Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Frugal Friday: The Under Siege Edition
Right, first a warning. This post is going to be dark and depressing. I've tried to rewrite it to avoid it being so, but it just ain't happening. So, please, keep that in mind before reading. If you've had a bad day, unless you are of the "misery loves company" school of life, you might want to avoid reading this until your day is better. Hopefully once things go better than they have been for me you can read this without it dragging you down into a depressing place.
I feel beat down, devastated, defeated, anxious...I'm pretty much riding the roller coaster of ugly feelings right now. It's been a hard week and a half.
First there were the moose that stopped me from putting in a garden this year. Than there was the larder beetles which have had me detail cleaning the house every day and keeping me on my toes this summer to try and stop them from taking over any area they possibly can. I lost seeds. I lost some stuff, I had to declutter hardcore to find nesting places. I flared up my bicep tendinitis and have suffered from a severe lack of sleep, but I was making progress and feeling like MAYBE things were starting to climb out of the nose dive they were in.
Then, last Tuesday happened. It was the final, "What cosmic force did I seriously tick off somehow to bring this on" type of moment for me.
I went into the pantry to move what was left of my potatoes to a basket since the plastic bag they were in kept falling over. Immediately when I opened the door the cats both ran into the pantry, which they had been doing for about a week, but since it had been cold and wet out, I just figured they were bored and wanting to check out the one area of the house that they didn't have normal access to (since the door to the pantry is normally closed). Boy was I wrong. So, so wrong.
I moved the potato bag and felt my heart hit my feet when I saw the distinctive black pellets sitting on the small wooden slats that the water softener attached to. Mouse droppings. Lots of them. Coming from someone who is so very careful to try and keep things out of reach of any type of vermin and someone who the rest of the house might look like a tornado hit it, but the pantry is ALWAYS clean and organized (as well as I can with the amount of space I have), this was my worst nightmare.
That was a long night. It was the last night Armina could stay up late before we had to get up early for school on Thursday, but I needed her help to gut as much as I could out of the pantry to help the cats have access to the walls and to start to figure out the extent of the damage the mice had done in the short time they had been in there. I KNOW they couldn't have been in the pantry more than 3 weeks because I just got done reorganizing and moving things around again and we had also just added salt to the water softener not that long ago (and there had been no mouse droppings on the slats at that point), but the mice were like a destructive army to anything they could find a way to get to and boy did they do so much damage in the short period of time they had been in there.
I lost crackers, drink mix from the LDS cannery (which sucked because our local cannery is shutting down with the farm it is located on getting sold) and dried fruit as those were in the metal baskets on top of the water salt tank and were the most obvious damage I found, at first. The best I can figure the mice climbed the cords for the water softener to get up there as the baskets were decently high up, but accessible via the cords if the buggers were determined. There was mouse droppings around the entire edges of the room. I found a hole behind the canning shelves where they mice must have gotten in at, I figured, as I found that everywhere else in the pantry the drywall doesn't quite reach the floor (since it's unfinished in there) and you could clearly see nice, unmarred 2x4 staring back at you. Except for the back wall. The 2x4 was missing there along the bottom edge. Somehow the mice had come in from outside as they always do up here when it is cold and wet (EVERY house no matter how immaculate can end up with mice up here...if it's warm and dark they'll find a way in), gotten under the drywall along that wall and just gone to town on anything they could get their little teeth into.
I made sure that the floating wooden shelves by the door were still secure and the mice couldn't climb up onto them any way shape or form (thank GOD the pasta was on those shelves) and let the cats run around in there the last week and a half, figuring that they'd either kill the mice or the little blighters would get too scared to come out of the wall and eventually starve to death.
And so, I've spent the last week and a half just figuring out the extent of the damage the vermin wrought while cats squeezed in around me to check anything I uncovered. Luckily, the only things I had on the floor of the pantry in the slanted area was all in metal cans or were stored in heavy plastic containers, as I tried to keep things safe from mice when I'd put stuff away, so I was hoping the crackers and the dried fruit would be the worst of it.
