Friday, October 25, 2013


Here's a new reason for "cooking the books."  I just pulled the last load of books out of the oven after an hour at 185 degrees. Before that it held a canvas book bag, my computer cover, Denis' wool stocking cap and a Bible.
We just returned from vacationing at a very quiet, sweet spot. It was a much needed time away for rest and refreshment. It was almost perfect. Except that on our first evening, I noticed something very tiny moving on my knee, which I pulled as close to my nose as joints allowed for inspection. It looked like a little piece of dirt on my blue jeans except that it moved, like when static electricity causes a small seed to jump. It was a flea. I stood up to look at the wrap I was sitting on. It had more jumping seeds. I yanked it off the chair, screamed in a quiet fashion so as to alert my husband that something was wrong, who merely said, do you want to go home? No. Not really. So for a week, we simply tried to ignore … no, that isn't quite right. I kept catching them on the bathroom floor with dampened toilet paper where they easily showed up on the white tile (as if flushing one or two every three hours would make a difference in their population). Denis dealt with them by refusing to discuss or acknowledge them, choosing denial as a means of coping. I admire him.
The day before we left, I posted our status on FaceBook. Fleas. Help! What should we do? The response was fairly large and adamant. I shouldn't mess around. I even got a phone call from a friend in Missouri who had immediately spoken with another friend who is an "Exterminator."  I was to seal everything in black plastic bags. Don't even think about bringing it in the house. The expert and others said go to a laundromat and wash and then dry everything on high heat. Sigh.  Or… do what I did and what a few others recommended. Dump everything on the lawn. Take it in a load at a time. Launder and dry it. Bake your books and anything else you can't put through a dryer. I've done all that.
The last load to go in late this morning was the big white cotton blanket (we needed to bring our own linens) you see in the middle of the photo. A few minutes ago I pulled it out of the dryer and out of curiosity, I was examining whatever little black flecks of dirt and lint clung to it. Perhaps I shouldn't have done that. One of the specks sprang away. It did it again. I bent close. A live flea. It's back in the dryer on the highest heat the dryer can manage. I may run it for 36 hours.
I know you don't feel too sorry for me. After all, we haven't needed to bomb the entire house, or move out like some of you have. We don't even have noticeable bites. And I've just finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand about a Japanese WWII POW. The vermin they had to live with for months, even years at a time! Whatever can I be complaining about?
Perhaps just a couple survivors will not make any difference to us? Perhaps they won't find each other and breed like flies. Perhaps they specialize in biting dogs only. Or cats. Maybe they are just harmless little fleas who eat grass. Perhaps this will discourage visitors from coming to Toad Hall. And now I will be able to do everything I've put off for years. Except that pausing to scratch my waist every ten seconds may cripple my progress. Am I obsessed? Probably.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Giant Puff Ball

I know, after being gone from here for so long, you'd think I'd come back with something really profound. But when I think of it, what is not profound about this very strange and rather rare mushroom? If you are on a hike in the woods and happen to glance off into the undergrowth and notice a large round white object it is probably a Giant White Puffball. It is so startling, you can't help but think that some kid lost a soccer ball. If you can find it early on, when it is still young and dense, they are delicious. Along with morel mushrooms, there is no mistaking them for anything else. Seriously. You would be safe eating them. Their pure white flesh tastes a little like mild cheese. 

Anita found this one and brought it home. When I first saw the photo, I thought you could easily mistake Honeysuckle for a miniature bunny who was examining a button mushroom. (Denis and I are not home right now - having taken some vacation time to be on the North Shore - our favorite spot for decompressing in this starkly beautiful place.) She reports that last night she made a brown rice risotto with kale and mushroom and it was delicious.


North Shore