Posted in On the Homefront


Generally speaking, I like nature and being outside. Generally speaking, I prefer to let creatures be creatures. I feed the birds and don’t worry about the squirrels taking (more than) their share. Although insects hold no dear place in my heart, I try to keep my insecticide use to a minimum and keep it species specific and natural. Our neighborhood is home to feral peacocks that are loud and poopy. Bunny sightings have resulted in many a sore shoulder from the dog thinking he can catch one while on a leash. I try to exist in a live and let live world. Still, even I can be pushed to the breaking point, declaring a NIMBY (not in my backyard) war.

Battle Number One

It all started with a hole under the back fence. Which reappeared if we filled it in. Which grew into a tunnel if we just blocked the opening with a board or a pot. Do bunnies dig tunnels like that? Then there was a smaller hole in the front corner of the fence. Then there was the hole in the front garden bed against the foundation. It grew. It became more than a hole to look for food, it was a burrow. And then there were all the shallow holes appearing in the lawn and the flower beds, which the husband declared to be “triangular” — yup, we had an armadillo move in.

I can live with a hole or two, expect that we CAN NOT let the evil dog escape the back yard. Not that he wants to. Not that he has ever shown a tendency to dig himself. But we can’t risk him getting any ideas. I can live with a marauding armadillo helping himself to grubs in the beds and the lawn, especially since my flower beds are somewhat neglected and he wasn’t doing much damage. I can maybe live with a burrow against the foundation, but the thought of one armadillo turning into a family of armadillos was too much.

We learned some things. Armadillos are not deterred by humans filling in their holes. They are very good diggers. We realized that we might have even been sealing the armadillo in during the day only for it to dig out every night. Repeatedly. We were just giving it something to do.

We went to the internet to try to learn more. We learned that armadillos (like most animals) don’t like cayenne pepper. So we sprinkled cayenne pepper into holes and over filled in holes. We made cayenne pepper slurry and poured it into holes and over filled in holes and along fence lines and foundations, tho not where the dog could get accidentally get into it.

We learned that, apparently, our armadillo is a fan of tex-mex.

So we went to the hardware store to try to learn more. We bought a critter repellent that is made, in part, with rotten eggs. With some intrepidation we bought it. We were pleased to find out that it doesn’t smell as bad, to humans, as we feared. With no actual hope of success, we once again sprinkled and filled and sprinkled some more.


I don’t know which neighbor’s yard it relocated to, but I wish it all the best. They do eat grubs after all.

Battle Number Two

We had barely finished congratulating ourselves on our victory when a second battle front developed. The husband decided to give a large holly bush a much needed pruning. I decided it needed just a bit more and while I was working I noticed….bees. Yup, bees flying into a corner of our house between the siding on the upper story and the brick on the lower story. I called out the husband to share my observations. We looked at the bees, looked at each other, and knew it was time to head back to the internet.

This time, we did not go to the internet to learn. We went to the internet to hire a mercenary. Six days later, a bee remover/bee keeper arrived at the house.

This is what he uncovered:

We learned a lot from the bee dude. The husband would be happy to share all kinds of bee trivia with anyone who will listen. This hive had probably been there 4-5 weeks, they can make a honeycomb about the size of a hand in a day. It took him about five hours to remove the combs, vacuum up as many of the bees as he could (including the queen) and put our house back together.

We were the Saturday science project for the neighborhood, several families showing up to watch (from a distance) and ask questions. I was really interested, but I’m also allergic to bee stings so I hunkered inside and relied on the husband to make periodic reports.

Despite his best efforts, there were probably 100-200 bees sealed up in our house. We could hear them flying around in the wall. And they started appearing in the kitchen, possibly through a ceiling light fixture though we’re not sure. We’ve only see one today, on day 4, so I think the end is in sight. Bee dude estimates he collected around 10,000 bees, but there are probably another 1000 orphan bees that have mournfully gathered in a swarm mass near the now sealed entrance to their former hive and will just hang there until they die. The queen and the ones he collected were relocated to his bee farm (apiary?); I wish them all the best.

We saved a tiny piece of the honeycomb as a souvenir

Our neighbor took the rest, with our blessing, and squeezed over a gallon of honey out of it. He gave us a pint jar full. Which seems like a fair compensation for a Saturday science project…and maybe an armadillo.

