Itchy and scratchy

Okay now the show is over I can talk about itchy and scratchy. The cartoon itself is aimed at a younger audience which I think is deplorable because of its content, it is so violent and goes against all that I believe. As an adult I can laugh at the stupidity and impossible scenarios and not take anything seriously, which is what I do. It is much the same as any other slapstick comedy, one character gets hurt by the other and we laugh at it. Should we be offended or simply treat it as ridiculous? That dear reader is down to your own conscience. Now joking apart I cannot help be reminded of the  cartoon characters now whenever I feel itchy and at this time of year that is quite often for me. Having caught too much of the sun my skin in places has become rather itchy and I have been trying to resist scratching it but it isn’t easy. Come on now you probably do the same, you end up scratching it too. However I don’t leave myself at the mercy of my fingernails, I apply a suitable skin cream. There is another kind of itch which rears its ugly head at this time of year too, that caused by the constant battle with midges and other small flying insects which want to feed on my skin. I find an application of a lavender infused cream helps in preventing being eaten alive. On Wednesday morning, very early in the morning (it was actually 5.30) I had gone into the front garden to give it what has become a daily routine these past couple of weeks, a good watering with the hose. Well all went well for a few minutes then it was ‘Hey guys, here is another victim’ as the little mites began settling on my exposed regions. I had to keep wetting my arms to keep them off. Had I watered the garden later when it was in full sunshine I suppose there wouldn’t have been as many midges about. I don’t think they like the heat. I can relate to that. I persevered for the hour I was out there, I wasn’t going to allow a few insects to stop me. After returning indoors for breakfast I returned to the garden and sat on the bench there playing guitar for an hour. Strangely I wasn’t pestered this time. I guess the music sent them to sleep!

Shirley Anne


Off limits!

I had to get up as early as possible on Tuesday despite being tired the night before from that day’s work but I had slept well and woke up refreshed. Recently the weather has improved and the days have been quite warm and sunny, too warm for any strenuous work as far as I am concerned but I had work to do. If I could get started early I could still get much done before the afternoon when the sun would be beating down upon me in that part of the garden. I am referring to my little project in or on the Plot. Basically the work I am doing at the moment is mixing mortar and laying bricks. Now I am in no way a qualified bricklayer but I think I do a fair job. The hardest thing isn’t mixing the mortar because the mixer does that, it is getting everything lined-up and the walls straight and vertical. If I were a professional bricklayer I would use a line to get the walls straight and I have done that on previous jobs I have done but for this particular job I have chosen to use a straight piece of timber instead. For shorter walls I find this method easier. It really doesn’t matter as long as the walls end up as planned. It would be around one-thirty before I felt I’d had enough for the day and it was beginning to get uncomfortably warm in my overalls even though I was working in the shade and even though I was completely naked underneath them as I had chosen to leave off wearing my day clothes. A little later and it would have been under the sun. This is what I have done so far (Tuesday)..Plot 7  As you can see the area was under the sun a short time later. I’d had a quick-lunch around twelve-thirty and continued to work for an hour before packing everything away. After getting changed I spent a couple of hours on the patio but ended up lying in the shade of the umbrella for it was too hot in the sunshine. However, try as I might to relax I was constantly pestered by flying insects and decided to go indoors for a moment. I returned and resumed my position on the patio but this time no flies came near. I was off-limits! Why? I had applied some moisturizing cream to my exposed skin and it was scented with lavender. I love the fragrance of lavender but flies hate it! It is said that if you use lavender impregnated sprays and perfumes around the house it helps keep the flies at bay. I hoped to resume my bricklaying the following day and again whilst it was cooler in the morning.

Shirley Anne

‘Tis the season

English: Ant nest disturbed by a bird. On the ...
Ant nest disturbed by a bird. On the picture the Queen Ants can be seen. They are probably Black garden ants

No, not the other one in December, though that isn’t all that far off is it? No, it is the season for ants to come out of their nests and fly off somewhere else to make new colonies. The conditions have to be just right for the winged monsters to emerge. It has to be dry of course and warm and the humidity being normal helps too. Over the last few days we have had a lot of rain but on Wednesday everything changed and although it wasn’t a hot day at only 17 deg C or thereabouts it was dry at last. We have paving slabs surrounding the lawn in the rear garden and unfortunately they provide perfect conditions for ants to make nests beneath them. The fist signs of an imminent evacuation are the little mounds of soil or sand that appear on the lawn or on top of the paving slabs if they have found a way through the cement mortar, and they somehow do that sometimes. The excavated material obviously comes from beneath the paving or other things undermining them in the process. The end result after years of ant activity is uneven or loosened paving. The only way to prevent damage is to make conditions inhospitable for the ants and they will go elsewhere or kill them using propriety foods or powders to poison them. There are not many solutions that can be used in and around plants and lawns that won’t have an effect on those too unless specific chemicals and poisons are used but they unfortunately can be washed away in the rain. Outside our perimeter wall at the front of the house ants have always been active and the small paving brick tiles have become uneven under foot. We live in a sandy area and therefore we see sand being excavated and dumped in little mounds against brick walls and pavement fixtures, worse of all stone gateposts which can end up standing any way but vertical! Ants are the culprits of course, no other insect has the stamina or inclination, except perhaps termites. Some wasp species and a few other insects do burrow beneath the ground but are seldom as destructive. I have found a way of dealing with the ants at the front of the house and that is by pouring diesel oil down their access holes. They do not like diesel and beat a hasty retreat in its presence. It is a very effective but perhaps pungent method of ridding an area of ants, however it is only a temporary measure. I lived in a house some years ago that had solid flooring, bitumen laid on concrete and we were pestered by ants coming indoors through cracks by the walls. One coat of diesel on the floor cured the problem until I was able to seal up the access points later. I have used some diesel in the rear garden but only on concrete surfaces. The real answer in keeping the pests down I suppose is to supply them with plenty of ant-killing foods that they will take back to their nests and see them off. At least I now know where to prepare a treat for them next year and fill in unwanted access holes in paving and stonework with cement mortar but where are the winged ones going?

Shirley Anne.