The Gull Reef Club

4/11/2005

Permanent Reminders & Temporary Feelings

Filed under: — Jaime @ 9:55 pm

Old houses manifest their former owners in unpredictable ways. This weekend, we learned that our wildly overgrown azalea and cleyera bushes probably hadn’t had a decent trimming in at least 25 years. We certainly hadn’t done any since moving in nearly two years ago. This was further evidenced by our finding old pulltabs deep within the bushes’ stump clusters (I’m not sure if there is a scientific word for that area where all the thick branches come together in shrubbery but that’s the place I mean).

We found a lot of things while doing yard work these last two weekends. Included in the junk in our yard: reading glasses, spark plugs, nails and screws of all varieties, bits of linoleum, bits of ceramic, bits of glass of varying size and color, scrap metal, roofing material, little girl’s hair beads, bands, and barrettes, rope, string, partial dog leash, chewed gum, newspapers, styrofoam plates and cups, plastic bags, plastic Easter eggs long ago hidden and never found (ok, so actually Mike found those and threw them at me…jerk), flower pots, a bucket, bubble wand, bottles, pens, washcloth, balls of many sports, decorative work that had long ago fallen off our fence, coal, bricks, cinder blocks, Skin So Soft container, and a Mr. Clean floor cleaner bottle. I have no doubt I am forgetting something.

The yard cleaning also seems to have aroused the curiosity of our neighbors. Mike told me that he spoke with one of our older neighbors who remembers a lot about the area. He told Mike he remembers the bushes of our house being wild and needing cutting for the last 30 years. That helped me understand the interested peeks we were getting all day. We are the people who are making the neighborhood’s scary-looking, overgrown house into something more palatable. In fact, we met one of our neighbors from a few houses over whom we had not met before. He stopped over to tell us how great things were looking. Shortly after that, our next-door neighbor thanked us for cutting back the bushes. I’m not sure if we should be flattered or embarrassed.

We didn’t come away unscathed, however. Cutting back such a quantity of old growth aroused the wrath of the sand gnats that had been making those bushes their home for thousands of generations. I have so many bites on my arms and face I look diseased. Yes, face. That’s right. These vile little creatures bite you in the face. At least mosquitoes have the decency to suck your blood in less obvious places.

So why does it hurt like mad when a gnat takes a meal from your arm or, even worse, your scalp? The secret is in the mouth parts. Sand gnats dont just puncture your skin like mosquitoes do. Instead they rip it open using sharp cutting teeth located on the mandible. After inserting two sharp, sword-like blades into the skin as anchors, the sand gnat uses the cutting teeth to rip up the skin and get the blood flowing. As if that werent enough, the gnat then squirts a chemical into the open wound to inhibit blood clotting. The tiny pool of blood that forms is then sucked up through a straw-like structure called the proboscis. Georgia DNR

Ew. Well no wonder it feels like my skin is crawling. Nothing more fun than using hydrocortisone like it’s lotion. All in all, the bites are a badge of honor for me. My yard is looking better and I haven’t had to shovel snow since February of 2001. I’ll take two sand gnats seasons a year over one Chicago winter anytime.

Speaking of which – for those of you who know my sister, wish her a happy birthday. She is 26 today. :D

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The Gull Reef Club