Monday, 25 July 2005

A beastly mess

It is hot in Greece, very hot. We are lucky to live on an island at the seaside, but still here it is pretty warm. Even in Eftalou the thermometer is trying to reach 40°C (in the shade). It is wise not to move too much, or just to forget about your clothes always wet with perspiration and take a cool shower more times a day. Because cooking goes on, work does not stop and especially: cleaning has to be done.

The cats are most hours at their last gasp, the flies bite the whole day through, the moths are still clustering around the lights and the mosquitos whisper without mercy in your ear: I'm gonna bite you! The tree-frogs seem to live off the hot air. The warmer it is, the louder their screaming sounds. As well as the birds who are not bothered by the heat and go on with their twittering and chattering as second voices.

The wasps sing victorious war songs when they have managed to enter another ripe pear in the pear tree. What makes them thirsty. The moment you put a glass with refreshment to your lips, they arrive as fast as flies smell honey. So we offered them their own drink. You cut a plastic bottle in two, put the upper part where you take off the top in the under part, make some strings and hang the bottle in the tree. Pour some orangeade in it, because that is what is said they like best. And that is right, because in some days the yellow fluid will be brown with these thirsty animals.

This week we had to deal with another problem: the ants. Here you have ants of all sizes. From the big 2cm ones to the tiny-tiny ones you can hardly see. Our troublesome ones were those of the regular size. They decided to attack our bathroom. After they send out some scouts, they opened a highway straight through the shower. That was not very clever because our shower these days is doing overtime and before each shower the cabin is thoroughly cleaned.

You ask yourself what they have to find in our shower cabin. And why they think it necessary to make holes in the wall, so that the shower is turned into a shoot. But we found a solution: to fill all the cracks. It looked like that was going to help.

At the same time they ventured into our pantry. No ant spotted our jars of beautiful sweet jam which are in between the pots with capers, olives and liqueurs. Our jars with jam are very well closed, so no ant can smell them. But we did forget the packs of sugar. We enveloped them carefully in layers of plastic bags. But the ants were happy to discover those ones and they secretly managed to make holes in the plastic, into the packages and one very hot morning when I opened the pantry I was surprised by a waterfall of sugar and ants.

Then there is no way out but to get wet. The sugar has to be swept and dusted off, the whole pantry has to be emptied, all has to be thoroughly cleaned with soap, mopping, sweeping, to be short: everything you try to avoid to do on a day when the temperature indoors is above 40°C.

But that still was not the end of our suffering. Jan already complained that he was bitten in bed by an ant. And on this same day the ant scouts delivered their reports and it was decided to open another highway through our bed!

What to do with a column of ants, coming out of the wall, climbing determinedly on the bed, crossing our sheets, climbing down to the floor again to disappear in exactly the same wall as they came out? We were very damp with perspiration thinking of a solution.

I know that you have sprays against all vermin, but sleeping in that toxic shit, no, thank you very much. And then it was Sunday, most shops were closed. So this first day there was no other solution than to go to sleep elsewhere: we were chased from our bed by the ants! While Jan slept in his work room, I took the couch. With a snoring cat on my belly I was thinking of revenge.

The next day I read some useful information on the internet: "Ants are exterminated, when you wet a sponge with sugar water and lay it down. The ant will go into the sponge and you kill them with hot water." Well, with all those columns of ants in the house, I will clean forever.
"Ants can be terminated, if you mix fresh chervil or potash with sugar and this mixture is strewn about." Mmm, I do not know if they have chervil here and what is potash...
"Ants can be expelled by mixing sugar and petroleum, put it in the spots where the ants are and light the fire." Great, then we also have a house on fire!
"Ants are killed when weak beer is poured into a saucer which is placed near the ants". Yes, that one I know already for snails. Then 2 snails come to drink the beer, the other ones want whiskey!
"A dark glazed jar is half filled with honey, syrup or sugar water. Close the jar with dark paper and make a hole in the middle as big as a pea. All ants will go into the jar and be killed." Well, that sounded attractive, especially that last sentence. I made a hole in a top of a coffee jar, I made sugar water, put that into the jar and put that next to the bed. In no time the jar was black with ants. They disappeared into the hole, but seemed to run out as fast as they entered. After some hours, just a few of them died in the sweet liquid.

In the mean time we put a cup with orangeade in our pantry. That seemed to work as well. Just a cup of lemonade made the ants crazy and by thousands they tried to climb into the cup. Without swimming- belts they were lost and hundreds of them died in the yellow fluid. At all strategic points we put cups with orangeade.

For an unknown reason after some hours all ants disappeared from the bedroom. Were they defeated by our attacking strategies? The highway was closed and in the jar with sugar water only a few black bodies were roaming the surface.

