Thursday, August 9, 2012


My mother just celebrated her 88th birthday, so while it's still her birthday month, I need to fulfill my promise not to post any photos or stories about the many insects that share our home.

Nevertheless, by looking at these essential tools of life in the Italian countryside, you can probably tell that bugs play a big role here.

As a gardener, I've continued to be very interested in learning about the local insects, especially to find out who the good guys are, but I have not found much reliable information. When I explained my dilemma to one of the first visitors to our home, an elegant, diminutive lady who has a country place in Spain, she replied without hesitation:"For the first year, just swat everything!"

That didn't sit so well with me (what if one of the spiders was Charlotte?), but I did invest in a flyswatter or two (that's a fliegenklatsche, if you buy them at Lidl, the German-owned store that we like).

Next, due to all the spiders and the webs they can spin faster than I could ever swipe them away, I realized I needed a few tools for that. A wire bottle brush works nicely, as does a multicolored synthetic duster I found in the car department of the Coop grocery store.

The baby-blue microfiber duster on a stick came from Mercatone, our local source for anything that can't be found at the two previous establishments. For some reason, there is a constant settling of dust in our open-beamed house, so the right tools really help keep us from being trapped in spider webs and covered with dust. I make my rounds multiple times per day, but have learned to respect many of the strategically placed webs. I see that the resident spiders act as centurions, keeping worse invaders at bay. Unlike me who is just learning, they figured out the whole food chain enterprise long before we arrived. A Yiddish expression whose spelling I can only approximate:"lozem allein"--"leave 'em be"--fits just fine in Umbria.

The last essential tool in this panoply is the Smiling Buddha, a legacy from my mother-in-law who made this whole house possible. He reminds us to slow down, observe, and try to keep our equanimity regardless of the size of the spider or dust balls that come our way.

(Note to mom:I've been trying really hard not to "talk bugs," so please forgive me if I fell short of my promise.)

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