Microorgania: The State of Unseen Things

Ok, so that’s totally a made up word. But it describes pretty well the various wins and wars I am having right now. I’ve been living a very microscopic life lately!

Dust:

This Old House is old and very dirty. I’ve been a cleaning fool, but the dust is extremely heavy, especially since we took two walls down in the basement with no way to block off the rest of the house. For the most part we wore dust masks when we took down the drywall, and in the first room we let the dust settle and then took up the carpets down to the bare concrete. Big improvement there. In the second room, we were able to take down much larger pieces of drywall, so there was less dust overall, and I set up a fan to vent the dust outside until I could no longer see particles, and then I vacuumed straight away. The whole house is much better because of it.

I also was able to thoroughly clean and vacuum the upstairs carpet for the first time last night. I filled the vacuum three times. I’m not that surprised; the pad under the carpet is starting to disintegrate with age. It’s not going to be replaced any time soon, so I’ll just make sure I’m on top of regular vacuuming.

We do need an air purifier. We needed one at our moderately new apartment, and I just know that the air quality in here is terrible. I find I am sensitive to airborne particles. I’m not *allergic* to dust, or pollen, or anything in particular, but I have a really hard time breathing solids of any sort. (Go figure.) Part of the problem is that we are still not moved in, so I haven’t been able to either deep clean or maintenance clean. When I was researching air purifiers, I learned that “just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there” mantra. Hello paranoid. Actually, not so much. The dust you see floating in the air is generally around 7 microns, while the majority of dust is much smaller. Air purifiers can catch particles as small as 3 microns, which is a good portion of what’s out there. I want an electric one with the plates that can be wiped clean. No dishwasher makes “handy dishwasher safe filters” not an option.

Mold:

We knew when we agreed to rent this house that the whole front of the basement (and possibly the whole bottom floor) had some mold issues. Nothing really hard to fix, but we said we were willing to do the work if the landlord paid for it. I was really paranoid about it at first, but upon closer inspection, I think there is less ‘mold’ than I first thought and more ‘mess’ from people trying to seal the walls with the wrong materials. The really good thing is that one of the things we thought was mold is actually pink paint underneath the current layer of paint. Why anyone would want to paint a room the color of shower mold is beyond me. We still need to scrape down the walls, seal and repaint, but it will be a much less dangerous task than before.

Bacteria:

Both DH and I are sickish from a combination of a good old cold summer cold, and the awful air in here. The upstairs has been stiflingly hot (yesterday was really bad, and my houseplants wilted like someone had thrown boiling water on them!! They got to stand in water overnight in the sink, and they’re better now) and there is little airflow. The only window that even cracks is the tiny bathroom window. Out of desperation, I actually took the whole window off last night, and things are better. Dusting and vacuuming are helping–as well as putting up the cats and opening both doors for a cross breeze–and the kelly green mucous is retreating handily.

In other bacteria news, I’ve been getting interested in the wide world of composting and vermiculture. I have to figure out exactly how I’m going to set things up, but I’m chomping at the bit to get started. One of the funniest things I’ve seen in my research is the sidebar on setting up a 10 gallon aquarium tank as a “composting pet” for kids. The deal is you get some dirt and a plant and a drip watering system, and perhaps some worms or bugs like crickets or what have you. Then you bury some kitchen waste in the dirt and periodically check on the waste to see how quickly the ecosystem turns it into dirt. They’re really serious about it, too. They even give directions for setting up a huge tank with 500+ crickets, waiting six months for them to reproduce to a huge rate, and then introducing some predators in the form of frogs, so that you have a complete cycle.

I’m a bit blown away by this, especially since I used to keep frogs. This is a whole new direction for the vivarium and terrarium mediums. If I was a kid, I’d be less than thrilled with my “garbage pet.” For the record, keeping frogs is more difficult than they make it out to be, BUT I will say the basic ideas here helped me keep my frogs with a minimum of fuss. I didn’t clean my tank out as often as is usually recommended, but the results were wonderful. Both crickets and bacteria kept up with my frog wastes (ie, I never saw any unless it was in the water) and my frogs appreciated not having to be disturbed all the time. Plus, the tank smelled HEAVENLY: that great, moist, rich black earth smell. Man, I miss my frogs.

Yeast:

I have two words for you: bread and mead. I decided that I was going to make my peace with yeasted breads forever, and have embarked on a program to learn how to make consistently good bread. I went back to A Year in Bread, partially written by Foodie Farm Girl, and took her advice and tracked down Daniel Leader’s book “Bread Alone”. In preparation for the learning loaf, I made something called a “poolish” which is a mix of flour, yeast, and water, and helps flavor your breads and make them rise better. Despite some initial trouble with kneading (and the fact that I used the wrong flour and the wrong measurements and the wrong times, and pretty much just mucked up every step) the bread still came out very good. Dense and moist, but definitely NOT a brick. I’ve got to make another batch on Monday, and I’ll try to screw up less. I’m looking forward to it!

We also have finally rescued our two carboys of mead from the closet of our last residence. They’ve had a lot settle out, and we need to re-rack them, but they seem to be doing quite well. The mead for the wedding was quite a hit. The agave ginger with the white beer yeast is, as always, exquisite and delicate, and the orange blossom is FAR too strong for my tastes, but it smells wonderful, and Winston thinks he might want to use it as a base for some orange flavored vodka once the distillery is up and running. I have one bottle of the agave left, and I’m still trying to decide if I want to drink it, or enter it into the fair this year. I have until August to decide, so it will remain to be seen.

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One response to “Microorgania: The State of Unseen Things

  1. It makes me tired just reading all of this. Be careful with the ionic air cleaners as they can produce ozone in dangerous concentrations. Some are better than others — here’s a good little video:

    We always recommend a properly-sized HEPA filtration system for protection from forest fire smoke, which has a mean particle size of less than micron (in the ultrafine range). The cost is about the same, and there are no other pollutants produced. We’ve seen some incredible results with these units in field tests.

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