions of them. He said by the time he was done the room looked carpeted in flies. Dead flies would be bad enough, but these are alive and wiggling! Oh, the horrors!! I did some more research and found out that they are an introduced species from Europe which hibernate in warm places, like the wall of a leaky house, and in the spring go back outside to lay eggs in the soil. Unless they get confused and trap themselves behind the window glass, that is. The larvae find an earthworm to be a parasite on, before becoming an adult fly. Several life cycles can be achieved in a summer, but the last batch needs a place to hibernate through the winter. This old house must be a perfect place for cluster flies to hang out. But not any more! If I have to caulk around every board in the entire house and fill every wall void with insulation I will, because walls full of flies are gross even for me, and I'm gross.
Brandon also found thousands of these little dirt nests, which I'm pretty sure are dirt dabber wasp nests, which explains why he has been stung more working inside the house this winter than he did working outside all summer. We keep finding wasps roaming around in the house. I don't like to be stung, but I would rather have wasps than flies any day. Maybe the wasps eat the flies? I'm sure the snake eats the mice. We have an entire ecosystem in the walls of this house.
I will try not to dwell on the dark side (ew, creepy creepy flies! bleck!) and instead will focus on the beautiful snow we had this morning. It was the kind of snow that doesn't blow around, but gently lands on every little twig and gives definition to every horizontal surface. It was so pretty that I even admired the circular pattern of my tomato cages instead of feeling guilty for not putting them away at the end of the season like I meant to do.
And instead of apologizing to my messy asparagus for not removing their tops like I normally do, I appreciated the woolly texture and the way the many house finches like to hide in it when I come outside.
The still snow on the sides of the chicken tractor made it seem like a peaceful place to roost, and even the chicken wire has substance when the pattern is outlined in snow. Everything looks clean instead of muddy and jumbled, which is how I've been viewing the garden lately.
I didn't get to experience the stillness of the snow for very long before Mrs. Hall came to see what I was up to. Meaning she came to see what I had to eat. Because, really, why would a person stand in the snow unless there was something to eat, right?
She talked about food for so long that she coaxed Helen from the coop to harass me about food too. Did you know chickens talk? Old McDonald would have us believe that chickens talk with a cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there, but in reality, clucks are reserved for egg laying, strange dogs, and other exciting events, like finding a worm in the compost. Normal conversation is held in long whining coos, which have a questioning inflection at the end.
For example, in this photo Helen and Mrs. Hall are discussing why I am standing in the snow, and the probability that there must be something tasty on the ground that has either been produced by me (i.e. I dropped some) or has enticed me to that location (i.e. I found some). Either way, they are searching the snow and encouraging me to participate in the conversation. This is how the conversation went (exactly):
Helen: "EEEERRRRrrrrrr? rrrrrrreeeeRRRRRR!? oooo? ooo?"
Mrs. Hall: "hhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm? mmmmmmmmhhhhrrrrr? ooooooooorrrrrr?"
Helen: "EEEEErrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmRRRRRR?! ooohhh?"
Mrs. Hall: "er? er? oo? ooooooo??"
Forgive the rough translation, and realize that the English language has it's limitations, but this is what they are saying:
Helen: "Food? FOOD!? Is this food?"
Mrs. Hall: "I want food. Food? Do you have food?"
Helen: "Food? Do you see food?!"
Mrs. Hall: "Food? Foooood? Got food??"
It's like translating poetry, you get the point, but something is lost in translation. Somehow it sounds prettier in chickenese.