Saturday, October 8, 2016

Keeping Bugs at Bay

There is still a lot of snow and an icy wind so I've been indoors, reading more than usual. If you've glanced at the image of a book under "letter bomb," you'll have noticed that it's different every day or so.

For your benefit I link to a review or description of the book, but I don't read those myself; I don't want to be influenced. I also don't peruse the books' dust jackets anymore, as they lead to expectations that either ruin the suspense or are promotional drivel that leaves me disappointed when I've read the book. Instead I rely upon the first chapter to take me into the story, and recent experience has convinced me to stick with all books for the first 100 pages, if I can — if they're not total drivel. Sometimes a book with no hook in the beginning is well worth that extra dedication, and had I not continued I'd've missed something very good, as was the case with a fiction this winter that included Frida Kahlo as a character.

Brought to mind (though only distantly related) is the method of a book reviewer at one of the first newspapers where I worked. She'd started out by interviewing the author before writing her article, but doing so disposed her to review the book more kindly than impartially, so she abandoned the interviews.

Basil, left, and citronella.

Both basil and citronella are said to deter insects from one's entryway, so these were kept on our doorstep this summer. Did they make any difference? It's hard to tell; one doesn't know how many bugs would be there without the plants, n'est-ce pas? But when it got cold I brought these two pots into the porch to keep through the coming winter. Then, because all bedrooms should have one plant to purify the air as you sleep, I set the basil on the night table next to my side of the bed.

Scott had a nasty cold and I was spending my nights on the couch in hopes of avoiding it. The first time I slept in our bed again, the scent of the basil was so strong that it irritated me — and surprised me, as previously I'd only noticed it when rubbing the leaves or pinching off the flower buds. The following morning I moved it back to the porch and it occurred to me that the odour of both plants might not be strong enough, outside, to repel insects because there is always a breeze in our yard. But if the plants were kept in the porch ... and the door to the kitchen kept closed ... then maybe when the outside door opened, flies and mosquitoes would get a whiff of the combined scents concentrated, and not enter. And this seems to have been the case.

I don't recall whether it's the same in towns and cities but on the farm, once fall arrives, more flies than usual hang around the door and come in when it's opened, and one kills quite a few of them in the kitchen every day with the flyswatter. This year, with those insect-repelling plants in the porch, the flyswatter has barely been used at all.