Sunday, May 17, 2009

Party Hats

September 5, 02

My three-day Labor Day weekend was spent serving as an attendant for my 84 yo mother-in-law, Louise, while my wife took a day off and then worked two extended 12 hr shifts in the ER.

Louise seems to be recovering well from her broken hip, but still can't put any weight on it. She spends so much time sleeping that she sometimes has a hard time distinguishing reality from dream, especially as she wakes up. Once she wanted to hop out of bed, make it, then go into the kitchen to whip up a meatloaf and mashed potatoes. No can do, darlin'.

So she is restricted to lying in the hospital bed, moving to the recliner, or perching on the commode. That leaves reading and TV and one other activity at which she is becoming unbelievably adept.... swatting flies with her swatter.

On our farm, flies are constant companions and they drive her crazy. She can be laying seemingly sound asleep with swatter in hand, and without opening her eyes, obliterate a winged intruder. The first time I saw that, I couldn't believe it. So I picked up a fluffy goose feather out in the yard, and snuck in while she was sleeping, and lightly tickled her arm.

SMACK! Boy did I get stung. And she didn't even wake up.

Well, to relieve her torture, I decided to see if I could find a new method for trapping flies. Fly paper is a mess, and the liquid fly traps stink too much to have in the house.

Then I ran across an article about a guy with a farm in Northeastern Ohio that got sick of being bitten by deer flies while out on his mower. His trick: take a bright blue plastic flowerpot, covered with sticky material (Tanglefoot) and suspend it upside-down on a pole, waving in the wind. The results were amazing: "The deer flies didn't even look at me - they were all buzzing around that darn flowerpot." Deer rflies are ambush predators. They wait for prey to walk by rather than actively searching for it, so they are highly attracted to movement.

Then a guy down at the University of Florida's North Florida Research and Education Center tried to figure out which shape worked best. After numerous experiments, the trap that wooed the most deer flies proved to be a 6-inch flowerpot painted bright blue, capturing as many as 30 deer flies in a one-minute test -- 35-50% higher than for any other shape. An assistant discovered that the traps also worked when attached to a baseball cap and trolled by the hat's wearer.

Now all I have to do is find some Tanglefoot and convince Louise to wear a blue flowerpot on her head. Come to think of it, I might just make party hats for all the cows, horses and the camel while I'm at it. I don't think that the neighbors would be surprised at the sight any more.

When I sat down and told Deb and Louise about my discovery, they refused to be guinea pigs themselves. Louise said that she'll stick with her swatter. I just nodded and told her about my observation that she could even swat flies (and me) in her sleep.

She just asked, "What makes you think I was sleeping? With you around, who needs a pesky monkey?"

O.K. No more goose feathers.

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