Journal: July 4th, 2010

Being alone for a holiday is often difficult for me, but up here, today was just like any other day. Except, quieter. It seemed like I didn’t hear as many cars on the nearby road, fewer trains on the nearby tracks, and no sound from my neighbors, who probably were away for the day.

While I wasn’t particularly lonely, I did reflect on how many holidays I’d want to spend alone. I wondered whether being alone up here really was better than being with friends in the city. Admittedly, if I wanted to, I could’ve gone to the city for the holiday, though, the garden needs watering, and I’m reluctant to ask my neighbor too often. But, irrigation issues aside, I do dream that someday I’ll meet a lady who’ll want to spend time up here in the woods with me. Maybe it’s not realistic, but a man can dream…

The last several days have been unproductive and difficult. I’ve been rendered completely useless by a swarm of bugs. Yes, bugs. They’re these little itty bitty winged insects, that look somewhat like tiny flies, but sound like mosquitos and fly erratically like mosquitos. And they bite. Most of them don’t most of the time, but I’ve definitely caught a few in the act, and they squirted blood (my blood, presumably) when I squished them. They’re everywhere, and I can’t go anywhere without them forming huge buzzing swarms over my head like a dark cloud. They not only buzz around my ears, but on a few occasions, they’ve even gotten into my ears and gotten stuck there, which is a really disturbing feeling. I think they’ve been munching on my ears too, because both ears are puffed up and swollen. Yesterday, my right ear was so badly swollen that I could hear the “woosh, woosh” of my blood pumping. The rest of me hasn’t faired much better. I have 15 bites just on my left shoulder (24 for the entire arm that I can count), 8 just on this small patch of skin on my neck above my right collar bone, and a continuous bumpy ridge line across my forehead where my hat meets my head. Not to mention the 4 on my toes, 6 on my legs, 3 on my stomach, 4 on my back… I haven’t been sleeping well, because I’ve been waking up in an itchy fit in the middle of the night. I’ve scratched through skin in a number of places, and most of the bites are topped with broken skin, where reddish yellowish ooze crust up like volcanoes. I’ve used up an entire bottle of insect repellant that I bought years ago and only used about 20% of until this week. I’m not sure that stuff even works for these little tiny swarming suckers; I’ve seen them practically swimming in pools of the stuff on my skin, though areas thickly coated in the repellant have so far avoided additional bites. For the most part, undeterred, they fly and crawl around until they find a patch of skin that’s unprotected.

So far, the only way I’ve been able to avoid them has been to outrun them (or walk into the wind) and keep moving, or to stay in my hut. For some reason, only half a dozen or so of them will follow me into my hut, and I can kill them off one by one. So, I’ve spent most of the last few days in my hut, feeling rather useless. The workbench that I’ve been planning on building this week is still just a pile of lumber (though I did manage to cut some of the pieces). And I only today finished the raised garden bed, doing most of the work after sunset when the little bugs seem to be less active (and are replaced by for-real mosquitos, which, at this point, I actually prefer).

Life hasn’t been completely bad though. I’ve managed to do quite a bit of shooting this week; I shot 500 rounds through my handgun, a 9mm Sig Pro 2022 that I got this spring and hadn’t had the chance to really familiarize myself with. I’ve been shooting my handgun on my “handgun range”, a place pretty close to my camp where I can shoot into the side of a hill at ranges out to 50 yards (though I only shoot the handgun out to 25 yards at most). I also got my 100yd range set up, but haven’t shot my match rifle down there yet, mostly because it’s farther away and I’ve been too lazy to haul all my gear down there, and haven’t been thrilled by the thought of putting on a sweater and shooting jacket in this heat. I’ve been debating setting up another 100 yard range right next to my camp. I’ve measured out the distance, and it’s feasible, but I’m reluctant to go through with it because the impact area, a hill about 200 yards past the target, is obscured by foliage. The hill’s on my property so it would be legal, and it’s highly unlikely that anyone would wander into the impact area, but it still makes me a little uncomfortable.