Posted in Things to know


Shaking My *Doomed* Head

This is the front page of the business section of the Houston Chronicle last Thursday, August 19, 2021. I can’t do a better job of explaining our messed up mindset about climate change than just to quote what I read here.


The headline: U.N.climate report adds pressure on oil

The lede: The United Nations’ latest climate report paints the most dire picture yet of the warming planet, putting more pressure on the oil and gas industry to change business models and operations to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

by Paul Takahashi


The headline: Oil giants race to fast-track Guyana

Sub-headline: Exxon Mobil, others see South American prize before global demand wanes

The lede: Oil giants are racing to develop the world’s most prolific offshore oil field before fossil fuel demand is expected to decline amid growing concerns about climate change.

by Paul Takahashi


The headline: Dem aims to boost funds for natural gas

The lede (plus): U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said Wednesday he’s looking to steer more federal funding to natural gas-fueled electricity generation in the $3.5 trillion spending bill that’s moving through Congress.

As emissions billowed from CPS Energy’s Calaveras gas-fired plant in the background, the Laredo Democrat said at a news conference that Democratic lawmakers’ efforts to expand renewable energy sources in the U.S. shouldn’t hobble the oil and gas industry.

by Diego Mendoza-Moyers

The moral of the stories? If we are looking to corporations or government officials to save us from climate change, we are doomed.

Posted in On the Homefront

Our Modern World

Or how technology doesn’t always make life easier

A few weeks ago, I looked under my bed.

A few days later, after some internet research and personal recommendations, I bought a robovac.

(Pay no attention to my previous post which made a derogatory reference to rampant consumerism and its role in climate change. Instead, refer to my early post about buying stuff to reduce pandemic angst.)

Like most new-fangled appliances, the first second 2nd-4th things you have to do when a robovac enters your home is download a phone app, connect it to wifi, and give it a name. (First, you have to charge it.) The last item is 100% the most successful part of my robovac ownership.

Meet John Steinvac —->

In my previous, luddite life, it would take me, oh, 15-20 minutes to vacuum the whole house. This includes a quick pick-up of floor clutter, moving the plug a few times, carrying the vacuum upstairs, emptying the dust bin, and putting the vacuum away. This was just the spit-and-polish weekly (ish) vacuum routine. I can say unequivocally that with John Steinvac on the job, I easily spend three times as long.

Full disclosure – I did not buy a latest generation, smartvac. This is in part because I am cheap and in part because I wanted a model that was thin enough to fit under the bed and the family room couch.

My vacuum routine now includes the following steps:

  • Pick-up floor clutter. This now means not only corralling the dog toys and the husband’s shoes and socks, but also making sure electrical cords are up, removing some throw rugs that are either too fluffy or have fringe, flipping up bedskirts/bedspreads that hang too low, and making sure Steinvac has a clear path around, under, through objects to get to the parts of the room that you want vacuumed.
  • Zone off the area of the house where you want Steinvac to work. This involves closing doors and/or laying out boundary markers.
  • Moving the vacuum charger to the area where you want Steinvac to work. This is not essential, but John gets a little distressed when he can’t get back home.
  • When he finishes, empty his dustbin and shake out the filter.

As I said, John Steinvac isn’t particularly smart. He doesn’t map or remember the house or the rooms. He uses bounce (ie random) navigation so I’m never actually sure he has covered the entire floor. He can do the upstairs as two zones, but because of trying to give the dog plenty of space to avoid him, the downstairs breaks down better as four zones. He oftens needs to repeat a zone because his dustbin filled (I blame the dog) or because I think he missed a spot. There are a couple tricky bits of furniture and flooring transitions that he sometimes gets stuck on.

He IS a solid vacuum; he seems to suction as well as my Dyson. He DOES go under the couch and the bed.

For the weekly (ish) vacuum, John Steinvac does a fine job. He runs for a couple of hours and then needs to be emptied and charge for a couple of hours. It takes me most of the week to eventually move thru all the areas of the house. He won’t replace the need for the occasional deep clean vacuuming extravaganza that include stairs and attachments and moving furniture and getting down and dirty with the edges of the carpet, especially where the dog likes to sleep. He definitely makes me spend more time thinking about vacuuming, preparing to vacuum, and post-vacuuming resets than ever before. My 20 minute weekly chore has become a weeklong technology interface.

But he has a great name.

And one other thing. The husband found out that he can use the remote or his phone to steer John Steinvac. He thought it was entertaining. HE VACUUMED HIS STUDY. Sometimes technology really can change your world.