Ants in the Attic

There is a certain freedom afforded to you when you realize you have made the biggest mistake of your life.  I swear an incessant string of mind numbing middling challenges, obstacles and failures can wear you out more so than hitting a brick wall.  In some regards the brick wall route is the way to go.  The “death by a thousand cuts” path is so artfully crafted that it really is the worst.  Like boiling a frog and he doesn’t even know it cause you’re raising the temperature one degree at a time.  My house is boiling me one ill executed notion at a time.

Today’s challenge, in addition to the standard “your kid might have broken his leg so he needs x-rays” wild card, involved Mother Nature again, as usual.  There a certain irony when you’re trying to do what’s right for the environment and even nature isn’t on your side.  Yeah, I get that family, strangers, friends, geology, etc. are going to fight you every step of the way at times, but c’mon….nature?  She’s got to at least have some sort of clue that I’m on her side.  I’m not saying we have to exchange cards on Earth Day or anything but at least work it out so that I catch a break more than fifty percent of the time.  She’s probably just pissed because of how I decided to combat the latest problem we’re encountering.

Our house was designed and built to be air tight.  Apparently ants are smaller than air molecules cause they’re pouring in like there’s no tomorrow.  Based on yesterday’s biblical rain, there may not be a tomorrow.  Anyway, the wife watches the ants magically appear on the ceiling through the attic access panel.  Now I know why builders of super tight houses don’t like ceiling penetrations like lights and access panels.  They prefer the ants live sight unseen in the attic.  Me being the outdoor lover that I am (this is sarcasm, fyi), I of course relish the thought of communing with bugs while sprawled out on the couch in my half million dollar boondoggle.  It’s bad enough I’m itchy already from ticks, mosquitos and god knows what else is living outside.  What I don’t need are ants.  Incidentally the house is covered in 4″ of blue foam which for all intents and purposes may as well be the shit they put in ant farms.  Essentially we’ll be living in a giant ant farm….mmm sugar water.

My honey-do list consisted of one task, figure out where the ants are coming from.  Perched atop my six-foot aluminum ladder I pushed up on the attic access panel.  Insulation drifted past my eyes as I reached up for the pull string on the light.  Setting the panel aside I poked my head into the attic and was completely and utterly dumbfounded. It’s not that the sight before me was remarkable, it just wasn’t at all what I expected. 















There was a lot of insulation.  And it was all on the “floor” of the attic.  Technically this is how it was supposed to be.  But I don’t know.  My mind couldn’t comprehend that that is how it was supposed to look.  There is no insulation in the rafters, nor the gable wall.  I could see daylight through the ridge vent.  The attic would be frozen in the winter time.  All of the sudden the attic access panel seemed like an absurd idea.  Beyond that I looked at all the insulation.  I tried to calculate how many ants could live in 16″ of loose insulation….sixteen times, what, a hundred square feet…..not to mention all the ones boring into my unprotected blue foam “outside”….outside by the way that suddenly felt very much inside.  I don’t know how to describe how it made me feel.  Defeated is one way, but it was some how more than that.  Defeated means there’s always next time, next season.  This was whatever is one rung below defeated.  In a normal attic you can wander the joists and spray the crap out of everything.  What I saw before me I couldn’t even step on for fear of compacting the insulation and defeating it effectiveness.  I may as well have been looking at the seabed a thousand feet below the Atlantic.  And then to figure out where the ants were coming from?  Gimmie a f*cking break, where couldn’t they be coming from, or going to, or living?  Hell, there could have been a hippopotamus hiding up there for all I know.  It really freaked me out a scoch.  I fix problems for a living and here was something I had no idea how to solve for.  So like any good husband I reached up and turned off the light, replaced the access panel and vacuumed up the fallen insulation. 

After I bleakly paced along the row of picture windows downstairs the wife asked me if  I was done spraying.  And like any good husband I said “We’re completely fucked.”

And like any good wife she marched my ass right back up into the attic and said “No sir, YOU are completely fucked.

Timidly, yet deftly, I finagled my way up into the attic, and admittedly I prayed a lil bit that I’d fall and kill myself so I wouldn’t have to battle this house anymore.  I dropped my canister of ant poison with a “poof” into sixteen inches of recycled newspaper insulation.  With that much insulation there is no way to tell where the joists are unless you look at the rafters.  One mis-step and my foot is going through the ceiling below.  I don’t know what’s in the spray, and frankly I don’t really care.  If it kills ants and the trade-off is my kids score poorly in math down the road…..well, anyway….I fire up my little sprayer.  Now ‘days the sprayer comes with a fancy battery operated nozzle that can shoot the toxic chemicals like six feet.  Sweet, this meant I didn’t have to wander around a lot up there.  Which is good because each step brought me knee-deep in insulation, leaving nice little compacted footprints everywhere I stepped.  Compacted insulation is useless at keeping your house cool or warm so I used my magic nozzle to fluff up the insulation where I had stepped.  I sprayed all over the place, including the cardboard retainers near the access opening.  The motorized nozzle does not shoot straight up so I couldn’t really hit the ridge vent.  In the end I have no idea where the ants are coming from.  There are just too many entry points between the vents, soffits, and blue foam / siding.

Hoping down I cleaned up the mess I created; insulation was everywhere in the room below.  I then proceeded to spray the entire foundation outside, as well as the doors.  Hopefully this will cut back on the number of ants.  Not sure what in the hell I’m supposed to do when the locusts and frogs show up.

This is why sleep has pretty much become irrelevant, or should I say sleep has decided being elusive is the only game in town.  It’s really getting kind of old.  I have no doubt this project was one of the, if not the worst mistake I’ve ever made.  I guess everyone makes mistakes, what counts is what you do next.  I suppose too that without adversity I wouldn’t get to know myself very well.  And mind numbing, middling adversity is great cause there isn’t much fanfare, charity runs, or Dr. Phil interviews.  I kinda have to face it on my own, cause frankly no one else really gives a rats ass.  They’ve got their own problems.  I guess coming to terms with this mistake and making the most of it will make for a good project. When life gives you lemons, at least you know you won’t die from scurvy right?

I did get the wife to start talking about putting this place up for sale and seeing which house sells first.  Maybe destiny is telling us we were meant to stay at the old place.  But like they say, destiny is a fickle bitch.  Either way the kinks need to be worked out of the new place while we’re the custodians. 

Just this morning I noticed the glass door on the shower no longer closes….

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