Sunday, May 17, 2009

Despicable Drosophila, and Other Tales Of Spring

I stayed up too late last night. You see, I was waging an epic battle against an enemy both foul and insidious, that wins its wars by sheer number, fortified by an incredibly prolific reproductive ability: Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.

Ah, yes, spring time is here, and with it, the influx of fresh produce to my kitchen. We've been feasting on local asparagus from the farm down the road for weeks now, and finally, their strawberries have come in. They grow an old heirloom variety, and they are divine: succulent, sweet, beautifully red and delicious.

We're lucky here -- we have lots of local farmers who grow all kinds of wonderful things. Next will be peaches and cherries, and eventually, cucumbers, green beans, squash & zucchini, corn and okra, eggplant, peppers of many varieties, cantaloupes, watermelons, the long awaited tomatoes, and then apples and large squashes. And I can find local sources for all of these, plus all the milk, cheese and cream you can stand, eggs and poultry, beef and pork. But with the fresh produce, comes the fruit flies. Every year, I pick up where I left off as I fight a losing battle against little bugs a mere fraction of my size, as I slowly slide further down the slippery slope to insanity.

Last night, CPod, wonder-husband that he is, had set out the last of our Christmas-morning pain au chocolat from Williams Sonoma to rise so we could have a yummy breakfast today. (They come frozen, unrisen, unbaked. Just set out overnight, brush with an egg wash, bake, and voila! Paris, straight from your oven!) I went into the kitchen for my nightly cocktail of milk, prenatal vitamins and Zyrtec. I stopped by the stove to admire the croissants . . . and there were fruit flies on them."Oh, no you didn't!" I thought to myself. "Not my precious chocolate croissants!" I quickly covered the delectable delicacies with a dish towel and proceeded with the art of death.

I stood in the kitchen swatting, smacking, and muttering things to myself like, "You are MINE!" and "Gotcha!" As the fruit fly fatalities reached epic numbers, I left my kitchen counter littered with their bodies, hoping their compatriots might enter my kitchen, see the corpses of their fallen comrades, and smell death, vacating the place post haste. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the darkened kitchen window -- and it was scary: crazed look in my eyes, pants unbuttoned and falling down because, let's face it, I just can't wear regular clothes anymore, waving my arms around like a mad woman. If I'd been out on a street somewhere, I think they might have carted me away to the asylum.

I finally went to bed after I'd counted a full 30 seconds without seeing another fly. And even then, I was haunted by the possibility that the one I didn't get would assuredly be the one about to lay 400 eggs on some unassuming piece of fruit in my kitchen. 400 eggs which will, undoubtedly, in 12-15 hours, hatch in my kitchen and then, after another 4 days, grow into another battalion ready to assault my fruit, my sensibilities, and my sanity in one fell swoop. It almost makes me look forward to winter's frozen wasteland, with no real fruit that doesn't taste like cardboard . . . almost.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I have a love/hate relationship with spring time. I love the transitional parts of the year: the parts that aren't all the way hot or cold quite yet, but help bring about the changes to get us there. As you can see, I love the bounty of the harvest, but I hate the fruit flies. The same goes for the outdoors. I love the flowers, the green, the growing things that surround us in this lovely world, but I hate the mosquitoes. I hate the flies. I'm okay with butterflies, and other pollinators. And I recognize that they all have a place in the natural order of things. Except for mosquitoes. I firmly believe they are a blight and a pestilence on this world and they will not exist in the hereafter.

I spent yesterday digging around in the dirt, filling my small pots and hanging baskets with lovely, fragrant, twining, blossoming things. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than having a hand in fostering growth, be it in your children, those under your stewardship at church, the plants in your garden, or even yourself.While I was digging, I found these four-leaf clovers:

Twenty of them! And I wasn't even looking -- I have just always found them, wherever I happen to be standing. I found 6 more, but I felt guilty, so I didn't pick them. I mean, I'm pretty sure it's a minor genetic mutation, and if I pick them all now, how will the gene get passed on, so I can find some more later?

