Monday, August 07, 2006

Ah, the Wonderful Smell of . . .

Oh, the joys of living in the forest. Tonight as the sun went down, spilling orange-pink over the western hill and into the lake, I watched a mommy deer and her speckled fawn cavort on the back lawn. Such a great time they were having. Baby would kick up her heels and race to one end of the lawn, mom giving chase. Then they’d race back the other way. (This was obviously a young, energetic mom.) An hour before these two showed up, I was sitting on the front porch, looking at the trees (and talking to myself as I plotted my next book) and watching two male deer—a daddy with double prongs on each side, and a new young male with his first sprout of antlers.

Apparently, segregation is all the rage in deerdom.

Yes, the deer are fun to watch. The turkeys are a kick. And the occasional bear is cool. However, there are certain species of wildlife I could live without.

Three weeks ago, I arrived here at our Idaho home—after ICRS—two days before my writer pals were set to descend upon me for the elongated weekend of book planning and play. First night here I saw a critter scoot across the walk on the side of the house, kicking off the automatic lighting system on the garage. Cat? Nope. Skunk.

The air conditioning guy came the next day. (You remember him—the guy who arrived a decent sort and left a killer?) He informed me he’d seen the skunk disappear under our deck. Thing had the nerve to have taken up residence underneath my house! Oh, joy. I pictured 11 women—and one skunk. Thinking how loud the house and yard would soon be. Wondering how much it would take to set off said stinky-pie.

Guests arrived Thursday. Hubby arrived Friday. (He’s a brave man.) I informed him of the skunk—quickly adding that this was not the weekend to take care of the problem. I didn’t want a trapped skunk letting loose with guests in the house. Besides, I wasn’t too fond of the idea of his trapping a skunk at all. At our California house, hubby once did just that. Guess whose car he chose to haul the caged thing away?

Okay, his was the sports car and mine the hatchback, but I’ve always thought this was just a little too convenient a reason.

At any rate—we faced a weekend with trying not to tick off Mr. Skunk.

Hubby is a very industrious man. He decided (it was a good reason to leave the house full of women) to drive to town and ask some helpful hardware man what to do about skunks. He heard the most inventive answer.

The 11 of us yakky writers had moved from our outside table under the gazebo part of the deck into the air conditioned dining room for our afternoon session. (This was the week of the killer heat across America.) We looked out the windows—and there was hubby. Hat shoved on his head. Smirking grin on his face. Carrying a bucket of…something. Tossing said something underneath the deck. Brainstorming stopped as we all gawked. “What’s he doing?” someone asked.

“No telling.” And that was the truth. With my husband, you just never know.

A bit of explanation is in order at this point.

1. The deck/porch runs around this entire house and includes a large gazebo area at one back corner. Total square footage of its wooden flooring is over 1800 square feet.

2. We had no idea where, under this entire decking system, the skunk actually lived.

3. Air conditioner guy had said to get rid of Mr. Skunk soon, as they tend to breed rather quickly. Which meant we could have an entire brood spreading out underneath the entire deck, for all we knew.

With all of the above in mind, my industrious husband figured he needed to “treat” underneath the whooooole deck. Yup, dawgonit, not one corner would be left for those skunks. And what was the handy-dandy homegrown (hardware-grown) answer to our dilemma?

Mothballs. Skunks hate the smell.

Dear hubby threw handfuls of mothballs everywhere under our deck. And I do mean everywhere.

Hah! Take that, you skunks! We’ll be rid of you—without a single stink!

It worked, too. We have not seen a black-and-white critter since.

We did start smelling the mothballs within a few hours.

Have you ever smelled a couple hundred mothballs, heated by 100-degree temperatures?

Think your grandmother’s closet times a thousand.

Let me put it this way. Those moths you get at night when you turn on a porch light? Ain't none around here. I think we lost the gnats and bees along with 'em. I'd swear the birds are even keeping their distance.

I've begun to marvel there are still boats out on the bay.

Ah, yes, living in the forest. I used to drive onto our property, get out of the car and inhale the wonderful smell of the woods and pine. Crisp. Clean. Invigorating. Now, two weeks after our skunks skedaddled, I’m still smelling mothballs. Oh, it’s fainter. And it certainly doesn’t drive me off the deck. (Not that this would help—the smell’s in the house, too). But I am beginning to wonder how long mothballs last. I mean, their distinctive aroma has to run out sometime, doesn’t it?

Well, doesn’t it?

This morning out on the road, I jogged past a dead skunk. Doggone if that thing didn't have any odor at all.


Unknown said...