And then, today, I finally started pulling out all of my home canned goods to help the cats get full access to the back wall of the pantry. And I cried buckets, and I mean buckets, of tears.
Quick PSA: Erika listened to the "experienced canners" on various boards she followed who told her she MUST store canning jars without bands on them because the bands could trick you into not knowing a seal was broken on a jar. This was a REALLY, REALLY STUPID thing to do as that gives mice access to the edge of the canning jar, the lid and the darned seal on the jar! Don't be stupid. Don't be like Erika. Store your jars with the bands on, just loosen them if you are worried about a false seal or something.
The mice managed to find the one hole in the cardboard that spanned the gap between the canning shelves, climbed up the little metal lip of the canning shelf up and onto the cardboard and went to town on everything that I had stored on the bottom canning shelves.
So much wasted food. So much wasted work. So much money lost. So much mold. The above picture was taken in progress of going through everything once I got it out of the pantry.
All my home canned peaches. Gone. Pears. Gone. Home made pickles. Gone. Relish. Gone.
The list goes on. Jams and jellies and applesauce survived, thank God, as those were on the top shelf where the mice couldn't climb, but about 90% of everything that was stored on the bottom of the shelves was lost.
I think I cried enough tears today to fill an ocean. My husband came home and tried to cheer me up as he was happy to see that some canning had survived. Until I pointed out to him that what he was looking at was 1/3 of what it should have been. Thank God I didn't have a successful garden this year, in a way, because it I had lost the normal amount of canning I have after having a good garden year on top of what I already lost...I honestly think I'd be in the mental ward right now wearing paper shoes.
I'm overwhelmed right now and waiting for a swarm of locusts or a raining of frogs to finish everything off.
I have no idea how to replace everything that I've lost. I have no idea how I'm going to clean and sterilize the pantry with a unfinished concrete floor, a mop that is falling apart, a space that a broom won't even fit into and everything.
I moved everything out of the pantry today after finding the jars and am just letting the cats have free rein in the now vacant room. I have a board with some weight behind it going about a foot up the door to the pantry, so the cats can get over but a mouse is going to have a heck of a time getting out, and we'll wait for a few more days. If nothing pops out of the gap, my husband is going to go through and spay foam the gap in the baseboard to seal it, we'll secure a 2x4 securely along the wall to hopefully button stuff up better and I'll rethink how I do everything, again, in the hopes that I can save some food for winter yet, somehow.
This has not been a good year so far.
This is going to make vacuuming to keep larder beetles at bay really really difficult. My brain shuts down thinking about it. I just don't want to deal with it right now, so I'm not.
I do want to throw some good things onto this post, though, just to prove some decent things happened this week, so let me list those.
1. I got an e-mail offer from Tiny Prints for 10 free thank you cards and envelopes. I had received this offer a while ago and got some thank you cards for me, but this time I decided I'd get some for Armina with her name on them. The plan is to start to put together free things like the thank you cards and put together a cute little stationary kit for her for Christmas. I think she'll enjoy it and so far I'm off to a good start with 10 free thank you cards and envelopes (photo missing because honestly I couldn't find a place to take a picture right now...I have stuff stacked everywhere).
2. We got the free photo prints in from Snapfish. My husband was especially thrilled as we got a picture of Alvah smiling when he was younger, which didn't happen too often in pictures. I'm hoping to frame those and stick them on the gallery wall sometime soon.
3. I got heavily inspired by reading Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Manual and really loved the nice, clean and organized laundry she has (of course she has a HUGE house so it's a lot easier to achieve that look in a house like that). I decided I might not be able to achieve the beautiful and clean look she had going, but I could still organize things and make things look neat and tidy in the laundry room. I was able to rearrange things to the point I could fit the toilet paper and paper towels I'd gotten from Amazon (as well as the laundry soap and the hand soap and such) and things sitting on the shelves above my washer and dryer looking nice and tidy. I grabbed a little "s" hook I had around the house that we used to hang the Christmas stockings on and I hung my hand broom from the bottom of my ironing board to get it up and off the floor and where I could find it easily.