Spring time gives us the outdoors back as an extension of our home. Our kids play in the yard as though it were the living room, with mud. Spring brings us wonderful miracles, like the pair of little sparrows who decided to build their nest in the basket of fake hydrangeas that hangs on my front door:

As of this morning, there are two little mouths to feed, and three eggs shaking and shimmying their way around the nest, about to take their turn to crack into this world.

And these beautiful blooms:

(These lovelies are all in my mama's fabulously unruly yard. And photo credit goes to her!)

Herein lies the problem: beautiful flowers, yes. But these little flowers are reproductive beings who are so overcome by the displays of the others around them that they cannot contain themselves and cast their sexy dust to be blown about by the wind to God-knows where. And I am allergic to all of it. That's right, people. I just can't keep the flower sex out of my eyes.

I spend the months of April and May in a constant state of foggy, itchy, post-nasal drippiness. I know it's all miraculous, and beautiful, and wonderful, I just can't see it clearly through the scratchy eyes and snot-covered haze of an over-active immune system.

I live for rainstorms, that rinse the pollen from every surface and cleanse the air of irritants. I love the smell of ozone right before a big gullywasher, and I love the dirt-y, loamy fertile scent of a freshly washed earth. I love the sound of the neighbors playing baseball in their yard, and of my boys racing down the driveway on their trikes. I love the late disappearance of daylight and the sound of the crickets and cicadas singing their love songs in the darkness.

I love to send my brood out into the warm and balmy wilderness, like I did last weekend, and I love to hasten their return home. I love the irresponsibility of relaxed schedules and I love the smell of smoke and sticky marshmallows that cling to every exposed surface after a campfire family night. I love putting little tired boys to bed after a day of full-throttle play and contraband fireworks at the lake. This sensory feast will last into the summer, but springtime is what makes it all possible.

(My adorable boys, crammed into the back of Daddy's Jeep, on the way to the Father-Son Campout on Mother's Day weekend.
One of the only reasons I might have a little part of me hoping this next baby is a boy.)

The highs definitely outweigh the lows on the InkMom scale of love. CPod says that little nest on our front door just seems lucky, as though even the birds know our house is a happy place to have a family. And with all those four-leaf clovers, how could this spring be anything but a lucky one? If only I could get rid of those blasted fruit flies.

P.S. I'm entering this post in the Scribbit Write-Away writing contest for May . . . the topic is Spring. I get a kick out of her blog, and she has a new contest every month.Wish me luck!


  1. Oh my gosh, I love the way you write. I have a friend living in North Carolina, and your descriptions of life there just sound so enticing! I may have to come out and visit you all, and take in that beauty. (That friend, BTW, sings in a rockabilly group called "Sweet Potato Pie". How cute is that?)

    And I loved what you had to say over at my place. Thank you so much for the insightful, thoughtful, and supportive notes you always leave for me! I'm perfectly fine with our having insanity and music as our common denominators!

    You're wonderful!

  2. I think you just captured the essence of all my childhood springs rolled into one!

  3. Lovely signs of spring. Looks like spring left you a special gift -- the birds nest...W o W!

  4. That picture of the birds' nest is just beautiful! Reminds me of the year a junco built a nest in the grass on the side of our house one spring, it was a family event.

  5. As always, you capture the best of life and present it with prose that evokes wonderful memories as I read. I had my own battle with fruit flies on saturday, I just didn't have what it took to applesauce all of my apples last fall, and since my garage is a great temperature for storing apples, I stored a box of them there to be turned into mushy goodness during the long winter. But, alas, I never got around to it and the fruit flies found them! All I had to do was put the box into the garbage, but it stirred up quite a storm of the little pests!

    Good luck on the contest. I'd vote for you!

  6. I want to eat at your house. Well, minus the fruit flies, but I've been there, too. I'm just now seeing how you are not only a gifted storyteller but also a gifted photographer. Beautiful flowers and cherished bird's egg picture.

  7. I had to come see your post when I saw the title on the BlogHer board. Fruit flies are the pits, aren't they? I love you photos and I wish you the best of luck (shouldn't be a problem with 20 four-leaf clovers!). Oh, and the nest. That is the cutest thing I have ever seen. So glad you blogged it. Have a great one!


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