Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So, about those bird mites

We have bird mites from some nests in the roof that we chose to ignore. Who knew there were these tiny, evil little creatures who, when baby birds leave their nests, come inside in search of new prey? Now we do. They've been biting Noah all over, who had this strangely prescient fear that bugs would come through the vents in the wall and eat him. Unfortunately, he hides under the covers in his bed- which is exactly where the tiny bugs are waiting to ambush him. 

So we've been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. After borrowing my parents' super vacuum, today we're going out and buying our very own vacuum cleaner. Not even second hand- brand new- because we can't find second hand. whoa.

Eug and I were reflecting on how house tasks sneak up on us, and we need to put aside our plans for great work or great adventure and go the mall and buy Stuff. I get all entitled and frustrated that my plans are not realized, and then it dawns on me that Worse Things have happened to people than buying a vacuum, fumigating, or whatever else we have to do to get rid of the various infestations that come upon our house. and then it's ok.

But all these infestations have inflated my suspicion that I am not yet a responsible adult. Cleaning is a sensitive topic, because our ideas of "clean" are so culturally embedded. I remember just as apartheid was ending and the schools were being integrated a tiny bit, a classmate was shamed by our teacher for wiping his bum with a cloth. Everyone laughed and was horrified by this "lack of basic hygiene" and it was terrible- the memory sticks 21 years later. Today, all of us hippies are wiping our bums with little pieces of hemp or cotton or whatever, and it's a growing trend. Why not? I'd have had reservations but I'm already dealing with 10 diapers a day, and what's the difference between cloth wipes for Eli and cloth wipes for the adults? Just perception.

The first time I was in Asia as an 18-year-old, I remember families being horrified when I forgot to take off my shoes. It was new to me and I was shamed on several occasions- my hosts thought I was ignorant of basic hygiene- why would you bring dirt from the city into your house? Then, in Korean households when I removed my sandals and had completely bare feet- No one wants to see your bare feet! Thankfully by the time I actually went to Korea I had a collection of knee high stockings on hand. Now, we try to have a no-shoes household because it is what works for us and is what we're accustomed to, but in South Africa one usually wears shoes indoors, so we don't enforce our no-shoes ideas on visitors. 

Much of our cultural ideas stem from what works in a specific environment or climate. Eug and I are trying to figure out what works to produce more peace in our home.  The decision over whether to use chemicals, what chemicals to use, how to get rid of the bugs in our house is a complicated one that is also culturally embedded. Are the bugs or the carcinogens worse?  Is there a middle ground? How much time is too much time to spend cleaning? For how long should we change our sheets every day before we decide to fumigate? I'm not sure, but I know we'll be fine.


Vanessa said...

I'm sorry you're having to deal with an infestation! We had a flea infestation in an apartment we rented in CT for a while (left there by the previous tenants) and it was horrible!!! Just the thought of these tiny hard-to-see creatures feeding on me grossed me out. We did fumigate, but even after some repeat treatments it didn't get rid of all the fleas, and where two fleas survives, more will soon appear. :( We ended up finding a powder made from natural ingredients that we had to rub into all our carpets, and that finally did the trick. I have no experience with bird mites though. Wishing you success and determination!

leah said...

I could give you lots of advice about lice but none about mites... sorry.

Instead I'll talk about cleaning, which you said you didn't want to talk about, haha. When I was growing up and my mother was working we always had paid help in the house, so it took me a while into my adult life to realize what work is really necessary to keep a whole house clean. It might be less for people living without two kids, a dog and a farmer, but I consider an hour a day the basic minimum, and then I need extra to get the bathrooms scrubbed. When I came to the realization that I needed at least an hour a day of work time to clean (and that it had nothing to do with my feelings of liberation or entitlement) I felt a lot more freedom.

Concrete Gardener said...

Leah- I've come to a similar realization with cleaning. That it takes actual time and we actually have to plan for it and give it the time it deserves. The unschooling folks have been helpful in making me think of cleaning as a service to myself and the household, rather than a scourge or somehow a surprise. I think Eug thinks of it similarly. And we're pretty certain not to get a bigger house!