I used a wooden caddy I had that originally housed blocks and that I have moved around from one place to another over the years and I put it to use to house some of my cleaning supplies to keep them organized (like I have sponges tucked into the caddy toward the front), but also to kind of hide them a bit so the shelf doesn't look so cluttered. By reorganizing the shelves I even managed to fit y scrub bucket onto the shelf, which will hopefully keep it out of the way of the son and the cats and stop them from making the crack in said bucket worse.
I moved one of the black metal shelves back into the laundry room, but instead of just using it to organize cat food and cat things, I instead used it to organize my ironing things, the cat food and other various little household items.
I managed to rearrange the wall in such a way to fit my step stool over by the washing machine and managed to fit the carpet cleaner into the corner. I have to move the trashcan and do a bit of rearranging to get the carpet cleaner out, but it's worth it as it was sitting by the upstairs bathroom in the hallway before this, so it's nice to have it in a better location.
5. Warning: If you are a champagne lover you might want to skip this part because I'm about to offend you. Seriously.
While gutting the pantry, I stumbled across something I could use. About ten years ago (give or take a couple of months) I decided to put together big gift baskets for all of the family members. They were elaborate affairs and in some of them I included alcohol. Well, I bought one too many bottles of champagne and not being one to waste anything, I kept it to save "for a special occasion" or to use as a gift or...something.
Anyway, when we moved the bottle moved with us. I ended up sticking it in the depths of the pantry and it got buried somehow stuffed alongside the canning shelves. When I was moving stuff out of the way for the cats, I found it, and was actually kind of happy I did. I've been out of cooking wine for months now and I have a few dishes that I really like to have cooking wine for.
So, I had my husband pop the cork (I'm a wimp) while I stood safely out of the way (note, once again, I'm a wimp). The champagne is actually pretty tasty after aging all of this time and I think I offended the husband when I told him what I was going to do with it. The only problem I'm having is that the fizz in the champagne won't quit. Seriously. It's been at least a week and I STILL can't put a wine stopper in it without it blowing the stopper back up again. It's crazy. So, I kind of have a wine stopper sitting in the bottle, unsealed, and am storing it in the fridge. Hopefully it will go flat sometime soon so I can use it better for cooking wine.
6. I need a break. Since I can't take one, I've taken small amounts of time and escaped onto Pinterest making a new board for fall and looking up pretty autumn pictures and neat sounding autumn types of recipes. It works and takes my mind off of things for a while.
7. Alvah has been doing great in school so far this year and they are really thrilled with the progress he made over the summer with ABA therapy and things. He even took a few bites out of an apple and a cucumber today! Hopefully they have more luck getting him to actually keep the foods he tries, but I was thrilled to hear that news.
8. Armina has been coping with middle school and is actually doing pretty good so far. Her biggest problem was getting her to concentrate on her locker when she would tumble the combination as she had a tendency to overshoot the number she needed. I checked in at the office this morning and took about ten minutes to walk her through opening her locker over and over and over again and pointed out to her the mistakes she was consistently making (the biggest one was settling on 4 instead of 3 like she should have). I was rewarded with her coming out super quick this afternoon (where since school started she was consistently one of the last kids out it seemed) and her proudly saying she was a lot better at her locker now and she thinks she's got it down. I was happy that a few minutes to just point out to her where she had to correct herself to make the whole experience go better, worked.
And yeah, other than that it was the usual back to school stuff. Medical paperwork, dropping off pamphlets explaining what cyclical vomiting syndrome was to the new nurse (who seemed very on top of it and actually seemed really nice, which was good), getting the daughter used to the new schedule and getting her stomach in line with said new schedule, getting the right type of Benadryl to the nurse for the son so he wouldn't gag on the Benadryl when they gave it to him...all of that stuff.
So, how did your week and a half go? Please tell me better than mine.