No Fleas on My Socks

The shelf in the corner where EJ painted.
The shelf in the corner where EJ painted.

This week started out really well. On Monday I did a little garden work and washed the windows. Meanwhile EJ had found a wooden shelf for a dollar or two at a garage sale that matched the other shelves we have in the kitchen. It is just longer than the other two shelves. We are considering putting the one long shelf or the two smaller ones in the corner of the kitchen where a pantry unit used to be until we moved it to another room to use as a coat closet. Because the pantry was there, the corner didn’t get painted when the rest of the kitchen was painted. If we put the shelf/shelves there, the corner will need to be painted first, so EJ decided to paint it on Monday. Of course, painting is sort of like the children’s story “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” because you can’t merely paint a corner, you have to also repaint the whole kitchen.  EJ took down the smaller shelves, putting everything that had been on them on the kitchen table. He got one coat of paint in the corner before he had to leave for work. As soon as he gets time, he will paint again.

EJ probably would have gotten the kitchen painted and put back into order, but he went with me to the doctor on Tuesday. I have been struggling, off and on, with a rash since December.  First it was on my hand. It looked like a zombie hand. Now it is on my leg. It doesn’t look like zombie flesh, but it is annoying. The high heat and humidity made the rash worse, so I figured I needed to go to the doctor.

The last two days have been spent in an all out battle with a plague of fleas. We have a dog and eight cats. The dog and two of the cats are allowed outside, so it’s only expected that we’d occasionally get fleas. (The two outside cats are older ones who are not happy remaining inside all the time, as the other cats are.) Usually I put flea medication on our pets’ skin, spray a little flea killer around, and any flea problem disappears.

This time, however, I delayed a tiny bit and bought a new cheaper kind of flea medication because money is more tight and flea medication for eight cats and a dog can be expensive. I am not sure the new flea medication worked as well or quickly as the other. Whatever, we suddenly got an explosion of fleas. I felt bad that if I had acted more quickly, I could have prevented this Flea Apocalypse, but EJ said his co-workers mentioned that they have been battling fleas too, so maybe it’s not my fault. This year has also seen an unusual explosion of mosquitoes and ticks in our area.

Anyway, I HATE and DESPISE fleas, so I have been battling with everything I can think of. My goal is to use “shock and awe” techniques–hitting them fast and hard to get rid of them.

Besides putting medication on the dog and cats, I got the brilliant idea of sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth around the house. Diatomaceous Earth is “an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it compromises their waxy coating so that their innards turn into teeny tiny bug jerky. But it doesn’t hurt mammals. We can eat it. We do eat it! It’s in lots of grain based foods because lots of grains are stored with Diatomaceous Earth to keep the bugs from eating the grain!” Diatomaceous Earth worked very well on the ants in my herb garden and is a safe pesticide, I thought it would be wonderful to kill those awful fleas.

amelia_bedelia
Amelia Bedelia

When JJ saw me sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth around, he said, “What on earth are you doing????” I said matter-of-factly, “Dusting the house. Duh.” I couldn’t help but remember a series of stories from my childhood about a housekeeper named Amelia Bedelia. The woman she worked for gave her a list of instructions and told her to follow it EXACTLY, so Amelia Bedelia followed it EXACTLY even though the instructions didn’t make sense to her. When her list said, “Dress the turkey,” she put clothes on it. When her list said, “Dust the room,” (not “undust the room”) she sprinkled dust all over the house. So I told JJ that I was “dusting the house.”

EJ texted from work that maybe I could research foods or herbs that repelled fleas, so I did. I learned that garlic repels fleas and that it was safe to use on pets. When EJ got home from work that evening, I told him that I had rubbed garlic powder into the pets’ fur. (And also sprinkled garlic on the floor with the Diatomaceous Earth. Remember, this is a  “Shock and Awe” campaign.)  JJ overhead and exclaimed, “What??? Why on earth did you rub garlic into the cats’ fur????” I replied, “Duh! To protect them from vampires.” I mean, everyone knows that garlic wards off vampires, and if anything was ever a bloodsucking vampire, it’s fleas. And mosquitoes. And ticks. Oh my!

