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“Come gather round people wherever you roam/And admit that the waters around you have grown.” —Bob Dylan

For the first few days of the coronavirus crisis, I was in a mild state of shock, and I dealt with the stress mostly by cracking jokes. Yesterday, though, the cobwebs in my head cleared, and here’s what I expect in the coming weeks.

Doctors and nurses are on the front lines of this pandemic and they’ll rightly be called heroes, but we working people—plumbers, electricians, roofers, heating guys, exterminators and so on—will be the unsung army that keeps the water flowing, the heat blowing, and the lights glowing. Just as importantly, we’ll keep rodents and ants out of your stored foods.

We home care professionals are set to be a vital link to the outside world for many homebound people. Personally, I won’t use this opportunity to point the finger of blame or ride the high horse. This COVID-19 crisis is unique in world history, it’s evolving every day, and hindsight is 20/20. True professionals—especially during times of crisis—avoid pettiness and stay focused on the fact that every human being on earth, one way or the other, is soon to suffer.

We skilled working people—masters at innovation and adaption—need to quickly adapt to the new world that’s forming in front of our eyes. We keep the wheels of life spinning, regardless of what’s happening in the world outside our work trucks. I’m happy to be a simple working man.

The word “hero” is overused, but these days, when no superstar athletes are sinking three-pointers or hitting home runs, I’m willing to use that word to describe the guy who hurries to my home and unclogs my toilet or fixes my leaky roof. As for you professional athletes, sitting idle on the sidelines… no offense guys, but, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “Please get out of the way if you can’t lend your hand/Cause the heroes they are a-changing.

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I’ve always been fascinated by Mother Nature’s deadliest creatures. When I was a boy, I loved sharks, snakes, tigers—the more fearsome, the better. My tastes are more genteel now, tempered by the sands of time and tide. Here’s some beneficial mountain bugs you’ll be happy to see:

Snakeflies—These sleek flying insects prey on your most hated plant pests, such as aphids. With their slightly raised head, they have an almost regal bearing. When I find one at home, I gently escort it outside.

Jumping Spiders—These critters are the adorable Koala bears of the bug world. Instead of munching on eucalyptus leaves, they happily devour pests, such as flies and mosquitoes. If you want a treat, google “images of jumping spiders.”

Beeflies—They have the head of a fly and the body of a bee, sans stinger. I first saw them as a rookie on a pest job, hovering nearby, watching me work. There’s little scientific info about them, and that just makes them more intriguing.

Lady Bugs—Who doesn’t love a brightly colored bug that devours aphids? Could a Hollywood designer have done a better job of creating that distinctive look? Lady bugs are as cute as a bug’s ear, as old-timers used to say.

Looking over my list… wow, I guess Father Time is winning his war on my virility. Excuse me, readers, I need a moment to myself. (From sharks to lady bugs, Mike—what happened to you, man? You need to get your butt to the doctor’s office and get a shot of bull testosterone. Now! Hey, listen up, big guy: what would your childhood hero, Evel Knieval, think of the man you’ve become? Yeah, the truth hurts, but you need to hear it. Now, ingest it, digest it, and arrest it. And get back to your readers.)

Anyway, folks, good luck fighting those aphids, and if they become a problem, call Home Defenders for a free evaluation. (Or blast the bastards to hell with a flame thrower!… sorry, my testosterone shot just kicked in.) 

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Our mountain’s most hated critter has a way of showing up in the darnedest places… just ask a guy with a backed up colon. 

I’m standing in front of a community bulletin board in Ojai, California—that famed epicenter of New Age thinking—and I’m looking over an assortment of fliers promoting “Colonic Cleansing” and “Primal Scream Therapy” and a “Men’s Empowerment Drum Circle.” To me, these techniques seem hokey, but who knows, maybe there’s some benefit. Anyway, pinned in the middle of this choppy sea of leaflets is a business card that asks the burning question: “Got Gophers?”

Ah, gophers, the one creature that unites humankind regardless of faith, creed, politics… or tolerance for sitting in a circle and beating on drums with a bunch of guys whose girlfriends want them out of the house for a few hours. Or vice versa.

On our mountain, conventional thinking says that gophers go dormant in the winter, and they mostly do, but even in January and February we get service calls from customers who see the dreaded gopher mounds in their yards. For a few determined gophers, it takes more than a snowstorm to put a stop to their subterranean shenanigans.

It’s spring and gophers—Mother Nature’s ultimate empowered animals— are doing pushups and jumping jacks, cutting back on carbs, and getting psyched to destroy all flowers. Some homeowners will fight the beasts with organic repellents, others will use beeping electronic devices, and some will just buy poison at the hardware store. Many will call our office and get a free evaluation to protect and empower their precious flowers. We use the latest techniques, including my new invention, the “Home Defenders Men’s Empowerment Primal Scream Gopher-Repelling Drum Circle.”

That should scare off any animal with a brain.

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I feel it coming, it’s skipping and jumping its way to our mountain—it’ll be here in the blink of an eye. Bolstered by the Thanksgiving and Christmas storms, Mother Nature’s most fertile season—spring—is almost here. Is your home ready for the coming explosion of birds and bees and bugs and rodents? Not sure? Here’s all you need to know:

>>Clean those piles of pine needles off your roof. Do you know what ants love, aside from sugary treats and juicy meats? They love big piles of pine needles on roofs. They make nests under those moist piles and get busy making little ants—lots and lots of little ants. Clean your roof and nip those little breeders in the bud.

>>Trim tree branches. I don’t like being the grouchy old pest pundit constantly reminding homeowners to buy one of those extendable tree pruners and trim branches away from their roofs, but that’s my lot in life, and I embrace it. Thanks for putting up with me. 

>>There’s what in that dust? Speaking of lusty rain, do you know what’s really lusty? Dirt. Yep, plain old, butt-ugly dirt. When it touches wood siding and deck posts, it ravages the wood fibers and leaves a big puddle of mush. And then you have to call us Home Defenders to replace the wood—which we’ll happily do, call us anytime. But if you dig the dirt away from wood parts of your home, it’ll keep them dry and strong for, say, the next fifty years. The choice is yours.

Get ready, mountain homeowners, spring is coming and after all that rain and snow, it’s going to be one heck of a fertile year. Remember, only you—with a little help from your friends at Home Defenders—can prevent forest critter procreation. 

(Now get out there and trim those tree branches!)