dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Tag: Kill It With Fire!

State of My Mind

In late 2014, around the time I got pregnant with L, I stopped having nightmares. Or at least, I stopped having any nightmares that I could recall. Certainly none, if they occurred, were bad enough to affect my sleep-wake cycle or leave me at all affected (as far as I can tell, on a conscious level).

A few vivid and incredibly bizarre dreams happened during the first and second trimesters, but they tended towards odd or funny, and once L was born, my subconscious seemed to be taking a break from movie making.

Two weeks ago, though, I had my first nightmare in yonks. The details were fuzzy when I woke, but I vaguely recall that the cast was a mix of my relatives and characters from a couple of local movies that E had been playing on repeat at home. I have no recollection of the plot or any events in it, but I know I woke up with a start, panting slightly and feeling a bit out of sorts and disturbed.

Then, two nights ago, I had my next memorable nightmare. And this one’s still with me, a little. I have no recollection of the cast (there was a vague impression when I woke, but that’s faded now) or the plot, but one scene – the one I woke from – has left me with rather gruesome images and a faint gnawing dread.

I am crouching, with L beside me, and we’re looking at something on the ground. I point at it and she laughs and babbles, flapping her arms. Then suddenly I feel it – that unmistakable sensation of a foetal limb pressing hard against my insides as the unborn infant, which has to be at least six months grown to have such an effect, stretches. I’m surprised, because as far as I know,  I’m not pregnant. In surprise and curiosity I look down at my belly, yanking my T-shirt up, and see to my shock the shape of a tiny fist, distending the skin of my abdomen quite grotesquely, sweeping across from right to left and stretching the skin further and further outward as it does, causing intense pressure to build up really quickly. A moment later, there’s a huge pop and my abdomen bursts open, a la the chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien, and I stare in horror – strangely I feel nothing, perhaps because I’m in shock? – as my skin falls in ragged folds to expose a gory, slimy something not unlike what the Nostromo’s crew found inside the alien eggs and the innards of the alien face hugger. It gapes below my exposed ribs, and I look up, bewildered, unsure if it’s actually happening or just a part of my imagination – I must be going insane, I’m hallucinating big time – and realise I don’t know what’s happened to L, who was supposedly right next to me. And then I’m screaming… 

And then I’m awake.

What this sort of thing is supposed to mean, I have no idea. My subconscious seems to be a very scary place. Either that, or I’m a really disturbed individual.

Another Round…

…of battling with spider mites (it looks something like this). And once again, it’s the oft-beleaguered T. bulbosa and T. streptophylla (yes, that original piece from FEF that went through a miraculous revival).

140906_05 small140719_01 small
Above: T. bulbosa (with 3 pups) and T. streptophylla, when healthy and bug-free.

For a few minutes, while I was filling yet another tub with soap solution (not breaking out the poison yet because the infestation isn’t that horrible), I considered letting myself get angry and depressed about the situation. Why is it that time and again, it’s the plants that hold the most sentimental value for me that get affected by pests? Why is it that it’s the little ones that always get attacked? Why is it that the plants that have fought for recovery from the brink are brought down again and again, requiring repeat after repeat of the same old nursed-back-to-health story? Why is it that I generally give all my plants the same amount of care (I water them every one to two days, and look them over at least once every four to five days), and some are perfectly happy with that while others seem to scream for attention every now and then even though nobody is being neglected, damn it?

Then I realised a few things. And figured that there really isn’t any point in getting upset. Just deal with it and move on. God is (once again) using Creation to deliver warnings and lessons pertaining to the spiritual realm.

Bugs are opportunistic. It’s their nature. They’re predators, in a way, and just as big cats on the savannah watch for the youngest and weakest animals in a gazelle or zebra herd and demons prowl around looking for handholds on unsuspecting Christian psyches, them bugs are going to be on the lookout for the smallest and weakest plants in any garden or collection. Plants that are small (more surface area to volume) or have survived previous attacks are easier pickings than big, untouched specimens. The recent weather isn’t helping, because it’s searingly hot most of the time and too-dry plants attract spider mites. I just need to step up the watering schedule and stop worrying about whether there will or will not be rain, because the intense heat is clearly posing a bigger problem than the possibility of overwatering, right now.

The Enemy attacks the young and the weak of the Kingdom, too. And those of us who have struggled with certain strongholds and personal issues know all too well how these hot buttons can be targeted again and again and again, even though we’ve picked ourselves up and gotten patched up and soldiered on countless times. It’s never-ending; we’ll have respite when we’re dead or Raptured.

And about the non-neglect that still causes (or leads to) health problems? Some plants, coming from different climes and with different constitutions (xeric VS mesic, etc.), need different levels of care, just as some people are a little more fragile and need a little more care than others. It’s an important point to keep in mind, when you have children or mentees or members of a ministry group under your care.

More Pests

Yesterday, while I was giving the plants a quick sprinkling before heading out to the office, I noticed two highly annoying things.

One: A wasp has been building a nest on the metal frame that supports all my tillandsias. Two: A baby lizard vanished into the cool dark shelter of my T. lucille’s lower leaves when I leaned out the window to take a closer look.

Need I explain why wasps are scary and annoying? As for the lizard, well, I don’t hate the critters per se, but I don’t like them leaving poop all over the place and I sure as heck don’t want to find out that they are laying eggs in my plants. Neither do I need one of them to jump out at me when I’m in the middle of an inspection or watering session and shock me into possibly dropping everything onto the ground floor pavement below my apartment.