Ok, I can’t help teasing my son a bit. Don’t worry, he teases me back quite skillfully.

Yesterday EJ and I drove to a nearby town to get flea spray, but the store didn’t have what we needed. I use my socks as flea indicators. If I notice fleas hopping onto my socks, then I know we have a problem. By the end of the evening, I had reduced the number of fleas on my socks to one or so every couple of hours downstairs. My “Shock and Awe” campaign was working. The animals aren’t allowed upstairs (although Timmy is skilled at dashing up when we open the door), but when I headed to bed, I had fleas jumping on my socks. Sigh. So I got my Diatomaceous Earth and garlic powder and sprinkled them upstairs. I didn’t want to sleep up there when the fleas were more of a problem, so I decided to sleep on the couch in the living room. Only the cats are used to cuddling me, and they wouldn’t keep away.

Our cat Annie often doesn’t have a strong need for attention, but when she wants attention she won’t take “no” for an answer. She insisted on cuddling with me, and I could feel flea eggs on her. I kept putting her on the floor, and she kept jumping up next to me. So I got up and found the little cat flea comb, and tried to comb out the fleas from her fur. And then I decided to comb the other cats. The cats were funny. Luke purred as I combed out his fur. Timmy rolled over on his back, obviously loving it–as long as I didn’t pull. The other cats ranged from calmly tolerating my combing, to not impressed with it, to Yafah’s “After medicating me and rubbing garlic into my fur there isn’t any way you are getting near me!” I was combing cats until 4 a.m.

First thing this morning, EJ and I went to the store in a town a little further away to buy the flea spray we needed. When we got home, EJ volunteered to cook lunch while I began to sweep, vacuum, mop the downstairs. After EJ left for work, JJ and I herded the pets into the kitchen and closed the door. (NOT an easy task, but a very humorous one. Yafah wasn’t feeling the love and trust by then.) Then we gathered our laundry and bedding, and loaded everything into the car to take to the laundromat. Before I left, I sprayed the living/dining room and bathroom with the flea spray.

Biblical Plagues
Biblical Plagues

I talked to my friend on the phone while waiting for the clothes to finish washing. I told her that I can’t wait for autumn, I feel like we have endured plagues all summer: first mosquitoes, then high heat and humidity, then a rash, and now fleas. JJ spoke up, “Let’s move before we reach the last plague, ok?” He was referring to the Biblical account of the ten plagues that fell on ancient Egypt until Pharaoh agreed to let the enslaved Israelites go free. The last of the plagues was the death of all the First Born, and JJ is my first–and only–born. So you can maybe understand his concern.

JJ and I lugged the laundry home, and I began the task of drying baskets of washed clothes (using the dryer, not the clothesline)–a task I will probably be doing into the night. While the clothes dried, I went upstairs and swept, and vacuumed, and mopped and sprayed. Then I herded the pets from the kitchen and did the same there, as well as in the back porch. I also took all the rugs onto the front porch, shook the dirt, Diatomaceous Earth and garlic powder from them, and sprayed them with flea spray.

So far, so good. No fleas on my socks.
So far, so good. No fleas on my socks.

I took a shower because I was exhausted and hot and wanted to feel clean. I got dressed and put on a clean pair of socks and then walked around the house. The only fleas I found was when I sat in my spot on the couch. The cats often cuddle with me there. I sprayed that spot again. I am keeping a close watch on my socks and will re-spray any spot where fleas jump on my socks. I walk around the house with my eyes on my socks. Every little itch and tickle or dot is viewed with immediate suspicion.

I hope our flea measures work SOON. The pets are still scratching a bit. (You’d think no flea could have survived my efforts.) There often is a new outbreak as larva mature into adults. We will return for another can of flea spray tomorrow morning so we will be ready.

A doe and her two fawns
A doe and her two fawns

What a week. What a summer. I can’t wait for autumn. On a better note, today as we drove home from the store, we saw a doe with her two fawns. That is always a precious sight.

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