…Continuing the description of our trip, struggles, and finds as we tried to decide the future of our long time empty and “abandoned” house in Azores…
On the first night, I hardly slept. As if breathing mildew wasn’t bad enough, there was also a very hungry mosquito flying over my head all night long! I got up tired… The sun was just waking up too. And I immediately felt inspired and recharged by the views, and ready for whatever came (or flew) my way.
We realized that most of the mildew and damage in the house was caused by water infiltration through the walls due to the variety of bushes that had grown in the gutters on the roof. Rain water was trapped by the plants and infiltrated into the walls under it.
Much had to be done and so we divided forces… my husband cleaned the gutters while I cleaned the house inside.
If you have never seen the TV series “The Durrells in Corfu”, please do so. It is my most favorite TV series and it is absolutely and perfectly delightful.
The series follows the Durrells, a British family, in their Vivid and endearing misadventures as they adjust to a new life in the Greek island and try to make a home out of a pile of shambles…
Many times, especially during the more critical moments of our two weeks stay in my old home in Azores, I thought of the Durrells.
As I cleaned the house I became very intrigued with these droppings I kept finding in the house…I’ve known all the shapes and sizes of all sorts of droppings of the fauna living in and out of this home for all my life… but I never seen these ones. It looked like chicken droppings, and I found so many as if the entire house has been used as a chicken coop!!! …on the top of cabinets, on window sills… I could not understand this and it troubled me that I could not evaluate how serious was this problem.
As the morning warmed up I also started to found several bees flying in the house and bumping against the windows. I closed the front door and, sorry but I had to do so, killed the bees. First the mosquito, now the bees. It was clear I needed to go out and buy some bug spray. When we return home with some groceries and bug spray there was several dozen bees flying everywhere inside the house!!!
“How in hell are these bees coming in the house??!!!” Sorry again but, I sprayed the bees and started inspecting every possible entrance until… I laid my ear on the curtain with a flower pattern that covered the brick oven’s opening in the kitchen… Oh my God!!!!
And this is the first moment when I started to compare my life in Sao Jorge Island with “The Durrells in Corfu”… Vivid resemblances!!
As I laid my ear on that curtain I heard a buzzzzzzzzing of a thousand bees!! As if there was a bee hive in the chimney tunnel above the oven… I carefully lifted the curtain… The oven opening was covered and taped to the wall with a big cardboard, old and softened by mildew… and in the middle of it, a big hole… and behind the hole, some bees trying to get in… I ran for the bug spray and aimed it at the hole.
Armed with a flash light and a can of bug spray, I had to remove the cardboard and “redirect” the bees to the other exit upward. More spray! And the bees resentfully left the chimney. And I went back to cleaning the house with all its mildew and bugs and mysterious droppings…Two hours later the bees where back again… More spray!! Gone, then back again!!! It was obvious they were trying to settle in the chimney to start building a bee hive…
This is not how I had imagined I was going to be using the brick oven for, ( A Blizzard, A Plane Flight, and A Bread Recipe ) but my husband and I decided that maybe a “smoke message” would make it clear to the bees that this was not a good place for a bee hive.
Of course, the oven was also filled with rubbish!!! I cleaned it all out while my husband gathered some wood in the land, and we set it on fire in the oven. This was a beautiful moment! To see that oven again on fire…to see smoke coming off the chimney after so many years…
The fire was over… the oven was warm and nicely clean… I decided to no longer hide it behind a curtain and instead I decorated its opening with these two very old terracotta containers. They were used in the old days, before fridges existed, to store pork meat soaked in lard or in salt. As I grabbed the pots to wash and clean, I froze in horror…creeped out!!
Inside of one of the pots was hiding eight corpses… the answer to the droppings mystery… the skeletons and skin of eight bats!
Eight bats that got into the chimney and passed by the same hole as the bees… and as the bees, and due to the flower pattern curtain, they could not find the way out. I dropped in the garbage their skeletons, washed the pots and displayed them at the oven…and then I heard more bees, again!!!
I’ll cut my story short here just by saying that I managed to find a smart and practical solution to block the chimney tunnel above the brick oven… a way that could easily be removed when we needed to use the oven, and easily be blocked again to prevent intruders. We never again had any bees or bats encounters.
At the end of the day we were exhausted!! And still we found out that the water pressure in the house was too low for the water heater to provide us water warm enough for a bath or even a shower. So, I had to heat on the stove three big pots of water, three times again until there was enough water in the tub for our very tired family of three to take turns taking a very needed warm bath.
At the second night our home was bee-free and bat-free and mosquito-free… and I slept like a rock. Thank God!!
(Now go google “The Durrells in Corfu” and watch the entire first season… You will thank me later. You’re welcome… )