Upper Sandusky, Ohio
With the first warm days of March the first flies appear here, sitting saucily up there on the ceiling right above the breakfast table, waiting to grab a bite to eat from my plate. Time to break out the flyswatters.
The best kept dirty little secret of country life is flies. House flies, horse flies, deer flies, all kinds of flies. In cities and suburbs, flies are not as bothersome which is a good reason for the fainthearted to stay in town where they only have to put up with air full of mosquitoes and carbon monoxide. Flies prefer country life because that’s where farm animals usually live. Where there’s livestock, there’s manure. Where there’s manure, there are flies.
Veteran homesteaders keep at least one flyswatter in every room of the house so that one is handy wherever and whenever a fly lands. Using a flyswatter adeptly requires practice, like swinging a tennis racket. There is the forearm smash, the backhand flap, and most skillful of all, the sideways sweep which erases the fly from wall or ceiling without smearing its body parts all over the terrain. The truly accomplished swat-master can smack a fly right out of thin air and send it to its doom along with the bouquet of flowers that happens to be on the table nearby. Real pros learn to bide their time until three flies land close together on the milk pitcher so they can kill all of them and spill the pitcher in one infuriated blow.
The quality of flyswatters had steadily declined over the years like everything else. Time was, swatters were made of screen wire mesh enclosed within a durable fabric border and attached firmly to a number nine wire handle.
When you hit a fly with one of those babies, the buzzing Beelzebub never knew what hit it, and such a weapon would keep on killing for years. Even after you wore a hole in the mesh, chances are you’d get your fly. Today, flyswatters are disgusting plastic things on a flimsy stick. The plastic doesn’t wear out but for some reason known only to science, it scrunches up or wrinkles so that after a year of use when you smack down on a fly, bug and plastic do not meet. When you lift the swatter, the fly flies merrily away.
The worst fly situation occurs on homesteads where children abound. Children like to open kitchen doors and then just stand there, going neither in nor out. Veteran flies follow children around, knowing this will eventually happen. While you are screaming at the child to CLOSE THE EXPLETIVE DELETED DOOR, 240 flies swoop in and make a beeline for the butter dish.
Since it is hardly advisable to get rid of the children, your next best ploy is to manage the manure better on your homestead and hope your neighbors do too. The main reason every well-managed homestead has hens is not for eggs or fried chicken as you may have thought, but to scratch around in barn manure bedding and eat fly eggs.
The best reason for raising livestock on pasture rather than penned in buildings is to minimize manure piles and therefore fly populations. Flies do not multiply uncontrollably on scattered meadow muffins or roadapples. When raising a hog or two in a pen for table use, which takes four to six months, do it over winter when there are no flies, and compost the manure or spread it before summer sets in.
The best argument for decentralized pasture farming rather than confinement factories is that the latter are generators of swarming hoards of flies worse than the biblical plague of locusts. Confinement buildings have to flush the manure slurry into lagoons or pits, which are fly paradises. I have long wondered if it may not be the lowly fly that in the end will make large animal factories impossible for society to bear. That would mean even flies are good for something.
There’s a flyswatter for millionaires who, having tried everything else, think homesteading might be “fun.” The Orvis “Gifts For Men” catalog offers a personalized leather swatter, which “no man should be without.” It is made of “Italian bridle leather” with a “handmade American oak” handle. Price? $60.00.
For us peons, a rolled up newspaper will often do the trick. Also, with the bill serving as a handle, a ball cap can be a lethal weapon against flies.
Image Credit: © Altaoosthuizen | Dreamstime.com