The Circus of Life: Termite Tenting

It’s been hanging over our heads for a year. Well, they have been hanging over our heads. The termites. In the attic. Munching away undisturbed for who knows how long. If you live in California, you probably have them, too, unsettling a thought as that may be.

Drywood termites. At half an inch long, they reportedly cause $1 billion damage annually to homes in the United States. (image from fcinspections.com)

Drywood termites. At half an inch long, they reportedly cause $1 billion damage annually to homes in the United States. (image from fcinspections.com)

You will rarely see one, as they lurk undetected for years in house walls, attics, subfloors, and roof shingles. An average colony might eat one pound of wood in a year. What you might see is their frass, or droppings. I thought that’s what I saw in a suitcase I left open overnight in our closet. Turned out I had just spilled something. But the ever vigilant CE had already called the pest control peeps, and when they came out to investigate, they did find the varmints grinning at them up in the attic.

Termite frass looks a lot like sawdust (image from housecallssd.blogspot.com)

Termite frass looks a lot like sawdust (image from housecallssd.blogspot.com)

And so began the circus parade. One of my favorite CE quotes was a recent comment he made when I pointed out the less-than-glamorous nature of our daily lives and he responded consolingly, “Not that many people travel with the circus,” an apt existential observation if I’ve ever heard one. But then the circus came to us, beginning with the dubious use of heat treatments for the termites in an effort to spare us the disruption of tenting our house.

An example of the giant hoses used to "fry" termites. It didn't work for us. (image from adiospest.control.com

An example of the giant hoses used to “fry” termites. It didn’t work for us. (image from adiospest.control.com

They came back twice, insisting they could rid us of the vermin. Enormous hoses festooned our entryway balcony and snaked up into the attic, loudly blowing air heated to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for hours and hours. If I were a termite I would have rolled over and died from the noise alone, but our termites were of the persistent sort. They survived, although our attic furnace and thermostat did not. The correlation was never positively proved, but we had to replace two furnaces and repair a thermostat in the weeks after the heat treatment. Score so far: Termites 1, Us 0.

This meant war. After postponing the inevitable for months, we faced the fact that it was time to bring on the tent. It was not just that we would have to move out for a few days. It was that we, the dogs, the cats, the chickens and Birdie would have to move out. Where was Noah and his ark the day we needed him to take on a few extra animals?

"Hey, don't forget me!"

“Hey, don’t forget me!”

The preparation took days. When you tent for termites, you must do the following: remove all food from the house, remove all houseplants, and pull exterior foliage away from the walls of the house. I took “food” to mean anything that could potentially be ingested, so I also packed up cosmetics and all medications, OTC and otherwise, so it’s safe to take a Sudafed if you come visit.

One project was building frames to support  the vines against the house.

One project was building frames to support the vines against the house.

The clever CE had the idea of renting a truck and parking it over in our “woods” as a portable storage locker.

It really was just $19.95 a day. A bargain!

It really was just $19.95 a day. A bargain!

Time to leave!

Time to leave!

This was a disturbing sight.

This was a disturbing sight.

An additional worry was learning about the incidence of burglaries that apparently accompany fumigations. It’s hard to hide a tented house and thieves (inside jobs, perhaps?) calculate the window of time after the poisonous gas has dissipated but before the residents return. Lucky for us that our greatest valuables are the hens, and they were safely off-premises for the duration. Yes, even the chickens had to go because the coop is attached to an exterior wall of the house.

Pippa, Coco and Luna, wondering what fresh hell we are serving up for them today.

Pippa, Coco and Luna, wondering what fresh hell we are serving up for them today.

The hens and our two cats, Cody and Dodger, found refuge in adjacent cages at the aptly named Cat & Bird Clinic. It was a wild ride in the car to take them there, cats yowling and hens clucking in alarm.

"Noooo!"

“Noooo!”

"You could have at least gotten me a suite."

“You could have at least gotten me a suite.”

Vet techs Kristin and Kelsey promised lots of TLC to the chickens.

Vet techs Kristin and Kelsey promised lots of TLC to the chickens.

Coco settled in for a snack of meal worms and scratch. Four-star hotel as far as she was concerned.

Coco settled in for a snack of meal worms and scratch. Four-star hotel as far as she was concerned.

Phyllis took Birdie on for a few days, and we decamped with the dogs to the pet-friendly Doubletree hotel. It turned out to be a lovely two-night “stay-cation” at the beach.

The CE relaxes (for the first time in days!) on the veranda.

The CE relaxes (for the first time in days!) on the veranda.

Chloe made lots of friends at the pet-friendly Doubletree, including this look-alike beauty on the right.

Chloe made lots of friends at the pet-friendly Doubletree, including this look-alike beauty on the right.

We had dinner on the Doubletree terrace, dogs included.

We had dinner on the Doubletree terrace, dogs included.

It was a great place to watch the moon rise over Chase Palm Park.

It was a great place to watch the moon rise over Chase Palm Park.

Next morning, the dogs enjoyed breakfast with us at East Beach Grill - also dog-friendly.

Next morning, the dogs enjoyed breakfast with us at East Beach Grill – also dog-friendly.

Two days later, the circus tent came down and we clowns moved back in. It has taken a few days to restore things to what passes for normal around here, but we are mostly re-settled and termite-free. Angelo, our fumigation expert, had assured us that the Vikane gas used for the process leaves absolutely no residue. The only thing we smelled when we moved back in turned out to be two dead rats in the attic that we had been trying to catch for weeks. Ultimate score: Termites, 0, Rats, 0, Us: victory over the vermin!

A friend shared that when her son was young, he used to see houses being tented and thought it meant the circus was there. In a way, he was right, although it’s not necessarily the one I wanted to see. Cue the calliope music: we’re happy to be back to our boring life. Let someone else travel with the circus!

All's well that ends well. Happy to be back home.

All’s well that ends well. Happy to be back home.

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
This entry was posted in Absurdity, Annoyances of Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Circus of Life: Termite Tenting

  1. dizzyguy says:

    As usual, the CCL has provided an accurate, amusing and otherwise astounding account of our latest adventure. Thankfully, very few of our adventures have involved, at the same time, circus tents and Vikane gas, but this one did. Head count on the animals was the same before and after, so let’s call this a win and move on!

  2. Phyllis says:

    What seemed like a month was really just two days of eviction. The before and after work was really hard, I know. But Birdie had his wine and shoulder time, the dogs guarded the backyard and all delivered on time noon on Thursday. It is over and all is quiet on the front. Yeah!!!

  3. Mrs. G says:

    What an adventure!!! Not fun like Hawaii though…

  4. Angela Gutsche DiGaetano says:

    THIS IS HILAR. I hate to laugh at your expense….but……..

  5. pollo amigo says:

    Glad to hear the circus left town uneventfully. Hopefully everything has returned to normal — or at least what passes for normal at Casa Gutsche.

  6. tdevir says:

    What a crazy few days for you guys. I fear those little wood-eating buggers!
    Glad everyone is back home safe and you can actually relax for a while. What a summer! We miss Hawaii…..

  7. Julia says:

    What an ordeal! Glad you’re back en casa safe and sound!

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