It looked like they withdrew themselves all into the pantry where they kept busy with climbing the cups of orangeade. It looked like we had to be patient. At the same time they again forced themselves into the shower. We served them orangeade to encourage them.

That night we took our bed back and slept very well, without one ant disturbing us. Next they also had enough of the pantry. The sugar was gone and still no ant discovered the jams. They had enough as well from the shower. As real soldiers they now march around the shower. As long as they do not tear the house apart and they stay marching on in a straight column I leave them doing so one more day. And then we will spray them away. But first this terrible heat has to go out of the house...

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

Monday, 11 July 2005


As many people who regularly visit the island or this column know, there exists a Wildlife Hospital on the island. Do not think by wildlife we mean elephants or zebras, those animals are not to be found here, even when you go on safari, the most popular excursion of Lesvos.

The biggest species of wild animals on Lesvos are the foxes who drive the farmers to desperation by attacking their innocent lambs. But also on Lesvos, foxes are protected animals. You have a lot of birds ranging from pink flamingos, some pelicans, big birds of prey, the common or garden ones to minuscule owls. And then you have small game like tortoises, field mice and squirrels.

The Dutch couple Joris and Ineke Peeters-Lenglet have created this centre. For some years now they have run this first-aid and reception- for-animals-center in Agia Paraskevi. They were given the central park there to transform it into a small zoological garden, but since the last elections of 1.5 years ago and hundreds of man hours to build cages and footpaths, the new mayor decided to claim back the park because he said it was a fire risk. Now the park is empty again, no regular visitors anymore and they think the fire risk is over...

Joris and Ineke managed to get their neighbouring building in order to house the homeless animals. Again they had to build cages and cages and felt just like Hercules. What happens in the Wildlife Hospital and what animals are brought in there, you can read best on their website. Joris writes monthly reports on their daily life and a medical diary. Do not be afraid that it will be too boring to read. In spite of the hard fight against the cruelty to animals and the hard work Joris has a remarkable humour in describing all the sad things they encounter.

The Animal of the Month for Athens was a dolphin who got lost in the Harbour of Piraeus. For the first time in history the port stopped all traffic on the water for one hour in order that people could lead the dolphin out to open sea.

The Animal of the Month on Lesvos was the Caretta Caretta, a turtle found by a fisherman from Panagiouda (near Mytilini) in open sea. It is not such a big event finding a turtle in the sea, when you are lucky you even see dolphins dancing around the waves. What the fisherman found was a Caretta Caretta who kept on swimming in circles. And unlike cats who can endlessly chase their tails, for a turtle it is no normal behaviour. So the fisherman called the Wildlife Hospital, but they only own an old ambulance which is not exactly seaworthy. They managed to get the coastguard to pick up the animal. I leave the rest of the story to Joris. You can read what happened with the Caretta Caretta on their website in the report on the month of June 2005:

The only thing I will add is that this sea creature of over 100 kilos was that big that they had to remove the door of their consulting room in order to examine the turtle.

Dogs and cats officially do not belong to wild animals, although you find a lot of cats and dogs who are left on their own and so are half wild because they have to survive in nature. These animals also are brought in big numbers to the Wildlife Hospital, mostly in awfully poor condition. There are Greeks who consider these animals as throw- away-pets. I will not describe the atrocities Joris and Ineke see, just read their website.

Since last winter we have a doggy named Rocky. It is half Poodle and half Pekingese. Friends who know us will have a big laugh about this: what will we be doing with such a lap-monster. But Rocky has grown into a very lovely ball of black wool. He could do with an under brace but his black sweet eyes immediately make you fall in love with him. His hair growth although is reason to worry because most of the times Rocky is a 'chorta'-dog, which means that he drags fields of grass with him. Everywhere he has those mean sharp grass tops on him, a certain crop that grows abundantly this summer, because also Ineke and Joris have plenty of patients with the same complaints.

These thorns not only stick into the hair but settle as well in the folds, ears, eyes and nose, which creates inflammations. In May we had to take Rocky to a vet in Kaloni because he had ear pain. He was immediately sedated with drugs and I was taken aback when the vet tore complete grasses out of his ear. Now the poor doggy is somewhat anti-chorta, but still we have to grass-control him and make sure that he has no inflammations.

It drives me crazy because each day again he is full of it. And those nasty things not only settle on the dog but climb into your clothes as if they were real vermin. Before you know you are on a consulting table, stuffed full of drugs. So you see, meeting a big turtle at sea is not so dangerous as meeting such a stupid little grass top.

Copyright © Smitaki 2005