Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Monday, September 22, 2008

Late Summer Warfare

Everywhere there are signs summer is winding down. Trees are shedding leaves. Some flowers are fading. The apples are ripening. The salmon are spawning. And fruit flies have invaded my house.

The pesky critters are everywhere. As soon as I find and remove the offending peaches or onions that harbour the mini buzzards, they discover a new place to breed. Before I know it, a trip to the kitchen requires a mosquito net.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few battle tactics. First among them was laying traps. I would slice a juicy peach and place pieces in plastic bags. Every few hours, I’d sneak up on the bags, slam them shut and tie them closed. Sometimes, if feeling particularly vengeful, I’d blast the inside of the bag with an insecticide first. (Be careful if you decide to use this variation as there could be collateral damage to nearby foodstuffs, plates, children, etc.)

This was effective as long as I remembered where I put each trap and checked them periodically. Unfortunately, every once in a while I’d forget about one and it would become the scene of a fruit fly orgy, giving birth to a fresh host of the ravenous beasts.

A few years ago, I learned of the vinegar method: Pour some wine, raspberry or cider vinegar (malt and white will work too, just not as well) into a narrow-necked bottle to a depth of an inch or two. Make a funnel of paper or light cardboard and insert it into the top of the bottle so that it fits snugly.

The fruit flies, attracted by the vinegar, enter the bottle via the funnel but can’t find their way back out again. (They're way dumber than the average middle-aged Canadian male. We ask for directions.) Eventually, the tiny winged demons become vinegarized sediment. And it looks good on them.

However, despite two such traps in my kitchen, I came back from a few days away to find they’re still reproducing like airborne bunnies.

Desperate, I turned to a technoguy’s best friend, Google.

And there, way down the list of suggestions, was one that made real sense and, as a bonus, sounded like fun: vacuum the heck out of ‘em!

So for the last couple of days, my vacuum cleaner has resided in the middle of my kitchen floor. Every time I make tea, or dinner, or grab something from the fridge, I vacuum around my vinegar traps where the wee terrors hang out. (Must confess I feel like I’m starring in an Arnie movie, waving around a flamethrower or submachine gun. Or a “suckmachine” gun. Haha. That’s funny.)

It works like magic. Hasta la vista babies! The tiny flying farts are no match for 12 amps of revved-up, reverse-turbined suction.

Unfortunately, neither are the paper funnels on the traps. I sucked up a couple of them, releasing a few POWs in the process but covered the tops quickly and made new funnels.

Oh, the war’s not over yet. Not by a long shot. I must remain vigilant. Thus far, all I’ve won is a few skirmishes. The enemy is resilient and resourceful and has earned my respect. It only takes two survivors and a few days and you’re back to battling brigades of the buggers. But I’ve definitely stemmed the tide. So far.

Looking forward to winter though, when I can safely buy some fruit again. And quit tripping over the stupid vacuum cleaner.

Monday, September 01, 2008

But Is It Fishin'? (#176)

As most of you know, and are likely darn sick of hearing, I live in a small town, in a house bordering a field and some woodland. A creek runs through the area and empties into Lake Ontario, a mile or two away. The creek hosts annual migrations of rainbow trout (steelhead) in the spring and brown trout and salmon in the fall.

What follows is another excerpt from the journal I’m writing about my walks in that area with Benny. Forgive me if there’s a reference or two that presupposes a knowledge of material you haven’t read. Maybe one day you will - if I ever finish the darn thing and get it published.

The salmon run is on. The weather is mid-summer hot n’ hazy, belying the calendar. This is Labour Day, a holiday, a day in which people who are usually at work on a Monday, don’t have to work on this particular Monday. They can do other things - recreational things.

Did I mention the salmon run was on?

You’re clever. You can do the math.

Uh-huh. My creek is overrun with guys in armpit-high boots and wearing vests with 97 overflowing pockets. Most of them wield long fly, or steelhead rods from 9 to 13 feet.

Not only that, but on weekends (when I’m usually safe at Hilary’s) and holidays (when I’m often not) it’s also overrun with preteens flinging Pocket Fishermen and families of five toting picnic baskets and lawn chairs among their gear; most of whom have never fished in their lives but want a crack at 25 pounds of near-fresh, not to mention near-free, salmon.

Now add the probability of there being a dead fish or three in the vicinity, rotting nicely in the hot sun.

Finally, factor in a dash of Benny, The Jack Russell Terror, to the above fruitcake smorgasbord and you’ll surely understand that this morning’s walk posed something of a challenge.

The first of which was trying to keep him away from the creek without having to leash him.

For the most part, this was pretty easily done. A good portion of the paved path parallels the creek but doesn’t come all that close to it. And this summer’s still-lush foliage blocked his, and my view of the creek in most places. So, today I made a point of staying on the paved path, away from the creek when we were below the dam. (Most of the salmon were still downstream of the dam.)

The only area of major concern was half-way through the northern cedar grove. The creek bends close to the path there and there’s a nice fish-holding slick, just above and alongside a storm-toppled tree trunk. I knew there’d be at least a couple of guys working that short stretch.

There were six - three on each side of the bank. Six guys fishing a run about 20 feet long and eight wide. From two directions. I called Ben and he came nearly immediately, after a cursory sniff of the closest angler’s boots and a quick pee on a nearby fern. Glad he didn’t reverse that. Good doggie.

Suddenly, I heard one of the six whoop, followed shortly by a thunderous, wet WHAP as a hooked 20-pounder slapped its tail on the surface. I could see at least two lines attached to the “lucky” angler’s line and the other fishermen reeled in frantically, lest they join them.

One more did. This was unlikely to end well.

In my book, this ain’t fishin’. (Hehe. I said “in my book.” Get it? It’s funny because even though I was using the term as a folksy colloquialism, I did write a book. About fishing. Mostly. Oh, nevermind.)

Ben and I continued our walk.

The scene made me grumbly. Fishing + crowds has always = ruining my zen. Fishing is supposed to be a quiet, relaxing pastime, during which one eases into Nature’s own rhythms. It’s not supposed to be one which involves jostling and frayed tempers. That’s the rhythm of a metropolitan subway system.

On the way back, near a long stretch of rapids devoid of both fish and fishermen, Ben and I paused for a bit at the side of the stream. While he nosed around for something interesting, I looked upstream at the tail end of a nice holding pool.

Three young guys, in their late teens or early twenties, were working the lower part of the pool. I couldn’t see the upper part but was certain there were other anglers there as well.

The young lads were tanned and shirtless. One said something and they all laughed. They tossed out their floats in near-unison and I imagined they were wagering on who would catch the first, the biggest, the most – the way I did, and do, when fishing and kibbitzing with friends.

I realized I was being a bit of a twit - a bit of a snobbish twit. Not everyone has the luxury of picking and choosing the ideal times and places to fish. Some only have a day or two here and there, as was the case for me for the better part of 20 years. And if a couple dozen folks have the same chance at the same time - well, it’s no surprise they take advantage of it.

Those young men were having fun. Perhaps they were on the cusp of one of those magically memorable summer days they’d recall and drink to when they were my age. Who was I to say what fishing “should” be?

One size don’t fit all, so what the heck - maybe it is fishin.’