Heart Talk


Again in 10 Years, Maybe


By James Utt
By James Utt

Besides hordes of tourists coming to Southern California beach communities, do you know who else descends on us in huge numbers? Dry wood termites, that’s who, and sometimes they bring along their pals, subterranean termites. We’ve all seen a home that all of a sudden is enclosed in a multi-colored tent. Oh, the hassle, the cost. Those poor people.

As I understand, the rule is that one should tent their home every 10 years. We bought our home in 2001 and it has been untented ever since. Nope, not going to do it; I would be among “the untented.”

My contractor tells me he sees signs of termite damage under my deck. Okay, but he replaced that wood. No problem. During the hot months, a swarm of termites comes up from a floor vent. But it will get cooler soon and they will hibernate. They do hibernate, don’t they? I pull back the covers on my bed and there is a termite. But, I had just changed the sheets and maybe he just wants a good night’s sleep. He doesn’t snore and I am not made of wood. Again, no problem.

But, I could not ignore the actual termite inspector who thoroughly checked my entire house and found plenty of dry wood termites and warned the hillside was a prime target for the much more dangerous “subs.” The subterranean guys could be taken care of by drilling bait stations around the house. When it came to the dry wood termites, there was only one remedy- the much dreaded and delayed tenting.

Tenting your house is kind of like a colonoscopy. The prep is the worse part. The carefully nurtured ivy and ice plant that grew on the walls of my deck had to be brutally cut back to make room for the sand bags that would hold the tent down. Almost every type of food, even those inside the fridge had to be double bagged. Being now a widower, I did not have that much food and tried to eat out as much as possible leading up to the day of the tenting. My wife must have had a hundred spices in the cupboard and I checked the “use by” date on each one. No, that’s not true. I just started throwing ones out I never used.

My two aging cats had to be put in their carriers and boarded at the animal hospital. They had been to the vet so many times, they seem to see something in my eyes that tells them, “He’s going to put us in those cages again.” They do not go willingly. I am on blood thinners and by the time I get them into the car, it looks like I have lost a fight with an angry rosebush. We inherited a fish tank that came with the house and since the gas would kill the fish (I was tempted), they had to be transported to a fish hostel by the guy that maintains the tank.

Of course, lodging had to be found for two nights and three days and I decided to stay in town. Any hotel would be fine, it’s Laguna after all. Well, not quite. My assigned room faced Coast Highway and I received a taste of what it must be like to be at the Indianapolis 500. When I tried to use the bathroom, the door hit the toilet seat instead of opening all the way. At night, sleep would not come because my mind dwelt on the stories told to me about how gangs use gas masks and go into tented homes. The next morning, after a few hours of restless sleep, I had breakfast downstairs and it might have been tasty if it was hot. I would have even settled for warm.

But, the ordeal came to an end. The tenting was removed and I escaped my hotel. However, the termites were not the only casualties. My late wife loved indoor plants and our house was filled with beautiful greenery. I had been doing a pretty good job keeping them alive. Until now. Because I am an idiot, I thought that indoor plants were hardy enough to take two day’s worth of direct April sun, so out on the front lawn they went. They all ended up dying. Another small part of my wife had been lost.

Termite wise, the house is good for another 10 years. If still alive, rather than go through this again, I just might say to the termites, “Okay, show me what you got!”


James Utt is a retired teacher who lives in  temporarily termite free in Mystic Hills.

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  1. There are a lot of misconceptions there..
    Termites here are terrestrial and can eat through wood.. 2 things a termite guy won’t tell you is to not leave anything in your home. Even in the bags or the refrigerator the seal isn’t 100% and that Tourists are a related species.


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