(Apart from such an accident damaging a lot of very valuable plants and causing me a whole lot of grief both emotionally and financially, an aggrieved neighbour or passer-by might just rat on me for supposed “killer littering” and open up a whole Pandora’s Box of unpleasantness.)

If you don’t know how a lizard could hide inside a tillandsia, here’s a shot of my T. lucille (T. ehlersiana x T. streptophylla):

lucille 02

 I want that wasp nest annihilated. And I’m not feeling particularly charitable towards that lizard and his friends either.

Spider mite infestation — Part 2

I’d intended to do the follow-up chilli padi treatment two or three days after the initial hardcore assault, but as it turns out, I’ve only just done it — a full week later.

Remind me how painful a process it is when I tell myself I’m doing it again. It’s no joke. I spent an hour gasping for breath, each one bringing more and more itch and sting into my throat and sinuses. I sneezed and coughed until I was sure my lungs must be on the way out. And my nose ran till I was tempted to stop trying to staunch the flow and just let it go (down my chin and suchlike).

Anyway, the first salvo last week seems to have done its work well. The infested T. ehlersiana and T. sitting pretty don’t seem to have suffered any relapses, and the T. sunset glow that I saw suspicious signs on and gave similar treatment seems all right — it’s even growing new leaves with a sort of new enthusiasm.

I don’t have new photos of these plants but I have fairly recent shots… so you can guess from the pictures and my descriptive comments what they look like now.

140413_04 small
From left: T. ehlersiana mini clump with grass pups, T. sitting pretty (T. streptophylla x T. paucifolioides)

I’ve had to pull off half the T. ehlersiana grass pups and quite a few of the main plant’s base leaves. I also had to pull off base leaves from the T. sitting pretty, reducing its size by nearly 50 percent and its root hold on the wood is a little loose now, giving its perch a bit of a precarious-looking swing. Sad.

140205_11 small 140413_02 small2
T. sunset glow (T. caput medusae x T. brachycaulos)

I’d spotted yellow and yellow-brown spots on some of the larger, lower leaves, and the edges of a few leaves were also browning and drying up. It just didn’t look right even though the plant looks generally healthy. So I took definitive preventive measures and today it looks somehow perkier, with new leaf growth. I suppose there must have been a few spider mites hiding among the older leaves where I couldn’t see them, and they were killed by the mad dunking.

EVERY tillandsia in my collection got a good spraying today. I am considering doing this every three months… heh…

Spider mite infestation — Part 1

Having been in on the tilly-keeping thing since August last year — eight months to date — I’m still a relative newbie. I guess I’ve been relatively well off where pests and disease are concerned, compared to the experiences of some others in the community, but it had to happen sometime.

Last week we had weather that seemed kinda bipolar. It was both rainy and searingly hot. I had been watering the plants on alternate evenings except for days when it rained heavily and they got a good splashing of good old natural rainwater (which is better for them anyway. They seemed fine.

Then on Sunday evening, while doing a quick round of spraying before heading out to attend an Easter service (first time attending a church service in 10 months, by the way), I realised that two of the mounted plants — a small T. ehlersiana clump and a T. sitting pretty — that were gifts from S were catching the droplets on what seemed to be masses of fine web.

Spider mites. Oh, crap.

There are reasons I prefer preventive action to violent reaction. One is the fact that these pests can do serious damage to plants, and sometimes the plant doesn’t recover. And I’m squeamish. I hate bugs. I hate, especially, those that operate in swarms. Just looking at them makes me feel phantom sensations of said bugs crawling all over me. And now you know why there are NO PHOTOS in this post.

But there was no way to deal with the problem immediately. It would have to wait till I got home from work on Monday.

Having previously recced the nearby supermarket in preparation for just such a situation, I headed there to pick up some of the community’s tried-and-tested miticide. To my horror, there was none to be found. The staff had seemingly misplaced the entire gardening section in the midst of the haphazard ongoing renovations. I was forced to change plans on the fly.

Since there was no way to get hold of habanero peppers, I settled for a local alternative — chilli padi (bird’s eye chilli). Since they’re supposedly less hot than habaneros, I figured I’d just have to make the brew a lot more intense. A third of the packet, chopped, went into a small pot along with four smashed garlic cloves. While they simmered, I inspected the infested plants, their neighbours, and some other suspected victims.

Then I dunked them all into a hellish mix of chilli-and-garlic soup and soap solution and left them to soak underwater for three hours. Hopefully all the disgusting little bugs would be drowned, along with their eggs. After that, I had the odious task of removing the webbed portions of the plants, along with dead and blackened leaves and pathetically languishing grass pups. And then cleaning all that gunk out of the sink and into the trash. Only after that did I rinse off the affected plants and hang them outside the window to dry off — as far away from their compatriots as possible. Just in case.

The simmering mixture filled the entire house with biting vapours. There’s nothing like it, though slicing/chopping up a bunch of particularly fumy onions comes close. In minutes, and for hours after, my eyes were stinging and watering, my throat was itching, my nose was runny, and the skin on my fingers was burning (despite my having used several pairs of disposal gloves in quick succession).

Truth be told, I was supposed to repeat the treatment on Wednesday, or last night. I failed due to last-minute overtime in the office. I may try it tonight.