I’ve also been spending more time thinking about the hut extension, and last night, I started putting the design into Sketch-Up. The extension is going to measure 9ft by 8ft, bringing the total, when combined with my current 6ft by 8ft hut, to 15ft by 8ft. That’s 120 square feet, and the maximum allowed size for a structure without a permit in my county. The walls on the extension will be over 10ft high, allowing for a loft that is high enough off the floor to provide sufficient headspace underneath. I’d like to try something different, and frame the structure with four-by-fours instead of two-by-fours, but I’m still trying to decide if that’s practical, given that my saws can’t cut through 4 inches (well, 3.5 inches) of lumber in one go (though I could always cut half and half, if a precise cut surface isn’t required… or design so that I don’t need to cut any four-by-fours).

The garden continues to do well. The corn continues to grow at an astonishing pace, and I can’t believe that they were just tiny green shoots only a week ago. The beans are doing less uniformly well. Some seem to be doing great with a pair of nice big leaves, but some are still just stems sticking out of the ground. A couple of days ago, I found a couple of bean sprouts mysteriously broken, cleanly at the ground level, wiping out half a row (those two were the only ones that sprouted on that half of that row). I sowed more seeds there, but we’ll see if they sprout.

It’s interesting to see different plants do better or worse than others. The zucchini has been doing great, and now looks twice as large as the yellow squash plants, even though they were about the same size two weeks ago. I think the squash didn’t like the heat, but they seem to be doing better now that it’s cooled off. The strawberry plants also seem happy, and I’ll probably have a few strawberries in the next week or two. The egg plant and peppers are doing kinda meh. They don’t seem to be growing fast enough to tell, and I put some shade over them to see if that’ll help. One of my Japanese egg plant plants bloomed a flower, which I guess is a good sign, though the plant itself doesn’t seem to have grown much. But these are all plants that are supposed to take a couple of months to mature, and it’s only been a couple of weeks, so I guess it’s too early to tell.

All in all, life continues. I can’t say that it’s been the greatest week, mostly thanks to the aforementioned swarming blood suckers of doom, but it was what it was. Such is life.

3 thoughts on “Journal: July 4th, 2010

  1. I wonder if your tormentors are midges: small flies which breed in areas like the west coast of Scotland and bite, particularly when it’s been wet and isn’t windy.

    Search for Avon on this page:

    http://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/45-mins-only/

    That’s not the first time Paul of that blog has mentioned that solution and he has many years of experience of the problem.

    In more detail:

    http://www.wyrdology.com/edinburgh/midges/avon.html

    Might be totally irrelevant but could be worth a try.

  2. Where I’m from, we call those biting gnat-type swarms piss-ems. Sometimes also called no-seeums.

    Not that it helps now, but for next season here are a few tips to keep them under control.

    First, they are attracted to anything with a sweet scent and to water. It seems like you have a lot of your food and cleaning stuff around your hut. It would be best to keep it all inside, keep it tightly contained, or just generally away from the hut. Keep a couple or jars or bags with tiny holes punched in it full of vinegar or baking soda mixed in water. (In fact vinegar and baking soda are some really great things to have no matter where you are because they are fixes and cures to a hundred different problems.) The piss-ems get inside there and don’t get out. Finally, garlic is a natural bug repellant and works best when you have eaten a fair amount of it (mixed within your cooking) and you’re sweating it out.

    I spent my childhood growing up on a large farm, then spent my late teen/early adult years camping and roughing it – alone and with companions. After I “grew up”, went to college and got a job, I felt so disappointed that that was what “real life” turned out to be. So unfulfilling, in my opinion. I’ve spent the last 6 months completely unemployed and the last hour checking out your blog and I think you’ve just inspired me to get back to living how I used to love living: out in the middle of nowhere with just the few simple things needed to survive.

    • Hi Kristen — Thanks for your comment. Will definitely try the garlic thing next year. It shouldn’t be hard seeing how I love garlic 🙂 I’m happy to hear that you felt inspired by my blog; it’s incredibly rewarding for me to know that my writing has an effect on my readers.

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