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Where the Wild Flies Roam

Oh, give me a home where the wild flies roam, and the deer and the buffalo play, where the meadows are green, and the sunset is seen – from my porch at the end of the day. Say ‘awe’ where you see respect wrapped up in wonder, flung like gemstones onto wildlands where life has its way – whatever way it may.

Acreage living is wonderful. It has a lifestyle and culture of its own with responsibilities well beyond the house. There is land, well water, cistern and septic to manage, and If your home should border woodlands there may be carnivorous trespassers to consider, too. Living among the wild offers unique opportunities for personal growth. Accepting the skunk or bobcat is one thing, but when moose, bear, or mountain lion pass right by the front lawn it can really give a person pause.

The woodlands are filled with drama. Raven’s dive-bomb grosbeak, chickadees, grackles and jays, Great Horned Owls seek and destroy Northern Flying squirrels and their red cousins, while woodpeckers girdle the bark off of LodgePole pines and spruce trees. Bees buzz, dragonflies dart and flies bite. Even growing vegetables or greens is a conscientious exercise, deer and moose have no qualms about sharing the garden any more than a coyote nabbing your cat.

Pepe and Pita are two skunks that took residence in our back yard area. They would toddle out at dusk and nose about the garden, and there was no problem there: these two minded their own business rather nicely. They kept to themselves and ignored us completely, and they left no real trace of their nocturnal visits other than one good spray to one good dog who learned one good lesson. A bottle of peroxide and shampoo took care of the dog, and but we wondered why they would choose hang out with us. We have no garbage left out, and even our “bear-proof” container is left inside of the garage and doused daily with a splash of peppermint oil or – in a pinch – ammonia as rodent deterrent. The problem, we realized, was the bees.

Skunk like to eat bees. They scratch at the hive door to incite a riot and swallow as many bees as will rush out to investigate the attack. There are various methods that folks use to stop skunk from attacking beehives, from boards embedded with nails (seemed nasty) to mothballs or vinegar (which bugged the bees too). Common sense had us raise up the hive an extra foot and put up a short brick wall around it like a dry moat. Peppermint, we realized, was as stinky to a skunk as their back end was to us and since the bees liked it, we left it around too.

Even figuring out bugs requires creative thinking. Swat or not, they’re rather integral to country living. Birds love them, plants thrive with them and we deal with them. For ruralites, there are a few types of flies in particular that we love to hate.

Take the horsefly, deerfly, or gadfly for example – they’re all the same. These big, black flies have razors for lips and rip-and-go before you can reach over to swat. Bloodsucking may be what propagates the species but the zooming menaces actually feed on flower nectar and plant exude, lay eggs in marshy soil or standing water, thrive in hot weather and hang out in vegetation waiting for flesh to happen by. While wetlands nearby harbor their insidious young, the prevalent deer population is a delectable attractant. Thank goodness for dragonfly nymphs nurtured in those ponds who love to eat mosquitos and flies, but snipes, swallows, hummingbirds, and yellowlegs – who give the buzzing menaces a run for their lives – like dragonfly for dinner, too. This brings us to the Cluster fly; another villain entirely.

Within a year of moving here, we changed the vinyl siding on our home to a more natural hardy-board. It was what we found crammed inside the old siding  that was stomach-churning; fly bodies packed so tightly between each strip of vinyl that their carcasses were reduced to a crush of wings and abdomens, and a very bad smell. Cluster flies are very similar to the House or Bottle fly, with the exception that they arrive in droves, live in clusters and smell sickly sweet when they perish. Any home with tiny warm cracks to hide in will harbour these parasitic flies all through fall and winter, where they stay dormant until a warm day arouses them. It’s almost diabolical that the species can freeze, enter diapause and spring back to life when they thaw. They start their lives in the dirt, burrow into a unsuspecting earthworm until adulthood and then seek out a nice, warm cranny particularly in walls of homes. Check into diatomaceous earth, a white powder made up of microscopic fossils that desiccate the exoskeleton of insects and parasites. It’s used as a natural fly repellant, pest control, and deodorizer, like talcum to touch, and yes, it works.

Most types of flies detest cinnamon, peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus oils; all of which make wonderful air fresheners. Tansy plant and marigolds also work to repel various “swattables”, and a vacuum with a long extension is a sure-fire way to deal with an indoor cluster of flies. The (only) good news on cluster flies may be that they aren’t related to livestock, don’t develop in manure or garbage, and despite the streaks of yellow they leave on your walls, they don’t breed or lay eggs inside the house.

Live and love in nature’s sanctum within your very own backyard. Stride along pathways, breathe in the scent of a pine tree. Listen to the wind, and the clatter of water over rocks, identify a bird or a footprint. Just notice the presence of wildness around you, where ever you may be. Be gently reminded that to reside in the countryside is to move in harmony with a biome rich in flora, fauna, and natural habitats.

As we live within the wild and step softly among the flora and fauna around us, may ‘awe’ be a daily reminder of life, and that it’s good. And as the seasons become new again, whether city dweller or country, might we also be reflective of our cohabitation with the life around us. Let’s be carefully reminiscent that for every mouse, fly, mammal, or even microorganism we try to control, the words of Michael Crichton in his novel – ‘Jurassic Park’ – often rings true in ways we might not expect: “Life finds a way.”