I jogged by a dead snake this morning, and he did have a smell. I think your readers would be shocked if those that had skunks living on their property knew about it. Funny, I dreamed last night that I had a pet skunk. I think you're infringing on my frequency. My condolences to Mr. LePew and his family.

Kristy Dykes said...

Mothballs are good for getting rid of moles too.

But I've done it to our moles.

I don't want to smell mothballs.

For a lifetime.

I think that's how long the smell lasts.


At least for me, with my sharp sense of smell.

Kristy Dykes said...

I meant, I've NOT done it to our moles.

(I always edit before hitting Publish, and I deleted more than I meant to.)

Cara Putman said...

I was laughing so hard as I read this post that my daughter kept asking what was so funny. It's a little hard to explain to a five year old what a mothball is and smells like. So do you dream about mothballs?

Unknown said...

Being a country gal myself, I can totally relate. What a hoot!

Karen Eve said...

Thank you for the info. Being a country type person these days myself, the mothballs are great to know about. I guess you should probably throw them out in the spring, right before you leave to go back to CA, so they have time to disapate before your return.
Wonder what else they work on...

Southern-fried Fiction said...

I'll take the mothballs over the skunk any day. I had a dog that got sprayed by a skunk once. Dang dog ran to me for rescue.

'Nuff said.

Margo Carmichael said...

Eeeww, we moved into a new house last year and the dogs got sprayed "right in their own back yard. I washed them and put them to bed in the bathroom. And when Nature called, we enjoyed Eau du Skunque for months.

And tomato juice is a myth.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Yes, Margo tomato juice is a myth...especially if you have a white dog...LOL...the first time she wound up pink and still smelly! But peroxide and baking soda works great!

Brandilyn, your lucky you don't have a dog to add to the mix. You'd think mine would learn, but nooooo...every least once, Peppy LaPue gives it to her good!

Pamela S. Meyers said...

LOL, I just read this B. and like Cara, I laughed so hard and can relate. I live in a condo and a couple years ago I had my bedroom window open enjoying the nice breeze until all of a sudden...sniff...sniff. Mothboalls! My downstairs neighbors had heard those little white things were also good for keeping rabbits away from their beautiful flowers. The husband had spread them all around. Then they went to bed. If I thought the smell was bad, they got it worse! He took them up and put up a fence instead.


~michelle pendergrass said...


And yet another thing we have in common. My husband just put that many mothball around his garage because chipmunks and squirrels were invading.

He just bought another box last nigh.

FiddleWiz said...

Haha, I'm supposed to do an experiment for a class where I heat up some mothballs... blech!

Anonymous said...

I found your story because I was looking for someone who could tell me how long it takes for mothballs to dissapate. Your story would be funny if it weren't so close to "home" right now for me! I moved into this condo about a month ago and discovered that I was sharing it with a rat!! (and mice) While buying rat traps, a lady shopper suggested that mothballs would get rid of rats -said that rats don't like the smell. It's just that I had not had a lot of personal experience in using mothballs, or I wouldn't have done it.... I bought a box and got my son to strew them all out in my attic. I figured the smell would be confined to the attic. WRONG! I also didn't know about the health hazards of the vapors till I got online trying to figure out what I should have studied BEFORE I used the mothballs. I have put together in bits and pieces that the mothballs should be vaporized at least by the end of summer. The smell is not as bad as it used to be in the house. Except in a closet upstairs -- right near the bed where my son slept while he was visiting me. No wonder he had a headache the other morning!I was even told I should contact a "hazardous material remover" to get the moth balls out of the attic..... BUT it's been a little over a month! Would they even be able to FIND them now??? Anyway.... If I can find the switch to turn the attic fan on, maybe I can get the fumes to be released from the top of the house instead of it coming down into my home. I've got the upstairs windows open and ceiling fans going as I write this.... By the way... we did put out traps-caught one little mouse. Fed them a lot of poison -which we know they got into cause it was strewed around on the attic floor. Any holes they could use to get in were covered. And I haven't heard or seen anything of Mr Rat or any mice in a couple weeks I guess it's been. I don't know how much the mothballs had to do with it... But NEVER AGAIN!!!! There are other ways to deal with that problem!


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Margie, so sorry for your own mothball woes. Ah, me. What can you do but laugh?

I'm still with you. Never again.

Anonymous said...

I just made the mistake of putting mothballs in my attic! I am just sick about not being knowledgable and doing such a dumb thing. I see your post if from 2006 so I hope you can answer me. How long do they last? I am in a panic because I am reading forever. They are thrown up there and hard to find. Please help... NOT laughing as you did. Wish I could.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Ayo, I'm so sorry. As I remember, the smell lasted a couple months. But it was during hot weather season, which definitely made a difference. Air out, air out!